Commissioners review new ARPA fund requests

8 mins read

FARMINGTON – The Franklin County Commissioners reviewed ten new applications for the county American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in their quarterly review.

During the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, ARPA Grant Coordinator Sue Pratt introduced each of the new applicants and two previous applicants.

Franklin County received $5.86 million in ARPA funds from the federal government and the commissioners have already allocated approximately half of the sum.

LEAP, Inc. brought forward their request for $240,000 towards staff retention. This request is intended to pay two bonuses of $1,000 each to all of the LEAP direct support employees who work directly with LEAP clients.

SeniorsPlus presented their request for $125,000 towards a new Meals on Wheels and Education Facility in Lewiston. They are requesting grant funding from Oxford and Androscoggin counties as well.

These proposals had already been discussed by the commissioners and tabled for the time being until the county determines the cost of a proposed new ‘Emergency Operations’ building at County Way.

Pratt briefly introduced the new applicants.

The Franklin County Agricultural Fair (also known as the Farmington Fair) requested $1.25 million towards a complete rebuild of the fair grandstand. The grandstand was originally built in the 1880s and work has been done to maintain it, but the structure is in need of a complete rebuild. This project is expected to help bolster the fair and support the local agricultural activities.

The Phillips Area Community Center (PACC) asked for $80,000 for a new roof on the PACC building. The building was originally a flat roof and at some point a peaked roof was added on top of the building. The structure appears quite sound from the attic but the standing seam metal roof is in need of replacement to help preserve the integrity of the building. The PACC has tried raising funds towards the roof repair but have been unable to make much headway as they deal with other unexpected maintenance projects. The PACC hosts a wide spectrum of community events from memorial services to school fundraisers, and serves as a community meeting space for the area.

The United Methodist Economic Ministry in Salem Township requested $24,042.50 for the winterization of the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse is used seasonally to house mission crews that perform volunteer projects in the area, but if the structure were winterized, it could be used to extend the timeframe for those service projects. It could also be used as short-term housing for families in the area, such as the four households that were displaced by structure fires in Strong, Freeman, and Phillips in the last two months. The American Red Cross is available to assist in such situations, but typically houses displaced families in a hotel, which means traveling to Wilton or farther. A short-term option closer to home may be a better choice for families.

Western Maine Community Action asked for $25,000 for supplies such as a washing machine, dryer, fridge, tables, chairs, and other items for a new daycare facility. A partnership between Franklin Community Health Network and WMCA, the daycare will be located at Franklin Memorial Hospital and will prioritize hospital staff, WMCA staff, and first responders for placements in the center, but any remaining spaces would be offered to the public.

Lifeline for ME presented two proposals to the commissioners; the first was for $602,000 towards a new recovery housing facility. The second proposal was for $50,000 to support the recovery housing facility that has recently opened in Farmington, called the Summit House. The smaller request would support the Summit House for the first year and help cover the lease, a small stipend for a house manager, grants for the first month’s rent for residents who qualified for that assistance, and some essential household items.

The Farmington Farmers Market asked for $9,000 towards the Maine Harvest Bucks program. Farmington Farmers Market is the only one in the county that has a SNAP machine to allow people to use SNAP benefits at the farmers market, and people travel to Farmington from the northern part of the county to be able to access the farmers market. The Harvest Bucks program essentially doubles the SNAP benefits, incentivising people to use SNAP benefits at the farmers market while supporting local farmers.

The Town of Wilton requested $1.5 million towards the water pipeline project. This project is estimated to cost nearly $10 million to replace the 70-year-old system. However, because Wilton has already received grant funds from the USDA towards the project, the town is not eligible for additional federal funds in the form of ARPA dollars.

Maine Stream Place presented two proposals, one for $98,000 for an adult trades education program. This would be a partnership with local professionals such as electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, and welders to train adults in the basics of the trade with the goal of the student securing an apprenticeship in the trades.

The second proposal from Maine Stream Place was for $35,000 towards an intense youth education program with Boeing-trained youth engineering students from Seattle, Washington. This would be a one-time program for one week with the goal of this year’s students acting in a mentoring role for the same program next year.

The final new application was from the Wilton Lion’s Club for a heat system solution. The club requested $35,000 towards a heating solution in their building, which is the former Legion Hall. The boiler furnace is failing and the club has explored options for replacing the boiler and for installing heat pumps with the old boiler serving as a back-up option. The total cost is estimated between $31-$45,000 and the club is willing to fundraise towards it, but time and money spent on fundraising limit their options for their community support and investment work.

The commissioners reviewed all of the requests but took no action. The county recently applied for congressionally-directed spending towards the Emergency Operations building for the sheriff’s office, Franklin County Dispatch, and Franklin County Emergency Management Agency. If the county is awarded congressional funds towards that project, ARPA funds cannot be used. The county hopes to have an answer on the congressional funds by the end of April and would then be able to make a decision on the remaining APRA funds.

This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org


Other stories related to Franklin County ARPA funds:

Commissioners agree to quarterly review of ARPA applications


Commissioners discuss use of ARPA funds for county offices


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