Newbury (MA) Hopes to Make Fire Apparatus Purchase

The Capital Planning Committee voted unanimously to recommend a replacement for the Newbury Fire Protection No. 2’s 25-year-old pumper, in an amount not to exceed $450,000.

By a 3 to 2 vote, Fire Engineers narrowly dismissed a call to deem the purchase an emergency that would require immediate replacement. Instead, a contingency plan was established for coverage in the event the truck breaks down again before any new purchase is completed.

According to a report submitted by CPC chairman Bob Connors on Dec. 16, the vehicle, which was built in 1989, is experiencing frequent breakdowns and is out of certification in terms of open cab guidelines recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Its annual operational costs exceed any anticipated annual purchase costs for a replacement, the report finds.

Connors said the CPC had already been considering this replacement prior to the emergency meeting Monday night. Using funding numbers from the 2002 Annual Town Meeting as a baseline for comparison and factoring in 3 percent per year for inflation, Connors made the case that over the past 12 years level-funded budgets and cuts have caused a $1.7 million funding gap between what the fire department needed and what was appropriated at town meeting.

Both Fire Protection No. 1 and No. 2 “use collected fees to keep the lights on, buy fuel, and pay insurance while falling behind in building reserves to purchase new or good used equipment as the fleet continues to age and approach the end of expected operational life,” Connors said.

It’s a message, he says, that “never gets conveyed to the voter prior to an override attempt…now the town is faced with this and future capital requests from both departments to make up for the gap in annual funding.”

Should selectmen agree to bring the request to Town Meeting and voters approve the purchase, Connor’s committee is urging a thoughtful approach to the acquisition and design processes.

The entire process would take months, with the research portion alone taking 3 to 6 weeks. It should begin by determining whether an apparatus committee or a few select individuals will manage the process and who will write the specifications for the truck. An assessment of what types of features are needed programmatically, what qualifications are required of potential suppliers, and what are the financial and time constraints for the purchase are also questions to answer.

“Research up front will eliminate a whole host of potential problems including rebids, protests, and costly changes late in the process,” Connor’s report states.

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