Barre (VT) Considering Fire Apparatus Purchase

City councilors have been presented with a plan to replace Barre’s most expensive piece of firefighting apparatus — a plan that wouldn’t require a public vote and would bypass the competitive bidding process.

Though City Manager Steve Mackenzie isn’t ready to recommend it, he has advised councilors there is a time-sensitive offer for a slightly used aerial truck on the table from the same New Hampshire company that sold the city two slightly used pumper trucks — one in 2010 and its twin in 2011 — for $350,000 each.

Like the two pumper trucks, the aerial truck, which was manufactured in 2012, is an HME and has been used exclusively as a demonstration model by Lakes Region Fire Apparatus in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

Tim Bombardier, the city’s director of public safety, successfully pitched both pumper trucks as economical alternatives to buying pricier new fire engines and safer bets than gambling on older used vehicles.

The same arguments would seem to apply to the aerial truck, which Mackenzie said was first offered to the city for $600,000 more than a month ago. That offer is scheduled to expire next week, though councilors first learned that it existed in a Sunday afternoon email from Mackenzie and only briefly discussed the unwarned item during their meeting Tuesday night.

According to Mackenzie, the aerial truck will be on the agenda next week, when Bombardier, who was out of state earlier this week, will be able to attend.

Mackenzie has told councilors not to feel pressured by the fact that the offer of a specialized piece of emergency apparatus that likely retails for more than $1 million is scheduled to expire less than 24 hours after they meet.

“My view is that the whole discussion of replacing the tower (truck) transcends the issue of ‘We may have a good offer on the table, which has a short fuse,'” Mackenzie said, suggesting he is reasonably confident the city could negotiate an extension if councilors are interested in entertaining what he characterized as a potentially good deal.

According to Mackenzie, that discussion needs to occur at the council level, because the expense is both significant and unbudgeted, and the last time Bombardier floated the idea of buying a new aerial truck the council balked.

That was five years ago, and the city’s 1995 ladder truck isn’t getting any younger. The ladder truck was purchased, along with a new pumper, with proceeds from a $370,000 bond issue that Barre voters overwhelmingly approved in 1994.

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