SANDOWN – Recently representation from the planning board, the state Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the fire chief met to better understand each other when it came to the installation of fire ponds, cisterns and dry hydrants around town.
Fire chief Bill Tapley, planning board members Mark Traeger and Ed Mencis, and DES’s Eben Lewis met for a few site visits.
Tapley has been pushing the planning board in recent years to make sure that all new subdivisions have access to water. It’s something written into the rules and regulations but has been overlooked occasionally in the past. But he’s been working with the planning board in recent months to get that protection for Sandown homes.
“I just want to be on top of it,” said Tapley.
About a year ago, when developer Bob Villella dug a fire pond without the proper DES permits, the matter became more complicated for everyone involved, despite the universal agreement that having water for fire fighting purposes is a good thing.
Villella has sought to wash his hands of the matter, stating that he was merely doing what he was told in digging the pond without permits. Tapley had stepped in to get the necessary after-the-fact permits for the pond, but the matter has not made the progress many had hoped for, and recent communication with DES to Villella has demanded that the pond be removed.
Tapley said the area and its 70 homes has fire protection now, and he would only be comfortable having the pond removed if something else had taken its place.
While that fire pond at Hillside Estates was a matter of discussion in the meeting earlier this month, Tapley also sought clarification on how to move forward with establishing other water sources around town.
Both Tapley and planning board member Mark Traeger, who organized the meeting, said it was positive and that all agreed that working together in the future should be easy.
One of the areas reviewed was Phillips Pond Estates, where initial plans were to create a gravel drive near the pond so that fire department trucks could fill up, but on further review it looks to be wiser to instead install a dry hydrant.
Tapley said Lewis explained that all that would be needed for the work was a Permit by Notification, a relatively basic permission.
A number of other sites were reviewed and found to be as easily workable, explained the fire chief. In addition to dry hydrants, while ponds are less expensive to build, Tapley noted that their upkeep is more labor intensive and he’d personally rather see a cistern if the site calls for it.
Currently the fire department maintains ponds and cisterns around town, occasionally dredging and cutting back brush in ponds and clearing cisterns of snow.
“I just want to do it once, and do it right,” said Tapley, noting that the meeting was positive and that messes like the Hillside Estates fire pond can be easily avoided.
The fire chief said DES’s goal is to protect the environment and his job is to protect the people that enjoy that environment in Sandown, and the two are not mutually exclusive.
“He (Lewis) was very good to work with,” said Tapley. “I think we’re on a better track now. It’s better to meet face to face.”
Tapley and Traeger have agreed to work together to compile the necessary Permit By Notification paperwork for future dry hydrant installation and other necessary permits for fire protection work in coming months.