February 26, 2013

Farmington selectmen OK $1,000 to complete downtown plan

No action following third executive session to discuss unspecified personnel matter

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday voted to sign a $1,000 consulting contract to finish the Downtown Development Plan.

The consultant, John Holden, presented multiple drafts of the plan during three public workshops since October, but his original contract with the town expired before the board could reach agreement on the draft.

The new contract with Holden states he will take the draft presented Dec. 31 and simplify the plan into a list of projects, not specifying which organization may implement the projects and not giving a timeline for them.

Selectman Andrew Hufnagel had criticized the proposed plan for giving too much authority to the Farmington Downtown Association by specifically mentioning it as an organization that would help carry out the plan.

Hufnagel, who recently founded the Farmington Business Association, said if the draft’s language was not changed, the town would give a nongovernmental organization too much control in a project that uses government funding.

The edited version will be presented at a final public workshop and then be presented to the board for a vote.  

Davis said if the public still has concerns about the plan after Holden presents it at the workshop, the draft should be at the point where it only needs minor edits and can be adjusted by the board after Holden’s contract expires.

Selectman Ryan Morgan said he thought it sad that the board could not agree on a draft before Holden’s original contract ran out, costing the town an additional $1,000 to extend the contract.

“I don’t know where the breakdown of communication was,” he said.

Selectman Dennis Pike said trying to agree on the draft was a learning experience for the board.

“We had unexpected obstacles,” he said.

Recommendations in the earlier draft included infrastructure projects such as a Sandy River pedestrian bridge, downtown public restrooms, a parking structure, new street lights and improved sidewalks.

The draft also suggested the town create a tax-increment financing district in the downtown to fund the infrastructure projects and hire an event coordinator to direct downtown events.

The board also held a closed-door meeting for 35 minutes with town attorney Frank Underkuffler to discuss a personnel matter for the third time since mid-January.

Chairman Steve Bunker said he could not confirm whether the three meetings were about the same subject. The board has not taken a vote at any of the meetings. If they decide to vote, they must do so publicly, according to Maine law.

Eight town employees waited outside the door during the first closed-session, which lasted 90 minutes, to express support for the person whom they believed the session involved.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

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