Public Hearing Wednesday for Fire Station Projects, WWTP Upgrades

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Citizen Petition in Opposition to Town Plan

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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

Courtesy illustration Drawing of the proposed $4 million upgrade to the Winnacunnet Road fire station.
Courtesy illustration Drawing of the proposed $3 million fire sub-station at Hampton Beach.

HAMPTON -- There will be a public hearing Wednesday on four proposed bond articles that will go before voters at the annual Town Meeting in March including a petition one to construct a new fire station at the beach at a price tag of $3.7 million.

The hearing to receive public comment on the possible issuance of the bonds will take place at 7 p.m. in the selectmen's meeting room at the Town Offices.

A petition article filed by Skip Windemiller and 25 registered voters was filed last week and is in direct opposition to the bond article sponsored by selectmen and supported by the fire chief.

The selectmen-sponsored article is for $7.5 million and calls for the construction of a new substation at Hampton Beach and to convert the Winnacunnet Road facility into the new headquarters.

The petition warrant article was filed as a less costly alternative.

Fire Chief Chris Silver said he is opposed to the petition article and hopes voters support the $7.5 million plan.

"I will not support this petition because it destroys the credibility of the plan we put forth," he said.

Silver said the plan has always been the two-station proposal.

The goal of upgrading the Winnacunnet station is to turn it into the new headquarters by relocating the chief and administrative officers there.

The new addition — which would keep approximately 60 percent of the existing building — would cost roughly $4 million.

The new substation would be built on precinct land off Brown Avenue and cost $3 million.

"The petition warrant intends to construct a fire station with no work done at the Winnacunnet site," Silver said. "The number is arbitrary and I see no basis for how they arrived at it."

It appears petitioners of the article added funding into the article to incorporate retaining the administration offices at the beach.

Both articles call for a 20-year bond.

Selectmen Chairman Richard Nichols said the petition article offers alternative to voters.

"I think this has some merit," said Nichols.

Selectman Richard Batemen, however, fears having two warrant articles could mean the town may end up with neither of them passing.

"I think it will confuse voters," he said.

Town Attorney Mark Gearreald said the petition warrant article could always be amended at deliberative session to make not legally binding.

But Nichols said he would not be in favor of that.

"My feeling is that if somebody takes the time to write a warrant article and 25 or more people signed it, then its not unreasonable to give voters the right to weigh in on it."

Other bond articles that will be discussed at the hearing include $1.2 million for trash and recycling equipment and another for a $1.3 million to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant.

The $1.2 million investment for trash and recycling equipment will be used to purchase two trucks to allow the town to take over recycling collection.

Selectmen said the $1.3 million upgrade to the treatment plant is imperative if the town wants to get a sewer moratorium lifted by the state Department of Environmental Services.

The proposed article includes money for five items, the most costly of which involve the purchase and installation of a second sludge press.

The equipment would cost approximately $700,000, and a 3,400-square-foot building that has to be constructed to house the new press would cost an additional $375,000,

Another component of the article calls for the expenditure of $250,000 to upgrade the Church Street pump station.

What: Public hearing on four potential bond warrant articles:

1.) Uptown Headquarters and Beach Sub-station (20 Year bond) $7,593,340.

2.) Beach Fire station (20 Year bond) Petitioned $3,700,000.

3.) Trash and Recycling equipment (5 year note) $1,292,300.

4.) Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrades (20 Year SRF loan) $1,385,000.

When: Jan. 12, 7 p.m.

Where: Selectmen's meeting room, 100 Winnacunnet Road, town offices.

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