Reserve Ladder 5, which for a time served as a fill-in for the ladder truck at Bramhall station, is one of the six pieces of old equipment the fire department hopes to soon replace. There is a request in this year’s capital improvement budget to purchase a new ladder truck and two new engines. File photo

PORTLAND — With two fire trucks out of commission due to safety concerns and a fire engine at the Bramhall station expected to fail inspection this spring, Portland Assistant Fire Chief Chris Goodall said now is a critical time to invest in the fire department.

The proposed capital improvement plan includes a number of road projects, including a redesign of the Congress Square intersection to remove the right-turn lane from High Street to Free Street. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

As part of the city’s fiscal year 2022 budget, which begins in July, the department is requesting $2.7 million from the city’s $16.5 million fiscal year 2022 capital improvement plan to purchase a new ladder truck and two new fire engines. Those three vehicles would help replace six of the department’s oldest pieces of equipment, which are all at least 20 years old.

“We hope for a 20-year lifespan,” Goodall said. “But the conditions here, with the salt and cold weather, does take a toll on the trucks.”

City Finance Director Brendan O’Connell told the Finance Committee last week that the department had hoped to purchase five new pieces of equipment, but because of other funding needs, City Manager Jon Jennings recommends buying only three. The department is likely to request another ladder truck and engine through the fiscal year 2023 capital improvement budget, he said.

Goodall said two of the aging vehicles, the Peaks Island ladder truck and Reserve Engine 10 at the Ocean Avenue station, have failed inspections and have been taken off the road. It is likely Engine 6 at the Bramhall station will not pass a June inspection, either, he said.

A new ladder truck would be assigned to the Stevens Avenue station and the ladder truck there, a 2013 model, would be relocated to Peaks Island. Engine 6 and either Engine 5 at Central Fire Station or Engine 9 at Riverton, both which are a decade old, would be replaced with the two new engines. The old engines would be put in reserve, used only when a front-line apparatus is being repaired or if a large fire needs additional response, he said.

The fire department’s request for the two engines and the ladder truck is the largest request in Jennings’ proposed capital improvement plan, which if approved by the council would add $10.5 million in new borrowing for the city.

The plan includes:

• $1.5 million for the city’s annual pavement preservation program.
• $1.2 million of a $2.2 million project to remove the right turn lane from High Street to Free Street at Congress Square.
• $500,000 for traffic signal upgrades with a focus on Cumberland Avenue.
• $600,000 in sidewalk upgrades.
• $350,000 for a new playground at Payson Park.
• $413,000 for seven new hybrid police cruisers.
• $300,000 for new public safety portable radios.
• $115,000 to replace outdated parking meters downtown.
• $325,000 to replace to roof on the Parks, Recreation and Facilities headquarters at 212 Canco Road.
• $540,000 for pier work.
• $955,000 to pave parts of Stevens Avenue and Elm Street.
• $325,000 for three buses and a van for Portland Public Schools.

To help fund the 73 projects in the plan, the city would use $3.5 million in surplus fund balance and $324,000 in unused money from the current capital improvement plan. An additional $2.2 million is coming from outside funding sources, largely from the Maine Department of Transportation for intersection improvements at Congress Square and paving on Stevens Avenue and Elm Street.

Finance Committee Chairman Nick Mavodones said a public hearing and possible action by the Finance Committee on the recommended capital improvement plan is set for Feb. 25. On March 25, the council’s finance committee and school board’s finance committee will have a preliminary discussion of the 2021-2022 school budget.

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