FARMINGTON — Selectmen discussed revisions to the proposed 2020 budget Tuesday evening, April 28, accepting recommendations for changes in the police department and traffic light maintenance budgets, but requested the fire department budget be gone over again. The Board also approved July 14 as the date for town elections and a tentative date of July 20 for the annual town meeting.

The town meeting was originally scheduled for March 30, but was postponed because of Gov. Mills’ stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Town Manager Richard Davis said, “I think we all know the situation we’re in. Revenues have dropped drastically. I spoke with 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 now is $68,673 more than last year and some personnel changes were made.

Chief Bell said, “We were asking for two per diems. 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. 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 things that can’t be controlled.

Davis said some other budgets were already lower than last year.

Chief Bell said the 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.”

Selectman Chairman Joshua Bell 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.”

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 year to six month positions and vehicle and equipment cut by $20,000. The vehicle account was increased by $11,500.

Peck said, “In the original budget last November $40,000 was budgeted for one vehicle. 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 academy is closed,” he said. “The summer conference has been canceled, I’m not sure of the fall conference.

“I want to do what’s right. 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 Hannafords 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 to set town elections for Tuesday, July 14, the same date as the national primary elections if they can safely be held. They tentatively set the annual town meeting date for Monday, July 20 at 7 p.m.

Davis said the meeting would be held in the Community Center if physical assemblies are possible then.

“At this point we really don’t know,” he said.

Factors to consider include: people may not be comfortable meeting, social distancing requirements and tracking the number of cases increasing or decreasing.

Davis said the town meeting may need to be referendum style by written ballot this year. One option being considered is absentee voting, which could be costly due to mailing the ballots. He is looking in to the town’s options.

 

 


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