Commissioners approve support of trail gazetteer with TIF funds
FARMINGTON - Commissioners dealt with issues relating to the county's tax increment financing district at Tuesday's meeting, allotting funds for a trail mapping initiative and receiving a proposal to manage the TIF in advance of the anticipated expansion of its uses.
The High Peaks Alliance is in the process of creating a gazetteer for the region, creating hard copy and digital maps to encourage trail development and discussion between communities, landowners, conservation and recreation organizations. The Maine's High Peaks Gazetteer would include aerial photographs, town lines, landowner parcels as well as roads, trails and natural resources. The information could be easily shared, the High Peaks Alliance wrote in its application to the county, and could be used to "communicate with stakeholders, increase collaboration, establish priorities and identify shared objectives."
Specifically, the gazetteer would allow for more efficient trail development and integration, the application concluded. The maps would encompass both motorized and non-motorized trails.
The High Peaks Alliance applied for $17,750 from the county TIF account, out of the $82,000 total projected cost. Participating organizations are expected to include the Maine Conservation Corps, the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust and The Wilderness Society.
The Franklin County TIF Advisory Committee scored the project highly, County Clerk Julie Magoon said. The county had been waiting for reports on a previous High Peaks Alliance project to be submitted and, having received those within the last couple of weeks, was ready to proceed with funding the gazetteer.
Commissioner Terry Brann of Wilton and Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong unanimously moved to approve funding the project at $17,750.
In related business, the commissioners received a single response to the county's request for proposals for a TIF consultant. Mathew Eddy of Eddy Consultants, located in Brunswick, submitted a proposal to manage the county TIF. Eddy previously worked at Eaton Peabody, assisting in the development the original TIF with Franklin County and TransCanada. He also consults with the town of Kennebunk as its director of economic development.
Commissioners voted to table the issue until the next meeting, when Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington would be in attendance.
The consultant would oversee not only the current slate of TIF projects, but new uses that would become allowable if the proposed TIF amendment is approved by the state.
The TIF was originally created in 2008 as TransCanada was developing a 44-wind turbine project on Kibby Mountain. The amendment, approved by commissioners in October 2016, increases the capture rate from 75 percent to 100 percent for the duration of the TIF, which would be extended 10 more years to 2038.
The amendment includes a number of new projects within the Unorganized Territory that could be funded by the TIF, some of which were not allowable uses back in 2008. Funds could be spent to improve telecommunication systems, ranging from cellphone towers to high speed internet, as well as public safety equipment, such as communications equipment or police cruisers. Money could be used to support a wider range of tourism and marketing activities, including the development and support of recreational trails. Funding could also be provided for environmental improvements, targeting invasive species or erosion, as well as a commercial loan and grant program for Unorganized Territory businesses.
The amendment still needs to be approved by the state Department of Economic & Community Development prior to enactment. Magoon noted that the department was dealing with a 30-plus backlog of TIFs submitted from across the state. She said that she envisioned potentially having two rounds of TIF applications this year: one for projects requesting funds in categories that had previously been allowable and one for projects falling into the newly-expanded categories.
The commissioners also reviewed the third annual printing of the Maine's High Peaks Visitor's Guide, produced by the Flagstaff Area Business Association. According to FABA Secretary/Treasurer Richard Fotter, 22,000 of the guides were produced and distributed in all 50 states.
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