FARMINGTON – Commissioners heard proposals to utilize Tax Increment Financing funds to support small businesses and help fund a fire engine in Eustis and accepted a bid to provide mental health and substance abuse counseling services at Franklin County Detention Center Tuesday.
Eustis Fire Department has put in a request asking for a portion of the cost of a new fire engine be paid for out of the TIF, which is funded through the Kibby wind power project. Chief Sprague Wise said that roughly half of the departments’ calls were to the Unorganized Territory. There had been more construction throughout the U.T., Wise noted, particularly with formerly seasonal camps transitioning to full-time residences.
As is the case with a number of municipal departments, Eustis is contracted by the county to provide fire protection. While funding fire apparatuses through the TIF is not typically allowed, there is an exception for Eustis as that department is contractually responsible for the firefighting responses to the Kibby project itself. County Clerk Julie Magoon said that the county’s TIF attorney had indicated that she would be comfortable with funding up to 30 percent of a fire truck.
Wise indicated that a new truck could cost as much as $450,000 and that he was approaching the county to determine what level of support might be available prior to doing more research on specific models and prices. The town did have $100,000 in a reserve account, Wise said.
Commissioner Charlie Webster of Farmington supported funding up to either 30 percent or $135,000 of a new truck, assuming the county’s TIF attorney okayed the expenditure. Magoon noted that the county could earmark those funds within the TIF account and release the money after Eustis’ match became available, as it had for other projects.
Another proposal for using the county’s TIF funds was brought forward by Charlie Woodworth, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Council. He suggested creating a grant program with a maximum award of $5,000 that small businesses could use for either meeting payroll and inventory expenses or new concepts, such as marketing plans. Funds would be raised from larger businesses by Woodworth and matched by TIF money.
Somerset County had set up a similar program and received 94 applications in 30 days, Woodworth said.
Commissioners said that they weren’t opposed to the idea but wanted to make certain the TIF funds could be used to support businesses not in the U.T. The issue will be revisited at the commissioners’ Sept. 1 meeting.
Commissioners also accepted a bid to provide mental health and substance abuse counseling services at the jail. Bids were submitted by Clearwater Counseling and Consulting for $34,000 and by Western Maine Behavioral Health for $36,400, both for a 10-month period.
Those companies previously submitted bids to the county earlier this year but Western Maine’s bid was incorrectly marked as having been submitted after the deadline and wasn’t initially considered. Western Maine was the low bidder that time, at $38,064 to Clearwater’s $51,000. Commissioners opted to rebid the contract at the Aug. 4 meeting.
Commissioners also voted to restore $6,000 of either the pay or benefits for County Treasurer Pam Prodan, having previously reduced her pay and removed the position’s benefits as part of this year’s budget process. The treasurer’s salary was set previously at $12,000, instead of the requested $16,600, after commissioners added $12,000 into the budget for additional staff time to assist in the answering of phones and other office tasks after Prodan opted to work from home and came into the office on off-hours in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prodan and others have noted that those duties are not part of the treasurer’s job description.
Prodan is now working in that office with two other employees and Magoon estimated that roughly $6,000 of the $12,000 for additional help would now be required. Webster made the motion to increase Prodan’s or benefits by the remaining $6,000, which was unanimously supported by the other commissioners.
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