Lincoln heating-aid program keeps pace with the weather, officials say

Posted Jan. 29, 2014, at 6:18 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Generosity that has more than kept pace with the cold weather is leaving town leaders confident that they won’t have to allocate funds to Lincoln’s heating-aid fund for at least a month, they said Wednesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the town’s heating fund had $4,800. It has served 61 families. Workers running the donation-driven effort have been seeing five to 12 potential clients a week, Town Manager William Lawrence said.

“It trickles in. I would have expected [the fund] would have run out of money a long time ago,” Lawrence said, “but anytime there’s a story [on the fund in local or statewide media] it triggers more donations.”

Last winter, the program supported 23 families, totaling 66 people, Lincoln Treasurer Melissa Quintela has said. The vast increase, which she had worried was fueled by the layoff of 200 workers at Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, caused her to predict in mid-month that the funding would be exhausted by February if more donations didn’t come in.

Created in 2008, the town’s heating-aid program targets town households that fail to meet General Assistance, Salvation Army or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program standards — typically senior citizens or single parents. It serves those who have less than a quarter-tank of home heating oil or other energy source and need 50 to 100 gallons. The Town Council has occasionally allocated money to the fund since its creation.

Council Chairman Steve Clay was pleased that the program remained well-funded. Councilors had discussed allocating town money to it at a meeting earlier this month but decided to wait to see whether the program would exhaust itself. They balked at mixing town funds with donations unless necessary, especially since they wouldn’t have the legal right to withdraw the contribution.

Councilors will likely discuss the issue again in March, Clay said.

The program’s strength “just shows you that people in the area are looking out for their neighbors and fellow citizens,” Clay said Wednesday. “They are good people who want to donate and help those who are out of a job right now.”

Lincoln’s program might be faring better than expected because the Lincoln Regional Food Cupboard, which represented the majority of workers at the paper mill, created a home-heating fund at the Lincoln Federal Credit Union on West Broadway for laid-off mill workers, Lawrence said.

As of Monday, the Governor’s Energy Office found the current statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil was $3.87 per gallon, up seven cents from last week. The average statewide price for kerosene is also up seven cents to $4.27 per gallon. This week’s average statewide price for propane (for heating customers) increased by 10 cents to $3.35 per gallon.

Heating fuel prices are higher this week than they were at any time last year, according to the listing at maine.gov.

Anyone interested in securing aid or making a donation to the town’s program can call Quintela at 794-3372 or visit her in the town office on Main Street. Donations can be mailed to the town office at 263 Main St., Lincoln, Maine, 04457.

Donations to the food cupboard effort can be mailed to the Lincoln Federal Credit Union, 171 West Broadway, Lincoln, Maine 04457. Checks or money orders made out to “Lincoln Regional Food Cupboard” that carry a note referring to the mill workers’ relief fund will be donated to the appropriate account, a credit union worker said Wednesday.

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