Franklin Countys First News

Commissioners recognize Spirit of America recipients, discuss UT budget

Michael Senecal of Strong shakes hands with Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong.

[Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to indicate that Western Maine Behavioral Health, not Evergreen, was one of two companies bidding to be the Franklin County Detention Center's mental health service provider.]

FARMINGTON - County commissioners recognized a number of Franklin County residents for their community service at Tuesday's meeting.

Established in 1990, Spirit of America Awards recognize individuals and organizations around Maine for commendable community service. Residents are nominated for the award by their towns. The commissioners have begun recognizing recipients with a certificate at a brief ceremony held at the courthouse; each commissioner typically recognizes residents of their district.

Recognized individuals included Robert Cox of Chesterville; the entire Town of Jay Recreation Committee; Travis Targett of Kingfield for leading an effort to renovate that town's ball field; Richard Hargreaves of New Vineyard; Maxine Sargent of Rangeley for her service as the Rangeley Town Clerk and involvement with local clubs; Marilyn Josephson, for her work supporting the town of Temple; Bernard Rackliffe Sr., for his work as Weld Road Commissioner, with the fire department and on that town's budget and finance committees; Hazel Flagg of Wilton, for placing and maintaining flags displayed along Main Street; Paulette Cahn of Wilton, for maintaining the Tyngtown flower boxes; Michael Senecal of Strong, for organizing the weekly community meals; and Duayne Boyd of Strong, the town's fire chief. Also receiving the Spirit of America award was several people associated with the Sept. 16 explosion at the LEAP Inc. building: Farmington firefighters Scott Baxter, Ted Baxter, Terry Bell, Timothy "TD" Hardy, Tim Hardy, S. Clyde Ross, Joseph Hastings, Diana Bell on behalf of Michael Bell and Larry Lord.

Commissioners also held a public hearing on the proposed Unorganized Territory budget for 2020-21. The $1.35 million proposed budget represents an increase over last year's $1.17 million, with the difference chiefly made up of two lines. Snow removal contract funding has increased by roughly $50,000 to $545,000 due to the West Freeman contract increasing from last year's $37,500 to roughly $87,000. Commissioners opted to split the West Freeman plowing contract out of the Freeman-Salem contract two years ago; at the most recent discussion on the subject, commissioners suggested recombining the contracts in the future.

The other significant increase relates to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, which has requested appropriating $111,000 to pay for a deputy position and a cruiser to patrol the UT. That change reflects alterations in how the Maine State Police, which previously split patrol duties with the FCSO, handles calls in Franklin County. Sheriff Scott Nichols said that Somerset County currently had a deputy position dedicated to the UT.

"I think it's the right way to go," Commissioner Terry Brann of Wilton said.

The commissioners will vote on the budget on Dec. 17. After that, it goes to the state's fiscal agent for review and eventual approval by the Legislature.

Commissioners also oversaw the opening of two bids for a six-month contract to meet the Franklin County Detention Center's mental health and substance abuse service needs. The bids, submitted by Western Maine Behavioral Health and Sinskie Therapy Services, will be reviewed by jail officials to ensure they meet the jail's needs and then addressed at the Dec. 17 meeting.

The six-month contract will bring the county back in line for a July-June contract. The county terminated its contract with Evergreen Behavioral Services back in September, after personnel turnover resulted in that organization not being able to provide the jail with access to the certified personnel as required by state corrections regulations. The jail has been receiving services through Sinskie Therapy Services, operated by Dalene Sinskie, who previously worked in the jail through Evergreen.

Fenwick Fowler, a Farmington resident that was previously the executive director of Western Maine Community Action, asked commissioners about funding for Western Maine Transportation and WMCA. As part of the previous budget process, the Budget Committee included appropriations of $30,000 and $10,000 for WMCA and WMT, respectively. Commissioners were not able to unanimously overrule those items, but have decline to release funds. Brann and Commissioner Charlie Webster of Farmington have repeatedly said that they intend to completely defund the Programs & Grants lines.

Fowler said that the towns were being assessed for the programs but that the funds were then being retained by the county, instead of being distributed for their stated purposes. Brann said that the unused money went into the county's undesignated funds which were used, among other purposes, to help reduce the impact of the county budget.

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2 Responses »

  1. What is the mil rate for the UT residents? What does someone with property valued at $100,000, for example, pay in taxes?

  2. Why do the county commissioners continually deny the wants of their constituents? They have put monies aside for Western Maine Transportation and Western Maine Community Action but have not given those funds to the appropriate entities. These are both very useful and needed organizations in Western Maine. WMT allows anyone from any financial background to utilize their services, for a small fee ($5 per ride). When I broke my ankle this summer and needed to get to doctor’s appointments, I gratefully utilized their service, as my wife could not take time off from work. They stopped at my door to pick me up and dropped me off at the same location. Getting to those appointments by my self was impossible at the time.

    If our county commissioners do not spend our tax money they want we have designated those funds, I say it is time to vote them out of office and get people who will work for the people, instead of following their own agenda.