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City seeking $500,000 to buy a new fire truck

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council on Tuesday officially added to the city’s Town Meeting Day warning a request for voter support for a $500,000 bond to fund a new fire truck. That vehicle would replace the Vergennes Fire Department’s Engine 1, a 24-year-old pumper.
The council had in November supported that recommendation submitted by a Vergennes Volunteer Fire Department committee that included Fire Chief Jim Breur and department officers and firefighters. The committee had been studying department needs for three years and concluded it was time to replace the truck that is first to virtually every fire.
Breur told the council the truck is beginning to develop more problems, and parts are becoming harder to find.
In a phone interview on Wednesday City Manager Mel Hawley remembered the 1994 decision to buy Engine 1 and another new truck, the first time the department had not purchased used vehicles.
“It’s amazing how time flies,” Hawley said.
Hawley said Vergennes will turn to a municipal bond bank in order to get a 20-year loan not available from private lenders. The resulting cost will be about $45,000 a year in the first year of a note, he said, assuming interest would be about 4 percent a year from now. A truck would be built from scratch and then delivered if Vergennes voters back the proposal in March.
The cost would be shared among taxpayers in Vergennes and the three other towns the city department serves as first responder: Panton, Waltham and about 40 percent of Ferrisburgh.
Exact tax-rate projections are tricky, Hawley said, because grand lists can change as well as the interest rate. But he estimated the truck could add a penny to the city’s municipal tax rate, and possibly the same amount in Panton and Waltham. The impact on Ferrisburgh would be less because the Ferrisburgh fire department covers most of that town as the first responder.  
The truck’s price tag is actually projected to be $520,000, but Hawley said the department can use $20,000 of what is a roughly $45,000 fire department fund balance toward the purchase.  
The truck’s price tag would not include equipment such as hoses and nozzles that could add up to $20,000 more, but Breur said in November the department hopes to sell Engine 1 for $15,000 to $20,000 to fund those necessities.
The new truck would offer safety features such as seatbelts and rollover protection, Breur said, and be able to hold six fully prepared firefighters in its cab.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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