Phillips out of money, shutdown begins

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PHILLIPS – It turns out closing a town down is not just a matter of nobody showing up for work. 

On this day, the first in which the town of Phillips is out of money and therefore unable to provide services, volunteer Town Manager Lynn White has a lot of serious concerns on his mind. 

Among them: what if there is a fire or a road is washed out? What do we do then? 

All this came after residents at a town meeting on Saturday voted to adjourn the budget meeting before any money could be raised and appropriated to cover the town’s basic services. As of today, as the new fiscal year starts, the town shows a zero balance, after legal counsel informed White that not a single dollar could be spent by the town for any reason, emergency or otherwise.

White asked the Franklin County commissioners for help and they said today at their regular meeting they couldn’t respond immediately.

“They need the proper time to address the issues for public record, for the agenda, ” White said.

The commissioners, for their part, are uncertain as to what assistance they can offer. They have no real resources under their control, in terms of people and equipment, and have no liability insurance policy that they can extend to Phillips employees. The lack of insurance has been a sticking point, as some employees hurt while performing their duties might not be covered during the shutdown.

“We didn’t see that we could do anything at this time,” Commissioner Gary McGrane said. Sheriff Dennis Pike however, noted that law enforcement service provided by his department would continue as usual in Phillips. That department is funded through the county, not by individual towns.

If there is a fire in Phillips or Avon, which Phillips normally covers, the towns will need to depend on mutual aid from Strong and Kingfield departments. Meanwhile, the town’s insurance company advised White this afternoon that if the volunteer fire department members “choose” to respond to a fire, they will be covered.

“I can’t authorize them to respond, but if they choose to, the insurance company said they and the equipment will still be covered,” White said. 

He is drafting a letter to commissioners asking for help in responding to the disabled town. If a road washes out, help will be needed to repair it, especially if an emergency arises. White said the county’s Emergency Management Agency can help if it’s an emergency. 

Today, the phone is ringing off the hook with residents primarily concerned with where to put their garbage.

“They’re not worried about the other things right now,” White said. “I tell them I’m not authorized to open the transfer station, but I’m trying to address their health concerns and not their emotional concerns right now.”

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