The Commack fire district board chairman said new Pierce pumpers would...

The Commack fire district board chairman said new Pierce pumpers would replace the department's 29-year-old trucks that are aging out of service. Seen here, fire department headquarters on Jericho Turnpike in Commack. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

A $3.2 million proposal to buy two pumper trucks and a tower ladder truck will go before Commack Fire District voters July 12. 

New Pierce pumpers would replace 29-year-old trucks that are aging out of service and will probably be the last trucks the district buys for the next 25 years, fire district board chairman Patrick Fazio told Newsday. 

The purchase would not change the district’s 2022 operating budget of $5.1 million or alter the tax rate of $62.682 per $1,000 of assessed value, Fazio said. The district would draw $1.6 million from an equipment reserve fund and borrow $1.6 million to pay for the purchase, paying the balance off over the next decade. 

Voters in the district, which covers parts of Smithtown and Huntington and includes about 37,000 homes, last year approved a $2.1 million purchase of three pumper trucks, but commissioners proposed a new referendum after deciding to replace an existing ladder truck. 

That roughly 13-year-old truck, which the district sold for $550,000, “was poorly designed and we had dumped a lot of money” into upkeep, Fazio said. 

The proposed replacement, a Pierce model, like the pumpers, is “far superior,” he said, but equipment prices are going up: from $1.35 million last November to $1.8 million for the ladder truck today, Fazio said.

In an email, Lisa Barwick, vice president of marketing, fire and emergency segment for Pierce, said “raw material cost escalation and supply chain challenges have been unprecedented. We have received and continue to receive supplier price increases. Pierce Manufacturing is not alone in having to respond with price increases to address these industry-wide challenges.”

Galloping inflation is leaving many Long Island districts with sticker shock this year, said Donald Corkery, Sayville fire district board chairman and first vice president of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York. “We’ve all heard the price of trucks is going through the roof” and risk blowing through fuel budgets, he said. 

Long Island districts are better insulated than many in the rest of the country because they have relatively stable tax bases and some, like Commack, have dedicated reserve funds for equipment, he said. 

Steve Hirsch, chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council, said equipment price increases could make it hard for departments to buy necessary equipment. “Not only for the civilian population, where you can’t wait 45 minutes for a neighboring town to show up with a piece of equipment, but it’s also a safety issue for our firefighters. They need to have good equipment to provide protection that they’ve sworn to provide,” Hirsch said. 

Commack firefighters, whose coverage area includes commercial buildings in the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge and along Jericho Turnpike, use a ladder truck to reach rooftops too high for the department’s ground ladders, Fazio said. 

It’s something you buy and hope you never have to use,” Fazio said. 

Voting will be 6 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse at 6309 Jericho Tpke.

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