May 24, 2019

Nonprofits funding top Franklin issue> Some prefer keeping tax money in town

FRANKLIN — Voters made quick work Saturday of most of the 71 articles on the warrant at the annual town meeting, with most of the discussion involving charitable contributions to nonprofits.

Of particular concern to some was a request for funding from the Ellsworth Public Library, which sought $2,347 from the town. Many in attendance balked at the idea of sending tax money raised in Franklin into Ellsworth and other surrounding towns.

“We support the businesses that pay Ellsworth taxes that fund the library,” said Bruce Abbott, a member of the town’s budget committee. He favored having the library charge a fee for people seeking a library card rather than asking all taxpayers in town to help foot the bill.

Abbott’s sentiments were echoed by Bruce Carter, Franklin’s first selectman, who said charitable contributions to outside agencies, though worthy causes, tend to pile up. He also said that Franklin tax dollars should be spent in Franklin.

But many residents defended the library, saying it is heavily used by the town’s children and is the only public library in the area that is open year round. Others said a user fee for access to the library would serve only to hurt children, the elderly and the poor.

Voters approved the funding 18-15 in a secret ballot.

Voters also had a similar discussion regarding funding for Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth, which requested that $1,450 be raised from property taxes to help the general operation of the hospital. A hospital spokeswoman said the hospital is operating with a deficit and relies upon community donations to help provide services to outlying towns.

“I seem to be taking on the Grinch role here,” Abbott said as he rose in opposition to the request. He said he opposed the hospital subsidy because of the soaring costs of health care. He favored getting costs under control as a means of meeting a budget rather than asking for more money.

“The system is broken,” Abbott said, “and we’re not going to fix it with these little subsidies.”

Voters ultimately approved the funding 18-14.

Voters also tabled an article that would have given the town’s selectmen the authority to join the proposed Schoodic Area League of Towns.

The league would comprise Franklin, Gouldsboro, Sorrento, Sullivan, Steuben and Winter Harbor, and would negotiate bulk contracts and purchasing, possibly resulting in savings for the member towns.

No discussion was held on the matter, though Carter said after the meeting that the proposal was not killed by tabling it.

“We didn’t lose it,” Carter said. “It’s just out there.”

In other business, voters:

Increased the pay of the town’s code enforcement officer by raising the permit fees for work performed in the town;

Re-elected incumbents Carter and Ivan Young to the Board of Selectmen, and Louis Plaud to the school committee;

Discontinued the Rabbit Town and Alder Brook Hill roads;

Agreed to hold a special town meeting by June 30 to vote on funding for the school department.

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