FARMINGTON — A Franklin County commissioner wants to discuss regionalizing fire departments at the county level.

Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington told fellow commissioners Monday that he was not sure how it would be done, but they could pursue a forum in Farmington to look at it.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said before that they first should get the approval from the towns.

“They do have home rule,” he said. “They are very proud of their fire departments.”

Webster alluded to Farmington’s annual town meeting Monday Monday, March 28, at which voters will consider increase the Fire Department’s budget by $32,979 to hire four full-time firefighters for the rest of the year.

Chief Terry Bell has cited the need because of aging existing firefighters, more calls and not being able to recruit and retain young volunteer firefighters.

Farmington had 434 calls last year and an average of six firefighters responded to each one. According to the department, the number of responders has decreased the past three years.

Webster told commissioners that small rural towns can no longer afford millions of dollars in trucks and equipment and the cost of meeting standards.

I would like to look at four or five regional fire departments funded by the county,” Webster said, in a quasi-municipal type agency. I don’t know how to do it or if we can do it,” he said. 

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong is a retired fire officer.

It has been discussed before and there is a lot of information on this,” Barker said.

He recommended that Webster talk to Tim Hardy, county Emergency Management Agency director, and Clyde Ross, who is involved in the agency. Both are deputy chiefs on the Farmington Fire Department.

We talked about this several years ago but nothing happened,” Barker said. “I think it would be right. It would be more feasible … but it will be costly.”

Barker also suggested that Webster attend meetings of the Franklin County Firefighters Association.

I think there is a way to do this; at least look into it,” Webster said. “I do not want to spend more money.”

The county pays for no fire service, Clerk Julie Magoon said Thursday. It is a municipal function, she said. Taxpayers in the unorganized territory pay for fire protection through taxes paid to the state. Neighboring towns provide services at a cost to the state. Commissioners review the unorganized territory budget each year and approve it by Dec. 31.

Webster said the towns could consider paying for the regional departments with the money they pay for local fire departments.

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