Published Date Written by Gail OberBELMONT — Fire Chief Dave Parenti told selectmen last night that the Town of Sanbornton is not interested in moving forward with a plan to reopen the Winnisquam Fire Station.
Parenti said he met with Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter and Tilton-Northfield Fire Chief Brad Ober and learned that while Ober supported it, Dexter didn't.
That report was enough to prompt veteran Selectmen Jon Pike and Ron Cormier to say enough is enough; they want to hear no more about reopening the station.
Parenti told selectmen that Dexter told him that if he was going to spend any money he wanted it to be of benefit to his entire community and not just one portion.
Last week, Dexter said the same thing in a telephone interview and has already made his report to the Sanbornton Board of Selectmen, who agreed with him. Dexter also said that with the improvements to Hunkins Pond Road, response times to the east part of the town had improved.
Ober said last week he favored reopening the Winnisquam Station in some form. Ober along with the Tilton-Northfield Fire Commissioners, met with the Belmont selectmen last fall and that meeting prompted Belmont to ask Parenti to look into the station again.
The original intent of the meeting was to discuss the Lake Winnisquam fire boat and the discussion evolved in to a discussion about the Winnisquam Station. Cormier said the Sanbornton selectmen weren't invited to the Belmont meeting because they had already said no to helping Belmont pay for the fire boat.
As to reopening Winnisquam, Ober he said his "motivations are selfish — if we can revitalize staffing out of that station, I would be comfortable expanding Park Street with administration."
Of the three, Ober is faced with the dilemma of having two fire stations almost next to each other. Central Station is in Tilton proper and is in rough condition. Park Street station is in Northfield — about a five minute walk away — and is in much better physical shape but is not big enough to accommodate the offices, personal quarters and equipment needed by the district.
In addition, many of the residents of the Lochmere or eastern side of Tilton have long wanted a fire station that is to the east of the Interstate 91 exchange (Exit 20) which many say further slows response times to that part of town.
Parenti and Ober both said they told Dexter that if Belmont and Tilton-Northfield went forward with a 50-50 split, then there would be no automatic response from the combined station to incidents in Sanbornton. Parenti said Dexter agreed to that.
Automatic response differs from mutual aid in that some communities automatically respond to certain calls without being specifically requested through mutual aid. An example is Laconia, Belmont, and Gilford all automatically respond to a fire call at Lakes Region General Hospital. Conversely if there is a fire in Laconia, only Laconia responds unless the incident commander requests assistance from a second or third community.
As for the Belmont selectmen, Pike and Cormier have been dealing with the Winnisquam Station since the independent/volunteer fire company that operated out of it dissolved about seven years ago, this is the last time either man wants to hear about it.
Both Pike and Cormier said any arrangement in Winnisquam should be all three-or-nothing — a sentiment echoed by Pike who said he knows the nature of firefighters and first responders and they'll jump in to help if they see smoke in Sanbornton whether they are supposed to or not.
Pike also explained that Sanbornton's refusal to participate in Winnisquam reflects his issue with Belmont buying a rescue boat and Sanbornton's refusal to participate in its cost. He said many of the calls in that area are to the sandbar on Lake Winnisquam that is technically on Sanbornton's side of the lake.
He explained that the Belmont rescue boat team brought back to life a man who nearly drowned this past summer in an accident on the sandbar and "Sanbornton wasn't any where to be found."
For Cormier the issue is exasperating. "We said we'd listen one more time. I'm done. It's not worth my breath anymore," he said.
Parenti said when he met with Dexter and Ober he told them it was the last time he was going to discuss as well.
Cormier told Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin that if she got calls about the Winnisquam Station from any residents of any of the other three communities she was to direct them back to their own representatives.