JAY — Selectpersons voted Monday to allow the fire rescue chief to present the Budget Committee next week with an alternative budget that includes money for a daytime position on weekdays.

Jay Fire Rescue Department put out help wanted signs in the fall in an effort to attract more firefighters. Six people responded, three were hired and one stayed. Sun Journal file photo

The position would provide for an extra person on duty who would be able to get the apparatus to the scene and get something done, Fire Rescue Chief Mike Booker said. Otherwise, it is mostly just him responding to calls during the daytime.

The alternative budget of $301,139 is $32,239 more than the initial proposed spending plan.

The Select Board and Budget Committee will vote on the proposed overall nearly $5.5 million budget for 2022-23 at 5 p.m. Monday at the Spruce Mountain Elementary School gym.

Booker told the board that “manpower is getting worse and worse.”

There are two on-call positions for daytime weekdays and it is difficult to find firefighters to fill them, he said.

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He started with 12 people signing up for the all-call service and now there are only a few people, including himself, responding to daytime calls.

Two of his most dedicated firefighters who were around during daytime hours have taken other jobs and at least one of them is out of town.

“I am just trying to figure out” how to provide service, he said.

Many times he is the only one on duty, he said.

In August, the Select Board voted to increase Booker’s annual pay to $25,000. It came with the understanding that he would be on call weekdays for emergencies about 170 days a year and take extra duties due to the staff shortage.

The per diem shift would be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, he said. It could be filled by various firefighters, he said.

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“We’d have to pull from other communities,” Booker said. He knows of some firefighters from other departments that would be willing to fill daytime shifts.

Booker’s full-time job is as a lieutenant on the Mexico Fire Department. He works three days on and six days off.

Overall, the Jay department had 363 calls in 2021. Of that number, there was no one available to respond to 27 emergency medical service calls, according to information Booker presented to the town manager. Fifty-six of the calls were for mutual aid. Jay responded to 336 calls. Last year, there was 65  fewer calls than in 2020, he said.

Firefighters responded to 67 crashes in 2021.

“We did cut back on medical responses in November,” Booker said, because of limited manpower.

The increase of $32,600 in the alternative budget is about $16 an hour for daytime worker, he said.

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“This week I am on by myself,” he said.

He has someone to work three days next week while he is working in Mexico. He will be on the rest of the week in Jay by himself.

There are 32 firefighters on the roster, six of them are shared with Livermore Falls and Wilton, he said.

The department has tried to get new firefighters on board. Help wanted signs were put all over town, including in front of the stations last year. Six people responded, three were hired but only of them stayed.


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