Published DateTo the editor,
I am compelled to respond to several articles that ran in the last week or so in both The Sun and The Citizen, because it has become obvious that the local media just cannot get the facts straight, or more likely, the people that have been interviewed is skipping the facts to push a political agenda born out of bitterness. Yes, once again I am talking about fire trucks!
About 10 days ago, Gilford's Engine 2 was towed, leaving Gilford without a primary attack engine, as Engine 4 is still up in Tamworth having the pump installed. This could have been avoided if the Fire Engineers and the selectman just obeyed the will of the voters and repaired Engine 4 after the warrant article for its replacement was rejected at the March 2012 Town Meeting. Instead they let the truck sit in disrepair for another six months while they played politics with public safety by trying to take a second bite out of the same rotten apple. Had the repairs commenced in March rather than October there would not be an issue today because Engine 4 would be available. Also even if the voters approved a new engine in March the likelihood is that Gilford would not take delivery until this March at the earliest as E-ONE has a 10 month back log and a two month production time on custom chassis pumpers (that's 12 months, Bill).
The paper quoted Fire Engineer Chief Akerley as saying Engine 2 is a 2002 and is 11 years old, and Engine 4 is a 1987 and is 27 years old. But in reality Engine 2 has just turned 10 as it is a 2003 model year, and Engine 4 is a 25 year old 1988 model. When we first started talking about Engine 4 a mere 14 months ago, both Mr. Akerley and Chief Carrier described it as being 23 years old (I have video of this). . . and now, 14 months later, they are publicly exaggerating the age to be 27! Wow! This truck aged four years in 14 months. . . NO. . . but I feel like I've aged quite a bit during that same time period!
Also what was not reported at first, and has only started to dribble out, is that this truck was damaged during the 1.9 mile tow. What has not been reported was that Chief Carrier authorized the wrecker operator to tow this truck in an illegal manor. RSA 266:64 states that all towed vehicle must be fitted with a tow bar, the only exception would be for emergency tow of less than 1 mile, and the law also does not allow for the use of a tow strap, such as was used in this case. When the wrecker operator couldn't figure out how to hook up to this truck he proposed disconnecting the driveshaft and flat towing the truck (with all wheels on the ground), while someone rode in the disabled Engine 4 with the engine running to steer and operate the brakes. Now you don't have to be a truck expert to know how unsafe this is. Mr. Pat LaBonte a man with over 50 years of experience dealing with heavy trucks was present and advised that this was not safe or legal, and could potentially damage the vehicle further if the transmission was to engage and spin the driveshaft. He was right on all accounts; unfortunately his advice fell on the deaf ears of Chief Carrier, who told Mr. LaBonte that as chief, HE would decide what is best. Well the chief's poor judgments has caused severe damage to the anti-lock braking system, air lines and fittings, a universal joint, and potentially even the driveshaft and transmission. Way to go chief!
The chief, Mr. Akerley, and their pet selectman, John O'Brien, had a lot to say in the papers, placing the blame on the voters and indirectly on Mr. LaBonte and me. They claimed that if the voters only listened to the experts we wouldn't be in this situation. Well the problem with that is that a locksmith, attorney, and retired coast guardsman, can hardly be considered truck "experts". And considering Chief Carrier's reckless approach to decision making when it comes to the trucks, I would argue that he is novice at best.
Remember all that talk about how the chief was spearheading change down at the firehouse and they were putting a comprehensive preventative maintenance program in place that includes daily vehicle inspections? Well that hasn't happened! The chief now claims that as emergency vehicles his trucks are exempt from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules. How do I know? Because that's what he told me a few weeks ago when I inquired how they could have missed a major deficiency that Mr. LaBonte and I discovered on the tanker truck that rendered it unsafe and illegal to operate on public roads. We had to persuade the reluctant fire chief to send this truck to the DPW to be repaired. It's a good thing we discovered that before GFD had three trucks down at the same time.
On another note, Mr. LaBonte and I had a chance to inspect Engine 4 prior to it being sent out to have the pump installed. We are both extremely pleased with the quality of the DPW mechanic's work. They re-engineered the cab mounting system so the cab will now be able to flex independent of the chassis. They replaced the brakes, springs, tires and a cross-member. They had the radiator and heater core re-cored. They relocated an air tank and associated air lines. They re-wired much of the truck and fitted it with all new LED lights. The best part is they spent only about $14K. . . not $70K as Selectman O'Brien falsely claimed. The pump will cost $36K as the Fire Engineers decided on the most expensive option and were not even open to any alternatives that could have saved the tax payers some money. In the end the town will have spent about $50k to rebuild this truck and reverse years of neglect. I seem to remember the estimate being as high as $150k. . . but that came from the "experts".
I truly believe that the town did the absolute right thing by rebuilding Engine 4, when it is done I predict that it will be the best truck GFD has and would be ready for frontline service once again.