Salem NH Mulls Lease or Purchase of Fire Apparatus

Salem (NH) officials are debating whether to buy or lease a new fire engine after Salem Fire Chief Kevin Breen informed them to to seriously consider advancing the replacement of the department’s ladder truck.

“I think we have to realize that every time we pay interest, there is less you can buy in the future,” Selectman Stephen Campbell said. “For equipment, generally speaking, I’m not in favor of leasing.”

Selectman Mike Lyons said that he thinks $10,000 per year on a million-dollar piece of equipment that’s going to enhance public safety is not a lot of money.

Lyons and the other board members also noted that price trends for fire engines are very important.

The board tasked Breen to work with the manufacturer to determine price changes over the last five years.

“If we could see kind of a price trend, if that differential is the same as the interest payment, then we’re not saving money, we’re just deferring or pushing out aged equipment,” said Selectman Jim Keller.
Breen said that the current 105-foot ladder truck, which is about 20 years old, has seen excessive corrosion on its wiring harness, which took months to replace.

A new engine would cost north of $1 million. A lease option at current rates would see $10,000 per year in interest.

Salem purchased a used truck in the late 1980’s and spent in excess of $370,000 for a four-year-old truck. A volunteer company had bought too much equipment and didn’t need the truck, nor could they afford it.

For fire engines, Breen said that a 20-year life span is typically looked at, although he said that schedule was set 20 years ago and may need an adjustment given Salem’s growth during that time.

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