Farmington Budget Committee recommends all requests

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FARMINGTON — The Budget Committee agreed Wednesday to recommend approval of $141,915 for local agencies, including $132,415 for the public library.

The agencies’ needs were highlighted as representatives from the American Red Cross, Safe Voices, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the Farmington Public Library presented their funding requests for 2012.

Following the presentations, the committee agreed to recommend all department and agency budgets as requested, for a total proposed town budget of $4.7 million, an increase of $247,789 over last year. The Board of Selectmen will begin its review during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Town Office.

Safe Voices, formerly the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project, seeks $5,000 from the town this year, $50 less than appropriated last year.

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It was an active year for the agency, Executive Director Jane Morrison told the committee. The number of people helped by the agency in Farmington rose by 10 more than the previous year, for a total of 81 victims of domestic violence.

Numbers in Franklin County rose by 25.5 percent last year, Morrison said.

“It’s a problem in Maine, the country and here,” she said.

The agency works closely with local police, advocates for victims in the court system and promotes education on domestic violence in schools. An agency educator spent 231 hours talking to 158 students about healthy relationships, she said.

Reflecting on the agency’s name change, Morrison told the Budget Committee that 15 percent of domestic violence victims across the nation are men.

Safe Voices maintains an office in Farmington in a building donated to it. It does not have money to rehabilitate the building for use as a shelter, although there is a need. An agency shelter in Auburn helps local people, but many in the area need to be “hoteled” and given food, clothing and essentials when they leave home with nothing, she said.

Realizing times are tough and there’s a lot of need in the area, the American Red Cross is asking for $1,000 less than last year, for a total of $2,000, Executive Director Jennifer Gaylord said.

They wanted to “take less of the pie” and leave more for other agencies without a national base, she said.

The local Red Cross chapter covers 8,800 square miles over Somerset, Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties, preparing for and responding to disasters, she said.

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce promotes Farmington and the whole area using membership dues to fund items such as their website, a welcome center in Farmington and a 24-hour kiosk, Executive Director Stacie Bourassa told the committee. The chamber fields thousands of calls and visits from potential residents and tourists each year, she said.

A request for $2,500 from the town could help expand the annual Chester Greenwood celebration and other events to bring people to town, she said.

While the chamber sponsors the Farmington event and is instrumental in the Wilton Blueberry Festival, their involvement is at the chamber’s expense, Bourassa said.

The request “is reasonable,” she said. With 7,500 residents in Farmington, it amounts to 50 cents per resident.

“The collective power of that change can effect change,” she said.

The Farmington Public Library is requesting an appropriation of $132,415, up $4,760 from last year. Though listed with the outside agencies in the town budget, library officials consider the library part of the town. “(This is) your library,” library Treasurer Richard Morton told the committee.

The library’s request includes pay increases — similar to those budgeted for town employees — for four full-time library workers, a director on salary and three hourly wage employees, Morton said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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