House District 96: Selectman challenges incumbent

By Stephanie Grinnell | Oct 11, 2018
Rep. S. Paige Zeigler, left, and Robert Currier are competing for the House District 96 seat.

House District 96 covers southern Waldo County from Lincolnvile to Palermo. For the past two years, it has been represented by Democrat Stanley Paige Zeigler of Montville. On Nov. 6, he is being challenged for the seat by Robert Currier of Belmont, a Republican.

Zeigler is a retired Merchant Mariner with a diverse range of other employment throughout his life. During his first term representing District 96, he proposed several bills, but all were defeated. Zeigler is vice chairman of the Regional School District 3 Board of Directors, as well as serving on the board of the local recycling center. In addition, he is a member of the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources.

Currier is second selectman in Belmont. He works as an advanced emergency medical technician for the city of Belfast and as a tech in the emergency room at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. In 2016, Currier entered the race, but was defeated in the primary by Ryan Harmon of Palermo, according to The Republican Journal's archives.

Both candidates said they are spending time campaigning door-to-door in the district, which includes Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont. As well, both candidates have been attending community events and, earlier in the year, town meetings.

Zeigler said the voters in the district should be the ones to decide the best person to represent them in Augusta, but noted “Government is neither the solution or (sic) the problem, it’s a tool; and I’m capable of using that tool.” Part of that capability lies in knowing “policy areas where we need to move forward,” he said.

Maine state law states students should have access to equal education, he said, which is why the essential programs and services formula was established.

“I support the 55 [percent state funding], but we have to have the revenue, a strong revenue source,” Zeigler said.

As to making that revenue source consistent, he said he does not have a solid answer. Already, school budgets are lean, Zeigler said. “There are not a lot of ways to reduce costs,” he said.

One option is a surcharge, Zeigler said, adding that he does not “totally support” that route. Some savings can be found in regionalization or charging fees for community use of school facilities. “But that’s hard, because many rural schools are community centers,” Zeigler said.

Expenses not related to education are increasing costs as well, such as school resource officers and security measures – which Zeigler referred to as “hardening down the buildings.” It isn’t feasible to keep increasing property taxes to fund education either, he said, later noting the median income in Waldo County is about $42,000 per year. Lottery funding – once touted as a consistent source of funding for education – isn’t sufficient, Zeigler said, because much of that money goes to the state’s general fund instead.

A way for property owners to save money could be a new proposal for funding renewable energy projects, which Zeigler said he has ready to go for the next legislative session. His idea for a “Green Bank” would provide low-interest loans for such installations as solar, wind or hydro power.

“This allows everybody to have the upfront money at a low interest rate,” he said, noting that many property owners are put off by the initial costs of installing renewable energy.

To address the current opioid epidemic in the state, Zeigler said he is in favor of medication-assisted treatment programs over residential treatment centers. Already in motion are efforts such as making large hospitals “hub” centers for services and the Maine Drug Courts, which also direct people to resources, he said. But, Zeigler noted, transportation to the resources remains a problem for many.

During the past two years, he said, he has voted against his party on several occasions, mostly in committee. Keeping track of his votes on the nearly 2,000 bills presented, though, hasn’t been possible, Zeigler said. Being bipartisan, he said, is simply, “learning how to talk to everybody, even within your own party.”

Still, he said, new ways of looking at funding could be possible with someone other than Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, leading the state. “We’re sort of in a new dawn coming into this election,” Zeigler said.

His Republican challenger, Currier, who described himself as “a proud conservative,” said he would be a voice representing the people of District 96 because he likes to talk and he likes to listen to people.

“We need to reinstall that sense of small community to the state of Maine,” he said, adding that the biggest concerns he’s hearing in the district range from increasing taxes to the watershed district in Palermo. “It’s really important to hear the people you represent.”

When it comes to education, Currier said, it is important that students are getting the education taxpayers are funding, but he doesn’t think the state-mandated contribution of 55 percent works “on a practical level.”

Nor does making Narcan widely available to counteract opioid overdoses, Currier said. “I don’t think handing out Narcan like candy is appropriate,” he said. “It’s a temporary fix for a permanent problem.

“You can't really have a solid solution for everyone,” he continued. “Narcan, while it is useful, wears off.”

Opioid use is killing people at a very early age, Currier said, and “it’s hard to see young people decide” to start using drugs. Making available boxes to dispose of needles or safe places for people to inject drugs also are not solutions, Currier noted, “because you’re enabling people.” Collaboration between medical professionals and law enforcement to talk about what is working is a good place to start, Currier said.

Talking about what’s working also applies to alternative energy, he said.

“Alternative energy is great, important to invest in,” Currier said. “But we need to look at the incentives we’re giving people – when does it become beneficial to the state?”

There’s more potential in offshore wind than mountaintop wind, he said, adding that mountaintop wind power disrupts the habitat.

While he claims the title of conservative, Currier said he’s not extreme and is willing to listen to both sides of the aisle.

“We’re not doing this for the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, it’s for the people of Maine,” he said.

Currier said the Constitution is important to him, particularly the 2nd Amendment, as he is a gun owner himself.

“I’m all for responsible gun ownership – not irresponsible gun ownership – and there are people out there protecting irresponsible ownership,” he said.

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