Hampton Beach Fire Station to Close?

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Chief Lipe Will Present Plan on Monday Night

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, April 27, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Fire Chief Hank Lipe will present his recommendation to selectmen Monday night on whether the town will have to close the fire station at Hampton Beach.

Town Manager Fred Welch asked Lipe to present his recommendation to the board on what to do about with the station in the aftermath of hazardous lead paint being found in the building.

"It is going to require some form of remediation or closure of the station," Welch said, noting the town doesn't have $80,000, which was the lowest bid, needed to remove the paint.

Lipe said he is still reviewing all options including potential closure, but will not make his recommendation public until he goes before the board.

Welch said the town is being asked to remove the paint from the century-old building by the state's Department of Labor, which discovered the paint in the ceiling of the apparatus bays during a routine inspection last December.

Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard, but when it begins to peel and chip, as it has in the fire station, it becomes a hazard that needs to be removed.

"We don't have the money to pay for (remediation)," Welch said. "We would have to discontinue some other town function somewhere else (in order to pay for it.) And I can't in good conscience spend $80,000 in a building that is not ours."

Even though the town doesn't own the building, it is required to pay to fix the problem. The town leases the beach fire station from the Hampton Beach Village Precinct for $1 a year, and the agreement between the town and precinct stipulates the town must pay for any maintenance to the building.

Welch said the only way he could see the station remaining open is if Lipe comes to the board with a plan that would assure the safety of employees in the building.

Lead is more dangerous to children than adults because children's growing bodies absorb more lead and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Adults can suffer from difficulties during pregnancy and other reproductive problems. Other effects are high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.

Maureen Buckley, chairwoman of the Hampton Beach Village District, said it would be devastating if the town closes the beach fire station especially with the upcoming tourism season.

"It's scary to think that might happen," Buckley said. "It's essential as far as I'm concerned that we have fire protection at the beach."

Several selectmen said if the town "abandons" the station there will have to be a contingency plan in order to continue providing emergency service at the beach.

"If we have to abandon the station we will still have to have coverage at the beach," Selectman Ginny Bridle-Russell said. "We will not leave that beach without coverage."

While the lead paint was discovered in December, the building has remained open under strict guidelines set by building and health inspector Kevin Schultz. He recommended the department limit the amount of time the overhead doors remain open to reduce any paint chips from becoming airborne and to purchase an air vacuum cleaner.

Schultz also recommended that if firefighters are working in the areas and creating substantial air movement they should consider wearing jumpsuits, disposable shoe slippers and face masks.

Selectman Bill Lally said even if the station can somehow remain open the board will still have to come up with a game plan to have a temporary first aid station at the beach.

The town will not be allowed to house a first aid station for summer tourists in that building as long as the paint remains.

"Having no first aid station during the summer months is going to be huge," Lally said. "That station receives hundreds of medical walk-ins during the summer."

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