Mike Gagnon never gave up hoping.
The Hampstead Road Fire Station in East Derry reopened Thursday morning, Oct. 22, with little fanfare, after closing due to budget cuts at the end of June.
Gagnon said he had been prepared to reopen, if and when the Town Council’s May 19 budget vote was reversed. “The thing that took the longest in June was redoing the computer dispatch,” he said.
“When we closed, we made it so we could reopen with the flip of a switch,” Gagnon said.
His crews had only to go in, do a quick clean-up and move apparatus, he said.
In the Oct. 13 Special Election voters approved, 3,494 to 2,490, reopening the station in East Derry. “Based on the vote, and in consultation with the Acting Town Administrator, we reopened Thursday, Oct. 22,” Gagnon said.
Reopening was essential, Gagnon said, because in addition to taking its own calls, Hampstead Road also provides backup for the Central and Island Pond Road stations. If the station remained closed, the downtown area would have to wait longer for backup from Island Pond or English Range.
Gagnon currently staffs his department with 14 people per shift. The town’s vote will also allow him to reinstate four firefighter positions and reinstate overtime, both of which were cut after May 19.
“To open the station we need 15 people,” he said. “For now, I have one person a day coming in on overtime.”
“I am aggressively working to fill those positions,” Gagnon added.
But he needs to go through the entire process, including background checks, he said, because he’s looking to bring in men and women interested in 25-year careers with the department.
“It is an investment,” he said. “We want to hire the best quality people.”
His biggest concern with the station closing was the amount of simultaneous calls his department has to respond to. “In 52 to 53 percent of the cases, we are already committed to another call,” he said.
The mood at all his stations is upbeat, Gagnon added, noting “We are happy to have adequate resources to cover emergencies.”
The town’s Oct. 13 vote restores $384,424 to Gagnon’s salary line and $436,680 to overtime.
During the time the building was inactive as a fire station, it was used for storage and training.