Barnstead approaches Gilmanton about sharing some municipal services

GILMANTON — With the impending retirement of Barnstead Fire Chief Mark Tetreault, a representative from Barnstead's Selectboard came to town Monday night to explore the possibility of a regional approach to public safety

"Both our chiefs are retiring," James Barnard told the Gilmanton board, referring to retired Barnstead Police Chief Ken Borgia who left at the end of 2013 and Tetreault who is leaving to become the fire chief in Lynnfield, Mass. at the end of the month.

"Before we start replacing them, (we want to know) if you feel like sitting down and hashing this through," Barnard continued.

Gilmanton selectmen were interested but definitely non-committal.

"I can see some good points and some bad points," said Selectman Brett Currier, after Town Administrator Arthur Capella said bulk buying for diesel, oil, sand, and salt could benefit the bottom line in both communities.

"We have an ungodly amount of equipment," said Barnard, referring to the number of fire and police vehicles available to the Barnstead Public Safety department.

"We do too," said Currier.

In what he saw as a possible negative, Currier said that a regional or combined police and or fire department could increase the total number of employees to the levels that could allow for the formation of labor unions.

This is not the first time the Barnstead selectmen have addressed a regional approach to policing. In 2011, selectmen approached the town with a plan developed by Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin that would have put the responsibility for Barnstead's policing under the domain of the sheriff's department.

The plan called for a consolidation of usable equipment including vehicles, creating a sheriff's sub-station in the building used by the Barnstead Police Department, and incorporating existing Barnstead police officers into the county employments ranks.

The measure, which went to the voters in March in the form of an article on the annual town warrant was defeated by a margin of two-to-one.

Currier also said he would not be ready to discuss any potential cooperative agreement between Gilmanton and Barnstead without first having a conversation with the existing department heads. His desire to reach out to department heads was echoed by Selectmen Ralph Lavin and Don Guarino.

"We'll talk to our department heads," said Lavin, who said someone would get in touch with Barnard and the Barnstead selectmen.

Capella said the earliest that the town of Gilmanton could even consider such a proposal would be in 2015.