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Replacement of aged front-line fire truck on Monday ballot

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

PEPPERELL — Concerned for the public’s safety and his department’s ability to respond to emergencies with the proper equipment, the town’s fire chief is insisting that a key fire engine in his fleet needs be replaced.

The call comes despite Chief Toby Tyler’s acknowledgment that residents of Pepperell, like those across the state, are struggling in difficult economic times.

“It’s going to be a hard sell for some people in town because they’re unemployed,” admitted Tyler. “But on the average, if Pepperell votes for it, it will only cost each property owner $10 a year for the next 10 years. People who have stopped me on the street have supported the purchase and others ask why we need it. Our autobody people have done a great job in keeping the old pumper looking good, but looks are deceiving.”

What Tyler is asking for is the replacement of an aging fire engine that has been repaired once too often. A new truck would cost the town $350,000, for which the chief has suggested taking out a loan with an annual repayment schedule of $46,000.

The appropriation request will be made in the form of a debt exclusion at a special Referendum Election to be held June 21.

A debt exclusion is a one time measure by which residents agree to appropriate an amount beyond the 2.5 percent limit set by Proposition 2 and a half.

According to Town Administrator John Moak, the Board of Selectmen approved setting a Referendum Election at which residents will have a chance to have their say on the extra spending.

If approved, the measure would require the average property owner, with a home assessed at $300,000) to pay an extra $10 in taxes each year for 10 years or a total of $105.

“We’re replacing a 1984 pumper that has not been the most reliable lately,” explained Tyler. “Whether it’s the battery or the brakes or something else, it certainly has seen its best days. Replacing it has been put off now for two years due to the ongoing financial status of the town. But this vehicle is one of those things that we really need to replace.”

If the spending is approved, Tyler said that the new vehicle will come with enclosed cabs at front and rear and is expected to fit in the Park Street fire station, where the current pumper is stored.

With an annual budget of $224,000 the Fire Department employs four full-time employees and a number of on-call firefighters. Stored at two stations in town, the entire fleet consists of a pumper, tanker, ladder truck, and a trio of brush trucks.

Voting will take place at the Varnum Brook Elementary School gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information about voter registration, contact the town clerk at 978-433-0339.