June 20, 2018
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Wanted: Young people in Lincoln — Town manager’s plan aims to attract, retain 20-somethings

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

LINCOLN, Maine — Kayla Lingley moved to Lincoln about a month and a half ago and the 20-year-old nanny says she plans on moving out again as soon as she can.

Her reason: For people her age, there’s nothing to do in Lincoln.

“I am moving away because of the lack of stuff here,” Lingley said Tuesday as she shopped at Marden’s on Main Street. “I moved here because their [the children she watches] family is from here. But there’s nothing really here. It’s just stores to shop in. There’s no movies or places to hang out at for people my age.”

Input like Lingley’s will be the centerpiece of a multipoint plan that town officials will begin implementing over the next several weeks, said Lincoln Town Manager William Lawrence.

Basing his initiative on news accounts that show northern Maine is losing its young people, Lawrence said he wants to refocus some town programs and create some new initiatives, including informally polling town teens and 20-somethings to see what the community lacks for younger residents.

And he wants to see if the town can gear more activities toward drawing and retaining those folks. Lawrence also wants students in the video production class at Northern Penobscot Tech to put together marketing videos on why young people such as themselves should come to or remain in Lincoln.

“With the situation with the mill, the time is right. Some of these things we have done anyway or already have going,” Lawrence said. “Along with those problems that we have been attacking, instead of sitting here wondering what is going to happen to us, we are asking, what else can we do? What other points can we address?”

Council members have approved Lawrence’s town government initiatives, he said. They include:

— Obtain feedback from youth organizations on what it would take to keep them home and encourage youth participation in local government such as Town Council meetings.

— Expand the use of social media and explore recruitment of residents and businesses beyond Maine.

— Promote a culture of opportunity by hosting “how to start a business” workshops through Penquis Cap and Northern Penobscot Tech-Region III of Lincoln and working with Region III on workforce development.

— Create a video series, “Why live, work and visit Lincoln” and post it on the town website, Facebook and YouTube.

— Expand the exercise trail systems to be built near Mattanawcook Academy, the town’s snowmobile and ATV trails, and the town’s art, music and food festivals to include job fairs, festivals, road races, tournaments and shows.

— Promote Lincoln as a government and public safety training destination and widening West Broadway to draw more business there.

According to the 2010 Census, Lincoln’s median age is 40.3 years, about three years younger than Maine’s median age, 43.5 years. The census shows that of Lincoln’s 5,085 residents, 3,911 were age 18 and older. The largest single segment, 1,092, was 50 to 64 years old. The number of people ages 20 to 34 was 770. There were 244 people between ages 20 to 24.

Lawrence’s list echoes Bangor City Council Chairman Ben Sprague’s 38-point population growth strategy list, which Sprague issued Feb. 1. That list also combined recreation, entertainment and economic development initiatives geared toward attracting and retaining young people.

Lincoln Town Councilor Curt Ring, a guidance counselor at the Lincoln-based Region III school who suggested the town use tech students to do the documentaries, likes Lawrence’s initiative but said it would likely be cut back somewhat by a lack of finances.

Since the Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC paper mill laid off 200 workers in December, Lawrence and town department managers have been working to cut as much as $600,000 or 15 percent of the town government’s $4.3 million municipal services budget effective July 1.

“I think it is a wish list. If I had my way, this [list] is what I would do, too, but I think that we have to be careful. Anything we can do for nothing or very little money, I think we have to do it,” Ring said. “We can sit here and continue to pretend that the status quo is working for us or we can take action, instead of resting on successes of the past. Those days are over. We need to look to the future.”

The council might draw money from the economic development reserve funds culled from its Tax Increment Financing agreement with LPT, Ring said.

The council will meet at Northern Penobscot Tech on March 10 to review the student video production program, Ring said. Lawrence said he expects that town government will start implementing the steps of his proposal over the next several weeks.

Lawrence’s list drew favorable responses from Lincoln resident Dan Millett, a 29-year-old clerk at Marden’s, who called the list “awesome.”

He called Lawrence’s initiative “a wonderful idea to help stabilize the community.”

“This town has been my life so I will always stick with it, but it will be nice to see more people hanging around,” Millett said. He added that would love to see town officials complete the recreation center on Route 6, a fundraising effort which has foundered for several years.

Most of the students who will be making the video are from Lincoln’s surrounding towns, but they said they understand why young people want to leave.

“I could do video here, but there is not a lot of jobs around for video production. But I would like to stay in Maine, if I could,” 19-year-old Dylan LeClair of Howland said Tuesday. To LeClair, the No. 1 reason people his age and in their 20s leave Maine is “jobs and money.”

“They want to have a good career. They want more money” than Maine typically offers, LeClair said.

“There’s not a huge selection of jobs in Maine for people to get,” 17-year-old Bryce Martin of Howland agreed. Martin, who attends Penobscot Valley High School of Howland, said he believes that the town and students will benefit from the videos.

“As long as we all put our full effort into it, I think we can all actually make a fairly good video and portray what they want us to portray,” Martin said. “I say that because a lot of people don’t think that kids put a full effort into what they are doing and really if they do, they can do anything they wanted to, I believe.

“We could make professional-level videos if we put ourselves into it, and this is just the first steps of our careers,” Martin added.

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