In response to rising costs and decreased volunteerism, Wilton officials are poised to take a first step toward regionalization of fire services in rural Maine after months of discussion.

They are looking into forgoing the purchase of an expensive aerial ladder truck for the town, and instead are considering sharing one with a neighboring town.

A public informational meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Academy Hill School on the options for replacing the town’s out-of-service ladder truck.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish said the town could decide to pay a share of the cost of a truck with Jay, Farmington or both, or pay to share a truck for a few years and then buy another truck of its own, or buy one without sharing it with another town.

Fire departments throughout Franklin County have been considering ways to take a more regional approach to fire protection, even holding a countywide meeting last April on regionalizing. Irish said the town had been considering its options before the countywide discussions began.

Irish said no special town meeting on the issue is expected this year, but officials are gathering information that probably will be presented to voters at the annual Town Meeting in June.

While the Wilton Fire Department has four trucks, including the one out of service, Irish said, the department also plans downsize to three by trading in another.

She said newer truck models have more advanced technology and can perform the functions of the two trucks in need of replacement.

Farmington submitted a proposed sharing agreement under which Wilton would pay an estimated $23,321 annually. Jay officials submitted a proposal for an estimated $11,670 annually.

Irish said if the town shares a truck, it may need to sign agreements with both towns.

The proposals submitted from Jay and Farmington are similar, Irish said, but the agreement with Farmington includes the cost of three paid Farmington firefighters to respond with the truck. In Jay, firefighters don’t work scheduled shifts at the department.

Farmington selectmen indicated interest Tuesday night in entering an agreement with Wilton to share their aerial truck. The truck was bought new for $812,000 in 2007, and if the two towns entered an agreement, it would remain at Farmington’s fire station, adjoined to the Town Office on Farmington Falls Road.

For $23,321 annually, Wilton’s residents could get full automatic response by the truck to chimney and structure fires, smoke in buildings and fire alarms at “high life hazard occupancies.” The three per-diem firefighters working day shifts at the Farmington station would be available for the calls in Wilton, which has no paid firefighter shifts.

The fee breaks down into $13,994 for the cost of the truck, $2,275 for maintenance, such as equipment tests and oil changes, $490 for fuel and $6,552 for staffing.

Town Manager Richard Davis said the truck would be leased, but would primarily serve as Farmington’s aerial ladder if a situation arose where both needed the truck at the same time.

“That would have to be made clear, that Farmington takes precedent,” he said.

Irish said even if the town does not go with a lease agreement with its neighbors, the communities have a history of collaborating with each other and will continue to do so. The potential lease agreement would be a way to increase the way they work together.

“Whether we go with them, our fire departments have always worked very well together,” she said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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