County commissioners withdraw support for trail bond after rejection of county representative to LUPC

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FARMINGTON – The Franklin County Commissioners voted unanimously to withdraw support for a trail bond bill promoted by the Natural Resources Council of Maine after the NRCM was involved in a public hearing on the nomination of a Franklin County representative to the Land Use Planning Commission last week.

At the December 21 meeting the commissioners voted, 2-1, to demonstrate support for the trail bond after Marc Edwards with NRCM presented it to the board. In a public hearing with the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Joint Standing Committee in Augusta last week, Nick Bennett, Staff Scientist for National Resources Council of Maine, testified neither in favor nor against the nomination of Tom DuBois of Salem Township to the LUPC, but asked that DuBois recuse himself from an upcoming February vote on the Wolfden rezoning application. Bennett was one of several representatives from groups and organizations that have formally intervened in the application process, opposing the Wolfden mining project and rezoning application.

During the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, January 16, Commissioner Bob Carlton spoke on the issue, comparing it to being stabbed in the back. Carlton had attended the public hearing for the ACF committee to confirm the county’s nomination of DuBois, at which DuBois was asked to testify under oath and questioned on the rezoning application to allow heavy metal mining at Pickett Mountain.

“After our go-around in Augusta last week on Monday, it was the NRCM who pushed for our candidate to recuse his vote. So basically they didn’t care anything about our representative for Franklin County, and all they cared about was how we’re going to vote on this Pickett Mountain thing. So, it turned into a real dog and pony show,” Carlton said. “One day we have the NRCM put their arm around us, Marc Edwards shook my hand, ‘thank you for all your support,’ and then a week later, they stabbed us in the back.”

Carlton stated that after the hearing and rejection of DuBois’ nomination, the High Peaks Alliance withdrew support of the trail bond, along with Senator Russell Black who sponsored the bond, and Representative Scott Landry.

“I don’t like to do this,” Carlton said, “But … I don’t like to be used in a political fight. So I’m going to make a motion that we withdraw our support of the $30 million trail bond promoted by the Natural Resources Council of Maine.”

This motion was seconded by Commissioner Terry Brann, who had voted against supporting the trail bond initially.

“You’re asking him to testify under oath to make a commitment on a case he hasn’t even heard? That’s absurd,” Commissioner Lance Harvell said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to withdraw support for the trail bond.

In addition, the commissioners voted to renominate Tom DuBois to the LUPC. Carlton said that the senate had tried to send the issue back to the ACF committee but due to ‘back door politics’ between the speaker of the house and two committee members, the nomination was dropped. The next steps would be for the county to make another nomination. DuBois had agreed to try again, Carlton said, and the commissioners voted unanimously to submit his nomination a second time. Carlton expressed a hope that the nomination would be confirmed before the February vote on the Wolfden rezoning application.

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

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