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Caribou City Council approves nearly $40,000 employee stimulus

CARIBOU, Maine — The Caribou City Council unanimously approved a nearly $40,000 one-time stimulus package for city employees on Monday, May 4, during a council meeting.

The stimulus will provide every full-time employee of the city of Caribou $500 worth of gift cards from Caribou businesses of their choice. Part-time employees will receive $250 in gift cards.

City Manager Dennis Marker and Mayor Mark Goughan both supported the measure. The stimulus was an appropriate way to thank employees for their hard work throughout 2019, as well as to assist employees and local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, they said.

“It’s our effort to be part of a system bringing this whole thing back. To be part of a mood,” Goughan said. “To understand the importance of investing in your employees and in your local businesses.”

Goughan pointed out that the measure was chiefly possible because of huge savings for Caribou in the last year. Efforts by employees to reduce expenses — which Goughan said was guided by the city council — led to more than $200,000 in savings for the city. 

While most part-time employees will receive $250 in gift cards, the council voted to make one exception. Deputy City Clerk Kalen Hill — who worked part time in 2019 because of sickness from a rare form of liver cancer — will be granted “honorary” full-time status and thus have access to $500 in gift cards. 

The item, which had a first-read at an April 21 council meeting, was approved amid some opposition from residents. Two letters were read at the beginning of Monday’s meeting opposing the stimulus, placing the opposition viewpoints in the official record of the council meeting. 

The first letter was an extended version of a piece published in the Aroostook Republican written by Gail Hagelstein, in which Hagelstein argued the funds would be better spent on infrastructure improvements within the city.

Another letter by Philip McDonough II questioned how the city itself would benefit from the measure, noting that city employees had not received slashes in pay or benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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