SHAFTSBURY -- The Shaftsbury Select Board voted Monday to approve two new uniforms for the Shaftsbury Fire Department.
The board voted 4-0-1 to approve the spending, which will total $6,380 for both uniforms. Vice Chairman Carl Korman abstained from the vote.
Fire Chief Joe Vadakin was on hand at the meeting to present research he had done on pricing for the uniforms, which include a firefighters' coat, pants, boots, gloves, and hood. Vadakin argued that it was easier to replace an entire uniform than each piece as it wears out because the gear is meant to be purchased as a set. A coat from one set of gear won't work correctly with the pants from another, which could create a safety risk, said Vadakin.
As such, Vadakin proposed to the select board that they finance replacement uniforms for the two uniforms in his department that were the worst for wear. One of these uniforms is more than 10 years old, and the other has seen very heavy use in the interiors of burning buildings. Vadakin hopes to be able to cycle in new uniforms at a rate of about two per year.
Of the three bids that Vadakin presented to the board, one was from a Vermont company, Reynolds and Son Inc., from which the Shaftsbury fire department has ordered from the last two times uniform replacements were needed. Reynolds and Son has branches in North Barre, Rutland, and Burlington. The other two bids were from online retailers. Vadakin said he preferred Reynolds and Son.
Korman pointed out that the price for two full outfits from one of the online retailers was $5,300 -- about $1,000 less than the price of a uniform from Reynolds and Son. Vadakin said that the Vermont-based company would send someone to the department and take the firefighter's measurements, and each uniform would be guaranteed to fit. With online retailers, there would be no such guarantee.
"I don't want to take the responsibility of measuring someone -- that's not something I'm comfortable with," said Vadakin.
Korman questioned whether the online bids satisfied the town requirement that the select board choose the best value between multiple bids, as it was clear that Vadakin would not have accepted using those companies. Tim Scoggins disagreed, saying the online bids were legitimate, but that the added value of the fitting guarantee made Reynolds and Son the best option.
"Don't get me wrong," said Korman, "I want our guys to have the best, I want the stuff to fit, even if it costs an extra $1,000." However, he did worry that by only looking at the two online bids and one local bid that the town was "shutting out equal vendors," who might be able to provide similar services at a lower price.
When questioned by Korman and Chairwoman Karen Mellinger, Vadakin said he didn't know if any other local retailers offered similar services to Reynolds and Son, and that it wasn't practical to have him doing that research, as compiling the list of three bidders had taken too much of his time.
Town Administrator Margy Becker suggested that her office might be able to help find local bidders in future years.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB