Commissioner Agendas & Minutes
COMMISSIONERS SPECIAL MEETING
August 15, 2014
Commission Chairman, Steven E. Joy, called the meeting of the Hancock County Commissioners to order at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, August 15, 2014 in the conference room at the county courthouse in Ellsworth Main with Commissioners Brown and Blasi in attendance.
The following propane tank bids were opened for the purchase of two propane tanks:
Coastal Energy $6,000
No Frills Oil Co., Inc. $4,700
Maine Energy Inc. $5,654.75 that included an option to receive all propane needed from October 2014 to April 2015 at a fixed price of $1.599 per gallon, delivered, and deduct $500.00 from install price making the bid $5,104.75.
Commissioner Joy spoke with Manager Madeira by phone who will review and make a recommendation. Commissioner Brown questioned if the bid included installation. Commissioner Joy read the bid specs aloud. Commissioner Brown felt that it may be cheaper to purchase them using our own account through the maintenance department. Commissioner Brown stated both he and Facilities Director Walls were certified to set the tanks. There is no installation of pipes needed. Commissioner Joy requested that this be looked into before the bid is awarded.
Noreen Norton was present to discuss the county development program for the Hancock Wind TIF District and the scheduling of a public hearing. Ms. Norton’s distributed a section of the statute made out into a table that shows uses of TIF money approved by statute.
The use of TIF revenues fall within three categories or tiers:
- Improvements to be made within district boundaries
- Capital costs
- Financing costs
- Real property assembly costs
- Administrative costs
- Relocating costs
- Organizational Costs
- Ongoing Costs
- Portion of costs related to construction, alteration or expansion of any facilities not located in the district that are required due to improvements or activities within the district
- Costs of public safety improvements
- Costs of funding to mitigate any adverse impact of the district
- Economic development programs or events developed by the municipality or the marketing of the municipality as a business location
- Environmental improvement projects
- Establishment of permanent economic development, revolving loan funds or investment funds
- Skills development and training services
- Quality child care services
- New or existing recreation trails
- New or expanded transit service
- Development of fisheries or marine resources projects
Recreational trails gets used most often as that is typically the only economic driver that most UT’s have which can include trail maintenance, trail upgrades, and expanding the trails. In most cases, capital costs can only be funded if they are within Tier 1. But recreational trails can be, in some limited transit investments that are capital costs, can be funded in Tier 3. The DECD reviews all proposals in compliance with statute; Tier 3 is the most scrutinized.
A copy of the project list from the previous TIF agreement with allocated funds was distributed. Ms. Norton also distributed a list of planned investments for Franklin County and Washington County. Commissioner Brown expanded on the broadband access which has to do with the tower and was hoping to use the tower for broadband. The commissioners are in hopes to using TIF money to get internet into the UT and possibly building a tower, if necessary. This would also be used for public safety.
Ms. Norton questioned the type of internet service to be provided, such as hardwiring? Commissioner Brown stated they are looking for a provider that would extend the internet from Ellsworth into Township 8. That would still leave the rest of the UT without some kind of a connection. He believes running hardwire would be too expensive. Ms. Norton questioned that since the broadband is within the district that the commissioners must have considered that the investment would occur on the tower that is within the district. Commissioner Brown stated the tower is located on Bull Hill which is in the district and the broadband would be providing the UT or the district with internet or broadband. Commissioner Joy stated that an issue is that the hard wiring is a mile away in Ellsworth which is located outside of the district. Currently FairPoint has the rights to it but would they want to install the infrastructure as it may be too expensive based on the number of users? The hardwiring would need to get to Fletcher’s landing, which is outside the district, in order to have it inside the district. Ms. Norton stated that it is also outside of the UT so it cannot be placed inside the district but it would at least fall outside the district but it would be made necessary by. Commissioner Brown stated they could not spend money on that until they get into the UT. Ms. Norton wasn’t sure who said that but there is a precedence about spending money within another municipality in order to bring infrastructure into the UT. She used Poland Springs Bottling as an example. Poland Spring Bottling needed to bring water in from Auburn to the Poland town line in which TIF revenues were used. Once it was in, it became part of the district. Ms. Norton recommended
“knocking on some doors” to get a clarification to see if TIF revenues could be used for that as this is an investment made necessary by the district.
Commissioner Joy explained the project as a Tier 1 project and the reasoning for installing internet in the UT. Ms. Norton questioned how this project qualified as a Tier 1 project as necessity would need to be for economic development such as small in home businesses that need high speed internet in order to run their business in order to upload or download data, have access to Facebook and other website accounts which may be delayed from a dial up connection. This would be a justifiable investment. If this is to serve the residents, there would be push back.
Commissioner Brown stated on the previous TIF agreement, public safety improvements such as radio and cell service as well as broadband access was listed outside the district. This was to improve cell phone contact for EMS and to also help with economic development in this area. It was understood that we would have to go outside the district in order to bring anything in. Ms. Norton stated that anything listed or included in the past TIF application can be shared or funded with revenue from both districts.
Commissioner Brown stated that a communication tower on Bull Hill cannot be used for cell phone and internet coverage. A new tower may need to be erected but we do not have that data at this time. It is unknown where the tower would be located. Ms. Norton stated that because we do not know where the tower is going to go, because that would be a capital infrastructure investment, everything except erecting the tower could be included. If a new tower is needed, the erection of the tower would need to be within the identified boundaries of the TIF district.
Ms. Norton stated that if we look at the map that came from the company that shows where the wind towers are going to go, a place can be identified anywhere in the UT where we plan to make the investment and figure out how many acres and exactly where it is on the ground and then the investment can be made in that location. An investment in the UT cannot be undefined it must be included in the geographic map, accounting for the acreage and the specific location. The DECD wants to know exactly how many acres it is, often up to the 100th of the acre. The percentage is then calculated of the total UT, what percentage that consumes, and then the total consumption of the geographic area of all TIF districts.
Ms. Norton stated that if the tower is to be funded with TIF revenues, a location could be found and do an amendment. The approval process would have to be the same as the initial approval process which is holding a public hearing and go through DECD review. Ms. Norton would like to see where the tower is going to go because then when the line goes in, you can say the line is made necessary by the district because there is a specific place in the district where the line is connecting with.
Commissioner Brown would want to talk with First Wind about putting a cell tower on their property. Ms. Norton stated that the tower can be placed anywhere in the district that is designated. Within the first tier, the real estate assembly cost can be funded with TIF revenues. Everything from engineering to see if the soil has the structural integrity necessary, to the purchase of the land, to the site work and construction can be funded if it falls in the Tier 1 category or within the defined boundary. If this site is not suitable, research can be done not using tier 1 money, but an amendment would need to be made in order to build the tower that is different from the original request.
UT Supervisor Millard Billings stated that Fletcher’s Landing is relatively flat. The tower would have to be placed on Sugar Hill, Bull Hill or Shoppe Ridge, where the turbines are going, to get elevation enough to come back to T8. If you go north, there is apt to be interference from Osborne; Moose Hill or Crotch Hill. Eastbrook or Waltham cannot be used as they are outside the UT. Even the equipment used on the tower has to be in the district. Commissioner Joy stated it would have to be a place holder and then determine the location at a future time.
Commissioner Brown stated he remembered that TIF funds could be used if affiliated with public landings or wharves. Ms. Norton stated that it depends on if it falls under recreation. Commissioner Brown stated that when they asked if funds could be used to fix up the landing in Nicatous, they were told no because funds couldn’t be used for public landings. UT Supervisor Billings asked if there was a difference between a recreational boat landing and a commercial boat landing. Ms. Norton stated that since they have added the recreational trails, they are still trying to figure out exactly where the lines are. If it is trails related, that is an allowed use. Some of it may be due to the language and we need to make sure it is consistent with the statute.
UT Supervisor Billings stated that a bridge in T41 has been removed that accesses the Eastside of Nicatous Lake. It is now a snowmobile bridge. No other vehicles can pass as it is too narrow. Ms. Norton stated the bridge could be covered if it is included as a snowmobile trail.
