WILTON — Voters narrowly approved spending up to $500,000 to buy a used aerial firetruck for the town to replace their former 40-year-old ladder truck.

With a vote of 32-27, the residents approved buying the new truck, which will be paid for by a mix of traditional property tax money and tax-increment financing district money from the Comfort Inn & Suites district.

About 60 residents, with heavy representation from the Fire Department, attended the special town meeting Tuesday night at the Academy Hill School cafeteria. After 40 minutes of discussion, they approved the money for the replacement truck.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish said the town will pay up to $60,000 annually on the truck with $25,000 per year coming from the TIF district and $35,000 coming from regular taxes.

The town previously held a public hearing on alternatives such as leasing a truck from the neighboring towns of Jay and Farmington or buying a new truck for possibly $1.2 million to $1.4 million.

Selectwoman Tiffany Maiuri said she was skeptical at first of the need for buying an expensive aerial truck, but over months of research she learned that the major businesses in town said they would not expand their business if the town didn’t buy a new truck.

Maiuri said when residents looked at alternatives, there were concerns about whether sharing devices with Jay and Farmington would provide enough coverage, when the two towns would get priority on the ladder truck and Wilton would come second if they ever needed both at the same time.

Fire Chief Sonny Dunham said he and other fire offiicals have looked over the past 16 months at “hundreds and hundreds of trucks.”

“We’ve done a lot of homework on this,” he said.

The last ladder truck was 40 years old and was salvaged for $5,000, Dunham said.

Dunham said major businesses have come to size up the town, first visiting the Fire Department to see what kind of coverage they would get if they chose to build in Wilton.

“Their insurance rate would go skyrocketing if we did not have an aerial device,” Dunham said, noting that fire insurance rates are based on fire coverage availability.

Some residents debated whether the town was being hasty in purchasing a used truck, when the Franklin County fire departments had been meeting over the past six months about whether they could regionalize some of the county’s fire services to save money and consolidate manpower.

Resident Nick Hall said the town should wait and see if the regionalizing will mean consolidating fire apparatus.

“Why does Wilton need to jump into this before this consolidation mess is solved?” Hall said.

Dunham said he has been to the county fire meetings, and consolidation is happening through buying equipment together and training together.

“It could be, but in the meetings that we’ve been, it’s not in the near future,” he said.

The town owes one more payment on a firetruck they share with the East Dixfield Fire Department, a subset of the Wilton Fire Department.

Selectman Paul Berkey reiterated the concern that major businesses are going to want coverage and will not want to share with Jay and Farmington.

“What happens if Barclay’s decides to pull out now because we’re not giving them the things that they need? What if Jarden’s wants to pull out? They want coverage,” said Berkey, referring to companies considering weighing the effectiveness of the town’s fire protection coverage.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

 


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