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Joyce Endee

New Hampton Public Safety Facility opens for business

Public officials celebrated the completion of the new and (vastly) improved Public Safety Facilities during an Open House in New Hampton this past weekend. Pictured: Selectman Ken Mertz, Town Administrator Barbara Lucas, Selectman Paul Tierney, Police Chief Merritt “Doug” Salmon, Fire Chief Michael Drake and State Sen. Jeanie Forrester. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
January 25, 2012
NEW HAMPTON — "Wow! Congratulations. It's been a long time in coming," exclaimed a jubilant arriving party-goer at last Saturday's Open House for the recently completed New Hampton Public Safety Building as he greeted an equally exuberant Police Chief Merritt "Doug" Salmon.

Salmon had just arrived at the front door of the public lobby in the new 7,000-square-foot police department portion of the facility.

"We are here, and we are extremely thankful," replied a characteristically understated, but obviously elated, Salmon.

Fire Chief Michael Drake was also, frankly, beaming as he led public tours of the new 17,000-square-foot Fire, EMS and Emergency Management section of the building. The Chief and Emergency Management Director now occupies a small "corner office" — with two windows — which is an obvious step up from having virtually no office at all in the former 4,200-square-foot Fire Department Building, now demolished.

For security reasons, the two departments are joined by just a single door, for controlled access between them to minimize risk. But for reasons of economy, they otherwise share basic infrastructure and utilities under the same pitched asphalt shingled roof.

Voters in New Hampton last year approved a $2.4 million bond article to build the much awaited new facility. On Saturday, as many dozens of excited citizens wandered the hallways and explored every nook and cranny of the expansive new facility, they learned that the project would come in under budget, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of department employees and project partners, including Ricci Construction Company of Portsmouth.

Attendees at the Open House expressed admiration for what they perceived to be a "smart structure," built to last, with an eye for ever-changing needs and room for expansion far into the future.

The building is equipped with an unfinished, sprinklered full second story that has been pre-designed to eventually accommodate bunk rooms, gear rooms, storage and other needs (possibly even a fire pole!) as they may arise in the future, as well an elevator shaft, currently used as a storage closet, in case the second floor ever becomes operational. With more than 15 inches of insulation, the second story requires almost no additional heat, and is already being put to good use for archival file storage and some training equipment.

Perhaps the biggest change from the cramped, crowded quarters in the antiquated former Fire Department Building on Route 104 is felt in the sense of openness and expansiveness on the large apparatus floor, with radiant heat, and with ample room between vehicles for vast improvement to the safety and ease of operations for the 27 members of the call fire department. Overhead doors are a full two feet taller than their predecessors. A state-of-the-art exhaust system with backup now protects the members of the department from carbon monoxide or fumes on the apparatus floor.

Underneath, 20,000 gallon storage tanks supply the sprinkler system and hold the reserve water supply for whenever it may be needed.

In the police department side of the new facility, a three car garage protects vehicles that are not in use and a secure sally port, booking room and holding cell will help to ensure the safety of the public and officers when making arrests. A sight and sound separated room for processing juveniles will also protect the privacy and security of members of the public and ease the processing of criminal offenders.

As he led tours throughout the building on Saturday, Drake reflected back on years of effort by many individuals, which finally led to the construction of the new facility.

"When I left the New Hampton Fire Department in 1999 (to take another position), this project was in the works," said Drake. "When I came back 10 years later, it still hadn't been done. So I made it a big priority to get the ball rolling. The members here all did a lot of work, designing and redesigning some six or seven times, and then going door to door canvassing and campaigning to get the word out about why we needed this facility."

This evening, Thursday, Jan. 26, Drake will proudly host the monthly meeting of the Mutual Aid Association, serving up dinner to attendees from the gleaming new kitchen, complete with popcorn popper, before a meeting about regional issues in the large new training room. A big turnout is expected from the 38-member Town organization. It should be another milestone celebration for New Hampton.

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