Commissioners discuss WMCA funding

first_imgFARMINGTON – Commissioners met with Western Maine Community Action staff Tuesday, discussing that nonprofit’s funding at the county level.Funding for a number of outside agencies has been reduced over the past couple of years, down from more than $200,000 to $61,200 in the current fiscal year’s budget. Funding for those agencies has shifted to the municipal level in some cases; Farmington residents recently approved roughly $18,000 to go toward those agencies at the annual town meeting.In WMCA’s case, the county’s Budget Committee approved $25,000 in county funds for that agency – $10,000 more than the commissioners’ budget. Commissioners failed to overturn that alteration because they weren’t unanimous: Commissioner Clyde Barker didn’t support the reduction.Since then, Commissioner Charlie Webster of Farmington and Commissioner Terry Brann of Wilton have been in communication with representatives of WMCA multiple times regarding that agency’s role in the community and how efficiently it can deliver services.On Tuesday, Webster said that while he didn’t question WMCA’s importance to the community, he was concerned with the salaries of some WMCA staff and didn’t want to see county funds going toward salaries. Instead, he wanted the local money to leverage other funds.“I don’t want to raise taxes to fund beyond what most blue-collar Franklin County residents would think is appropriate,” Webster said.Brann noted that he had supported funding WMCA at the county level while a selectman in Wilton but now saw it as forcing towns to pay for services whether they wanted them or not. Both commissioners said they preferred that each town decide independently whether to fund outside agencies, like Farmington did, and both said that they had heard from a number of people who supported that position.WMCA staff members attending the meeting included Bill Crandall, the WMCA manager for the organization’s housing program. He said that while WMCA received federal funding for different project, that funding often included requirements that it not be spent on certain things, such as overhead costs. Local money helped pay for those costs, allowing for a more efficient delivery of services. He provided commissioners with figures that indicate that WMCA represented a better per-dollar bargain for taxpayers than General Assistance, some of which is reimbursed by the state.“I think we do a hell of a job with the funds we get,” Crandall said.Crandall argued that it wasn’t a good use for municipal officials’ or WMCA staff’s time to attempt to fund agencies town-by-town.The county has been hold $12,000 in funds that were appropriated for WMCA but haven’t been released yet. Webster said that he wanted an indication that those funds would go toward leveraging more funding for programs, rather than to salaries. Webster and Brann voted unanimously later in the meeting to not issue the WMCA funding, and instead wait for WMCA to produce more information.In other business, Sheriff Scott Nichols intends to draft a letter to Governor Janet Mills about the funding issues impacting the Franklin County Detention Center. Nichols has been sounding the alarm about the issue for some time, culminating with a meeting held in December 2018 regarding the impact of the assessment cap on the local jail. This year, Nichols said, he believes the gap between what it costs to operate the jail and the amount of money the county can raise to fund it will be $315,000 – before the fiscal year even begins.Local legislators that attended the December 2018 meeting have submitted legislation to both do away with the assessment cap as well as raise additional funds for the jail system at the state level. Nichols’ letter reiterates his concern with the situation.Commissioners voted unanimously to sign on with Nichols’ letter.Commissioners also met with Livermore Falls and Androscoggin County officials regarding costs associated with dispatching fire, police and ambulance services into the town. Brann brought up the issue, having previously asked the communications center for numbers relating to the number of calls related to Livermore Falls incidents.Livermore Falls Town Manager Steve Gould said that those calls were offset by Livermore Falls units being dispatched into Jay. While NorthStar EMS is dispatched by Franklin County into the town, Gould said, that was merely the initial tone; ensuing communications would be through Franklin County.“I think it really does work out,” Gould said, of the arrangement.Commissioners agreed and thanked Gould for the explanation.last_img read more