By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, September 17, 2004
HAMPTON - Robert Webber wants to fix the town clock without it costing taxpayers any money.
"I want them to give me the town clock so I can start working on it," Webber said.
Selectmen gave Webber permission Monday to begin a fund-raising effort to restore the clock, which was damaged in a 1990 fire at the Odd Fellows Building.
They are giving him until April to raise enough funds.
Webber, however, doesn't want to wait until then. He wants selectmen to give him the clock so he can start fixing it.
"I think I can fix that clock for very little money," said Webber. "A guy called me last week and said he could build us the parts that we need for free."
Webber said his plan is to try and fix the clock without conducting any fund-raising.
Once the clock is repaired, he and his committee would begin fund-raising efforts to build a place to hold the clock.
The clock is currently collecting dust in the Town Hall after it was severely damaged in a 1990 fire at the Odd Fellows Building.
While Webber asked for permission to take the clock at Monday night's selectmen meeting, no one answered him because it was during the open forum portion of the selectmen's meeting.
The clock was originally given to the town as a gift in 1897. The clock was presented to the town by John T. Brown of Newburyport. The town made a promise when it accepted the clock to keep the it in good working order.
According to archives of the Hampton Union, the clock began to show signs of wear and tear long before the 1990 fire.
A columnist for the Hampton Union recounted the promise the town made in 1897 and said "let's have the clock face painted and the hands and letter regilded without further delay."
Webber said the town needs to restore the clock, not only because it made a promise to do so, but also because its a piece of history.
While Webber believes he can restore the clock for very little, others are questioning that.
Selectmen received an e-mail last week from Heritage Commission Chairwoman Elizabeth Aykroyd concerning the clock.
"I spoke to David Graf on the telephone today about the town clock," stated Aykroyd in the e-mail. "You may remember that he is the one who studied the pieces and made a good estimate for repairs in 2001. We discussed the $30,000 figure, which Webber is using, and he feels that this is most unrealistic, considering the deterioration of the parts still in existence."