Recruits pulled after city fire trainee’s injuries

The Watertown Fire Department station on South Massey Street in the city. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — After putting off the purchase for a number of years, the City Council on Monday agreed to buy a new fire truck when they unanimously approved a $1.4 million bond for its purchase.

Fire department officials have been talking about purchasing a new ladder truck for about five years because of skyrocketing costs to repair the department’s two aerial trucks, but budget constraints have prevented it from happening.

The new ladder truck — made by KME with a mid-mounted ladder — will replace an E-One aerial that has been in operation since 1986. The 2004 Pierce ladder truck would then be used as a backup. The purchase is included in the city’s 2020-21 capital budget.

Last year, a Pennsylvania company, Ariel Testing, determined that more repairs are needed to the 2004 Pierce truck, and it would cost at least another $500,000 because its chassis must be replaced.

Before the vote, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith asked whether it made more sense to keep the older aerial truck because it’s had fewer repair issues than the 2004 Pierce, which would probably be refurbished. The 1986 truck “lacks standard safety equipment” that’s needed, the chief said.

“It’s getting to be 35 years old now,” he said, noting “it’s been a great vehicle.”

Chief Timerman has maintained that the city needs to make sure its fire department apparatus keeps up its maintenance before the equipment falls into more disrepair and ends up costing more money.

During the discussion about the new aerial truck, Mayor Smith suggested that council members consider further bonding for other fire department apparatus — some approaching 20 years old — now before interest rates start to increase because of the potential of inflation that would make those future purchases more expensive in the long run.

The city is using a different bidding process to procure the new ladder truck.

Under the new method to purchase the ladder truck, the city is going through the Houston-Galveston Area Council purchasing cooperative to arrange for the purchase, instead of a bidding process that would take an additional six months to prepare.

The Houston-Galveston Area Council, according to its website, is the “regional organization through which local governments consider issues and cooperate in solving area wide problems.” It’s based in Texas.

In November 2019, the City Council approved buying the truck through this process, he said.

In other action, the council also agreed to spend $40,000 for a Fourth of July concert at Thompson Park on July 1.

The city already has arranged for the orchestra, stage and fireworks the mayor said. The $40,000 would pay for those expenses and others, he said.

Last year’s concert was canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Noon Rotary Club announced recently that it was unable to move forward with this year’s event because it did not have enough time for fundraising and find sponsors.

The event will give city residents something to celebrate after so many other summertime traditions were canceled, Mayor Smith said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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