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** BREAKING NEWS ** Northfield to study withdrawing from fire district

October 30, 2009
NORTHFIELD — Selectmen in Northfield voted to form their own committee last Tuesday night for the purpose of studying the fire protection needs of Northfield. The Fire Services Committee will be comprised of the three selectmen and up to six other residents who are willing to serve on the investigational committee.

While saying that he still believes in the fire district, Selectman Steve Bluhm said that it is in Northfield's best interest to study the matter of fire services and determine if combining services with Tilton is the best way to serve the town.

"This is about our ability to see what is best for Northfield and to investigate all the possibilities," he said. "Then we can tell our taxpayers 'This is best.' It's not personal; we just have to find out if this is the way we should go."

Selectmen have been concerned abut the rising costs of the fire district and, in light of what appears to be an upcoming recommendation from Tilton to build a Life Safety Complex to include the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department, they felt it important to do their own study and see if there are less costly alternatives available.

Chairman Debra Shepard said the time had come to look at options.

"We have no problem with the service of the fire district. Other towns that are similar in size, population and call volume spend significantly less though. So, when do you step back and say wait a minute- you're spending more than you should?"

Shepard said she sees this as a proactive step for Northfield and they are not looking to diminish safety in the town.

Taxpayers will be footing a $561,794 bill for the fire district in the upcoming year, a $99,470 increase over last year. Tilton, which currently pays for 61 percent of the fire district, will be seeing a similar increase of just over $95,000. Northfield believes they could possibly spend their money differently by creating a department of their own.

The possibility of a volunteer or a combination volunteer/call fire department is being considered. The committee will be asked to investigate what it would take to get Northfield to that point, should findings lead them to a withdrawal from the district. Information gathered through the Fire Services Committee will then be presented to the taxpayers to let them make the final decision on the matter, Shepard said.

Residents with knowledge of fire department operations are especially encouraged to contact Town Administrator Glenn Smith to be considered for the Fire Services Committee but the committee is open to anyone who would like to assist in the fact-finding mission. Interested parties are asked to call 286-7039 or email gsmith@northfield.org. With Town Meeting only five months away, time is of the essence, selectmen said, and therefore they hope to assemble a committee at their next Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 6:30 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
Tilton School
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