Town Official Votes to Refuse 'Free Federal Money' for Souped-Up Command Vehicle

January 9, 2013 - 12:28 PM

unified command vehicle

This photo, from govtech.com, shows one of the many Unified Command Vehicles used by emergency responders across the nation.

From the New Hampshire Union-Leader: The Manchester, N.H. fire department is getting a $600,000 "Unified Command Vehicle" -- basically, a large motor home with computers and radio equipment -- paid for with a federal grant from the Homeland Security Department, but one Manchester alderman voted "no."

"I guess this is free money from the federal government, but if we don't start refusing this money, we're just going to go deeper into debt," the Union-Leader quoted Alderman Phil Greazzo as saying. "We already have a plethora of vehicles that show up on scene in emergencies. This is basically an up-fitted motor-home."

But Manchester Fire Chief James Burkush defended the vehicle purchase, saying it's for coordinating the response to "large incidents," something that's now done out of smaller SUVs.

Burkush said his department is serving local residents by seeking the federal money: "We have been able to get money back from Washington that we sent as taxpayers," he said. "If Manchester didn't take this vehicle, then another community in the state would."

Burkush estimated that maintaining and fueling the vehicle would cost his department around $5,000 a year, but he said much of that cost would be "recoverable" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in disaster response situations.

According to the newspaper, the fire chief said that he's proud that his department has been able to secure a federal grants totaling $4.5 million since 2004.

The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen is the city's legislative body, consisting of a mayor and fourteen aldermen, twelve of whom represent individual wards and two of whom are elected at-large.