FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners on Tuesday set the county tax rate at $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed property value, representing a 5 cent increase over the current tax rate of $1.21 per $1,000.

The total tax commitment of $5.51 million will be distributed among the 21 communities plus the unorganized territory in the county, according to a list of assessments approved by commissioners.

The total budget, including revenue, for 2018-2019 is $6.56 million and also was accepted by commissioners Tuesday after a county budget committee overrode their suggestion to add an extra $10,000 earlier this month.

In other news Tuesday, commissioners took no action after a discussion on the use of emergency dispatch by NorthStar Ambulance.

District 1 Commissioner Terry Brann and District 2 Commissioner Charlie Webster had said last week they had concerns about the ambulance service responding to a high number of calls that county dispatchers answer and whether the county should be charging the ambulance to take such calls.

NorthStar Director Mike Senecal told the commission Tuesday that if a fee is levied it would be passed on to communities in Franklin County that currently pay to subsidize coverage. The ambulance service is a branch of Franklin Memorial Hospital, a nonprofit organization.

Senecal said ambulance services that operate out of hospitals in neighboring communities, such as Redington-Fairview General Hospital EMS in Skowhegan or PACE Ambulance at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, are not assessed fees for using county dispatch services.

“It was a serious question, so we asked them to come in,” Webster said. “It made sense, but we don’t want to charge the towns more. That’s the bottom line. So if we were to end up assessing them a fee, it would mean the towns would have to pay more.”

Commissioners also heard from Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, who will be engaging in discussions with Central Maine Power Co. about the implications of a Quebec-to-Massachusetts power line expected to be built through Franklin County.

Saviello, who has encouraged communities to seek more benefits from CMP in exchange for support of the project, said Tuesday he will be looking into opportunities to expand cellphone coverage, improve internet connections and get more money for economic development.

Massachusetts utilities signed an agreement last week with CMP for the power line project, though the permitting process is still underway.

“It’s not a done deal by far,” Saviello said to commissioners. “At the end of the day, I feel like if we’re not helped appropriately, we need to reconsider how we support this line.”

Finally, commissioners on Tuesday hired a new director of the Franklin County Communications Center to replace Stan Wheeler, who is retiring June 30.

Carold Folsom will start July 11 at a salary of $55,000. In the meantime, Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols will serve as interim communications director.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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