City to Pursue DHHS Future in Calais

By Kaileigh Deacon

The Calais City Council held their first meeting of the New Year on Thursday, January 10th. At the meeting, the Council looked at the possibility of appealing the closure of the DHHS office in Calais. The Calais office closed November 1st, 2016, forcing local recipients to make the drive to Machias for services or to seek them the one day a week there are office hours in Calais.

Councilor Mike Sherrard proposed that City Manager Mike Ellis write a letter on behalf of the Council regarding the Calais DHHS office. The letter would request the new Maine State Governor, Janet Mills, to reconsider the decision to close the Calais branch. Sherrard explained that he had spoken with members of the Woodland Council who would support the decision. City Manager Ellis will draft a letter that will then be sent to Governor Mills, Senator Marianne Moore, and Representative Anne Perry.

The loss of DHHS services in Calais was a blow not just for the thirteen employees who worked in the offices but the many citizens in Calais and the surrounding areas who were in need of the services provided there. While there can be no guarantee that services will resume in the area, the City of Calais would like to take have the new administration at least consider the possibility.

The Council also authorized Chief David Randall to advertise for a full-time police officer position. Per city charter, department heads are obligated to notify the council when advertising for a full-time position in their department. The position was opened after the resignation of Sergeant Bill White as he moves to the Sheriff’s office.

The City also approved the Water Department’s budget for the 2019 year. According to Oliver Associates, the budget will decrease slightly coming in at $64,583.36. There was no proposed increase to the water rates for the city. The Council unanimously passed the budget.

The Economic Development Committee is looking into some opportunities for the future that goes beyond the broadband project. Artie Mingo advised the Council that the Downeast Economic Development Corporation is looking at what can be done in the short term as well as the long term.

One thing the city is working toward is ensuring that both old fire trucks stay in the city. The two old trucks are the only sister trucks still together in the entire United States, according to Artie Mingo. The trucks, while a couple of years apart in age, are designed to work as a pair, and while they don’t operate on a regular basis they are parts of the city’s history. The Economic Development Committee and the Calais Fire Association would like to work to keep both trucks in the city, making Calais the holder of a unique piece of history.

The City Council also received the results of the city’s audit. The auditors will be in Calais on February 21 to present their findings and answer questions from the Council. The Council did not approve the budget at Thursday’s meeting, choosing to instead table it allowing them time to look it over. They will vote on the audit at the next meeting on January 24.

The City also received their tobacco-free signs from Healthy Acadia. The signs will be posted in city maintained areas, such as the parks, ball fields and city areas. The signs are a result of the updated tobacco policy approved back in October.

 

The City Council will meet again on January 24th at 6 p.m.