Hospital culling vaccine registrations to weed out ineligibles

BAR HARBOR, Feb. 2, 2021 – MDI Hospital is sorting out its Covid vaccine registration list after it was discovered some were using a link sent out by the hospital to jump the line.

“An appointment link sent privately to eligible 1a and 1b recipients who had preregistered was shared publicly this week,” a hospital spokesman said. “All appointments made using this link by those not eligible to receive the vaccine have been/will be canceled and adjustments are being made to our system to avoid this in the future.”

Meanwhile, vaccinations at the hospital are proceeding slowly. “To date, MDI Hospital has administered 1,234 doses of vaccine. This includes 825 first doses and 409 second doses. Currently, our hospital is receiving zero to 200 doses each week and we have more than 6,000 people preregistered to receive the vaccine when doses become available,” the hospital stated on its Facebook page.

At this pace it will be well into summer before that cohort completes vaccinations. Of course, many of those have also pre-registered elsewhere.

“Per state guidelines, we are focused on phase 1a and 1b, which prioritize the oldest in our community, those with high-risk medical conditions, and health care workers. Community members will be notified in a variety of ways when vaccine is more widely available—including public announcements, website postings and information at providers’ offices and clinics.

“There are many vaccination clinics across Maine that you may be able to access. At MDI Hospital, our preregistration process is still the best way to ensure that you will be contacted when a dose becomes available for you. MDI Hospital vaccine preregistration is available on our COVID-19 vaccine webpage found here: www.mdihospital.org/covid-19-vaccine. Due to the limited supply of vaccine, a timeline for available doses cannot be provided. Those who need assistance completing the form may call our Coronavirus Call Center at 207-801-5900.

“MDI Hospital has also set up an email address for vaccine-related questions, covidvaccine@mdihospital.org. We know many in our community are eager to receive the vaccine and we appreciate your patience as we await increased state and national supply.”

MDI remains a very safe haven. Two new positive tests were reported by the hospital on Jan. 28. That brings the total to 60 resident cases and seven non-residents who tested positive at MDI Hospital.

The Maine CDC, meanwhile, is reporting at least 46 cases in Bar Harbor, 20 in Southwest Harbor, six in Mount Desert and one each in Seal Cove and Bass Harbor. The CDC camouflages the exact number with a range for smaller towns. The CDC number is different because some residents chose to test somewhere other than MDI Hospital.

County, Healthy Acadia agree for opiod coaches to return Friday

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 2, 2021 – The public health organization Healthy Acadia and officials from Hancock County are working on a written agreement that should have Healthy Acadia’s opioid recovery coaches back working with inmates in the county jail on Friday, the Bangor Daily News reported. https://bangordailynews.com/2021/02/01/news/hancock/hancock-county-healthy-acadia-plan-to-have-recovery-coaches-back-in-jail-on-friday/

The agreement will revive the recovery coaching program after it was put on hold seven months ago when Sheriff Scott Kane barred Healthy Acadia from working at the jail because it issued a statement in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. Kane has characterized Black Lives Matter as an anti-law enforcement group that has called for violence against police officers and said he was offended by Healthy Acadia’s statement.

County sheriff – ‘man without a boss’ – has great unchecked power (Maine’s Joe Arpaio lite)

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Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane shakes hands with supporters after being sworn into office in January 2015. Photo by Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 30, 2021 – In 2018, when running for re-election, Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane cited drug abuse and mental health as the most serious issues among the county’s jail population and praised the work being done by Healthy Acadia which provided counseling for inmates.

“It (drugs) drives our jail population.” Kane said in an interview with the Ellsworth American “We’ve really created some great partnerships to help us supplement what we can’t supply,” Kane told the paper. “The associations are seamless. Those are just a phone call away.”

But apparently those concerns took a backseat to Kane’s personal views when he unilaterally canceled Healthy Acadia’s services last June after Healthy Acadia supported Black Lives Matter which he said was a “terrorist organization.”

Kane banned Healthy Acadia’s substance abuse coaches from continuing their work with inmates in the jail, citing “philosophical differences” and said his action was taken during “the height of the rioting and looting and the burning that Black Lives Matter was associated with….My responsibility as a police officer is to keep people safe. Those types of protests when they turn violent, nobody’s safe.”

Since the Bangor Daily News broke the story Jan. 26 about Kane’s actions, calls for Kane’s removal have been circulating on social media. Kane, a Republican, ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018 for four-year terms. He was opposed only during the 2014 Republican primary by the late Alan Brown, Southwest Harbor police chief who died of a heart attack last year. The race was close, with Kane getting 2,227 votes to Brown’s 2,052.

Kane may be removed only by the governor for misconduct, or perhaps in a recall by voters which is being researched by State Rep. Lynn Williams.

“I completely disagree with Sheriff Kane’s action, and the language surrounding it. To call ‘Black Lives Matter’ a terrorist organization is not only a lie but it is likely an actionable case of defamation that both BLM and Healthy Acadia could pursue,” Williams said.” Healthy Acadia is an excellent agency and the program that they were providing to those Hancock County Jail prisoners in recovery was effecting positive change in their lives.

“I call on the Hancock County Commissioners to address this issue immediately, just like the Maine Commissioner of Public Safety addressed the issue of the Chief of the Capital Police regarding his highly inappropriate, and demonstrably false, comments on his Facebook page. The Chief has now been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The Hancock County Commissioners should do likewise.”

State Rep. Louis Luchini added, “I disagree with the sheriff’s decision. Healthy Acadia has done great work in providing recovery coaches for inmates. Treatment is key to resolving the opiate crisis.” State Rep. Genevieve McDonald had no comment.

