A bookkeeping change for Hampton’s fire departments

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The fire station that serves Hampton’s fire protection District 1 is located on County Route 18 in the southern portion of the town. In order to reach the northern part of the town known as Low Hampton, firefighters would have to take one of two circuitous routes through either Vermont or Whitehall in order to respond to a fire call in that area. Photo by EJ Conzola II

By EJ Conzola II

The Hampton Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 18 on a proposal to consolidate the town’s current two fire protection districts into a single entity.

The move would largely represent a bookkeeping change, not a change in the fire protection provided to the two areas in the town the districts represent, according to Hampton Fire Department Treasurer Matthew Pratt.

The town of fewer than 1,000 residents has two fire stations, one in each district. The station for District 1 covers the southern portion of the town; the station for District 2 covers the northern part of the town, commonly referred to as Low Hampton.

The two stations are necessary because there is no direct road connection between the two portions of the town, officials have said. In order for a fire truck from the District 1 station – the town’s primary fire facility – to reach Low Hampton, the truck would either have to go north into Vermont, then turn west at Fair Haven or drive west into Whitehall, turn north onto County Route 21, then head east on U.S. Route 4.

The consolidation of the two fire districts would have no effect on the protection residents receive, as fire stations in both areas would remain active, Pratt said. It would eliminate the difference in the tax rates property owners in the two districts pay for that protection, he said.

The area now served by fire protection District 2 had previously been served by the Fair Haven Fire Department. When Hampton took over fire protection duties for Low Hampton several years ago and created District 2, property owners in the two districts paid different tax rates for the service, Pratt explained.

The Town Board has since worked to equalize the rates in the two districts, Pratt said. Because of those efforts, the consolidation of the districts will have only a minimal effect on their respective rates, he said.

The proposed merger will be subject to a permissive referendum, Town Supervisor David O’Brien noted.

The hearing is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. on Jan. 18. It will follow a similar hearing on the town’s proposed agricultural plan, which is set for 7:10 p.m.

The town Planning Board has held several public sessions on the agricultural plan, at which residents raised several questions but voiced no serious concerns about the idea. Planning Board members have stressed the plan would not impose any restrictions on land use, saying it is intended merely as a guide to help protect and promote agriculture in the community.

O’Brien said he expects the Town Board to vote on approving the plan following the hearing. Once the board acts, the plan will go on to the Washington County Agriculture Protection Board, then to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for final sign offs.

Passing the plan would make Hampton property owners eligible for state grants that could help them grow or maintain their farms.