By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, August 25, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The Hampton Beach Fire Station Committee, charged with finding the most suitable location for a new beach fire station, has the Hampton Precinct Village District up in arms.
The committee is recommending in its final report to selectmen that the new substation be constructed where the current one sits even though the precinct owns that land.
And while the precinct recently signed a new 38-month lease with the town to allow it to continue using the current beach fire station for $1 a year until a new building is constructed, Kane said the precinct doesn't plan to just hand it over to the town.
"The committee was charged with finding a viable location," Precinct Commissioner John Kane said. "This is not a viable location to the precinct residents. They don't want it to be there and we don't want to lose that building."
Kane, who is a member of the fire station committee, said the only way the precinct would give the town the land is if precinct voters approved it at a Town Meeting.
"The voters have expressed they want to maintain that building," Kane said. "They have generously extended the lease, but nowhere in that new lease does it say that you're going to stay here."
Tom Gillick, who served as chairman of the fire station committee, said while the town doesn't own the land, it is the best site, especially after the feedback the committee received from its original recommendation that it be built on the town's parking lot on Ashworth Avenue.
"The major reason that we picked the location is because the biggest activities of that fire station during the summer is walk-in medical assistance," Gillick said. "People are accustomed to going there and that is where the parks and lifeguards have been sending them."
Gillick said the town would obviously have to work out an agreement with the precinct to take control of that land.
"When the precinct was formed, it was organized for fire protection and they are out of that business now," Gillick said. "...The precinct runs the playground, band stand, fireworks and advertising. Now if the town of Hampton, that takes the tax revenue for all that valuable property, said we want to assume those responsibilities, I think the precinct commissioners would gladly terminate the precinct."
And, by terminating the precinct, there would be no need to have a precinct building.
"I don't think there is one person on Hampton Beach that believes the town would ever take over our responsibilities," Kane said. "Mary-Louise Woolsey (chairwoman of the Budget Committee), is not going to pay $50,000 for fireworks."
The fire station committee's final report also includes a list of alternative sites including the site of the former police station with the new building facing Brown Avenue and with the acquisition of the Westport Motel to offset lost parking spaces.
Meanwhile, the fire station committee is at odds over the size and scope of the proposed building. The majority of the committee is recommending to selectmen the construction of a substation with a 40-foot by 60-foot apparatus floor with two bays of 20 feet each and two doors.
But committee member Richard Ballou, who is considering writing a minority report, said that plan doesn't fit Hampton's future needs.
"I believe the site should be able to sustain a building in the future that is 100-feet by 100-feet at a minimum," Ballou said. "And I think this building is too small for what the future may hold for Hampton. I'm talking about apparatus and manning for the future."