July 18, 2019

Three vie for Millinocket council> Candidates focus on economic issues, jobs

MILLINOCKET — The economy and jobs are among the major issues cited by the three men running for two open seats on the Millinocket Town Council.

Besides deciding state issues on the Nov. 4 referendum ballot, Millinocket voters will elect people to the Town Council and the school board. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 4, in the Stearns High School gym.

Three residents are running for two three-year terms on the Town Council. Candidates were asked to cite the major issue facing the town and how they would address a major budget cut.

Herbert Clark, 52, a pipe fitter at Great Northern Paper Co. and former 16-year lawmaker, says the single major issue facing Millinocket is what will happen to the local economy and the work force in the future. He says the past years of corporate restructuring and job cuts have lead to a declining population and less business expansion. “We need to keep the budget on track and to keep educational funding at a level we can afford,” said Clark. He believes people in all three area towns need to pull together. Clark says the town needs to do a lot more brainstorming with its department heads and with neighboring town officials to come up with ways of providing services at lower costs.

Should town officials be faced with a major budget cut in the future, Clark says he would look to increasing taxes as only a last resort. He says he would work with town department heads and would look at offering early retirements and charging fees for services.

Donald H. McLaughlin, 42, a papermaker at Great Northern Paper Co.’s Millinocket mill, says the major issues facing Millinocket are budgets, taxes and jobs. He says more modernization at GNP’s pulp and paper mills will mean fewer jobs in the future. He says officials need to work to diversify the local economy by promoting four-season tourism and by aggressively looking for manufacturing businesses that will provide good-paying jobs. He says its important that town officials work to keep a stable tax rate as an incentive to attract new business.

Only as an extreme last resort would McLaughlin advocate raising taxes if the town faced a major drop in revenue. As a union official, McLaughlin says he does not support laying people off. As people retire or leave, he says, officials should look at paying remaining employees more to assume extra duties. He says neighboring towns working together could save money through bulk purchasing.

Charles Sanders, 57, an elementary school principal in Millinocket, says the major issue facing the town is the value of property owned by Millinocket’s largest taxpayer, GNP. He says it’s an issue that will demand a lot of attention and a lot of skill on the part of town leaders. “It is a delicate matter because any concessions made to corporate taxpayers places an increased burden on residential taxpayers,” Sanders said.

Sanders says major budget cuts in the future would need to be addressed by a combination of cuts and tax increases. In recent years, Millinocket officials have cut spending by more than $3 million, he said. “We have just about exhausted the cutting strategy,” he said. Sanders says it would take a combination of cuts and tax increases to maintain the quality of life to keep people from leaving the community.

Also, residents will elect one person to a three-year term on the Millinocket School Board. The candidates are Michael B. Jewers and Gilda Stratton.

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