Voters fighting for new Campbell firetruck

It’s a half-million-dollar question: Should the town of Campbell Fire Department get a new firetruck? On April 3, voters will decide if a pumper truck that is more than three decades old should be replaced with a new one.

“The tank is rusted. The truck leaks. We’ve had to pry open compartments to get to tools on calls,” said Fire Chief Nate Melby of the Campbell Fire Department.

The national standard for a fire engine is 20 years, but Melby said they’ve gone the extra mile to keep it in tiptop shape.

“It’s served a good life for us, but it’s just worn out at this point,” Melby said.

For $500,000, the department could replace this truck with a brand-new one. But not everyone on French Island is in favor of devoting the funds to the truck.

Resident Brent Howe has a sign in front of his residence urging others to vote ‘no.’ “I figured it’s just like all the other small signs for during the election season. I can express my opinion.”

Howe saids he’s concerned about the town spending that much money and the possibility of ending up with a lot of debt. But if the truck is truly needed, then he doesn’t mind.

“But if we don’t, like the old Boy Scout saying goes, ‘Wear it out or go without.’ If it can be fixed, make it work,” Howe said.

Melby said other options, like having other fire departments from La Crosse County help when responding to calls, are not good solutions to the problem. Especially since a pumper truck is the first to respond to the scene of a fire.

“Mutual aid is not supposed to be a Band-Aid for providing your own basic service yourself, and this piece of equipment is part of our basic services as a fire department to the community,” Melby said.

If the referendum passes, the chief said the department would begin figuring out the specific requirements for the new truck. Once the truck is in service, the old truck would be sold.

According to Melby, the town has existing funds to pay for some of the cost of a new truck. But the town board still needs to decide how much of the budget could be set aside for it. That would determine how much and for how long the truck would need to be funded with new tax dollars.