By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Gilford officials may lose the opportunity to take a used fire boat from the city of Portsmouth. Some small towns on the Seacoast voiced interest in contributing to the upkeep of the vessel after the gift to Gilford was announced. Nevertheless, Gilford officials said they will go ahead with a public hearing regarding acceptance of the boat.
Selectman's Chairman Richard "Rags" Grenier said Tuesday he is not surprised that the smaller communities on the coast would be concerned about the Portsmouth City Council's decision to give the $350,000 boat to Gilford.
"We will go forward with our public hearing and wait and see what (Portsmouth's) final decision is," said Grenier.
Two weeks ago, the Portsmouth City Council, at the recommendation of Fire Chief Steve Achilles, voted to give the boat to Gilford. Achilles said the costs of maintaining it in salt water are too high, and that the U.S. Coast Guard and N.H. Marine Patrol have upped their presence in the waters off the coast, so the boat is rarely used.
The fire boat was purchased in 2005 with a federal Homeland Security Agency grant and cannot be sold.
Gilford's fire boat is 40 years old and is on the list of future capital purchases to be made by the town in the not-too-distant future. What appeared to be a godsend from Portsmouth has now turned into a controversy for Portsmouth's smaller neighbors.
According to Seacoast Online, officials in New Castle asked if the city would reconsider giving the boat to Gilford if they could get together a consortium of other smaller towns to offset the maintenance costs.
Portsmouth City Manager John Bohenko told Achilles to work with the consortium but said he wanted to see a financial commitment for at least five years, reported Elizabeth Dinan. He also said the final decision was in the hands of the Portsmouth Fire Commission.
Gilford Fire Chief Steve Carrier said yesterday that he has not given up hope that the fire boat can come to Lake Winnipesaukee.
"It's a gift," said Carrier. "We don't have it yet, but if they don't want to give it to us, that's their prerogative.
He said he continues to work with Marine Patrol Capt. Timothy Dunleavy learning about staffing and upkeep and still hopes the department gets the boat.
Not only will the fire boat improve Gilford's ability to fight fires on the lake's many islands and along the coastline, but Carrier said that medical transports from the islands and boats will be much more comfortable for those who firefighters, rescue crews and ambulance crews assist.
Gilford officials have scheduled the public hearing for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, in the meeting room at the Gilford Town Offices.
This is the boat Portsmouth was prepared to donate to the town of Gilford. Now other towns on the Seacoast are interested in it. (Courtesy photo by Rich Beauchesne/Seacoastonline)
04-19 Portsmouth fire boat