Curley_fire_truckCouncilman John Curley tosses candy from a fire truck during the 2006 Halloween parade.

Citing a “major budget crisis,” Red Bank Councilman John Curley last night raised, and then backed away from, a suggestion that the borough hold off on the purchase of a new $90,000 fire police truck for six months.

“I know I’m going to lose votes over this, but it’s a conscience thing,” Curley said by way of introducing his request that the council impose a moratorium on any new spending until the final 2008-’09 budget is passed.

He was careful to praise volunteer members of the fire department and fire police, about a dozen of whom took up the back few rows of the council chambers.

“I realize you need the best equipment available, but right now we’re in a major budget crisis,” said Curley, a Republican now running for a seat on the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders.

Councilman Michael DuPont, Curley’s most frequent foil on the governing body, countered that funding for the truck was approved a year ago but not spent under a budget that Curley voted for. “At the time, you thought it was a good idea to approve it,” he said.

The Democrat also characterized the present truck, which is 19 years old, as “dilapidated” and “probably not safe for our firemen to use.”

“I know we’re in a crisis time, but there’s also a time when you have to make sure our firemen are safe,” DuPont said.

Curley replied that he was not aware of any safety issues related to the truck, which carries traffic cones, lighting, generators and other equipment used to secure fire and accident scenes.

“I realize these guys need a truck,” he said. “I’m asking for a little bit of leeway. I’ve had people call me and tell me they’re putting their houses on the market” because they can’t keep up with rising property taxes, he said.

“I’d be happy to vote for a truck,” he said. “Not tonight.”

But minutes later, he voted in favor of the expenditure, after borough administrator and fire marshal Stanley Sickels said that the box truck had already exceeded the 15-year usefulness expected out of the Ford chassis. It also has electrical problems and sometimes doesn’t start.

Sickels also noted that the time period in which to award the bid was winding down. When Curley asked how much time was left, one of the fire policemen present called out, “No time.”

“Then I will have to vote for it,” Curley said.

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