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Committee tours facility formerly intended for police

Ben Labelle (right) explained the two-story design developed by Turner Group for a building originally purchased to construct a new police station for the town. The new Life Safety Building Committee was touring the space last week as they investigate the town's alternatives. Police Chief Robert Cormier (left) joined the committee for the tour. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
May 13, 2009
TILTON — Last week the Life Safety Building Committee toured the Nickerson building, purchased last year with the intention of building a police station, to see if the space is a viable option for either the police or as a life safety facility.

The committee is investigating properties and locations that would be best suited for emergency services. Furthermore, they are considering whether merging police and fire into one life safety building is a route the towns of Tilton and Northfield might want to take.

Members of the committee were able to see first hand how much space is available in the vacant warehouse purchased by the town. Maps and blueprints from Turner Group, an architectural firm previously hired to come up with a design, were available for people to consult.

Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier and resident Pat Clark also joined the committee for the tour.

The largest foreseeable problem with the site is water. Pat Consentino, Tilton Select Board representative to the committee, said that hook-up fees alone to the municipal water supply would cost $48,000. Another option would be to bring water into the property from Route 132, which the town would then own. Other future businesses moving into the area could utilize the water system by paying the Town for it, recouping some of the expense. It could be as much as a few hundred thousand dollars for the Town to initially bring in its own water supply.

Committee Chair Ben Labelle pointed out that fire suppression would be another issue with the building. Engineering to finalize any of these costs has not yet been done and so figures on these necessary items was not yet available.

Clark said he is still impressed with the space availability of the structure but said his support to halt the process of building a police facility on the site was more about how quickly things moved toward spending money on a plan that wasn't complete.

"We rushed into it," he said. "We looked at this building and fell in love with it. It was moving too fast and the engineering hadn't even been done yet. There's still a lot to consider."

Tom Gallant, newly appointed to the LSBC as a representative from the Tilton-Northfield Fire Commission, was considering access routes for fire and emergency vehicles as he looked around. One committee member thought the only possibility would be to utilize Route 3 as an entrance and exit for the department. Gallant, however, said he saw that as a secondary access or egress route for the fire department. The building also has an entrance from Route 132 that might be more feasible to use, he said.

When the group returned to Town Hall to continue the meeting, LaBelle welcomed Gallant to the committee and thanked him for participating.

"I appreciate the fact that you are here and hope that we can come up with a plan that works for both the town and the commission collectively," he told Gallant.

Gallant said he felt the two factions could work well together while investigating needs of both the Fire District and the Tilton Police Department.

"My position here," he said to the committee, "is to bring to the table any needs relative to the commission, past, present and future. My full intentions are to come up with a proposal for a comprehensive plan for the district."

Police Capt. Owen Wellington provided the committee with a sectioned off map of the town and call statistics in each area. The busiest portions of Tilton, in a study looking at the numbers from 2005 through 2008, pointed to an area west of School Street to the town line (Section A on his map) and the section from Route 132 over east towards Lancaster Hill (Section C) as having the highest call volume for the police department.

"These numbers," he added, "are fairly consistent with the fire department. Based on population, buildings in the areas and calls, they are consistent."

Exit 20 seemed to be the "epicenter" of police and fire activity. Accidents in the areas mapped out over the study period were just slightly different, with Area B (including I-93) having just a small percentage more accidents (525) than Area A, which had 480. Area C was highest with 661 calls and there were 199 in far-most Winnnisquam (Area D). Wellington thought these figures were important as accidents generally result in a response by both fire and police. A study by a commission in 2006 drew similar conclusions; Exit 20 along Rte. 3 was the busiest section for both departments.

Pat Clark suggested to the committee that they draw up a density map of these call locations in the study period. Both Labelle and Vince Paratore thought the suggestion might be a useful one in examining the area's needs.

"A picture says a thousand words," Paratore agreed.

Both he and Labelle agreed to work together with the information provided by Wellington to create a digital overlay of the town map that will clearly demonstrate where the highest call volumes occur.

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