Franklin County Commission sets public hearings for territories budget, TIF amendment

Nov. 1—FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners will hold a public hearing Nov. 7 on a proposed $2 million budget for the unorganized territories for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

There will also be a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the county's tax increment financing agreement. If approved, it will be the fifth amendment since the TIF for the unorganized territories was established in 2008.

The hearings are scheduled at 3:30 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom at the county courthouse.

The budget proposal, which is expected to see some changes at a county commission meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday at the county courthouse, represents an increase of $344,287.26. As is, the spending package represents about a 20% increase. Commissioners have invited town representatives to Thursday's meeting to discuss why some of the charges for services have gone up so much.

Organized towns supply solid waste disposal, fire service coverage and other services to unorganized townships in the county.

Representatives of Phillips have been asked to explain the 87% increase for solid waste service for Madrid Township. Phillips is also asking for increases in other services as some other towns are doing.

The county stopped funding Salem Township Volunteer Fire Department last year for several reasons, including not providing training records. Kingfield, Phillips and Strong fire departments each cover one-third of Salem Township.

The overall fire services budget is up over 40% and the overall solid waste budget reflects a 28% increase.

NorthStar EMS ambulance service has also increased its fee by 35%, according to information provided by Amy Bernard, the county's administrator.

The road budget increase is 25%, which does not factor in gravel, according to Bernard.

Byron added $300,000 from the undesignated fund account to offset the cost of the increase, she said previously, "but we need to have some conversation with the towns about increases and justifications for 113% increases."

In reference to the public hearing on the fifth amendment to the county TIF, commissioners voted in August to amend category options to include child care services. Subsequently, it was brought to the county administration's attention that there are more options that could be included in the TIF categories.

Potential projects include: Transit-oriented development within the TIF district; recreational trail development within the district; financing costs, professional services costs and organization costs related to the district; affordable housing within the district; affordable housing outside the district to serve economic development or assist with homelessness; environmental improvements; quality child care and adult care facilities; and public safety facilities related to economic development not to exceed 15% of captured assessed value.

The tax increment financing agreement with Helix Generation, an affiliate of LS Power Equity Advisors, was initially made in 2008 between TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc. in regards to a 44-turbine wind energy facility in northern Franklin County, which is now owned by Helix.

The TIF targets the unorganized territory district but can be used toward a countywide project if it will benefit the entire county.

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