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Ossipee hosts public forum Feb. 24 week on fire precincts study


February 18, 2010
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Hot meeting coming up

Ossipee hosts public forum Feb. 24 week on fire precincts study

By Larissa Mulkern

Editor

OSSIPEE — Town officials are hosting a public forum next week on a consulting firm's "Feasibility Study for Town Wide Fire Services."

The forum will be held next Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ossipee Town Hall on Main Street.

Specialists from Municipal Resources Inc., of Meredith, conducted the study after numerous interviews with personnel and commissioners from the town's three fire precincts, town officials, the NH State Fire Marshal, area fire chiefs and the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. The study included an analysis of existing fire department organizations, administrative operations, emergency operations, staffing and facilities, apparatus, equipment, interdepartmental coordination, budget and funding. Currently, three separate precincts, West Ossipee, Center Ossipee, and Ossipee Corner provide the town's fire services. The total operating costs of the three departments is $1,114,051.

Voters at last year's town meeting sanctioned the MRI study; its purpose was to study the feasibility of consolidating the three existing fire precinct departments into one precinct fire department.

A condensed PowerPoint version, and the full report is posted on the town's Web site, www.ossipee.org, (see the links under the "special links" heading.)

In the general findings portion of the report, MRI detected a lack of common vision or coordination between the three precincts.

A "paramount theme is a lack of a sense of common vision for the delivery of cost effective fire services among the three precincts and the town. The precincts do not appear to have made a significant and coordinated effort to eliminate or reduce duplication of apparatus, equipment, staffing and response patterns," according to the report. At a meeting on the draft report a couple months ago, fire officials disputed this finding and stated they did coordinate equipment purchases when possible.

The report also found that administrative expenses have increased over time and no longer provide "realistically balanced oversight." Communications between the fire precinct commissions and elected town officials appear to be strained and limited, according to the findings.

MRI recommends the three fire precincts merge into one, and that the fire department should be restructured into a centralized administrative organization. It also recommends the department maintain on-call officers and firefighters and expand recruitment.

Other highlights included in the recommendations:

— Establish a 10-year capital improvement program projecting facilities, apparatus, equipment, and staffing needs, and incorporating phase out of excess apparatus and equipment;

— Replace Ossipee Corner Fire Station with new facility and continue operation of the other existing facilities;

— Standardize the specifications for equipment that is purchased'

— Implement increases sharing of interdepartmental and mutual aid resources, including apparatus, equipment and training;

— Centralize and coordinate fire inspection and fire safety education programs.

MRI officials are expected to be on hand to explain their findings and answer questions.

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