Norwich City Council considers asking voters to support firetruck purchases, road work

Norwich — Residents could be asked to support $8.2 million in bonding at an upcoming referendum, as the City Council is considering forwarding an ordinance for $3.2 million for firetrucks and other safety equipment and a separate ordinance for $5 million in road and bridge construction projects.

The City Council will hold a public hearing at the start of its 7 p.m. meeting Monday on the proposed $3.2 million ordinance to purchase several firetrucks and fire equipment and could vote following the hearing on whether to forward the measure to voters for a referendum.

The council also on Monday will schedule a public hearing for a future meeting on the proposed $5 million road improvement projects bond. That, too, would have to be approved by voters at a referendum.

Alderman William Nash, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said the firetruck purchase is long overdue, with several aging trucks needing constant repair.

“We have two trucks with 30 years of service at the moment,” Nash said. “Three trucks are struggling to stay afloat, and are always in the city garage. The city garage does an outstanding job, but there's only so much you can do with mechanical equipment.”

The $3.2 million bond would purchase an engine tanker for East Great Plain Volunteer Fire Department, a rescue pumper and a large squad vehicle for the Taftville Volunteer Fire Department, a pumper for the Yantic volunteer department and a pumper for the Laurel Hill volunteer department. The bond also could include “any additional public safety equipment, including communications equipment” for the city fire and police departments.

Nash said the proposed new firetruck purchases would represent a downsizing of the overall fire apparatus fleet. For example, Taftville would receive two new vehicles and would relinquish three existing trucks. All replaced trucks would be scrapped or sold outside the city, he said.

Nash said if the ordinance is approved by the council, he would campaign for referendum approval of the firetrucks. The bond ordinance was necessary, he said, because efforts to set aside money in the capital improvements budget each year for future firetruck purchases always get scuttled in budget deliberations.

The Republican-controlled City Council this year made major cuts to City Manager John Salomone's proposed budget, including cutting $1.5 million from the school budget, cutting $63,000 from Otis Library and possibly eliminating several city positions come September, depending on state budget revenues for the city.

Nash, a Republican and a council proponent of providing property tax relief, said the firetruck purchases cannot be postponed indefinitely.

“I strongly believe the citizens of Norwich understand the need,” Nash said. “It is a real strong, serious need the city needs to address now.... We're going to wind up risking catastrophic failure of a truck and damage our ability to fight fires and risk a life.”

Democratic Alderman H. Tucker Braddock, also a member of the Public Safety Committee, is less sure about the firetruck bond. Braddock said the current fleet of trucks is old, but “mechanically sound.” He questioned whether voters will support the firetruck purchases.

c.bessette@theday.com

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