Hypothetically speaking, Commissioner Joy questioned the possibility of building cabins along the Sunrise Trail from Ellsworth to Calais. The county would buy land and build cabins and then lease them to individuals in order to provide a service such as a small restaurant, night accommodations or water. Any revenues received would not be considered TIF revenues. Ms. Norton stated that this is different than anything done before. She does know that one could have a piece of land and send out an RFP for someone to develop cabins and have them be rentals as a business use. For the UT to own it, construct it and then lease it out with the County acting as the business person, she is not sure how this would work. The challenge she sees from DECD’s perspective would be the county acting as the business rather than helping to establish a business.
The county might be able to do a land lease and lease the property to another business. The goal of the TIF is to improve employment, jobs and business development.
UT Supervisor Millard Billings suggested the possibility of connecting the sunrise trail to Sugar hill enabling snowmobile and ATV access to all of the northern wilderness. This would be approximately 10 miles and it would fit within Tier 3. The statute regarding Tier 3 include “costs associated with new or existing recreational trails determined by the department to have significant potential to promote economic development, including, but not limited to, costs for multiple projects and project phases that may include planning, design, construction, maintenance, grooming and improvements with respect to new or existing recreational trails, which may include bridges that are part of the trail corridor, used all or in part for all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing or other related multiple uses.”
Commissioner Brown stated the previous TIF agreement, outside of the new things, is a good agreement. Ms. Norton agreed and suggested starting with things that the commissioners don’t want included in the new TIF agreement. Items within the previous district are within different district boundaries and cannot be included. Administrative/Professional services would not overlap, road/parking infrastructure is in that district boundaries so revenues from this district cannot be used to help fund those named road/parking improvements. Other road/parking infrastructure can be named.
Commissioner Blasi responded to Ms. Norton’s question if there were any possible environmental projects. Commissioner Blasi questioned the possibility of septic remediation for residences such as a township wide plant. Ms. Norton stated that it would have to be an activity happening within the district and it would need to be related to commercial or arts activities. Commissioner Blasi asked if it could it be included in the agreement for future development as a place holder? Commissioner Brown did not think that would be allowed. Commissioner Joy questioned if TIF funds could be used to fix septic systems that may be running into Graham Lake. Ms. Norton stated that it would be allowed in order to protect the natural resource that is the economic driver.
Commissioner Brown questioned if environmental cleanup such as “white goods” (refrigerator, stoves, etc.) would fall in the environmental improvement category. Ms. Norton stated if it is found on the trails it would be considered grooming and maintenance but would not qualify as an environmental improvement project. This is a regular UT expense and would come out of the regular UT budget. Ms. Norton stated that an example of an environmental improvement project would be waterfront riprap.
Commissioner Brown commented on environmental protection around lakes and being concerned with discharges that may go into the lakes or streams. How is this determined and then cleaned? Do we pay it through TIF money or have to budget for it? If it is determined that fecal matter has been coming from cottages, this would be considered something that is happening that is impacting another area that is being used by tourists. Commissioner Joy asked if the mitigation of milfoil could be considered as an environmental protection project.
Commissioner Blasi questioned if Hancock County was proposing, to the State Department, this type of activity for environmental improvement. Ms. Norton will take the information given and put a plan together for the commissioners to look at in order to make any additions or corrections. She will then take the plan to the DECD in order to identify any questions or further clarification needed.
Commissioner Joy questioned having Fletcher’s Landing Township be part of the TIF district. Ms. Norton stated that a geographic area requirement is that at least 25% of the district area must be suitable for [there is a list] that includes economic development. Commissioner Brown questioned what would happen to the TIF if this area should organize as a town? Commissioner Joy stated that no more money would be spent. Commissioner Brown then questioned what would happen if a tower had been erected in that area? Ms. Norton stated that an area included that has residential and business development existing in it, any changes in their tax value will become part of the TIF revenue stream; it’s not subject to the credit enhancement. The credit enhancement needs to be structured in a way that it only draws on their investment.
