HALLOWELL — City council approved the purchase of a new fire truck that Fire Chief Jim Owens said meets all of the department’s standards and will be ready to meet the city’s needs for the next 25 years.

But one city councilor, who is a firefighter for a different city, says Hallowell doesn’t need a new truck. Instead, it needs a truck that will help maintain the city’s Insurance Services Office rating, which calculates how well-equipped fire departments are at putting out fires in that community.

“With all due respect to Chief Owens and our fire department, whom I truly do respect, Hallowell does not need the best fire truck for the next 25 years,” Councilor Patrick Wynne said. He’s currently a firefighter and paramedic for Augusta Fire and Rescue.

“One of our colleagues during the budget process often asked us to point at municipal waste,” Wynne said. “It’s very easy for me to point right here and say we’re wasting money.”

Other city councilors voted at the Oct. 12 meeting in favor of the option Owens presented for a pumper made by Pierce Manufacturing for $589,083, with an upfront payment discount of $18,460.

While that was the second-highest of the six bids received, Owens said, he was able to eliminate several items that the department doesn’t need and that lowered the price further.

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“We wanted the best truck for the next 25 years in the city of Hallowell, and I think we got it,” he said. “This truck is designed specifically for our needs in Hallowell. It may not work in some other towns, but it’s designed for our narrow streets and our old buildings.”

Mayor George Lapointe asked if the down payment discount would require the city to pay for the entire truck upfront instead of over the next five to six years, as this amount of money was not set aside in the current year’s budget.

Councilor Maureen AuCoin, chairwoman of  the city’s Finance Committee, said the purchase would be financed through Androscoggin Savings Bank, which would pay the total upfront cost.

The fiscal year 2022 budget shows that officials set aside roughly $92,000 for the first payment on a fire truck lease before approving this purchase. City Manager Gary Lamb did not immediately respond to a request for more information on the purchase.

The city also approved a request for $37,457 worth of equipment required for the new truck. AuCoin asked if any additional savings could be identified here, or if there was an actual need to spend this much on the additional equipment.

Owens said their current hose, which is from 1988, definitely needs replacing as it has a 10 year life expectancy. He said this hose will cost approximately $18,000. Other large items on the equipment list include a second thermal imaging camera, which allows firefighters to see through smoke and behind walls. Owens said this type of camera was crucial in locating a fire on Greenville Street, and that they currently only have one of these cameras.

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“So if one truck goes out of town, the other one is without it,” he said. “I’ve been trying to equip both trucks with it, and that’s just under $5,000. We didn’t go Christmas shopping for this equipment. It’s all necessary stuff.”

Owens said he decided on the truck offered by Pierce as they went beyond the minimum requirements.

“They offered some things that were very attractive to us, and that we felt were necessary on the truck,” he said. “They upgraded the brakes, and they upgraded the weight rating on the axel. There were a lot of technical things we looked at in there.”

He said the company also lowered the hose bed, which is placed on the back of the truck where the hose sits, and said it’s critical that the hose is accessible. Whereas the hose bed in other bids was 6 feet off the ground, the Pierce hose bed is 5 feet off the ground, which he said will make it easier for shorter people to reach.

The estimated production time for the vehicle is approximately a year. And while there are supply chain issues, Owens said Pierce’s production has stayed steady throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the city’s annual report for 2019, they received 156 calls for service encompassing fires, auto accidents, public assists, and standby calls. In the 2020 annual report, the department received 148 calls for service, including three serious structure fires and numerous motor vehicle crashes.

Wynne said through his own research, he found a dealer with a less expensive, 2019 fire truck that would maintain the necessary ISO rating while also improving the water tank and pump capacity.

An ISO rating is a score calculated by the Insurance Services Office that reflects how prepared communities are for fires and can affect what homeowners pay for insurance.

“It was just sitting right there, ready to go,” he said, “and the whole point of replacing the fire engine is that we do need to replace it. It’s time. I’d much rather see us pursue other options here.”

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