NORWICH — The City of Norwich Common Council convened on Tuesday, August 30 for their monthly joint committees meeting. During the meeting, department heads made their case for new vehicle purchases.
Norwich Fire Department Chief Jan Papelino told council members engine 234 needs to be replaced. The 2009 firetruck was originally scheduled to be replaced this year, but it was pushed back due to the department purchasing a new ladder truck in 2021.
However, Papelino said prices are increasing every day, and it could take more than two years for the department to actually receive their truck after ordering.
"Right now every manufacturer is quoting us anywhere from 26 to 28 months from the date we sign the papers to order a truck. So you’re talking in excess of two years right now," said Papelino. "With the 22,000 [dollars] that we just took out for engine four, we’ve still got about $466,000 slated for that account, plus we’d have the next two years to put more money into it."
"The original estimate for the truck was about $700,000 for a replacement engine," he continued. "In Oxford, I saw in the paper they just got a brand new Pierce engine. They paid $768,000 for that. They ordered that about a year and a half ago. I was talking to the Pierce salesman today, and he said if they priced that same truck today it’d be almost a million dollars. So I mean, it’s just crazy the pace that that stuff is increasing."
It's expected that a new truck would last 15-plus years. What's more, Papelino said the department is exploring the possibility of refurbishing engine 234 and turning it into a rescue pumper, and the more than two-year wait time on the new engine would give them time to form this long-term plan.
The council voted to take the purchase to bid, where the NFD can begin looking for a new engine.
The City of Norwich Department of Public Works (DPW) is also on the market for new vehicles. DPW Superintendent said the department is in need of a new loader and street sweeper.
The current loader is a 1988 Ford tractor, which Pepe said they use "all day, every day." Moving forward, he said a loader would fit their needs better than a tractor, and they were able to find one for about $84,755.96.
It's estimated the department has around $900,000 in the sewer equipment reserve funds, leaving them at a healthy $800,000-plus after the purchase. The council voted to approve the transfer of funds for the loader.
DPW is also in need of a new street sweeper. New models can range in price from $265,000 to $360,000, according to Pepe. But, he said he's also looking into demo models and the possibility of renting a sweeper throughout the year.
"We also are looking at demonstration models, and you can get those for around $200,000, so that might be the way to go. The other thing I’m still working on is possibly looking at renting on a monthly basis," said Pepe. "So we wouldn’t rent it for almost a year, we would rent it for maybe ten months out because we wouldn’t want it in the winter. So it’s just something I’m looking at. I don’t have pricing yet."
However, a problem that can come up when renting is availability. Pepe said the city could find itself in a situation where a sweeper is needed, but none are available. He also expects there to be shipping costs associated with the rental process.
Additionally, the department already has about $350,000 designated for the cost of a new street sweeper. What's more, Pepe estimated that in the past five years, they have put around $50,000 into repairs for the current sweeper.
The newer models also utilize new technology to make them more effective.
"We’re definitely interested in getting a new technology, they’re referred to as 'air sweepers.' They use high-pressured air to help break up the debris on the street, and then vacuum it up that way. We did test one and it worked very well, so we are looking at that technology," said Pepe.
Ultimately, council members were supportive of the purchase and voted to get the ball rolling on finding a sweeper.
"I know that we’ve talked about just how important having a street sweeper is, not only for the basins but just the regular maintenance, specifically with downtown," said Alderman Robert Jeffrey. "I am prepared — tempted, at least — to make a motion to go to bid on this. We’ve already put the money aside, it’s in the reserves, and if we can get it next year, awesome."