Ladder truck bid next hurdle


LIVERMORE FALLS – A hurdle was cleared Tuesday after a majority of 79 voters upped the bid pool to $130,000 to allow town officials to make an offer on Farmington’s ladder truck.

Voters’ decided after much debate during a special town meeting to approve the transfer of $30,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to go with $100,000 appropriated in July for the truck.

The bid amount was to be considered by town officials at a special meeting Wednesday before an offer is submitted by the 2 p.m. Friday deadline.

Farmington has the 1988 aerial truck with 1,100 hours on the engine and 11,382 miles on the truck up for grabs with a minimum bid of $100,000.

As of noon Wednesday, no bids were submitted on the truck, Farmington Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell said.

He expects bids to be opened Friday afternoon with the bid awarded at the next Farmington selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

That board has the authority to accept or reject any or all bids on the truck.

For every point made Tuesday night, a counter point was given: From the safety of firefighters and townspeople to spending money on a 14-year-old truck that had $70,620 in maintenance costs; from taking more money out of surplus to passing up a truck the town wouldn’t be able to afford new at $500,000-plus.

The town’s Budget Committee had recommended not to submit a bid on the Farmington truck or any other aerial. It wanted the town’s 1974 ladder truck with 38,000 miles on it and 2,155 hours on the engine to be repaired and certified and a plan drawn up for capital improvements.

Voters rejected that recommendation.

Fire Chief Ken Jones estimates the town spent $25,000 to $30,000 on repairs for the aerial. It would take about $2,000 to repair it and get it tested, he said, but it is unknown what else would go wrong with it.

Meeting moderator Darryl Brown reminded those gathered at the high school to keep the comments civil and that they were all neighbors and cared about safety.

In the end, Budget Committee Chairwoman Louise Chabot came to Jones and shook his hand and the two shared a laugh.

“The Livermore Falls Budget Committee has the utmost respect for Chief Jones and his fire crew. They perform a vital service for the community and we are appreciative of their dedication,” Chabot had said earlier at the podium.

The committee believed they handed down a prudent and sound financial recommendation in their decision after reviewing information they had.

“The citizens of the town of Livermore Falls have now had an opportunity to make an informed decision and they have done so. This is our democratic process. This is the American way,” the committee said in a prepared statement.

“I’m anxious to see the outcome and see this past us,” Jones said Wednesday.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Kristal Flagg said she is not concerned with the surplus amount. As of June 2005, the town had about $650,000 in surplus. The audit is not completed for 2006 so she doesn’t have the current figure.

Surplus is a paper figure, she said, where everything is taken into account, including the amount of taxes that are owed and the money the town has.

Auditors recommend towns have three months’ of disbursements available to cover town operations in case of emergency and unexpected expenses, she said

She said the town has built the surplus up from a auditors declaring it “dangerously low” at about $200,000 by not using it to offset the tax rate.