Farmington hosting regional meeting on firefighting manpower

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FARMINGTON — The Board of Selectmen wants to start a dialogue among area towns and fire departments about concerns each is facing, particularly in light of manpower needs for the volunteer departments.

The board agreed to host a meeting on April 30 for representatives from firefighters, selectmen and town managers in Franklin County, along with those from neighboring towns of Livermore Falls and Livermore in Androscoggin County.

Town Manager Richard Davis told the board recently the manpower for volunteer departments is a statewide issue. With an aging roster of firefighters and the reluctance of new people to make the commitment, there is a shortage, particularly during the daytime.

“Communication does not cost,” Farmington fire Chief Terry Bell said. “Maybe someone has the secret answer.”

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Bell said it’s a problem in every town, especially during the day. There’s very limited manpower, he said.

For this first meeting, board Chairman Ryan Morgan said he is looking for just a “round-table discussion of what the problems are.”

There were discussions at the county budget level last year of a possible northern county fire district, he said. Perhaps there could be two, one in the north and one in the south, but that would be far down the road, he said.

A study to more efficiently deliver emergency services and involving the towns of Farmington, Wilton, Jay, Livermore Falls and Livermore, was done in 2006. It has some information that could be useful, Davis said.

The purpose of the study was not to merge the five town fire departments into a single agency, but to preserve their autonomy while enhancing the delivery of services, Neil D. Courtney, a retired firefighter who worked on the study, said at the time.

Regional or district fire departments support sharing resources and manpower among member departments under one budget rather than each separately supporting the needs of a department.

Selectman Andrew Hufnagel encouraged an open meeting April 30 because someone may have an idea that’s never been thought of.

While Bell does not want it to appear Farmington is taking over, the problems facing local fire departments need to be talked about, he said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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