The commissioners called an emergency Zoom meeting for tonight but will conduct it in executive session. Commissioner Paul Paradis, who owns a hardware store in Bar Harbor, said the meeting was called to discuss what options the commission has. “Clearly, the best would be for counseling to start again,” he said. But he is not clear what authority commissioners have. Paradis said the commission has heard from many people unhappy about what Kane did. He made it clear he would like Kane to defuse the situation and bring Healthy Acadia back.

“This is a man without a boss,” said a senior police official who once worked in the sheriff’s office, describing the wide latitude given the county sheriffs. Last year the Bangor Daily News did an excellent investigative series into the unchecked power of Maine’s county sheriffs https://bangordailynews.com/2020/12/09/mainefocus/how-we-investigated-wrongdoing-at-sheriffs-offices-in-maine/.

Maine law gives the governor broad authority to remove sheriffs from office who are not faithfully executing their duties. Under Article IX, Section 10 of Maine constitution, the Governor has the ability to remove the sheriff, “after he officiates a hearing, which may occur after someone files a formal complaint against a sheriff and the sheriff is then notified.”

“Sheriffs, like a lot of us, are employees at will. In this case, it’s the will of the people every four years, but even more directly, it’s at the will of the Governor” … as long as someone files a complaint, said Marshall Tinkle, a constitutional lawyer.

Removal of sheriffs is rare in Maine. In one of the few known cases, Gov. Ralph Brewster removed Kennebec County Sheriff Henry F. Cummings in 1926 after receiving complaints he did not uphold Prohibition laws. Cummings was giving away liquor.

The constitutionally controlled process of removing a Maine sheriff from office has been launched numerous times over the years, but in most recorded cases – as with Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant – the sheriffs have resigned or complaints have been dismissed before a governor took action. Gallant resigned in 2017 a day after county commissioners asked the governor to remove him in the wake of sexual harassment charges.

This was not Kane’s only brush with controversy in 2020. He made headlines when he was roundly criticized for seeking to acquire riot gear – helmets, batons and gloves for crowd control – for his officers who mostly patrol rural towns which do not have their own police, like Tremont. He later withdrew his request after he was publicly criticized.

Kane is a lite version of Joe Arpaio, “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” the Arizona anti-immigrant promulgator who investigated Barack Obama‘s birth certificate, and, as of 2018, continued to claim that it was forged. He was ousted by voters in 2016.

Kane wouldn’t reconsider his decision even after Healthy Acadia toned down its public statement about police brutality. Officials in Washington County also objected to Healthy Acadia’s statement, but decided to stick with the group and its recovery coaches in the jail in Machias.

Elsie Flemings
ELSIE FLEMINGS

Healthy Acadia was “devastated” when Kane canceled the group’s recovery coaching contract, said Executive Director Elsie Flemings.

“The American Public Health Association has identified racism as a key force of the social determinants of health,” Flemings told the Bangor Daily News. “As a public health organization, the issue of racial equity is well within our mission and can and should be considered and prioritized across our program areas.”

To try to appease the sheriff, the group changed mentions of “police brutality” in its initial June 10, 2020, statement to “violence” and re-worded a declaration that the group stands “together with Black Lives Matter” to “we affirm that Black lives matter.”

It also added a reference to a separate statement published June 3, 2020, by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the Maine Sheriffs Association, the Maine Prosecutors Association and the Maine Department of Public Safety, that said “there is no place for racism and police brutality in Maine or in our country. Maine law enforcement officers can and must do better.”

The recovery coaching program had been in place in Hancock County since 2017, first with Open Door Recovery Center involved and then just with Healthy Acadia after the Ellsworth treatment center shut down in 2019. The county has used community benefit funds it has received from windpower developers in the county’s Unorganized Territory to fund the program.

In Washington County, where Healthy Acadia continues to provide recovery coaches to inmates, county officials initially objected to Healthy Acadia’s racial equity statement and considered cutting ties with the group. Flemings met last June with Washington County Sheriff Barry Curtis and his jail administrator, Rich Rolfe, as well as with Kane, to talk it over, but Curtis and Rolfe decided to stick with Healthy Acadia.

Rolfe declined to comment on the Healthy Acadia racial equity statement, other than to confirm he and Curtis discussed it with Flemings and that, after thinking it over, they decided to continue working with the group. He said Washington County officials do not keep track of whether inmates who receive recovery coaching stay sober after they are released from jail, but he and Curtis fully support having recovery coaches available.

“It’s a huge benefit,” Rolfe said. “If they are addicted to substances, it often leads to illegal activity because they have to support their habit. They need resources and they need help to get past that.”

THIN BLUE SKIN

On Facebook, Gail Marshall, former Hancock County assistant district attorney and daughter of a former Maine state trooper with two half-brothers currently serving in law enforcement in another state, wrote the following post:

In the Bangor Daily News on January 26, it was reported that Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane severed ties with Healthy Acadia last spring because he was offended that in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Healthy Acadia issued a statement that decried the death and supported the racial justice work of, among others, the group called “Black Lives Matter”(BLM).

Baselessly labeling BLM “a terrorist group” that advocates overthrowing the government and killing police officers, Kane banned Healthy Acadia’s substance use disorder recovery coaches from continuing their work with inmates in the jail. A day later in the Islander he characterized the reason for his abrupt termination of Healthy Acadia’s services as “philosophical differences” and said his action was taken during “the height of the rioting and looting and the burning that Black Lives Matter was associated with….My responsibility as a police officer is to keep people safe. Those types of protests when they turn violent, nobody’s safe.”

