MILLINOCKET, Maine — Residents in need of a warm place to stay for several hours a week will have one starting Jan. 5 thanks to a Town Council vote, councilors said Sunday.
The council voted 4-3 Thursday to approve using as much as $10,000 to fund using the Stearns Assisted Living Center as a place where residents can stay from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to reduce home heating bills during that time. Some lunch service will be provided.
The center will be the first that Millinocket’s government has funded. Councilors Jimmy Busque, Michael Madore, James Mingo and chairman Wallace Paul favored the idea. Councilors David Cyr, Scott Gonya and John Raymond were opposed.
“Everyone thought it was a good idea,” Paul said Sunday. “The ones who voted against it were concerned about the money.”
The problem with the idea is that “we truly don’t know if this is something that’s needed,” Gonya said Sunday. “Is it a good idea? Yeah, but is it truly needed? What happens if 100 people show up? Or if no one does? No one knows.”
Gonya didn’t want the town to add new funding responsibilities with faltering state and national economies. “If we are going to do that, how do you say no to other things? Where do you draw the line? It’s a great idea, but I can come up with a lot of great ideas,” he said.
Knowing that unemployment is rising, that 80 percent of Maine households use oil heat and that many area residents are locked in to high oil prices, Katahdin region government officials support warming centers to help residents defray energy costs.
East Millinocket already has approved using the basement kitchen and dining area in its town office as a warming center. Residents meet there from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays to stay warm and to socialize. Dozens of people attend.
Medway, meanwhile, is poised to contribute funding so that its residents can participate at either site.
Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue will monitor center use to ensure the cost is justified. If so, the center is expected to remain open until March, Paul said.