The Depew Volunteer Fire Department will be getting one new pumper truck costing about $454,000 – but not a second one that firefighters say is desperately needed.
The new rescue pumper truck will replace one of two, 30-year-old pumpers no longer meeting safety standards and have been costing the village lots of money in repairs over the last several years.
The Depew Village Board on Monday night voted unanimously to award the contract for the new truck to Churchville Fire Equipment, at a cost of $453,889.
However, behind the scenes, the department’s request created political tensions, particularly with Mayor Steven P. Hoffman, who was opposed to the large expense in the face of other village needs that will hit taxpayers.
Earlier this month, the controversy led to a Facebook posting that sparked a police investigation that resulted in no arrests.
Fire officials were grateful, and at least 20 showed up for the vote. However, Fire Chief Joseph A. Whipkey did not mince words afterward. He emphasized that the department needs the second pumper truck.
“We won the battle, but we’re still going to go for the gusto. We’re not done yet,” Whipkey said after the meeting. “We’re satisfied with half of this.”
Whipkey said the six-company department is not considering downsizing – something that the mayor wants. “We are not consolidating, not for the safety of the village,” he said.
As part of the compromise reached on the new truck, the department – by the end of the year – will leave the historical building at 544 Gould Ave., which currently houses fire offices and is used for storage and a weight room, and move to the Northside Fire Station, Whipkey said.
The village will likely borrow more than the nearly $454,000 for the fire truck. Village officials said a larger bond issue could be used for the truck and the purchase of other equipment needs and work for Zurbrick Road. Those details will be worked out over the next month.
After the meeting, Hoffman offered a measured reaction to the purchase.
“We’re moving the village forward,” said the mayor, who declined to say if plans for the Gould Avenue move were part of the compromise. He described the building as “surplus property.”
“We’re looking to ease the burden on the taxpayers the best we can,” the mayor said. “We’ve broken ‘the same old, same old’ of buying two trucks at one time.”
Village Trustee Robert Kucewicz conceded the purchase of two fire trucks at one time would have weighed heavily on the village.
Whipkey said the village administration wants a financial game plan from fire officials for five years. He noted that the department worked up a 10-year strategic plan that already has been given to village officials.
Whipkey would not say which fire hall will get the new pumper, which will arrive in about 10 months.