FARMINGTON — A letter will be sent to county commissioners and selectmen will attend a commissioners’ meeting regarding the release of program grant funds.

Town Manager Richard Davis told selectmen Tuesday, Feb. 11, he had received several phone calls and emails from concerned citizens regarding the commissioners’ decision not to release funds approved during last year’s county budget process. Western Maine Community Action had been approved for $30,000; Western Maine Transportation Services $10,000 and SeniorsPlus $1 as a place holder.

“I don’t think letters are effective. They’re too easy to ignore,” Davis said. “It would be better for a contingent of selectmen from this board to attend the commissioners meeting, ask them to explain their action or lack of action.”

Selectman Michael Fogg spoke of the town meeting a few years ago where Charlie Webster, representing the commissioners spoke.

“He was barraged with reasons why they should be funded and his flat refusal that they weren’t going to,” Fogg said. “They haven’t changed their minds.”

Davis said, “There’s a difference between a philosophy of not wanting to fund these agencies. Gradually phasing them out for whatever reason is one thing. When the budget gets approved, these agencies are relying on this money.”

He compared the commissioners’ action to having Farmington voters approve the library budget then having the board deciding not to pay the funds.

Selectman Matthew Smith agreed that letters aren’t effective.

“It is harder to look someone in the face and justify what you’re doing,” he said. “It would be better for we, as a board, to show up and ask questions.”

Selectman Chairman Joshua Bell said he agreed somewhat with Davis.

“If budgeted, the commissioners should release the funds or give a good explanation why not,” he said. “I think their minds are made up.”

Selectman Stephan Bunker said, “This is the first time the commissioners have chosen not to authorize those expenditures.

“I take exception to the process.”

Selectman Scott Landry said, “We have to pay them (county taxes), but they don’t have to pay their obligations. It wouldn’t hurt to send them a letter and visit them.”

The next commissioners meeting when all the commissioners will be in attendance is 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17. Selectmen will attend that meeting.

Western Maine Transportation Services Community Relations Director Craig Zurhorst attended the meeting in case the board had questions for him. The agency received a letter from the commissioners stating there would be no future funding for the agency.

“We have no qualms with that. Our concern was we found out about this in the press long after there was time to find other options to counter that loss. It puts us in a compromising position,” he said. “We’re absolutely humbled by what we’re seeing from the community over this matter.”

Davis shared two emails he received pertaining to the commissioners’ decision with the board.

Carolyn Frost wrote, “I thought we needed two vehicles in our area and now I learn that we are threatened with having no service at all.”

Originally from New York City, she never learned to drive her email stated. When her husband needed a wheelchair they relied heavily on WMTS to get to appointments. Since his death, WMTS has been her mainstay for getting around.

“It has allowed me to be independent,” Frost said.

Carole Kane, assistant director for Work First, Inc. and mother of an adult autistic son, also sent Davis an email. Without WMTS, many adults with disabilities would remain home and isolated it said in part.

“Without Western Maine’s on-demand bus services you are taking away a service that will be detrimental to this particular population,” she wrote.

In other business, the board approved the 2020 sewer budget of $1.002 million, down $307 from this year. A sewer rate of $39.90 per 500 cubic feet with an additional $7.98 per 100 cubic feet thereafter was also approved.

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