JIM ALLAN, Chairman of the Fire and Rescue Committee, speaks to the voters at the Tuftonboro Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 14 at Tuftonboro Central Elementary School.(Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
March 22, 2012TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro voters said yes to building a new fire station at their Town Meeting on Wednesday evening, March 14, thus ending 10 years of contentious debate. Of the 390 votes, 68 percent were in the affirmative, firmly meeting the two-thirds approval required for passage of the $2.1 million bond.
Jim Allan, chairman of the fifth committee to try to bring the fire and safety facilities into compliance with state and federal regulations, gave his final presentation before a full house in the Tuftonboro Central School gymnasium.
Many of his points on the building and its location were by then familiar: that 50 percent of the calls to the fire and rescue department come from Center Tuftonboro, which stands to gain with faster response times; the town would finally be in compliance with state and federal regulations and better provide for the safety and continued training of its mostly volunteer force; and financially, interest rates have never been lower. Residents in that call area are likely to see their insurance rates go down, too, as a result of the increased accessibility.
He made an additional point, though, in response to a question posed by a pink mailer that was delivered to all residents of Tuftonboro just days before the vote, its anonymous source identified only by the name of Tuftonboro Concerned Citizens.
The question was why a town the size of Tuftonboro should build a third station. His answer to the audience gathered to consider the bond issue was that the local economy is based on tourism and recreational activities with summer residents swelling the population numbers several times over. He pointed out too that 80 percent of Tuftonboro's tax revenue comes from waterfront owners.
In addition, rescue of people in distress is not based on residency as exemplified by the recent rescue of two snowmobilers whose machines went through the ice.
Most discussion centered on information seeking with opinions offered mostly in support of the bond. John Simms inquired whether local contractors whose bids might be higher than some others would still be considered. Bauen Corporation Construction Manager Andre Kloetz said that his job was to write the bid specifications, solicit qualified applications and develop a summary of those bids for the selectmen to consider but added, "If the project is under budget and a local contractor comes in a little higher, the bid can still be considered."
Guy Pike spoke against the new fire station, saying that it was not the right size. In his opinion, if it was built the town "would have to maintain the other two. We'd be stuck with it."
Former New Durham Fire Chief Bob Wood spoke in favor, citing the savings in labor costs the town maintains by having a volunteer force, the faster response times to that area of town and the potential savings to homeowners when their insurance ratings improve as a result.
An amendment proposed by Eric Roseen to add wording to include a NH Department of Transportation approved major entrance for access to the remaining land for future purposes failed following discussion that included a reminder from Kloetz that such a proposal would add to the cost of the project, which is fixed, and result in less money for the building project.
Dick Cary, an architect and member of the fire rescue facility committee, said that the parcel has 900 ft. of frontage. After the facility is built, 600 feet would remain for future development. He said that the parcel is already entitled to two curb cuts, so in his opinion, "It's not likely that the town would be turned down for a permit."
Former selectman Susan Weeks said that she still preferred last year's proposal for a combined facility. At the same time, she said that she was so "appalled" by the post card that was sent out that she was considering voting for the proposal despite her reservations. She characterized the mailer as "completely misinformed and totally ignorant" and declared it "had no place in a town like Tuftonboro."
Barry Ennis offered the opinion, as he did last year, that the station "is not in the right location."
All the articles on the warrant passed, including a petition article by Pike that would require the selectmen to begin every meeting with recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.
As the meeting came to a close, Marilyn Black stood to get Moderator Dan Barnard's attention and pointed out that Article 10 as amended by Fran Laase and approved by a majority vote from "To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Sixty-Five Thousand Dollars ($65,000.00) to purchase and equip a new "10-Utility-2" fire vehicle" to " replace and equip a new "10-Utility-2" fire vehicle" didn't make sense with the word "new" left in the sentence. "Do you think that could be a problem?" she inquired.
John Simms stood to propose a motion clarifying that the "sense of the meeting" was that the word "new" could be eliminated without changing the intent of the amended article. It passed overwhelmingly.
A positive, civil spirit prevailed throughout the meeting, prompting Joan Theve to comment, "That was a good meeting, don't you think?" as she was leaving the building.
Jim Allan, reflecting the next day, said that the thanks from townsfolk at the end of the meeting made the eight months of work worthwhile. He expressed gratitude for his committee members: Dick Cary, Gordon Hunt, Bob McWhirter, Tyler Phillips, Chief Adam Thompson and Selectmen's Representative Bill Stockman. And as for the last minute attempt by someone to derail the project, he said, "The people didn't buy it. They bought truth, honesty and straight talk."