New truck causes controversy at Brandon Fire District Annual Meeting


BRANDON FIRE DISTRICT No. 1 held its annual meeting on January 9 at the Brandon Fire Department. A standing-room only crowd expressed skepticism over the recent sale of a fire truck to pay for a new one. Photo by Steven Jupiter

BRANDON—The Brandon Fire District No. 1 held its annual meeting on Monday, January 9, at the Brandon Fire Department (BFD). It was standing room only, a big departure for a meeting that’s often sparsely attended.  According to frequent attendees, these meetings usually take under an hour and are simply a series of motions and approvals that cause barely a ripple in town.  This year was different.

The difference is that this year, BFD had signed a contract for a new fire truck that will cost $769,542 and will be partially financed by the sale of the BFD’s newest vehicle, a 2015 model that cost $375K when new and which sold for $325K this fall.  The sale of Engine 1, as it was known, leaves BFD with 4 other trucks, all of which are older and some of which, it is claimed, are functionally impaired.  One truck, for example, is leaking hydraulic fluid from its ladder.

There were harsh words in the room for both the Prudential Committee, which oversees the Fire and Water Districts and which approved the purchase, and for BFD itself.  Town residents, some of whom were attending specifically because of this issue, expressed anger, frustration, and a great deal of skepticism about the purchase.

“As a board, you should watch out for the best interests of the taxpayers of this town,” said one attendee.

“Irresponsible,” said another.

When asked why the Prudential Committee approved the sale of BFD’s newest truck rather than one of the older vehicles, Committee member Natalie Steen said, “It was part of a multi-year plan to downsize the fleet.”

“[Engine 1] was the best bang for our buck,” said BFD Chief Tom Kilpeck.  “Everything else is worth substantially less.”

Committee Chair Bill Moore added, “When the Fire Chief says what he needs, we’re here to support them.”

Committee member Dennis Reisenweaver noted that the vote to approve the sale was not unanimous.  He and member Jon Wyman voted against it, while members Bill Moore, Natalie Steen, and Michael Markowski voted to approve.  Reisenweaver later reiterated that he did not feel that the sale of Engine 1 “was in the best interests of the community.”

When an attendee asserted that “a lot of people haven’t been informed” with regard to the sale, Moore replied, “our meetings are open to the public and the minutes are available within days online.”

BFD used the proceeds of the sale of Engine 1 as a 50% down payment on the new truck.  The remaining 50% is due on delivery of the vehicle, which is expected in December of 2024.  

In a later conversation, Chief Kilpeck stated that Engine 1 had been a “demo model”—it was used by the manufacturer for demonstrations to potential buyers—and proved insufficient to BFD’s needs.  

“There was some unusable space [in Engine 1],” Kilpeck said.  “The new truck will have three times the storage capacity.  Our plan is to consolidate the fleet.  Fewer but better trucks.”

“If we hadn’t sold that truck,” he added, “we would’ve been asking for financing.”  

According to Kilpeck, BFD receives $105,000 per year for vehicle replacement.  Money that isn’t spent in one fiscal year rolls over into the next.  Thus, by the time the remaining 50% on the new truck is due in 2024, BFD will have at least $210,000 on hand toward that obligation.  The balance on the new truck, however, will be $384,726.  

“The Committee may have to take out a small loan,” Kilpeck conceded.  But with $105,000 coming in every year for vehicle replacement, he didn’t see a problem being able to pay it off.

Regarding BFD’s readiness to fight fires in the meantime, with its fleet of 4 older trucks, Kilpeck insists that the Department is completely capable.  “We have fully operational equipment,” he said. “And we have mutual aid agreements with Pittsford and Salisbury.  If we need assistance, those departments will be automatically dispatched.”

“The people who were complaining weren’t at any of the [prior] meetings,” Kilpeck added.  “They were there with incomplete information.”

Reached for comment after the meeting, Chair Bill Moore said, “[The purchase of the new truck] was part of a six-month process that spanned many regular and special Prudential Committee meetings. A vehicle committee, headed by our chief engineer, made a rational argument for a vehicle replacement plan that included the sale of Engine 1 and purchase of new trucks for the fleet.”

“It has been anticipated that there will be enough in the vehicle replacement fund by the time the new engine is delivered…to satisfy the remaining payment,” Moore continued.  “However, if there were to be a shortfall, that amount would be within the statutory amount allowed for the Prudential Committee to commit via a vehicle bond (less than $100,000) or from budget surplus funds.”

After the debate surrounding the truck, the Committee continued with its agenda, proposing for approval by attendees the creation of 3 reserve funds to hold monies currently held in accounts known as the “Fern Lake” and “Tank” funds.  By statute, monies that are not used for expenses or to offset the amount needed from taxpayers must be held in reserve accounts.  

“These accounts [Fern Lake and Tank] were basically being used as slush funds, in my opinion,” said Reisenweaver.  “We’re just cleaning things up and complying with the law.”

The motions to create a fire reserve, a water reserve, and a general emergency reserve all passed.

The Prudential Committee then called for elections of Officers of the District.  

Kristy Pinkham was re-elected as both Clerk and Treasurer.  

Amber Lee and Scott Trask were elected Auditors.  

Sue Gage was elected Collector of Taxes.

Before the meeting, the composition of the Prudential Committee was Bill Moore, Dennis Reisenweaver, Jon Wyman, Michael Markowski, and Natalie Steen.  Moore, Reisenweaver, and Wyman were all at the end of their terms; they’d have to be re-elected to remain on the Committee. After several ballots, including one tie, the composition of the Committee is now Dennis Reisenweaver (re-elected), David Snow, Jon Wyman (re-elected), Michael Markowski, and Natalie Steen.  

Note that Bill Moore had already planned to step down at the end of his term.  He did not run for re-election, citing heavy commitments elsewhere.  “We are in a good place and it is time for other community members to get involved,” he said.

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