This was accompanied by a self-assessment that the Sheriff is not racist.It was not accompanied by any sentiment of concern for George Floyd, or the tens of millions of citizens who might logically harbor concerns about law enforcement after watching the video of a human being coldly murdered in broad daylight by a police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

That Sheriff Kane chose to act in a thin-skinned manner, based on a highly questionable set of facts and logic, stands in contrast to his colleague in Washington County. They too had concerns about the language of Healthy Acadia’s statement. After a dialogue, the statement was amended. Washington County kept Healthy Acadia’s recovery coaches, calling recovery coaches a “huge benefit.”

Those suffering from substance use disorders are at increased risk of overdose and death if, after a period of non-use, they suddenly begin to use again. Helping them prepare while incarcerated for a successful release from jail is often crucial. It’s also important for the rest of the community that people remain clean once they are released. Someone using is far more likely to commit crime in order to finance his or her needs.

The Bangor Daily reported there were still no recovery coaches working with Hancock County Jail inmates even as overdoses rise in Maine in the midst of the pandemic. The next day, and many months after the original contretemps, the Sheriff announced to the Islander there will soon be a replacement.

Police work is hard and officers do it on our behalf. To put it very mildly, they don’t usually get to interact with people on their best days. It can be dangerous. They aren’t paid well enough. We owe well-functioning police departments-and there are many-a huge debt of gratitude.

However, it is everyone’s right and responsibility to question, and, when warranted, criticize what police do in our name and to us and our fellow citizens. Sheriff Kane has treated inmates as collateral damage to his pique about a statement of concern and support for people of color who have been killed by police elsewhere in obviously troubling circumstances.

Sheriff Kane and those officers who are similarly disposed to lash out in an ironic display of “cancel culture” should know that given the enormous power granted to them, we expect them to wield that power wisely, with openness and restraint, and always for the benefit of the entire community they are sworn to serve.

If that’s not in Sheriff Kane’s wheelhouse, and if he stands for re-election in 2022, the voters of Hancock County should look elsewhere for the essential qualities of a good Sheriff.

Conservationists cite Janet Mills’ words as opposing in-water farm

SOMESVILLE, Jan 30, 2021 – Did Gov. Mills just declare the salmon farm proposed for Frenchman Bay dead in the water?

Friends of Frenchman Bay and some lobstermen certainly think so.

“New, commercial-scale offshore wind projects do not belong in state waters that support the majority of the state’s lobster fishing activity, that provide important habitat for costal marine and wildlife species and that support a tourist industry based in part on Maine’s iconic coastal views,” Mills stated in a letter this week defending her actions on off-shore windmills.

Mills is asking the state legislature to place a 10-year moratorium against construction of wind turbines inside state waters, after fishermen criticized a 12-turbine experiment in federal waters. https://www.mainepublic.org/post/janet-mills-proposes-10-year-moratorium-wind-development-maine-managed-waters

But in doing so, her paragraph above appears to commit the state to protect lobster fisheries, habitats which support other species and tourist-friendly vistas such as Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands which draws millions of tourists a year to the top of Cadillac Mountain to view.

A Nordic businessman, operating as American Aquafarms, is preparing an application for state permits to operate a massive salmon farm in waters just north of the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay.

The company’s website does not mention that CEO Mikael Roenes is a convicted felon who spent two-and-a-half years in prison for defrauding investors. Some of the conservationists worry that he is hoping to flip the permits in another financial scheme.

In a meeting last week with local residents, the company said it plans to moor two large barges in Frenchman Bay to house staff who will manage the pens farming the salmon. Apart from the issue of water pollution from fish waste, a new concern surfaced about air and noise pollution from the diesel generators and in-water lights.

The company said it would build not place pens over “hard bottom” portions of the Bay where lobstermen say the catch is better. “But we also catch a lot of lobsters on the mud,” said James West, long-time Sorrento fisherman who said opposition is growing among area lobstermen to the proposal.

One man in Lamoine presaged the Fiberight fiasco and steered the town away from MRC

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 30, 2021 – On the pecking order of least desirable waste management solutions, landfills rank at the very top. Incineration would probably be next. And of course, recycling is the piece de resistance.

Yet, members of the 117-town Municipal Review Committee have been using the two least desirable solutions now for most of the last two years as it awaits the promise of the shuttered Fiberight plant to bear fruit.

But long before the recycling plant in Hampden had its untimely seizure last May, one man saw the train wreck coming and steered the Town of Lamoine away. Today, Lamoine is the only town in Hancock County still recycling, as well as incinerating its solid waste.

LAMOINE IS ONE OF 65 TOWNS USING ECOMAINE FOR RECYCLING

Ken Smith, Lamoine resident, environmental engineer and seasoned facilities operator, was tapped by Lamoine selectmen to offer his recommendation in 2016, as MRC towns were raging to join up with a new player, Fiberight, to replace an Orrington incineration plant they used for 20 years.

Smith observed that he had never seen a “pilot concept” as devised by Fiberight be employed as a major facility without being fully tested. Smith said if the Fiberight plant works, there will be a great benefit, according to the minutes of the 2016 selectmen’s meeting, but he had many doubts. http://www.lamoine-me.gov/Town%20Hall/Boards/Selectmen/Minutes/2016/smin032416pdf.pdf

“There is a significant effort to putting 5-technologies to work together in one plant, and that’s a risk,” The minutes stated. “He said such ideas often underestimate the costs, and there is risk prior to construction.”

