To the editor:
After many hours of discussion at Town Meeting, the last 15 articles were moved through fairly quickly in an effort to finish in two nights.
One article that deserved more discussion was Article 23, which deals with the purchase of a used aerial ladder truck for the Fire Department.
The existing ladder truck is a 1984 model that was purchased from the Town of Marblehead 15 years ago. The steel body is experiencing significant rust and body rot, leaving many compartments unusable. Additionally, many electrical circuits have failed and are not repairable. The Fire Department has determined it is no longer economical to maintain and repair this equipment.
A ladder truck is an important piece of equipment for our department. While there are not many multi-level structures in town, a ladder truck is still an essential tool for a small department to provide lifesaving services. This unit allows responders to ventilate residential buildings rapidly, which is crucial to suppressing the fire and assisting with rescue efforts.
Many North Shore communities have purchased new ladder trucks recently, typically at a cost of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The Fire Department has done a tremendous amount of due diligence to identify a used truck that meets our needs for $190,000.
The Finance Committee supports this purchase and it has been structured as a one-time capital override. For the average home in Essex (assessed value of $515,000), this equipment purchase would add approximately $130 to their fiscal 2013 tax bill.
The Town of Essex is very fortunate to have a Call Fire Department that provides first-class service at a fraction of the cost paid in most surrounding towns. The fiscal 2013 budget actually went down over 10 percent and is now under $250,000. Adding the equipment purchase to the operating budget would still produce a total cost that is significantly lower than comparable towns in our area.
Given the short amount of time between Town Meeting and the election on Monday, we were unable to call a meeting of the Finance Committee to draft and approve a letter to the editor.
Without a formal meeting, I am unable to write this letter as chairman of the Finance Committee. Since I believe this is such an important issue, I have elected to reach out to you as a fellow resident.
I urge residents to show the Essex Fire Department our support by voting in favor of this equipment purchase on Monday.
Martin Street, Essex