July 16--Wilton officials and residents weighed how much they benefit from the mutual aid of neighboring fire departments and what the value of having a town owned ladder truck is at a public hearing Tuesday evening.
Wilton's ladder truck has aged to the point it can no longer be used, and a town committee has been researching what the most economical safe option is to replace it.
The town could decide to pay a share of the cost of a truck with Jay, Farmington or both, or pay to share a truck for a few years and then buy another truck of its own, or buy a new or used one outright.
Town Manager Rhonda Irish said the reason the town would start paying either Jay or Farmington for help they already are receiving is that without replacing its own truck, Wilton no longer would be able to provide help to Farmington and Jay.
"Without us contributing anything to their vehicles, is it fair to their towns?" Irish said.
East Dixfield Fire Chief Randy Hall said he questions whether Wilton should be indebted to Farmington, given that Wilton firefighters help by taking a tanker truck to Farmington fires. Farmington has no tanker truck and relies on other towns for help with structure fires that are beyond the reach of fire hydrants.
"I think that should be worth something," he said.
Farmington submitted a proposed sharing agreement under which Wilton would pay an estimated $23,321 annually, and includes three day-shift firefighters to respond on calls. Jay officials submitted a proposal for an estimated $11,670 annually, but it does not include the cost of personnel to respond to calls.
Irish said if the town shares a truck, it might need to sign agreements with both towns, to ensure a truck is available.
If the town were to buy a used truck, it would cost an estimated $400,000 to $900,000 and a new truck could cost an estimated $1.2 million.
Prior to the public hearing, the town sent out letters to businesses asking how different level of fire protection would affect their businesses. At the public hearing, Wilton Selectwoman Tiffany Maiuri read several surveys from the larger businesses, including Comfort Inn & Suites, whose owner said the business would be unlikely to continue developing if it percieved it was receiving less fire protection or had less access to an aerial ladder truck.
Irish said the town has not made a formal recommendation yet on how to replace the truck and still welcomes any feedback on the decision.
"We wanted to get public input before we continued on," she said.
Kaitlin Schroeder -- 861-9252
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