SPOFFORD, N.H. -- A local man is seeking the removal of a dry hydrant installed on his property years ago under its previous owner’s permission -- a move Fire Chief Gordon Rudolph says would eliminate a major water source for the town.
According to Rudolph, the hydrant Jerry Lorenz wants off his land covers Northshore and Pinnacle Springs roads and its removal could put Chesterfield in a bind. The fire chief said the town was allowed to plant the hydrant by Curt Nowill, who used to own the lake-front property. It was a verbal agreement and no paperwork was signed.
Dry -- or non-pressurized -- hydrants are used mostly in rural areas in which municipal water systems are not available. They consist of one end of a pipe installed below water level and the other above ground.
Rudolph said Lorenz first approached the Chesterfield Board of Selectmen with a complaint in the spring of 2011. Lorenz reportedly said the blocks of a retaining wall protecting the dry hydrant had gotten chipped, most likely by a town snowplow. The Board of Selectmen conducted its own investigation and the employees of the Chesterfield Highway Department said they had nothing to do with it.
Contact with Lorenz could not be made on Wednesday.
Rudolph said Lorenz was told to speak with the highway department, which sent him to discuss the matter with the fire precinct. He was then informed it was strictly a town issue. Rudolph said this whole process
"I can surely see where the man is coming from," Rudolph said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, even though the hydrant’s removal will "hurt the town."
In an attempt to resolve the situation, the Spofford Fire Commissioners agreed to buy new blocks for the retaining wall and the highway department decided to place them. But Rudolph said this was not good enough for Lorenz.
Chesterfield Road Agent Bart Bevis said on Wednesday he had not been told to do any work near the hydrant, but was aware of the controversy that has brewed.
Rudolph attended a Board of Selectmen meeting on Wednesday, June 27, to discuss the matter. According to the official minutes, Rudolph said he called the fire marshall’s office and the Department of Environmental Services -- and found out Lorenz can legally remove the hydrant because he owns the land.
"Lorenz is the owner of record and if he requires the hydrant is removed, as the owner of the property, he would have ownership of the hydrant," the minutes state. "The hydrant could be removed at the owner’s expense."
Rudolph told the selectmen he had contacted DES to get copies of the permit when the hydrant was done. He said the Board of Selectmen, Spofford Fire Department and Spofford Lake Association had invested in the installation of the hydrant in November 2002.
According to the minutes, Selectman Jon McKeon told Rudolph he doesn’t know what the board can do to help, as it seems a discussion with Lorenz would be fruitless. Rudolph expressed concern over the possibility of his firefighters getting confronted by Lorenz if they ever try to get access to the dry hydrant while battling a blaze.
Rudolph also told the selectmen he believes Lorenz’s house insurance costs would go up if the hydrant were removed.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.