Partnership to bring teenage programs to Farmington

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FARMINGTON — The Farmington Parks and Recreation Department has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Alfond Youth and Community Center to provide teenage programming at no cost to families. There is no anticipated cost for the Town of Farmington. The program is grant-funded and provided by a collaboration between the Alfond Youth and Community Center, the Maine Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The Parks and Rec director, Matt Foster, and Avery Ryan with the Alfond Youth and Community Center presented the proposal to the Board of Selectmen in the September 14 meeting. Under the MOU, the Alfond Center will provide staff and materials for a wide variety of programs geared towards the needs of teenagers. The programs will be developed around the needs of the youth involved and can include social-emotional resources and support, healthy lifestyles including nutrition and fitness, and academic success.

The MOU runs through Sept. 30, 2022. The possibility exists, based on the success of the first year, to expand the program through 2024.

The Farmington Parks and Rec department will be responsible to provide a point of contact for the program; a safe and accessible space for a minimum of 25 Franklin Count youth aged 14 to 24 for a minimum of eight hours a week for thirty-five weeks out of the years; a contact for mental health referrals and contraceptive referrals; recommendations for staff and recruitment of youth.

Foster expressed his willingness to take on the additional responsibilities. He has struggled to provide programming for teens because of lack of resources, and saw this partnership as a valuable tool for youth in Farmington and surrounding communities.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the MOU, with board chair Matthew Smith adding that the program was long overdue for the area.

Brent West, director of the High Peaks Alliance, addressed the board during the same meeting with a proposal for the Rail Trail Bridge. While the High Peaks Alliance typically works in the mountainous region farther north, members of that community approached the High Peaks Alliance and requested that they look into the bridge project.

There is a federal tourism grant which could be applied for that would cover much of the cost of restoring access across the Sandy River, but the grant requires a re-engineering report. That report will cost $15,000. The High Peaks Alliance has already secured $5,000 from the state snowmobile program and $5,000 from a private donor, so West requested that the board use $5,000 from the Rail Trail Bridge reserve account to make up the final portion of the cost.

The project has been explored previously at both the local and state level.

“Between the southern end of the county and the northern end, this could be the missing link,” Selectman Stephan Bunker said. The board unanimously approved the expenditure.

Ryan Morgan, a Farmington resident and former select board member, approached the board to request that they remove the cap on marijuana business licenses. Currently, the town only allows up to seven retail shops; four medical and three recreational. There is a waiting list for licenses. Morgan wants to open his own recreational marijuana business, but the waiting list is long and he does not want to wait. He felt that if the board removed the cap on the number of licenses issued, creating a free market, the general public would choose which businesses survived. He stated that the town does not restrict the number of electricians who operate within the town, or the number of pharmacies within the town, and that a marijuana retail business should be no different. Because of the nature of a retail business, there is no smell from growing or manufacturing operations that could become a nuisance.

The proposed change would require a town meeting vote, as it would involve changing the town ordinances for marijuana licensure. Matthew Smith indicated that the board was already considering a closer look at the ordinances this winter, as there have been other issues, such individuals acquiring licenses and then not using them, holding others in the waiting list in limbo.

The first step would be to involve the code enforcement officer and the zoning board in the conversation and the board agreed to do so.

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