County Commissioners approve TIF grant funding

7 mins read

FARMINGTON — Commissioner Clyde Barker was recently recognized for 41 years of public service in Franklin County. He served with the sheriff’s department for 30 years and as the county commissioner for the last 11 years.

Barker wanted to finish out his term, but made the decision to resign several months early due to illness that made it difficult for him to fulfill the role of commissioner. Resigning from his position was the hardest thing he’d ever done, he said. The meeting on May 17 was his final meeting.

Barker and Commissioner Lance Harvell both participated in the meeting via Zoom. Due to a power outage in the area, both commissioners lost connection for a brief period partway through the meeting, but were able to reconnect utilizing mobile devices.

A dumpster located on county property and paid for by United Insurance, Java Joe’s, and Tuck’s was recently found to be overflowing. Evidently, tenants above United used the dumpster when they left, and overfilled it. The owner of the building stepped up to address the overflow rubbish. This appeared to be the first instance of an overflow. The original agreement was between the county and Java Joe’s. After discussion, the commissioners determined that the use agreement should be updated to reflect all of the users and unless the overflow issue persists, they did not deem it necessary to make a change.

An update on American Rescue Plan Act funding was presented by Sue Pratt, the county’s consultant. Four bids on the jail drainage system were opened and the lowest, from CCC Construction, was accepted. CCC Construction was nearly $30,000 lower than the highest bid but since they had done the work on the septic system at the jail last summer, the commissioners felt comfortable awarding them the bid.

A request for funding from the Healthy Community Coalition to refurbish the Greenwood building near the hospital was reviewed and put on the ‘wishlist’. The request was for $156,000 out of a $800,000 project to create a community center and education facility.

Multiple requests for ARPA funds have been put on a wait list while conversations were had within the county about office space for multiple agencies. During the May 17 meeting, Pratt asked the commissioners for permission to put out a request for qualifications for an architect to work with the county on designing a multi-agency office space in the area of the sheriff’s office and the dispatch center. The idea is that the office space would have multiple entrances for each agency but include shared meeting rooms and a training space. A professional is needed to design the space, figure out what can be done with the existing structures, and meet the needs of the agencies. The commissioners approved the RFQ and the subject will be discussed further.

Flint Christie, president of Kyes Insurance, visited to discuss the cyber security policy complaint from the previous meeting. He explained that even though the county had suspect, executable files installed on their system, because the county had not actually suffered a loss of data, the policy was not activated and the claim was rejected. Christie was not aware that the county had removed the suspect files and then the insurance adjustor instructed them to work with the specialist, generating the expense they filed a claim for, so he agreed to look into it further.

An item not listed on the agenda and instead discussed under ‘miscellaneous’, the commissioners reviewed the TIF committee recommendations for grant funding. The TIF committee recommended a total of $235,000 for four grants: a 50/50 matching grant for a local business in Langtown Township, an inventory of recreational assets with High Peaks Alliance, and funding for a trailhead on conservation land in the Kennebago watershed. The final recommendation was of $120,000 for the Greater Franklin Development Council.

Brann said that he didn’t support giving more funding to GFDC. They gave $60,000 annually to GFDC prior to Charlie Woodworth taking over and Brann did not feel they had seen any changes to warrant increased funding.

Commissioner Harvell asked Brann if he recalled a conversation the two had, where Brann agreed to $60,000 for GFDC. Brann confirmed that he remembered the conversation and reiterated that he did not agree to $120,000.

Commissioner Barker asked if that discussion was held in a regular meeting, or just between themselves, adding that two commissioners is enough to make a meeting and that they needed to be careful about what they did. Brann stated that he didn’t think there was any improprieties and that they knew the rules.

After continued discussion between Woodworth, the commissioners, and Bob Carlton, a member of the TIF committee, Harvell seconded Barker’s motion to approve all the recommended grants, including the full $120,000 for GFDC. It passed, 2-1, with Brann opposing.

Also under miscellaneous, Amy Bernard, the newly hired county administrator, shared some discrepancies she had found in the budget. These included payroll and fuel budget line items: for instance, the fuel budget was set at the same price as the previous year, in the range of two dollars per gallon. Bernard recommended changing it to the current price of home heating oil. The changes were outlined in a document for the commissioners and the budget committee to review.

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