Debt Exclusion Ballot Vote on New Fire Truck - June 21st, 11A-7PM

Vote Results: 47 votes in favor, 12 votes opposed. It passed.

Vote Results: 47 votes in favor, 12 votes opposed. It passed.

At the Town Meeting on Monday, May 23rd, voters there approved spending $241,407 of Town funds to purchase a new "Responder" fire truck for the Fire Department. The total price of the vehicle is $410,000 and the Selectboard has committed $168,593 of the Town's ARPA funds toward the purchase. Of the remaining $241,407, Town Meeting voters approved using $100,000 from stabilization funds and borrowing $141,407. The Town Meeting vote was contingent upon a passage of a ballot vote that will exclude the loan and interest payments from the tax levy limits imposed by Proposition 2 - 1/2.

The ballot vote is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21st from 11 AM to 7 PM. Voting will take place on the second floor of Town Hall, located at 325 Main Road. For the ballot vote to pass, only a simple majority (50% plus 1 vote) needs to vote in favor.

The question is worded as follows: Shall the Town of Gill be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bond issued to purchase a Pierce “Responder” 4-wheel drive fire vehicle and related accessories for the Fire Department? Yes ____ No ____

State regulations do not allow a specific dollar amount to appear in the question or on the ballot. The explanation that was provided for this article as part of the Town Meeting handout appears below:

The Finance Committee recommends this article by a vote of 4 in favor and 0 opposed. The Capital Improvement Planning Committee recommends the purchase of the Responder by a vote of 4 in favor and 0 opposed.

The “Responder” has been proposed by the Fire Department as the replacement for the 1987 Engine 1. Unlike our current two fire engines and tanker, the Responder has 4-wheel drive and a significantly higher ground clearance, which will allow it to get to many more of Gill’s hard-to-reach side roads, gravel roads, and steep driveways in all weather conditions. It will seat four firefighters, has a 1,000-gallon water tank and 1,250 gallons-per-minute pump, and carries a full complement of fire hose and ladders. Photographs of a Responder and Engine 1, as well as photographs of the current Brush Truck and a future replacement are included on both sides of the next-to-last page of this handout.

Engine 1 is 35-years-old, needs frequent and often expensive repairs, and has an unsafe “open cab” design that, while code-compliant when it was built, no longer meets today’s NFPA safety standards for fire vehicles. In addition, Engine 1 only has lap belts for seat belts (not lap/shoulder belts), and it lacks many other modern safety features. In each of the last five years the Fire Department has been unsuccessful in its attempts to replace Engine 1 with an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and it is felt the replacement of Engine 1 can no longer wait for the “maybe next year” hopes of the very competitive AFG grant process. It is worth noting that with the timely use of grants and donated funds, Gill’s taxpayers have not had to borrow and pay off loans for the purchase of a fire department vehicle since 1995. (And even then, taxpayers only paid for half of the roughly $500,000 cost of Engine 2.)

The Selectboard has already submitted a purchase order for the Responder, however, the purchase order may be cancelled without cost or penalty if the necessary funding is not approved by Town voters. By placing the purchase order on April 29th, the Town avoided a 10% price increase scheduled for April 30th, and in effect saved over $40,000. In addition, the Selectboard has voted to use $168,593 of the Town’s ARPA funds to defray the Town’s cost of this new piece of fire apparatus.

As was noted in the handout for last year’s Town Meeting, the “Selectboard and Finance Committee recognize there are several significant vehicle replacement and building maintenance projects on the visible horizon, and the reserves in the General Stabilization Fund could be used to reduce the amount of borrowing for those projects.” The motion for this article makes the responsible use of $25,000 from the Capital Stabilization Fund (current balance of $53,075) and $75,000 from the General Stabilization Fund (current balance of $373,822). The total amount to be borrowed is $141,407 – 34% of the total cost of the vehicle - and is contingent upon the passage of a debt exclusion ballot vote scheduled for Tuesday, June 21st.

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