John Briggs, a Bremen Fire Department lieutenant and member of the town’s budget committee, gives a presentation on the proposed budget Jan. 21. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
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By Dominik Lobkowicz
The Bremen Budget Committee is recommending a 160 percent increase to wages for the Bremen Fire Department as an incentive to attract new members.
According to Lt. John Briggs, who is also a member of the budget committee, discussions have been on-going for the last several weeks about possibly paying department members for training.
“We’ve been unable to attract volunteers,” he said.
Briggs said the department is not requesting the $16,000 increase over last year’s $10,000 wage line, but if the Board of Selectmen decide to move forward with paying for training, that is how much it will cost.
“We’re totally agnostic about this,” Briggs said. “We want to attract more members, and this is a possible way to accomplish that.”
Fire Chief Fernald Poland said the department has roughly 22 to 24 members, only about 12 to 15 of that are people who can put on gear and do intensive work at a fire scene.
The remaining members are the older generation who primarily help out around the station and do support work, he said.
According to Briggs, the department’s existing membership never asked for the $2.50 stipend increase to $12.50 per hour when they respond to an emergency, and they never asked for the training pay either.
The $26,000 wage line would include $10,000 for emergency response, and $16,000 for training and maintenance: three two-hour sessions each month for 15 members at $15 per hour, according to town documents.
“To pay for training is as good a first step as anyone has come up with, and I don’t mean that as a shot,” said budget committee member Steve Maclachlan.
“[Paying for training] could be a show of faith that we’re willing to invest in you if you’re willing to invest back in us,” said Selectman John “Boe” Marsh.
According to committee Chair Lisa Wilson, if the training money does not attract members, the money will not be going out to pay for training.
“We’ll get what we pay for,” she said.
The department’s $14,000 equipment maintenance line was overspent by $2500 in 2013. Briggs said Engine 1 needed front end work and two new tires, and the used rescue truck the town bought in recent years needed major work as well.
The equipment maintenance line was increased to $20,000 in the department’s 2014 request, which would include previously un-budgeted costs for maintaining the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus, air compressor, extrication gear, radios, portable pumps, chainsaws, generators, and outboard motor, according to town documents.
Briggs also said with the department’s vehicles getting older, the department will not be spending any less on maintenance there.
“I think the $20,000 should cover, at this point, anything we can anticipate,” he said.
The building maintenance line was increased from $0 to $1000. Though the town has taken over building maintenance, the $1000 would cover miscellaneous items such as light bulbs, Briggs said. The utilities line in the budget was requested at $0, down from $12,000 last year.
The budget committee unanimously recommended a total budget of $56,500 for the fire department. The total is up $8,800 or 18.5 percent over last year.
The committee did not vote on the department’s request for $6000 for its new equipment reserve account.
The $6000 would go towards compliance with National Fire Protection Association and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, Briggs said.
In other business, the budget committee quickly recommended the Bremen First Responders’ request of $7000 for their total budget.
Selectman Hank Nevins, who is a member of the first responders, said the request is the same it has been for the last three years.