Public funding for non-government agencies was reduced when the Franklin County budget committee partially denied appeals from several groups Wednesday.

Greater Franklin Development Corporation, the regional dispatch center, Tri County Mental Health and the district attorney’s office for more funding all would get less funding in the budget recommended by the committee Wednesday. The budget goes to county commissioners for approval.

Committee members Wednesday were divided over two other groups, but approved adding $750 to funding for the Franklin County Firemen’s Association and restored $2,000 previously nixed from Franklin County Soil & Water.

The $5.64 million budget proposed by the budget committee, consisting of selectmen from county towns, will now go to county commissioners for approval. The three commissioners can either approve the budget amendments or, with a unanimous vote, make changes to the budget and send it back to the committee.

Among those agencies where county funding would be slashed under the budget committee plan was the Greater Franklin Development Corporation. Its original budget request of $60,000 was slashed to $50,000 on a 6-1 vote.

When the development corporation was founded in 1998, corporation leaders said they would need county money for only five years. Several budget committee members were critical of the development group’s inability to wean itself off county money.

The group’s executive director Alison Hagerstrom said previously that private donations have fallen since the recession began in 2008. She said the group has delivered tangible benefits to the community by helping bring Poland Spring to Kingfield and Comfort Inn & Suites to Wilton, as well as lobbying Summit Natural Gas to build a pipeline to Farmington.

Strong Selectman Mike Pond, said he felt the county was wasting money on an organization that has done little to demonstrate a return on Franklin County’s investment.

“I’m not happy with Greater Franklin’s performance,” he said.

Weld Selectman Mike Pratt said the county should fund Greater Franklin, because the county government has an interest in its work to economically develop the county.

“Reducing their budget to zero would take the county out of the picture,” he said.

County officials eventually approved a motion by Farmington Selectman Josh Bell to reduce the development corporation funding to $50,000, down from $54,000 to year prior, as a way to forcing the group to shift its funding from the county government to private donors.

Tri County Mental Health was also cut from $20,000 to $10,000 in a 6-1 vote. Its funding doubled from $10,000 to $20,000 last year. Pond made a motion to cut the funds because he said the money was not given to the mental health service based on performance or need, but on an emotional reaction to a shooting death involving a veteran with mental health problems who confronted a Farmington police officer.

“I felt it was just 100 percent based on emotions on what happened with Farmington PD,” he said.

Farmington Selectman Ryan Morgan moved, with a 6-1 vote, to raise the county’s grant to the Franklin County Firemen’s Association from $3,700 to $4,450. Morgan said the fire association gives the county good “bang for our buck.” The low-cost training provided by the association, he said, is valuable to area fire departments.

Farmington Selectman Josh Bell said that he was against the measure because it was not fiscally wise to “throw more money” to the group when they hadn’t asked the committee for additional funding.

The district attorney’s office was denied its request for $13,000 to help pay for a specialist to administer court-ordered restitution. The position had previously been paid for by a federal grant, but the tri-county district learned the grant would run out after their original budget request was submitted to the county.

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Robinson said the district needs a full time employee to handle the requests and Franklin County is being asked to pay a portion of the cost, along with Androscoggin and Oxford counties.

Morgan moved to deny the request because he said he didn’t want to start a precedent of last minute add-ons to county requests.

Avon Selectman John Calloway, also commmittee chairman, countered that sometimes the committee members “sometime worry so much about setting a precedent that we don’t do what needs to be done.” The request was denied 4-3.

The Franklin County Regional Communications Center budget was cut by $3,000 to $884,120. The dispatch center was formally severed from the sheriff’s department this year into its own budget, with its own department head and own building.

Morgan said he supported cutting the budget because it “has grown exponentially” since it was separated from the sheriff’s department. He said that he believes the center budget could be cut further and that some of the expenses and technology were unnecessary.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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