Quest for cash: Hampton Seeks Firefighter Funding After Chief's Report

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By Scott E. Kinney, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, September 2, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

HAMPTON -- Town Manager James Barrington will be shaking the town's piggy bank to find money for the restoration of four firefighter's positions, the deputy chief's position and a secretary's position cut from the budget earlier this year.

The decision by the board of selectmen on Monday night followed a report by Fire Chief Hank Lipe on how his department has fared since the positions were removed in April. The report illustrates an increase in call volume and mutual aid as well as fire and EMS services that are continually offline.

Lipe said emergency calls have increase this year by 7 percent through the end of July and his department had already received 200 calls in the month of August.

"Our call volume is up substantially," he said. "We've cut ourselves too thin on available cash to meet the demands."

Lipe added that mutual aid response from neighboring towns has been disproportionately in Hampton's favor. There are currently two and a half times as many mutual aid calls coming into town as there are going out.

"This is not the even balance that we all know mutual aid is supposed to be," said Lipe.

Each department in town was forced to cut 15 percent of their operating budget in order for the town to full in line with this year's default budget.

To restore the positions would cost the town $140,210, according to Lipe.

Barrington informed selectmen that there may be some money in the town's unemployment account.

"There may be some pockets of money here and there," he said.

When asked, Lipe suggested that the money could come from the special revenue fund for EMS services, a suggestion first made by Selectman Virginia Bridle-Russell in April, who commented on the nearly 30 hours that EMS has been out of service since that time.

"If you're the guy that has the heart attack during that time then it's a big deal," she said.

Selectman Chairman Jim Workman agreed, calling the numbers "scary."

"I think if we can find some money we should," he said. "The town provides services and we should be able to provide them as best as possible."

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