FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday to reduce the Greater Franklin Development Corp.’s program grant request by $18,000 to $42,000 for 2016-17.

That amount is the same as the group received last year.

Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said he intends to leave the decision up to the county Budget Advisory Committee.

Commissioners began their budget review Tuesday and will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the courthouse.

Once commissioners set a budget, the Franklin County Budget Advisory Committee will begin its review, propose a budget and take it to a public hearing. The committee will review the proposal again within days and decide whether to make changes.

Once the committee finalizes a budget, the proposed spending package will go back to commissioners. If they want change it, it will require all three commissioners to vote unanimously for it to return to the budget committee. It will take two-thirds of the nine-member budget panel to change it.

Last year, half of the Greater Franklin Development Corp.’s $42,000 came from the county’s tax-increment financing agreement it has with TransCanada Corp. for the unorganized territory. The other $21,000 came from county taxpayers.

Executive Director Alison Hagerstrom said during the past year members have continued to work to “keep Franklin County on the map.”

The group receives funds from the county government, private sector and by fundraising.

The group has created relationships with a long list of economic development partners and business resources, including Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, chambers of commerce and business associations, Women’s Business Center at CEI, and Small Business Development Centers.

It also maintains relationships with real estate companies to assist businesses with site location opportunities, pays attention to economic development trends and connects downtown and main street organizations to resources, enabling them to maintain and create “vibrant” centers, Hagerstrom said.

The group continues to work on developing a culture for entrepreneurs, she said. It is challenging because a lot of what they do is done quietly until it comes together and can be announced, she said. They have also been working to connect more with small businesses.

The group was started by the county in 1998 and was funded for many years at $60,000 up until about 2012, Hagerstrom said. The group moved away from being run solely by the county several years ago.

When it was moved to the private sector, those involved said they would be able to raise more money than the county could and in five years the county would not need to fund it, McGrane said.

“I am going to support this at some level this year,” Commissioner Charles Webster of Farmington said. “I am probably not going to support this again unless we have job creation.”

In the 1980s and 1990s when he was in the state Senate, before county budget committees were established, senators deliberated on this and decided to eliminate it from the budget.

Webster said he questions whether this is something the government should use property taxpayers’ money to support.

“I am not sure it has been proven (that) using taxpayers’ money has created jobs,” he said.

He understands how hard it is to bring jobs to the area and appreciated the work Hagerstrom has done, he said. People speak highly of Hagerstrom, he told her. He is concerned about the taxpayers and what is going on with paper mills.

Hagerstrom asked who would do the economic development work.

“If nobody is doing anything that is going to be detrimental,” she said.

Farmington Board of Selectmen Chairman Joshua Bell asked Hagerstrom if the group and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce have ever considered merging.

It was discussed more than a year ago but nothing came of it, Hagerstrom said.

“I’m not saying it could not happen. I actually think it is a good idea but it will take some years to happen,” she said.

[email protected]


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.