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D-F residents to vote on Mayo merger at town meeting

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — As Mayo Regional Hospital officials and the HAD 4 directors look at a potential merger into Northern Light Health one question has been whether the public will be able to weigh in via a vote of some kind. The 13 towns making up HAD 4 will be able to do so in order to provide area legislators with insight as they work to draft legislation that could pave the way for a hospital merger.

In Dover-Foxcroft a question on the future of Mayo Regional Hospital will be on the warrant for the annual town meeting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 27 at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building Gymnasium. The warrant was signed by the selectmen during an April 8 meeting.

“I just wanted you to know, as I am sure you are all aware, we added an item since you last saw our warrant,” Town Manager Jack Clukey said about the sole addition. “Since our last meeting our legislators and hospital officials have met.”

Clukey said HAD 4 towns will be asked to make a vote on the potential merger before the end of the month. “The way I understand it and the way it has been explained to me is hospital officials and legislators are working on legislation to move forward but only after towns have voted,” he said. “The legislators are willing to put in a bill after everybody has voted but not necessarily after everyone’s approved it. They are going to look at what percentage of towns approved it and then they will decide whether to move forward.”

On the last Saturday of the month Dover-Foxcroft residents will be asked a two-part question if they favor the agreement and plan of merger and the town requesting that the local legislative delegation and Maine Legislature take actions necessary or reasonable including but not limited to amending or revising the HAD 4 charter in order to facilitate the completion of the merger.

The question includes two whereas sentences saying the directors voted 15-3 that Mayo is unable to operate in a financially sustainable manner as an independent hospital in rural Maine and the hospital board has determined the best way to ensure access to necessary, quality and affordable healthcare for those served by Mayo Regional Hospital is for it to merge with a larger, nonprofit Maine-based healthcare system.

Clukey said he gave suggestions on the warrant article language and the final wording was provided by the hospital.

Selectperson Gail D’Agostino wondered about the question of dissolving, which is included in the charter but guidelines for merging are not. “Ultimately that needs to be determined once and for all,” she said, as in order for Mayo Regional Hospital to dissolve the member communities need to approve this action unanimously.

The week before the second of four community forums concerning the merger was held at the town office gym.

“I thought the meeting with HAD 4 was very well attended last week, a lot of great questions and a lot of information was made available,” Clukey said.

He said since then the HAD 4 directors, legislators and Northern Light representatives have worked out a process where legislative action on the merger could be completed by late May or early June. Clukey said Dover-Foxcroft’s representatives in Augusta spoke on the need for town votes in order to help them to make decisions on the plan.

The town manager said the issue of the HAD 4 directors being able to tax member communities to meet the hospital finances was brought up. He said the board does have this ability per the charter and has not made any such decisions but “if there is a merger hopefully that all goes away.”

“Things seem to be moving in the right direction for having a plan to vote,” Clukey said.

In other business, the selectmen normally meet the second and fourth Monday of the month. In May the second meeting will instead be held on Wednesday, May 29 to avoid a conflict with Memorial Day as well as the RSU 68 district budget meeting on Tuesday, May 28.

The May 29 selectmen’s meeting will feature a public hearing on the June 11 budget validation and referendum ballot. The ballot will include questions on the land use ordinance and shoreland zoning ordinance as the text of both documents was certified by the selectmen during the April 8 meeting.

The selectmen also approved the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application and acceptance of any awarded funds on behalf of Spruce Mill Farm & Kitchen.

Piscataquis County Economic Development Council Executive Director Chris Winstead said “the town of Dover-Foxcroft is the applicant on behalf of Spruce Mill Farm & Kitchen” as the business is seeking a CDBG microenterprise assistance grant to assist with equipment purchase.

“We will probably find out late May/early June,” Winstead said about monies being awarded for the West Main Street establishment.

“We have been in our storefront since 2016 and we applied for this in 2017 but didn’t receive it so this is our second time,” said Natasha Colbry who owns and operates Spruce Mill Farm & Kitchen with her husband Dustin. They have been in operation for five years total.

“We are taking a new stance on how we are going to develop our business, we have found some efficiencies we can improve on,” Dustin Colbry said. When asked the Colbrys said they baked 100 loaves of bread for Gov. Janet Mills inauguration festivities over the course of two days and with new equipment a similar amount can be readied in only hours.

Winstead said that CDBG applicants are encouraged to reapply and often the second time results in a higher score and therefore greater chance to receive a grant.

“I just want to thank you for coming and thank you for doing what you’re doing,” Select Vice Chair Cindy Freeman Cyr said to the Colbrys.

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