MACHIAS, Maine — Washington County commissioners promised Thursday night to continue their research into using a special fund for development of cell phone towers in Unorganized Territory.
The tax increment financing fund, created using funds from the Stetson Mountain wind power initiative, could be used to place cell phone and broadband towers in Unorganized Territory that could solve the county’s frustrating lack of coverage.
“We are aggressively working on this,” Chairman Chris Gardner said at the meeting. “It would be very beneficial to a large portion of residents in Washington County.”
Commissioner Kevin Shorey said there is a running joke in the county that once you pass the intersection of Routes 46 and 9 in East Eddington, people say, “Well, I’ll talk to you again when I get to Canada.”
Shorey said increasing cell phone coverage would not be just a boon to traveling businesspeople — the lack of coverage is a safety issue. “You cannot even report an accident,” he said.
Gardner said there is a conference scheduled for next week with telecommunications companies regarding the towers.
TIF Program Administrator Diane Smith-Halkett presented another project for the commissioners’ approval that would provide $10,000 to Marion Transfer Station to research and develop a recycling program.
Smith-Halkett said the grant would use a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of $11,000 to assist in the planning proposal and find markets for the recyclables generated.
She said the grant would create one job at a yet-to-be established recycling center. The facility handles 5,000 tons of trash annually, and it is estimated that 300 tons of that trash could be recycled.
In other business, the commissioners approved the layoff of two employees, one in the building and grounds department and one at the registry of deeds.
“The commissioners agonized over this,” Gardner said, acknowledging that one employee had worked for the county since 1984. “This is purely budgetary and both these people will be given strong recommendations. These employees did a fine job while they were here.”