County commissioners vote to move administrative suite to new operations center

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FARMINGTON – The Franklin County Commissioners met on Tuesday afternoon. They were asked to decide whether or not the administrative offices should be moved to the future Emergency Operation Center on County Way.

If the offices remained in the Franklin County Courthouse, money would have to be invested to fit the District Attorney’s office into the ground-floor. The cost of each option would be roughly the same, County Administrator Amy Bernard said. “We’re going to spend it; it’s just how you want to.”

Commissioner Terry Brann questioned why making room for the DA’s office in the courthouse would be an issue: “The DA’s office was downstairs for many, many years,” he said. “I think they’ll fit in there.” It was brought up that they originally left because of an air quality issue, which Bernard confirmed had since been resolved, rather than a size issue.

“I would encourage you to do one project, and do it right,” said the Sheriff’s Department’s Lt. David Rackliffe. In his view, attempting to build the new emergency center and renovate the courthouse would be overly complicated and likely unsuccessful.

Commissioners Lance Harvell and Bob Carlton voted to move the administrative suite to the new Emergency Operation Center once it is built, citing that it was more logical to invest the money in the new building rather than putting “new money into an old structure,” as Carlton said. Commissioner Terry Brann voted against the move.

The commissioners reconsidered four projects for American Rescue Plan Act funding. These projects had been tentatively approved last June and put on hold pending the new operations center project. The County recently received an award letter from the Federal Government, allocating $2 million to the operations center project and allowing the county to utilize the ARPA funds for other projects. Representatives from each project approached to remind the board of what they had approved preliminarily.

The board voted unanimously to allocate a total of $310,500 for the following projects.

The Franklin County Agricultural society will receive $75,000 to go towards an engineering study for the eventual goal of replacing the Farmington Fair Grandstands. The roof of the Phillips Area Community Center needs replacing; the project was allocated $80,000.

Heaven’s Cupboard, a local service that delivers food across the county, is building a pre-kitchen for food washing and storage. Mike Pond explained the organization’s recent expansion to serve over 500 families throughout the area. He underscored the importance of what they do: “There is food hunger out there,” he said. “The need seems to be getting greater.” The board allocated $30,500 for a pre-kitchen, which would allow them to serve fresh produce and healthier food, and save costs by being able to preserve the food for longer.

The final project was the Mt. Blue Middle School Technical Education Center. The school’s principal James Black approached the board to explain the need for a ventilation system that would allow a space to teach students to cook and accomplish other necessary life tasks. The Commissioners set aside $125,000 to the project.

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