$645,000 for new engine not alarming Swampscott

May 7, 2017

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
The Swampscott Fire Department is hoping to get funding to replace Engine 22, which has been in use for more than 20 years.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTTFire Chief Kevin Breen is seeking a $645,000 replacement of a 20-year-old fire engine at Town Meeting.

The new fire engine is among other capital project funding requests that would require approval at Town Meeting on May 15. It is the only equipment request from the fire department.

Breen said replacement of Engine 22, a 1997 Emergency One Hurricane Cab, which currently serves as a reserve piece, has been in his capital plan for six years. The engine has nearly 70,000 miles on it and almost 8,800 service hours.

By comparison, Engine 21, the frontline piece, is a 2009 Spartan, and has more than 43,000 miles on it, along with more than 4,800 service hours. If the funds are allocated for a new fire engine, Engine 21 would become the reserve piece and the new vehicle would become the frontline piece, Breen said.

Breen said the rated lifespan of a fire apparatus is 20 years. The Insurance Service Association begins to derate equipment after its 20th year.

Engine 21 would not be scheduled for replacement until 2029. But if funding was postponed, the town would run into the issue of purchasing a $645,000 apparatus closer to the planned replacement of Ladder 21, a 2004 American LaFrance, which is scheduled for in roughly seven years. At that time, the replacement of Ladder 21 could cost between $1.2 to $1.5 million, Breen said.

The planned replacement program, Breen said, is also to ensure the department doesn’t end with a catastrophic failure of equipment. He said Engine 22 isn’t on the verge of falling apart, but historically, as an apparatus gets older, the equipment requires more service.

Earlier this year, $1,200 to $1,400 had to be spent on a new alternator and voltage regulator. The older pieces get, he said, more is spent on maintenance and the parts are tougher to get, particularly with ladder trucks.

The fire department has three pieces of apparatus, two engines and one ladder truck. Two are frontline pieces and one (Engine 22) is a reserve piece. But because a frontline piece is in repair right now, Breen said he is in the process of trying to borrow a piece from a neighboring community for a couple of weeks. Engine 22 is currently in service.

Typically, a reserve piece is in service 65 to 80 days a year, for instances such as extra staffing for storms, whenever there is a mechanical malfunction with one of the frontline pieces, when one of the pieces goes out of town for mutual aid, or if there is a serious fire in town, Breen said.

Breen said he was very hopeful funding would be approved at Town Meeting.

“All signs are pretty good,” Breen said. “All the committees that we’ve presented to have been receptive to the need.”

If approved, Breen said there will be a specification put out, various manufacturers will bid, and a selection process would take place.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said he is in support, as it is a project that has been in the town’s capital improvement plan for the past five years. He said Breen has done an excellent job of focusing on replacing apparatus at a time that makes sense for the continuity of operation, and the longer the town holds onto the equipment, there’s more risk that something may fail.

Fitzgerald said the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and the Capital Improvement Committee have voted to support the recommendation to Town Meeting.

“We’re just taking those responsible steps to replace a very important piece of public safety equipment,” Fitzgerald said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.