WILTON – The Wilton Selectboard discussed options on how to spend American Rescue Plan Act funding at its meeting on Tuesday.
City Manager Rhonda Irish pitched an idea of “working” with Franklin County to spend the funds in a way that benefits Wilton residents.
“My thoughts are if we can work with the county, maybe there are things we can work on together, on broadband, on an emergency texting program, good old-fashioned economic development, put more fundss to bring businesses to Franklin County, ”Irish explained.
The idea was originally raised by the Maine Municipal Association, which suggested that there might be benefits for counties and municipalities to work together to spend ARPA funding.
Irish asked the board if they would be open to, “get others municipalities meet with the county to discuss collaboration with them. She said Charlie Woodworth, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Council, would be open to coordinating with various cities and the county.
Selection committee chairman David Leavitt has raised concerns about what the town of Wilton will get out of allocating money to county-wide efforts.
“It has to benefit the city, not just the county,” Leavitt said.
The Irish have said they have three years to spend the money, so they should not “make rash decisions and spend it very quickly”.
For now, Irish has obtained board approval to tell Woodworth to consider the option of a county-town collaboration.
The American Rescue Plan Act is a $ 1.9 trillion federal relief bill that aims to address the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The law is said to have brought in $ 1.7 billion in Maine, which will be distributed among counties and municipalities across the state.
The Maine Municipal Association said municipalities, through their municipal legislatures, can use relief funds, “to respond to the coronavirus health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including establishing programs for helping households, small businesses and non-profit organizations or helping those affected industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.
In the remaining cases, the board heard from Dennis Landry, a member of the public, on the “concerns”on how the money became available for the Blueberry Fest.
Landry said he disagreed with several parts of the process that helped fund the event, including using the money that funded the canceled Wilton Blueberry Festival for the newly coordinated Blueberry Fest and allocating an additional $ 13,000 to it at a board meeting, rather than at the town’s annual meeting (which took place after the budget articles on the mandate were regrouped to avoid the threat of rain during the communal assembly).
Although Landry acknowledged how badly the city needed the festival, he declared his disappointment with the process surrounding him and alleged that Selectperson Tom Saviello, who was not present at the meeting, “stole the money for it “.
Leavitt said the city directly funds all festival efforts and, therefore, “tThe invoices arrive directly at the town hall and the general manager processes them. Leavitt also clarified that Saviello came to the board with a detailed list of prizes for the festival.
Leavitt went on to say things would be different in 2022 without this year’s time constraints, which came after the Wilton Blueberry Festival was canceled in May.
Jeff Chaisson, co-owner of Ambition Brewing and coordinator of Blueberry Fest, was also in attendance and addressed Landry’s concerns. He said he and Saviello are still actively seeking to fundraise for the festival and, “if we can get $ 20,000 (in donations) to cover it all ourselves, we will. “