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Northfield Fire Services committee begins work


November 18, 2009
NORTHFIELD — Selectmen last Tuesday evening selected seven citizens to serve on the town's Fire Services Committee along with two selectmen. The board had been gathering names of people interested in serving on the committee for the past two weeks in order to have a pool of residents to select from.

The committee is charged with investigating the feasibility and costs involved in the Town of Northfield leaving the Tilton-Northfield Fire District and branching out with a fire department of its own.

A recent rate hike for Northfield's portion of the TNFD annual budget, along with Tilton's investigative committee considering a life safety building for the district, prompted the move. Northfield will pay $561,794 for 2009, up $99,470 over the previous year. Should he district chose to go along with the life safety complex for the fire department and the TIlton Police Department, selectmen fear these costs will only rise in years to come.

In earlier meetings last month the proposal to form their own committee was presented. Selectmen Jamie Knowlton agreed it was time to look into how the town could cut costs while maintaining service levels. He said he feared residents would eventually not be able to afford living in Northfield if fire district expenses continued at the rate they were going.

Bluhm did some online research and found similar towns who maintained safe levels of fire service in their town yet had much lower operating costs with volunteer and call fire departments. This, he said, was something the committee should look into for Northfield as well.

As the fire commission considers building an addition to the Park Street station, which could make disbanding the district economically unfeasible, Shepard felt the time had come for Northfield to take a look at its own needs.

"We owe it to the residents of Northfield to look at all of our options. If it turns out the fire district is the best option we have, at least we'll know that for sure," she told those who attended the Nov. 3 selectmen's meeting.

Bluhm said he's happy about the group they have assembled, all of whom are experienced in business or fire/medical safety. Bluhm and Shepard will be joined by Road Agent and former firefighter Mike Summersett, retired firefighter Ron Huckins, paramedic Dina Waldron, former on-call firefighters Charles Harris, George Flanders and Derek Lacourciere, and former TNFD budget committee member Gretchen Wilder.

"We'll probably split into three committees to investigate the issues involved, planning through a ten-year budget," said Bluhm.

His hope, he said is that committee members can make decisions on the future of fire and ambulance services for Northfield and devise a plan in time for the March town meeting.

The nine met for the first time on Wednesday to review their mission and develop a schedule for future meetings.

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