FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Thursday night approved a budget for 2021 that is $741,252 more than 2020.

The almost $6.85 million budget is up 12.1% with most of the increase coming from workers’ compensation. The adjustments are a result of the 2016 explosion at the LEAP building on the Farmington Falls Road.

Farmington Fire Rescue’s budget request of $771,154 drew the most discussion. It was approved in a 3-2 vote with Selectmen Stephan Bunker, Michael Fogg and Scott Landry in favor and Selectmen Joshua Bell and Matthew Smith opposed.

The fire rescue budget is up $204,604.

A full year of wages is included for the two full-time firefighters added last August. Another proposed per diem firefighter would provide 10 hours of coverage Monday through Friday.

“Our biggest problem is manpower,” Fire Chief Terry Bell said. Volunteers aren’t available all the time, he noted.

Towns nearby have much bigger fire department budgets, Bell said.

Joshua Bell asked if potential for manpower was available through Foster Career Technical Education Center in Farmington and the new training center.

Attendance is down at Foster this year with the new law enforcement program and EMT classes offered during the day, Chief Bell said.

Farmington Fire has five new people: three college students along with two other men.

“One college student has been on two years,” Chief Bell said. “I don’t know anywhere where people don’t know firefighters are needed.”

Next year will the department be asking for the per diem person to become full time, Joshua Bell asked.

Chief Bell said more full-time firefighters would probably be needed in the future, but maybe not next year.

People are moving here, the town is getting bigger, he said. They want the things they had in the city, he added.

It’s costly to run an efficient fire department, Selectman Michael Fogg said.

“The community has supported, recognizes what it takes. I hope when they see (the increase) they will understand and support it,” he said.

Bunker asked what the impact of the additional person would be.

For structure fires, departments are required to have two trained people outdoors, Chief Bell said. Without that, no one can go inside to fight the fire — unless there is a person inside who needs rescuing, he noted.

Captain TD Hardy said that during the day two trucks are driven to calls and the additional person would allow a second person on one of the trucks.

This year, the department’s request does stick out, Bunker said. “It’s the only department increasing staffing levels to any extent.”

Chief Bell said the department’s budget would decrease $30,817 for salary and related expenses if the additional per diem worker was not included. There could also be some additional savings in clothing and equipment, depending on who was hired, he said.

The cost of the per diem is minimal compared to the workers’ compensation, Landry said.

Farmington Fire puts a lot of effort into supporting surrounding communities, Landry said.

“If we go ahead with this, I’d like to see an increase in support from surrounding towns,” he said.

The board set Monday, April 26, for the town meeting when warrant articles will be voted on at the polls because of state restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19. Voters will cast ballots at the Community Center. Hours have not been set.

A public hearing on the budget was suggested for April 12.

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