BEACON FALLS — Beacon Hose Company No. 1 is leaving no stone unturned while looking for a new firetruck.
In January, the Board of Selectmen rejected all three bids the town received for the construction of a new 75-foot quintuple combination pumper firetruck.
Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Fire Chief Brian DeGeorge said two of the bids simply did not meet the specifications the department was looking for in a new vehicle.
“It was grossly, it wasn’t just nit-picking little things,” DeGeorge said.
The third truck required the town to put down a large sum of money, which the board felt was inappropriate.
The town hired J. Lyons Fire Consultants to review the bids, and the firm’s report stated the specifications for the new truck were specific to one manufacturer making open and competitive bidding challenging for other manufacturers.
Voters previously authorized the town to spend up to $850,000 for the firetruck.
January marked the second time the town received and rejected bids for the truck.
“We did this once already and it seems like the bid process isn’t really working in our favor,” DeGeorge said. “This whole bid process takes a lot of everybody’s time. I know it does for our department, the committee and the officers.”
While the selectmen are exploring the possibility of joining a national bid list to buy the firetruck, Beacon Hose is looking at an option a little closer to home.
DeGeorge said the department has been looking into purchasing a demo model firetruck from one of the vendors in the state.
“There are demos out there. It is not to say they are going to be what we are looking for. We are just trying to keep ourselves in the state of mind of keeping active and doing the right thing,” DeGeorge said.
Both options, buying a custom truck off a national bid list and purchasing a demo model, have pros and cons, DeGeorge said.
Purchasing a custom truck would allow the department to get exactly what it wants in a vehicle, but it would likely take 12 to 16 months to get the new truck, DeGeorge said.
DeGeorge said purchasing a demo model has a much shorter turnaround time — about four months. But in order to make the truck meet specifications, such as the correct equipment and tool mountings, the department would have to purchase pieces separately, he said.
In the end, both trucks would likely cost roughly the same amount. The demo truck would initially cost about $750,000, but all the additional equipment could bring it up to around $850,000, DeGeorge said.
“Unfortunately, every time you touch a firetruck it is expensive,” DeGeorge said.
DeGeorge said the department wants to weigh all of its options before purchasing the truck.
“It is a huge purchase for the town and I want to make sure we are double checking and triple checking everything. Things need to be right. We are going to have this truck for at least 25 years,” DeGeorge said.
First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the board is open to either possibility, as long as it is what is best for the town.
“Ultimately it comes down to two things — finding a vehicle that meets the needs of the town and fire department, and can do it within the amount of funding we have set aside,” Bielik said.
While the department wants to take its time with the decision, the state of its 27-year-old Engine 1 could determine how fast it moves. The new truck will replace Engine 1.
DeGeorge said the department is using Engine 1 as a backup truck, and even then only sparingly.
“For a backup piece it is working fine. We are just not in the position we want to be in,” DeGeorge said. “If it catastrophically fails or is going to cost us a ton of money, then we would have to really step it up a little bit.”