Jamesport rejects new FD truck

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO The Jamesport Fire Department's plans to replace its 1984 pumper with a new truck are on hold now that voters have rejected the $355,000 bond issue.

For the first time in recent memory, voters in the Jamesport Fire District have rejected the purchase of a new fire truck — in this case a pumper to replace the department’s 1984 model — even though the acquisition would have no impact on property taxes.
Saying the purchase can’t be put off for long, the department’s commissioners plan to start the truck replacement review anew with an eye toward another vote in the future.
In the Sept. 28 ballot, fire district residents defeated the $355,000 bond issue by a vote of 45 to 36. With the purchase funds already budgeted, district commissioner Jim Kane attributed the defeat to a disagreement within the department.
He said one member who believes the department needs a specialized four-wheel-drive vehicle actively campaigned against the pumper purchase. Taking the opposite stand, but also calling for a no vote, another volunteer argued that the district was moving too fast on the pumper purchase. The commissioners formed a truck purchase committee in May.
Mr. Kane, a former chief, said the department can’t continue to ignore the fact that the 1984 pumper is outdated and less than safe.
The truck’s pumping capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute is only two-thirds that of newer models, a liability that became evident during a recent multi-department training exercise at the Maidstone Landing condominium project on the Sound in Jamesport, the commissioner said.
The participating departments engaged in a water relay, connecting pumper to pumper. Jamesport brought its 1991 truck, also limited to 1,000 gpm, and, according to Mr. Kane, it soon became evident that the department was having a tough time keeping up with other departments’ 1,500 gpm pumpers.
Jamesport acquired the 1991 pumper from the Flanders Fire Department, which retired it, to fill in for another truck with mechanical issues.
Firefighters must ride on the top of the 1984 truck, a violation of federal regulations, said Mr. Kane.
“If someone takes a header off that truck, the Board of Fire Commissioners will be held accountable,” Mr. Kane said. “We definitely have a safety issue.”
He said he planned to ask his fellow commissioners during their meeting last night, Wednesday, to prohibit responders from riding on that truck.
The pumper the district had planned to buy, made by KME, pumps 1,500 gpm and has a cab with room for six firefighters.
“We feel this is the truck we need to protect the district,” said Mr. Kane. “This is a very bare bones truck. There’s no extra bells and whistles.”
The Jamesport department operates with three pumpers, a heavy rescue truck, a tanker and support vehicles. Mr. Kane said the department takes the financial sting out of replacing its expensive apparatus by buying a new vehicle only after retiring the debt on an older truck. With the district paying off the heavy rescue truck this year, the plan was to continue the payments to finance the new pumper.
The district has not increased its tax rate in three years and anticipates holding the line next year as well, the commissioner said.
“We certainly have everyone’s best interests at heart,” he said. “Not only the firefighters’, but John Q. Public’s as well, so people aren’t raked across the coals in what they pay in taxes.”
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