By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, September 30, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The lease agreement between the town and the Hampton Beach Village District over use of the precinct's fire station on Ashworth Avenue expires in April.
Precinct Commissioner Mike O'Neil came before selectmen Monday night to see what the town plans to do about it.
According to the current lease agreement, the precinct leases the Hampton Beach Fire Station to the town for $1 a year with the stipulation that the town construct a new beach fire station by April 2006.
The only way the current lease can be extended is if construction has started on a new fire station.
Town Manager James Barrington said Fire Chief Hank Lipe is working on plans for a new fire station.
The current plan is to construct a new substation at the beach and add an addition to the fire station on Winnacunnet Road to turn it into the new headquarters.
Selectmen, however, have yet to decide if they plan to submit a $4.9 million warrant article to the voters to make it a reality.
"We want to know if the town plans to submit a warrant article and if the board has a contingency plan if the voters shoot it down," said O'Neil.
Selectwoman Ginny Bridle-Russell said there is no plan right now but the board needs to begin working on one.
O'Neil said if the town wants to work on a new lease agreement, it would need to be approved by the precinct voters at the annual Town Meeting.
Precinct Commissioner John Kane said the precinct tried to work out a deal with the town, which would have allowed selectmen to wait in presenting a warrant article for a new fire station.
Precinct commissioners offered to give the town the precinct garage and ownership of the current fire station.
In exchange, the precinct wanted the town to hand over the former police station and the Ashworth Avenue parking lot.
After several months of negotiations, selectmen refused the offer without giving the precinct or the public a reason why they were against it.
Selectman Cliff Pratt says the town may want to reconsider the idea of land swap.
Selectmen agreed to meet with the commissioners on Dec. 5 to update them on what they plan to do.
The original lease agreement between the town and the precinct was signed in 2002. At the time, selectmen and the Hampton Beach Village District came to terms that the town would take over responsibility of fire protection at the beach from the precinct.