Orange may decline grant for bucket truck
Maintenance costs questioned
ORANGE — The town was awarded two $20,000 grants from the state Executive Office of Safety and Security to buy a bucket truck for the Fire Department and a four-wheel-drive utility truck for the police. And while there were no objections to the new police vehicle at last week’s selectmen’s meeting, so many questions were raised about the bucket truck that officials may just send the money back.
In an interview after the meeting, Fire Chief Dennis Annear said “I did what I was instructed to do. I found a grant, applied and got the award” to defray capital and operating expenses of his department.
He said the bucket truck is necessary to trim tree limbs hanging precariously after storms, fix and change traffic lights, parking lot lights and possibly streetlights, clean gutters on town buildings, maintain smaller flag poles, and remove ice from armory, recycling center and police station roofs. The new equipment would also allow his staff to rescue parachutists who occasionally get stuck in trees near the Orange Airport.
Annear told selectmen the grant is an opportunity to buy “a piece of equipment the town has rented for as long as I have been in the town.” He said the town pays nearly $5,000 per year to rent the truck or pay contractors. “The rental fees we’ve paid over the past five years could easily have bought it,” he said.
Annear said he did some research online and found a refurbished 1997 bucket truck in Pennsylvania, allowing him to purchase both the truck and necessary safety equipment with the $20,000 grant.
But Selectman George Willard objected to the purchase as it may cost the town more to maintain a 15-year-old vehicle, especially one with limited utility.
“I am dead against the town owning this vehicle,” he said. According to Willard, renting the truck a few times a year is a more efficient use of tax dollars. And he said the vehicle’s condition could worsen if it was not housed properly.
Annear argued maintenance costs for the truck may be as low as several hundred dollars per year and it could possibly be housed in Tully Fire Station. He added the truck could be used by other town departments as well as Fire Departments around the region.
Cemetery Superintendent Josh Knechtel said his department could use the vehicle to maintain one smaller flag pole and clean up hanging branches on the town burial land.
Selectman Kathy Reinig said that while the town didn’t have to accept the grant money, the funds could “…enhance our response to emergencies. This grant gives us an opportunity to buy equipment we wouldn’t ordinarily purchase.”
Linda Smith asked if selectmen could look into whether other town departments could utilize the truck, as Annear suggested. She also asked if Annear could research maintenance costs and housing options for the vehicle.
Selectmen will decide whether or not to accept the grant for the bucket truck at their meeting Wednesday.