May 25, 2018
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Katahdin leaders seek to build on existing joint efforts to reduce costs

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — When a Millinocket police officer needs help, East Millinocket cops provide it. When machinery breaks down in East Millinocket’s public works department, Millinocket’s or Medway’s public works workers lend a hand.

The Katahdin region government leaders, who said they were taking their first baby steps toward greater cooperation and economy among their governments, agreed Monday night that a lot of cooperation and economy already exists.

“In my 17 years here, the three towns have come a long way,” Medway Administrative Assistant Kathy Lee said during a tri-government meeting at the town library. “Now we all know each other. Years ago, we wouldn’t have even known who the other person was.”

The East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket selectmen, town council members and government managers made no immediate plans for consolidation or elimination of services, but agreed to try to explore those things and other options. The other options included bulk buying of supplies and combining solid waste disposal efforts, to lessen burdensome and rising costs.

It wasn’t an easy subject to discuss. Katahdin region community pride is often fierce and relations among the three governments have been marred by walkouts and ugly talk over the last 30 years.

But all appeared to agree that historically-unprecedented economic stagnancy and decreases in state revenue sharing and area populations had forced the three governments to cut staffs and reduce town office hours over the last several years. No one said that trend was likely to reverse anytime soon.

In fact, Millinocket school officials are discussing whether to close Granite Street School and turn Stearns Junior and Senior High School into a Kindergarten to 12th-grade schoolhouse, officials said.

Millinocket Town Councilor John Raymond said his council might support polling residents during the November election to see whether they would support school consolidation.

Clint Linscott, chairman of East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen, said he opposed his board voting to do that. The decision of whether to consolidate schools is best left to the school boards, and East Millinocket residents overwhelmingly support keeping a school in their town, he said.

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