OSSIPEE WON’T MERGE FIRE PRECINCTS

by Christian Mower on February 7, 2012

DESPITE AN OFFICIAL STUDY THAT RECOMMENDED IT, THE VOTERS AND TAXPAYERS OF OSSIPEE HAVE DECIDED NOT TO MERGE THE TOWN’S THREE FIRE DEPARTMENTS.

POSTCARDS COUNTED BY THE TOWN MONDAY NIGHT SHOW 255 VOTERS APPROVED THE PLAN TO MERGE – AND 450 VOTED AGAINST IT.

FOR TAXPAYERS, SUCH AS SEASONAL RESIDENTS, 222 VOTED FOR THE MERGER AND 567 AGAINST.

THAT MEANS THE TOTAL NUMBER OF COMBINED VOTERS AND TAXPAYERS APPROVING THE MERGER WAS 477 WHILE 1,017 OPPOSED THE PLAN.

SELECTMAN HARRY MERROW SAYS THAT MEANS THE TOWN WON’T TAKE ANY FURTHER ACTION ON THE ISSUE. HE SAYS WHEN THE CONSULTING FIRM STUDY OF THE FEASIBILITY OF MERGING THE THREE DEPARTMENTS FIRST CAME OUT, HE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA.

BUT AS HE LOOKED INTO IT MORE AND SAW SOME OF THE EXPENSES THAT WOULD BE INVOLVED, HE CHANGED HIS MIND.

IN RECOMMENDING A MERGER OF THE THREE PRECINCTS IN WEST OSSIPEE, CENTER OSSIPEE AND OSSIPEE CORNER – THE STUDY INDICATED ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES HAD INCREASED WITHOUT BALANCED OVERSIGHT AND THERE WAS A LACK OF A COMMON VISION. IT ALSO POINTED OUT THAT COMMUNICATIONS HAD BECOME STRAINED BETWEEN THE DEPARTMENTS AND TOWN LEADERS.

MERROW SAYS A NUMBER OF RECOMMENDATIONS MADE IN THE REPORT HAVE BEEN COMPLETED BY THE FIRE DEPARTMENTS – AND THE REPORT GOT THE THREE FIRE DEPARTMENTS TALKING TO EACH OTHER.

CENTER OSSIPEE FIRE CHIEF MIKE BROWNELL – WHO RUNS THE LARGEST FIRE DEPARTMENT IN TOWN WITH ABOUT TWO DOZEN FIREFIGHTERS – OPPOSED THE MERGER FROM THE START BECAUSE HE FELT IT WAS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. HE SAYS HE FEELS PRETTY CONFIDENT NOW AFTER THE VOTING THINGS WILL STAY THE WAY THEY ARE FOR SOME TIME. STILL HE SAYS THERE ARE POSITIVE THINGS THAT CAME OUT FROM THE PROCESS OF STUDYING A MERGER, INCLUDING A BETTER LINE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE THREE DEPARTMENTS AND SHARING OF RESOURCES.

BROWNELL SAYS HE’S TALKING AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK – IF NOT MORE FREQUENTLY – WITH THE OTHER FIRE CHIEFS – AND THEY ARE LOOKING AT THEIR SCHEDULES TO TRY AND SET UP REGULAR MEETINGS.