Five counties to be asked to repay state labor department

FARMINGTON — Five counties belonging to the Central/Western Workforce Investment Board will be asked for $400 each to pay back a disallowed expense related to a federal grant dating back to 2009.

The total bill owed by the counties of Androscoggin, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec and Somerset is $2,000, Franklin County Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay told his fellow commissioners on Feb. 5. Those counties make up Local Area 3 under the Workforce Investment Board.

The central/western board, in full participation with two other regional boards, entered into a contract with Projects Unlimited on June 12, 2009. The firm was to provide assistance in drafting the Local Plan Modifications for funding under the Workforce Investment Act/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in order to meet the deadline for submission established by the Maine Jobs Council, according to Jeffrey R. Sneddon, the current executive director of Central/Western Workforce Investment Board.

At the time of the contract with Projects Unlimited, the executive director was Bryant Hoffman.

The region received $2.6 million in funding to do workforce training under ARRA.

To his understanding, Sneddon said that the contract was issued for the purpose of providing staff support to the central/western board in order to create the ARRA plan modifications within a condensed time frame.

The Local Area 3 board did not think it had to go out to bid because it was only going to cost $2,000 for that board and it did not meet the threshold of $5,000 that was required to go out to bid, Sneddon said Friday.

In reality, the total cost was $6,000, including the other local area boards' share, he said.

It is the board's view that they acted with prudence in this matter due to the limited time frame available to develop the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act plan, and have continued to use consultants in various capacities to assist them in planning activities, Sneddon said.

However, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Maine Department of Labor does not allow this and the finding continues to be unresolved until the $2,000 is repaid to Maine Department of Labor, he said.

McGrane, the chief local elected official for Local Area 3, asked Franklin County commissioners to pay the entire $2,000 on Feb. 5 and he would then collect the $400 owed by each of the other counties. He said it was an oversight of the former director.

“I don't think Franklin County should be a bank for the other four counties,” Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon said.

He would support paying the $400 Franklin County owes, he said.

Commissioners tabled action on approving the expense until they decide what account the money will be paid from.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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 's picture

Good for Commissioner Hardy

As usual, Fred Hardy is showing good logic by not allowing Franklin County to pay the full amount. Each county needs to be responsible for its own debt.

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