By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 25, 2004
HAMPTON - Fire Chief Frank Lipe said he was ecstatic when he heard the news that the federal government was going to foot the bill for a public-safety municipal pier and dock facility.
"We're really excited about this project," said Lipe.
Sen. Judd Gregg, who helped secure the $483,000 needed for the project, will officially make the announcement at the Hampton State Pier on June 29 at 9:30 a.m.
Lipe said it is hoped construction on the new dock facility will begin in the fall or early spring 2005.
The facility will be used by the fire department, the New Hampshire Marine Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Lipe said getting federal funding for the project was a joint effort by local, state and federal officials.
Lipe said he got the idea for the public-safety municipal pier and dock facility shortly after the 2002 Town Meeting.
At that meeting, Hampton voters overwhelmingly approved purchasing a rescue boat for the fire department.
While the fire department was equipped with a new boat, there was no place to put it.
Lipe said the fire department decided to lease space at the Hampton Marina, but always envisioned having a pier of its own.
Turning that vision into a reality became a long, grueling process.
"We decided right from the beginning that because the town was so generous in approving the new boat we wouldn't ask the taxpayers to pay to construct the pier," said Lipe.
In 2002, Lipe began discussions with the Department of Safety, the Division of Fire Safety and Emergency Management and the Division of Safety Services about the feasibility of a partnership for building a dock at the Hampton Marina.
Lipe then began to lobby state and federal officials.
In 2003, he sent a letter to Gregg outlining the project and asking for his support in finding any grants that might be available to turn the idea into a reality.
Lipe along with Town Manager James Barrington and Selectmen Chairman William "Skip" Sullivan went a step further by meeting with Gregg to discuss the project in Washington D.C.
"We wanted to get the senator's feedback," said Lipe. "He was very supportive."
Lipe bolstered the need for the pier by informing the senator about the town's safety concerns.
Lipe noted that Hampton is a prime target for domestic terrorism, with its high summer population and its proximity to the Seabrook nuclear power plant.
Lipe also told the senator that a pier was desperately needed for marine rescue and law-enforcement patrols and would allow the U.S. Coast Guard better access to Hampton waters in case of an emergency.
In 2002, Gregg came through by attaching the full amount of money to construct the pier to a bill that was later passed by both the House and the Senate. The president signed the bill in January 2004.
"Without Sen. Gregg's understanding and commitment to public safety, this project would have never gotten off the ground," Lipe said.
Lipe said the new dock will be constructed on town property at the Hampton Marina.
The town owns a piece of land by the pier that was given by the Coast Guard.
The town also struck a deal with a developer, Golden Corridors, which was in the process of trying to construct condominiums in the area.
The developers agreed to donate some more land so the fire department will be able to construct the pier. They also agreed to donate $60,000 to the project.
Lipe said he hopes the pier will be completed by next summer.