ANDOVER — A new, $1.2 million fire truck is expected back in town this week, five months after it was returned to the manufacturer because it was too tall to fit under a local bridge.
“The town will do a final inspection with the expectation of bringing the truck back to Andover on Monday,” Town Manager Andrew Flanagan wrote in an email to The Eagle-Tribune on Friday.
Flanagan commented on the status of the new truck after members of the Andover firefighters union posted a picture of the fire truck on a milk carton in a social media post Thursday night.
“Missing … Have you seen me? If found, contact Andover taxpayers,” reads the message on the milk carton posted on the Andover Ma Firefighters Local 1658 page.
Firefighters questioned the status of the new truck in the wake of their vote of no confidence in fire Chief Michael Mansfield in November of last year.
The union cited a hostile work environment, a lack of respect and more. Union members also questioned whether the fire truck has been modified to meet the height requirement.
“All the issues we’ve had are still there,” said Firefighter and Andover fire union President Eric Teichert. “We’ve had enough. We didn’t want to do this but we are tired of being embarrassed.”
Delivered last summer, the truck stood 11-feet, 11-inches tall. The Horn Bridge, a small railroad bridge over Central Street and Red Spring Road, is 11-feet, 6-inches tall.
In a statement last summer, Mansfield said the truck “underwent a thorough inspection” within hours of its delivery and would be sent back to the manufacturer to “conform with the town’s needs” at no additional cost to taxpayers.
“Following that inspection, the town issued a letter of non-conformance to the truck’s manufacturer, Pierce Manufacturing, after it determined that the truck was not built to Andover Fire Rescue’s exact specifications,” according to Mansfield’s statement.
In an email Friday, Flanagan acknowledged the truck is at the manufacturer’s regional facility in Massachusetts and was not originally built to fit under the bridge.
“We don’t expect there will be any new issues,” Flanagan stated.
“The modifications are consistent with the specifications and in no way compromise the functionality of the new truck. Once the truck is back in Andover, we will schedule training and prepare to put the truck back in service,” he wrote.
Officials said previously they expected the new truck to be returned in September.
When the no-confidence vote was publicized, firefighters said they wanted Mansfield removed and a new chief to lead the department.
However, both Mansfield and Flanagan said they wanted to work with the ranks to address their issues and concerns.
Mansfield, at the time, said that in his past 13 years as chief “we have been able to implement many initiatives that have been recognized by many in the fire service as best practices and have brought the organization into the 21st century.”
The Andover Firefighters Union, local 1658, is comprised of four deputy chiefs, 13 lieutenants and 52 firefighters.
Union members in attendance at the October meeting voted unanimously on the no-confidence motion, according to a union letter.
Firefighters, they said, “have endured a hostile work environment for years that produces poor morale and a staff that is not empowered or valued by upper management. Several factors contributing to the Andover firefighters no confidence in Chief Mansfield are: lack of communication, lack of respect for employees and their concerns, safety issues, consistent bargaining agreement violations, and a lack of committees,” according to the letter.