Edgecomb needs more financial details about new fire truck purchase

Selectmen approve discussion-only warrant article
Posted:  Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - 8:15am
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Edgecomb residents will not vote on purchasing a new fire truck at the May town meeting. On April 9, selectmen explained their decision to place a warrant article for discussion only regarding the future purchase a new vehicle.

The fire department was hoping to purchase a new $247,600 Fast Attack vehicle equipped with a Ford F-550 chassis. The truck would replace a 1981 rescue vehicle and a 1984 pumper.  But town officials ran out of information and time to put the proposal before voters this May.

During an April 2 budget informational meeting, it seemed the new truck purchase would make the warrant. But when selectmen began finalizing the town warrant, they realized more financial information was required.

So residents won’t see an article on May 19 requesting voter authorization for purchasing a Fast Attack vehicle. What they will see is a warrant article requesting a discussion about a future purchase.  According to selectmen, if the discussion goes well, it may lead to a special town meeting later this summer.

Selectmen Mike Smith and Ted Hugger explained before the town could seek a loan or grant it needed voter approval, then once all the financial information is known, residents could later vote on the purchase at a future town meeting.

“After the meeting, we came downstairs with the full intention of doing just that,” Smith said. “But we weren’t able to because numbers became an issue, and we didn’t have enough time to put them in the warrant.”

According to town officials, municipalities must provide residents with purchase cost, principle and interest amounts, term of loan, and include selectmen’s approval prior to vote authorization. Following a town meeting discussion, residents may request a straw vote to see if selectmen should proceed in seeking grant or loan terms. A special town meeting could be called within one to two months after the one in May.

Fire Chief Roy Potter and four other firemen challenged the board’s decision. They believed voters should have decided in May whether or not to purchase a new truck. Potter recalled last year he told residents at town meeting about the department’s intention. He also wrote about the need in his annual written report.

This year, Potter included the truck in his proposed budget and discussed it during two other budget committee meetings. Said Potter, “What more information could you possibly want?”

Selectmen responded that they couldn’t get around state regulations and asked for firefighters’ continued patience. They also believe a delay would benefit the fire department’s quest in securing a new truck. Once all the financial information is assembled, selectmen believe voters can  “digest” the information and become more comfortable in making a large expenditure.

“What we did is keep the conversation going,” Smith said. “I don’t think this proposal would be well-perceived at town meeting. This will provide more information about the financials, and I think in the long run be beneficial for you.”

Potter believed the delay would hurt his department’s ability to provide public safety. He reported the department’s fleet was beyond state regulations regarding fire vehicle age limits of 15 years. The two vehicles slated for replacement are almost 40 years old.  The pumper also has an ongoing reliability issue putting residents’ and firefighters’ lives in jeopardy, he said. He also had concerns about a memo sent by Select Board Chairman Jack Sarmanian. The memo sent on April 6 called for a Fire Department Committee to review future public safety equipment needs.

Potter said after he saw Sarmanian’s memo, he wrote two letters. One was a resignation letter. “Biggest reason I want this in front of the voters is to show I’ve done all I can as chief. We (firefighters) saw Jack’s (Sarmanian) proposal as a slap in the face. I don’t think that is how it was intended, but that’s what it felt like.”

Selectmen and the budget committee are recommending a combined $4,190,266 FY 19 municipal school budget. The proposal is $243,246 or 6.7 more than the current budget, but it only asks local taxpayers for $107,097 or 3.1 percent more in local assessment. In finalizing the warrant, selectmen recommend residents raise and appropriate $20,000 for ambulance service.

The town has two options for ambulance service: Wiscasset or Central Lincoln County. Wiscasset requested $6,500 plus and an obligation for unpaid resident ambulance service calls. Last year, WAS officials reported over $14,000 worth of Edgecomb residents' ambulance calls went unpaid. CLCAS requested a flat $20,000 fee.

Selectmen changed the date for their next meeting. The board will meet at 6 p.m. April 24 in the municipal building.