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Fire department eyeing three big buys

January 26, 2011
SANBORNTON — Fire Chief John DeSilva told selectmen last week that an aging ambulance, fire engine and fire department command vehicle, all with many miles and hours of service, are in need of replacement.

He said all three are starting to cost the town big money in repairs and maintenance.

DeSilva offered the board four possibilities for Ambulance 1, one being replacement of the vehicle and remounting the box, the working portion of an ambulance, onto a new chassis at $109,198. Others options included replacing the entire vehicle for $178,180, purchasing a 2008 rear-wheel drive demo ambulance at $192,000 or going with a private sale of a 2009 custom, used ambulance from New York, also a rear-wheel-drive, for $189,000.

PL Custom Emergency vehicles in New Jersey offered a "loaner vehicle" if they were contracted to move the box from the current ambulance onto a new chassis at the lowest price he had obtained. DeSilva said the department has had many mechanical issues with the ambulance they have now and the town has lost nearly $10,000 in revenues through calls they could not handle while the vehicle was being repaired.

"We had to have those calls put through Mutual Aid to neighboring towns, tying up their resources while they helped us with our citizens," DeSilva said.

He said they could also try to maintain the 2004 ambulance for as long as possible as a second response vehicle to be used mainly when the other ambulance is on another call. DeSilva, along with members of his staff who attended the meeting, explained the availability of a second ambulance would enhance service to the community and prevent neighboring towns from having to respond when they were busy with a transport or other emergency.

Money for a new ambulance could be made available through a Capital Reserve Fund set up for the department, whose money is generated by medical calls. Expenditure of those funds is restricted for use by voter approval, and DeSilva asked that a warrant article be considered.

"We don't want to have an impact on taxpayers for these purchases. This is all money we've generated through our calls," said DeSilva.

Other requests by the department are for the purchase of a tanker for "water on wheels" as DeSilva called it, and the possible sale of Engine 2.

"We'd like to go from three engines to two and a tanker," he said.

Selectman Andrew Livernois acknowledged that a tanker for a town that is equipped with few fire hydrants was something that has been "in the loop for awhile now."

When DeSilva explained the need for a light rescue truck as well, Livernois questioned if a tanker should be put off for another year in order to equip the town with the rescue truck instead. DeSilva said the rescue vehicle would free up equipment space on fire engines and could respond to calls for incidents such as water rescue or entrapment. In the event of an automobile accident where bigger equipment may not be necessary, the more expensive fire engines could remain at the station while an ambulance and rescue truck would be able to respond with all the necessary equipment. The current price for such a vehicle would be approximately $200,000.

Chairman Dave Nickerson agreed a rescue vehicle could be valuable for many emergency calls in Sanbornton.

"By my way of thinking we need a could really use a rescue vehicle. We need something reliable," he said.

He suggested the town purchase the rescue truck through capital reserve funds and perhaps present a warrant article to lease/purchase a tanker, since funds for both are not available in capital reserve.

Selectmen then went outside to inspect the 2003 Ford Expedition and agreed it was time for the town to look closely at the fire department's fleet.

DeSilva reported that there was currently $202,000 in the department's Emergency Medical Services Fund and "conservatively" $30,000 in the Rescue Fund. He asked that selectmen consider the money available in the department's reserve funds along with the needs of the department as they prepare warrant articles for May's Town Meeting.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord & Osman
Alton School
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