FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday accepted recommendations for changes in the proposed 2020 police department and traffic light maintenance budgets, but requested the fire department budget be gone over again.

They also approved July 14 for town elections and July 20, tentatively, for the annual town meeting. The latter was scheduled for March 30 but postponed due to Gov. Janet Mills’ stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“I think we all know the situation we’re in,” Town Manager Richard Davis said. “Revenues have dropped drastically. I spoke with (Fire) Chief Terry Bell about cutting his budget, making it a little more manageable. $125,000 was taken out of the reserve account, eliminating it completely this year.”

Davis said the budget stands at $68,673 more than last year, and some personnel changes were made.

“We were asking for two per diems,” Bell said. “I cut one of those positions. Originally we asked for two more full-time positions.

“I strongly feel we should keep that in the budget,” he said. “Our biggest problem is manpower. By adding two more firefighters, we’ll be able to have 24-hour coverage. I feel that’s the most important thing in the budget.”

Selectman Matthew Smith said he was not a fan of doing away with the reserve account. He had planned to request all budgets be taken back to last year, other than insurance, pay increases and fixed costs.

Davis said some budgets were already lower than last year.

Bell said the fire and rescue station is not manned Sunday and Monday nights.

“We’re getting by, we have for years,” he said. “You can’t put the fire out if you don’t have people. For whatever reason, people are not showing up.”

Joshua Bell, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he was not comfortable cutting the reserve account to zero.

“It’s hard to have good financial practices and add personnel at this time,” he said. “Is there a way to add money into the reserve account and adjust personnel to another scenario to keep the budget the same?”

Selectman Scott Landry said he hated to lose the reserve.

“We really need younger people on the Fire Department,” he said. “I know the coverage situation, know what these people go through, what’s expected of them. We need help, we just went through a crisis. It’s proven. I would rather cut reserve than people,” he said.

Selectman Stephan Bunker said, “It’s really unfortunate that it’s come to this point in a year where we need a greater resolve for the Fire Department is also the year that it’s toughest to accommodate it too.”

Chief Bell said one full-time firefighter was better than none. He agreed to bring a different proposal to the board.

Police Chief Jack Peck said he was able to cut $65,966 from his budget. Two open positions were cut from one-year to six-months, and vehicle and equipment was cut by $20,000. The vehicle account was increased by $11,500.

“In the original budget last November $40,000 was budgeted for one vehicle,” Peck said. “We’re using state surplus, state police vehicles now. They seem to be working well.”

Peck noted travel, training and conference costs are other areas where more cuts could be made.

“Even the (police) academy is closed,” he said.

“I want to do what’s right,” he said. “I’m willing to look at it again before town meeting to pare those numbers.”

The board took no action on the proposed changes.

It did approve doubling the traffic light maintenance budget.

Davis said almost $17,000 has been spent.

“There were a lot of problems with lights on the Wilton Road a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “There was a problem at Hannaford and at the Walmart intersection.

Davis recommended increasing that budget from $10,000 to $20,000 to cover those costs once the budget is finally adopted.

In other business, the board agreed hold town elections Tuesday, July 14, the same day as the statewide primary elections. They tentatively set the annual town meeting for Monday, July 20, at 7 p.m.

Davis said the town meeting may need to be by written ballot this year. He is looking into the town’s options.


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