FARMINGTON — Two of the three Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday not to accept refugees settling in the county, at least for now, so the county can meet the needs of current residents.

Chairman Terry Brann of Wilton and Clyde Barker of Strong said they want to take care of the people who live here.

The third commissioner, Charles Webster of Farmington, who represents District 2, which covers Chesterville, Farmington and New Sharon, was not at the meeting at the county courthouse.

The discussion stems from an executive order President Donald Trump signed in September 2019 that would allow state and local government officials to decide if they want to consent to refugees settling in the jurisdictions they represent, according to the executive order.

U.S. District Court judge in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction against the order Jan. 15 after refugee resettlement organizations challenged Trump’s order, according to news reports.

The county would only have jurisdiction over the unorganized territory, according to news reports.

“My district is hurting,” said Barker, who represents District 3.

There are a lot of elderly people in his district who are struggling to get by, he said, and “they need more help.”

District 3 includes Avon, Carrabassett Valley, Coplin Plantation, Dallas Plantation, Eustis, Industry, Kingfield, New Vineyard, Phillips, Rangeley Plantation, Rangeley, Sandy River Plantation, Strong, Weld, and unorganized territories of East Central Franklin, North Franklin, South Franklin, West Central Franklin and Wyman.

Barker said he knows of several families facing foreclosures on their homes.

“I am not in support of this until we take care of our own people,” Brann said.

Barker and Brann said they were concerned the government would settle hundreds of people in the county without support.

Some at the meeting asked commissioners not to vote on the issue now. Instead, they requested there be more discussion about what refugee resettlement entails. One suggestion was to have someone from the governor’s office come to a commissioners’ meeting to speak about what it means to Franklin County.

Anne Marie Wolf, an assistant professor at University of Maine at Farmington, said she would like to see more discussion on the issue. Economic vitality is a reason to support resettlement, she said.

Fenwick Fowler, a Farmington resident who is a candidate for Webster’s seat in November, said refugees would not be settled in Franklin County because it does not have the resources needed.

Fowler suggested finding out what it would mean to the county. He volunteered to put together a community forum on the issue.

County Treasurer Pam Prodan suggested commissioners let the towns decide.

Tiffany Maiuri, of the Wilton Board of Selectpersons, suggested more information is needed before a decision is made. She is seeking election in November as commissioner to District 1, which is held by Brann. District 1 includes Carthage, Jay, Wilton, Temple, Washington and Perkins Township.

There are a lot of dentists, engineers, nurses and other professionals who have come to Maine from other countries, and those professionals are needed in Maine, she said.

“If they load us with people who need food, transportation, housing … how are we going to take care of them? Barker asked.

Maiuri believes there need be an open dialogue to understand what it means.

Brann had asked that refugee resettlement be added to Tuesday’s agenda.

“I thought that Franklin County should address this because we are a poor county,”  Brann said.

He asked Fowler if he could get someone from the governor’s office to come speak about it.

Penobscot County commissioners supported a resolution to support refugee resettlement in late January, according to news reports.

 


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