FARMINGTON — Selectmen postponed the approval of hiring two full-time firefighters Tuesday in order to allow time to amend a nepotism clause within the town’s hiring policy that now makes the two applicants ineligible.

The applicants, Timothy D. Hardy and Scott Baxter, both have immediate family members who are volunteer per-diem firefighters for the Farmington Fire and Rescue Department. Town Manager Richard Davis did not realize the conflict in approving the employment of Hardy and Baxter until the day of the meeting.

“I’ve seen their qualifications. They are obviously well qualified. It’s just the policy,” Davis said. “Before they are hired, you would have to amend the policy first, and that will require another meeting.”

Selectmen had no qualms about the applicants’ qualifications and were in favor of Davis drafting an amendment to the policy that would allow for the hiring of the full-time firefighters. The hiring of Hardy and Baxter was postponed until the selectmen’s April 26 meeting, before which an amendment will be drafted.

Hardy, a Fire Department member for 19 years, and Baxter, a member for 10, are the first two full-time firefighter recommendations brought to the Board of Selectmen by Fire Chief Terry Bell since voters approved the addition of four full-time firefighter/emergency medical technician positions to the entirely volunteer department on March 28 at Town Meeting.

Bell said there are nine other applicants for the positions, but that Hardy and Baxter are the most qualified at present.

“These two people are from within the department, who have all of the qualifications today,” Bell said. “They are very well qualified and have been here for a very long time.”

The town’s hiring policy now states that “any individual applying for a position with the town in any department of ten or more employees will be ineligible if the vacancy exists within the same shift, section of division in which an immediate relative (mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, son or daughter) of the family is employed.”

The department has an exception to this clause in its own departmental hiring policy. However, only paid-per-call firefighters can qualify for the exception. As was pointed out by Bell and Davis, only paid-per-call are specified as exceptions because full-time positions did not exist at the time the policy was drafted.

Davis said he will draft an amendment to the clause before the next meeting that would allow the department to hire immediate relatives of other department members for full-time positions as long as one immediate family member does not report to another.

Bell said the way the department structure will function falls within that restriction, as per diem firefighters report to Bell directly, not to the full-time firefighters.

At their meeting Tuesday, selectmen also discussed what the town should do about its 56 foreclosed properties. Town Treasurer Dianna Young said she has been working with account holders on some of the properties in setting up monthly or annual payments of back taxes owed to the town. Young said she suggests continuances for 28 of the accounts, “hoping that we can resolve these in the very near future” and be able to give the deed back to the account holder. She also suggested continuances for 16 properties that were foreclosed on in February.

However, account holders for 11 foreclosed properties have made no attempt to work with the town to pay the owed taxes and regain ownership, she said. Young said these properties were “the most egregious,” with some of the last payments on the accounts dating back to 2007.

Selectmen decided to move forward on the disposal of those 11 properties, and the town will put them up for sale.

Two items brought before the board Tuesday revolved around an assisted living center that Woodlands Senior Living wants to build in Farmington. The project, Woodlands Memory Care of Farmington, would be a 36-bed specialized residential care facility serving people with Alzheimer’s disease and related memory impairments.

Matthew Walters, of Woodlands Senior Living, approached selectmen this winter about establishing a facility in Farmington, but he said the project would be financially viable only if the town designated the land on which they build the facility a tax increment financing district. The selectmen were receptive to the idea of such a facility coming to Farmington, but they asked Walters to return to the board later with TIF terms.

The first item discussed Tuesday in relation to the project was the need to construct a sewer main to serve the facility. Woodlands said it anticipates being under contract within several days to buy a 38 acres of farmland on Knowlton Corner Road, where no sewer main exists.

Davis said the town would ask that Woodlands cover the engineering costs associated with the development of the sewer main and that the town would cover the construction costs. Davis is applying for a $250,000 grant with a $50,000 match requirement that he thinks would cover the cost, though a projected cost of the project is not yet known. The $50,000 match would likely come from the Franklin Printing tax increment financing district reserve account.

In the second Woodlands item, selectmen reviewed the requested TIF district terms that Walters sent to Davis in an April 8 letter. Walters is requesting that for 10 years the town reimburse 100 percent of the incremental tax revenue to Woodlands.

Feeling that 10 years of tax reimbursement was a little longer a term than anticipated, selectmen moved to table establishing a TIF district until their next meeting, when they can negotiate the terms in an executive session.

Finally, selectmen approved the hiring of Dirigo Engineering in providing civil engineering services for the 112 Church St. building demolition and parking lot construction project.

For a maximum total of $13,000 Dirigo will draft building demolition and parking lot design plans, conduct a conditions survey, draft a cost estimate for the project, as well as provide contract administration and construction monitoring once the project gets underway.

Once Dirigo finishes the design plans and cost estimates for the building demolition and parking lot, the project will be put out to bid.

This story has been corrected to reflect the date of the next selectmen’s meeting.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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