February 21

OUR OPINION: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Quick takes on the issues making news this week in central Maine ...

THUMBS UP to Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, for shepherding through committee a bill that would open the way for former group homes on the campus of the former Augusta Mental Health Institute to be turned into housing for homeless veterans.

The bill, L.D. 1606, authorizes the state to sell the former group homes — two on Arsenal Heights Drive and two on Independence Drive — to a nonprofit group for use as transitional housing for veterans. It received unanimous support Wednesday from the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee. The buildings were otherwise set to be demolished, at an estimated cost to the state of around $100,000.

Transitional housing, rather than shelters, has proven to be a more effective long-term means of combating homelessness. A 12-bed veterans homeless shelter in Augusta run by Bread of Life Ministries is full every night, so there is certainly a need.

The full Legislature should pass the bill, and Gov. Paul LePage should sign it into law, so the hard work of raising money to purchase and renovate the buildings can begin.

“It’s so exciting to have an opportunity here to help vets,” Wilson, who served in combat as a U.S. Marine, told the paper, “and I hope that we set a precedent, that this is just the beginning.”

THUMBS DOWN to the folks who couldn’t manage to pick up after their pets, leading a volunteer committee to close down the Augusta Dog Park. The park will stay closed until after the winter, when the weather warms up and the mess can be cleaned up properly, the committee said.

Dog parks, which typically are not formally monitored, require a bit of self-policing among the people who visit, making sure that everyone keeps track of their dogs, properly handles any disputes and, yes, picks up waste.

But all it takes is for a few people not to abide by the rules, and others tend to follow. When that happens, the waste can pile up, particularly in the winter, when more dog owners seem think its OK to be derelict in one of the main obligations of taking a pet out in public.

Jared Lawson, a Winthrop resident and Augusta business owner, said it best, in a statement that can apply to sidewalks and neighbors’ yards as well as the dog park: “It’s frustrating because there is really no excuse to not pick up after your dog.”

THUMBS UP to a program through the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office that is providing resource officers to rural schools at no cost to the school districts.

Larger school districts typically have school resource officers from their local police departments. Smaller, more rural districts, however, often have trouble funding the positions.

School resource officers provide a sense of security at the schools, in addition to building relationships with students and giving them a way to interact positively with law enforcement.

“They get to meet us in a positive manner and get to know us as people,” Sgt. Emily Childs, who works at elementary schools in Manchester and Windsor, told the paper. “If a situation did occur — God forbid — the kids will all know who we are.”

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