DHHS Petition Bring A Voice To Community

By Amy Jeanroy

The city of Calais was recently shocked to hear that the DHHS office on South Street was closing and relocating all the employees to Machias. 

City and State officials scrambled to find out the details of the move, as they were not informed of the decision before it was announced last weekend. 

The current office, owned by Hight Partners, listed as a  contractor in the Lessors of Nonresidential Buildings (except Miniwarehouses) industry, from Farmington, ME, currently leases the building to DHHS for $100,000 a year. Ending that lease is a money saving measure, but still does not address the immediate and widespread need for a centrally located location for those who utilize DHHS services. Many of these people are elderly and may not have transportation of the additional money it will cost to travel to Machias on a regular basis. The commute will also pose a hardship to the 13 employees who will spend up to two hours a day driving to  and from the Machias location.

After hearing the news, two local women decided to speak out and get others in the community to do so as well. 

Peggy Dawson Bayliss and her daughter Sarah Bayliss are circulating a petition against the relocation of the Calais DHHS office. They have also been vocal on social media, generating conversations and answering queries about the situation. They direct people who are generally concerned and who want to do something, to sign the petition and write a letter to DHHS Commissioner, Mary Mahew, sharing how the closure would impact themselves and their community. 

State Representative Joyce Maker shares in the concern for the relocation saying: 

 

“I am very concerned about the loss of access to DHHS for eastern and northern Washington County.  Our rural population has two big problems: (1) lack of transportation services and (2) many of our low-income and elderly do not have Internet connection. The need to travel to Machias or Houlton would create a significant hardship for many of these folks.  I will continue to fight this move. Likewise, I am very supportive of the effort to collect signatures in an effort to prevent this from happening and of our citizens writing letters to Commissioner Mayhew of personal stories of how this would effect them.  If rent cost IS the problem to cause this move, then DHHS should consider the several offers of leases at much lower rates to keep the employees here to serve our disadvantaged rural citizens who need these services the most.”