Smith cited potential liabilities if the project failed, including having to incinerate and haul trash to landfills.

And of course that’s exactly what happened – during both the startup period for the plant in 2019 and since May 2020 when it closed – MRC having to truck hundreds of thousand tons of waste to the Orrington incinerator and the landfill in Norridgewock.

Meanwhile, Lamoine residents fill up two large containers each week with paper, boxes and plastics to be taken to ecomaine, which serves 65 communities, mostly in Southern Maine, and its solid waste to the Orrington incinerator. (See related story below).

Waste consortium failing to fully vet new vendor, SWH official says

the interior of a large building with a lot of conveyor belts, including a closeup of one with garbage and a man with a hardhat on a ladder
THE $90-MILLION RECYCLING PLANT IN HAMPDEN

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Jan. 28, 2021 – The vice chair of the SWH Warrant Committee and an environmental expert on waste disposal is questioning the level of scrutiny being conducted on the company seeking to re-open the mothballed recycling plant in Hampden.

Jim Vallette, president of Materials Research LC3, appeared Tuesday at the Zoom meeting of the Municipal Review Committee, the consortium of the 117 Maine towns which relied on the plant for recycling until it was shut down last May. He cited the failed financial history of Delta Thermo Energy’s operation in Allentown, Pa. and asked members if they knew of it.

Delta is seeking to replace Coastal Resources Inc., a division of Fiberight Corp. which ran out of money and closed the plant in May, forcing the towns to ship their waste to an incinerator in Orrington. There has been no recycling since.

MRC chair Karen Fussel said on Zoom the financial “due diligence” was being performed by the bondholders who own the plant as the MRC only owns the land. But MRC Director Michael Carroll said he has reviewed the financial records of the company and is satisfied it has the needed financing.

Fussel has not returned several of QSJ requests for an interview. QSJ would have asked her if she understood that the bondholders are only concerned with a financial deal and not whether Delta can truly execute its promised environmentally disposition of waste from the member towns.

For instance, Vallette asked about Delta’s plans for handling sewage sludge as mentioned in an earlier board meeting. MRC consultant George Aronson said any proposal to burn such sludge would require new state permits.

Vallette called MRC’s level of due diligence “shocking” in an interview with the QSJ. “They seem to be getting all their information from the company.”

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ROB VAN NAARDEN

Delta CEO Rob Van Naarden has a colorful and complicated history, including a troubled past as CEO of a kosher chicken producer, engagement with the City of Allentown which resulted in Delta losing its contract amid an FBI corruption probe, a returned check from the State of Pennsylvania for lack of funds and this statement from Mark Pederson, president of the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association in December 2013 to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection:


“Delta Thermo made a number of materially false statements to the public regarding
their proposed project and the waste disposal industry as a whole…. Delta Thermo’s continued use of false environmental marketing claims in discussing its project are
unacceptable to PWIA and its members, and are wholly inconsistent with the
environmentally responsible management of solid waste upon which our members pride
themselves…. Delta Thermo denies that it is in the waste disposal business or subject to
the stringent air permitting requirements that apply to companies in the waste disposal
business… (T)here is no indication that anyone has ever ‘commercially’ operated a plant
of this design, field by a mixture of MSW and wastewater treatment plant sludge,
anywhere in the world…. Delta Thermo’s discussion of ambient air impacts on the
neighboring citizens was intentionally misleading.”

Vallette shared a document with QSJ consisting of his recent research into Delta. https://docs.google.com/document/d/10ghk9IGV1eCNYaUvpVKuWfc7DxhxuWUqO7vWfoajP58/edit

“Southwest Harbor is one of 115 communities relying upon the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) to find positive uses for our town’s waste, through technologies that are not expensive, recycle waste, don’t pollute, and do not expose us to potential liabilities,” he wrote. “Our hopes are threatened when a cutting-edge (that is, high-risk) facility like Fiberight is placed in the hands of a company – Delta Thermal Energy (DTE) — with no track record, or worse, a company that has been rejected by at least seven communities and has the ultimate goal of burning toxic sewage sludge, to be barged into the Penobscot Bay from cities throughout the East Coast.”

“The bottom line: this company, with a mysterious overseas owner and no fixed address, and a troubling track record, has been rejected by town after town in the mid-Atlantic. Now it plans to deliver NYC sewage sludge by barge to Hampden for incineration, and the MRC thinks this is going to be good business for the towns.”

QSJ has been conducting its own research, especially the FBI investigation in Allentown which resulted in the conviction of its mayor and a half dozen city officials in 2018.


Van Naarden said in an interview he voluntarily turned 10,000 documents over to the FBI seven year ago when he learned of the investigation. Asked whether the FBI relied on those documents, he said, “I have no idea.”

City officials canceled its contract with Delta and publicly blamed the company for failing to attain the necessary financing to proceed which Van Naarden said were untrue. Delta won the contract in a public bidding beating out 47 competitors.

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Van Naarden said he disclosed this sordid history to the management team and board members at MRC. However, two members, Bob Butler of Waldoboro and Irene Belanger of the town of China, said they had no recollection of an FBI investigation in Allentown when QSJ called them over the weekend. There is no evidence Delta was ever a subject of the probe, only that it cooperated with the FBI.

MRC Director Michael Carroll affirmed that board members were told after his management team discovered the Allentown history while doing due diligence on the company. His team included two attorneys. He was not aware of Van Naarden’s previous history in selling chickens, nor was he aware of the returned check in Pennsylvania.

