BY ALAN BURKE
---- — PEABODY — It’s big, red, squirts water and costs more than half a million dollars.
It’s a new pumper truck for the Peabody Fire Department, and Chief Steve Pasdon expects to see it delivered within six months.
That’s thanks to quick action by the City Council on Thursday as it approved a sweeping, $5.1 million bond. This will be combined with funds already on hand to reach a total of $7.6 million. The money is also targeted for the cleanup of Crystal Lake and the purchase of an artificial turf football field at the high school, among other things.
“I was very happy to see a unanimous vote from the City Council,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt following Thursday’s vote. Approval came after both the mayor and Pasdon appeared before the council’s finance subcommittee the week before to explain the reasons for the bond.
“These programs are wide-ranging and will benefit the whole community,” Bettencourt said.
Pasdon estimated the cost of the new engine at $535,000. With approvals, as well, for new breathing equipment for firefighters and other items, the combined spending for his department will exceed $1 million.
“It’s outstanding,” the chief said of the vote. “It’s great. The cost of firefighting equipment is very expensive. ... But these are things we need.”
The vote also pleased advocates for Crystal Lake, who have long battled for city funds to clean the lake of muck and weeds and transform it into a recreation area. Efforts to restore the area go back more than 40 years, said Councilor Anne Manning-Martin.
She praised Bettencourt for putting together “a pretty solid package” and keeping councilors in the loop. “He gave a solid explanation of where the money is coming from,” she said.
Other items included in the bond are repairs and computers at the police station, a John Deere tractor for the Public Services Department, computer equipment for the city clerk, the removal of sludge from Winona Pond, aid for Torigian Center day care, a modern sound system for City Hall’s Wiggin Auditorium and new cafeteria tables for the schools.
Council President Tom Gould praised Bettencourt for getting things done that have long been stymied.
“A young, popular mayor can get his agenda approved,” Gould said, adding that the mayor made a canny decision that this was the time to act.
The new firetruck will replace a vehicle in service since 1989 that has lately been unable to gain certification. It will be sold for scrap. The replacement, possibly to be designated Engine 1, carries 1,000 gallons of water. That’s enough to fight a fire, with no other water source, for up to eight minutes, Pasdon said. On-board computers will automatically change the workings of the engine to adjust to the environment.
While he hasn’t chosen which model to buy, the chief added that he will seek something described as midlevel.
“You could pay more. You could pay less. You don’t have to fund the most expensive truck,” he said. He expects the purchase will boost the morale of his department. Several firefighters attended the council finance subcommittee meeting on Oct. 17 in silent support of the upgrade.