WILTON — The Wilton Selectboard discussed options on how to spend funding from the American Rescue Plan Act during its Tuesday meeting.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish presented an idea to “collaborate” with Franklin County to spend the funds in a way that benefits Wilton residents.

My thoughts are if we can work with the county, maybe there are some things we can work together on, on broadband, on a texting program for emergencies, good old fashioned economic development, put more funds into bringing businesses into Franklin County,” Irish explained.

The idea was originally raised by the Maine Municipal Association, which has suggested that there could be benefits to counties and municipalities working together to spend the ARPA funding.

Irish asked the board if they would be open to, “getting other municipalities to meet with the county to discuss collaboration with them.” She said that Charlie Woodworth, executive director of Greater Franklin Development Council, would be open to coordinating with various towns and the county. 

Selectboard Chair David Leavitt raised concerns about what the town of Wilton would get out of directing money toward countywide endeavors.

Advertisement

“It needs to benefit the town, not just the county,” Leavitt said.

Irish said that they have three years to spend the money, so they should not, “make rash decisions and spend it really quickly.”

For the time being, Irish got approval from the board to tell Woodworth to look into the option of county/municipality collaboration.

The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion federal relief bill that seeks to address the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The act reportedly brought $1.7 billion to Maine, which will be spread out across the state’s counties and municipalities.

The Maine Municipal Association said that municipalities, through their municipal legislative bodies, can use relief funds, “to respond to the coronavirus health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including by establishing programs to assist households, small businesses, and nonprofits or to assist impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.”

In other business, the board heard from Dennis Landry, a member of the public, on concerns “about how the money became available for the Blueberry Fest.”

Advertisement

Landry said he took issue with multiple parts of the process that have gone into funding the event, including using money that funded the canceled Wilton Blueberry Festival for the newly coordinated Blueberry Fest and appropriating an additional $13,000 toward it during a Select Board meeting, rather than at annual Town Meeting (which happened after the budget articles on the warrant were lumped together to avoid the threat of rain during Town Meeting). 

While Landry acknowledged how the town needs the festival, he stated his disappointment with the process surrounding it and alleged that Selectperson Tom Saviello, who was not present at the meeting, “stole the money for this.”

Leavitt said that the town is directly funding all of the endeavors for the festival, and as a result, “the bills are coming directly to the town office and the town manager is processing them.” Leavitt also clarified that Saviello came to the board with an itemized list with pricing for the festival.

Leavitt went on to say things will run differently in 2022 without this year’s time constraints, which arose after the original Wilton Blueberry Festival was canceled in May.

Jeff Chaisson, co-owner of Ambition Brewing and a coordinator of the Blueberry Fest, was also present and responded to Landry’s concerns. He said that he and Saviello are still actively fundraising for the festival and, “if we can get $20,000 (in donations) to cover the whole thing ourselves, we will.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login 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.