CHICOPEE – City officials have agreed to spend nearly $1.5 million to make repairs to two fire stations and replace equipment, but they may not see some of the new vehicles they want to purchase for months if not years.
The City Council voted on Tuesday to buy six police cruisers, an ambulance, a sanitation truck and make the repairs to the two stations. All the expenses were approved in unanimous votes.
Before the fiscal year ended on June 30, Mayor John L. Vieau and the City Council agreed to deposit $2 million from the free cash account into a capital improvement fund. About $1.15 million of the expenses will be withdrawn from the fund.
The remaining $317,603, which will be used to purchase the sanitation truck, will come from fees that residents pay to purchase trash bags if they have more refuse that will fit in the one trash barrel allotted per household.
The biggest problem now is that it is taking as long as two years to get some vehicles delivered because of worldwide supply chain problems. Some companies on the state bid list have also stopped taking orders because they are so backlogged due to a lack of computer chips and other parts, Vieau said.
“It has been very frustrating,” Vieau said. “As vehicles are coming to the end of their useful life, we are trying to be a little more proactive.”
The city ordered sanitation trucks last August and in October and do not expect to get them until spring at the earliest, said Elizabeth Batista, Department of Public Works superintendent.
“We don’t want a catastrophic situation. With this lead time we don’t want to gamble with this,” she said.
The city is also waiting for a dump truck and at least three pickup trucks for different departments, said Allen Ryczek, who runs the city’s central maintenance garage.
“If we order it tomorrow we don’t expect to see it for two years,” he said.
He noted that Chicopee has been financially able to replace vehicles on a regular basis and the life of most is much longer than what is predicted by manufacturers thanks to good maintenance. There are no dire problems yet, Ryczek added.
One sanitation truck, howeve,r has been out of commission for more than a month because it needs a part that is unavailable.
The one thing the city will be able to get is cruisers, which are already earmarked for the department. The Police Department does try to purchase some every year because they are always on the road and this year will replace six at a cost of about $324,500, Chief Patrick Major said.
Fire Chief Daniel Stamborski also talked about the importance of a new ambulance. The Fire Department tries to replace ambulances, or use them as backup vehicles, once one hits 80,000 miles. Currently there are four in the fleet and just one is below that at 32,400 miles. There is a new one on back order as well.
As part of the capital improvement package, the City Council approved about $350,000 for the ambulance.
The City Council also approved $64,600 to fix a concrete floor that is delaminating and uneven at Fire Station 8 on St. James Street.
It also approved spending $414,300 to remove an underground diesel fuel tank from Station 5, on Chicopee Street. The tank is coming to the end of its useful life and the city is repaving the lot so it would save money to do the work now. It will be replaced with an above-ground tank, Stamborski said.
The original cost estimate for the tank removal was $100,000 less, but the price increased by one-third over the recent months, Vieau said.