A new approach?

As we enter town meeting season here in Waldo County, social service agencies already have submitted requests for funding in a plethora of ways. Most towns still require a hard copy, written request and some — Searsport comes to mind — require a representative to appear in person if the agency is to be granted money.

We know it is not easy to choose which agencies to fund when more and more are seeking a piece of the pie, and we understand placing restrictions such as appearing in person to secure money.

But we think it might be time to rethink these submission guidelines. Most representatives are volunteers giving up their own time to attend evening budget meetings and weekend town meetings. Making it a requirement to appear in person to be considered for funding does not seem fair in a day and age when so much is done electronically.

If volunteers choose to attend town meetings, we think it does help their plea for residents to see the effort being made. Often, residents pose questions of the representatives before voting, and the volunteers are able to strengthen their cases. Sometimes, the agency will be even be granted more money (up to their annual requested amount) than suggested by town officials and Budget Committee members. So, there is some real benefit in being present at annual town meetings.

Maybe other towns could take Palermo's lead and publish each organization's benefit to the town in the town warrant — that could prevent the most common question asked by residents that goes unanswered if a representative is not available. It seems to us that information is readily available within the written request sent to towns for funding.

But physical presence should no longer be a requirement. If town officials or Budget Committee members have questions, an email message or a phone call should be sufficient. Set a reasonable deadline for responding, even, and if a response is not received by that deadline, it seems fair to then deny funding.

Scam alert

Waldo County Sheriff's Office recently learned of a Waldo County resident who experienced a phone scam. A local woman received a phone call from someone claiming to be from HP and the caller said he knew she had some computer problems and wanted to help her get them fixed.

The caller seemed to know she recently purchased a new computer and she agreed to allow remote access to her computer to address the issues the caller claimed were present. The caller then locked the woman out of her computer and demanded money, insisting he would not unlock her computer until she paid a $200 fee. She refused to pay and eventually was able to get the computer unlocked with the assistance of genuine Hewlett-Packard Co. technical support.

A deputy told a local computer shop employee about the story and he said they see this type of thing on a regular basis. He said many people fall prey to this scam. He claimed the hackers will call claiming to be from Microsoft, HP, "Windows" and many other companies attempting to gain remote access. Once they gain access, they will lock the owner out of their own computer and demand a fee be paid to unlock the computer.

If you receive a call from anyone about "your computer problems," and/or asking to access your computer remotely, do not allow them to do so. Just hang up. Your local computer technical support stores can provide a great deal of insight into these scams and provide assistance if you have fallen victim to scammers.