The purchase of a new fire truck and an across-the-board wage increase for town employees drew voter opposition at Saturday’s town meeting, but not enough for either proposal to fail.
Voters approved nearly every article on the warrant — including the $1.8 million operating budget that includes the pay raises — during the approximately four-hour session at Dublin Consolidated School.
The replacement of the fire department’s 25-year-old tanker garnered much debate at the start of the meeting. Firefighters voiced their concerns about the old tanker’s deterioration, while former town fire chief Michael Worcester said, “It’s too good to throw away.”
The article asked voters to appropriate $375,000 for the purchase of the truck and to authorize selectmen to take out a loan to cover the up-front cost. The town will repay that loan using money in the fire equipment capital reserve fund, which voters are asked to contribute thousands of dollars to annually in a separate warrant article.
The term of the loan is not to exceed seven years, and interest rates couldn’t be better, at about 2.3 percent, said outgoing Selectman Charles F. Champagne. The first loan payment will be due in 2015.
Fire Chief Thomas Vanderbilt told voters the tanker is the only one in Dublin. And in a town with no hydrant system, it’s what brings water to fires, he said.
Vanderbilt looked into repairing the truck, but learned doing so is not financially feasible, he said. Plus, the National Fire Protection Association, which writes the standards for all fire services, recommends that front-line fire apparatuses be replaced at 20 years, so Dublin’s tanker is five years overdue, town officials said.
Worcester, who was appointed Dublin’s first full-time fire chief in 1999, disagreed, saying the current truck isn’t ready to be scrapped just yet and could be good for another three to five years if fixed properly. He joked that he was the one who “brought it home from the hospital when it was born.”
“With all the other things you’ve got on the menu this year, you have to go without something. It’s like the kids in the toy store,” Worcester said. “There’s a point you gotta cut back a little and be a little bit frugal.”
But waiting any longer to purchase a new truck would cost the town more money because truck prices increase each year, said Dublin firefighter Andy Freeman. “It’s 25 years old. It’s rotting. It is on the precipice of becoming an unsafe piece of equipment.”
Voters overwhelmingly supported the $375,000 purchase in a ballot vote, 118-22.
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