AUBURN — City councilors said Monday that they would favor simplicity in figuring out how to use proceeds from city timber sales.

“We’ve learned what happens when other accounts are created,” Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said. “Folks get to spend that money without coming to the council.”

Councilors tabled planned updates to the ordinance dealing with timber sales on public land during their workshop meeting Monday night.

The update formalizes much of the process — spelling out how the timber harvest will be approved, scheduled and managed — but also changes the way proceeds are used, dividing any timber revenue among four accounts.

Councilors said that was too confusing.

“I think all the revenue should just go into the General Fund,” Councilor Andy Titus said. “If they want to fund a program, they can come and ask us.”

The city has sold excess wood on city lots — schools, cemeteries and public land such as Mt. Apatite — and has used the proceeds to fund a low-income heating program since the fall of 2008.

The program, Community Cords, lets the city buy up to 100 gallons of heating oil or kerosene or pay a comparative amount of electric heating bills for Auburn residents who can’t afford it but may not qualify for General Assistance or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Community Cords is funded entirely through the sale of city wood.

Public Services Director Dan Goyette said the city has 480 acres of publicly owned timberland and schedules harvests on a few parcels every few years. The most recent harvest was in 2013 on school-controlled land and generated about $30,000, he said.

The Community Cords fund has $27,000 in it, according to Deputy City Manager Denis D’Auteuil.

But the new policy divides up the timber sales differently. According to the policy presented to councilors Monday, 20 percent of timber sales would still go to Community Cords while 30 percent would go to the city’s General Fund. Another 30 percent would go to the city department in charge of the lot — to the school department on school property or to Public Services for Mt. Apatite wood. The final 20 percent would be set aside to promote tree growth around the city.

Councilors were scheduled to vote on a first reading of the changes but tabled it to give residents more opportunity to learn about the changes.

Councilor Grady Burns said he wanted to make sure councilors set priorities for the money and don’t just use the revenue for anything.

“I want to make sure that revenue stays intact, as much as possible,” Burns said. “I want to make sure we do have those funds.”

Councilors are scheduled to vote on some version of the new policy at their next meeting, July 18.

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