Wilmington fire chief and Hermitage Club at Haystack discuss equipment agreement


CHRIS MAYS , Brattleboro Reformer Staff

WILMINGTON -- Ongoing development at the Hermitage Club at Haystack has sparked conversation about purchasing additional firefighting equipment.

"We’ve been in this discussion since I’ve been here, which is two years now," said Town Manager Scott Murphy. "The building itself is getting closer and closer to completion."

On Feb. 19, Wilmington Fire Chief Ken March and Hermitage Club Vice President Bob Rubin were asked to update the Selectboard on an agreement between the two parties. Hermitage Club President Jim Barnes had said the organization would honor an agreement reached with the previous property owner, in 2005, to contribute $250,000 towards the purchase of fire apparatus to assist with department coverage.

"That deal fell through but they graciously agreed to possibly honor that contract," said Murphy. "That was the starting point of the discussions. Since then, nothing more has come out of that."

In it, the first payment was scheduled for April 2014 while the last was scheduled for May 2015.

Rubin advised that the Hermitage Club would honor the agreement and make the amount reflect today’s dollars. The new total amount would be approximately $278,000.

Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter mentioned that she was the only member who was around for the first agreement. Discussions then were based on fire protection for a hotel and a three and a half story building. She asked if the new agreement would focus on the lodge.

"It’s a dynamic project. It’s in planning and development stages as it’s being constructed," said March. "A few things are being changed ... If there is a situation at the hotel or base lodge, we need to have multiple aerial devices quickly."

Rubin said the Development Review Board had approved five stories and a hotel. The lodge is currently two stories above the ground.

In the coming weeks, the Hermitage Club will be finalizing a plan for the property.

"Our project’s still moving around some," added Rubin. "We haven’t locked down the hotel."

A fire evaluation for the lodge, which is slated to open in November, calls for the Hermitage Club to provide additional training to the members of the department. The sessions would focus on high-rise buildings and building ventilation.

"It’s not necessarily a high-rise building but the area inside necessitates thinking along the lines of a high-rise," said March.

He also mentioned the potential for the training to handle emergencies at the Deerfield Valley Airport, also owned by the Hermitage Club.

The cost of the equipment was a concern for some attendees at the meeting. One firefighter believes it could cost $500,000 or more.

"The original agreement was for a smaller aerial device, which wouldn’t be able to reach what needed to be reached," said March. "The wording of the contract was for a specific piece of equipment. If it was signed today, we’d have to buy that piece. The reason I want to revisit this is because I wanted to give everybody room to get what was most important for the needs."

When asked how taxpayers could be expected to pick up the remainder of the bill for the equipment, March said the equipment would not only benefit the new development at Haystack. He mentioned buildings downtown that were involved in fires where such equipment could have been of assistance.

"Aerials are helpful. Would it be a great tool in our toolbox? Absolutely," said March. "This community cannot afford to have every tool in the toolbox ... (The Hermitage Club) didn’t 100 percent drive the need but drove us off the edge."

The last meeting between the two groups was held in Murphy’s office in the spring.

"We’re here to resurrect this thing," said Rubin.


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