Commissioner Joy stated that if Fletcher’s Landing Township were included, failed septic systems cannot be identified. If we set aside funds at 1% interest to fix septic systems, people may take advantage of this within the district. The Environmental Mitigation is in Tier 3 and does not need to be in the district. Commissioner Brown stated that if failed septic systems were identified, money from other sources could be utilized that is already available. Commissioner Blasi questioned the reasoning for not having more money available as it does not seem to be adequate funding. There may be other failed systems that are not in Fletcher’s Landing. Ms. Norton stated that Tier 3 cannot be used if the failed system is a residence as it must be impacting recreational water.
Commissioner Blasi commented on island landings. Beach Island has a Life Flight helicopter landing as well as Great Spruce head. Mr. Fuller from Great Spruce has a boat ramp where trucks can possibly unload. Mr. Cabot of Butter Island has a Life Flight helicopter landing site and is willing to allow outsiders to use it. He also has a solid boat ramp that has accommodated concrete trucks. Commissioner Blasi is in hopes that the land owners would be in support. Commissioner Brown stated that these are privately owned islands and don’t usually allow public access. Commissioner Blasi asked if these would be eligible for TIF funds for Life Flight improvement. Ms. Norton stated that Life Fight would fall in Tier 2 and it would be made necessary by the district and must be in the geographic boundaries of the TIF. Boat ramps would have to be on trails and it would have to be open to the public. Commissioner Brown did not feel the owners would be open to this.
Commissioner Joy asked to clarify if Fletcher’s Landing Township could be made part of the TIF district. Ms. Norton felt that it could. The criteria of the geographic area, in its entirety, at least 25% of the acreage must meet one of the following criteria: it must be a blighted area; it must be in need of rehabilitation, redevelopment or conservation or it must be suitable for commercial or arts district uses. It was estimated that approximately 130 acres is clearly commercial use with the possibility of adding another 10,000 acres. Can it be said that 25% of that is blighted, in need of rehabilitation or suitable for commercial use? Commissioner Joy stated that approximately 90% is wood harvesting and owned by the paper companies.
Commissioner Joy stated that he did not wish to put more money in the transit service as the need as diminished. Looking at the previous TIF agreement, administration/professional services is standard. If trail development was included, parking lots could be included in order to access trails. This is part of the trail system and included in Tier 3. Ms. Norton questioned the where the road/parking infrastructure was located on the map. It is possible it was at Nicatous. Commissioner Joy felt it may have been a place holder. UT Supervisor felt it was the Nicatous Road. Ms. Norton stated that since the Nicatous Road was included in the first TIF District, it cannot be included in the second TIF district.
Ms. Norton questioned public safety improvements beyond the radio/cell service outside of the district and what the budget numbers should be. Commissioner Brown stated the county will purchase a fire truck but will not come out of TIF revenues. TIF funds can be used to provide fire services to the UT if it is prorated to the amount that is related to the economic development activities within the district. The baseline is determined at the level of service currently provided that comes out of the general fund budget. If the development causes the county to make an additional investment in equipment or provide an additional level of service such as adding additional personnel, this increment can be funded with TIF revenues. This includes any replacement or maintenance on the increment only.
Commissioner Brown stated that in order to improve EMS communication services, a repeater tower was needed which is located outside of the UT. Would the cost incurred on the 2nd tower, to enhance the tower that we currently have, be covered by TIF funds? Ms. Norton did not feel that it would if located outside of the UT. The DECD has been very specific about infrastructure and capital investment being within the governing entity. Commissioner Brown emphasized that this tower was essential in order to improve EMS in the UT.
An investment on a piece of property located outside of the UT in order to erect a tower to improve EMS communication to unorganized Islands cannot be included in a UT TIF. Equipment purchased and housed outside of the UT would not qualify. The public safety investment funded with TIF revenues needs to be made necessary by what is happening in the district and other residents may happen to benefit from it. If an outsider were to purchase the equipment and place it on a tower to enhance broadband access or internet access, TIF funds would cover a long term lease to gain access to EMS communication. The county cannot purchase the equipment and place it outside of the district but it could be rented.
