Ladder truck leaves town feeling red

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<.600The only new things colored "Fire Engine Red" in Livermore Falls are the faces of the selectmen.

Despite having $130,000 at their disposal – with an additional $30,000 approved by town meeting voters on Jan. 3 – Livermore Falls lost its bid on Friday for Farmington’s used ladder truck. Livermore Falls offered $105,000, while a last-minute bidder from Pennsylvania trumped them by $13,000.

The bidding tactic by the selectmen is truly curious, as the rationale for asking for extra funds, and then not using it, escapes us. Farmington solicited sealed bids for the truck, and the press surrounding Livermore Falls’ meetings on the fire truck funds certainly made its budget no secret.

Why wouldn’t Livermore Falls bid $130,000? Voters had approved it. Perhaps officials decided, as the reported lone bidder for the Farmington truck, to expend as few taxpayer dollars as possible. While laudable, this spendthrift attitude has likely sent its desired apparatus south to the Keystone State.

Most eye-rolling about this bidding debacle is the tortuous debate that went into allocating the additional funds. The town’s budget committee opposed the expense. The fire department encouraged it. Voters refused to purchase a new fire engine, which costs more than a half-million dollars.

Farmington could reject the higher bid, and save Livermore Falls selectmen from the consequences of its thrift. Doing so, however, would be against the interest of Farmington taxpayers, who deserve to receive every dollar possible from the sale of public apparatus.

Efficient governing isn’t always about saving pennies. It’s about making the right decisions for the town today, and tomorrow.

Purchasing Farmington’s ladder truck was the right choice, as a similar deal isn’t likely to come around again, but Livermore Falls’ inexplicable thrift shows being economical isn’t always the same as being effective.

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