Amherst Joint Capital Planning Committee with Public Safety Chiefs
The Joint Capital Planning Committee, comprised of two members each from Select Board, School and Finance Committees and Library Trustees, heard presentations this morning from APD Chief Livingstone and AFD Chief Nelson regarding capital items required in the next fiscal year, totally $798,000.
Since police cruisers and ambulances are on the go 24/7, it's no surprise that new ones are required annually--and that they are more expensive than regular vehicles. But that did not stop Carol Gray from questioning the purchase of four police patrol cars and nitpicking in favor of hybrids.
The Chief responded with just the facts: two of the four cruisers have over 100,000 miles and the other two (both of which had transmission failures) will have over 100,000 if they do not die before July 1.
And hybrids may save money on gas but cost significantly more upfront and do not have the heavy duty mechanics--or roll cage--required for the severe beating these front line machines endure.
Computers, cameras, emergency lights, and radar would combine to overwhelm the electrical capacity of a typical hybrid.
An entirely new radio system at a cost of $125,000 is required because a new Federal Law goes into effect 1/1/13 with strict "narrow band" requirements that our current system--purchased in 1978--will not meet.
The Fire Department had the lions share of total requests ($523,000), significant portions due to the age and deterioration of our downtown Central Fire Station top to bottom: A new roof (the current one had a tree growing out of it) at $103,000 and new floor at $63,000. The station was originally built in 1930 when fire apparatus was a lot smaller and lighter, so newer heavier machines take their toll on the floor--especially where it's not solid slab.
A new ambulance costs $205,000 but will last ten years (200,000 miles) and that appropriation comes out of the ambulance fund--money generated by insurance payments from patients. On a typical day, the department can staff three ambulances, four if they are expecting a heavy call volume, such as Superbowl weekend.
Firefighters also rely on two critical, relatively tiny, but expensive items. Thermal imaging cameras (three at $6,000 each) to "see" through smoke and debris, and 24 radios ($1,000 each) for 2-way communication. Assistant Chief Stromgren would like to get to a point where every firefighter who enters a building can carry a thermal imaging camera.
The Joint Capital Planning Committee currently has $1 million more in requests than funds available. Considering how both public safety departments are understaffed, let's hope the JCPC at least recommends (to Town Meeting) giving them the necessary tools to perform their vital duties.
Potholes inside the main station
Cracks from stress of heavy vehicles
The underside of the cracked floors shows moisture leak damage
The eyes of life. Portable thermal imaging cameras. $6,000 each