OXFORD — Selectmen have decided to figure out how to pay for a new fire engine before moving forward with the purchasing process.

The proposed purchase of a new fire engine, and how to pay for it, captured the majority of attention at Thursday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

Oxford Fire Department captains and paramedics Carl Van Nest and Shawn Cordwell told selectmen they had requested three bids for a new fire engine and two of the three vendors had responded.

Of the two, Greenwood Emergency Vehicles of Brunswick provided a lower bid — of  about $500,000 — and offered a variety of price structures if payment was made in cash or financed via a lease-purchase arrangement, and if the town would also buy an ambulance from them at the same time.

Bob Bernard, a customer service representative for Greenwood, attended the meeting and distributed copies of promotional material to the board regarding fire engine equipment manufactured by E-One of Ocala, Fla. Greenwood sells Horton ambulances, with headquarters in Grove City, Ohio.

Bernard also enclosed information about two existing pre-bid equipment purchasing processes for municipalities in which his company participates.

“Essentially, we will build whatever truck you want,” according to the town’s submitted specifications, Bernard said. “You have a fleet of Emergency-One apparatus now, sitting in the firehouse. This truck would obviously augment that fleet you have.”

Selectman Roger Jackson asked whether the Fire Department had sought other bids.

Van Nest said the request for bids began in 2014 with “three large companies in this area. When we have representatives come into the station, they look down the line and only see one brand.” That brand is E-One.

“To be honest, I would like to see the bids,” Jackson said. “The reason I ask you two fellas is that selling a half-million-dollar rig, plus interest, to the people of the town of Oxford, that’s quite a step.”

Owens estimated the interest cost alone, if the $500,000 engine purchase was financed, would add up to about $72,000.

“Right now, we’re just trying to get a feeling from the board on whether you guys want to do this (pre-bid purchase method,) because if you do decide to do this process, that takes all the bidding right out of it,” Van Nest said. “It’s a national bid that’s already been used across the country for about 40-plus years now. Major departments use it.”

“You have to put it up to bid by our rules, by town ordinance,” Owens said. “It (must) go up for bid.”

Once that point was established, the rest of the conversation was about paying for the fire engine.

Lois Pike recalled a midwinter meeting of the rescue component at which former Town Manager Michael Chammings told the gathering that Oxford had $2.5 million available to spend on new emergency equipment.

“I don’t know; I didn’t say it,” Owens said. “Just because we have $2 million in the bank doesn’t mean it’s all sitting there for us to spend.”

Owens said the fire engine replacement line item originally was for $200,000.

“We added $50,000 on the budget this year, so right now there’s $250,000 budgeted for the truck,” Owens said. “I’m not saying you couldn’t buy the truck, or pay for it. If you do that, you need to (repay) capital improvements over the next four years or whatever. You have to fund the acquisition of the property.”

This exchange was followed by several questions about the firetruck purchase money already having been aside and responses denying it.

“No, you haven’t been putting (funds into a purchase) account,” Owens said. “Maybe you were told you were, but you’re not. So we just need to move on, I think … start fresh and go from there. Right now, there’s $250,000 (appropriated) for a firetruck. It doesn’t mean that we’re not getting a firetruck, it just means the money’s not there.”

There was discussion about commercial development on Pigeon Hill needing fire protection services from older equipment that might currently travel at “12 to 15 miles per hour” to crest the hill, and whether the town has considered those same commercial demands, and overall town needs, in funding replacement emergency equipment in advance.

“I’m sure each and every one of you (at the gathering) are taxpayers,” Jackson said. “Your property value, or the mill rate on your taxes, as years go on, matter. I understand as far as equipment goes, we have to update, but also wages are going to go up, insurance is going to go up, everything’s going to go up and eventually (we will) have people in town who can’t pay their taxes.”

He added, “What’s going to happen if we get (a mill rate) up around 15, 16, 17 or let’s say we get into Lewiston, Auburn, Portland, Bangor and get up into the 22 or 23, what are we going to do? We don’t have industry here. We have nothing but a service industry to pay our citizens. They’ve got to go out of town if they’re going to get bigger money. That’s my concern.”


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