Deerfield residents look for safety, oppose Northern Pass
The town of Deerfield wants a new safety complex, one with lots of room and better access.
It does not, however, want the steel towers that will accompany the Northern Pass project, a controversial issue in many towns for more than two years.
By the end of yesterday’s two-hour deliberative session – a process in which residents finalize their ballot before moving straight to a secret vote – Deerfield had a budget of nearly $3.4 million.
The town will vote March 12, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The final dollar amount was upped by $711, after Cherie Sanborn went to bat for the checklist supervisors, who everyone agreed had a tough job and were underpaid at $7.25 per hour. The hourly wage now proposed is $10 per hour, with an estimated 258 hours as part of the mix.
The expenditure for the design, engineering, construction, equipping and furnishing of a public safety complex led off the meeting and represented, at $2.4 million, the highest dollar amount of the morning.
The plan seeks to house the police and fire departments, as well as the rescue squad, animal control personnel and those from emergency management, all on North Road, just south of the intersection of routes 43 and 107.
Police Chief Michael Greeley and fire Chief Mark Tibbetts explained why the 17,116-square foot facility was needed, saying pedestrians near the two separate facilities are in danger when emergency vehicles speed out.
“We drive in and out of that parking lot every day, sometimes at a high rate of speed to go to emergency calls,” Greeley said. “There are a lot of children and people walking across the parking lot to the town offices. That’s a hazard.”
Added Tibbetts, “It’s a dangerous intersection, pulling in and out when responding to a call. Kids are playing in the center of town. People are walking on Church Street, cars are parked too close to the fire station by the library.”
In addition, Greeley said the police department, located on Raymond Road, has antiquated features that compromise privacy and safety.
For example, the booking room is too small, with just a single chair chained to the wall, a potential danger to the officer involved in the arrest, Greeley said.
Also dangerous, Greeley said, is the fact that prisoners taken from a cruiser must walk across the parking lot and into the George B. White building, and they’re escorted back outside if they need to use the bathroom.
“That’s a public area where people are walking in to register their vehicles,” the chief said.
Also, Greeley said, the current scenario violates federal law with respect to young offenders “by not having sight and soundproof areas for juveniles where they can’t be heard or seen from adult prisoners who come into the building.
“And you can sit outside my office door and hear everything that goes on in our office,” Greeley added. “There is no confidentiality.”
Two other articles addressed the growing concern, centered mostly in the North Country, created by the potential construction of the Northern Pass, a proposal introduced in 2010 that would bring hydropower from Canada through New Hampshire and into the New England energy grid.
One article asked residents to state their opposition to the proposal, citing health concerns and the drop in private property values that could result from the 135-foot steel towers needed to transmit the power.
Lisa Wolford, who led the charge yesterday on this matter, said more than 30 towns in the North Country have already passed similar articles.
“The town doesn’t otherwise have a voice, so what the town can do is have a voice in the process by adopting an article like this,” Wolford said. “Gov. (Maggie) Hassan has said before elected that her position on Northern Pass would be dictated by what people say, so this is a chance for Deerfield to have a voice in that process.”
In another measure destined for next month’s ballot, the town will decide whether future energy projects, possibly proposed because Deerfield has a substation, should scrap archaic methods.
“Under-grounding is a reasonable alternative and is something that should be considered by the town,” Wolford said. “Under-grounding is not only a more visually viable alternative to overhead transmission lines, but it also protects utility lines in severe weather events.”
Most other business sought to save money for future building upgrades, called “housekeeping ideas” by Stephen Barry, who chairs the board of selectmen.
“We have a bunch of old buildings, we have old furniture, old water heaters, old furnaces, septic systems,” Barry said. “We want to put some money away for the inevitable ‘Oops, something broke.’ We look for your support to do that.”
And during a time when gun violence dominates the news, the ballot will ask for $19,184 to employ a part-time, 30-hour-per-week police officer to serve as a resource officer at the Deerfield Community School.
“At the request of the school board, the selectmen put this article on the warrant,” Barry said. “It’s been called at certain times a knee-jerk reaction, it’s been called at certain times something that won’t provide perfect security, and it absolutely won’t. But it’s a start towards an amount of protection and presence at the school.”
(Ray Duckler can be reached at email@example.com.)