Published DateSANBORNTON – Belmont Selectman Ruth Mooney told selectmen from Tilton and Sanbornton yesterday that her town's officials would not support the reopening the Winnisquam Fire Station.
Mooney made her statement at a sparsely attended meeting convened by the three members of the Sanbornton board and including all five members of the Tilton board. She was the sole representative from Belmont.
The three townships converge near old station house that was built and staffed by an independent fire company that for years served parts of each community.
Mooney said the building had "gone beyond" its usefulness as a fire station, noting that there have been recent problems with the furnace, the outside oil tank may need replacing and the area is too congested for an active fire station.
"We're staying with our one fire station at this time," Mooney said, adding that Belmont selectmen are conducting an assessment of all of the town's buildings with an eye to future municipal planning. She also said Belmont's Building Inspector Steve Paquin didn't think the building was fit for fire service.
Mooney also said Belmont was in no financial position to operate two fire stations — even with the financial support of the other communities.
"It's an old block building," she said in response to Sanbornton Selectman Karen Ober's query as to if Belmont would consider it with other community's contributions.
"I don't think the contributions would be enough," she said.
Discussions surrounding the old station were triggered in part by budget discussions last year about Belmont's need for a new platform fire boat and an ensuing letter that went to other communities on Lake Winnisquam asking for financial support.
All the other communities declined to participate in the funding of the boat but the request triggered long smoldering interests on the part of Sanbornton and Tilton regarding emergency fire and ambulance coverage in the areas nearest the lake.
Sanbornton selectmen invited all the interested parties to a meeting with a goal to develop a committee that could discuss matters of mutual interest and concern including public works, ambulance coverage on Interstate 93, and the dormant fire station.
Officials from the Tilton-Northfield Fire District responded they were "very, very interested" in the meeting, said Ober, but she noted they had their own meeting last night to take care of a different matter and were unable to attend Sanbornton's meeting.
Northfield Selectmen didn't attend, said Sanbornton Town Administrator Bob Veloski earlier in the day, saying they would leave the matter to the Fire District.
The Tilton-Northfield Fire District is the governing body for fire and ambulance service in both communities. It is its own body, sets its own budget, and raises and appropriates taxes accordingly.
Tilton Selectmen Katherine Dawson and Joe Jesseman both said they remembered when the town of Tilton participated in the contributions to the Winnisquam station but believed it shifted to the Fire District sometime in the 1980s.
Dawson, who described her own statements as "going rogue" said it is still within the authority of the town of Tilton to contract all services at it sees fit.
She said she lives in the "demarcation" zone that is about half-way between the interstate and the Mosquito Bridge but she feels some of the response times to parts of Tilton are too slow — especially during the day when the Exit 20 area is very congested.
Dawson also said the Winnisquam area wasn't the only area in Tilton that could use more coverage.
Sanbornton Selectman Dave Nickerson said he hears about the need from people who live in the Lower Bay area of town.
While nothing was finalized last night, it appears that Sanbornton, Tilton and likely the Fire District, will hold more discussions about the fire and ambulance needs in the Winnisquam area.