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Joyce Endee

Fire district to start saving for new station

January 20, 2010
TILTON — The Comprehensive Facilities Review Committee for the Tilton-Northfield Fire District met Monday evening to complete their strategic plan for the future of the department.

Fire District Commissioners Kevin Waldron, Paul Auger and Tom Gallant, along with Northfield Selectman Steve Bluhm and Tilton Selectman Sandy Plessner, had been meeting regularly since June to collectively develop the plan, which looked at buildings, staffing, finances and other aspects of the department.

In their final session, the members of the committee reviewed what they had individually drawn up for a plan and what Bluhm had melded together from those ideas, using common goals in each of them. Each member had a chance to review Bluhm's compilation and decide what they each liked or disliked in it prior to Monday evening.

Discussions, concessions and votes were the order of the evening as they outlined a final plan for the district. One action everyone agreed upon was to invest $15,000 in the Central Street Station to install a fire escape and make renovations to accommodate the staff with increased sleeping quarters and some minor office space improvements.

"We have to do that work. We don't have a choice. We have to make them comfortable at Center Street," said Plessner.

An expansion plan for the Park Street station saw a few members at odds over timing of the project. Plessner saw no need of adding on to the building if, as she had written in her outline for the district, they were to move out of Center Street into a new facility on the east side of I-93 by 2013. Gallant and she were the only two members who agreed on building in 2013, while the remaining three held back on the construction of a new facility until 2017.

Agreeing to disagree, votes were cast on a year-to-year basis to formulate a final plan. For 2010, the outcome was to invest the $15,000 into Central Street, ask for $100,000 to be placed into the Land and Building Trust Fund and form a Building Committee to look into expansion plans for Park Street. Warrant articles for these proposals will be written for consideration at the annual district meeting.

In 2011, the consensus was to once again ask for $100,000 to be put aside and to write a warrant article for the Park Street addition. Plans for 2012 were to continue the $100,000 build-up of the trust fund as they looked toward an eventual new station in the future.

When discussions for 2013 began, Plessner and Gallant were out-voted on their plans for a new station to be built at that time. Other members of the committee voted to make no further changes in that year, only requesting the trust fund to continue its growth by $100,000 annually for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

"I say a new building by 2013, for the record," Gallant said as he and Plessner voted no on the plans for the next few years, each saying only "Our building is done" each time.

Moving on to 2016, here Bluhm, Waldron and Auger conceded it would be time to consider the new facility. Bluhm pointed out that any plans developed by the Life Safety Committee's architect, which have been offered to the district free of charge, would need to be re-examined and changed as needed. The three agreed to a warrant article for engineering and bids for the project at this time. They also voted to keep with the $100,000 trust fund request in order to have as much money available as possible for a new Tilton station. In 2017 they also came to the agreement that a warrant should be presented for the construction of the project. Plessner and Gallant again voted no, and Gallant said firmly, "That's too late."

Despite the differences, the plan was finalized as voted upon. It was a plan that Waldron did not entirely agree with, having made more concessions along the way than the rest of the committee, but it was one he said was "much more palatable" for him to accept.

Gallant made note of the fact that while they had devised this eight-year plan, like any good business plan, it would have to be re-examined over the years and adapted as necessary.

Each still had differing opinions on how much of an addition should be placed on the Park Street building and whether the new facility should become headquarters or a sub-station. Auger stated he has always envisioned anything in East Tilton as a sub-station and would prefer to see Park Street, the more centrally located facility for downtown areas in both communities, as the headquarters. This would increase the costs for renovating Park Street, estimated at approximately $500-600,000 in today's economy, as the size would have to be increased, making it a two-story building with an elevator installed for ADA compliance. These decisions will be made in the future by asking voters for their input. As pointed out periodically in the meeting, all of these plans are also contingent on the findings and outcome of work done by Tilton's Life Safety Building Committee and Northfield's Fire Services Committee and the voters in both towns.

A final report will be written by the CFRC to be placed in the town reports for both Tilton and Northfield. The district commissioners will write the upcoming warrants for the annual meeting, as they were spelled out in the strategic plan.

The TNFD commission meets again on Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at Tilton School. On Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. the LSBC will hold a public hearing to disclose their findings at the Tilton Town Hall. Northfield's Fire Services Committee will have one final meeting before reporting to the selectmen on their investigation into the feasibility of leaving the district and forming their own fire department on Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northfield Town Hall.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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