MILLINOCKET, Maine — The struggling local economy might force town leaders to seek consolidation of services and schools with other Katahdin region communities, Town Council incumbent and candidate John Raymond said Thursday.
Raymond and fellow candidates Charles Cirame, Michael Madore and Gilda Stratton vie for three open three-year council seats in Tuesday’s election. All say they hope to improve the local economy, but Raymond said that consolidation might be the best way to alleviate taxpayer burdens if the economy continues to struggle.
“I will work with anybody who wants to do it,” Raymond, 54, said Thursday. “I think the economy is going to force us into it.”
Millinocket school leaders have for years expressed an interest in consolidating with East Millinocket and Medway, but leaders from those towns have shied away.
Madore and Raymond are single-term incumbents; Cirame and Stratton are challengers. Cirame said he believes that the town should look seriously at supporting a feasibility study of Roxanne Quimby’s proposed 70,000-acre national park. Stratton, Raymond and Madore oppose that.
A retired millworker, Cirame also said he hopes to improve council relationships with the Millinocket School Department.
Stratton, a 65-year-old retired paralegal secretary and former Great Northern Paper Co. administrative assistant, wants to try to bring more business, particularly tourism, into the region to shrink the tax load carried by residents.
“I am all for an economic study of the region with our neighboring communities,” Stratton said. “I am not for a [National Park Service] feasibility study. I am all for communication, but I am not in favor of her [Quimby’s] tactics. I don’t think she is a very nice person and what she is doing is not going to bring money into this community.”
Madore, a 56-year-old ed tech at Millinocket Middle School, said he hopes to improve relations with downtown businesses that were fractured when the council and the downtown revitalization group split over Quimby’s plan.
“We need to mend fences with the business community,” Madore said. “A lot of things were said on both sides that need to be re-examined.”
Madore and Raymond, a property manager and photographer, said they were both proud of the roles they had in negotiating with Cate Street Capital, the Portsmouth, N.H.-based company that bought the town paper mill and hopes to revitalize it in several months if market conditions allow for that.
The two said they hope to work with Cate Street to continue to build the region’s industrial manufacturing base, and Madore said he wants to promote tourism in the region.
“Diversification of the economy is paramount if Millinocket is going to survive over the next 100 years,” Madore said.
One of the three founding members of the recently successful effort to build a state-networked ATV trail in Millinocket, Raymond said he wants to extend the trail into East Millinocket and Medway while also helping further develop the region’s cross-country skiing trails.
Though it might become the most significant regional economic development since the creation of the region’s snowmobile trails, Raymond said he doesn’t list the ATV trail at the top of his list of accomplishments.
“I think it’s an accomplishment, but it’s nothing I could claim for myself. It’s an accomplishment of a group,” he said.