Chief James Larsen said Tuesday that the city can buy a new fire truck without raising taxes.

The Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend the full Board of Aldermen authorize spending up to $1.5 million to replace the 1986 tower ladder truck that was taken out of service last month after failing a safety inspection. Larsen said the department has written a 24-page application for a $1 million federal grant, but even if the grant is denied, the fire equipment fund can cover the payments.

Larsen said the city’s existing tower ladder truck — which features a 102-foot ladder and a platform rated to hold 800 pounds — was built by a company that went out of business in 1992 and “failed miserably” when it underwent its safety inspection in April. In addition to cracks in the ladder itself, the ladder dropped 5 1/2 inches in a test that only allowed for a half-inch of drift.

“No one can, in good conscience, put more money into the vehicle,” Larsen said. “It’s way beyond its service life.”

However, Larsen said the department saw the truck’s demise coming, and had formed a committee more than six months earlier to look at replacing it. This committee worked with Louisiana-based Ferrara Fire Apparatus to design a truck to the city’s specifications, and Larsen said that if the city acts quickly, they can purchase the truck as a “production line demo model,” which he said will reduce the price.

Waiting and getting a non-demo truck, Larsen said, would tack at least $100,000 into the purchase price.

“That was before the 15% tariff for steel went in,” he said.

Larsen said that the grant application was endorsed by the Vermont Congressional delegation and Rutland Regional Medical Center President Claudio Fort, and that the fact that the truck had to be taken out of service bolstered the city’s chances. He said they would know if they got the grant later in the summer.

If the city doesn’t get the grant, Larsen said, the roughly $143,000 annual payments could be covered by the $175,000 a year budgeted for the fire equipment fund, and that a two-year deferment on payments would let the city put $350,000 in the fund before it started paying off the truck.

“There will still be purchases out of the fire equipment fund, but we should be in good shape,” he said.

Alderman Thomas DePoy asked if anything was salvageable off the old truck or if there was an alternate use for it.

“Can it go to any fairs or museums?” he asked.

Larsen replied that the federal grant includes a requirement that the old truck be destroyed so it cannot cause injuries elsewhere.


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