$1.4M firetruck recommended to Gray council

The Gray Ladder Truck Committee has recommended that the town purchase a new vehicle to replace 21-year-old Truck 44. 

GRAY — The committee exploring whether Gray needs to replace its current Fire Rescue ladder truck thinks an estimated $1.4 million new vehicle makes sense for the town.

“Our recommendation was to go with the purchase of the new aerial fire equipment to replace the current vehicle,” said Gray Ladder Truck Committee member Robert Carroll when presenting the group’s findings to the Town Council on Nov. 14.

“Keep it here in Gray, have local control and maintain the same level of service that we have today,” Carroll continued.

Carroll is part of the seven-member Ladder Truck Committee, whose membership the council selected from applicants this summer after town voters in June approved creating a $500,000 reserve account for the truck by a vote of 402-304.

The current vehicle, known as Truck 44 in the department,  is a 1996 model built by three different manufacturers. It features a 75-foot aerial platform, a 500-gallon water tank and carries other equipment such as ground ladders, according to the committee report.

The committee looked at several options – including continuing with the current truck as is, making repairs to it, and sharing a truck with a neighboring town – before settling on its recommendation to purchase a new one.

Gray Fire Rescue Chief Kurt Elkanich, who served as a non-voting member of the committee, told the council that although Truck 44 is now “operating fantastic,” it “was sold to us as a 20-year truck, it’s 20 years old, it’s been planned to be replaced at this particular time since the day we bought it.”

Elkanich said other than increasing the aerial reach of the truck, his department isn’t looking for many changes from the existing truck’s capabilities.

“We’re not making this up, we can’t set the price, we don’t want to spend this much money any more than anybody else does,” Elkanich said about the estimated $1.4 million price tag.

He said two of the current truck’s manufacturers are no longer in business, which complicates repairs and replacement parts.

Firefighter and department mechanic Nick Hutchins said the current truck has some valve issues after 20-plus years of use, along with some electrical and rust issues.

Despite those issues, Hutchins said that the ladder truck has been “very good to us” and currently sees “very low-maintenance costs.”

“At some point, that’s going to catch up to us,” warned Hutchins, who also served on the ladder truck committee. While Elkanich is listed on the town website as a non-voting committee member, Hutchins appears to be a voting member.

Gray resident Fran Monroe, who has expressed concerns about the ladder truck committee process at previous meetings and in a Lakes Region Weekly letter to the editor, took issue with the number of town staff appointed to the committee.

The policy for committees posted on the town’s website says that “no member of the Town staff shall serve as a voting member of a Town Committee.”

Elkanich defended the committee makeup.

“We were appointed by the Town Council. There were more citizens on the committee that were not paid employees of the town,” Elkanich responded to Monroe’s concerns. “And the committee’s agreement was unanimous. Everybody on the committee agreed with this recommendation.”

When asked if Fire Rescue members are considered town staff, and if the Ladder Truck Committee makeup is in conflict with the town’s committee policy, Town Manager Deb Cabana said this week that “the council was aware that they had Gray Fire Fighters/EMS on the committee. They felt it was balanced with other members that did not have a vested interest.”

“It is worth noting that the recommendation of the full committee was unanimous,” Cabana added.

While the committee has recommended a new truck specifically for Gray, the council also indicated a willingness to explore the possibility of sharing a new truck with the town of Cumberland.

Gray Council Chairwoman Lynn Gallagher said Cumberland officials expressed interested in looking into sharing a ladder truck with Gray.

“I think that we have an entity – a neighbor – who is willing to come to the table and have that discussion. I think it would be irresponsible of us not to have that discussion,” said Gallagher. “I would be in favor of exploring that with the town of Cumberland.”

“I would agree. You can’t talk the talk of regionalism, and have something like this, and not go forward with it,” added Councilor Jason Wilson about at least exploring the possibility of sharing a new truck.

Councilor Dan Maguire, who served as the council liaison to the Ladder Truck Committee, suggested that Cabana meet with Cumberland town manager for a “quicker” and “more effective” discussion.

Cabana said via email last week that the Cumberland town manager hopes to have a Dec. 11 workshop with the Cumberland Town Council to “see if there is interest in pursuing the joint purchase.”

Elkanich said sharing the truck would raise questions about where it would be housed and which town would staff it. He also said a shared truck would force Gray Fire Rescue to reevaluate its planning and staffing.

Though the Gray Ladder Truck Committee had fulfilled its charge to make a recommendation, the council decided not to dissolve the committee while discussions – including the possibility of sharing the truck with Cumberland– continue.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The Gray Ladder Truck Committee has recommended that the town purchase a new vehicle to replace the 21-year-old Truck 44.