By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, October 1, 2004
HAMPTON - The future of the town clock is now in the hands of Robert Webber, a resident who says he can fix it without any cost to the town.
After some discussion, selectman this week unanimously voted Monday night to allow Webber to take the severely damaged clock parts to his house to put it back together.
The clock, which was almost destroyed in a fire in 1990, has been collecting dust in Town Hall and at the Department of Public Works for the last three years.
Webber says he can fix the 107-year-old clock and, when he's done, he says he will give it back and let the town decide what it wants to do with it.
"I have people dying at the bit to get this thing going" said Webber. "I have this guy interested in making parts and repairing parts at no cost to anybody."
This was the third time in two months that Webber has come before the board concerning the clock.
Two months ago, Webber chastised selectmen for following a recommendation from the Heritage Commission to auction off some of the clock parts.
He demanded that selectmen reconsider their vote and give him a chance to start a fund-raising effort to save the clock.
Last month, selectmen did just that but Webber changed his mind and said he wanted to hold off in raising money because he wanted to see if he can fix it for free.
When he asked permission to take the parts, selectmen didn't answer him.
On Monday night, Webber came before the board again saying it would be the last time he would ask for the parts.
Selectman Cliff Pratt had reservations about giving the clock to Webber, fearing a repeat of the clock debacle that occurred in 2000.
That year, residents were up in arms in trying to find the clock. After the 1990 fire, the whereabouts of the remains of the clock became a mystery.
The mystery was solved shortly after selectmen began pressing as to its whereabouts in 2000.
Selectman Jim Workman was concerned with where the clock would go once it's fixed.
"I don't understand why you people are jumping on me," said Webber. "I'm going to fix that clock at no cost to the town. I don't understand why you don't say thank you, Bob, and good luck."
Webber said the clock will be at his house.
Selectman Rick Griffin made the motion to give the clock parts to Webber. The board agreed but Pratt said he wanted Webber to give them an update on the status of the clock in April.
Webber said once the clock is restored he will let selectmen decide where they want to put it.
The clock was originally given to the town as a gift in 1897 by John T. Brown of Newburyport. The town made a promise when it accepted the clock to keep it in good working order.