Deerfield selectmen to pursue plans for new fire truck purchaseBy CYRUS MOULTON
Union Leader Correspondent
August 12. 2015 9:19PM
Selectmen said they will pursue plans for a new fire truck and also survey residents about a new central public safety complex, reconsidering their previous suggestion that the complex be built before buying the new vehicle.
“I feel a little uneasy... tying the fire truck purchase directly to the safety services complex — understanding that we need to do something in regard to the fire department,” Selectman Andrew Robertson said at the board’s Monday meeting. “I don’t know we’re ready to roll a complete safety service complex into this year’s budget...and I’ve thought a little bit about the truck too, and I’m thinking I don’t necessarily want the truck at South Station, but we’ve got a lot of houses on the south part of town...and we have fires there too.”
Robertson then chuckled, “and that’s completely counter to what we talked about last time.”
Fire Chief Mark Tibbetts presented selectmen at the board’s July 27 meeting with proposed town meeting warrant articles, including a request for $375,000 to buy a new tanker truck. The new truck would replace the current tanker, which is 28-years old.
But a new tanker truck can’t fit in the central fire station and would have to be housed at the South fire station...10 minutes away from the center of town.
Barry told the board he was uncomfortable buying a new truck if there was no place in the center of town to house it. He said he preferred that the town prioritize a new public safety complex than a new piece of equipment. The board asked Tibbetts to return in September with the most recent plans for a central safety complex so the board could prepare a warrant article for March town meeting.
But Deerfield voters have rejected proposals for a central safety complex — which would house fire, police and rescue squads — at least three times in the past two decades.
And Robertson said recent discussions with current and former firefighters suggested the department wouldn’t necessarily unanimously support a new complex this year. Moreover, Robertson said he didn’t feel that the proposal could pass without a substantial public outreach effort.
Barry acknowledged “the way I spoke about it came off a little bit further than I wanted it to.”
“I believe we need a new truck, and I do support it,” Barry said. “What my problem is, again, parking it on South Road, not having a central fire station... I’m trying to make it clear that we need — not necessarily a central fire station — (we) need a central safety complex; need a place to put the town services. We need to concentrate on it.”
Town Administrator Jan Foisy suggested a public survey to gauge opinion on a new safety complex and what people would like it to include.
Selectman Rebecca Hutchinson suggested that the survey ask for volunteers to a citizen committee that would visit safety complexes in other towns.
“That’s how big projects in this town have worked in the past is getting community volunteers involved,” Barry said. “My true and only point to bring it up last week was to continue to say, this hasn’t gone away, this still needed to be done and try to get the message out there.”
Foisy said after the meeting that the survey would be distributed as soon as it was prepared.