WILTON — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is reversing its decision to close the Wilton call center, the department announced Wednesday, March 2.
In a statement to the Franklin Journal, Maine DHHS communications director Jackie Farwell wrote that the decision was made “in response to worker concerns about the drive to Lewiston and the owner’s recent commitment to improve service. “.
“The Department will continue to monitor the services response for the facility to ensure the health and safety of workers,” she wrote.
DHHS had previously announced to call center employees that it was closing the Wilton call center and moving employees to the DHHS building in Lewiston.
DHHS said it was ending the lease due to lack of space in the facility and issues with building owner Randal Cousineau.
Employees expressed concern that they would not be able to make the quick and expensive trip and would subsequently be out of a job. Prior to the overthrow, 45 employees were unemployed.
The Franklin County legislative delegation — State Sen. Russell Black, R-Franklin, Rep. Randall Hall, R-Wilton, and Rep. Scott Landry, D-Farmington — told the Franklin Journal they weren’t happy with the decision and the way it was. manipulated.
They felt the closure went against Governor Janet Mills’ goal of supporting rural economies through various policies and funding plans.
The delegation also felt that DHHS had failed to do its “due diligence” to find alternative space in the Franklin County area.
The delegation eventually met with DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambew and Mills’ administration Legislative Director Tom Abello to find a solution.
DHHS subsequently extended the construction lease with Cousineau for another year.
The one-year lease extension is “subject to [Cousineau’s] recent commitment to improving services,” according to a statement from Maine Senate Republicans.
Black hopes DHHS will also renew the lease beyond next year.
Farwell wrote that “this decision reflects the [Mills] the administration’s goal of continuing to support the economy in rural Maine as well as its commitment to providing safe and adequate workspace for its workers.
“We appreciate the employees doing this important work and will continue to do all we can to support them,” she wrote.
“It feels good to be able to help some state employees keep their jobs,” Black said. “That’s part of why we’re going to Augusta, so we can help our constituents.”
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