While the town had prepared to replace one fire engine this fiscal year, selectmen on Monday endorsed a plan to purchase two. Approval from the Board of Finance and voters would still be needed.
The reason for the needed approval is that the low bid cost to replace two engines is $899,000, which is approximately $275,000 more than the capital funding the town has set aside for fire apparatus. Those remaining funds would come from the town’s reserves.
The town anticipates it could get some money from selling the two engines being replaced but the exact amount would have to be determined and the funds would go back into the capital account for apparatus replacement.
As the town recently put out a bid to replace a “Class A Pumper,” town of Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department officials asked that an option for two be included in the estimates.
The department gave several reasons for the idea of replacing two at once, specifically its Engine 6, which is approximately 20 years old and its Engine 1, approximately 25.
Engine 6 is the more critical replacement, Deputy Chief Craig Robbins told selectmen. The apparatus has corrosion issues, intermittent electrical problems and needs new rear springs and brakes, exhaust, brake lines and pump repairs.
Engine 1 has been more reliable but is starting to show its age and in the past years has needed rear brakes and drums, an alternator, front suspension, steering components and batteries, Robbins said. It will also likely need a complete pump rebuild in the next year, estimated at $10,000.
Fire officials felt replacing both at once could result in some savings as well as get the town’s replacement plan back on schedule. In 2009, at Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner’s request, the department suggested the town put aside $160,000 per year for new apparatus but the town has allotted $115,000 per year.
"For that reason we strongly feel that replacing the two trucks is the right way to go,” Robbins said.
The lowest bidder for the project put the replacement for two engines is $899,000, while one would be $458,632.
“I’m disappointed; I thought we’d see more significant savings than $17,000,” First Selectman Richard Barlow said.
Selectmen also expressed some concerns about dipping again into the fund balance when they are already asking residents on Dec. 12 to approve $400,000 in improvements to Mills Pond Pool.
“I wish it had hit the table the same time as the pool,” selectmen Lowell Humphrey said.
Assuming the pool funding were to pass, Chief Financial Officer Amy O’Toole estimates the fund balance at $4,548,354, about 13.22 percent of the town’s 2012-2013 budget.
“I guess I’m not in favor of going back to the well but given the circumstance I guess I can see it,” Barlow said.
Selectmen unanimously approved the idea. The Board of Finance will discuss the matter in a special meeting Monday night and, if passed, selectmen hope to bring it to the public on Dec. 12, the same night as the proposed pool improvements.