Wilton fire chief: New ladder truck 'valuable to our puzzle'

WILTON — Fire Chief Jim Blanchfield has responded to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice’s request to reduce the cost for a new ladder truck.

Blanchfield, who was promoted to the position last summer, presented a proposal to purchase a new ladder truck with allocated funds in the town budget, and was able to shave $150,000 from his initial estimate of $1.6 million.

At the first Board of Selectmen meeting in April, Blanchfield was called on by Vanderslice after she showed a spreadsheet accounting for $1.6 million for the ladder truck purchase. He detailed why he could bring that number down, and why the purchase was necessary.

“I based (the original estimate) on a few things: Some other purchases that I have seen, but in addition there was a cost breakdown relative to when it was bought,” Blanchfield said. “But those aren’t the numbers I want to use right now. The numbers I would like to use are similarly purchased vehicles relative to our neighbors, as well as some other factors. I can lower the price for us.”

The chief said the new number would be around $1.45 million, and he was confident that the department could stick to that amount.

The Board of Selectmen inquired about the longevity of purchasing a new vehicle versus the other options available.

According to Blanchfield, the department had three options: refurbish, rechassis or replace.

First, Blanchfield explained to members that refurbishing parts of the 17-year-old vehicle would run the budget about $600,000. For that price, he said an optimistic scenario would be the truck lasted another five years.

“If we can’t do the refurbishing for less than one-third of the cost, it shouldn’t be an option,” the chief told the selectmen.

A rechassis, he explained, would ostensibly be a replacement of “everything under the hood,” which would hopefully give the truck up to another decade of use in the best case scenario. A full rechassis price tag was estimated at over $1 million.

This option would also leave the truck being serviced for roughly a year. Selectwoman Lori Bufano asked how the truck’s absence would be handled by the department.

“We would have to end up getting a loaner vehicle,” Blanchfield said. “But there is another cost associated with that.”

The chief landed upon the option of purchasing a new aerial ladder vehicle, which he said is important during a time when “Wilton is building up.”

“The aerial truck is a big part of keeping (the town) safe,” he said.

Blanchfield explained the truck responds to all Wilton calls involving commercial alarms, structure fires, carbon monoxide alarms, chimney fires, and all calls in hydrant areas of town. In his presentation, it also states the vehicle plays a large role in providing mutual aid to surrounding departments.

The board approved the budget to purchase the truck with the amended $150,000 decrease.

“It is very valuable to our puzzle of our emergency response,” Blanchfield said of the truck, which doubles as both a ladder and rescue vehicle.