Towns schedule votes on Mayo merger

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 19, 2019 - 6:58pm

Staff, Piscataquis Observer • April 18, 2019

DOVER-FOXCROFT — The towns that make up Hospital Administrative District 4 (HAD 4) are planning for public votes regarding the potential merger between Mayo Regional Hospital and Northern Light Health. The votes will be held on a variety of dates set by each individual town as a part of a town meeting format. The result of the votes will give legislators guidance on whether or not to submit legislation to change the HAD 4 charter to allow for the merger.

“Rural hospitals are facing challenges and difficulties around the country,” said Mayo Regional Hospital President and CEO Marie Vienneau. “We are fortunate to be ahead of the curve on those challenges. The HAD 4 Board of Directors prepared for these challenges five years ago, and did its due diligence and careful, thoughtful consideration when considering the next steps in a long term strategic plan for the hospital. The 12 town votes are important to help our legislators see that there is public support for this merger, which also means public support for keeping quality care close to home. Quality care is vital for Piscataquis County, and this vote is vital to maintaining that care.”

There is currently legislation that will direct the towns in HAD 4 to hold public votes. The legislation had a public hearing April 17 and will be taken up by the State and Local Government Committee later in the week before being voted on by the House and Senate. Once the towns in HAD 4 hold votes, the legislative delegation representing those communities will determine whether or not to submit legislation to change the HAD’s charter, which would allow for the merger.

In an April 18 Facebook post Rep. Norman Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft wrote, “The decision on the merger with Northern Light deserves the opportunity for all member towns to discuss, debate and determine a course of action on the merger. As legislators, we encouraged HAD 4 to conduct four information meetings to better inform all of us, however, the long recognized tradition of a town meeting is the best opportunity for all points of views to be expressed. I encourage each of you to attend your town meetings listed in this article. Your voice is important.”

Because Mayo Regional Hospital is owned and operated as a Hospital Administrative District, its board is made up of members who are elected by the communities served by the hospital. HAD 4 is the only HAD left in Maine and is a quasi-governmental agency with taxing power. The effect of the merger would be to transform the HAD into a Maine charitable tax-exempt nonprofit corporation that would have a community-based board but would not have taxing authority. This would relieve the towns in the HAD from potential liability for the certain indebtedness of the hospital.

Dexter has already decided on this matter at an April 11 town council meeting, voting...

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Brownville library offers ‘Let’s Talk About It’ book group

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 12, 2019 - 3:24pm

Staff, Piscataquis Observer • April 11, 2019

BROWNVILLE — The Brownville Free Public Library has been selected by the Maine Humanities Council to offer “Let’s Talk About It,” a free reading and discussion group with copies of books available through the library. This program is provided by the Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book in cooperation with the Maine State Library.

The series “Detective Fiction in the 20th Century: A Notion of Evil” begins April 16 at the library and continues every two weeks for five sessions through June 11.

Books to be read and discussed in this series include “The Judge and His Hangman” by Friedrich Durrenmatt, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Arthur Conan, “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett, “The Godwulf Manuscript” by Robert Parker and “‘A’ is for Alibi” by Sue Grafton.

“Exploring ideas and issues through literature has a unique and way of creating community,” said Nicole Rancourt, director of Let’s Talk About It. “We find that there is great interest among adults getting together to discuss what they have read with others. Having a discussion leader who is both excited about the readings and skilled in facilitating can help to deepen this experience.”

Books for the program are available for loan at the library. Please call the library at 965-8334 to register and come in to pick up the first book of the series. The library is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until 6 p.m.

This program is offered to Maine libraries through the Maine Humanities Council in partnership with the Maine State Library. For more information about “Let’s Talk About It” and the work of the Maine Humanities Council, see www.mainehumanities.org or call the office in Portland at 773-5051.


SAD 41 board signs paperwork for $2.4M Penquis Valley facility upgrade

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 11, 2019 - 1:53pm

Stuart Hedstrom • April 11, 2019

MILO — Last month SAD 41 voters overwhelmingly approved a $2.4 million funding package to upgrade the Penquis Valley School heating system. The vote was 152-25 with the referendum approved in each district community: 7-1 in Atkinson, 55-9 in Brownville, 19-5 in LaGrange and 71-10 in Milo.

During a school board meeting on April 10 at the school, the directors formally approved the computation and declaration of votes and signed the project loan agreement.

Last May a $2.3 million project was voted down via a count of 161 to 111 across the four communities. Residents of Brownville, LaGrange, and Milo passed the question 106 to 42, but in Atkinson the referendum was turned down 114 to 5.

Atkinson is scheduled to deorganize and join the Piscataquis County Unorganized Territory (UT) as of July 1. Had the project been approved last year then the community would have been responsible for 10.4 percent of the upgrade debt moving forward. As part of the UT, Atkinson students will head west to RSU 68/Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.

In December the SAD 41 directors approved an amendment to the withdrawal agreement with Atkinson in which the town would not be liable for new debt approved prior to June 30, 2019 in exchange for an agreement by Atkinson that its selectmen would strongly recommend to the community’s voters to support approval of the new debt by district voters.

Atkinson traditionally paid about 10.8 percent of costs and this 10.8 percent of the project would be absorbed by the other three towns based upon the amendment to withdrawal agreement. Atkinson made its one-time payment of $275,000 to SAD 41 prior to withdrawal on April 1.

“That will help our fund balance,” Superintendent Michael Wright said during the school board meeting.

The Penquis Valley project has three objectives. The first is to update the steam heating system infrastructure that is beyond its useful life, to improve reliability, comfort, indoor air quality and safety. The other objectives are to reduce annual energy and operating costs and reduce future building repair costs.

The gross proposed project cost is $2,414,923, with a little more than $2.1 million for the steam to hot water system conversion, another $190,000 is for LED lighting upgrades and an additional is for $34,700 for building weatherization improvements.

The project would be financed under a 20-year bond through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank. The estimated annual bond cost, fixed for two decades starting with the 2020-21 fiscal year, is $177,694 but there would be various measures in place to reduce the costs.

SAD 41 would have a little more than $19,000 in existing budget savings for energy usage and another $40,000 in operating budget capital contributions. The Honeywell service contract would be reduced by $25,000, the maintenance...

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Submitted by Seth Barden on April 11, 2019 - 1:40pm


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