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June 11, 2013
$200K truck restoration by FD draws mixed response
What started as an estimated $150,000 to restore the Shelter Island Fire Department’s first truck dating to 1932 has now escalated to an estimated cost of $200,000. And that doesn’t count approximately $50,000 spent in the mid 1970s to do a quick restoration in time for the 1976 Bicentennial.
One-third of the current restoration costs will come from taxpayer money, with the fire department picking up the rest, according to Commissioner Larry Lechmanski. While the commissioners’ budget comes directly from taxpayers, the department’s coffers are filled from fund raising events such as the annual chicken barbecue. A special fundraiser is planned to support the department’s share of the restoration, Mr. Lechmanski said.
Only one commissioner — Chairman Andy Steinmuller — objected Monday night to paying a $59,476.90 bill to FireCraft in Blairstown, New Jersey, for much of the district’s share of the costs. He has been opposed to the project from the outset, he said.
Commissioner Richie Surozenski was ill and not at Monday night’s meeting, but he is a member of the commission’s Antique Committee that has been shepherding the project along since it got under way in June 2009. Had he been at the meeting, he would have sided with those in favor of finishing the project, Mr. Lechmanski said. Still, he acknowledged that some fire department members are complaining about the costs and he’s determined not to increase the department’s share for the few parts of the project that still need to be completed.
“Some guys in the department are pissed,” Mr. Lechmanski said.
“In the beginning there was a strong desire” to restore the truck, Chief John D’Amato said. “I think there are mixed reviews” as costs have escalated, he said, declining to state his own opinion.
“I will admit costs have soared,” Mr. Lechmanski said. But at this point, he sides with those who just want to see the project completed. The original estimate was $97,000 for body work on the old truck, Mr. Lechmanski said. But as Ty Parker of FireCraft worked on the truck and discovered problems, he called members of the Antique Committee to visit and see for themselves the work that needed to be done, the commissioner said.
FireCraft had been recommended for the job by East Marion Fire Department officials who had used the company to restore one of their old trucks. Mr. Lechmanski said he’s confident Mr. Parker has been straightforward and honest about the work that needed to be done and said at the end of the project, the department will receive a photo album showing the process of restoration from beginning to end.
There’s some gold leaf painting that’s taking place this week, according to Mr. Parker. And Mr. Lechmanski estimated it might cost several hundred dollars more for work on the truck’s exhaust system and new grab bars that had been replaced during the first restoration in the mid-1970s with shower curtain rods. Mr. Lechmanski wasn’t involved in that first restoration project and said he doesn’t know if the Mattituck company that did the work was told to simply make the truck look good without a lot of money being spent or if the company just did shoddy work. He didn’t know the name of the company and said he thinks it’s now out of business.
Commissioner Larry Lechmanski predicted that the restored truck would first appear at this year’s Shelter Island Memorial Day parade and said he expected it would be exhibited at special events hosted by departments in neighboring states.