By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
SANBORNTON — The town's fire study committee came up empty-handed again Tuesday night after meeting with Laconia officials about some assistance with fire and emergency service coverage.
According to Chief Paul Dexter, Laconia was the last of the neighboring communities the committee approached for help with covering some of the town's 50 square miles of territory. Belmont was the first.
"My perception was that Laconia can't help us," Dexter said Wednesday. "They would, frankly, want to take over."
For two years, Dexter has been trying to bolster fire and EMS coverage for Sanbornton residents by going to the voters and asking for additional full-time staff. His proposal in 2015 was to take the two part-time firefighters positions and make them full-time, which would mean the department would have three full-time firefighters, including himself.
In reality, this would allow the department to have two people seven days a week available to respond from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., which is a time frame that represents about 80 percent of the calls for service received by the fire department.
In addition to speaking with Laconia and Belmont, the committee had spoken with elected officials from Meredith, New Hampton, the Tilton-Northfield Fire District and Franklin. Dexter said that Tilton-Northfield told him that it would have to hire two additional firefighters/EMTs for a Sanbornton contract for service and Franklin would have to hire one additional member.
As a contract for service, Sanbornton would presumably pay for a good portion of the additional staff needs and Dexter said his plan for three full-time positions would likely provide better service and cost less money.
Dexter said his proposal to go to three full-time positions would cost taxpayers about $140,000 annually and said he plans on asking the voters at this year's Town Meeting in the form of a warrant article for support. Last year a similar warrant article failed by 100 votes. In 2015 it failed by four.
Last year's failure at the polls triggered the fire study committee, and eight members were named to it with the charge of investigating all of the possibilities for assistance available to them through neighboring communities.
Dexter said the next and final step for the committee is to prepare and complete a final report for presentation to the Board of Selectmen and the voting public.
"This process has worked exactly as we thought it would," Dexter said, adding that the only difference is now the selectmen have many fire chiefs telling it what before only he was saying.
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