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March 19. 2013 7:49PM

Troubled North Country program says town meeting votes show support

BERLIN - Tri-County Community Action Program, the nonprofit social services agency that serves the state's northern three counties, got a vote of confidence from the region's residents last week in town meeting voting.

Though the town appropriations for public transportation, senior meals, fuel assistance and other services provided by TCCAP were $10,000 or lower for most towns, townspeople showed, by their votes, that they expect TCCAP to continue to be there to provide those services.

"There's really no better time to support Tri-County CAP," Peter Higbee, chief operations officer, said Tuesday, "as we get our fiscal house in order and continue to deliver services." Expressing appreciation for the towns' support, Higbee said the organization continues to make "slow, steady progress" as it moves forward.

In December, the authority of the board of directors was suspended and the court appointed a trustee to oversee the agency, at the request of the state Attorney General Office's Charitable Trust Unit, after it became apparent that TCCAP was in financial crisis. To cover operating expenses, the executive staff had moved funds around among programs and was behind on some payments to vendors.

In February, the trustee, attorney Todd Fahey, said the organization was now current with its payments. Fahey and Higbee met with North Country media to keep the public informed.

Even in Littleton, where the board of selectmen had not recommended most of the petitioned articles, the TCCAP article for $10,900 for the contact office for fuel assistance and other services received 54 percent of the vote. The request for $4,000 for the TCCAP-run North Country Transit garnered over 55 percent. The exception was The Support Center at Burch House, which lost by two votes. The center provides services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

In Madison, voters disregarded selectmen and the advisory budget committee, who had not recommended funds for Carroll County's Senior Transportation, and appropriated $3,000 for the program, which is administered by North Country Transit.

In Bethlehem, an article for $7,200 to help defray TCCAP overhead costs was narrowly defeated, losing by four votes.

TCCAP administers the tri-county area's fuel assistance program, 11 Head Start programs, North Country Elder Programs, North Country Transit, the Tamworth Dental Center, alcohol and drug services, and weatherization services, among other programs.

TCCAP is currently advertising for a chief financial officer. The organization is operating without an executive director. The previous executive director separated from TCCAP either before or when the special trustee was appointed. The CFO left before that time.

syoungknox@newstote.com


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