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Councilors to look at Southern Aroostook Development Corp. funding mechanism

HOULTON, Maine — Town councilors will have a discussion about the potential mechanism for funding the Southern Aroostook Development Corp. in its budget during a future meeting.

Council Chairman William McCluskey raised questions about funding for the organization during a recent meeting.

Jon McLaughlin, executive director of SADC, told councilors during that meeting that in the past, the group would come before the Council and ask for money. That changed after he said that “some councils had not been pro-economic development,” which put SADC’s funding at risk.

He said that former Town Manager Doug Hazlett added funding for SADC under an administrative line item in the municipal budget. McLaughlin said that action also allowed the manager to ultimately control the total funding for the organization.

“We didn’t want the funding to be an issue each year,” he said. “We were doing a lot of work with the town manager and there were projects going on. The town manager decided to put it under the administrative budget.”

But McCluskey said he felt it would be more proper for SADC to come before the councilors to request funding each year.

He also noted that while SADC has its own board of directors, the group has availed itself of the town’s attorney in the past.

“Why do we have to be responsible for your legal fees?” McCluskey asked.

McLaughlin said it was a mistake that the municipal attorney billed the town instead of SADC.

“That has been rectified,” he said.

McCluskey said he was pro-business and had nothing against SADC, but felt the situation was improper nonetheless.

“Why is this one agency a line item and no other outside agencies are,” asked McCluskey. “It seems a bit odd. I am not saying to defund them, just take them off our line item. … I think you do great work, but it is one of those things that sticks out as your agency being treated differently than the rest. Other agencies don’t have the presumed privilege that you do.”

Councilors decided to review SADC’s contract and its arrangement with the town at a future meeting or workshop.

“We are open to anything,” said McLaughlin. “We are glad to sit down with you and discuss it further.”

No date has been set for that meeting.

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