FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners are seeking an explanation from an area non-profit on how the group will use county money budgeted for their organization before handing over the funds.

At a meeting Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to send a letter to Western Maine Community Action, a Wilton-based non-profit that specializes in helping low and mid-income families with housing and utilities, asking the group to explain how they will use a payment of $6,250, the first of four quarterly payments for the fiscal year.

The move comes amid debate over funding for non-profit social services, which District 1 Commissioner Terry Brann and District 2 Commissioner Charlie Webster have said they envision completely eliminating by 2019-2020.

During budget discussions last spring, Webster also threatened to withhold funding for non-profits if the county budget committee followed through with an additional $20,000 in funding commissioners did not support. He said Tuesday he would like to see Western Maine Community Action come to commissioners and let them know what payments will be used for before they are made.

The protocol is similar to how the county handles requests for TIF funding, though Webster said other social services groups the county funds will not have to make justifications.

“Western Maine Community Action gets lots of money from the state and federal government,” Webster said. “That was their argument — that they needed this money for leverage (in applying for grants). We want to know how they are spending it.”

Bill Crandall, program manager at Western Maine Community Action, said he understands the request, though it is not always possible to know where the money is going during budget discussions.

Right now, he said the group is hoping to use the first payment as leverage to apply for a $750,000 grant that would provide support for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which assists residents with home heating and weatherization.

While it is true the organization does get state, federal and grant funding, Crandall said there are often stipulations on how the money can be used.

“The funding we get doesn’t always cover the support costs of our staff,” he said. “For example, I have a $40,000 grant in client dollars but no money to pass that out. Without that support, I’m not able to spend it. I would have to nail it to a wall without a person to make sure the funds are handed out correctly. We need that extra support for the staff to give those funds a proper home.”

The commission Tuesday also approved $6,680 to replace the clock faces at the Franklin County Superior Court. The cost is in addition to the $29,200 renovation currently underway in the building.

Carrabassett Valley Fire Chief Courtney Knapp was named to the county Dispatch Advisory Committee.

Finally, the commission also heard from Madrid resident Raymond Plog, whose backyard has been encroached upon by erosion along the Sandy River.

The county has scheduled a site visit for Sept. 5 to assess the problem.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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