AFD Chief Nelson, Assistant Chiefs McKay and Stromgren at JCPC meeting 2/20
But you can, unfortunately, immediately scratch $8,000,000. Because that is the first year installment ($4 million in year #2) on a new $12 million South Amherst Fire Station -- a Holy Grail talked about since the 1950s.
For the last couple years it shows up in the capital request line item as a placeholder, or what Finance Director Sandy Pooler described as an "Important reminder ... here to keep it on the radar screen."
But the problem with keeping it on the radar screen so very long is, it starts to get tuned out.
About half the remaining ($555,000) budget request will go towards a new ambulance ($255,000) a standard workhorse machine on a ten year replacement cycle. Although they do not yet make reliable enough hybrid vehicles for emergency first responders, the new ambulance will have a touch of green: a high efficiency air conditioning unit powered by a solar panel embedded in the roof.
The new ambulance will also come with a power loader and power stretcher which significantly reduces the physical stress on EMS personnel loading and unloading patients into the back of the ambulance.
Power loader demonstration
In addition AFD is requesting $91,600 for three more power loaders to retrofit the current fleet of ambulances. Last year they were given approval to purchase five power stretchers.
Two new UHF/VHF portable radios at $7,000 each will allow command personnel to communicate with other agencies (Amherst police or any police and fire in Franklin County when assisting via mutual aid) at the scene of an incident. The old radios are beyond their rated lifespans and are starting to break down.
The vital protective gear that separates bare skin from sizzling temperatures also needs to be replaced on a rotating basis, and this coming year that installment (20 sets of gear) will cost $40,000.
A Federal mandate requires all single-walled underground storage tanks be removed by 2017. The 8,000 gallon tank at North Station, used by AFD as well as other town departments -- Schools, Recreation, Library and Conservation -- needs to come out of the ground.
And that will cost $80,000.
Since the two pumps that dispense gas and diesel are also over 20 years old they will be replaced at the same time, for a cost of $20,000.
While not nearly as expensive as an ambulance or fire engine a 4WD pickup is still pretty costly at $35,000. The utility vehicle will be used to plow North Station in winter and even to accompany emergency vehicles during a major winter storm. The old unit was a 1993 hand me down from the DPW that has now failed to pass inspection.
When asked by JCPC Chair Kay Moran what he would do if her committee decided to cut funding for the vehicle Chief Nelson responded, only half-kidding, "punt."
Rounding out the requests is $20,000 in extra equipment for the new pumper arriving in August that allows it to act as a "Emergency First Responder." Sort of turns a fire engine into a temporary ambulance, except it cannot transport the patient to the hospital.
But when things get busy and you need to get to a patient ASAP a Fire Engine can travel just as fast as an ambulance to at least deliver highly trained help who can stabilize the patient until an ambulance can arrive to transport to a hospital.
The Joint Capital Planning Committee seemed to look favorably at the AFD requests, but they do need to cut some items from department requests before sending their recommendations to Town Meeting.
Even then, Town Meeting can still fail to fund a single line item, although it doesn't happen often.
The hard part somewhere down the road, assuming town officials radar still works, will be the $12 million debt exclusion for the new South Amherst Fire Station.