In 2004, while Van Naarden was CEO of Empire Kosher products, Trader Joe’s removed Empire products from its shelves, according to the ​Jewish Journal reported, “‘The Empire chicken people are no longer able to supply our needs,’ said Pat St. John, vice president of marketing for Trader Joe’s West Coast corporate office…. Managers at the Trader Joe’s in West Hills and West Los Angeles attributed the change to Empire short-weighting their products. One manager said that packages Empire marked as containing 3 pounds of chicken were found, when weighed at the store, to contain only 2.5 pounds.”

In 2005, Empire Kosher Poultry’s supplier, Alle Processing Corp., detected Listeria spp in its processing plant in Maspeth, N.Y. and was temporarily shut down by the USDA. Subsequently, Alle voluntarily recalled two Empire branded products — IQF Buffalo Style Wings and Fried Chicken Assorted Pieces — produced in Alle’s facility. Van Naarden left the company in 2006.

The MRC board is notoriously hands off. Members relied heavily on information provided by the previous operator of the plant, Coastal Resources, which repeatedly claimed it was solvent and even was adding new customers as late as April 2020. At its April 2020 board meeting, executives from Coastal’s parent company Fiberight said they expected to close on a $14.5 bridge loan “by the end of the week.” That closing never happened, Carroll said the bondholders, wary of the impact of the pandemic, decided against the bridge loan which forced the plant to close.

MDI has three different contracts with MRC. Southwest Harbor and Bar Harbor have their own. Mount Desert, Tremont, Frenchboro, Cranberry Isles and Trenton comprise the Acadia Disposal District, whose chair, Tony Smith, MD public works director, did not return calls from QSJ.

Carey Donovan, who represents Tremont in the district, expressed concern about whether MRC will be able to avoid incineration. “Van Naardan stated clearly that he believes nothing should go to an incinerator, and yet it appears that incineration is his mainstay for dealing with trash,” Donovan said.

The MRC appears to be on fast track to close its new contracts with Delta. It signed a memorandum of understanding in secret in December and refused to disclose the name of the company. It invoked an exemption to the Maine Freedom of Access Law. It then introduced Delta in a “town hall” meeting Jan. 19 but has been selective about what information it discloses. Vallette and QSJ unearthed all the above information in less than a week.

MRC is a hurry to re-open the plant, saying Delta will operate the current technology and execute all the municipal contracts. But long term, Van Naarden said the technology will have to be replaced. Exactly what that entails is unclear.

Support Tony Smith’s Gofundme campaign for Murphy the dog

NORTHEAST HARBOR, Jan. 30, 2021 – WARNING! This is a three-hanky post.

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Seville Gulsen has placed 200 dogs from Turkey. Shown here with Murphy and Tony. (Murphy is the dog)

I was at the end of a call with the loquacious Tony Smith when he lobbed a non-sequitar, “Yeah, I gotta take my dog to Annapolis for a hip replacement,” said the dog lover who spends his weekdays as public works director for the Town of Bar Harbor.

Whaaat! That’s probably not cheap, I averred, to which Tony replied, “You’re right.” That’s why he’s seeking donations to help with the cost. https://www.gofundme.com/f/murphys-hip?qid=aba34e0e23428963a9183e4b2f0a63a1

I’m of the opinion that some animal care centers exploit pet owners by performing unnecessary and expensive end-of-life procedures which often extends mortality for a few months. But the dog in this case is only two.

Tony adopted the rescue dog from an agency in Annapolis operated by “a wonderful person, Seville, and her family from Turkey.” Murphy is an Anatolian shepherd mix He was estimated to be 4 weeks old when he was rescued in the hills of northern Turkey in November 2019. “Wonderful volunteers in the area take it upon themselves to feed as many of the stray animals on a regular basis as they can,” Tony wrote on his Gofundme page. “In that area there are so many stray and abandoned dogs, it is nearly impossible to care for them all. Heavy snowfall and strong winds sometimes makes it impossible to drive to the dogs to feed them, but they try.”

Murphy was found with other dogs trying to survive in the deep snow and harsh conditions. “He was so small; was shivering and was having a hard time staying on the surface of the snow. Tony stated. “A very short video clip we were given by the rescuers taken by flashlight and cell phone shows him in the falling snow lifting one paw off the snow after the other trying to keep his legs from freezing.  

“Ultimately, all of his legs were affected by the cold but, through the efforts of the rescuers, three of them survived just fine without having any problems. Sadly, his rear left hip was not functioning properly due to the freezing conditions he endured and, it was discovered that it was also dislocated,” Tony said.

Murphy was flown to the U.S. and even had his own passport. The surgery will repair a ball joint in his hip. At only 2-years-old, Murphy should give Tony many years of companionship. QSJ promised to help spread the word.

Turkey, particularly Istanbul, has a strong history of stray dogs.

In 2012, thousands of people marched in the streets of Istanbul and several other cities to stop the passage of an updated version of Turkey’s Animal Protection Law which would have allowed cities to capture and euthanize some of the strays that roam the streets unclaimed, but apparently not unloved. The estimates for the numbers of street dogs in Istanbul alone sway wildly from 70,000 to 150,000. No one knows exactly how many there are, but they are unavoidable. They seem to be everywhere, reported CNN.

Mark Twain couldn’t help noticing them when he visited Istanbul in 1897 and mentioned the pitiful condition of the strays in his travel book “Innocents Abroad.”

