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FIRE DISTRICT STILL WILL GET NEW TRUCK

The Orchard Park Fire District still expects to get its new fire truck at its bid price, even though the company that agreed to make it has gone out of business.

Last spring, the fire district accepted a $183,318 bid from Firecab for a new truck for the Hillcrest Fire Company, one of the town's three companies.

However, the Chambersburg, Pa., company went out of business almost before the ink was dry.

According to Michael F. Chelus, the fire district's attorney, the district is still protected by a completion bond taken out with the Cincinnati Insurance Co. when the deal was made.

"We have a commitment for the truck at $183,000," Chelus said. "Maybe they can only get someone to build for $200,000. We couldn't care less; they will pay the differential."

The truck situation had sparked controversy within the fire district, which is technically a part of the town government, with the board of commissioners elected in a general public vote.

Bruce Wellington, the president of the Hillcrest Fire Company, had blasted the board of commissioners in a Sept. 10 letter, criticizing what he described as the "high level of secrecy" surrounding the truck purchase.

He had criticized the original selection of FireCab to build the truck based on a tour by the Hillcrest truck committee, whose report said it found "mess and dirt and disorganization" at the plant.

The truck committee's report said the commissioners awarded the bid over the objections of the committee, Chelus and T.J. Kittle, one of the commissioners.

After a heated meeting of the fire district Sept. 12, tempers seemed to have calmed, though Commissioner Greg Calloway refused to speak about it.

"It was just the communications or lack of," said Ernest Matthews, head of the Hillcrest truck committee.

"Since our letter and the meeting, things have been pretty open."

"My understanding of that situation was the truck committee was not being kept apprised of the status of the truck," said Kittle.

"All these attorneys were talking to each other behind the scenes. . . . Now there's a clear line of communication."

The outcome, according to Chelus and Matthew, is that the fire district has emerged a winner.

It gets the truck, set up to meet its original specifications and at the original bid price, even though the next companies to bid on it aren't likely to meet that price.

The new truck will be larger than the 1977 Dodge it's replacing, allowing Hillcrest to put into storage areas equipment that is now stored outside of the current truck.

"We're trying to get everything inside, where it's not falling off," said Matthews.

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