STRONG — Selectmen agreed Tuesday night to give all part-time employees a $1-an-hour pay raise — regardless of their current salary — beginning Feb. 1.

Selectmen also approved a pay hike for trained firefighters, who will be paid $20 an hour for structure fires.

Firefighters with less training will also get an increase, and they all will receive $12.50 an hour for training.

The decisions came as selectmen continued developing the municipal budget for 2019.

Selectmen said recruiting and retaining quality employees required the town to pay competitive wages.

Each full-time employee’s benefit package includes about $9,000 in health insurance. Since most part-time employees, except the custodian, are seasonal, they do not get health insurance.

In past years, part-time drivers have helped with winter plowing, but this year finding qualified drivers has been difficult, according to highway foreman Duayne Boyd. Most of the work has to be done during evenings, weekends and holidays.

When regular employees have worked a full week, they get paid time and a half, but they need extra help during lengthy or heavy storms.

In other matters, selectmen said they wrestle annually with nonprofit agencies asking for town money. Selectman Mike Pond suggested the board cancel a proposed meeting with a consortium comprising agencies no longer funded at the county level.

Pond serves with eight other selectmen on the Franklin County Budget Committee. He said many of the agencies and nonprofits, such as SeniorsPlus, receive state, county and federal funds. He objected to giving money to agencies when selectmen are cutting back on Strong’s budget.

“If we can’t support stuff we do for our own town without objection, why do I want to do all this outside stuff?” he asked.

Pond also updated selectmen on his initial findings for the proposed purchase of a 2019 truck with a plow and wing. If approved at the March town meeting, it would replace the rusty Volvo, which will not be safe to drive for much longer.

Pond presented two lease-purchase options for a new Western Star truck and plow, which is nearly identical to the one the town has. He said a five-year plan would cost $35,934 annually and a six-year plan would cost $30,579 annually, at 4.45 percent interest.

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