FARMINGTON — Department heads shared the proposed 2020 budget figures with the Board of Selectmen Tuesday with most of the discussion focused on Farmington Fire Rescue Department.

The department’s 2020 budget of $805,713 is $270,490 larger than this year, an increase of 50.54%. Following the deadly explosion on Sept. 16 which killed Capt. Michael Bell, other fire departments provided 24-hour coverage. Farmington Fire Rescue has continued night coverage since then with per diems as available.

The department currently has four full-time firefighters.

“Our biggest increase is under wages,” Acting Chief Tim Hardy said. “The day after Thanksgiving Chief Terry Bell, Deputy (S. Clyde) Ross, Capt. (TD) Hardy and myself met for two and a half hours. We discussed scenarios, different proposals, response times.

“We’re struggling with after hour responses from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. during night shifts. Most who did respond to those calls were involved in that incident.

“In my mind why people don’t respond is most are gainfully employed. When they get called out, when they get back home they won’t finish their night’s sleep. It wears on a person after a while, rightfully so.”

Hardy proposed adding two more full-time firefighters and one per diem worker to give 24-hours, seven days a week coverage. There would be 24-hour shifts rotating throughout the week for the full-timers.  Each full-timer would work 24 hours, then have 48 hours off.

“Adding one per diem would have two per diems working 12-hour shifts, not necessarily five weekdays as currently,” Hardy said. “We want to leave it flexible so could adjust, cover night shift, a firefighter out sick or vacation time.”

Selectman Michael Fogg asked if the 24-hour coverage was because calls have increased during the night or in case they do.

Hardy said there has been some increase from last year.

“It’s the response capability of our people during those hours, not being able to respond during those hours to whatever situation we get,” he said. “It’s guaranteed response.

“I can tell you it is needed. By having two people here at night it gives peace of mind to the call folks still on. They don’t have to worry about going to work exhausted the next day.

“It’s been very beneficial for all of us to know there is someone who will initially answer the call.”

Selectman Chairman Joshua Bell asked to have figures on what the call volume from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. is.

“Is it an actual need that has to be met,” he said. “It’s a big jump. It was the first time we went to per diem.”

Bell asked if incentives for night calls had been considered.

Town Manager Richard Davis said, “I know from study, experience, money isn’t always the motivator. If you have a day job, have to be out half the night exhausted, no amount of money will compensate.

“Money isn’t the prime motivator for these people. If it were, we wouldn’t have these people doing what they’re doing.”

Ross said a pay differential proposed several years ago was turned down.

“As far as calls between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., the question you have to ask is, ‘Do you want coverage or not, same as daytime?’ You can’t use the number of calls.

“If you look at our town, look at taking care of people, the facilities we have, the businesses being developed, we are very naked as far as coverage. Not only fire but police and public works.

“The demand is greater today than at any other time. Do we want to take our chances? That’s the question that needs to be answered.”

Hardy said the per diems being hired now to fill gaps don’t live around here and aren’t available to help out after hours.

Selectman Scott Landry said, “After the crisis, being there every day taking pictures, I noticed the age difference for cities versus rural areas.”

Hardy said, “Those folks from the city, that’s their career.”

Selectman Stephan Bunker suggested a chart be made showing current and proposed coverage.

Davis said two proposals had been suggested with a second one asking to hire four additional full-time firefighters that would have added another $100,000.

He said perhaps both should have been presented. The one presented is pretty big of itself.

Selectman Matthew Smith said he was in favor of the proposal.

“After the incident, we were left pretty naked here,” he said. “Adding two more would alleviate that if it should happen again.

“We lost our full-time fire force in one shot.”

Farmington Fire Rescue’s budget also proposes a 2% cost of living adjustment for the chief, $9,500 more in overtime, $3,000 more for clothing and an increase of $50,000 for reserve.

Hardy said the clothing increase will allow interior and some exterior firefighters to have two sets of turnout gear so one can be washed following a call.

“You’ve heard us say in the past, ‘We’ve put together what we feel are the needs of the town.’,” he said. “This isn’t a want. The town isn’t getting smaller, traffic is increasing. This is what we feel will meet the needs of the community.”

Landry asked if the town would become the primary care provider with a full-time fire department.

Davis said most of the responses are to Farmington people.

Hardy said a lot of people from surrounding communities work and shop in Farmington.

Farmington’s total 2020 budget as presented is almost $6.5 million. It is $383,696 more than the current budget, an increase of 6.27%.

 


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