Public Remarks by Dean Markham to the East Hampton Town Meeting, December 21, 2015 concerning the purchase of a aerial ladder truck produced by Pierce Manufacturing.
I rise to support the replacement of a 30 year old ladder truck in use well past its functional prime with no reasonable expectation of continued cost effective maintenance. Its replacement probably should have occurred 5 or more years ago. It's significant replacement cost has annually put such consideration on the back burner - until now.
A year ago the only option available was a dual rear axle ladder truck that probably would have cost equipped near $1.5 million. Our fine and dedicated Fire Commission, Chief Greg Voelker and Company Members did the due-diligence to present to the town a superb alternative with significantly improved features and capabilities at nearly 50% of that original estimate.
One of our highest priorities as citizens is protection of the public health and safety. Often overlooked are the dedicated volunteers who jump to the call to battle fires and other emergencies. This piece of equipment provides safety to them as they serve us. There are also hidden savings that we rarely think about. For example, one increase in the ISO (insurance rating) of our town would cost each homeowner and businesses substantially more annually than any tax increase to pay for the vehicles and equipment appropriate for our firefighters. And, there is an unmentioned expense that would pale this apparatus purchase. How much do you think a full-time paid fire department would cost? We should all be standing and applauding these dedicated volunteers.
The rub tonight is that we are faced with a damned if we do - damned if we don't situation. Our new Republican majority council (Patience Anderson, Ted Hintz, Jr., Mark Philhower, Josh Piteo and Melissa Engel) has decided, for lack of any understanding on my part, to punish all our taxpayers for bringing this expensive piece of equipment before us. They have totally disregarded the recommendation of our Finance Director and a unanimous vote of the Board of Finance to lease-purchase the truck over 10 years (citing what would be a savings of approximately $8000 a year) by robbing the budget referendum approved capital reserve fund to pay cash for this major item. How many of you would pay cash for a new automobile?
Our capital reserve fund, voted by you, was to smooth the impact of the High School renovation project. I can only surmise that our Council is also punishing all of us for approving that project. Under this plan, you will see a significant mill increase, far, far beyond what is reasonable and what prudent Boards of Finance and prior Town Councils had planned. The current rationale evades me because we all pay. Considering the near record low of interest rates, it would behoove our town to take advantage using the power of our AAA Standard and Poor Rating. We've all heard the rumblings that the Federal Reserve intends to begin raising rates. Now is an opportune time to finance this long-term asset.
So what's the solution? Our public safety or our wallets. You could vote the resolution down. But does that really make sense? NO. The better solution is to adopt the Resolution, and, if our Town Council is wise, in the next few weeks, they have the power to reconsider how the ladder truck is acquired. The bid remains in place until February 7th. Seems like plenty of time to do the smart thing.
I hope you will support the Ladder Truck purchase this evening. Overall it is in everyone's best interests.
Note - The resolution passed by unanimous voice vote of the nearly 250 townspeople in attendance and was declared approved by Moderator Red (Robert) McKinney.