EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 7, 2013

Windham company helps fire department

Firefighters hope grant will fund new ladder truck

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM — A local business donated lighting equipment to help public safety officials illuminate incident scenes, but selectmen wondered: Will this cause people to call about UFOs?

Nault’s Windham Honda gave the town the equipment, called a lighting balloon, which selectmen formally accepted “with appreciation,” during their meeting this week.

“When I first saw this, I thought it would really help at an accident scene or a crime scene,” Nault’s general manager George Skaperdas said.

Windham officials agreed.

“We’ve seen this item and we were able to play with it a little bit,” fire Chief Tom McPherson told selectmen.

He said it would be a great help lighting up night accident scenes.

“This would be very beneficial to the fire department,” McPherson said.

Skaperdas said the equipment, a portable lighting tower, costs about $2,500, plugs into a fire truck or generator, and lights up an area of about 16,000 square feet.

It can stand up under wind gusts of 60 mph.

Skaperdas said the equipment is often seen at highway construction scenes.

McPherson told selectmen the equipment would be shared by the fire and police departments.

Selectmen’s Chairman Phil LoChiatto commended Nault’s generosity, saying the business has often made contributions to the town through the years.

Skaperdas said owner Richard Nault appreciates what Windham has done for the company, likes to give back to the community and believes other businesses should do so.

“We like to give back to the community,” Skaperdas said.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger wondered if the equipment might lead to “reports of flying lights in the sky.”

That generated laughter.

“Some sort of UFO or something,” LoChiatto said.

The fire department, meanwhile, received approval from the board to apply for an $850,000 federal grant to replace its aging ladder truck.

The town would have to match the grant with $42,500.

“That is the worst case scenario,” McPherson told selectmen, predicting the truck’s cost ultimately could be lower than estimated.

Assistant fire Chief Ed Morgan, who oversees maintenance for the department, said its ladder truck, built in 1980, is showing wear, and has become one of its bigger ongoing expenses.

The ladder itself has rust and corrosion, while a steering wheel recently fell off in the station.

“Thank God, they were not on a call,” Morgan said.

The truck was donated to the town a few years ago, but needs to be replaced soon, officials said.

“It’s done its job. It’s done its job good,” McPherson said.

A new truck also would have the ability to carry 500 gallons of water, something that’s important to a town with no municipal water.

“Five hundred gallons of water would buy us some time,” McPherson said.

Fire officials speculated Windham is in good shape for getting the grant, which would pay for a truck that could last the community 20 years.