THE PUZZLE

BONUS PHOTOS

LONG POND TUESDAY
LONG POND SATURDAY MORNING. VARIOUS STAGES OF FREEZING CREATING DANGER. PARK RANGER REPORTS ONE PERSON FELL THROUGH THE ICE ON ECHO LAKE
EAGLE LAKE JAN. 23
ECHO LAKE ICE HOUSE FRIDAY

Best Right Whale calf season in 5 years; 13th spotted near Georgia

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 22, 2021 – This is the most encouraging calving season in years. This week NOAA Fisheries announced that a newborn North Atlantic right whale had been spotted near Wassaw Island, Georgia, making it the 13th calf of the 2020-2021 calving season. The newborn was accompanied by its 14-year-old mother. This calf is the mother’s first.  (file photo).

The sighting comes just days after the 11th and 12th calves of the season were spotted near Amelia Island off Florida’s coast. All together, these births represent the best calving season the critically endangered species has had in years. Between 2017-2020, only 22 new calves were recorded. This year, with more than two months in the calving season remaining, officials are hopeful that more calves are on the horizon. 

“While these births are an encouraging sign, the continued threats underscore that we still have to redouble our efforts to protect these vulnerable babies and their mothers,” said Jane Davenport, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. 

Since 2017, the North Atlantic right whale has been experiencing an Unusual Mortality Event, with 32 confirmed mortalities and 14 serious (non-survivable) injuries in U.S. and Canadian waters. These deaths have stemmed from two human threats: entanglements in commercial fishing ropes and vessel strikes. Within the first few weeks of January, a severely entangled right whale was spotted off Georgia’s coast, dragging rope and fishing gear through the heart of the calving grounds.

“Right whales face a daily gauntlet of fishing ropes and speeding vessels, which together have caused the deaths of more than 200 right whales in the last decade alone,” said Davenport. “We’re killing right whales far faster than they can reproduce. Unless we move quickly to abate these threats, we’re running out of time to save the species from extinction.”

In 2020, two of the season’s 10 right whale calves were killed by vessel strikes. On January 13, 2021, Defenders and its conservation allies filed suit to challenge NOAA to take immediate action to reduce ship strikes and entanglement by fishing gear.

Opposition gains steam against Frenchman Bay salmon farm


SOMESVILLE, Jan. 23, 2021 – Two influential citizen groups have formally voiced their opposition to a proposed salmon farm in the middle of Frenchman Bay.

“This is simply a matter of the wrong place, the wrong technology and the wrong people,” said
James Paterson of Hancock, one of the leaders of the effort. “This project represents the
industrialization of a pristine bay in the shadow of Acadia National Park. It is a totally
inappropriate place for this kind of development – it’s like putting a large factory at the foot of
Cadillac Mountain.”
Paterson noted that Frenchman’s Bay has long been home to a robust lobster fishery, smallscale aquaculture, commercial and recreational boating, and other compatible uses. He said the waters of the bay are cherished by generations of residents in communities around the bay and visitors from all over the world.

Portland-based Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation (PMFHF) also said
it will not support the project proposed by American Aquafarms.

“PMFHF has heard from multiple lobstermen who say that they are concerned
about losing the bottom in the area as well as the potential environmental damage
from industrialized aquaculture,” the organization said in a press release.

Executive Director Crystal Canney said, “PMFHF has spoken to both
supporters of the project and state regulators and it’s clear American Aquafarms
intends to file an application. We have heard over and over again that the
identified area in Gouldsboro is heavily fished by lobstermen. The two leases total
more than 100 acres but under our current state regulations those leases have the
potential to grow to 1,000 acres. PMFHF supports legislation sponsored by Rep.
Robert Alley (D-Jonesport) that will work to reduce acreage, looks at how easy it is
to transfer a lease to an individual, business or corporation and the increasing
conflict between proposed in-water aquaculture projects and all those who live,
work and recreate along Maine’s coast. PMFHF is calling for a plan to look at
Maine’s coast.”
Canney added, “Our overarching concern is that the Department of Marine
Resources doesn’t have the staff, the resources, or the will to address what is
becoming a serious public policy issue – the future of the Maine coast. It’s inherent
that if and when these conversations happen all stakeholders are at the table not
just those in the aquaculture industry who have a vested interest in growing lease
sizes. Small aquaculturists in Maine have expressed similar concerns about large
leases along the coast. Maine’s waters are a public trust and it’s time to take a
breather and create a plan for the future.”

Hancock’s Paterson also expressed concern that American Aquafarms is led by someone who in 2008 was convicted on multiple counts of fraud, forgery and gross financial infidelity.
“We are putting Mikael Roenes on notice that he and his sea pens are not welcome in
Frenchman’s Bay and that he should be prepared for a long and costly fight if he persists with
his plans,” said Ted O’Meara, a veteran public affairs consultant working with the group who
also owns a home in Hancock.
Roenes was found guilty of defrauding investors and funneling money to himself and a
company that he owned. According to news accounts, at the end of 2005 he misspent NOK
52M ($6.1 million USD) in a six-week period, including funneling more than NOK 11m ($1.3
million USD) to himself and purchasing three luxury cars.
Roenes was sentenced to four years in prison and forced to pay restitution of NOK 15M ($1.8
million USD) for his actions which violated a number of Norwegian laws.
“These were not petty crimes,” O’Meara said. “They involved large-scale fraud and go right to
the heart of the character and credibility of someone seeking to do business in our state,
particularly when his project has such serious implications for the environment and the
Frenchman’s Bay eco-system.”

How oligarchies control capital projects on MDI; will SWH ever get new garage? Whither home for NEH police?

NORTHEAST HARBOR, Jan. 21, 2021 – The Town of Mount Desert could use a couple like Curtis and Patricia Blake right about now – publicly minded philanthropists who can write a check for $10 million.

