To the editor:
Did an army of one ever win a war? Did a single person change the world? Can we survive as isolated communities? These are questions that may seem odd but stay with me for a moment. In life, my greatest successes, and I expect yours as well, counted on a team of players to assist me in overcoming the obstacle. Even if I thought for a second that I was responsible for the outcome, behind the scenes there were many people through actions and timing who made it all possible.
Yes it is true that each of us is capable of great things but we are even more so when we have help. Our communities here in northern Maine are no different, we can decide to rise together or fall together. What I’m about to say will not please all of you and maybe no one, but none the less it needs to be said.
For too long we as Aroostook communities have felt that it is our prerogative to all have our own —School District, Pubic Works Department, City/Town Manager, Payroll Clerk, Human Resources manager, superintendent, etc. These positions because of the size of our communities sometimes have just a couple of people to manage or very few to oversee. The economies of scale that we have for paying them a salary in one town and then the next town doing the same thing and on and on means that we may have in central Aroostook five tax assessors or five HR managers or four or five school superintendents that all individually get paid a salary. When you add up the region collectively we pay about five times what a larger area like Portland or Bangor pay for their person to manage nearly the same number of people. Why do we all need our own? Because that’s the way we have always done it? Or because we can’t break into these long held ideas and make some progressive change?
As city officials we have been told that it is likely that over the coming years we will lose most of the revenue sharing that Augusta sends our communities. As someone who is interested in making this area viable because I love where I live, I realize that the economic stability of keeping costs in check is an illusion. One we will continue to discuss but will not be able to deliver long term. We will have to reach into your pockets for more tax dollars to keep things going at some point in the future. This is a double-edged sword; keep services so we keep citizens here vs. keeping costs down so citizens can afford to stay here. You can’t do both without some thinking outside the box.
We need a larger box … one that encompasses more communities sharing services, one that has one superintendent of schools for our region, and one that builds a sense of community among all of our surrounding towns. We have a wonderful region where we live, but the reality is we can’t continue the way we are going and we need to work together, now.
All of these things are possible, but the dialogue needs to stay focused on what we have in common and build on those items first. I hope that the discussions that began with our neighbors in Caribou, Mapleton, Castle Hill and Chapman all will continue. I hope that our other neighbors will join in soon.
We are not a collection of Presque Islers, Eastonites, Caribouians, etc, We are proud to be “County” boys and girls and we have that mentality when we leave town … now we need to have it when we are home too.