Town to get 2 fire trucks
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Article Launched:12/16/2006 07:41:10 AM EST
Saturday, December 16FLORIDA — The Florida Volunteer Fire Department received an early Christmas present this year — funds for not one, but two, new fire trucks.
The department received a $95,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday for the purchase of a refurbished tanker truck. Later that night, voters approved $86,451 for a newer rescue truck during a special town meeting.
"We don't ask for something unless we need it," Fire Chief Michael Bedini said Friday night. "The rescue truck is 20 years old and the frame is rotted. It needs a new clutch, new springs and a new box to keep our equipment in. It's become a hazard to drive. We've tried to replace it for the last three to four years, but with a small town and a small budget, it's hard."
Although the town only has a population of about 740, it has a total square area of 24.6 miles. The department must not only respond to accidents on the infamous Dead Man's Curve on Route 2 and the equally treacherous Hairpin Turn, just over the town line in Clarksburg, but also to fires and accident calls in the Deerfield River Valley, down the steep, winding Whitcomb Hill Road. Many Florida roads, including severalunpaved ones, are tough on any vehicle, let alone fire trucks.
Bedini said the department had investigated refurbishing the rescue truck, but at $50,000, it didn't make sense to spend the money on a truck with a rusting frame.
Town Administrator Susan Brown said the money received in the grant could not be applied toward the rescue truck.
"The grant was written specifically for a tanker truck," she said Friday afternoon. "When you ask for something specifically in a grant, it can only be applied to that item."
The $95,000 grant, which was supported by Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, as well as Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, requires a match of $5,000 from the town.
"That money will be raised by the Firefighter's Association," Brown said. "They have a year to spend the grant. We'll be looking for a new old truck in the $100,000 price range."
Bedini said the purchase will not replace the current tanker truck.
"I can't say what will happen tomorrow with that truck because it is old — it's a 1979," he said. "But we will keep it in operation for a while. It's hard to get water up here in the winter and it's still operable. We'll have a second tanker in the station. We do a lot of mutual aid, and having a tanker in the station would be nice when we're out on a mutual aid call."
He said the department has traveled as far south as Great Barrington and Russell to supply mutual aid.
"With all the equipment being replaced in the last eight years, we should be set for a long time to come," Bedini said.
Forty-seven voters turned out for Thursday night's meeting. The vote, conducted by secret ballot, was 37 to 10 in favor of buying the rescue truck. Brown said funding will come from two different accounts and a loan — $18,122.94 from the overlay surplus account and $10,000 from the town's stabilization fund. The loan of $58,328.06 will be paid back over a period of five years.