Fire Director Bruce Miller asked for $250,000. First Selectman Dan Steward gave him $1, at least for now.
On Tuesday, Miller asked the Board of Selectmen for $250,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year to buy 44 self-contained breathing apparatuses for Jordan Fire Company and Oswegatchie Fire Company. Miller said he needs the appropriation to be approved to avoid having two of the town’s five companies without the gear firemen wear while they fight fires.
“We are in a dilemma right now with two stations,” he said. “I just want to make sure we got it in here somehow.”
The selectmen instead only budgeted $1 for the total, saying the proposal came in with no definite cost and without the necessary justification. Steward said he cannot support a project that isn’t fully explained.
“What concerns me is that I don’t have the information in the packet,” Steward said. “I don’t know what it is going to cost us, I would be misusing the taxpayer dollars because I just don’t know.”
However, the selectmen said it could be funded if Miller can get a set price and the necessary back-up. They told Miller to get a definite price with more justification and ask again.
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A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is basically an air pack firefighters wear when they fight fires to ensure they are breathing fresh air and not smoke. A firefighter would not fight a fire without wearing one, Miller said.
Ten years ago, Waterford’s fire departments agreed they needed to upgrade their SCBAs. Instead of funding them with town dollars, the departments were told to get grants, and Goshen Fire Company, Cohanzie Fire Company and Quaker Hill Fire Company were successful in doing that, Miller said.
However, Oswegatchie Fire Company and Jordan Fire Company did not receive any grants, and now many of their SCBAs are 20 years old or older, Miller said. Just three weeks ago, firemen in other towns told Miller that companies would no longer test or repair SCBAs that old starting August 13th, he said.
Miller said he will not send a firefighter out with a SCBA that isn’t tested. That means that if the 44 SCBAs are not replaced in Waterford, those two fire companies will not have enough SCBAs to accommodate their firefighters, he said.
“I don’t think we are going to get to that point,” Miller said.
Miller said he talked with Shipman’s Fire Equipment, a Waterford company that services Waterford’s fire equipment, and was told that they would still service Oswegatchie’s and Jordan’s older SCBAs. However, he said he has been told by other towns that will not be the case after August 13th, and is asking Waterford to buy 44 new SCBAs.
Miller said he needs to replace 20 SCBAs at Jordan Fire Company and 24 SCBAs at Oswegatchie Fire Company. He said he got a rough price from Shipman’s at $6,200 each, meaning $272,800 overall, although said he expects the final number to be below that.
Miller said he believes he can take other SCBAs from other fire companies to allow him to buy less. Overall, he said he can get the cost below $250,000.
Steward said he didn’t think Miller’s “lack of planning” should be misinterpreted as an emergency. He said Miller should come back with the full justification needed, and then present his plan again for approval by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.