The New Bedford City Council questioned the condition of the city's public safety vehicles during Thursday night's meeting, but the person in charges of those vehicles is taking exception.

The Council cited a letter from the firefighters' union stating the vehicles were falling into disrepair.

Ken Blanchard, Director of Facilities and Fleet Management for the city, said on WBSM's "Barry Richard Show" today that he thought it was "unfortunate" the firefighters' union opted to send a letter to the City Council rather than discuss things with him directly.

"The fact is, we're in a better position now than we've been in quite a few years as far as maintenance goes, as far as fleet maintenance goes in particular," Blanchard said.

Blanchard said the city has 11 mechanics on staff, and just filed a personnel requistion form to add a 12th mechanic Friday morning. He called the issues brought up by the firefighters' union "unfounded."

"Those guys, they're dedicated to their craft," Blanchard said of the city mechanics. "They work hard, they work all hours."

Blanchard said garage superintendent Carlos Araujo "literally stays awake at night" worrying about the work being done properly. He said Araujo has taken advantage of the fire station brownouts to use that time to practice preventative maintenance on fire apparatus.

Mayor Jon Mitchell also took exception to the firefighters' union complaints, with some speculating it may be motivated by the current contract negotiations between the union and the city.

“The City has either purchased or has plans to purchase roughly $10 million in new trucks, vehicles, equipment, and facility repairs for the Fire Department. This $10 million figure does not include the cost of constructing the new South End Public Safety Center now in the early stages of design," the mayor said in a statement. "Most important, the City has completely reorganized its fleet maintenance garage specifically to better support our public safety vehicles. We have assigned and trained more mechanics, and created a preventative maintenance program to make sure we get the longest lifespan possible from our investment in new fire engines and vehicles."

"The truth is, because of the leadership of Director Ken Blanchard and his dedicated team of mechanics at DFFM, the capacity to service our fleet is the best it has been in many years. The claim by the firefighters union—which is currently in contract negotiations with the City—that the City is not doing enough for the Fire Department, is simply not based on the facts.”


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