BELMONT — Fire Chief David Parenti told selectmen last night that the department needs to replace "Engine 2" before it replaces the ladder truck that is on the 2016 capital improvement plan.
Parenti said the frame rails are rusted to the point where a local company was reluctant to perform pump repairs on it because they couldn't be sure the truck itself would last as long as the repairs.
A few years ago, said Parenti, the department tried to get it refurbished but the company balked for fear the refurbishment costs would last longer than the engine and the rest of the drive train. He said it was $75,000 just to repair the frame rails and that didn't factor in the rust beneath the battery and the storage compartments.
All Parenti is really recommending is swapping the replacement schedule of "Tower 1" — the ladder truck — with "Engine 2." Last year, he had recommended "Tower 1" for a 2016 replacement and "Engine 2" for 2017 but that was before an independent examination revealed the rust problem on the engine. He said he will continue to recommend replacing the ladder truck in 2017 — likely with a used one.
"Engine 2" is a 1997 Pierce that was purchased new 18-years ago and ran as the primary or first-run engine for 13-years. Now it is a second-run engine in Belmont and the first engine to respond to mutual aid calls.
Parenti explained that typically a fire truck is a first-run engine for 10 years, a second-run engine for five years and a third or emergency engine used when the others are getting serviced or otherwise busy at a fire or multiple multiple incidents. The average life span of a fire engine is 20 to 25 years.
Selectman Jon Pike said he had recommended undercoating for the fire trucks but said that if the rust on "Engine 2" was this far gone, it may not of mattered in this case.
When asked, Parenti said he had been examining a lease-purchase arrangement for a new fire engine and will present the selectmen with more information at an upcoming meeting. Personally, he said he thought it was a good idea and many fire departments are using lease-purchases for their large equipment replacements.
The Belmont Police and the Department of Public Works are also using lease-purchases for some of their automotive equipment.
The problem for the Fire Department is that it holds ambulance revenues in a separate account that is used for large equipment replacement. Each year there is a warrant article at Town Meeting for use of the so-called "Comstar" account. If the voters choose to defeat one year of the lease-purchase, the town faces the distinct possibility that the truck goes back to the leasing company for lack of payment.
Conversely, if the general appropriations account is used, the annual cost of the lease is factored into the default budget, should the voters chose not to pass the requested budget. This means the annual lease payment will be included in general appropriations and not as a separate warrant article.
In other Belmont news, Town Clerk Tax Collector Cynthia DeRoy said the town will soon be able to register boats as do other towns and cities in the state. She said a transaction fee of $5 will come to the town as revenue and will add slightly to the $22,000 average annual revenue for boat registrations either done at marinas or through the state.
DeRoy said she is also looking into the benefits of allowing town residents to pay their taxes and vehicle registrations with a credit card. She said most other communities allow this already but there are some legal aspects that her and Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin must review with town counsel before making a final recommendation to the selectmen.
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