By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
SANBORNTON — Debate about a warrant article to add two full-time firefighters at Town Meeting this week was colored by remarks by Dave Nickerson, the outgoing chairman of the Board of Selectmen, which were unfounded.
Nickerson, who was the lone selectman to vote against recommending the warrant article, said that the Tilton-Northfield Fire & EMS Department was in the process of building a new station and has been offered land to build it on. He indicated that Sanbornton was invited to join in a regional fire service.
"The door is open to talk to Tilton-Northfield before jumping into hiring two firefighters," he said at the meeting. "There is an opportunity here."
The warrant article, which failed by just four votes a year ago, was rejected by nearly 100 votes, as 191 voted against and 95 voted in favor.
Pat Clark, the outgoing chairman of the Tilton-Northfield Fire District Commission, said that a Facilities Committee was formed and funded by voters at the district meeting in 2015 to develop a plan for the district. The committee has met for the past year, he said, but has reached no final decisions and, more particularly, has made no formal overtures to town officials in Sanbornton.
Chief Michael Sitar of the Tilton-Northfield Fire & EMS Department, who serves as an adviser to the Facilities Committee, echoed Clark's remarks. He said the committee has toured the department's facilities, inventoried its vehicles and equipment, reviewed its call volume and staffing arrangements and explored a number of properties for a new station without making any firm decisions.
In its report issued this month, the committee concluded that "there are no obvious, simple or easy solutions to our needs and that we would need more than a year to complete our task." The report makes no mention of considering the expansion of the department to include another town.
Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter declined to comment on Nickerson's remarks. However, he noted that the Sanbornton Fire Department, which, apart from a full-time chief, is staffed exclusively by call and per diem firefighter/EMTs, would be a much more attractive partner in a regional department with rather than without the two full-time fire fighters he requested.
Dexter said he was disappointed voters rejected his request, but more disappointed by the decision to withhold a 2 percent cost-of-living allowance (COLA) to town employees, including the 19 volunteer firefighters. He said members of the call company are paid $15.39 an hour and the COLA represented an increase of 31 cents an hour and would have added $3,000, or less than one-tenth of 1 percent, to the department's budget.
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