By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, Friday, March 22, 2002
HAMPTON — Signed, sealed and delivered.
After months of negotiations, the Hampton Board of Selectmen and the Hampton Beach Village District came to a meeting of the minds this week, with both entities signing an agreement transferring responsibility for beach fire protection from the beach precinct to the town.
After 95 years of fire protection borne primarily by the beach district, the historic agreement was signed Monday. Town responsibility for beach fire protection officially begins April 1.
Fire Chief Hank Lipe, a supporter of one consolidated fire department, has called the prospect "a win-win solution" for both the beach and the town. And Selectman Brian Warburton said Monday that combining forces is in the best interests on the town.
"We've had a great relationship with the beach precinct for a long time. This is a nice thing ... it's good to see this (consolidation) come to fruition," Warburton said while board members signed off on the lease agreement.
Under the deal, the precinct will lease the Ashworth Avenue fire station to the town for three years at $1 per year. A two-year extension is optional, if the town makes good-faith plans to fund and construct a new firehouse in the meantime.
If and when the town builds a new fire station on Ashworth Avenue, the lease will terminate and the leased property will be conveyed to the town.
Attomey John McEachem, representing the town, and precinct attorney Sharon Cuddy Somers hammered out the deal over the past year. Under the agreement, the town will be responsible for the upkeep of the station house, including maintenance. The precinct will have access to the second-floor meeting hall, for precinct meetings.
During discussion Monday, precinct commissioners Mike O'Neil and Skip Windemiller noted that an underground diesel fuel storage tank will remain in place, and the town will have the responsibility of removing the tank when construction of a new fire facility begins. O'Neil pointed out that the tank may still contain diesel fuel, and that an emergency generator at the fire station runs on diesel fuel.
Selectman Bonnie Searle expressed her concerns about the tank and other details of the agreement, including her view that the board hadn't sufficiently consulted with McEachern on the deal. Searle voted against the agreement.
Some minor concerns included who will pay for water the beach commissioners might use to water plants around the station, and who will have access to three parking lanes outside the fire house. Windemiller and Somers both said that occasional water use by the precinct (the town will pay the water bill beginning on April 1) will be "minimal," and fire department staff will have access to two lanes of parking.
But the board generally agreed that the deal is in the best interests of the town.
All that's left now is a precinct vote to authorize the commissioners to donate fire apparatus, including one fire truck, to the town. That vote will come at the annual beach precinct meeting on Friday, March 29.