FARMINGTON – Selectmen unanimously voted Tuesday to name the public works facility in honor of the late director, Mitchell A. Boulette.
A sign will be erected at the entrance to the facility on Public Works Drive, Town Manager Richard Davis said. He had spoken with Boulette’s wife, Jill, and they suggested the wording on the sign should read, Mitchell A. Boulette Public Works Facility, he added.
Money for the sign will be taken from the special projects account. The cost of the sign and installation would range in the area of $600 at most, Davis said.
Fire Chief Terry Bell gave the board an update on the department’s per diem personnel program after the first three months. With eight firefighters participating in the per diem program, only two work at a time with pay ranging from $10.25 to $11 per hour based on their qualifications. The rest of the crew works on an on-call basis, he said.
The per diem workers maintain apparatus and equipment and make two drivers available for weekday calls, he said. “With the two per diem and myself available, other firefighters do not have to respond to some calls,” he said.
Selectman Jon Bubier questioned Bell’s estimated figure of $4,181 to have per diem staff from April 1 to June 30. The department responded to 100 calls during that time at a total cost for both per-diem and and on-call members of $26,297.48.
Bell estimated that the cost for 100 calls without per diem staff was $20,840.48 for staff and $1,276.00 for on-call staff to do truck checks, for a total of $22,116.48.
Bubier asked if the program was supposed to save money as was suggested when it was proposed.
Being a new program, Bell said, over the year a savings will be realized but the year will determine the cost and effectiveness.
Retention of firefighters was another factor in support of the program that was raised by firefighter Tim Hardy as he related the difficulty for firefighters when they have to leave a day job to respond to a smaller accident to cover spills and sweep glass.
“What do other towns do that don’t have such a professional department?” asked William Crandall who continued to ask whether the department needed to respond to every accident.
Crandall also questioned why the program and cost was not brought up at town meeting. With the sale of the department’s old firetruck, he said after the meeting, $100,000 was put in an account used to pay for the new truck and the $5,000 went into the department’s reserve account. Each year of the 10-year loan or bond, the amount needed will drop, he said, leaving a balance from the department’s budgeted amount that would go back into its reserve account. The department, he said, then takes on new services and programs that depend on the same level of spending. He said he felt that was unfair for the taxpayer.
The board agreed that they had voted to give the program a year and to evaluate its effectiveness and cost at that time.