BELMONT — The Board of Selectmen took an ax to the Fire Department's capital budget request last night, chopping a fire boat and a feasibility study for a new satellite station, worth a total of $95,000, from consideration.
The fire boat is to replace the old pontoon platform boat for Lake Winnisquam with a new boat capable of fighting fires. The department removed the pontoon boat from service about a year ago.
The $70,000 feasibility study was recommended by Fire Chief David Parenti because, in his opinion, coverage from the town's fire station in the village has response times that are too slow to the Route 3/lake section of town, which generates about 26 percent of the fire department's calls.
"Most communities our size have two stations," Parenti said, identifying a piece of undeveloped town-owned property on the corner of Union Road and Woodland Drive on the southeast side of Lake Winnisquam near Silver Lake as a potential site.
"I won't disagree with you (about the need) but right now I can't support a feasibility study," said Selectman Ruth Mooney. Selectmen Jon Pike and Chair Ron Cormier agreed with her.
When Parenti asked for a capital reserve account in lieu of a feasibility study, Cormier said he couldn't support either.
"I can't see how this board can dispose of one fire station (Winnisquam) and in a second say let's spend $70,000 to look at a station," he said.
Parenti also asked for a $200,000 refurbishment of Engine 3 — the second engine in Belmont's fleet and the one that responds on the "second line."
He said there is some significant rust on the 1997 fire truck but a new truck would cost $500,000. He said if the body was refurbished he would be able to move it forward as the primary response truck for the next five or so years and then get an additional five or so years as a second response engine.
He said he spoke with Greenwood Emergency Vehicles and said they recommended a complete inspection for $2,000 — meaning a technician go over the body and frame to see if it will last 10 years.
"If the frame rails are shot then there's no point," Parenti said.
Parenti also said that RSNE of Gilford would give the motor and drive-train a complete check for $500.
Selectmen told him to get the motor evaluated before he moves ahead with the body inspection.
He also asked selectmen for a new fire command vehicle. Right now the department has two Ford Explorer SUVs — one each for the chief and deputy chief — and the one the deputy drives has "multiple coolant leaks" and may need a head gasket.
Selectmen suggested spending $35,000 on a new Ford Interceptor SUV and make it the chief's vehicle.
Pike said he would like to put the chief in a smaller vehicle and the Ford Interceptor (sedans) are designed for emergency responses. He also said the fuel savings would make a big difference in the long run.
On the operations side of the budget, Parenti requested an additional firefighter. He said he has reduced the rest of the operations budget — especially his overtime line — to compensate for the position. He also suggested that if the additional firefighter is approved, that he or she start in July.
As to the long-term effects on the operations budget, Parenti noted he has two lieutenants who may be retiring in 2014 and some savings would likely be realized in personnel costs when he replaces them with people who are not as senior.
Selectmen chose to move the additional firefighter request on to the Budget Committee for consideration with a recommendation to support it. The position is budgeted at $35,000 plus benefits.
Pike noted selectmen had asked the chief to reduce his overtime and "he has done what we asked."