AUBURN — Despite some concerns about spending $680,000, councilors Monday night agreed to purchase a new pumper truck for New Auburn.
“I think when the Fire Department says they need a piece of equipment, this is not like asking for a new camera,” Councilor-At-Large Joshua Shea said. “This is a firetruck, it saves lives and we have to put our trust in the department. This is a lifesaving issue.”
Interim Fire Chief Geoff Low said the new truck will replace the old Engine No. 2, a pumper truck based at the South Main Street station in New Auburn. Engine 2 serves the area from Auburn Hall south to the city line, but also responds to back up other trucks around the city.
The 1998 American LaFrance pumper was built in New Brunswick, Canada. A problem with the truck’s turbo charger caused it to catch fire in 2010. The fire damage was repaired, but the truck has had lingering problems ever since. Low said it failed twice as fire crews were responding to emergencies, and once when crews were actually in a burning building.
The city spent $7,900 to fix the truck after the fire, but the problems kept popping up. The city spent $8,046 in 2010 on repairs and another $22,557 last year.
Plans call for leasing a temporary 1996 pumper truck for the next nine months, until a new replacement can be found, purchased and customized for Auburn’s purposes.
The lease would cost $30,000, and Low estimated the new truck would cost about $650,000.
Councilors said they’d heard from residents who were skeptical about purchasing such an expensive piece of equipment. Ward 5 Councilor Leroy Walker said his constituents asked for some kind of proof that Engine 2 was beyond repair.
“The biggest question today, why don’t we have some report that tells us this is the right time to trade this in?” Walker said. “I just think it would make the city look better if we had more than just you saying that this automobile is ready to trade.”
Low said he would provide vehicle maintenance reports, repair statements and invoices for the truck.
But Low said he expects the department would have some answers for councilors and residents this Friday, when a consultant’s audit of the department is due. Low said he is expecting a report from Matrix Consulting Group will look at the department’s staffing, scheduling, station locations and response times to fires as well as potential weaknesses and recommendations for improvement.
Low said it was his opinion that the truck was necessary. Removing it from service would increase response times to some part of New Auburn.
“There has to be some trust here,” interim City Manager Don Gerrish said. “The staff, your manager and the employees you have are recommending that this is the right thing. I think we have material that shows what it cost to repair this.
The previous council had set aside a $225,000 bond issue last year. Combined with $180,000 from the 2010 bond issue set aside to work on the Central Fire Station floor, it would have allowed the department to buy a used truck.
“If you are looking at a used vehicle for $400,000 when you can buy a new one for $600,000 in round numbers, you have to also look at the number of years it will be in use, the maintenance costs,” Councilor Tizz Crowley said.
Gerrish said councilors will set aside up to $350,000 from unused portions of old bond issues, dating back to 2006.