Published Date Written by Gail OberBELMONT — Selectman Jon Pike reiterated his position on any possible discussions about reopening the moribund Winnisquam Fire Station last night by saying it "it's going to have to freeze over until we talk again."
Pike said he was responding to a published letter to the editor, written by Sanbornton resident Bill Whalen who intimated that Belmont was the one who wanted the station and was encouraging the members of the former alliance — Sanbornton and Tilton-Northfield Fire District — to jump in a share the costs.
In his letter, Whalen questioned whether or not Belmont taxpayers were willing to pay for the station. He wrote that he wanted to know if Belmont's Winnisquam residents had any problems with fire service.
"We listened in the interests of safety," Pike said, saying Belmont was not reopening the fire station.
"We heard a need from Belmont and Tilton-Northfield," Pike said. "We thought we heard a need from Sanborton."
Two weeks ago the Belmont Selectmen selectmen reviewed a proposal put forth by all three fire chiefs. The board completely backed away from further discussions after learning that Sanbornton Fire Chief Paul Dexter and what they thought was the Sanbornton Board of Selectmen, were not interested.
Contrary to what Whalen wrote, it was not Belmont who reopened any discussion with Sanborton or Tilton-Northfield about the station. The discussions regarding the former Winnisquam Station began when, after learning the fire boat would need replacing, Belmont Selectmen reached out to Tilton-Northfield, Laconia, Meredith and Sanbornton for assistance in paying for replacement fire boat.
Laconia, Meredith and Sanbornton said they wouldn't participate in the costs while Tilton-Northfield Fire Commissioners used the fire boat to open the door to speaking with Belmont about the Winnisquam Station and the two boards met in November of 2011. Sanbornton selectmen didn't participate in the discussion that was held in Belmont.
Belmont Selectmen agreed to allow Chief David Parenti to participate in the discussion about the station and report back to them. Parenti, Sanbornton Chief Dexter and Tilton-Northfield Fire Chief Brad Ober met, developed four possible scenarios, and each presumably reported back to his selectmen or commission.
The four possibilities ranged from one that housed equipment at the Winnisquam Station and responded with call firefighters to one that included staffing the station Monday through Friday at a cost of approximately $37,000 each to Sanbornton and Tilton-Northfield and twice that to Belmont.
Minutes of Sanborton's selectmen's meetings indicate Dexter told his board, as well as Parenti and Ober, that he was more interested in spending money in his own department rather than in Belmont.
When Belmont Selectmen heard his opinion and realized Sanbornton wasn't interested, Pike and Vice Chair Ron Cormier said openly they were sick of continuing the discussions that have gone nowhere in the past six years. Both men said they would not discuss it again.
"We said we'd listen one more time. I'm done. It's not worth my breath anymore," said Cormier two weeks ago.
Ten days ago — and one week after residents of the section of Sanbornton closest to Winnisquam spoke out in favor of resuming talks — Sanbornton Selectmen said the board's position was not necessarily reflected by Dexter's alleged statements to Parenti and Ober. Chair David Nickerson said he would reach out to Pike personally and see if there was any chance Belmont would participate in further discussions.
Pike said last night that Nickerson had called him, but said after reading Whalen's letter he was done talking about it.
Last night, Parenti said he agreed with Pike's assessment that there was nothing further to discuss.
The Winninsquam Fire Station, located near the Mosquito Bridge, has not been used as such since the independent fire company that built and used it disbanded because of the dwindling supply of volunteer firefighters in 2007. The fire company served parts of all three townships.