Plaque in foyer of Mount Desert town offices

This being Northeast Harbor, such a thought is not outlandish, and not without precedence.

The same sense of largesse enabled the town to have fire stations in Seal Harbor and Somesville. Both were donated by wealthy summer residents who collectively make up 72 percent of the town’s staggering $2.3 billion tax base, larger than the entire county of Piscataquis.

Blake was the founder of Friendly Ice Cream who died in 2019 at the age of 102. He and his wife donated the necessary funds in 1980 to build the current town office building which houses police, EMS, fire, town manager, town clerk, assessor, code enforcement officer and other town officials.

Windowless EMS office with cot, desk, files crammed into former bathroom

Now unless the town finds a new-century Curtis Blake, it’s about to make a terrible economic mistake. This week the five-member select board unanimously directed town managers to come back in two weeks with a scaled-down proposal for a new public safety facility not to exceed a $5 or $6 million pricetag. They would do this by excluding the police department from the new addition.

But the town of Mount Desert is nothing if not a jumble of contradictions. Three select members, including Chairman John McCauley, also believe there will be a single, island-wide police force in the future. So instead of building toward that eventually, they plan to gut the proposal and its $10 million pricetag.

McCauley called the $10 million figure “sticker shock.” No doubt, he and other members were spooked by the rejection last year of a $1.9 million town garage in neighboring Southwest Harbor. Asking for a large capital expense in the middle of the pandemic seems politically counter-intuitive.

The current town offices and rendering of proposed addition (below)

There is ample reason for this caution. The entire coastline of Maine consists of towns bathed in irony – year-round residents who benefit from tax bases heavily subsidized by summer people but balk at having to pony up money themselves.

Add to this the fact that the towns are the least democratic institutions in the country where often less than 5 percent of the citizenry decides how and what to tax. Of the 2,038 registered voters in the Town of Mount Desert, fewer than 100 showed up at the annual meeting last year to vote on spending issues. The pandemic exacerbated the problem, because the meeting was delayed from its customary May date to Aug. 11 when it was held as a drive-in at the high school. At one time, the meeting came perilously close to the 50-vote quorum required by town charter.

Having fewer than 3 percent of the citizens make multi-million-dollar public spending decisions is the definition of oligarchy. Even in normal times the town gets only around 150 voters to show up.

The flip side of the pandemic’s effect was in Southwest Harbor which voted on July 14, 2020 to reject that town’s proposed $1.9 million garage by nine votes, 280-289. Southwest Harbor did not have a town meeting last year. Instead it piggy-backed on statewide primaries and received considerably more votes than the 65 people who attend a normal town meeting. Nonetheless the vote to reject the garage was decided by about 18 percent of the electorate. Asked where SWH stands in the aftermath of the vote, SWH Select Chair Kristin Hutchins said, “We’re not anywhere.”

Meanwhile, Bar Harbor and Mount Desert are deep in conversations about police consolidation which would require space and new technology (see next article). Police Chief Jim Willis is rightfully ambitious to point the towns toward better service, especially when the summer throngs descend, and more efficiency. Fire Chief Michael Bender is rightfully trying to give us 24/7 coverage which would not be possible without proper housing for his firefighters.

A state-of-the-art facility would also ease the pressures of recruiting which has been a primary source of concern on the island.

With the Fed practically giving money away, current stewards of the public trust would be wise to consider the alternative – five to 10 years from now when a new police station will cost much more than $10 million at higher interest rates. A rough “back of the envelope” calculation of a 30-year, $10 million bond at 3 percent interest rate results in a static annual principal payment of $333,333 and about $150,000 in interest per year – or total annual debt service about $483,500 per year. A good part of that could easily be made up by rising assessment of houses sold in the current real estate boom.

So unless a white knight shows up to rescue the proposal, it is likely a slimmed down version will go to the voters at the town meeting May 4, also scheduled to be a drive-in event.

A future select board will look back and ask, “What were they thinking back in 2021?”

Parochialism strikes down consolidation efforts

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Jan. 22, 2021 – “Consolidation” might as well be a four-letter word among some nearby town officials.

It represents some Calvinistic aversion to ideas and people not within our cohort of familiar folks and boundaries.

To wit, the recent decision by Southwest Harbor selectmen not to engage in further discussion to create an island-wide police force.

Ask yourself this question: does it matter which police car shows up at your doorstep the next time you call a cop? Or is response time a more important measure?

MDI has succeeded each time it ventured forth to collaborate – education, waste management and public safety. Mount Desert High School is a premier high school and regularly ranks among the Top 10 in Maine. It opened in 1968 after failed consolidation votes in 1949 and 1955, and finally being approved in 1965. The Acadia Disposal District combines the scale of Mount Desert, Tremont, Trenton, Cranberry Isles and Frenchboro to manage its waste more efficiently.

Bar Harbor and Mount Desert joined much of their police functions two years ago, proving skeptics wrong as services improved for both towns.

Mount Desert and Bar Harbor patrol cars i in Northeast Harbor

Short of a full merger, partnerships of various dimensions may be struck to benefit all parties. But the pull of parochial concern is strong in New England’s dominant township form of government. “Some towns just aren’t comfortable giving up control,” said Mount Desert Town Manager Durlin Lunt after Southwest Harbor selectmen voted 3-2 last week to halt consideration of an island-wide police force.

Seven years ago Bar Harbor needed a police chief after firing Nate Young for drunkenness. It reached out to Mount Desert, which agreed to share its chief, Jim Willis. That arrangement lasted five years.

