Ambulance, body cameras part of capital budget proposal

BEACON FALLS — A new ambulance and body cameras for police officers are among a list of capital projects officials are considering funding in the 2019-20 town budget proposal.

The Board of Finance went through a list of a couple dozen or so requested capital projects during an April 29 budget workshop, scratching about half off the list, approving others and reducing the cost of some in favor of pursuing grant opportunities.

The largest item on the list is a new ambulance, projected to cost about $250,000, for Beacon Hose Co. No. 1. The volunteer department has two ambulances in its fleet. The one officials want to replace is 13 years old.

Beacon Hose Chief Brian DeGeorge said the department tries to replace ambulances after 10 years. He said the engine of the ambulance in question was repaired a couple of years ago, which got a few more years out it.

However, he said, the ambulance continuously needs maintenance work, which included replacing the head gasket and repairing the air conditioning.

The more time an ambulance is available, the better, said DeGeorge, adding the new ambulance is good for the department but it’s good for the town, as well.

The finance board agreed, opting to put $50,000 into the capital budget for a down payment on an ambulance and paying the remainder through a lease.

“I know we’re trying to save money, but at the same the time we can’t keep putting good money into bad things,” finance board Chairman Thomas Pratt said.

The board also approved buying six new body cameras and supporting equipment for $18,450. If approved as part of the budget, it would be first time that body cameras would be worn by town police officers.

According to officials, the town expects to be able to use Connecticut State Police servers to store the video footage.

Finance board Vice Chairman Marc Bronn, who voted against the cameras, questioned whether the towns needs them and felt it was premature without having a policy in place to govern their use.

Other board members felt the cameras are a valuable tool.

“It protects the police officer, it protects the individual and it protects the municipality all at the same time,” Pratt said.

Other items in the capital budget plan include $16,000 for a second chest compression system and $19,690 to replace aging parts of the “Jaws of Life” for Beacon Hose, $20,000 to continue a 10-year project to replace guardrails, and $15,600 to replace a Scag mower for public works.

As of the last week, the capital budget proposal didn’t include any money for road work. Officials planned to continue discuss how to move forward with repairing roads in the face of what they say is millions of dollars’ worth of work needed on town roads.

There is about $480,000 leftover from money previously set aside for road repairs, and officials are also considering bonding or putting more money into the budget for roads.

Budget discussions continued this week. Once the finance board adopts a budget it will go to the Board of Selectmen for approval to send to a hearing and a public vote.