NH town OKs bond to buy 2 fire trucks

Aldermen questioned why reserve funds were not being spent for purchase

By Sherry Wood
The Union Leader

NASHUA, N.H. — A $1.4 million bond for the purchase of two new fire trucks was approved by city officials Tuesday, but not before aldermen questioned why reserve funds were not being spent for the purchase.

Fire Chief Brian Morrissey said an aerial ladder truck is needed to replace a 1991 vintage vehicle. The new truck, with a life expectancy of about 20 years, will be housed at the Amherst Street fire station.

In addition, a pumper, or engine truck is recommended to replace a truck that has been used since 2001 and is set to be placed on reserve for another six or seven years. A front-line engine truck is necessary to replace the older vehicle, said Morrissey.

Alderman James Donchess questioned why money wasn't previously set aside for such a large purchase and why a bond was being pursued, rather than taking funds from a reserve account.

"Why not use current money instead of paying interest?" asked Donchess, stressing there is an estimated $27 million in reserves. "I can't support borrowing money for this right now."

This purchase is not an emergency, he said.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said it makes sense to borrow money right now because of the low interest rates, noting there is a plan in place to replace the dated fleet of vehicles.

"We are trying to get things back on track ... I'd like to keep us on the plan that we have laid out," said Lozeau, explaining it is not in the city's best interest to take money from an undesignated fund balance to pay for fire trucks.

The aldermanic Budget Review Committee ultimately passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to issue bonds for the new ladder truck and pumper truck for the city's fire department. Donchess was the sole committee member opposed.

"To me, we should be saving as much money as possible," he said.

Alderman Brian McCarthy said that while he also doesn't like the idea of issuing bonds for fire trucks, it is part of a program that will enable the capital reserve fund to get back to the point where money will be saved for future vehicle purchases.

Another alderman, Mark Cookson, asked if the fire department has investigated the possibility of purchasing compressed natural gas-powered fire trucks similar to the garbage trucks recently bought by the city.

Morrissey said he looked into it briefly, but said such vehicles are not broadly used for fire-fighting.

"As we move forward we will certainly keep our eyes open," Morrissey said.

Lozeau agreed, saying because there are not a lot of compressed natural gas-powered fire trucks available, it is difficult to compare prices. However, the mayor said it would be feasible to eventually replace pickup trucks or other, smaller vehicles used at the firehouse with compressed natural gas vehicles.

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