New Wilton fire truck purchase is approved

Wilton Fire Engine 2, right, is one of two fire trucks nearly ready to be retired. The town will purchase a “demo” model to replace one of them.

Wilton Fire Engine 2, right, is one of two fire trucks nearly ready to be retired. The town will purchase a “demo” model to replace one of them.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

Both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have agreed to dip into the Charter Authority to purchase a new fire pumper truck.

The Board of Selectmen agreed to take its 25 percent of the Charter Authority to cover $310,000 of the $440,343 total cost for the truck and the Board of Finance will cover the rest.

The selectmen approved the purchase following a presentation by interim Fire Chief Geoffrey Herald and Anthony DeFelice, the town’s financial and reporting manager, at the board’s meeting on Monday, Dec. 16.

The Board of Finance followed suit after hearing from First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice on Dec. 17.

Charter Authority is a “rainy day” fund set aside for the selectmen and finance board to use for items not in the budget.

Earlier this year, the Board of Finance pledged $468,000 from its share of the $1.2-million Charter Authority to fund the school district’s Genesis program, an alternative school for middle and high school students. The Board of Selectmen has 25 percent of the Charter Authority under its purview and the finance board controls the rest.

According to the fire chief, there are two fire trucks in the department’s fleet within 2 1/2 years of the end of their 15-year lives — Engine 2 and Engine 3 pumpers, both dating from 2007.

He said the department has the option to purchase new trucks or refurbish them.

To replace them with new trucks, the cost would be approximately $608,100 each, according to the chief.

To refurbish the trucks, it would cost about $451,650 each. He said the refurbished trucks would last about seven to 10 years.

Demo truck

There was another option, the chief said. The Pierce Company which made the town’s pump trucks, also sells demo trucks that are used in truck shows and for display purposes.

Pierce has one 2019 demo pumper truck available for purchase for $440,343.

The chief said he favored buying the demo truck because it was more modern than the 2007 model and could carry 1,000 gallons of water, more than the department’s standard pumpers, which carry 500 to 750 gallons.

The new demo truck would come at a considerable savings for the town, the chief said.

He recommended purchasing the truck now, in order to save the town from having to buy two new pumpers at the same time in the future. The demo truck comes with a two-year warranty. New fire trucks only come with a one-year warranty, he said.

The truck could be put into service within a few months and will be housed at Station 2 on Ridgefield Road where its larger tank will be “a huge advantage.” It will also fit into the station, which has been a concern for newer equipment.

Although the truck is not built to Wilton specifications, Fire Commission Chair Casey Healy told the finance board “it will work perfectly well.”

DeFelice reviewed the numbers and said overall he estimated there a net savings of $136,240 from buying the $440,343 demo truck now, in cash. The main savings come from the lower purchase price and $66,881 saved by not bonding the purchase.

To pay for the truck, Anne Kelly-Lenz, the town’s chief financial officer, said the town could use $310,000 from the Board of Selectmen’s Charter Authority and approximately $130,400 from the Board of Finance’s Charter Authority.

Discussing the risks of using funds from the Charter Authority, Kelly-Lenz said town revenues are forecast to be $900,000 favorable due to the collection of back taxes from one commercial property owner and current and expected receipt of an unbudgeted ECS grant. She said there were also a number of employee vacancies resulting in a budget savings.

She said the only non-favorable budget line was legal services, which was less than the labor savings.

Vanderslice made three points about the purchase.

First, she noted, it was highly unusual that this demo truck was available and was the exact truck the town was seeking to purchase.

She said the savings of $136,240 was based on the current cost to purchase new, not the higher cost in two years, and is net of a reduction to reflect the early purchase.

Finally, she said, the Board of Selectmen’s budget was expected to end the year favorably and thus will return to the town, at a minimum, the amount of charter authority funds being provided by the finance board vote.

“It is a win, win as the fire department is receiving an up-to-date engine which allows them to maximize performance and public safety and the taxpayers are saving more than 20% versus the cost of a new engine,” she said.

Jeannette Ross contributed to this story.

Editor’s Note: This story was edited to include Lynne Vanderslice’s comments made on social media.