Village of Athens (NY) Debates Fire Apparatus Purchase

With the Village of Athens contemplating the purchase of a new ladder fire truck, both supporters and opponents of the plan came out to voice their opinions at a public hearing at the firehouse, late last month.

Fire Chief Adam Greco and firefighter Bill Tompkins opened the presentation with specifics about the purchase and how the fire department determined a new truck — and one equipped with a ladder — was needed.

Tompkins said he went on a website that helps departments determine their needs, and that all indications were that the Athens Volunteer Fire Department does need a ladder truck.

The truck that would be replaced is more than 30 years old and has serious maintenance and repair issues, such as extensive rust that can’t be repaired, a weakened chassis that is actually bending in the middle, transmission problems, and other issues that mean the vehicle won’t pass its next state inspection.

The truck was purchased used four years ago, serving as a “Band-Aid” for the time being. Village officials at the time estimated it would only last four or five years before a replacement would be needed.

But a new fire truck is expensive. A new ladder truck would cost upwards of $650,000, so the village board months ago told firefighters to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative plan.

The department identified a “demo” quint truck that goes for roughly $140,000 less than that.

“This truck is a perfect fit for this village,” Tompkins said, “with its historical buildings, industrial sites, two senior housing facilities, and so on.”

Speaker Owen Lipstein said the people who work with the equipment are the best equipped to decide what they need to do their job.

“I am in support of this piece of equipment,” Lipstein said. “These are our professionals, and we are being told by people whose business this is that they need it. We should respect their opinion.”

Former Athens Mayor David Riley, who is opposed to the purchase, said there are other more pressing issues that should be dealt with first.

“We have other issues that need to be addressed in the village, like the DPW (Department of Public Works) building, which has been falling down since I was mayor,” Riley said. “I am not against the fire department, but I am concerned about getting a ladder truck because of the economic issues and how much it will cost.”

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