Fire district aiming for better communication
March 24, 2010
TILTON — The Tilton-Northfield Fire Commission met last Thursday for the first time since the election of a new commissioner and the annual District Meeting, which kept the 143-year old fire district intact and voted through a $1,457,451 budget for 2010.
Pat Clark joined previously elected Commissioner Paul Auger and newly appointed chairman Tom Gallant as they sat down for the first time as the new commission.
They immediately changed the structure of each meeting by adding a public comment session to be held at the top of the agenda. The commissioners said they are seeking to better communicate with residents of both Northfield and Tilton and are encouraging comment and discussion on issues of importance to the district. Previously public comment was not heard until the end of each meeting.
Gallant added that as meetings progress, anyone with a comment or question on an agenda item should feel free to ask for recognition of the board at that time as well.
Another endeavor of the new commission is to finalize updates to the Web site that were begun in the last term. Tilton Finance Director Tim Pearson has lent his computer Web building skills to the district and has been assisting in changes to the site, working along with members of the fire department. Capt. Brad Ober said he has been in contact with Pearson and working along with TNFD Administrative Assistant Kathy Tobine on the project.
"We need to upgrade the server, change the domain and make some email adjustments to it yet, but that won't take long to do," he told the commissioners.
Chief Stephen Carrier added that GoDaddy.com has been providing the domain services to the department in the past but with that contract up in April, Pearson thought they could change to a different domain under Google with even more success.
Ober said he will also be adding a Fire Prevention page to the site with a lot of data to keep residents up to date on the work of the department.
Gallant proposed a committee be formed to oversee the project and keep the commission informed as to the contents of the new Web site. He, Carrier and Ober will make up that committee and report back on updates to the site.
Gallant said that along with the message from the chief currently posted on the site, a Commissioners Corner could be another new addition, with a periodic message from a commissioner to keep the public informed. A proposal by resident Scott Davis to add audio of each commissioners meeting will also be investigated for feasibility.
In discussions on the outcome of the Annual District Meeting, Auger stated he believed the public spoke up loud and clear through their voting that night and he was listening. He cautioned fellow commissioners about future plans and spending.
"People are concerned about money and as a commissioner I will continue to watch out for that. They're concerned and as a resident, so am I," he said.
Gallant agreed that residents in both towns seem to be content with what the department currently has available for services. Any changes necessary in the future, he said, should include plenty of education for the public to understand why the change or expense was being proposed.
"One of my greatest goals is education in the coming year," Gallant said.
On that note, Clark asked that each commissioner prepare a list of goals they would like to set for the coming year. Step One in an eight-year plan by the previous commission, calling for the study of an addition to Park Street Station, was voted down at the district meeting. It is obvious, he said, that a new plan would be needed now in light of that vote. All three agreed to come prepared with their list of goals to the April meeting where they can review them together and begin work on a future direction for the district.
"Communication is going to be important though. It would be great to see 400 people at the district meeting again next year," Clark said.
A new benefits and wages study was received and will be reviewed by the commission in a work session for future discussions. Gallant said the study will also be made available on the TNFD Web site for residents to familiarize themselves with it before the April meeting where their input would be welcomed.
Northfield resident Grace LaPlante said she would now be attending meetings whenever she could in an effort to stay more in tune to the district. In the weeks just prior to the Annual Meeting, LaPlante said, she had felt physically ill about a potential split between Tilton and Northfield.
"Until you're threatened with losing something, you don't know how valuable it is," she said as she thanked them for their work.
Davis, a member of the Water Commission for the two towns, took a moment to inform the commission that the new hydrants being installed along West Main Street would be online and available for use by firefighters at the end of March.
Due to some scheduling conflicts, the next meeting for the Fire District has been changed to April 22 at 6 p.m. in the Tilton School's New Academic Building, Room 213, on School Street in Tilton.