FARMINGTON — The Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday to authorize a $90,000 loan to a business in the unorganized territory.

The money will come from a revolving loan fund created by a local tax-increment financing district.

Franklin County Commission Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton, left, Charles Webster of Farmington and Clyde Barker of Strong discuss business Tuesday as county Finance Manager Vickie Braley, seated, looks on at the Franklin County Courthouse in Farmington. Sun Journal photo by Donna M. Perry

Sandra Lamontagne and Craig House, owners of Tea Pond Lodge & Cabins in Jim Pond Township, near the Eustis line, are building a 40- by 100-foot pavilion to host weddings and other events. They also received a $50,000 grant from the TIF last year to help with the open-air pavilion.

The Kibby Wind Power TIF fund is for economic development in the unorganized territory.

The interest rate on the 10-year loan is 4.5%, county Financial Manager Vickie Braley said.

In other matters, commissioners continued discussion on setting salaries for elected officials and the possibility of keeping them the same throughout their four-year term. The question came up during the commissioners’ review of a proposed budget for 2019-20.

A 2% raise is included in the budget for nonunion employees. Commissioners have decided in the past — following the Franklin County Budget Advisory Committee’s approval of the budget — what the actual raise would be, if any.

According to Commissioners Charles Webster of Farmington and Terry Brann of Wilton, some residents of the county have questioned why elected officials get raises. Some people think they should not get pay increases, the commissioners said.

Commissioner Clyde Barker of Strong said elected people should be treated the same as nonunion personnel.

Full-time elected officials receive 100 percent health insurance coverage. If they opt out, they are eligible for 70 percent of the benefit cost and it goes into a retirement plan, Braley said after the meeting. They do not get a check for it, she said.

Full-time elected officials, of which there are three: the sheriff and the registers of probate and deeds, receive $3,300 a year in flex benefits to be used for dental, vision, life insurance and short-term disability, she said. If they don’t use it, it rolls into their retirement plan.

The Budget Committee set the stipend for county commissioners several years ago at $12,000 a year. The committee also removed the flex benefit provision for commissioners who are elected to four-year terms.

County Clerk Julie Magoon had asked the county’s lawyer if commissioners could set a salary for an elected official and keep it the same for a four-year term.

“While the commissioners can state they don’t want to raise the salary of an elected official during that official’s term, they can’t bind future Boards of Commissioners and they have to act each year on the salaries of the elected as part of the budget process,” according to county attorney Patrica Dunn of the law firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry of Portland.

“Further, the Budget Committee can change what is recommended by the commissioners for the salary of an elected official,” Dunn wrote. “There is a provision in the Maine Constitution that prohibits the salary of a judge from being reduced during the judge’s term of office.”

There is also a Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision stipulating that constitutional provision applies to probate judges, according to Dunn’s May 3 email.

There is nothing requiring commissioners or the Budget Committee to “negotiate” with elected officials, but elected officials can make their case for compensation as part of the budget process, she wrote.

Magoon said commissioners, not the Budget committee, set salaries and approve raises. The Budget Committee can only make recommendations.

Commissioners plan to discuss the issue further at another meeting, Brann said.


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