Franklin County goes with Auburn consulting firm

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday to accept the low bid from Community Dynamics Corp. of Auburn to help amend the 2008 Unorganized Territory tax-increment financing district.

The company bid $7,550. Other bidders were Noreen Norton, a consultant of Rudman Winchell law firm in Bangor, for up to $19,500, and Shoshana Cook Mueller of Bernstein Shur law firm in Portland, for up to $12,500.

All three proposals met the commissioners’ requirements, county Clerk Julie Magoon said.

Commissioners want to expand the development program and geographic area of the existing TIF to include more categories and more area that can be covered under the pact. They also want to look at the 2008 credit-enhancement agreement they have with TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc. related to Kibby Wind Power in northern Franklin County.

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Two of the consultant proposals included legal fees and Community Dynamics did not, Magoon said.

John Cleveland, president of Community Dynamics, who was in attendance, said he included $1,000 for legal fees but did not put it in a separate category in his proposal.

Commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon asked Cleveland what would happen if the legal fees came in higher than he anticipated.

It would depend on how much higher, Cleveland said. If it is just a little more he would absorb it, but if it was a lot more he would come before commissioners to request more for legal expenses.

He didn’t think legal expenses would exceed $1,000, he said. He hasn’t needed them in the past, even though he has included them in his proposals. He will send the amended TIF documents to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to make sure they meet the state’s requirements, prior to them going to a public hearing in Farmington.

Cleveland said he was willing to sign an agreement not to exceed his proposal. If commissioners ask for something not initially included in their request, his fee is $50 an hour.

Magoon said she didn’t think $1,000 would be enough for legal fees.

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong said the legal fees would have to reach about $5,000 before it exceeds the next lowest bid.

The other proposals allowed for legal fees, Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said. The whole purpose of the bidding process is to level the playing field, he said.

The way the request for proposals was drafted was to include a list of all personnel who would be working on the project, she said.

She said she would like to see who Cleveland will be working with.

Cleveland said he could give them the attorney’s name he plans to work with and who is familiar with TIFs.

Magoon said the issue is a minor one and Cleveland’s proposal still meets commissioners’ specifications.

“I still think we have money to play with,” Barker said.

He brought up other projects that were bid out and the county worked with the low bidders to make sure they met all of the specifications.

“There were extra costs we didn’t know about,” he said about one such project. “Little things that were left out.” But the price was still lower than the next bidder, he said.

Magoon said she believes there will be legal work needed involving the credit-enhancement agreement in the TIF between TransCanada and the county. She said the state is a third party in the process.

The county is getting to its $4 million cap under the agreement quicker than expected, she said. Franklin County received $2.29 million as of September under the 2008 20-year TIF agreement. County commissioners also approved grants totaling $390,553 for economic development projects since March 2012.

“We cannot continue to hold up consultants because we can’t make up our minds,” Hardy said.

Cleveland has done work with the county before and it was satisfactory, Barker said. He couldn’t see going with a higher bidder.

McGrane agreed with Barker that commissioners had the $5,000 difference, if it is needed.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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