BANGOR, Maine&nbsp- There is no one answer to the question of how Mainers are going to keep warm this winter, but with fuel prices at record highs more than 25 people from area towns and assistance agencies gathered Monday to discuss the potential crisis.

“Obviously, we’ re all concerned about how people are going to heat their homes this winter,” Penquis Community Relations Manager Jennifer Brooks said during the meeting at her organization’ s office. “We, as organizations, can’ t be everywhere.”

Several organizations offering fuel assistance explained how their programs work and said that they already are seeing requests. At the municipal level, town managers and others said they haven’ t seen fuel requests yet, but said residents are looking for help in paying electricity and rent bills through the General Assistance fund.

“Looking ahead at this year, it looks like we’ re going to have a larger need than we’ ve had,” Corinth Town Manager Don Strout said. “I can see there’ s going to be an increased cost to us, and is the state going to be able to reimburse us?”

For every dollar in General Assistance funds that Corinth spends, the town, like most communities in Maine, is reimbursed 50 cents, or 50 percent, by the state.

Some residents have tried to outsmart the system by putting their utilities in someone else’ s name if they become disconnected, said Shawn Yardley, director of Bangor Health and Community Services. He said that can actually hurt residents when it becomes necessary to apply for assistance because it appears that they don’ t have that utility bill to pay, therefore making them ineligible for help.

In addition, some oil dealers have decided not to participate in assistance programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and still others won’ t adhere to the state’ s minimum delivery law because it’ s not adequately enforced, according to some at the meeting. Some dealers won’ t deliver any less than the typical minimum delivery of 100 to 150 gallons.

But under Maine law, an oil dealer cannot refuse to deliver to a consumer in the dealer’ s regular service area if that consumer has cash or government-guaranteed payment to pay for the oil being requested and the consumer requests at least 20 gallons. Some additional charges, however, may be allowed under the law. More information is available by visiting the Maine attorney general’ s Web site at: and clicking on Consumer Law Guide, then clicking on Consumer Home Heating Rights.

Landlords also are walking away from the rental business altogether or are no longer including utilities in rent prices in order to make up some of what they are spending to heat their properties.

“The state’ s homeless shelter capacity is not in any shape to take on new needs,” said Dennis Marble, executive director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

There’ s an increased need in the area for family housing, and Marble said he sees the winter becoming an emergency situation in which warming shelters and crisis programs are needed.

“It’ s going to be neighbors checking on neighbors,” he said.

In Corinth, Strout said the selectmen frequently do this near where they live.

“Part of this has to be from the local level,” he said. “If one can do it, others can.”

Newport Town Manager Jim Ricker said police and fire officials in his area have been directed to do door-to-door residential checks this winter. They also have scheduled a series of local meetings to address the coming winter heating season.

“I think every community’ s got to get together and start something like that,” he said.

The group that met Monday intends to keep in touch by e-mail and will meet again in a month or so if necessary.