Board votes to explore Livermore Falls joining Franklin County

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Selectmen voted Monday to endorse exploring having the town secede from Androscoggin County and join Franklin County.

State Rep. L. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, told selectmen that he wanted their thoughts on switching counties.

He would be willing to submit enabling legislation to move Livermore Falls from Androscoggin County to Franklin County, Knight said.

The town’s police wouldn’t have to travel to Auburn to transport prisoners to Androscoggin County Jail or to Auburn or Lewiston for court purposes, he said. The town could be dispatched out of Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington is also close by.

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There are many advantages to the idea, and there are probably a lot of disadvantages, too, Knight said.

Knight said he has spoken to Androscoggin County legislators, and they said they would keep an open mind.

State Sen. Thomas Saviello, a Republican who serves District 18 in Franklin County and some towns in Kennebec and Somerset counties, is willing to be senator sponsor, he said.

Saviello said selectmen and the town manager would need to get financials together and  communicate with all involved entities.

He said that the town would need to talk to Franklin County officials to see if they would accept the town. They would also need to speak to Androscoggin County officials to find out if they would accept the move and see if the community agrees with the proposal.

“You would have some homework to do,” Saviello said.

The last time there was legislation proposed to have Livermore Falls join Franklin County, the town of Jay opposed, Saviello said, because there were no financials to show the benefits of the move.

“You’re going to have to get those numbers together,” he said.

The Legislature has said it is not going to referee, he added.

Livermore Falls residents voted overwhelmingly in a 2004 straw vote to pursue changing counties. A study showed that the switch to Franklin County would benefit Livermore Falls residents in both convenience and tax assessments.

Then state Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, sponsored the bill: “An act to annex the Town of Livermore Falls to Franklin County” in 2005. After a legislative committee amended the enabling bill that would have let Androscoggin County residents vote on the county switch, it was voted “ought not to pass” in committee. Legislators nixed the bill.

In 2005, then state Rep. Chris Barstow, D-Gorham, chairman of the State and Local Government Committee, said the main reason he believed the majority of the committee voted “ought not to pass” on the bill is mainly because of the indifference between Livermore Falls, Androscoggin County and Androscoggin County communities.

It seemed to the committee as though there were no communications between the town and the other parties regarding their intent to secede and be annexed by Franklin County, Barstow said at the time. Before he supported such a bill, he would at least like to see some communication between the parties involved.

Knight said Monday that a prior state representative that had served Livermore Falls was opposed to the county switch in 2005.

He supports the measure based on what he knows today, he said.

“This is not about politics,” Knight said. “This is about dollars and cents. This would be about economics.”

Saviello said they have until Jan. 18 to submit legislation on the change.

“The key is, we need affirmative action,” he said.

The two said they would do it if town officials wanted the change.

The town used to be part of Kennebec County and Oxford County at one time, Knight said.

“I’ve often felt we should be part of Franklin County,” Selectman Louise Chabot said. “I think the timing is right … I think it makes a lot of sense.”

dperry@sunjournal.com

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