PARIS — Oxford County officials are asking for clarification on how townships organize to assess whether Albany Township would benefit from leaving the umbrella of its administration. 

County Commissioners Steven Merrill, David Duguay and County Commission Chairman Caldwell Jacksonon on Tuesday requested Administrator Scott Cole to seek a legal opinion from their attorney on whether Albany Township’s status with the county should be re-evaluated. 

The request comes on the heels of increasing correspondence between Albany Township residents and the administrator’s office, which runs the day-to-day affairs for the unorganized township. 

“I don’t think it hurts to ask the question,” Merrill of Norway said.

Between calls and meetings about tax bills and snow plowing details, Cole said the workload from Albany Township has increased.

To offset the work, commissioners agreed to fund a new, $60,000 clerical position in the adminstrator’s office, with three-quarters of the wages and benefits bill picked up by the unorganized territories.

In September, Albany Township resident Jeff Rosenblatt expressed concerns over a tax hike that saw residents’ bills increase by 17 percent. Telling commissioners he represented nearly 20 other residents, Rosenblatt said the additional $308,000 raised from the previous year for road projects was unnecessary. 

Much of that money will be spent in Albany, with Hunts Corner Road, Old West Bethel Road and Vernon Street in need of repair. In all, for fiscal year 2015, the county plans to fix bridges and culverts on some 60 miles of roads, with 27 of those miles in Albany Township. 

The cost to incorporate could prove a major sticking point. Townships in the unorganized territory have no local, incorporated municipal government and rely upon the county and state Legislature to oversee administrative tasks such as road repair, code enforcement and emergency resources. 

The projected rate for fiscal year 2016 is $4.75 per thousand dollars of assessed value, according to county budget documents. In 2012, the county average was $13.69, ranging from a low of $3.27 in Lincoln Plantation and $30.16 in Mexico. 

“I suspect, overall, that the taxes would be higher than they are now — that’s an educated guess,” Cole said.

In the past, proponents have argued that incorporation would benefit the town by granting it more autonomy. According to Sun Journal archives, in 2000, voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to incorporate in order to better negotiate with developers seeking to build a high-stakes bingo hall, over concerns taxes would double.

“I think it’s lucrative for us and them to maintain our relationship. It would be too bad if we act on … something that’s coming from a small part of the population,” Commissioner Duguay of Byron said. 

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