Scaled-back $4.65M fire stations project sent to voters

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, November 25, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The Hampton Fire Department Station 2 on Winnacunnet Road. [Scott P Yates Photo]

HAMPTON — Selectmen will ask voters to support a reworked two-fire station proposal, though the cost exceeds their request for a $4 million plan.

The board voted Monday to support a $3 million substation at Hampton Beach, as well as Phase 1 of a two-phase $2.6 million project to construct administrative headquarters and an addition to the Winnacunnet Road facility.

The total cost is $4.65 million for the Fire Department projects that will go before voters at Town Meeting in March. Voters would be asked to support a second $1 million phase at an undetermined future date.

Selectmen Chairman Richard Nichols said the $4.65 million plan headed to vote in March 2012 is a little more expensive than the original $4 million target, but he said it's "manageable."

"I think we should move full-speed ahead," Nichols said.

Fire Chief Chris Silver said he still prefers the original $7.5 million two fire station plan that voters rejected at the 2011 annual Town Meeting.

However, Silver told selectmen Monday he can support the scaled-down phased approach for the Winnacunnet Road facility.

Silver's revamped plan comes after selectmen gave him a directive in August to go back to the drawing board to come up with a plan that would cost roughly $4 million.

His proposal was to move forward with the proposed new beach substation as presented to voters last year, with some minor adjustments.

The new substation would replace the century-old fire station on Ashworth Avenue.

Silver said the new proposed addition to the Winnacunnet Road station would be scaled down to half of what was originally proposed in 2010, which reduces the size of the new apparatus bays.

The Winnacunnet Road facility, he said, would be done in two phases and would retain the entire existing building constructed in 1978.

The first phase would be a $1.6 million addition to support the administrative offices and the department's dispatch center, which are currently at the beach. One of the goals of the two-fire station project was to move those functions out of the high-hazard area at the beach.

The second phase would include the addition of crew quarters and additional bay space.

Silver said he looked at other options at the board's request, but he could not support them.

One was in lieu of an addition to the Winnacunnet Road facility, the department could use a modular building to house the administrative offices.

The total cost to purchase such a modular building would be $125,000.

"I would not support this alternative because temporary solutions tend to become permanent," Silver said.

Silver said he also looked at the old Hampton District Court building.

The building, he said, was found to have a number of significant problems, and the renovation cost was estimated to be $800,000.

"I can't support a plan that suggests the use of a deteriorating building," Silver said. "It doesn't make sense to use funds on such an important capital project that would not serve the Fire Department's long-range needs."

Selectmen agreed with Silver's assessment.

Selectman Mike Pierce said he supports the chief's proposal of a phased approach to the Winnacunnet Road facility.

"I know he put a lot of work into the original plan, but it was just too much money," Pierce said. "This is significantly less, and the second phase can be put off for a little bit."

Selectman Jerry Znoj also supported the idea, but abstained from the vote, saying he wants a detailed report on spending associated with the project.

"I want to see the dollar bills associated with this expansion," Znoj said. "I want to know what's driving it."

The Hampton Beach fire station on Ashworth Avenue. [Scott P Yates Photo]
Hampton Fire Chief Chris Silver. [Scott P Yates Photo]
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