Council nixes new fire truck

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:22

    Proposed $1 million combination ladder-pumper truck is a no-go SPARTA — The Township Council did not approve the purchase of a new $1 million ladder truck at their meeting last week. But not because they voted against the ordinance, rather they did not vote at all. When Township Clerk Mary Coe presented the bond ordinance on second reading, which usually results in a motion to adopt from a council member, there was no motion made so the ordinance did not go forward for a vote, so the proposal has been abandoned. Bond Ordinance 11-16, to appropriate $1,023,750 and authorizing the issuance of $975,000 in bonds or notes, was introduced at the Aug. 30 meeting and was approved on first reading by a 4-1 vote of the council. Councilman Scott Seelagy voted no. The matter was to have been moved forward for adoption and given a hearing last week, during which members of the public would have had the opportunity to ask questions or weigh in on the ordinance. But since the motion died there was no need for a public hearing. During the summer, the fire department put in a request for a new ladder truck as well as a new pumper truck to help upgrade an aging fleet of trucks. They then offered to compromise and suggested one new truck which would be a combination ladder/pumper truck with a 100 foot ladder that they said would be necessary for fighting fires and rescuing people from some of Sparta’s taller buildings, such as the Lake Mohawk Country Club, the Hamlet at Town Center, the Theatre Center, the municipal building, the middle school, and portions of the new high school. The council discussed the matter and moved ahead with the introduction of the ordinance last month. However, a great deal of public outcry ensued, with citizens expressing concerns over the township expending $1 million during current difficult economic times. Others worried that such a large truck would not be able to navigate many of Sparta’s narrow, winding roads, such as those in the Lake Mohawk area. Some suggested shared services with neighboring towns who own ladder trucks. Last week, Sparta Fire Department Chief Keith Arnold responded to the council’s lack of action on the ordinance, by saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t take action on getting this new fire truck. Our ladder truck is now 36 years old and it would take at least a year for the new one to be built, if it had been approved, so by next year it will be 37 years old.” He wondered when the matter could be revisited because, “Every time we go out we take out lives in our hands. No piece of equipment we have is new. We’re dealing with very old equipment.” Fire Department Lieutenant Mike Herbst said, “The buildings in this town are taller now. The ladder truck is necessary. We’ve had two fires in town in the last four days. It’s very dangerous for fire personnel dealing with antiquated equipment.” Murphy mentioned concern for the number of roads on which a large ladder truck would not be able to maneuver and said, “How many times would the truck be used?” Murphy also said the town could look into shared services with Newton and Jefferson, both of which now own newer ladder trucks. He added, “We just can’t see spending this kind of money right now. The price tag is too high.”