Major Fire Department Purchase on Horizon

October 18, 2022

The Bedford Fire Department’s shopping list for capital products is modest for fiscal 2024: an incident command vehicle for a shift commander, priced at $86,039.

But lurking in the next room is an elephant – more specifically, a new fire engine.

The Capital Expenditure Committee on Wednesday reviewed the Fire Department’s six-year capital plan. There are several six-figure items, and the biggest is targeted for fiscal year 2025: a fire engine priced at $890,000.

Not only that, but it will take about a year-and-a-half to build and prepare it, Fire Chief David Grunes told the committee. By the time the new engine is in service, the apparatus that it is replacing, a 2007 Pierce model, will be more than 19 years old.

As of July, the Pierce engine had amassed more than 67,000 miles, the chief reported. Later in the week, he noted that the equipment has doubled in cost since 2007. Indeed, it increased by almost $300,000 in just over the past five years, he said.

The incident command vehicle is a pickup SUV that includes a package of communication and safety equipment. Grunes said this is a new vehicle to accommodate an additional staff position. In answer to a question from Select Board member Emily Mitchell, he said the vehicle is not available in a hybrid or electric format.

Capital Expenditure Committee member Tom Rowan asked whether the purchase could be accelerated to next year. Grunes explained that his capital schedule is coordinated with those of other municipal departments, so expensive replacements can be part of the overall spending plan.

Farther down the six-year plan are replacements for the department’s two ambulances, each priced at $375,000, as well as $102,000 in other rescue equipment.

The chief explained about mutual ambulance aid. There are signed agreements among surrounding communities to back each other up, he said. Although the Bedford department has two ambulances, each shift is not always fully staffed, so “the second ambulance is not being used as much as it could,” Grunes said.

As a result, last year the town received mutual aid about 200 times and provided only around 100. 

“You don’t want to stress the surrounding communities – it’s no longer mutual if all we do is take,” he said. “You do try to make it equal.”

The committee on Wednesday also learned about $147,042 in proposed fiscal 2024 expenses in the area of informational technology.

Daniel Leahy, the town’s chief information officer, said the budget includes $89,000 to replace aging computer equipment and software spread through 15 town departments. This includes desktops, laptops, and tablets. 

Another $59,000 is budgeted for cyber security. Leahy said most of that amount is for constant monitoring.

In answer to a question from committee member Brad Morrison, who also chairs the School Committee, Leahy confirmed that future years’ projected expenses will be significantly more.

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