FARMINGTON — Selectmen spent almost three hours Tuesday reviewing proposed budgets for some town departments.

While not all figures are available yet, the figures to date project a $2.3 million increase over last year’s approved budget of $6.85 million. That doesn’t include a potential $1 million for fixing the roof at the Community Center.

In December, the board approved a 7.3% cost of living adjustment for employees. That increase was projected to cost the town just over $177,000.

Town Manager Christian Waller has compared Farmington’s pay scales to Maine towns of similar size and is recommending additional pay increases for some employees.

Some retirement lines were also increased as several staff are at the age they could retire, Waller said. He wanted to retain them for two or more years so their experience isn’t lost.

Numbers for health insurance and worker’s comp are still being worked on, Waller said. “We do have some good options on the table,” he said. “Safety incentives were increased throughout towards improving safety.”

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“This is a bit of sticker shock,” Selectman Stephan Bunker said. “This is Christian’s first run through this. COLA and wages, salaries, trying to help with recruitment, retention. I’m getting all of that.”

“I knew this was coming,” Selectman Chairman Matthew Smith said.

Some departments are also looking to add staff or move part-time personnel to full time because of workloads. Phil Hutchins, who leads Public Works, hasn’t been able to take a full vacation in more than two years.

“I’m mentally, physically burned out,” he said.

Charity Sargood with the Community Center will be moved to Parks and Recreation and become full time. Parks and Recreation Director Matthew Foster said he hopes to add two full-time and one part-time staff to the Community Center.

“It’s difficult to run programs with only two full-time people if one is on vacation or out sick,” he noted.

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Also proposed are making two per diem firefighters full time and including funds to hire more police officers. Personnel and training expenses are increased for some departments, too.

It is a different world today, Smith said. “We’ve depleted the workforce,” he noted. “If we don’t take care of the employees we’ve got, we’re going to lose more. Most department heads have had multiple offers to leave. We need to make sure they don’t.”

How to tackle projects such as the Community Center roof and road repairs/construction would also affect the budget, Waller said. He suggested putting more money toward roads and changing the five-year road plan to three-years to improve roads more quickly.

Last July the board was told grant funds had to be returned. The grant would have installed an HVAC system to heat, cool and ventilate the entire Community Center, but the roof wouldn’t structurally support the added weight.

“In 1988 or 1989 there was a structural analysis done on the roof,” then-Town Manager Richard Davis said in July. “At that time it didn’t meet the modern snow load requirements. The roof must have been leaking at that time. Rather than put in the amount of money we were looking at at the time, in order to stop the leaks we put a rubber membrane on it.”

Selectmen have since discussed the possibility of using American Rescue Plan Act funds for the roof with no decision made.

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A recommendation to add $375,000 to the Fire Rescue Reserve Account for replacing a fire truck was reduced to $157,000.

“It may make sense to finance it, maintain our credit rating,” Waller said. If approved, a grant would cover $500,000 of the cost, he noted.

Revenues from Farmington solar farm are expected to be $709,000 per year on average, with more at the beginning of the 20-year lease, Waller said.

Selectmen plan to vote on the budget at their Jan. 25 meeting. Use of ARPA funds are to be decided too as that may impact budget numbers.

 

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