In the latest move to streamline operations and lower costs, the University of Maine System trustees agreed Sunday to a reorganization of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Under the reorganization plan, UMPI is eliminating some administrative positions and combining two of its three colleges, creating one College of Professional Programs and Education.

The system has been engaged in a years-long effort to consolidate back-office functions, reduce costs and streamline operations to close multimillion-dollar budget gaps. That effort has been paired with an attempt to reshape the system into a “one university” model instead of seven independent and sometimes competing campuses.

As a system, finances have largely stabilized, but some campuses have struggled to balance their budgets. Financial stability was behind the decision last March to make the University of Maine at Machias a regional campus of the flagship University of Maine in Orono.

While not the same type of arrangement, the UMPI reorganization announced Sunday “allows for potential expansion of collaborative positions and shared programming” with other campuses, officials said.

UMPI, with 1,326 students, is the second-smallest campus in the system and enrollment there has dropped 9.1 percent in the past five years.

Under the reorganization, the campus is eliminating the positions of campus operations officer and director of student success, which is estimated to save $447,708 over five years.

In his remarks to the trustees, UMPI President Ray Rice emphasized the college’s “special partnership” with the University of Maine at Fort Kent. The two campuses already share some back-office operations and partner on some academic programing, but are looking to expand their collaboration, Rice said.

One plan is for Fort Kent nursing professors to be teaching Presque Isle students by fall 2018.

To help with collaboration, UMFK provost Steven Gammon will now be “executive vice president for collaboration and strategic alliances,” reporting directly to the Presque Isle and Fort Kent presidents.

Also Sunday, the trustees approved a plan to have a Caribou farm provide locally raised and processed food directly to the campuses in Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Machias and Orono, part of a larger effort to have more local food served to Maine students.

Last year the system awarded Sodexo a five-year dining services contract, worth $12 million annually, as part of a university pledge to locally source 20 percent of the food served to students by 2020. Sodexo has now hired Circle B Farms of Caribou as its Northern Maine Food Aggregator, overcoming distance and insurance liability burdens to allow a local farmer to provide food to the campuses in northern Maine.

The system has spent more than $1.25 million on local products in the first 10 months of the initiative, and sourced 18 percent of its food purchases with more than 100 local companies from July 2016 to April 2017.

Under the agreement, Circle B Farms – which primarily grows blueberries and apples – aggregates local produce from several Aroostook County farms to deliver to the campuses.

“Our partnership with the universities and Sodexo is a great opportunity for Circle B Farms and our local employees,” said Sam Blackstone, owner of Circle B Farms. “But it is also great for the entire agricultural industry in northern Maine as farmers work with us to grow their businesses by providing institutional customers like the universities with fresh, locally produced food.”

The trustees will continue their regular monthly meeting, held in Presque Isle, on Monday.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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