New rescue truck, additional firefighters approved at district meeting
Voters at the Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting opened their wallets and purses for the fire department on Monday night, agreeing to fund three big ticket requests.
The department got the OK to purchase a new $795,000 rescue truck, hire two additional full-time firefighters at a cost of $150,000 and spend $65,000 to treat rust on its signature piece of equipment, its ladder truck.
Approval came after voters questioned whether Fire Chief Robert McDuffy was spending ratepayer’s funds wisely.
“District taxes have quadrupled in the last 20 years, and you might want to take that into consideration,” resident Jane Donahue told McDuffy.
Other residents asked about the need for a new rescue truck at this time, with the potential for replacing the ladder truck possibly looming in the near future.
McDuffy described the new truck as a “rolling command post” that would allow firefighters to recover from dangerous and taxing situations in a climate controlled environment.
“The most important piece of equipment we have is our firefighters,” said McDuffy, adding that the new truck would let them cool down in hot conditions and warm up in freezing temperatures.
“I just struggle with the cost of everything,” said resident Bill Heaney. He added that in light of a proposed 12.5 percent increase to the fire department’s budget compared to last year, costs were creeping higher for taxpayers.
McDuffy noted he must balance fiscal responsibility with firefighter safety. Purchasing the rescue truck accomplishes both, he said.
“Our fleet is getting older,” said McDuffy. “It’s my duty to make sure our fleet is maintained so you as a taxpayer get the maximum performance out of this equipment.”
The new truck will replace a 1986 model currently being used by the department. Also, buying the new truck is on schedule with the department’s 10-year capital plan, which forecasts major purchases.
The $65,000 request will pay for corrosion control of the department’s ladder truck. McDuffy said the truck is a 1985 model in fair condition, but road salt is starting to eat away at the undercarriage. Over the ladder truck’s life, the department has invested at least $25,000 for body work. He noted that the cost to replace the truck entirely would be between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.