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More in Community
Commissioners approve adult ed increase
By Amber Carter
FARMINGTON - The county commissioners met on Tuesday afternoon to begin their run through of the county budget.
Controversy broke out over the Western Maine Community Action assessment. Represented by Fen Fowler, he asked that the county consider approving a $16,500 increase.
Fowler insisted that the county's contribution was “much greener” than that of the federal and state. “When a community funds you, it's the highest seal of approval,” he said.
The WMCA works with the local churches to help those who need fuel assistance free of charge. Fowler also expressedthat their main goals were to keep Franklin County's elderly in their own homes as long as possible, not just because it was more costs effective in the long run, but because it was where they would feel most comfortable.
“The cost of oil is creeping up and is most affecting the elderly,” he explained. “The older you get, the more you fall into poverty.”
Fowler also saidthe WMCA is working with drastically reduced federal funds. “We are fortunate that we had a warmer winter than usual,” he said.
Fowler went on to explain that money saved on oil would also benefit the community. “For every gallon we buy, 70-80 percent of that dollar we spent leaves our community,” he said. “The more dollars we can save them, the more they can spend in the community.”
However, Commissioner Fred Hardy, did not agree. “A 3 percent salary increase seems a little rich to me,” he said.
Fowler explained that WMCA “stopped giving across the board raises five years ago.” They began going by merit and have not given any raises for next year. The pay may have increased per hour, however the amount of hours have gone down. The WMCA also has laid off 10 employees. “Those 10 people I laid off is not the end of it,” he said.
Commissioner Clyde Barker agreed with Hardy. “You're asking a lot from Franklin County,” he said.
Fowler said that while in Washington D.C. he was told this was Maine's problem. Not a federal one. “They told me, it's not a national problem. It's a Maine problem, Maine has to deal with it,” he explained. “As much as I would like to think the federal government is going the way they've been going, they won't.”
Commissioner Gary McGrane was in favor of the increase. “I applaud your efforts, you don't just work in one vein. It's not a handout, and people are very grateful for your services,” he said.
In addition to the oil assistance, the WMCA also has a program where it gives out two bags of food. Unlike the Meals on Wheels, this is surplus food. According to Fowler, there is a long waiting list and this service is just for seniors in the community.
The WMCA also gets called in to help financial institutions and homeowners strike a deal to figure out way in their budgets to keep their homes.
“Who is going to pay in Franklin County if there are so many poor people?” asked Barker.
Hardy moved to grant the WMCA$33,000, not the requested $49,500 and Barker seconded the motion. The vote was split 2-1 with McGrane opposed. He said he only voted against the motion because he “wishes it was higher.”
The only department and the last on the agenda to get an increase was Adult Basic Education. According to Ray Therrien, there were already 37 people on the waiting list.
The department works with adults seeking math, language arts and GED or college ready help. Therrien claimed that this program creates over one million in revenue and it creates tax payers and jobs in the community.
Jay has now established computer literacy, math and language arts classes thanks to a grant they received. Therrien hopes next year he can get another grant to continue the program.
Barker motioned to grant the department the 3 percent increase, which would be a $676 increase. Hardy, although he commended Therrien for his well presented plan and efforts, said he will not grant increases to anyone.
Both the commissioners and the representatives from the budget committee expressed how well Therrien presented his plan and that he had shown the most effective economy boosting plan of the day.
McGrane and Barker approved the increase.
Seniors Plus is getting some new faces. Because of two vacancies in the department, Betsy Sawyer-Mantor said they created two new “hands on” positions.
After last year's budget meeting, she said she heard the budget committee “loud and clear.” They wanted Seniors Plus to do more community outreach, therefore they brought in two representatives to cover Franklin and Oxford counties.
With Sawyer-Mantor was Laurie Johnson. A Kingfield native, Johnson attended UMF. and has worked at the hospital for a few years. Having been with People Plus for a month now, she is getting her training and will begin to set up hours to meet with those who need the services Seniors Plus offers.
McGrane commended Sawyer-Mantor for her efforts. “You've addressed all the issue we've asked,” he said. Both the commissioners and the budget committee welcomed Johnson and wished her luck.
Tri-County Mental Health was granted $20,000 in a unanimous vote by the commissioners. In addition to the services they already offer, they are taking on a veteran and military family outreach program. Developed about 60 years ago thanks to the Kennedy administration, Tri-County's purpose is to “take people out of the institutions and put them in the community.”
According to Tina Clark, Franklin County has “one of the most comprehensive services.” Such services include a 24 hour crisis centers, treatment and out patient services for adult and children, and substance abuse services. They also provide help to those who need “help get through the tough spots”.
The Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice was met with appreciation.
“I'm passionate about what I do. We do a lot, but, I think we can do more,” said representative Jim Bouchard. Hospice has provided$1.4 million in charity care and has been a non profit entity for its 47 years of existence.
“I appreciate your services,” said McGrane. “I hope you get the funding.”
Bouchard also explained that Hospice tries to utilize all the resources they can in Maine, not outsourcing out. “If we're not local, we are not doing good work,” he said.
“I thank you for that,” expressed Farmington Selectman and budget committee representative Ryan Morgan. “I wish more agencies would look to cut costs like that.”
The Development Corporation was granted itsflat funding request of$60,000. According to Alison Hagerstrom, there are about 20 business inquiries and there are three or four potential businesses in the works for Farmington, Northern Franklin County and Wilton.
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