ROUSES POINT - If you've been traveling the streets in Rouses Point, you may have noticed a shiny, new addition to the Rouses Point Volunteer Fire Department being driven through the village.
The fire department put its brand-new 2009 Freightliner ambulance into service last week, replacing its older 1998 American LaFrance model.
Fire Chief Michael R. LeBlanc said the process to getting the new rig has been one several years in the making.
"It's been on order for about a year, but we started looking at getting a new one about two-and-a-half years ago," he said.
At that time, the older ambulance's odometer was approaching the 100,000-mile mark, said LeBlanc, which is a point at which departments typically consider getting newer vehicles. Since the department's emergency personnel responds to nearly 250 calls a year within the village, neighboring communities and even Alburg, Vt., there's a need to have safe, reliable and state-of-the-art equipment, said the chief.
"I'm not saying it wasn't reliable," LeBlanc said of the older ambulance, "but things break down over time. It was just time. We had 130,000 miles on it."
The department received the new ambulance Feb. 13, and has responded to a handful of calls since being put into service. The quality of the new ambulance is head and shoulders above the previous one, said LeBlanc.
"It's a big improvement. There's a big difference in the ride and the handling," he said.
The new ambulance also has slightly better accessibility for crews to work on patients, said LeBlanc. That's because, like it's predecessor, the new ambulance was custom-ordered.
"We made some changes," said LeBlanc. "Over the years, you decide this doesn't work well or that doesn't work well, so you move a compartment and change it a little, but besides that, there's no major difference."
Though the ambulance is new, LeBlanc said the department is still utilizing the equipment previously stored in its old ambulance.
The new ambulance, purchased through PL Custom Emergency Vehicles in Manasquan, N.J., cost approximately $200,000, said LeBlanc. Of that amount, approximately two-thirds was paid for through a reserve account the village established more than 10 years ago, he said. The remainder was provided by Montgomery Hose, Hook and Ladder Company, the fire department's nonprofit organization which raises money for vehicles, equipment and other necessary items.