MADISON – Towns across Maine will wait a bit longer to receive federal stimulus funds for energy efficiency improvements — a delay some town officials say defeats the purpose of stimulating the economy.

The U.S. Department of Energy has promised about $6 million to more than 120 Maine municipalities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The money is still coming. But because of bureaucratic delays at the federal and state level, most of the 123 grant projects haven’t received the money — many towns completed the paperwork two months ago.

Madison is waiting for $85,000 for solar-lit stop signs at a dangerous intersection that has caused serious accidents; energy-efficient street lights; and a new highway garage roof, said Joy Hikel, Madison’s economic development director.

The town has already hired a contractor for the roof, but Hikel said she is not comfortable allowing work to begin.

She submitted her end of the contract May 24. “I would imagine, in the regular scheme of things, when I submit a contract, I get it back in seven days,” she said.

The reason for the delay is the recent separation of Efficiency Maine from the Maine Public Utilities Commission on July 1.

Instead of being a division of a state agency, the new Efficiency Maine Trust is now a quasi-state agency and will be responsible for handing out the federal funds.

Mike Barden, manager of state energy programs for the agency, said the split has had the following effects:

The money still needs to be transferred from the PUC to Efficiency Maine Trust.

The U.S. Department of Energy is still reviewing the legal ramifications of dispersing the money to a quasi-state agency and not a state agency.

Private legal counsel must review the towns’ contracts because the contracts will now be with a quasi-state agency. Hiring a private lawyer requires the attorney general’s approval, which the agency is still waiting for.

Faced with the delay, some towns have fronted the money, others are holding off.

The town of Unity has done what it can with volunteers, and is now waiting for the money to do the rest. It has been promised $82,500 for energy audits on 100 local buildings.

Skowhegan is anticipating $49,500 to replace components in lights at various town buildings. The town expects to award a bid on Aug. 10.

If the town does not have a signed contract by that time, however, the bid might expire, said Jeff Hewitt, director of the town’s Economic & Community Development Office.

“We’re fully expecting that Efficiency Maine will be ready by the time we are ready. So far they’ve assured me they will be, but it has been dragging on an awful long time,” he said.