Norwich City Council committee wants more work on firetruck replacement study

Norwich — The City Council Public Safety Committee sent the city manager and the six fire chiefs back to work on a proposed plan to replace the city’s aging fire apparatuses over the next 20 years, with a revised report due in time for the next budget process.

The committee reviewed City Manager John Salomone’s report based on the condition of the current fire fleet at all six fire — one paid and five volunteer — departments and his recommendation that the city reduce the overall fleet by five firetrucks over the next 20 years. Even with that reduction, Salomone said the City Council would have to start budgeting money in the capital improvements budget next year to place funds in reserve for replacements to avoid the need for repeated bond issues.

Public Safety Committee members Aldermen William Nash and Joseph DeLucia agreed that the cost to replace all current firetrucks would be “unsustainable.” But they also agreed that Salomone’s study is incomplete in that it did not identify which firetrucks should be targeted for reduction over time, which ones need replacement soon and how those trucks should be ranked.

Nash said he also is concerned about the “run cards,” a system of calling mutual aid among the city departments and outside departments when necessary and how that system would need to be revised with the reduction of the city’s fleet.

DeLucia suggested the city seek data from outside sources on how long particular trucks should last and said the city Public Works fleet maintenance head should be added to the committee to give input on the trucks’ conditions.

Salomone told the committee the city should start working on budgeting for the long-term fleet replacement plan in the next capital improvements budget. And because six trucks in the fleet already were labeled as top priorities for replacement, a bond issue would be needed to boost the $600,000 to $800,000 the city would need to place in the capital budget each year toward the replacement fund.

He said the city needs to start looking at the first $1 million of equipment not to be replaced next year.

In the study Salomone presented to the City Council on Sept. 3, he said if the city were to maintain its current combined paid and volunteer fire departments’ fleet of 25 vehicles, it would cost an estimated $21.1 million over a 20-year period, including a new $3.4 million bond.

Culling five vehicles over time would cut that total cost to $17.48 million, with annual contributions to the capital improvements budget and a $1.5 million bond.

But the report did not identify which trucks would be eliminated and when, answers the Public Safety Committee would like to see in the revised report, which would be received after the November City Council election and ideally in time to put some funding decisions in the next budget.

c.bessette@theday.com

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