FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners agreed Tuesday to have a representative of the Farmington Downtown Association participate in the Building Committee’s discussion on designing a new county building.

Paul Mills, a Farmington lawyer, will represent that organization. The Downtown Association has raised concerns about the possibility of moving all the county government offices, except the District’s Attorney’s Office, to the county’s property on County Way, near the jail and Sheriff’s Department and dispatch center.

Farmington Downtown Association President Mike Mansir recently wrote a letter to Farmington selectmen about the organization’s concerns that the proposal would effectively relocate the county seat to the Fairbanks section of town.

The county Building Committee and an architectural firm have been investigating options for more than a year in an effort to alleviate space constraints, security concerns and unhealthy working conditions at Franklin County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch Center and county courthouse at an affordable cost to taxpayers.

The initial plan was to design a building to house the Sheriff’s Department and dispatch center. The plan grew to include the Emergency Management Agency and commissioner and administrative offices, estimated to cost about $3 million.

Ideas evolved in June to possibly have the courthouse taken over by the state to combine district and superior court functions and to move the remainder of the county departments to the new building at an estimated cost of $5.5 million.

No decisions have been made though the Building Committee has explored many options including rental space.

A final recommendation on the project would need to be approved by commissioners before they propose a plan to voters in each town of the county. The voters have the final say.

Commissioners have agreed the project would not go before voters this year. They want time to get a plan finalized along with funding, and then take it to members of the public to explain it to them.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said Tuesday during a commission meeting that he wished outside entities had gotten involved earlier.

The issue started to heat up with the talk of moving deeds and probate services out of the courthouse, Commission Chairman Fred Hardy of New Sharon said.

His priority, Hardy said, has always been to do something with dispatch.

The proposal to move the majority of county staff out of the courthouse was generated by the county’s Budget and Building committees. The county faces more than a $1 million in renovations to the existing courthouse alone to do repairs and bring it up to code.

“You cannot have a conversation with the general public without making a recommendation,” said John Cleveland, a consultant for Smith Reuter and Lull Architects, which has been working on available financing options.

This is all part of the process including getting feedback from the community and for discussions to continue, he said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.