CHELSEA — The town’s Fire Department is without a working tanker after its 26-year-old truck failed to start last week when responding to a mutual aid call from Augusta.

The town’s 33-year-old primary tanker was put out of service two weeks earlier because required repairs cost too much.

Fire Chief Shawn Ramage said lack of a tanker won’t delay response time to a fire call because his department can use the water in the fire engines until another fire department arrived through mutual aid.

“Usually the tankers are a second necessity anyways,” he said.

The troubled tanker can carry 4,000 gallons of water and the three engines carry 1,000 gallons each, he said. The out-of-service tanker carried 2,000 gallons.

Ramage said the department’s mechanic is trying to outfit the tanker with a manual fuel pump because the automatic fuel pump has been failing. He’ll have a better idea this week whether it can be fixed.

Town Manager Scott Tilton said he won’t know what the town will do until the tanker’s status is known, but something will be done to replace it if needed.

“Obviously, it’s an emergency vehicle, so we’d like it to start when we need to,” he said.

The town has only $20,000 in its reserve fund for firetrucks, which wouldn’t be close to the $250,000 likely to be needed for a new tanker, Tilton said. Ideally, he said, the town would have been putting more money in reserve accounts.

“When budgets are tight, reserve accounts are usually the first to go,” Tilton said.

If the tanker can’t be fixed, the town could lease a tanker or take out a loan to buy a new one, he said, or possibly set up some contract with a neighboring town.

Tilton announced the tanker’s problems at Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, just hours after the Augusta fire call came in.

In other business, board members approved 2013 goals for the town at the meeting, which included creating a capital improvements plan by the scheduled June town meeting.

Tilton said part of the plan’s purpose would be to avoid issues such as the tanker problem by assessing when town equipment would need replacement and determining funding sources.

He said wasn’t aware of the town doing this before but had suggested it to the board this year.

The other goals are creating a road service management plan by next November, writing three successful grants with the new grant-writing committee and improving solid waste and recycling efforts in the town.

The board members postponed discussion of whether to discontinue several less populated dead-end roads — Spruce Lane, Goodwill Drive, Allen Avenue and Old Thomaston Road — until they know how much would be saved on maintenance for the roads. They said the road service management plan will address it.

The town would need to hire a an appraiser to see how much residents on the roads should be compensated. Tilton said the only objections to the discontinuations have come from two Old Thomaston Road residents.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
pkoenig@mainetoday.com