By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, August 29, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
HAMPTON -- Selectmen are in favor of the concept of having a nonprofit organization construct an aquarium/museum at the state park in Hampton Beach.
The board took a vote of support for the project, which already has the backing of the Hampton Beach Commission, during Monday night's selectmen's meeting.
Fred Rice, chairman of the Hampton Beach, said the Friends of the Sea Earth Space Museum are committed to building the museum on state-owned land at Hampton Beach.
But they want to make sure that the town is committed to having it there.
"They want the town to support the concept of constructing a aquarium/museum that is on par with the ones in Baltimore (Md.) and Boston," Rice said.
Rice explained the nonprofit organization is still conducting fund-raisers for the estimated $30 million project and are at the stage where its time to tell those who are donating where it's going to go.
And while the museum wouldn't be built until 2012, Rice said it could be the anchor attraction that would finally make Hampton Beach a year-round tourist destination.
Acting Town Manager Mark Gearreald expressed concern about the impact the project would have on municipal services especially if the organization doesn't have to pay taxes.
Selectmen, however, voted to support the project with the caveat that they could change their minds if the impact on services far out weighs the economic benefits of it.
In other business, Rice asked selectmen to support the commission in its efforts to get the state to build a new Route 1A Hampton Harbor Bridge.
The Hampton Beach Commission has spoken against the DOT's plan to rehabilitate the bridge, leaving it as a two-lane span with a drawbridge portion. Commissioners said they still would rather see a four-lane bridge and no draw portion as a way of reducing traffic congestion on the busy beach road.
The state will unveil to rehab the existing bridge during a public hearing Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. in the selectmen's meeting room.