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Londonderry to provide dispatching services to Hampstead

Union Leader Correspondent

February 26. 2014 8:26PM

LONDONDERRY — Starting in July, all emergency calls made to the Hampstead Fire Department will be answered by dispatchers 16 miles away.

Londonderry Fire Chief Darren O’Brien announced this week that his department has been contracted to provide Hampstead’s dispatching services.

The contract starts this summer and extends through the end of 2017. O’Brien said the town of Londonderry expects to earn $140,000 in revenue over the course of the contract.

Negotiations between the two fire departments began in October, fire officials said.

During Monday night’s Londonderry Town Council meeting, O’Brien shared details of the agreement and answered town officials’ many questions.

“We’re going to absorb the services with our existing personnel,” he told the council, noting that there would be “no major expenses” associated with the new contract.

Councilor Tom Freda wondered what would happen if circumstances changed and the new arrangement ultimately resulted in additional expenses for the town. Freda noted that the budget is already drafted for next year, with voters to have the final say at the March 11 polls.

Finance Director Susan Hickey said in certain emergency situations, the town could seek the state’s permission to hold a special town meeting to address unexpected costs, but that option wouldn’t apply in this case since the arrangement is a temporary, contracted one.

Council Chairman Tom Dolan admitted he was “a little antsy” about the contracted agreement.

“If we can do this without additional expenses, that’s great,” Dolan said. “But I’m nervous about the lack of wiggle room we have here.”

O’Brien assured him that Hampstead’s communications equipment would be brought to Londonderry and re-emphasized his point that his town has nothing to lose from the arrangement.

According to fire officials, the Hampstead Fire Department receives 800 to 1,000 emergency calls each year, a workload that can be managed with Londonderry’s existing staff.

Londonderry’s in town calls currently average about 10 per day.

O’Brien said he’s been in touch with other communities seeking similar services, though the other towns in need have much larger call volumes, more than could be managed with Londonderry’s employee roster.

“Having over 6,000 calls each year would be rather taxing for us,” the fire chief said.

Dolan told Town Manager Kevin Smith that in the future, such arrangements would best be made earlier in the budget process.

“Next year we could decide to take on more and make more revenues,” he said. “But we’d also need to hire more dispatchers, which would be a budgetary issue.”

Public Safety Politics Londonderry Hampstead

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