FARMINGTON — Franklin County residents will be asked Tuesday to decide whether to increase the number of county commissioners from three to five, and whether they want to switch from an elected treasurer to an appointed one.

State Rep. Sheila Lyman, R-Livermore Falls, holds a map of the three Franklin County commission districts Oct. 12 during the Jay selectmen meeting. Sen. Russell Black, R-Wilton, explains how adding two commissioners would benefit the county. Voters will decide the issue Nov. 2. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

Voting will take place in each town.

County commissioners decided in August that they wanted the voters to choose whether to abolish the elected treasurer position.

Franklin County Question 1 reads: “Shall the position of elected county treasurer be abolished and replaced with a treasurer position appointed by county commissioners?”

If the majority vote yes, the appointed position would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023. If the majority vote no, the treasurer’s position would be up for election in November 2022.

Pamela Prodan of Wilton has been treasurer since 2014. She has indicated she will run for the office again, if the position remains an elected one.

Franklin County Question 2 asks: “Do you favor increasing the number of Franklin County commissioner districts from three to five and stagger the terms of the five county commissioners beginning in 2024 following redistricting conducted pursuant to the Constitution of Maine in 2021?”

Redistricting was based on the 2020 census. Even if voters choose to keep three commissioners, the districts will have some changes. Each district represents between 9,447 and 10,017 people.

Commissioners opted last year not to put the law passed in June 2019 to increase the number commissioners before voters. However, legislators passed a law in June that required commissioners to bring the issue to voters Nov. 2.

The majority of the 16 counties in the state have three commissioners. Cumberland, with 303,069 residents, Somerset with 50,477, and York with 211,972 each have five.

Androscoggin County, which has 111,139 residents, has seven commissioners, according to the Maine County Commissioners Association.

The populations are based on the 2020 census.

Commissioner stipends differ in each county. Some have benefits while others do not, according to a survey by the Sun Journal.

The three Franklin County commissioners each get a $12,000 stipend annually and receive no benefits. The county population is 29,456, which is about 1,100 less than the 2010 census, Sen. Russell Black, R-Wilton, told Jay selectpersons Oct. 12.

Black and state Rep. Sheila Lyman, R-Livermore Falls, met with the Jay board to explain the proposal to add two commissioners. Other legislators have also met with town boards to do the same.

The law passed in June divided the districts vertically, which would have given Rangeley and Carrabassett Valley separate districts with additional towns in them. It was an effort to increase representation, according to lawmakers.

The two towns are the first and third highest taxpayers in the county, respectively. However, legislators were told the division in the district had to be done solely by population, Black said. Jay is the second highest taxpayer.

Under the five-member commission plan, each commission district would have between 5,710 and 6,120 residents. The latter is the majority population of Farmington, which would be District 2. The remaining 1,472 Farmington residents, which are on the east side of town, would be in District 3 with other towns.

Attempts by the county Budget Advisory Committee to reduce the commissioners’ stipend failed in 2020. The stipend had been reduced years prior to get it to $12,000.

Jay Selectperson Lee Ann Dalessandro asked Black earlier this month if would Jay pay more taxes if the five-member commission plan passes.

Black said commissioners have the authority to set their own pay. Whether commissioners decide to split the $36,000 between five members to make it $7,200, or increase the overall stipend budget would be up to them, he said.

That could mean higher taxes for some towns if the stipend budget increases.

Commissioners meet twice a month, just as most select boards do, Black said. Select boards don’t make anywhere near $12,000 a year, he said.

Commission Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton disagreed with Black’s comment about commissioners meeting two times a month. Many times they meet more than that, including this month when they met four times. They are also responsible for all of the county roads in the unorganized territory and have other duties, he said.

Two commissioners can not meet to talk outside of a meeting because it constitutes a quorum, Black said.

Maine law defines a quorum as a majority of members of a board or committee.

If there were five commissioners, three would be a quorum.

If voters approve having five commissioners, the districts would be:

District 1: Jay and Chesterville.

District 2: Farmington.

District 3: East side of Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard and Strong.

District 4: Avon, Phillips, Temple and Wilton.

District 5: Carrabassett Valley, Carthage, Coplin Plantation, Dallas Plantation, Eustis, Kingfield, Rangeley, Rangeley Plantation, Sandy River Plantation, Weld, Wyman Township and all the unorganized territory.

The three districts are:

District 1: Carthage, Dallas Plantation, Jay, Rangeley Plantation, Sandy River Plantation, Weld, Wilton, south Franklin unorganized territory, and west Central Franklin unorganized territory.

District 2: Chesterville, Farmington and Temple.

District 3: Avon, Carrabassett Valley, Coplin Plantation, East Central Franklin unorganized territory, Eustis, Industry, Kingfield, New Sharon, New Vineyard, North Franklin unorganized territory, Phillips, Rangeley, Strong and Wyman Township.


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