Expensive first meeting for newly seated New London council

New London — It was an expensive first meeting of the newly elected City Council on Tuesday.

The council approved more than $2 million in city spending — $1.85 million to purchase two new firetrucks, $153,620 for a new elevator at City Hall and an undisclosed six-figure settlement with the family of a man who hanged himself in a jail cell.

The fire department funding includes $1.265 million for a tower ladder truck and $585,000 for a fire pumper. The city currently is without a working ladder truck — a 2007 Seagrave awaits repairs of damage to its stabilizers that occurred during a call on Nov. 7 that makes the ladder inoperable.

The city is depending on responses from ladder trucks from departments outside the city for any structure fire and smoke calls. Although its ladder is not working, the Seagrave still responds to calls, bringing along extra manpower in the event ground ladders are needed to perform a rescue. The truck is due to be back in service later this month.

The ladder truck’s backup, a 1992 Sutphen tower ladder, is out of service due to age and the high cost of repairs.

Fire Chief Thomas Curcio, in a presentation to the City Council, said the new engine pumper would replace one of two 2001 pumpers, each with more than 400,000 miles of service.

The ladder truck purchase was approved unanimously. An initial unanimous vote to approve the pumper truck purchase was reconsidered at Tuesday’s meeting and finally approved with a 4-3 vote. Efrain Dominguez, Alma Nartatez, Reona Dyess and James Burke approved the measure.

Councilors Kevin Booker, John Satti and Curtis Goodwin voted against the pumper purchase.

Both Booker and Satti said the shear amount of money being spent made some councilors uncomfortable. Satti said he preferred that the request be referred to subcommittees for further discussion and “to fully vet it.”

Goodwin said he felt more due diligence was needed to make such a costly decision so quickly. He said he would have preferred waiting to find out more about available funding sources and an expanded explanation of needs at the fire department in its forthcoming Capital Improvement Plan.

“I understand the need for fire safety but I also want to better understand how to pay for it and if any additional things are needed,” Goodwin said. “How can we be efficient in our spending?”

Curcio and Finance Director David McBride have planned return visits to provide more information.

In a memo to the council, McBride said the Finance Department is “reviewing various alternatives (leasing alternatives with financing institutions, utilizing the City’s Capital Reserve Fund issuing tax-exempt bonds in conjunction with the City’s debt issuance planned for March/April) to finance these purchases.”

McBride is expected to provide the council with a recommendation later this month.

The council additionally approved $153,620 toward the replacement of the 60-year-old elevator at City Hall. The lack of a working elevator has forced council and other boards and commissions to hold meetings outside City Hall.

Following a closed-door meeting, the council approved a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the family of Donovan Chaney, 55, who hanged himself with a hospital gown while in a prison cell at police department headquarters.

The wrongful death suit alleged that after his treatment for self-inflicted cuts to his wrist, Chaney was taken into custody and left unmonitored in his prison cell for more than 40 minutes. Details of the settlement were not immediately available. The Day has filed a Freedom of Information request for the settlement.

g.smith@theday.com

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