Options to make the department full time and merge with Hamilton’s Fire Department were also explored. The group determined that a merger with Hamilton would not address the town’s immediate needs, but the idea should be looked into further, Andrews said.
Andrews said the proposed changes would cost the town about $113,000, bringing the department’s budget total to $614,000.
It is recommended that the move be paid for with recurring revenue, including $40,000 in savings from joining the regional dispatch center, $35,000 from a payment in lieu of taxes from Gordon College and an expected $20,000 from the Penguin Hall development.
“We are looking at keeping our fiscal impact as low as possible, while providing this new hybrid level of service,” Andrews said.
A full-time department, including at least three firefighters 24 hours a day, would cost the town about $1 million to operate each year, according to the group.
Andrews said the proposal to add a firefighter and increase the chief’s hours has been included in his preliminary budget for next fiscal year, which residents will vote on at Town Meeting on April 6.