FARMINGTON — Infrastructure, affordable childcare and public health needs are among some of the proposed uses for an estimated $8 million coming to Franklin County and its municipalities as part of a federal stimulus package that was passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden on March 11.

A group of county and town officials and others offered up suggestions during a workshop Tuesday to brainstorm about how to invest the money.

Neal Goldberg of the Maine Municipal Association gives Franklin County and municipal officials an overview Tuesday of what the federal American Rescue Act funds can be used on. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

Franklin County is expected to receive nearly $5.96 million and its towns anticipate receiving a bulk stimulus of about $2.2 million over two years from the American Rescue Plan Act, Charlie Woodworth, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Council, said Tuesday. He facilitated the meeting at the Franklin County Courthouse.

The American Rescue Act program is new and authorities are still writing the rules for the use of the funds as the program is being implemented, said Neal Goldberg, a representative of the Maine Municipal Association. He added that if there is a “good, strong consensus,” the state could adjust some of its spending policies to reflect collaboration between county government and municipalities.

In the county’s case, it needs to submit a first interim report to the U.S. Treasury by Aug. 31, and submit a first quarterly project and expenditure report by Oct. 31. By Dec. 31, 2024, funds must be incurred and obligated. It must be spent to cover obligations and all work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2026, according to an overview of U.S. Treasury interim final rule and guidance for state and local fiscal recovery funds as it appeared in the National Association of Counties. Counties may provide premium pay retroactively, dating to the start of the public health emergency on Jan. 27, 2020.

In a survey, the top priority identified was infrastructure, specifically transportation and utilities. Roads and bridge repair were a priority but are currently not eligible for use of the funds, Goldberg said.

Drinking water, wastewater and broadband infrastructure improvements are already in the federal government’s proposed plans. In the case of clean water and wastewater projects, those have to align with the Maine Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. There is a set speed for the broadband and high-speed internet projects.

Carrabasett Valley Town Manager Dave Cota and Rangeley Town Manager Joe Roach said affordable housing of all kinds including workforce are needed in their areas.

Sheriff Scott Nichols said he was looking to collaborate with Farmington to extend the public sewer line so the jail could attach. The current sewer system is 38 years old, he said. Town Manager Richard Davis said he did not think that was a cost-effective use of the funds. The town could already spend 75% of what it will receive, which is nearly $820,000 on wastewater projects outlined in its Climate Adaption Plan.

Nichols also mentioned expanding the small medical facility at the jail, he said.

Other ideas included: affordable childcare and transportation in the Phillips area; a county-wide asset evaluation for infrastructure such as road and bridge repair maintenance, water and wastewater; using funding as grants for local businesses; support the improvement of public health emergency situations or overall emergency management improvements. Also, GIS mapping on a county-wide level; addressing air quality issues within municipal and county facilities; internet connectivity improvements in certain areas; identification of some equipment that could be shared between county and municipal departments for public safety issues; and text service for regional emergency medical services notifications.

Residents in municipalities will need to vote on the specific plan in their towns, Davis said, while the county commissioners will vote on the county plan. Public input is needed for both. Another meeting will be held Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. in the courtroom at the county building for people who couldn’t attend the first public meeting.

The more input received, the better the outcome will be, Woodworth said.

Guidance for municipal spending of the funds can be found on the Greater Franklin Development Council website.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.