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Federal funds to help Pepperell purchase new ambulance

Town receives $345,000 appropriation

Two ambulances have to back into the Park Street fire station, parking no more than two feet from Engine 5 and Tanker 1. SUN/JACOB VITALI
Two ambulances have to back into the Park Street fire station, parking no more than two feet from Engine 5 and Tanker 1. SUN/JACOB VITALI

PEPPERELL — American Rescue Plan Act funds will benefit the Fire Department in its efforts to replace an aging ambulance.

When voters went to Town Meeting on Nov. 6, they granted the Fire Department permission to enter into a five-year lease purchasing agreement for a new ambulance. However, the town received $345,000 in ARPA funds to take the cost burden off of the Nashoba Valley town.

“Now that the state is providing us this money, we will pay for the ambulance in full,” Town Administrator Andrew MacLean said. “We won’t finance it and the taxpayers benefit.”

State Sen. Ed Kennedy, D-Lowell, said the appropriation was included in the state’s $4 billion ARPA spending package, which was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Dec. 13.

Fire Chief Brian Borneman said Pepperell will be able to replace a 2012 ambulance with more than 106,000 miles on it. The new ambulance will also be a Ford F550. It will also be similar to the department’s other 2017 ambulance.

“I try to, as much as possible, get any equipment that we have to match,” Borneman said. “So that way we have a muscle memory type of thing. So it doesn’t matter which ambulance you’re in, (if) it’s laid out as close as possible to the other one.”

Borneman said the department’s main resource hospital is Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer. However, the ambulance could be used for trips to hospitals in southern New Hampshire, Lowell, Leominster or Worcester.

“That’s all protocol-driven,” Borneman said. “Depending on what the call is and what the closest, most appropriate facility is for that call.”

Because the funds come from the federal government via the state to local communities, MacLean said the money Pepperell received helps level the playing field some. Residents of Pepperell will also not have to worry about any tax implications at the local level. He said Massachusetts generally pays more in federal taxes than it receives back in funding.

MacLean said the request came up on a call with Kennedy and state Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton. When asked what his town might need, he happened to have the information on his desk to make a quick decision.

After Town Meeting, Borneman had proceeded with getting quotes and the town was getting ready to make the purchase.

“I knew we needed an ambulance and I knew $4 billion is a lot of money,” MacLean said. “Normally we might ask for $25,000 for a small earmark here or there and we get them from time to time. In this case, I rolled the dice for something big and we got it. We’re very fortunate.”

MacLean and Borneman said they were grateful for the support from the State House, with many communities requesting money right now.

“This is a big deal to this small town,” MacLean said.

In a statement, Kennedy said, “This bill represents a major undertaking by the commonwealth of Massachusetts to jump-start our economic recovery by investing in state agencies and municipalities. Congratulations to the town of Pepperell, Town Administrator Andrew MacLean and the Select Board on receiving this important local earmark.”