Aroostook municipal group eyeing ways to save

MAPLETON, Maine — Dave Dionne, the new town manager for Castle Hill, Chapman and Mapleton, is a Presque Isle resident and taxpayer who until May was commuting to Island Falls, where he was town manager.

Dionne exemplifies the interconnectedness of Aroostook County’s sometimes competitive communities, and he’s also among a group of local government officials working through the Aroostook Municipal Association to try to find shared solutions to common problems.

“A lot of our county communities are in the same boat,” said Dionne, president of the Aroostook Municipal Association, or AMA.

“We’ve got shrinking revenues and a lot of assets that need investment. Towns are looking at how they can work together.”

The group has a number of issues on its radar and has finished a major step in a project that could save a small but significant amount of money for the 14 communities that have signed on, Dionne said.

The 14 communities, including Caribou and Presque Isle, recently submitted an application to the Maine Public Utilities Commission to jointly replace their streetlights with LED lights.  

Most towns now lease street lights from Emera and use sodium light bulbs, which are more energy-intensive and shorter-lasting than LED lights, Dionne said.

By acquiring the streetlights, replacing the bulbs with LEDs and buying the bulbs together, the 14 municipalities will recoup their costs in two or three years and cut their current bills by around 70 percent, he said.  Mapleton, for instance, will save an estimated $5,550 a year, Dionne said.

“It is going to be a good savings for the communities and if we can do more of that, it’s one step toward building momentum,” Dionne said. “We’re looking at other things like that. How can we come together and do things that will help all of our communities at the best price and value?”

In another project, five municipalities, including Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent and Mapleton, have hired a consultant to help them jointly negotiate cable TV franchise contracts with telecommunications companies, Dionne said.

The group also expects to see more discussions on inter-local agreements, the type of shared government that has been the foundation for Castle Hill, Chapman and Mapleton for decades.

“It’s a complex system, but in the end it’s providing services to three communities that probably wouldn’t have those services if they weren’t working on it together,” Dionne said.

He added that the AMA also would like to hear other points of view from elected officials and the general public.

“If there’s any ideas out there, we’d be more than happy to hear them.”

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