Boards back fire engine repair, reject work on SUV

The Joint Boards approved fire department requests for repairs to Engine 3, but not for an SUV.


NAUGATUCK — The fire department will repair a fire engine that’s been out of commission since November, but didn’t receive the funds to fix another vehicle that’s been limping along since July.

The Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses approved an $8,300 transfer request from the contingency fund to the department to repair Engine 3, during a special meeting Tuesday night, but voted down a separate request for $4,700 to repair a four-wheel-drive vehicle used by the second assistant chief.

The repair is a temporary solution to chronic problems with fire department vehicles.

Fire Engine 3, which operates out of the East Side Fire Station on May Street, has been out of service due to corrosion on the frame and other metal parts. The town purchased the pumper in 1996 and it has logged 73,800 miles and over 6,700 hours in service.

The approved repairs will get the vehicle back on the road, but it’s really in need of a complete refurbishment to the tune of $200,000, according to Fire Chief Ken Hanks.

Meanwhile, the joint boards voted against replacing the engine in a 1999 Ford Expedition. The vehicle has 118,000 miles on it and goes through three to four quarts of oil per week, Hanks said.

Board members voted against the SUV’s repair because they felt it would be foolish to spend $4,700 on a vehicle that’s only worth $4,200. The department has already spent $2,755 in repairs to the car since July 1.

“If I owned a vehicle of that age and with that mileage, I would not invest $4,700 into repairing it,” finance board member Donald Carten said.

Second Assistant Fire Chief Paul Russell has the right to use a town-owned car as part of his contract, but the Ford Expedition is unsafe to drive on highways, Hanks said. Members of the joint boards asked Hanks to look into replacing the car with a used vehicle.

Hanks assured members of the joint boards that his department’s vehicles had been properly maintained, but board members expressed dismay that the cars had so many problems, given their age.

Finance board member Diane Scinto said she owns vehicles from the 1990s with over 200,000 miles and far fewer problems. She said she didn’t understand why all the town’s vehicles were falling apart.

“I just have a problem with it,” she said.

Hanks said he would like to get the department’s vehicles on a planned replacement rotation so they wouldn’t end up with all their vehicles failing at once, as they are now. Besides Engine 3 and the Ford Expedition, three other cars and one other engine bought in the 1990s are in need of repair or replacement in the near future, according to Hanks.

Hanks said he plans to bring those expenses to the joint boards as part of next year’s budget.

Two trucks bought in 2000 and 2001 are still in good shape, Hanks said.

“We as a community are paying for decisions that were made 10, 20, 30 years ago,” Hanks said. “We’re doing the same things over and over again. … This is the problem I inherited.”

Burgess Robert Neth said a vehicle replacement program is a good idea, but the boards have to be committed to it.

“When you come down to the last night and you’ve got to make cuts, those are the things that always get cut,” Neth said.