NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved bids Tuesday for a new fire pumper truck and other components that will total nearly $516,000.
Northeastern Fire Equipment of Cheshire won the bid for the new 500-gallon truck, which will cost nearly $489,000. The truck will be custom built within 10 months in Wisconsin, Fire Chief Ken Hanks said.
The new truck will be financed with no interest over a five-year period from the borough’s reserve fund or any other funding source that Controller Wayne McAllister deems appropriate, starting in the next fiscal year, Hanks said. It will replace a 1992 pumper truck stationed at the East Side Fire Station that the borough only uses as a reserve.
The borough tries to retire its engines every 25 years, and the 1992 pumper does not have the same safety features as newer trucks, said Hanks, who drove it himself earlier in his career.
Northeastern’s bid was the third lowest out of five bidders, but the one Hanks and nine members of a fire department committee agreed best met their specifications at the lowest price. The bids ranged from $457,000 to $573,000.
“None of this stuff is junk, but we want something that’s going to protect Naugatuck, protect our firefighters and be with us for a long time,” Hanks said.
Hanks explained that each fire truck is custom built to fit the needs of each community.
“This is not like going to the car dealer, calling up Shaker’s and asking what’s the price of an F-150. These are custom built apparatuses. There are many, many different options. We had to wade through all those options to find what’s the best for Naugatuck,” Hanks said.
David Rybinski, a sales representative for Yankee Fire and Rescue of Palmer, Mass., and former fire chief of Beacon Hose Company No. 1, argued his company’s bid met the borough’s minimum specifications for about $30,000 less.
Vendors were given the option to include a partially aluminum body and a beam suspension, which Yankee Fire and Rescue did, Rybinski told the board.
“That’s meeting your spec 100 percent,” Rybinski said. “We were never asked to clarify anything on the bid spec.”
The pumper the committee chose will have a fully aluminum body without a steel substructure and an independent front suspension system, which ensures a safer, smoother ride, Hanks said.
Hanks explained the minimum specifications were put into the request in case what the department actually wanted, which was a full aluminum body and independent front suspension, was out of the budget. However, Northeastern Fire Equipment, which included both those in its bid, came in under the proposed budget for the truck.
Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi felt that the vehicle recommended by Hanks was the best option to help ensure the safety of the firefighters.
“We have a responsibility to the employees of the department within that vehicle, just as we would with a dump truck, a garbage truck or a recycling truck. This is an option that not only is going to create safety for the firefighters being transported, it’s protecting our vehicle, which we’re investing money into,” Rossi said.
Hanks felt that he and his committee had weighed all of the options carefully and were not making a rash decision.
“I’m a taxpayer of Naugatuck also, and I do understand the financial impact of spending more than some people perceive we have to, but I think with the small investment we’re making, we’re getting a fire truck that will serve this town for 25 years,” Hanks said.
Burgess Robert Neth agreed with Rybinski and voted against the preferred bid. The other burgesses sided with Hanks, saying his committee spent months putting together the specifications and the borough should aim for the safest truck it can afford.
Past fire chiefs deliberately listed specifications that only one vendor would meet, but Hanks said he wanted to open this project up to more bidders.
The borough has decided against the lowest bidder in the past when officials felt it necessary, McAllister said.
“I think it’s the most qualified bid for what we’re looking for,” McAllister said.
Luke Marshall contributed to this article.