CHINA — After previously sparring over municipal funding for the fire department, Selectman Steven Hughes and South China Fire Chief Richard Morse uncrossed their wires at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting.

Morse objected to Hughes’ Jan. 2 motion to require an audit of China’s three fire departments’ budgets as a condition for continued town funding next year. Morse said he protested in a letter to the editor — it wasn’t clear in what publication — which Hughes said offended him.

Hughes said his motion was intended to apply only to the departments’ use of town money, not to money the department raises on its own through donations and fundraisers.

Good thing, said Morse, because his department is a nonprofit organization and its private money is its own business, not the town’s. Donations given to the fire departments and China Rescue are audited like all other town expenditures, fire officials said.

In fact, Morse and department treasurer Fred Glidden said, fire officials never see the money. They send bills to the Town Office and the staff put them on the biweekly warrant for selectmen to approve, deduct them from the department account and send back copies of the approved payments for department records.

Hughes said his proposal was not motivated by any suspicion of the departments, he was just trying to make sure documentation was in order to “be a good steward of town tax dollars.”

No one had a problem with that. China Rescue treasurer Webb Shaw noted that his agency pays taxes, too.

Hughes proposed reconsidering the Jan. 2 motion at a future meeting, which the board approved unanimously.

Representatives of all three volunteer fire departments and China Rescue were present Monday to answer questions as selectmen reviewed their budget requests for 2012-13. Total requests are up slightly from the current year.

The fire officials warned that the town is looking at a big capital expenditure soon: two of the three departments have old self-contained breathing apparatus, also known as air packs, and new ones cost close to $6,000 apiece.

The Weeks Mills department has the newest ones, five years old, after a successful grant application.

Morse said his are about 25 years old. So far, the chiefs said, the air packs are well maintained, regularly tested and in good working order.

But, Morse said, “one could break the next time we go out.”

Ideally, Morse thinks his department and China Village should each have eight new air packs.

He and Studley agreed that applying cooperatively for a grant, with Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux’s assistance, would be a good idea.

L’Heureux said the fire departments’ capital reserve fund has about $50,000 in it that could be used as matching money if a grant were approved or to buy some of the needed equipment without a grant.

Selectmen made no further progress on the proposed 2012-13 budget. They intend to complete the review next Monday.

Voters will make final decisions on the 2012-13 municipal budget at the annual town business meeting, scheduled for March 24.