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Petition Forces Bradford, Vt., Voters to Reconsider Fire Truck

Bradford, Vt. — Not so fast on that high-ticket, multi-function fire engine Bradford voters decided last month to buy for their fire department.

Ninety-three town residents have since signed a petition seeking to rescind the March 4 Town Meeting vote that was in favor of making the $679,000 purchase.

“It’s a lot of money for the use we would get out of it,” said Bill Taylor, who brought the petition to the town offices. “Taxes are high enough now in Bradford.”

Town Clerk Marianne McClure said a vote on the matter has been set for April 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Bradford Academy auditorium.

“It’ll be just like Town Meeting with a vote from the floor,” McClure said, “unless seven people request a paper ballot, then we’ll have that. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of discussion.”

Opponents of buying the “quint” fire truck — so named because it can perform five firefighting functions -— will need a sharp reversal of public opinion if they’re to succeed. The Town Meeting vote in favor of what would likely be a five-year purchase plan was 97-36.

Taylor said Bradford doesn’t need to own a 75-foot-long engine with an extension ladder because the town’s architecture consists mostly of houses, rather than tall, multi-story buildings.

He said the town could rely on area departments such as Woodsville, Hanover and Hartford that do have the larger engines to respond to a major building fire.

Taylor –— who said he got advice from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns in preparing the petition — did acknowledge that it would likely take 30 minutes or so for Hanover and Hartford firefighters to reach the scene.

Gary Moore, chairman of Bradford’s Public Safety Commission, said the planned new engine would have other uses than simply fighting fires in tall structures.

“You can get anywhere in town,” with it, as opposed to the engine it would be replacing, he said. As a pumper, it can deliver 2,000 gallons of water per minute, and the ladder would increase safety for firefighters at chimney fires, keeping them off what often quickly becomes icy and dangerous terrain at such fires.

Moore said when voters years ago rejected a proposal for a similar multi-purpose truck, the fire department bought a more standard 1986 fire truck that has proved inadequate, particularly at reaching emergencies on secondary roads. It’s now out of service.

Moore said he’s also well aware of the new engine’s high cost.

“It’s just such a big-ticket item it scares people. They’re worried about taxes,” he said.

A regular attendee at Town Meetings since the 1960s, the 68-year-old Moore said it was hard for him to recall an annual meeting at which voters approved more spending.

“I was surprised at Town Meeting. They voted for everything, including a new grader. They even added $10,000 for a recreation director.” Should the town decide to buy the fire engine, the amount residents would borrow may actually be about $594,000, since there’s some $85,000 in a capital reserve fund that could go toward the purchase.