In 2005, a previous owner offered to contribute $250,000 toward a fire-fighting apparatus that would facilitate the department’s coverage at the resort as well as throughout the community. At the time of the agreement, plans called for the construction of a hotel and a three-and-a-half-story building. With a new base lodge already under construction and an evolving plan for a hotel underway, the Hermitage group, which owns Haystack, may need the equipment after all. The Hermitage’s contribution toward a new truck was previously part of a preliminary draft version of an agreement to buy 55 tax lots from the town. This part of the land sale was scrapped, but both the fire department and the Hermitage still see it as mutually beneficial to pursue.
Although Hermitage Club president Jim Barnes has offered to honor this previous agreement, little progress has been made since preliminary discussions were held between fire chief Ken March and Hermitage Club vice president Bob Rubin. The total contribution has been adjusted, however, from $250,000, to two donations totaling $278,000.
“The (Haystack development) project is dynamic and its scope and planning and development are changing,” said March. “There’s still a hotel planned for this site, and its height would need an aerial device. Dover has one, but it’s aging and may not be ready or available. The other closest ones are 45 minutes away, and if there’s a situation at the hotel, we will need many aerial devices quickly.”
The fire department would also need to undergo training for high-rise and ventilation situations according to March, due to the design of the buildings, and the approval of a five-story building on the property by the development review board. Rubin said the Hermitage is not sure if they will build a five-story hotel or not, but the base lodge building is slated for opening on November 30.
Selectboard chair Meg Streeter, the only member of the selectboard present for the 2005 agreement, asked if the size of the apparatus needed in the agreement had changed, and what the price would be. Firefighter Bill Spirka said that at the time of the previous agreement, the department was in the process of replacing a piece of equipment, while this plan would call for adding a new truck to the town’s fleet. March added that the cost of a truck with a 100-foot aerial device could range from $750,000 to $2.5 million.
Selectboard vice chair Jim Burke asked how he could in good conscience ask taxpayers to pick up three-fourths of the cost of such a machine. “If your development is not there, we don’t need to purchase that truck,” said Burke.
While March said the Hermitage Club’s plans would drive the town’s need for the equipment over the edge, an aerial device would be useful for Wilmington’s downtown buildings.
“The Anchor (restaurant) fire had aerials there and they’re helpful,” said March. “Each community cannot afford to have all the tools needed in its toolbox, but that would be the point where we’re going to need it.”