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Stewart Manor defeats $405G bond for new fire truck

Stewart Manor voters defeated a measure Monday night to issue a $405,000 bond to pay for a new fire truck - the second emergency vehicle in less than three years for the village of 718 households.

The vote, 348-263, capped two months of controversy in the village of 0.2 square miles over whether the village needed to spend so much on a truck - or whether it needed a new truck at all - given its purchase of a $650,000 truck in 2008.

At issue, village officials said, was whether to repair or replace one of their two trucks - a 20-year-old pumper truck that has been out of service since November. Mayor James Kelly said the turnout was the highest for a bond referendum in his memory and recent general elections.

"As a result of this vote, the village board will proceed with the repair of the current vehicle," Kelly said. It's unclear when the repairs will be done.

Since needed repairs would exceed $59,000, and the village has already spent almost $88,000 on repairs, officials said the village ought to get a new truck with a service warranty instead of pouring more money into the old one.

And, village officials said, they wouldn't have had to raise taxes to pay for the new truck.

But some residents, complaining of the cost of fire service in the tiny village, questioned whether the projected expense was necessary.

Debt service this year on the 2008 truck, which functions as a pumper and ladder, averages close to $200 per household. The new pumper would have cost $75 per household annually after the first year. There's also debt on the two used trucks the village had purchased in 2000, one of which has been resold.

Jan Barbieri, a 34-year village resident, said she voted for the bond because she believed the village had done a thorough fiscal analysis and the fire department had recommended the purchase. "I trust them to put out a fire at my house," said Barbieri, 59. "I have to trust that they're going to make the best decision for the village to do these things, and that's why I'm supporting" the bond.

But Walter Pallai, a 14-year village resident, said Monday he voted against the 10-year bond for budget reasons. "This is not a personal thing against the fire department volunteers," said Pallai, 46. "Enough is enough, as far as the spending and putting it onto the residents."

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