Fire Truck Funding Halfway Approved

A Pierce fire truck

Fire trucks are hard to come by these days, and Weston needs one. So, on January 30, the Board of Finance approved the Selectmen’s request to draw $600,000 from reserves to prepay half the cost of a new apparatus.

The motivation for the request, according to Weston Volunteer Fire Department leadership, is to secure a place in the very long supply queue, qualify for discounts, insulate to a degree against price hikes, and replace an old and potentially hazardous unit.

First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor said the other half of the money will appear in this year’s proposed capital budget. That money, if approved, would stay in the Town’s fund balance, earning interest, until the vehicle is delivered.

Which won’t be for several years.

According to fire department president Craig Cohen, the lead time for filling orders for new fire trucks has risen to 36 to 48 months.

At the table in December, Terry Blake, Craig Cohen, John Pokorny

The new truck would replace Engine 7, the fire department’s workhorse, which Chief John Pokorny said is dispatched to every structure fire and most other calls, being at least the second on the scene, to supply water.

Engine 7 is 23 years old, eight years beyond the age when, according to National Fire Protection Association standards, it should have been replaced. “15 years is the beginning of the end,” said Mr. Cohen.

Alternatively, the NFPA guidelines say a fire truck of that age can be used as backup equipment, assuming it has been well maintained. Mr. Cohen said this is not a viable option.

Weston has no spare truck, so Engine 7’s place on the front line would be vacant if it were put on the bench. Deputy Chief Terry Blake told the Board of Finance on December 14 that maintenance of the truck has become difficult, that it frequently breaks down, and poses a safety risk to the public and volunteer firefighters.

Assuming part two of the funding is approved in this year’s budget, an order placed now might not be delivered until 2028, based on current lead times. If delivery takes that long, and if the truck holds up that long, by that time Engine 7 will be 27 years old, almost twice its expected lifespan.

So, Chief Pokorny was asked at the Selectmen meeting, why wasn’t a replacement planned and budgeted for long ago?

“We’ve been trying to get this in the budget for years,” he told the Selectmen. “We were stifled.”

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