FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted Tuesday night, April 12, to table until April 26 approval of the town’s sewer budget and usage rates.

New selectman Byron Staples had requested approval be tabled until after the May 9 annual town meeting.

“The budget did go up a little this year,” department head Stephen Millett said prior to Staples’ request. Pay raises, insurance, an upgrade and having spare parts on hand if needed contributed to the increase, he said.

When asked, Millett said the proposed budget would not cause usage rates to change.

The sewer budget changed last Friday, Staples noted and he wanted more time to get some answers.

“I think it is important we see what happens at town meeting and see what voters decide,” he said. “There’s a lot of similarities between budgets, it is important to get a feel for how the voters are going to react.”


While selectman Stephan Bunker appreciated the observations, he said the sewer budget is a separate account for those who use water and sewer. As such, it stands aside from town meeting, it is the selectmen’s prerogative to make those decisions, Bunker noted.

“As a representative of the taxpayers, I feel the voters who are voting might also potentially be the sewer rate payers,” Staples said. Some of his confusion centered on a previous revision which had a 4.69% increase while the latest one was 11.78%.

“I don’t know if it was the way it was published before or not, but it looks like something changed,” he said.

A lot goes into the budget, sewer employee Mavis Gensel said. “We know how everything is going straight up, [Millett] might have to drop another line item because the cost of pumps is going up.

“We never know, it is a crap shoot when we are doing our budget,” she noted. The department keeps its budget incredibly close, based on prior year’s budgets, Gensel said and added the department is under the gun to get the bills out.

Selectman Chair Matthew Smith asked if there was a particular part of the budget Staples was not comfortable with.


There is no reserve account balance, no fund balances, Staples said.

The 2021 figures from the auditor haven’t been received yet, Gensel said. The department’s bottom line is over $5 million, has about $2.4 million in reserves, she noted.

“During the pandemic a lot of uses dropped dramatically, putting the department about $70,000 in the hole,” Gensel said. She gave University of Maine Farmington not taking in students as an example. The department fund balance absorbed that and there are projects going on now that will increase use, Gensel noted.

“As they flush, (income) should go up,” she said.

A copy of the budget was shared with selectmen and the budget committee, Town Manager Christian Waller said. Any pay adjustments were made by Waller.

Resident Ryan Morgan questioned what would happen if this budget were to pass with a 25% increase for staff and voters decide not to pass other budgets at town meeting.


“I’ve got something to say about that,” Gensel said. She has been working for the town for almost 33 years, is making less than $20 per hour and last year a counter clerk was hired at almost the same pay level, she noted.

“I have had no raise for 14 years,” she said. “I am tired of it. I could almost go to Walmart. It’s not fair.”

In addition to her work for the sewer department, Gensel is also responsible for legal work. She does all the tax liens and foreclosures.

“My job is huge, I deserve a raise,” she said. “When I leave in a couple years, they’re going to pay somebody a whole lot more than they are paying me.”

Staples said he was on board with Gensel (regarding pay) 100%, but felt there were a few other things that might need to be revised.

“The raise 14 years ago was nothing more than a longevity raise, that was it,” Gensel said. “Talk about used and abused. I am over it.”


Smith asked if putting off a decision for two weeks would give Staples time enough. Staples wanted to stick with his original motion.

There was no second for tabling approval until after town meeting.

Bunker then moved to table the decision until April 26 to give Staples time to review the budget.

“I don’t like the idea of it,” he said. “I am hearing from staff in all departments costs for products and services are going up every single month.”

In other business the board approved using $5,857.94 from the unassigned fund balance to aid Franklin County for an upgrade to the fuel station. The total cost is $16,250 for the keys currently being used to be replaced with magnetic key cards. The station is for gasoline.

“If a key is lost it can be stopped immediately and reissued right then, ” Waller said. It will provide better control should a key be lost, he noted.

Farmington has a similar arrangement with Regional School Unit 9 for diesel, Bunker said. He wished the county could do something similar to that regionally.

“I think this is a great thing,” Morgan said. “We have saved a lot of money, purchasing in bulk has helped.”

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