While school budgets and selectboard elections get the headlines, veteran town meeting goers know the gatherings usually aren't complete without debate about new equipment for the town highway or fire departments. In Elmore, a debate about a new fire truck has divided the community before the meeting even begins.
Elmore is a pretty agreeable town. If something makes it on the town meeting warning, it’s likely to be approved without much fuss. Perhaps that’s why there’s been so much talk prior to town meeting about replacing a fire truck.
"The truck is a 1979, so it’s 40 years old," explained Elmore Fire Chief Brent Hosking. "According to the local people we’ve had work on it, it will not pass inspection without probably $12,000 worth of repair. And it’s just not worth it for that year truck. And you don’t know what you’re gonna have for maintenance from there on."
Hosking is talking about replacing the department’s second engine with a new pumper/tanker. But when the fire department approached the selectboard about putting the question on the town meeting ballot, the board said "no."
"The request came in a little bit late," said Selectman Glenn Schwartz. "It came in in January at one of our selectboard meetings. And we just felt that we needed a little bit more time in making a decision of this size."
A new truck will cost up to $370,000, part of which the department plans to finance over 10 years. The board wanted to look into repairing the old truck, or buying used. But the fire department gathered signatures and had the question put on the ballot without selectboard approval.
That led to the selectboard write an open letter to the community, urging voters to say "no." The board also held a pair of public information meetings, which were heavily attended by fire department members.
Differing figures put out by the selectboard and the fire department led to contention and confusion.
"I've heard both sides of the story and, you know, there’s two camps out there," said Schwartz.
But after some heated debate, Schwartz said the board and the fire department have found some middle ground. Now it’s up to the voters.
"A yes vote will mean that we’re gonna be authorized to go out and purchase a new truck," said Schwartz. "And a no vote will be that we’re gonna do some more research."
Polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. With less than 750 voters on the checklist, the Elmore town clerk expects to have the result shortly after.