FARMINGTON — In making its final recommendations on the 2016 budget, the Farmington Budget Committee recommended adding four full-time firefighters to the Fire and Rescue Department, as opposed to the status quo budget recommended by the Board of Selectmen.

At its meeting Wednesday night, the committee made its final recommendations on all of the proposed 2016 departmental budgets, which totaled $5,443,990, a 2 percent increase from last year. Budget Committee members voted to recommend a $5,420,031 budget, following the $5,388,052 budget that selectmen recommended at their meeting Tuesday night.

The committee accepted Fire Chief Terry Bell’s $434,492 budget request as its final recommendation by a vote of 4-3 with Chairman Clyde Ross abstaining from the vote because he is a Fire and Rescue Department member.

Bell’s request includes funding for the addition of four full-time firefighters to the department to make up for the decline in the number of on-call and per-diem firefighters in recent years.

An initial request made by Bell totaled $452,751, a $51,238 increase from the department’s 2015 budget. Bell was able to shrink that by reducing eight line items including stipends, motor fuel, computer fees, insurance, personnel expenses, on call firefighter wages and workers compensation.

With a roster of 25 firefighters with a median age of 53, Bell told committee members Wednesday that the addition of four firefighters would help guarantee that the department has enough qualified firefighters to respond to an increasing number of fire calls.

“With those full-time people, I can guarantee that the firetrucks will leave the station,” Bell said.

At their meeting Tuesday, selectmen recommended a status quo budget for the Fire and Rescue Department totaling $401,513, unchanged from last year, but using $14,179 from that budget to hire a consultant to study and look for solutions to the department’s staffing problems.

Budget Committee member Judith Murphy expressed discomfort in putting off adding full-time firefighters for another year to wait for feedback from a consultant, and she said she trusts the opinion presented by Bell in his budget request.

“In the meantime, there is no guarantee how long any of these (consultants) are going to take,” Murphy said. “Our expert is in this audience, and I don’t think he is being excessive,” Murphy added, referring to Bell.

The committee’s recommendations, the recommendations of the Board of Selectmen and those of the department heads will appear on the town warrant for residents to vote on March 28 at Town Meeting.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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