In a village of roughly 2,000 people, a turnout of more than 600 to vote on whether to buy a new fire truck is pretty clear evidence of strong feelings. The residents of Stewart Manor did the right thing: They just said no.
In the process, they again put the spotlight on a problem that Newsday identified in a 2005 series: Long Island has too many fire departments buying too much expensive equipment. The series said our departments have more equipment than New York and Los Angeles combined. A new graphic by the Long Island Index shows that New York City has six heavy rescue trucks; the Island has 146.
Now, back to Stewart Manor, a slice of western Nassau with a total area of two-tenths of a square mile. It's so small that the fire department's vehicles alone - two pumpers, an emergency rescue vehicle, an ambulance, and cars for the fire chief and assistant chief - could practically cause a traffic jam.
A new pumper-ladder truck cost taxpayers nearly $650,000 in 2008. The older pumper needs repair or replacement. A new truck, plus bond costs, would have run about $400,000. So the village board correctly let residents vote on the bond. They wisely rejected it, 348-263. Now the village will get the old pumper fixed.
Next, Stewart Manor and other tiny departments should look into letting larger nearby departments provide protection more efficiently. The costs of shiny new equipment and local pride are getting as high as a ladder truck's reach. hN