Why the ladder truck article was removed from the warrant

Last night I had the chance to talk with Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf about the recent decision to remove the ladder truck article from the April warrant. Here’s what I learned.

Back in January, the selectmen floated the idea of having a special town meeting in the fall to cover all large non-emergency capital items. It’s looking more and more like that’s going to happen. Selectmen voted to remove funding for the ladder truck from the April warrant with the idea that it would come before voters along with other capital items in the fall.

Postponing the vote to the fall would allow additional time to raise more funds, particularly from the organizations in town that don’t pay property taxes — Harvard University, Fay School, and the New England Center for Children (St. Mark’s has already pledged $100K). Phaneuf said if the town voted to appropriate funds for the ladder truck in April, the schools would no longer have any incentive to contribute.

Selectmen also want the Aerial Ladder Study Committee to send out an RFP (request for proposal) so voters have an actual cost to consider rather than the estimate they would have voted on in April. And selectmen want the committee to have discussions with Marlborough on sharing equipment. The ladder committee has previously recommended against sharing ladder trucks with other towns.

Phaneuf said that while they made the request for an RFP and discussions with Marlborough back in January, neither has happened.

Phaneuf said postponing the vote on the ladder truck to the fall will only help the cause. “I don’t think it’s going to lose momentum. I think it’s going to be more successful than we ever thought.”

Of course, not everyone agrees, and the decision will be discussed again at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting (it’s not on the published agenda, but I’ve been assured it will come up).

Related story:
Ladder committee, selectmen sync up on strategy

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