FARMINGTON — Farmington Fire Rescue Department officials presented a new budget proposal for selectmen to consider Tuesday night, May 12, that is up 5.25% over last year’s budget but $239,163 less than was requested earlier this year.

Fire Chief Terry Bell said the new budget includes two full-time firefighters. They would start once the annual Town Meeting is held and if voters approve the budget. The new $566,549 budget also includes $25,000 added back in to the reserve account, that had been removed prior to the budget discussion last month. The original budget included $125,000 for that account.

In January Selectmen approved the Fire Department’s budget request to cover additional staffing for 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage that would increase its budget by 50.54%.

Last month, Selectmen asked the department to reconsider proposed cuts that would have eliminated the reserve account among other things. The cuts were considered as municipal revenues may decrease due to the governor’s stay at home order to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

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 of the department. 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.

Selectman 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.

Captain TD Hardy said per diem workers would be used to reduce overtime used by current firefighters.

“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, personnel is being felt by other 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. We need to do this,” he said.

Selectman Matthew Smith commended the department for reducing their budget by almost 45%.

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

Smith said the department in the future may need to look at the services it provides, maybe get paid for them.

Selectman Scott Landry said Franklin County is a relatively poor county and at some point egos have to “get out of the way” regarding regionalization of area fire departments.

“We can’t duplicate services. We’ve got to take care of our citizens,” he said.

Selectman Michael Fogg said, “I think the town can support this proposal.”

Davis noted the fire department budget would only cover part of the year.

“There will be an increase next year. We need to get the reserve account back to where it needs to be,” he said.


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