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Conn. PD gives excess funds to fire department for new fire engines

Norwalk police departments gives nearly $500,000 from communications upgrade surplus to the fire department

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By Abigail Brone
The Hour

NORWALK, Conn. — With the estimates for two new fire trucks coming in far over budget, the Norwalk Police Department offered up nearly $500,000 in surplus funds from the communication system upgrade to help cover the costs.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special capital appropriation request from the fire department for $489,225 at a meeting Feb. 16, according to city documents.

The funds will cover the remaining balance to buy two new fire trucks, Norwalk budget director Tom Ellis said. Funds for the trucks will be transferred from excess police department money intended for a communications system upgrade.

Over the summer, it was revealed that a police department project to upgrade its communication system came in millions under budget.

“That project is moving along rather smoothly; they have not had to purchase all the new equipment that they anticipated several years back when they put in the request and they are expecting a significant underrun in that capital project,” Ellis said.

The communications console project has been in the works for several years and had an original anticipated cost of about $15 million.

In the 2020-21 fiscal year capital budget, the police department and combined dispatch received $13.5 million for a “communication console.” Deputy Police Chief Terry Blake previously confirmed the $5.6 million for the system will be taken from the $13.5 million capital appropriation.

With the excess funds, the fire department reached out to police, to determine whether they would share the surplus funds, Ellis said. The police department was cooperative and good partners throughout the agreement, he said.

“We came up with this idea to work with the police department to see how much they were going to underrun that communications project, ask them if they would be willing to transfer a portion of their remaining or unexpected surplus funds to the fire department to get this done,” Ellis said. “Even with this advancement, they’re still expected to underrun the project, so as challenging as the fire department run is in terms of supply chain issues and inflation, the police department run seems to be just the opposite.”

For the fiscal year 2021-22, the fire department submitted a capital budget request for two new pumpers, fire trucks that carry water, Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto said.

“We were not awarded that one, so the following year we had to put in for two engines, which his (fiscal year) 2022-23. We were granted $1.35 million for purchase of two fire engines,” Gatto said. “I believed $675,000 was enough to cover both of them. Unfortunately, the specs were drawn up, we went out to bid, we received two bid responses from two different fire manufacturers.”

The two bids came in hundreds of thousands of dollars above the anticipated budget for the trucks, with the low bid of $1,839,225 from Pierce Manufacturing and a higher bid from another company for $2,092,337, Gatto said.

The $500,000 requested by the fire department will cover the difference between what was previously appropriated and the lowest bid amount, Gatto said.

Now, the police offered to put some of the unneeded communications system funds toward the fire trucks, Gatto said. Fire engine 3, located at the Van Zant Street station, and engine 5 at the Middle Street station will be replaced.

“The way we operate is we try to keep these pumpers on a 12-year replacement schedule,” Gatto said. “Engine 3 on Van Zant, which is a 2007 fire truck, will replace a 2001 that is our reserve right now. Then that 2007 will become the reserve and the 2001 will go into surplus. We take the 10- or 12-year-old vehicle and put it into reserve and hopefully it lasts another eight, nine, 10 years, depending on how much use it gets.”

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