By Shawn Regan
---- — It probably won’t arrive in time to stick a bow on it and park it under the giant downtown Christmas Tree, but Mayor James Fiorentini is getting the firefighter’s union the gift they asked for this holiday season.
With City Council approval, Fiorentini plans to play Santa and spend $420,000 for a new fire truck.
His decision follows concerns raised by the firefighter’s union that all eight of the department’s pumper trucks are old and unreliable, and a subsequent review of the oldest truck by a private consultant.
The consultant concluded the truck is operable, but must be repaired or replaced, the mayor said. In its emails to councilors, the firefighters union said the department’s mechanic has done his best to keep the pumper trucks running properly.
“Safety is our priority,” the emails said. “We want to keep city leaders notified of any issues that may compromise the safety of the citizens of Haverhill, as well as the members of the Haverhill Fire Department. Not only has our fire apparatus become a safety issue, but it also interferes with everyday efficiency.”
The union said all eight of the department’s pumper trucks are “unreliable due to age and every day wear-and-tear.”
The mayor has filed a proposal asking the council for permission to borrow the $420,000. The council is expected to vote on the money at its next meeting.
A 2011 report by the Matrix Consulting Group recommended the city develop a capital plan for replacing fire trucks and fire equipment, something that has yet to happen.
Fiorentini said he has also asked fire Chief Richard Borden to consider stricter rules prohibiting fire trucks, especially new ones, from being used by firefighters to run errands such as food shopping.
The current policy, the mayor said, is that each pumper truck can be used to run personal errands no more than once per day. Fiorentini noted that he implemented a separate policy prohibiting the department’s new $1 million ladder truck from being used at all for errands unless it is on the way home from an emergency call.
“These policies are necessary in order to preserve the life of these very expensive vehicles,” the mayor said. “As part of purchasing (a new pumper truck), I intend to ask the chief if there are further restrictions or amendments to the policy which should be enacted.”
Six of the pumper trucks have more than 100,000 miles on them and four were bought by the city in the 1980s. The oldest is a 1984 model with 110,000 miles, and the truck used most is a 1995 model with 159,000 miles, the union said.
The two newest trucks, added to the fleet in 2006, have 74,000 and 93,000 miles on them.