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Mayo officials look to hold public session on merger April 2 in D-F

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — With the HAD 4 board of directors voting 15-3 last month to start a merger with Northern Light Health — the Brewer-based hospital chain includes Bangor’s Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center and eight other hospitals — Mayo Regional Hospital officials are looking to hold four public information nights across the region to share details of the process and hear from residents and answer their questions.

One session is tentatively scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2 in the Morton Avenue Municipal Building Gymnasium, Dover-Foxcroft Town Manager Jack Clukey said during a March 11 selectmen’s meeting.

Clukey said the HAD 4 directors and the district communities’ representatives in Augusta have been discussing the legislation needed to merge Mayo Regional Hospital with the statewide healthcare system.

No legislator from Piscataquis County has publicly committed yet to sponsoring the legislation that would eliminate the charter the hospital has operated under since the 1970s. Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford had said eliminating the hospital’s charter is too great of a change to make without more direct support from the 13 communities comprising HAD 4.

“Obviously if we’re concerned we should talk with Norm and Paul,” Select Vice Chair Cindy Freeman Cyr said about Rep. Norm Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft and Sen. Paul Davis, R-Guilford who both represent Dover-Foxcroft.

Clukey said it is fair to say there is reluctance to move away from a concept of allowing area residents to vote on a proposed merger to leaving this decision up solely to the HAD 4 directors. “It is not a question of whether or not the merger should happen but the process of how that decision should be made,” he said.

Also last month board members voted 14-2 to inform the district’s member communities that HAD 4 may have to levy $1 million in taxes later this year due to a steeper-than-normal operating loss — about $1.5 million — in the first four months of this fiscal year. The charter allows the district to levy taxes, but this has never done since it was created by state law in 1973.

“It’s something they may need to do but hope they don’t have to do,” Clukey said. “The merger is a big part of that, and if the merger goes through they may not have to.”

In a letter to Clukey Mayo Regional Hospital President CEO Marie Vienneau and Vice President of Finance/CFO Nancy Glidden wrote, “The board voted to give us the authority to notify municipalities, that for the first time ever, HAD 4 may need to levy a tax as is permitted under our charter. This is not a final decision. The board will revisit it in the fall of 2019, as we cannot issue tax bills until after Oct. 1. Of course, we are taking every action possible to streamline our organization and reduce expenses to avoid this becoming a reality.”

The letter said if (with this word underlined) HAD 4 issues tax bills for 2020 fiscal year debt service, the total amount at the present time is estimated to be $1,052,451. The Dover-Foxcroft portion would about 25 percent, $263,000. The letter said the community’s total apportioned debt as of Dec. 31, 2018 is $2,246,868.

“All of those details are being worked on,” Clukey said about the merger and tax levy.

“We know the hospital wants to have this done by the end of the year,” Freeman Cyr said.

In other business, the town of Dover-Foxcroft will observer Arbor Week in 2019 from May 19-25 after the selectmen signed a proclamation. The state recognizes Arbor Week during the third week of May.

No plans were announced on Monday evening but in past years ceremonial trees have been planted across the community during Arbor Week. Town officials have worked with local organizations such as the Foxcroft Academy Key Club, SeDoMoCha Elementary School and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC)/Miosac Club to put trees in the ground at community parks and on school campuses. Dover-Foxcroft is recognized with Tree City USA status by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

“We have been a designated Tree City for a number of years now,” Clukey said. “We recognize Arbor Day and we try to do a planting every year.”

He said the town has applied to Project Canopy to seek grant monies “for a much larger amount of tree planting.”

The selectmen also appointed Denise Jackson to the planning board with a term to expire on June 30, 2021. Clukey said Jackson will fill a vacancy to have a full planning board in place.

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