SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Fire Department got two pieces of good news this week — word of an $871,429 federal grant for a new ladder truck and an award for continued safety from the state Bureau of Labor Standards.

Fire Chief Shawn Howard said the grant money, if approved with a local match Tuesday night by the Board of Selectmen, will be used to buy a quintuple combination pumper and tanker ladder truck. That truck would replace the town’s 1990 aerial ladder truck.

Howard said Skowhegan is the only municipality in Somerset County that owns a ladder truck.

The Safety and Health Award for Public Employees from the Maine Department of Labor recognizes the department as a model for maintaining a safety and health management system. The award will defer scheduled safety inspections and recognizes the Skowhegan Fire Department for excellence in workplace safety.

“This is two big things for the Fire Department,” Howard said Wednesday. “This is just an amazing boost.”

The federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant program was created to help provide money for fire departments and non-affiliated emergency medical service organizations so they can buy equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources to better protect the public and emergency personnel, according to a joint news release Wednesday from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, 2nd District.

“The daily sacrifices made by our firefighters are instrumental to the safety of Maine’s tight-knit communities,” Collins, King and Poliquin said in the release. “This AFG grant will help give our firefighters more resources to ensure their safety as they protect our communities.”

As part of the grant program, the Andover Fire Department will get $21,429; North Lakes Fire & Rescue in Cross Township in Aroostook County, $24,953; and Littleton Fire Department, $8,096.

Fire Capt. Mike Savage wrote a grant application for Skowhegan requesting $915,000 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Howard. The grant comes with a 5 percent match, or $43,571, if selectmen approve it.

“This does not have to come from local taxation,” Howard said Wednesday. “Some will make the argument that it’s federal money and it’s still tax money, and it is. However, this is spread out across the nation. This isn’t coming directly from Skowhegan residents.”

Howard said the local share would come from the firetruck replacement reserve account, which has about $93,000 left in it. Voters at Town Meeting agreed to add $150,000 to that account, which will go in sometime in September after tax bills go out, Howard said.

The new ladder truck would cost $900,000 to $1.1 million.

The new unit, which would be able to pump its own water, actually would replace two trucks — the old ladder and a pumper, Howard said. It will have a 100-foot aerial ladder and will have its own pump.

“It’s a multi-purpose vehicle,” Howard said. “It can be a ladder truck, and it’s also an engine pumper combination unit.”

Howard said having the quintuple ladder truck would make Skowhegan a valuable asset to all fire departments in southern Somerset County in a mutual-aid agreement.

He said he will ask the board for permission to use an out-of-state broker that sells fire equipment for the old ladder truck and will put it out to bid. Under the terms of the federal grant agreement, the old truck is deemed no longer fit for municipal firefighting service, so it will have to be sold to a private, civilian business or be parceled out for parts or scrap, he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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