Franklin County Approves $235,000 in Grants from TIF Funds for Projects and Economic Development

FARMINGTON — Franklin County Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to support recommendations from the county’s Tax Increase Funding Advisory Committee to award $235,000 in grants to fund three projects as well as economic and community development in the county. Great Franklin.

The committee reviews all grant applications and scores them. Recommended projects are submitted to the Commissioners for review and possible approval.

The grant money comes from a tax increment financing agreement with Helix Generation LLC, a subsidiary of LS Power Equity Advisors. It was originally entered into in 2008 between TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc. in relation to a 44-turbine wind farm in northern Franklin County, which is now owned by Helix. Since then, the TIF has been amended four times.

Greater Franklin requested $120,000 from TIF. He also received $120,000 last year. Funding for the organization has been controversial in the past, although Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong has regularly supported it.

Commissioner Chair Terry Brann of Wilton, as well as a former commissioner, were not in favor of funding the entity, or other nonprofit social service agencies, and eliminated the funding.

Brann said he opposed Greater Franklin’s request. He would accept $60,000, which was previously awarded in years prior to 2017, but not $120,000. Commissioner Lance Harvell of Farmington said he and Brann previously agreed in principle to the $60,000. Brann said he hadn’t seen much going on with the Greater Franklin and didn’t know of any new jobs. He also noted that the commissioners had not had quarterly visits or reports from Charlie Woodworth, executive director of Greater Franklin.

Woodworth said Wednesday he was sending updates to the county. Brann said he hasn’t received any updates and checks his emails frequently.

Barker said he supported Greater Franklin’s request. Many counties have economic development organizations, he said, Franklin County needs them.

Woodworth is one of two trustees of the TIF funds and works with the TIF committee. No administrator votes on projects.

Bob Carlton of Freeman Township, who is on the committee, said members review grant applications with a ‘fine-toothed comb’, analyze, make adjustments and ask applicants questions before a recommendation is made. to the commissioners. Members carefully considered Greater Franklin’s candidacy, he said.

“We rode Charlie pretty hard,” he said. He asked the commissioners to support the committee’s recommendations.

The development group raised $60,674 for the TIF funds, Woodworth said. He pointed out that Franklin County does not have enough people to fill current job openings.

He added that the organization has worked hard to connect the entire county to reliable, high-speed broadband so that every citizen can participate in the 21st century economy. By the end of 2023, 12,000 addresses in 13 cities will be upgraded to a fibre-to-home network. The work represents $34 million in fiber infrastructure investment in Franklin County, he said.

“It’s not like building a road that will need to be repaved in eight years,” he said. “This investment will pay benefits and compound interest day after day.”

“High-speed internet will allow the area to grow and compete with the rest of New England,” Woodworth said.

Brann also said he hired the new county administrator, Amy Bernard, who has expertise in economic development.

“This gives Amy and I a year to figure out how to be most efficient and effective working on behalf of the county,” Woodworth said.

Brann said he supports the other three projects recommended by the committee.

Grants approved include $50,000 to help develop Bigelow Fields, a family bison ranch in Lang Township that has other offerings. It depends on the company collecting a consideration of $50,000 or more. A $30,000 grant has been approved for a High Peaks initiative to inventory recreational assets. The other $35,000 grant will go to the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust to improve public access to its recently acquired 1,731-acre property in Kennebago Headwaters.

Although TIF is primarily intended for unorganized territory, the Legislature approved an amendment to the county’s TIF program in 2019 that allowed TIF economic development funds to be used throughout the county for costs associated with expansion projects. broadband and fiber optics.

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