By Steve Jusseaume, email@example.com
Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 5, 2002
HAMPTON — The Hampton Beach Village District has relaxed its demands on the town, paving the way for an agreement to be signed regarding fire protection at the beach.
Since beach precinct residents voted to cease paying for fire protection at Hampton Beach in 2000, the precinct commissioners have been negotiating with the town on how the transition would work.
Originally the beach district demanded that the town pay for some equipment the precinct bought and paid for over the years, including breathing apparatus.
But in a letter to the Board of Selectmen from precinct attorney Sharon Cuddy Somers dated Feb. 14 — Valentine's Day — the beach offered "to donate Engine 4 and all remaining equipment" to the town, without compensation.
Somers and Commissioners Mike O'Neil and Skip Windemiller, meeting with the board last week, made the offer verbally as well as on paper.
Donation of the fire equipment was decided upon, Somers said, "to ensure good relations between the district and the town."
O'Neil said the amendments to the original proposal were made "in the best interest of the greater Hampton community."
"We live in one community, not two," O'Neil said.
"You take the whole thing, no charge, and run the department," Windemiller said, adding that the precinct has decided not to sell either one engine or the equipment, as originally contemplated.
The only piece of equipment the precinct sold, an out-of-commission ladder truck, was so out-of-date it could not meet current minimum requirements for use. Ivan Eaton Jr., of Seabrook paid $6,500 for the vehicle, Windemiller said.
Somers detailed the key points in the updated agreement, including a three-year lease proposal for the current Ashworth Avenue fire station, with an option to renew for a total of two years. According to the proposed agreement, "The town will only be able to exercise the option to renew if the property continues to be used for fire protection purposes and if the site is reasonably maintained to the satisfaction of the district." (Somers noted that authorization to enter into the lease was granted by district voters in 2001.)
The station house includes the building on the corner of Brown and Ashworth avenues, and some parking to the rear of the building. The corner lot totals 0.27 acres. The precinct will retain possession and control of the parking garage to the north of the fire station.
The district reserved use of the meeting hall on the second floor of the fire station, including priority in scheduling meetings in the hall.
The donation of fire equipment, breathing apparatus, radios, furniture and beds by the district to the town requires a vote by precinct residents. A warrant article will be introduced to facilitate the donation at the annual precinct meeting, scheduled for Friday, March 29.
Should the town build a new fire station on the site within the time frame of the lease, the precinct will terminate the lease and convey the property to the town.
Selectmen embraced the proposal as fair and in the best interests of all concerned.
"This is a great proposal," Selectman Brian Warburton said, though he doubted the town would get around to building a new fire station in three years, the length of the primary lease.
The agreement comes in the nick of time. The transfer of fire protection services at the beach is scheduled to occur on April 1.
Selectmen were scheduled to discuss and possibly act on the proposal at last night's selectmen's meeting.