Commissioner Blasi asked to revisit the possibility of TIF funds being used to supplement the county’s expenses for emergency services in the UT. Ms. Norton answered that if there is an additional expense required because of activities required within the district, TIF revenues can be used to fund that additional amount. TIF revenues do not cover services from municipalities. No services, no special training, nothing.
Commissioner Joy stated that the County of Hancock contracts with the City of Ellsworth for fire protection for Fletcher’s Landing. Would TIF funds cover building a public safety building and budget one or two people to run the station? Ms. Norton asked what is occurring within the district that necessitates constructing a public safety building. Commissioner Joy answered that it has always been necessary but it is now located in the district and employs two people. Ms. Norton stated that if there is something new that’s occurring because of activities within the district that require additional services, additional coverage or additional investment due to the new activity, this case could easily be made. What is creating the need for a new fire station?
UT Supervisor Billings stated that T16 and T22 used to be woodland. 19 wind turbines have been erected in T16 and T22 will soon have 17 turbines. This created the need for fire protection. Could a fire structure be built in T16 or T22 to cover the turbines? Ms. Norton stated that if the need is for a shorter response time due to the wind turbines, this is a case that can be made. We do not have a contract with Eastbrook for fire protection. Commissioner Brown stated they would have to have a piece of property to place the building. Commissioner Joy stated they may allow the fire truck to be used for mutual aid to other places. The building may be in the district already developed or placed in Eastbrook or near Rt. 9. Ms. Norton will have to research if the building and/or equipment can be placed outside of the district as it falls outside of the district public safety improvement category. Commissioner Joy suggested having the TIF amended to add an acre of land. Ms. Norton stated that the funds for the fire station may need to be prorated depending on how the station is used. A percentage may have to come from general funds and the other from TIF.
Ms. Norton will meet the UT Supervisor in order to calculate acreage and determine what trails should be included in the district and what would be determined outside of the district.
Ms. Norton suggested adding educational skills training. Educational training can be offered to people that live in UT but can be offered to those that live outside of UT. Ms. Norton will get a better explanation on how these funds would be spent. The annual donation to EMDC may be prorated as it relates to the UT and a portion of the donation may be paid from TIF revenues. Commissioner Brown stated that TIF funds could be used to hire EMDC to provide programs for retraining. Ms. Norton will add a category titled Professional Services related to Economic Development.
The Revolving Loan program is self-sustaining. The revolving loan program has expanded to be available as a grant. This loan needs to be given within the UT. When the Revolving Loan fund is capitalized, it is an expenditure out of the TIF fund. It is no longer TIF revenue and if more funds are available at the end of the term that is not going to be expended, rather than losing the tax shift value, this can be added to the capitalization of the revolving loan fund rather than adding to the general fund. This fund is structured how you want or you contract with an organization such as EMDC to manage the loans.
TIF funds could be used to create an industrial park by purchasing land, setting it up and provide funding or grants to build or employ. If a business park is created, TIF funds may be used in developing a town/city sewer system. Loans can be provided to businesses that may come into the park.
Copies of the Franklin County and Washington County TIF programs were distributed and discussed. Washington County has a commercial revolving loan fund that is for economic development.
Ms. Norton repeated the criteria for the geographic area. She will take the information and meet with UT Supervisor to determine the geographic area, preliminary numbers and send electronically. When they have been reviewed, a preflight can be made with DECD prior to meeting again. Commissioner Joy stated that his cabin idea would be near Donnell’s pond or possibly in T7 or T10.
Commissioner Blasi asked if the county borders could be surveyed due to some of them not being marked. Ms. Norton asked if this was an economic development justification. Commissioner Joy stated it should be done out of the budget. UT Supervisor Billings questioned if it could be tied to the trails somehow?
The public hearing was discussed. The goal is to hold the public hearing on Friday, September 12, 2014; the same day as the commissioner’s meeting.
The complaint received from Vladik Filler was discussed.
MOTION: to adjourn. (Blasi/Brown 3-0, motion passed)
Deputy County Clerk