With plan in place, truck purchase, sale of Tanker 4 headed back before Pascoag voters

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BURRILLVILLE – With a large grant and a plan in place to purchase a new engine tanker, members of the Pascoag Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners will again seek for voter approval for sale of an older piece of equipment known as Tanker 4.

The district will hold a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 6 in hopes to gain approval of the equipment purchase and sale plan as required by district bylaws.

The agenda for the meeting includes purchase of a new engine tanker from New England Fire Equipment & Apparatus Corp. of North Haven, Conn. in an amount not to exceed $75,000.

The remaining funding for the vehicle – some $579,000 – will come through a Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant program announced in September. Under grant terms, the district must fund 10 percent of the vehicle purchase, a cost Chairman Chris Toti estimated at around $72,000.

“It’s a combination truck,” Toti said. “I think it’s a win for the district. Obviously, the taxpayer will get a new vehicle for 10 cents on the dollar.”

FEMA reportedly receives more than 100,000 grant applications each year for the AFG program, and approved a district request pursued in-house by Pascoag Dep. Chief Richard Peck.

The new truck, chosen through a bidding process, is expected to be capable of delivering 3,000 gallons of water and 25 gallons of foam with a 1,500 gallon-per-minute pump As part of the grant award, the department will also receive NFPA 1002 Pump Operator training for 25 members. 

As such, Toti said, the district has brought back an effort to get rid of redundant equipment with the sale of a 20-year-old tanker truck valued at $170,000.

“We’re not going to need that tanker once the new engine tanker comes in,” Toti said. “We want to sell it to pay off the debt that we currently have.”

The district still owes $142,000 on decades old tanker, and is scheduled to make payments of $16,500 annually for the next eight years.

“Or we can sell it, and pay it off, and we will have no debt,” Toti said.

But voters have twice rejected attempts to sell the tanker, which need approval by a two-thirds majority according to district bylaws. The sale failed by a 68-48 vote in favor of the move in June of 2020.

It was again on the agenda at the Pascoag Fire District’s annual meeting in September of 2020, that time failing with a vote of 80 in favor and 66 against the sale.

The commission did not ultimately go through with a plan to sell Tanker 4 at less than $50,000, which would have allowed the equipment change without voter approval.

The chairman notes that both ballot initiatives in 2020 failed by a small margin, and may have been influenced by concerns that the change would result in a shortage of needed fire equipment.

“It’s been close,” Toti said of the votes. “I think some folks were not sure what the district would have as a backup. We had options for a replacement, but we didn’t have it physically there.”

Toti said that if the purchase is approved, the district’s new engine truck will take roughly a year to come in. And now, in the meantime, the village has secured a loaner truck currently in storage in neighboring Nasonville.

“They’re going to let us borrow it,” he said. “The chiefs work well together. All fire districts – we want the equipment moving.”

Toti said that the loaner will allow PFD taxpayers to save on potential interest payments on Tanker 4, while staying fully equipped for fire protection. And just in case town fire assets get spread thin, New England Fire Apparatus has additionally agreed to send another tanker to Burrillville as needed.

“I think this is the time,” Toti said of the Tanker 4 sale. “We know that the tanker is valued at a little bit more than what we owe on it. It depreciates every year. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have to hold onto it.”

The special meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6 at the station at 141 Howard Ave. All qualified voters in Pascoag are eligible to cast a ballot.

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