Board of Finance Approves Using a Portion of Town Reserves Toward Fire Engine Replacement

On Dec. 12, residents will decide whether to take a portion of funding from town’s undesignated fund balance. Pool improvements also on table that night.

With Board of Finance approval Monday, residents will soon weigh in on using a portion of the town's reserves to partially fund a fire engine.

Monday, the finance board ultimately concurred with the town of Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department’s plan to replace two of its pumper engines in the next year, rather than one as originally planned.

The finance board's unanimous vote brings the issue to a Dec. 12 meeting at which residents will be asked if they want to allocate $275,000 toward the purchase. It would not raise taxes but come from the town’s undesignated fund balance, as would another proposal on the table that evening.

On Monday, the fire department has given several reasons behind the idea of replacing two engines.

The department’s priority to replace its Engine 6 first, although it’s not the oldest Class A pumper in the fleet. Approximately 20 years old, it has had consistent problems and is currently out of service, officials said. The department’s Engine 1 has been more reliable but at 25 years old is starting to show its age and putting off its replacement to the next “cycle” would put it at 30 years or more, officials said. Replacing both now would leave to some savings, put the department back on track in its replacement plan and save on maintenance, said fire officials, who would also like the town to increase its yearly replacement fund from $115,000 to the $160,000 it recommended in 2009.

The estimate to replace both engines is a little more than $899,960. With a little more than $567,000 in a capital fund for engine replacement, the Board of Selectmen recently recommended taking $275,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to cover the rest.

First Selectmen Richard Barlow told the Board of Finance that while he was disappointed at only $17,000 in savings to purchase both engines now, he did not want to see one get to more than 30 years old before replacement. He agreed that in addition to ever-increasing maintenance, parts are becoming scarce.

Finance board members asked several questions before approving the idea. At one point, chairman Dick Ohanesian said he would rather see numbers on what the department expected to spend maintaining Engine 1 next year before making a decision. 

While the bid deadline is later this month, Ohanesian and other members said they did realize the town would be purchasing the engine sooner or later and that it came down to another issue.

“What we’re really looking at is safety,” Ohanesian said. “Certainly that is a priority.”

The department anticipates it could sell the two engines being replaced but due to mechanical and current safety standards, its initial sale estimates are just $5,000 to $10,000 for Engine 1 and $35,000 to $50,000 for Engine 6.

With the finance board’s approval residents will now weigh in on two proposals to take money out of the fund balance – the $275,000 toward an engine and $400,000 in improvements at Mills Pond pool. The latter would fund a new deck, drainage work, partial shell repair and modernized, above-ground mechanical systems. Other ideas for pool improvements are currently not on the table.

The funds for the pool and engine would come from the town’s undesignated fund balance, or reserves, and would not directly impact taxes. The board of finance generally likes to keep the account at 10 percent of its budget. 

Chief Financial Officer Amy O’Toole estimates the fund balance, with the pool funding factored in, at $4,548,354, about 13.22 percent of the town’s 2012-2013 budget.

On Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., residents will have the chance at a special town meeting to vote by a show of hands on the both proposals. In addition, a grant acceptance for 21 Dowd Avenue is also on the table. See the LEGAL NOTICE for the meeting. 




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