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Council to debate the best way to buy new fire truck

April 5, 2013

By G. Michael Dobbs


CHICOPEE — City Councilors vowed they would buy the Fire Department a new pumper truck, but said they would decide at a Finance Subcommittee meeting whether or not to borrow the money on a short-term basis or use stabilization funds.

Several of the councilors used the discussions of a new mayoral order they were to consider to address the accusation Mayor Michael Bissonnette that they are preventing progress in the city.

City Council President George Moreau said, "I'm not an obstructionist." Pointing to his chest, he added, "I have the heart of the city in here."

Bissonnette recently wrote on his Facebook page, "Disappointed to hear that price for new fire truck has now gone up by $50,000 since I first proposed it almost a year ago. Council again costs taxpayers money by their failure to act and continue to play politics with public safety. Those who say we can't afford it are not telling the truth as we continue to be rated one of the best managed municipalities in the state. Obstructionism by [City Councilor John] Vieau, Moreau and [City Councilor] Dino Brunetti is one thing but putting people at risk must stop."

Vieau countered, "Public safety is of the utmost importance." He added the council is being cautious about a $500,000 expense.

Vieau, said, "We didn't hit the lottery. We need to cut back on spending."

Moreau said he put the mayoral order into the Finance Subcommittee in order to ask additional questions about the vehicle.

Councilor James Tillotson said, he wasn't criticizing Fire Chief Stephen Burkott, "but there are not bids here."

Tillotson asked, "How do we know that's the best price?" "We don't," Moreau replied. "That's my point," Tillotson responded.

"I think we could use a pumper ... I think most of this council agrees we could use a pumper," Tillotson said. The issue he added is whether or not borrowing the funds or paying for it outright would be the best course.

Vieau said he too, would like to see some bids and advocated borrowing the funds.

City Councilor Donald Demers added, " I think we are all in agreement we are going to get it."

Moreau explained unresolved questions on issues such as this one are the reason he sends them to the Finance Subcommittee.

"I'll keep it in finance to get some answers," he said.

The council approved a motion to ask the city engineer to investigate improving the intersection of Grattan and Providence streets. City Engineer Steve Frederick will be meeting with Aldenville residents and business owners to try to solve what people believe are dangerous traffic conditions there.

The council will begin work on an ordinance stipulating where a medical marijuana dispensary would be located. Tillotson said the ordinance would be written in conjunction with the city's planning and legal departments and he added he would like to see it prohibit locating such a facility near a residential area, school, church or playground.

"It is the law of the state now for better or worse," he said.

There will be three public meetings on the issue at which residents can express their concerns.

The council will also work on amending its hawkers and peddlers ordinance to include provisions for criminal background checks. Brunetti said that Northampton recently adopted provisions that as part of its licensing of ice cream trucks and other street vendors.

Brunetti believes that if all vendors must go through a background check — for which they would pay as part of the licensing fee — public safety would be strengthened.

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