– Farmington Selectors Approve Town Assembly Terms of Reference as Written

FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted unanimously on Wednesday to keep $350,000 for road paving in the proposed 2022 budget, even though contractor and supply shortages may prevent work from getting done.

“The contractor’s schedules are 85% booked for the upcoming season,” said Philip Hutchins, head of the public works department. “There is about a six month backorder for drainage culverts.”

Typically, projects aren’t auctioned until after the annual municipal meeting, usually held at the end of March, but with that pushed back until May, everything will be postponed, he said. The 30-day bidding process will take things back to June, drainage products won’t be available until November, and culverts must be installed before paving, Hutchins noted.

The road budget could be reduced to the $300,000 approved last year or keep the extra to buy materials in advance and get a head start for next year, he said. If a budget of $300,000 is approved, the second phase of the High Street project will be completed but nothing more, Hutchins said.

“The conflict abroad is driving up oil prices; it’s hard to say how long this dispute will last,” Hutchins asked if he expected construction costs to drop next year.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth,” coach Stephan Bunker said. “It’s disappointing to see how the whole economy and market has changed.”

“I would lean towards leaving it in the budget; he’s there for a reason,” coach Michael Fogg said. “Next year, when (Hutchins) is ready to solidify the contracts, the money will already be there and he can do his business, without having to wait for the town hall in March. I don’t think this budget should be cut, the money we allocate to it will be used for exactly the same thing.

“I agree…it will help put us in a better position for 2023,” coach Scott Landry said.

“With the ongoing Russian conflict, you’re looking at a 60% increase this spring,” Hutchins said. A 15-inch culvert that used to cost $345 for a 20-foot section now costs $552, he noted. The budget for culverts is normally $15,000, he said.

Last year, pavement binder cost $68 a ton, today it’s $110 a ton, Hutchins said. There is a 20% inflation for non-oil products, he noted.

“I’m inclined to keep him,” coach Matthew Smith said. If not in use, it can be stored until you need it.

“It would be a way to reduce the budget,” coach Joshua Bell said. “I think the public would rather we have money to fix the roads, find other places to save money than take it from the roads.”

Selectmen voted 4-1 to accept the mandate as written. Bell voted in opposition.

In a special meeting on February 24, the board postponed the annual meeting – it was moved from March 28 to April 25 – to May 9, agreed to hold an executive session on Wednesday to discuss compensation of employees and then voted to approve the terms of reference during their meeting. Tuesday, March 8.

A consultation with the city attorney determined that the executive session would have been unlawful unless the discussion was about a specific individual, Smith said.

Budget discussions are a public process, Bunker said. An executive employee session should be about performance, behavior, discipline or a legal issue, he said.

In January, the board approved a budget of $8.5 million for 2022, up $1.65 million from 2021. That’s a 24.6% increase.

A cost of living adjustment of 7.3% was factored into the budget, along with additional salary increases to bring employees more in line with what similar cities are paying.

“Every year there’s a knee-jerk reaction to an increasing budget,” Fogg said.

“I think 24.6% causes this knee-jerk reaction,” Bell said.

“I admit that this budget process has been somewhat chaotic,” Smith said. “It was our learning year, we all make mistakes. Some of us weren’t communicating enough or giving enough advice.

“If you have an opinion, you love this city,” Smith said. It’s time to put it in a town meeting, let the voters debate it, he noted.

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