The Greenfield Fire Protection District commissioners have decided against leasing a new platform ladder truck for the Maple Avenue Fire Company.
“Right now everything is on hold,” said Donald Kugler, chairman of the district’s Board of Fire Commissioners.
The sprawling Greenfield Fire Protection District includes four fire companies: Maple Avenue, Greenfield, Middle Grove and Porter Corners.
Kugler said a new or newer ladder truck is needed at the Maple Avenue Fire Co., whose service area includes the southern end of Wilton, the Route 50 commercial area in Wilton, and the Wilton Mall.
But voters in the fire district have twice rejected purchasing a new ladder truck for Maple Avenue over the past two years. They have also voted once against purchasing a 75-foot straight ladder truck for the Greenfield Fire Company.
Kugler said the 1989 Simon Duplex-LTI platform ladder truck at the Maple Avenue station is currently out of service awaiting its annual inspection.
But this ladder truck remains functional, Kugler said. The 19-year-old truck has had engine and other mechanical problems, but those have been repaired at considerable cost.
Robert Hyndman of Denton Road in Greenfield, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Board of Fire Commissioners in 2006, is a critic of district practices.
He said it appears the fire commissioners don’t want to place another ladder truck purchase before district voters, fearing it would be rejected again.
He said he understood that it would have cost more than $800,000 to lease a 100-foot platform ladder truck for a 10-year period.
There was also discussion at commission meetings about a five-year truck lease but the commissioners did not like this option, Hyndman said.
Kugler said the fire district’s attorney, William Young, advised the district against leasing a firetruck without placing this proposal before the district voters.
Kugler said the district held an informational meeting earlier this year on the leasing proposal and other options to acquire a new ladder truck. He said only three members of the general public attended the meeting.
So at present the commissioners have decided to continue to save money for a new truck that would be purchased sometime in the future.
Kugler said he didn’t expect any more “movement” on the ladder truck issue for another year.
He said a new 100-foot platform ladder truck is an expensive proposition, costing between $900,000 and $1 million.
The district currently has money in a ladder truck capital reserve fund. More than $700,000 was in this capital account as of 2007, according to Hyndman.
Hyndman and other Greenfield residents have complained over the past two years that fire district taxes have been on the increase.
Hyndman said that the fire district tax rate was 72 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2005 but increased to $1.07 per $1,000 in 2006 and jumped to $1.28 per $1,000 in 2007.
“That’s an increase of 79 percent in just two years,” Hyndman says in a statement.
Hyndman said the state Legislature over the past year has passed new laws requiring greater public input, increased oversight and maximizing voter participation in the activities of the more than 800 fire districts across the state.
“They’re good laws,” Hyndman said. “They help protect the public from aggressive tax and spend boards and forces the commissioners to be more attentive to our concerns and opinions.”