Fire & rescue makes case for new ambulance

On Town Meeting Day, Charlotte voters will likely decide whether to approve the purchase of a new ambulance for the Charlotte Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service. President John Snow has asked the selectboard to place an article on the March ballot for a $365,000 bond measure, separate from the nonprofit’s annual budgetary request.
“It’s time, as we have said over the course of the last year or so, to replace our 2014 ambulance,” Snow said, citing an internal policy that, by his account, matches national and local standards. “Each ambulance has a useful life of 10 years.”

Charlotte Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service maintains two working ambulances, which ensures continuous service amid occasional mechanical problems.

“We run the first ambulance for the first five years in what’s called the front line. It’s the first out in most cases,” Snow explained. “We run the older ambulance on the second line. It’s the backup.”

The fire & rescue service already put out a request for proposals, receiving two responses from ambulance vendors. With less success, it also explored what Snow called a “re-chassis” option — that is, “to take that square medical module in the back and put it on a new truck chassis,” instead of purchasing an all-new ambulance.
“There was only one provider who would consider it,” Snow said. “They could not give us a firm price until they actually went to do the work, which would be two years from now. And so, the potential savings are nothing more than potential.”

Instead, Charlotte Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service intends to reduce the cost of a new vehicle by reusing “subsystems within the existing ambulance,” such as its “power lift” mechanism. With any luck, the final bill will come to less than the approved amount.

“It’s a not-to-exceed number,” Snow clarified. “When we actually get the firm bids and prices, we bring them over, we re-present to the board, everybody acknowledges that it’s within the limits, and we cut the checks.”

By its own count, Charlotte Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service responded to “just over 600” 911 calls last year. According to its website, the service charged an average of $1,198.89 per transport as of 2022.

The rest of its revenue comes from local taxpayers. On Jan. 8, Snow presented a preliminary budget of $1,254,087 for fiscal year 2025, which would require a municipal allocation of $1,011,587 – an increase of $45,781 over the prior year.