By Pam Harnden, Livermore Falls Advertiser
FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted Tuesday night to include two funding articles to the March 26 town meeting warrant.
The first asks Franklin County to continue to fund regional economic development and social services. The vote was 3-2. Selectmen Michael Fogg, Stephan Bunker and Scott Landry were in favor. Selectmen Joshua Bell and Matthew Smith were opposed.
The second will ask voters to raise and appropriate up to $18,000 for nine nonprofit economic development and social service agencies affected by Franklin County commissioners cuts in 2017.
Farmington saved that amount of money as a result of those cuts. The vote was 3-2, with Bell and Smith opposed.
Last year, the Franklin County Budget Committee and commissioners voted to reduce or cut funding to several agencies that previously had been funded.
Fenwick Fowler, past executive director of Western Maine Community Action, met with selectmen after the cuts were made. He learned Farmington had a policy, approved in 2003, of not funding outside agencies.
Town Manager Richard Davis said 319 signatures are needed for the citizens’ initiative petition process.
Selectman Chairman Joshua Bell said he would like to go through that process, since it would show support.
“We need to be critical of where our tax dollars are spent,” Bell said.
Selectman Scott Landry said the petition process could lead to holding a special town meeting, which would mean additional costs for the town.
“Most in attendance would probably be in favor,” he said.
Selectman Matthew Smith had reviewed everything presented and said there was nothing new.
“Short of a petition, I’m not going to support it,” he said. “For something that important you need to come to us earlier.”
Fowler supported allowing the voters to have a discussion. He said many may not realize the county has funded these groups for 35 years.
William Crandall, Farmington resident and WMCA Housing and Energy Program Manager, said he has been on both sides.
“It’s important to look at the kind of bang communities are getting for their dollars. For every dollar WMCA gets, $82 comes back, not including wages and taxes. The county door has closed. This is something to consider as a community,” he said.
Selectman Michael Fogg asked that $18,000 be included in the second article rather than the open-ended wording usually presented, so that no more than that amount could be approved.
The agencies involved are:
• Franklin County Children’s Task Force;
• Adult Basic Education;
• Western Maine Transportation;
• Western Maine Community Action;
• Greater Franklin Development Corp.;
• Androscoggin Home Health and Hospice; and
• Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District