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Sturbridge explores options for fire equipment needs

July 20, 2009
STURBRIDGE — In early June, a 1988 pumper truck was totaled in an accident on Route 15.

At a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Monday, July 20, Fire Chief Leonard Senecal, accompanied by four members of the Fire Department truck committee, asked selectmen for guidance in seeking replacement for not only the 1,500 gallon pumper identified as Engine 5, but also for the purchase of a new engine to relieve some older equipment that according to the department, is past its prime.

Firefighter Russ Chamberland read a prepared statement to the selectmen, in which he outlined the, "dire need for new fire apparatus for the Department."

Chamberland went on to explain that Engine 1, a 1980 Ford pumper, was slated to be replaced two years ago. $324,000 was even allocated for the purpose at a Town Meeting in 2008, though no purchase was ever made.

Chamberland said rust on the truck's body and in its tank has relegated it to a second-string machine.

"Because of the rust situation, it blocks nozzles and stuff, so we can't use it as a first line engine," Senecal added.

Chamberland continued his inventory of the trucks, saying that Engine 4 came on line in 1974.

"That's an extensive period of time for a hard working vehicle," Chamberland said.

Currently, Sturbridge's front line truck is a 1998 model.

"You've got to realize, our first truck out the door now is almost 12 years old," Chamberland stressed.

In 2008, the Sturbridge Fire Department responded to 511 calls. Over the last 10 years, the heaviest volume of calls came in 2006, with 797.

Although the $324,000 was approved in 2008 for the pumper, Chamberland said now, a year later, a proper replacement would be closer to $385,000.

Additionally, upwards of $300,000 would also be needed for a new engine truck.

"We are coming to you for direction and support," Chamberland said to the board.

When asked if the committee had investigated the option of purchasing used trucks, Chamberland answered, "It's somebody's front-line truck that they're getting rid of, what does that say right there?"

"You're just buying somebody else's troubles," Chamberland added about used equipment.

Interim Town Administrator Michael Racicot asked Senecal if a $60,000 contribution could be squeezed from the department's budget before asking for such a hefty allocation from the community. Senecal said that due to cuts in the Fire Department's budget over the last two years, coming up with surplus dollars would be difficult.

"No doubt, I'm sure, the board is supportive of having the best for the department," said Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Mary Blanchard.

No official decisions on how to proceed with replacement of the aged fire equipment was made at the meeting, but the board and the Fire Department truck committee will revisit the issue at a later date.

The board was later met with Michael Glynn and Shaun Lockett of Aeronautica Windpower of Plymouth at the encouragement of several citizens.

Glynn, a 2006 graduate of Tantasqua Regional High School, explained the basic process of data collection leading to construction of a wind turbine, and the benefits such a structure would provide the town.

Through net metering, or neighborhood metering, Glynn explained that the owner of a wind turbine, whether private or municipal, can essentially feed excess electricity into the power grid for designated homes and buildings.

"People who are saving money on electricity are hopefully more apt to spend more money," Glynn said.

As for locations, Glynn explained that the turbines Aeronautica manufactures, which last up to 25 years, are mid range and can be put in a number of places around town that have adequate windpower.

"If you go up on top of Leadmine Mountain, there's a lot of wind up there," Glynn said, indicating Tantasqua, and private parcels, have adequate space and wind for such a structure too.

Glynn explained that part of his role with Aeronautica is to find and write grants for funding, should the town or an individual want to pursue windpower.

The board again discussed formation of an energy committee, which they said would be the natural first step in a venture such as windpower, before making any decisions on the matter.

News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at ctanguay@stonebridgepres.com.

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