FARMINGTON — The Board of Selectmen approved a budget of $566,549 for the Fire Rescue Department on Tuesday night, a 5.25% increase over last year but $239,163 less than requested in January.

Fire Chief Terry Bell said the budget includes two full-time firefighters. They would start once the annual town meeting is held and if voters approve the budget. The new budget also includes $25,000 for the reserve account.

Last month, selectmen asked the department to reconsider proposed cuts that would have eliminated the reserve account among other things.

Town Manager Richard Davis said a proposal emailed to the board earlier would have kept the budget at last year’s amount of $535,223. No new personnel were included in that proposal, he said.

“I know it’s not flat lined,” Bell said. “I do have concerns with the personnel part.”

Deputy Chief Tim Hardy spoke of his observations during the six months he served as acting chief. Chief Bell was injured in the September 2019 explosion that killed one firefighter and injured five other firefighters and a LEAP, Inc. maintenance supervisor.

“Things are never going to be the same,” Hardy said. “I’m very concerned with how much more we can ask of our people.”

Hardy said some firefighters sit at home and aren’t able to do things with family or friends over fears of being called out. During a recent medical call, he was the only one who turned out while only four went to a fire alarm call, he said.

“We’re putting an overextended burden on our personnel. If we’re going to continue to provide service we need the resources to do so,” he said.

Board Chairman Joshua Bell asked what the overall budget would look like with the increase. Davis said there would be an increase of about $21,000, or less than 1%. The Police Department plans to bring further revisions to the board, he said.

Fire and Rescue Department Capt. TD Hardy said per diem workers would be used to reduce overtime.

“There will be less hours worked per week. It will reduce costs per week too,” he said.

Selectman Stephan Bunker said the town has a statutory requirement to provide fire services. The decrease in volunteers is being felt by all departments, he said.

“We’ve got to be able to pass the straight-face test. We’ve got to face this one head-on to meet those requirements,” he said.

Selectman Matthew Smith commended the department for its budget given the current financial situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“I can  support this, put it before the people to decide,” he said.


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