FARMINGTON — Selectmen met with department heads Tuesday night, Jan. 5, to review their budget requests for 2021.

Town Manager Richard Davis said there is a large increase of about $743,000.

“Fully half of that increase is in worker’s comp as a result of the explosion,” he said. “We’ve paid out nearly $2 million and will continue to pay.”

Beyond that, the budget presented is about 0.5% over the original budget proposed last year prior to cuts being made, Davis said.

“It certainly isn’t out of line,” he said.

The town is expected to see substantial new revenue from the (Sandy River Farms) solar project and a healthy unassigned fund balance could be used to offset some of the increases, Davis noted.

“While it seems daunting at first, it can be workable,” he added.

A 2% cost of living adjustment across the board for all departments, except police whose pay was determined through contract negotiations, was given to all employees, Davis said. For the first time ever, there were no increases in health insurance premiums, he noted.

“That helped us out a lot,” Davis said.

The police department budget request is up $194,629 with most of the increase going to salaries, wages and associated personnel expenses. An additional $22,500 is being requested for vehicles.

“Last year we bought two used vehicles,” Interim Police Chief Shane Cote said.

He is looking to purchase a new vehicle this year to replace a 2013 model with more than 100,000 miles on it. All vehicles are getting up there in age, requiring more repairs, he added.

“The state won’t always have used cars available,” Cote said.

One older vehicle was retained last year so that each officer would have a vehicle, he said.

Part of the contract negotiations to retain officers was to provide a vehicle for each officer, Davis said.

About $5,000 was added to contractual services after it was discovered some contracts hadn’t been included in the 2020 budget, Cote said. Costs for other services have increased, he added.

The fire rescue budget is up $204,604 with $51,417 coming from additional wages and $3,000 more in overtime.

A full year of wages is included for the two full-time firefighters added last August and an additional per diem firefighter providing 10 hours of coverage Monday through Friday, Chief Terry Bell noted.

“That will give us four people here during the daytime for emergency calls,” he said.

Overtime was increased to cover vacations and while firefighters injured in the explosion are receiving additional medical care, he said.

Selectman Joshua Bell asked if coverage would still be 24-hours.

Yes, one more person would be a big benefit with the two-in two-out system used, Chief Bell said. It’s $28,000 for the per diem person, he added.

Other items in the fire/rescue budget were brought back up to where they were prior to cuts last year, Chief Bell said.

There were 484 calls last year, a lot of calls, he noted.

Davis noted there were several calls in just the last two weeks.

“This last pay period is kind of frightening to me,” Chief Bell said.

Vehicle maintenance was increased $3,000 to cover routine maintenance/inspections and to repair a problem with the pump primer on the ladder, he said.

Chief Bell said grants will be used whenever possible.

“An attempt to get new air packs that way last year didn’t work,” he said. “We are going to put in to replace Engine 2. If we get it, that will be a big savings to the community.”

The town would pay 5% of the cost with up to a year to pay if the grant was awarded,  Chief Bell added.

“Numbers are up,” Selectman Michael Fogg said. “You have to do what you have to do.”

Almost $61,000 of the $121,119 increase in the public works proposed budget is for worker’s comp, Director Philip Hutchins said.

Under vehicle and equipment reserve, an additional $20,000 is being requested for a total of $220,000, he said.

The loader was scheduled to be replaced last year, but that was skipped and the military conversion planned for 2021 was done instead, Hutchins said. Adding $20,000 would give $366,000 total and the department would be on track to replace the loader and the 2004 plow truck, he added.

After that, Hutchins said he would be comfortable not replacing anything in the fleet for three years.

Under administration, Fogg noted that it had been 10 years since selectmen had received a pay increase and last year he suggested an increase every five years.

“A $100 increase across the board would be $500,” Fogg said.

A proposal to change the pay when a position is up for renewal, similar to what has been discussed by the county, was suggested by Bell.

If a person isn’t re-elected, the new person coming in with no experience would get more than the current selectmen, Davis said.

“There’s another way to look at this,” budget committee member Clyde Ross said. “We don’t get a lot of participation running for any of our offices. An increase in pay does interest some people. It is an incentive.”

By consensus the increase was approved.

Under debt service it was noted the bank deferred the first payment on the new fire truck to Jan. 6, 2021, so a double payment needs to be budgeted for in 2021. The two payments with interest are $118,051.

 


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