Hampton School Board: Not So Fast on Town Clock

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Concerns are Raised Over the Possible
Location in Front of Centre School

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 15, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- The superintendent of schools has concerns about locating the soon-to-be-refurbished, century-old town clock in front of Centre School, and the SAU 90 School Board is questioning whether it has voted to approve it.

Board members decided last week to put the issue on the agenda at their next meeting, saying they're still researching past meeting minutes to see if a vote was taken. None of the members on the current board participated in a vote on the clock.

"We are not opposed to the idea," said Hampton School Board member Ginny Bridle-Russell. "We are just looking for verification of the vote of the School board to tie everything up."

If a vote was not taken previously, she said, the current board would have to vote on the matter.

The clock once stood atop the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Hampton until the wooden building was destroyed by fire in 1990.

Last month, a group of residents who have working to repair the clock since 2004 unveiled plans to the School Board to showcase the clock in front of the school on Winnacunnet Road. The proposal calls for placing the refurbished clock inside a glass and brick structure in front of the school.

Cliff Pratt, a former selectman, said work on repairing the clock is almost complete and the group hopes to unveil it during the town's 375th anniversary celebration next year.

Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said there are issues that need to be addressed with the proposed clock location at Centre School.

"You can't just plop that where they want to," she said. "We have gas lines coming off the street. We have a sidewalk there where children walk directly across."

Murphy noted that structure holding the clock would be directly in front of the school.

"It will have a significant impact in the front of the building," Murphy said. "You won't see it. So we have to talk about this a little bit more."

Bridle-Russell said another concern is there are several memorial benches in the area.

"I think it could be worked into a suitable location," Bridle-Russell said. "But it has to be conglomerate group effort."

According to Hampton Union archives, Hampton selectmen approved the location in 2010 on the recommendation of those who are working to repair it.

Other locations looked at included the Tuck Museum and the fire station on Winnacunnet Road.

"Selectmen can approve the location, but that still needs to have School Board approval as well," Bridle-Russell said.

Pratt previous said work to refurbish the clock was done with volunteers and private donations.

Hampton native Ronald Bourgeault, president of Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, established a $30,000 fund to support the project in honor of veterans and the late Robert Webber.

Robert Webber, along with his son, Harvey, were the first to get involved in the project after selectmen in 2004 threatened to sell the old parts, saying it would cost too much to repair the clock.

The father-and-son team offered to repair the clock at no cost to the town.

The clock was originally given to the town as a gift in 1897 from John T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass. At the time, the town made a promise when it accepted the clock to keep it in good working order.

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