FARMINGTON – Selectmen Tuesday held a public hearing to discuss plans to replace two firetrucks with one $812,500 combination ladder pumper truck for which the town would need to borrow $500,000.

About 10 members of the Fire Department and nearly 10 others attended the hearing, during which Fire Chief Terry Bell explained the reasoning behind making such a large purchase.

The town is due to replace Engine 3 next year, in 2007, and is due to replace a ladder truck in 2012, Bell said. For that purpose, the town has been putting money into a fire truck reserve account every year for decades, said Selectman Dennis Pike. But because of inflation and rising fire equipment costs, the cost to replace Engine 3 is expected to be about $400,000. The town only has $215,672 in the reserve account.

Add to that the fact the cost of a new ladder truck in 2012 is expected to be nearly $900,000, and that because of new environmental standards the cost of engines is expected to rise by about $20,000 after this July, Bell said he and others became worried about how Farmington would afford the cost of much needed new equipment. By buying one truck, instead of two, Bell said, the town will save money up front and save on upkeep and fuel costs.

The “Quint” is also safer, said Bell, with a platform on top of the ladder for firefighters to stand on.

Town Manager Richard Davis said the ad-hoc Fire Truck Committee created earlier in the year backed Bell’s suggestion after investigating the possibility of purchasing used trucks and staying on the original schedule.

Davis said given the high cost of new equipment, all towns in this area will need to start practicing regionalization. Gone are the days when every town bought all the trucks it needed, Bell added. Now towns will need to rely on each other to fight big fires, with smaller, more rural towns providing pumpers, and bigger towns with taller buildings providing ladders.

To afford the new Quint, Davis said the town will need to borrow about $500,000. The rest of the $812,500 will come from the nearly $216,000 in the reserve account and $100,000 from the trade in on the current ladder truck.

Selectmen voted unanimously to put the issue on the warrant for the June 13 special town meeting for taxpayers to decide, after a lengthy discussion between Pike and the rest of the board about the dangers of borrowing money for the truck.

“I’ve been an employee of the town” for nearly 66 years, he said, he has always been pleased with the “foresight” shown by the town in setting aside money in reserve accounts each year, so that when big purchases need to be made the town can pay outright, instead of borrowing.

He said he thinks “it is bad practice to go out and borrow an enormous amount of money,” when the money should have been in a reserve account gaining interest. He added that, given the circumstances, he does support purchasing the Quint.