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Wenham Fire Dept. Proposal Would Be Compatible with a Merger

Wenham has a proposal to hire a full-time firefighter for the fire department, but the study group that came up with the proposal said any of its recommendations would work if a merger with Hamilton ever occurred.

The recommendations of the Wenham Fire Study Group to add a full-time firefighter would be compatible with any future decisions, including regionalization or a merger with the Hamilton Fire Department, according to the study group.

But does a merger with Hamilton make sense?

The idea has been discussed before and on Tuesday study group member Michael Lucy suggested that even though it is a “perennial subject” it should not keep it from being talked about again.

“Things change and it is good to look at it,” he said.

Molly Martins, chairman of the Wenham Board of Selectmen, said there have been no recent conversations about a merger of the two departments.

The report was presented on Tuesday to the Wenham Board of Selectmen. In addition to recommending hiring a full-time firefighter for the Wenham Fire Department, it also recommended increasing the fire chief position from 30 hours a week to full-time and adding shift coverage at certain times that would man the station with some of the department’s call firefighters. The total cost of the plan would be $113,000 in the first year, a 22 percent increase over the department’s exiting $500,000 annual budget. The study group presented several sources of non-tax revenue that it said could cover the additional cost without making it a burden on taxpayers.

The League of Women Voters of Hamilton-Wenham is interested in the idea and plans to meet with Wenham Fire Chief Bob Blanchard to discuss the study group’s report and answer the League’s questions. A complete copy of the report is attached to this story as a PDF.

At least two of the League’s members were in attendance at the Wenham Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday night to hear the Fire Study Group’s presentation and recommendations.

A merger would, at least initially, mean the combined department would have more equipment that needed. But it could also increase the operating costs, and those costs could increase Hamilton’s costs faster at first since it would cover about 60 percent of the budget based on population.

Right now, there are five full-time employees on both departments combined, including a fire prevention officer in both towns. Blanchard said a combined department would likely need six firefighters.

Would a merged fire department work for both towns? What makes sense about the idea? What makes it an idea that doesn’t make sense? Let us know in the comments.

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