FARMINGTON — County Commissioners Tuesday sustained several program cuts made by the county Budget Committee, as it failed to muster unanimous votes needed to restore funding to a mental health program and the Greater Franklin County Development Council.

By a unanimous vote, county commissioners can add an item to the budget and send it back to the committee for final approval. The committee is scheduled to consider the $5.65 million budget 5 p.m. Thursday.

The only Budget Committee cut opposed by all three commissioners was a request from the tri-county district attorney’s office for Franklin County’s $13,947 share of the cost of a restitution specialist, a position that had previously been funded by federal funds that have run out.

The county contribution was not formally requested until after the budget process was underway, and was initially denied by the budget committee after some selectmen said it was procedurally out of order.

Before the vote, Commissioner Fred Hardy said that while he does not want to add excess money to the budget, he did not think the county would actually save money by cutting the position and expect other staff to do the extra work.

“I’m pretty well convinced there’s no way Franklin County could go on and save any money,” he said.

The other changes the budget committee made to the Franklin County budget were sustained, though a few commissioners voiced disagreements and concerns.

Commissioner Gary McGrane said that while he would vote in favor of a reduction in the county’s contribution to Tri-County Mental Health from $20,000 to $10,000, but said he is concerned about cutting a mental health service, particularly one that provides services in the schools.

While a majority of the commissioners supported restoring the county’s $60,000 grant to the Greater Franklin Development Corporation, they failed to muster the needed unanimous vote and the contribution will be slashed by $10,000.

Commissioners Fred Hardy and Clyde Barker voted to restore county funding to $60,000, but McGrane voted against it and the cut will stand.

Hardy said he felt the county should support the economic development group, which he said does more by combining $60,000 with outside funding than the county could do with the same money.

“I think we’re missing the boat here,” he said.

Barker said the development group must protect the privacy of businesses considering investing in the community and can’t always advertise what it is working on. He said the lack of publicity does not mean the corporation is not actively working on development.

“There are so many things that go on in that group that they can’t talk about,” Barker said.

McGrane cited the development corporation’s original goal of gradually replacing county money with private donations as a reason for voting to reduce the funding. Greater Franklin Development Corporation originally set a goal of being entirely privately funded by 2003 but has continued to ask for county program grants for more than a decade.

“I think it’s time Greater Franklin weaned itself off the funds,” he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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