Chatham wrestles with way to pay for fire truck

CHATHAM–The Village Board heard from Fire Chief Paul Pratt about moving forward with options for replacing the fire company’s ladder truck at the board’s regular meeting earlier this month. The current truck is 27 years old and was bought used by the village in 2000. It will not meet inspection, the chief said, and repairs on the truck would be costly.

The board also heard a presentation at the October 11 meeting from Delaware Engineering, P.C., an Albany firm that helps municipalities with water and sewer projects, about a water system study. The board paid the firm $3,500 to conduct a water system review.

Mary Beth Bianconi, a senior project manager for Delaware Engineering, told the board, “The village is being very proactive now, saying the system is aging.” Delaware will conduct the study looking at what needs to be upgraded and review rates. She said having this information gives the village “the ability to make informed decisions.”

Delaware will also look into grant money available for work on water system. The village is currently making major upgrades to the sewer system, paying for them with a loan from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC). Delaware was not involved in that project but is managing the $3.5-million sewer upgrade in Valatie, which received a no-interest loan from the EFC and a grant of $2 million to pay for the project.

The next big expenditure for the Village of Chatham will be the fire truck, expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million. A committee met September 11 to discuss options the board has for replacing the truck. Chief Pratt read the committee report to the board and discussed the options, though no decision was made at the board meeting.

Chief Pratt said there was no way to continue with the truck the village currently uses, reading a statement from the report that says, “I, as the fire chief, will discontinue the use of the truck and not put our people on a piece of apparatus that will possibly injure and/or kill someone.”

The consensus of the committee and Chief Pratt’s recommendation was to look into purchasing a demonstrator model, a truck used at conventions and is less expensive because it has miles on it, or getting new truck made to village specifications.

If the village goes with a demonstrator truck, Chief Pratt suggested adding a compressed air foam option on the truck, that he said “will help put out fires significantly quicker and reduce manpower.”

He stressed that demonstrator trucks had never been in a real fire they are just less expensive because of the miles put on them from traveling to and from conventions.

He said that buying a used truck would not be a good option for the village. “Fire companies are using trucks to the end of their lives and selling them,” he said. The village purchased the current truck from a company in Michigan for $155,000.

Also at the meeting the board:

*Heard from the president of the Chatham Cemetery Association, Kirk Kneller. His group cares for the cemetery on Cemetery Hill, a part of the village in the Town of Ghent. He said the association needs help from the village to maintain the roads to the cemetery. Board members said they would look into the issue.

“We’ve never come to the village and asked for anything,” Mr. Kneller.

*After several meetings of hearing from residents about their anger at the board’s cutting police hours, heard some positive things about their performance. “It’s a thankless job,” said village resident Brin Quell during the public comment period, but urged fellow residents to have “the decency to work with the board.”

Another resident, Barbara Henry, said at the end of the meeting of the cuts, “It’s responsible to always be looking at where your resources are going… [The] mayor and the trustees are looking at where our tax dollars are being spent.”

The board scheduled a special meeting Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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