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Bradford, Vt., Voters Overturn Approval of New Fire Truck

Bradford, Vt. — The Bradford Fire Department will not add a versatile new fire truck to its fleet this year after voters rescinded approval for the purchase.

Residents at a special Town Meeting on Tuesday night voted, 108-77, to undo the action taken at the annual Town Meeting on March 4, when voters authorized officials to borrow up to $679,000 for a new fire engine.

“Those opposed didn’t dispute the need for the fire truck, but said the price would be too much of a hit on their taxes,” Selectboard Chairman Ted Unkles said of the results on Wednesday morning.

A petition filed by residents forced the special meeting, which drew more voters than the March meeting and yielded 30-40 minutes of “calm, respectful debate,” Unkles said. About 50 more votes were cast Tuesday than were cast at Town Meeting, when the tally was 97-36 in favor of the purchase.

Retired Bradford Fire Chief Bob Wing said he didn’t support this particular purchase because of the way the fire department went about proposing it.

“The fire department came to the Selectboard at the very last meeting before they were going to set the warning for Town Meeting and dropped this on them,” Wing said on Wednesday. “As a past fire chief, I would bid the truck, then come in with a firm price and a spec book ... a year ahead of time. I felt that was very much lacking.”

Wing said other voters didn’t support the purchase because it was a “pocketbook issue.” He said many of the voters who showed up Tuesday night were not the same faces normally seen at Town Meeting.

Bradford Fire Chief Ryan Terrill, who was a proponent of the new engine, expressed little emotion about the reversal in a phone interview on Wednesday.

“They want us to look toward a different truck and have more information available to the voters,” Terrill said.

The fire department will continue to operate with four engines, with a fifth one out of service.

The fleet can handle “the suppression” of fires that break out in an average-height home, Terrill said, but because none of the engines in service are ladder trucks, emergencies taking place at taller structures pose problems for the department.

The truck the department sought to purchase was a newer, 75-foot “quint” ladder truck, so called because it can perform five fire-fighting functions.

Terrill said fire officials will work with the Selectboard to figure out a plan to replace the out-of-service engine — a 95-foot-long truck built in 1986 — which doesn’t meet National Fire Protection Association standards because of its age.

“You aren’t supposed to have a truck in service for over 25 years,” Terrill said, noting that repair parts for the truck are hard to find.

The fire department currently has $85,000 in its capital reserve fund, not nearly enough to fund the full purchase of a fire truck, Terrill said.

Town Clerk Marianne McClure said Tuesday night’s vote stands and can’t be petitioned.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.