Salem Fire Chief Kevin Breen told Selectmen on Jan. 7 that the town needs to seriously consider advancing the replacement of the department's ladder truck.
Recognizing that need, board members debated the benefits and costs of buying a new truck outright vs. leasing the new engine.
Selectman Stephen Campbell said he was against a leasing strategy since it takes away from future projects.
"I think we have to realize that every time we pay interest, there is less you can buy in the future," he said. "For equipment, generally speaking, I'm not in favor of leasing.
Selectman Mike Lyons said that he thinks $10,000 per year on a million-dollar piece of equipment that's going to enhance public safety is not a lot of money.
Lyons and the other board members also noted that price trends for fire engines are very important. The board tasked Breen to work with the manufacturer to determine price changes over the last five years.
"If we could see kind of a price trend, if that differential is the same as the interest payment, then we're not saving money, we're just deferring or pushing out aged equipment," said Selectman Jim Keller.
Breen said that the current 105-foot ladder truck, which is about 20 years old, has seen excessive corrosion on its wiring harness, which took months to replace.
"We're still on a punch list of (issues) that just keep unfortunately turning up," he said.
The truck did pass its annual test, but Breen said that Underwriters Laboratories said the vehicle was "tired."
A new engine would cost north of $1 million. A lease option at current rates would see $10,000 per year in interest.
Selectman Everett McBride Jr. said that he would be willing to push off the heavy equipment/rescue truck proposed in the CIP for 2014 if the ladder truck is more important.
Breen all but ruled out purchasing a used truck, as other departments rarely sell off equipment unless a town closes a station or downsizes staff. Breen said that there is very rarely an opportunity to buy a used piece of apparatus that is in good condition.
Salem purchsed a used truck in the late 1980's and spent in excess of $370,000 for a 4-year-old truck. A volunteer company had bought too much equipment and didn't need the truck, nor could they afford it.
For fire engines, Breen said that a 20-year life span is typically looked at, although he said that schedule was set 20 years ago and may need an adjustment given Salem's growth during that time.
He explained that the life cycle of a fire engine in Salem sees the truck start at central station for five years before it traevels to station 2 or station 3 for the next 10. The engine spends its last five years as a reserve engine at central station.