Commissioners cut UT budget; a Rangeley controversy brews

4 mins read

FARMINGTON – County commissioners set the budget for the unorganized territories today, cutting more than $100,000 in department requests.

The final UT budget for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 was set at $871,870 by unanimous vote, a $60,000 decrease from the previous year’s budget. Commissioners cut more than $142,000 out of the requested amount, mostly in paving and road maintenance costs.

Commissioners cut $90,000 out of the paving account, instead planning to utilize reserve accounts for the limited work planned for next year. They also cut $31,000 out of the summer roads budget, denying requested increases in the general maintenance line and reducing other miscellaneous items.

Another reduction may spark future controversy and debate with the town of Rangeley. Commissioners rejected a nearly $15,000 increase in Rangeley’s fire protection line, after the town informed the county it wanted to buy a new fire truck.

Franklin County Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon is sworn in for another term today by Dedimus Justice Penny Camfferman.

The fire protection relationship between the county and the towns in northern Franklin County is a long and complex one. The county pays the towns in order to get fire coverage in the unorganized territories it oversees and is augmented by the Salem Fire Department. That department is entirely controlled by the county.

Rangeley has argued that since its equipment is used in the UT, specifically the northwestern portion, the county should help purchase the new truck. In an email addressed to the county, Town Manager Perry Ellsworth spelled out the board of selectmen’s position.

“The Selectmen of the Town of Rangeley feel this purchase [of a fire truck] is part of our cost to provide the best services as a regional provider,” the email read.

It goes on to state that “Presently the Town of Rangeley is not in favor of supplying services beyond June 30, 2009 [when the current contract between town and county expires] unless we receive the signed contract by [April 1, 2009].”

County Clerk Julie Magoon said that her consultations with those familiar with the UT laws and regulations had informed her that the county cannot legally give money to the town departments for the purpose of purchasing capital.

“We can’t fund capital improvements,” Magoon said.

Commissioners were not in favor of the proposal anyway, and Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay, said that he was “disappointed” by the request.

“I don’t think the county should be held hostage by communities that don’t get what they want,” McGrane said.

The commissioners removed the $15,000 increase from Rangeley’s fire protection contract line, instead approving a much smaller increase to reach a total of $18,500.

“I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this,” Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon, said.

In addition to some reductions by the commissioners, some departmental expenses came in lower than last year’s. NorthStar Ambulance, which provides ambulance services for the UT, showed a reduction of $6,000 or roughly 10 percent.

“Is it OK if we lower the budget this year?” Director David Robie joked. He said that the NorthStar board of directors had worked hard to keep expenses down, and was commended by the commissioners.

In other business, Magoon reported a series of problems with the aging Superior Courthouse building. These include boiler breakdowns, radiator problems and damage to the external facade. Mechanical Services Inc. are looking at the problems.

“This building is in tough shape,” she said.

McGrane and Hardy were also sworn in today by Dedimus Justice Penny Camfferman. Both were reelected in November.

Franklin County Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay, is sworn in for another term today by Dedimus Justice Penny Camfferman.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email