WINDHAM — Town officials received some disappointing news from the federal government earlier this month.
This week, Fire Chief Tom McPherson confirmed that Windham wouldn’t be receiving any grant monies to help fund the replacement of the department’s aging ladder truck.
“We didn’t receive a favorable review,” McPherson told selectmen during the Monday meeting. “We did receive a high rating, but it just wasn’t high enough.”
Voters at the March polls overwhelmingly approved a warrant article for the purchase of an $850,000 Quint vehicle. A total of 2,309 voters were in favor of the purchase, with 994 voters opposed.
The vehicle, which is a combination tanker, fire engine and aerial device, would have been used to replace Windham’s 1980s-era ladder truck If Windham had been successful in obtaining an $807,000 Federal Assistance to Firefighters grant, the town would have used general taxation funds to finance the remaining $42,500 for the vehicle’s purchase. But upon failing to garner the grant this time around, the 2014 Town Meeting decision is now null and void, McPherson said.
The fire chief said he’s still grateful for all the positive votes cast by citizens and for the many hours his staff put into writing and submitting the grant application.
“This would have been an integral piece of equipment for us,” McPherson said.
Going forward, he said that the plan will be to apply for other grants and to keep thinking positive.
“Obviously, we’ve already made our plan for capital improvement projects and now we’ll have to see how this Quint vehicle fits in,” McPherson said.
Fire officials noted that one of the reasons Windham wasn’t chosen for the grant was the overall average age of its fire fleet. Federal grant officials favor awarding monies to communities with fire apparatus that’s mostly 20 years old or older. McPherson said the average age of Windham’s fleet is 13 years old, with the exception of the ladder truck.
“Unfortunately, we were up against grant proposals from all over the country,” he said. “But we need to keep moving forward because this is a vehicle I believe we’re going to need.”
According to Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan, the town’s current ladder truck was donated to the town decades earlier. The vehicle has broken down often in recent years and fire officials said some of those unanticipated repairs have proven quite costly.