Willis brought knowledge from his days at the Hancock County sheriff’s department where he learned to collaborate with the state police. “There were a lot of similarities” and opportunities which were “obvious” in the way both MDI towns operated. Two years ago, he instituted a single patrol schedule under which officers from either town could patrol the other. For instance it made sense to have one patrol for the villages west of Somes Sound, Pretty Marsh, Somesville and Town Hill. On any given day that patrol car could be Mount Desert police or Bar Harbor.

The new schedule gave the two towns a minimum of three officers on call 24/7 a day, 365 days a year. “It also gave us supervisory coverage from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Neither agency had that before,” Willis said. Most days the officers on call are more than the minimum.

The towns updated their mutual aid agreements to operate essentially as one entity. While there are other such agreements on the island, the hand-off is not as seamless. For instance, Southwest Harbor must first call Bar Harbor or Mount Desert for assistance which costs time. The mutual aid is not frictionless.

The towns also have consolidated their crime data base.

In all, BHPD has 13 Officers (one is on assignment to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency). Mount Desert PD has six, including the chief. 

The joining of the patrols “has worked out very well,” Willis said. “We have better service, better response time and access to services such as human resources and technology.”

“We also established a ‘shared’ administrative assistant, the position is funding the same as the shared Chief, 60/40.  She is technically a BH employee and her office is in NEH at MDPD.  She takes care of HR related things for both PD’s, responds to requests for reports from the public and a variety of other tasks.  Neither agency had a similar position prior to this effort.”

“Our combined schedule for patrol consists of 11 patrol positions and 4 supervisory positions.  The Captain and I are not a part of that schedule,” Willis said. Southwest Harbor has four current officers, including acting chief Mike Miller. By voting against consolidation selectmen chose to stay with the status quo. Selectman George Jellison cast the deciding vote reversing himself from a previous vote.

SWH Chief Alan Brown and Willis were friends from the time they worked together in the sheriff’s office. They had informal discussions about sharing staff and resources until Brown died of a heart attack last year.

There are 12 dispatchers on MDI and 19 officers providing 24/7 coverage of three towns – Bar Harbor, Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor. Tremont does not have its own police, opting instead to contract services with Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and State Police.

One obvious question is why MDI needs three dispatch centers. Mount Desert Town Manager Durlin Lunt pointed to that as an area worth exploring for possible savings which might be used to provide better services.

“If you’re looking for further consolidation, I would tell you that dispatch is the low-hanging fruit,” Willis said in a 2017 interview with the Mount Desert Islander.

Back then, Willis said Lunt and Bar Harbor Town Manager Cornell Knight had asked him to study the possibility of consolidating the police departments’ dispatch functions but it wasn’t feasible because they did not have common radio frequencies.

“I tried for years to get a frequency that will talk around MDI, with all the mountains we have here, and you can’t get one anymore,” Willis told the Islander. “All of these iPhones and everything people have has basically eaten up the frequency ranges. We exhausted finding some municipal frequencies that would work.”

Then, last year, the National Park Service (NPS) offered the police departments the use of some federal frequencies. Since then the police and fire departments have been using federal frequencies.

“So, we’re now operating on a frequency range that’s unattainable for most agencies like ours,” Willis said. “Bar Harbor and Mount Desert each bought some radio equipment to make that work … and it’s working really, really well.”

Willis and the town managers are also studying the feasibility of consolidating facilities. “We’ve consolidated nearly everything we’re able to at this time with our existing facilities,” he told the selectmen.

“We have consolidated our evidence storage. That took months because some if it has been in there for 30 years. All of our primary evidence storage is now at the Bar Harbor PD because they have a more secure facility. The evidence room here [in Northeast Harbor] is used more for long-term storage,” Willis told the local paper.

Despite the momentum in Bar Harbor and Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor is tacking in the opposite direction. Lunt said he is open to discussing any and all ideas for consolidation resources, but SWH Selecmen Chair Kristin Hutchins, who voted in favor of exploring consolidation, said she is “finished” with the idea. “I’ve moved on. We might have a hard time recruiting people on our own, but the board made its decision.” Selectman Chad Terry, who vehemently opposes consolidation, did not return calls from QSJ. George Jellison also did not return calls from QSJ.

BONUS PHOTOS

COVID-19 UPDATE FOR MDI

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 23, 2021 – While the rest of Maine rages, MDI remains pretty safe.

The post holiday surge has subsided. Bar Harbor Hospital has not had a positive test for a week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the hospital reported 59 local residents with positive tests and seven from away.

The hospital has administered 720 first doses of vaccine and 303 second doses to date. Nonetheless the hospital does not have a guaranteed allocation each week. “Since we do not have a fixed weekly allocation of vaccine doses, we do not yet have expected numbers as supply continues to be limited and we often only know a day or two in advance of each shipment,” hospital spokes person Oka Hutchins stated in an email.

You may pre-register to receive a vaccine here: https://www.mdihospital.org/covid-19-vaccine/

QSJ 2020 Annual Report

“How defeated and restless the child that is not doing something in which it sees a purpose, a meaning! It is by its self-directed activity that the child, as years pass, finds its work, the thing it wants to do and for which it finally is willing to deny itself pleasure, ease, even sleep and comfort.” – Ida Tarbell

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 20, 2021 – I haven’t exactly deprived myself of pleasure and comfort, but one of my journalism heroes, the great Ida Tarbell, got it right and punched my number smack in the center of the bulls-eye. I write The Quietside Journal with purpose and meaning. It is self-directed, and by writing it, I feel less restless in retirement.

What an irony that I chose to reference Ida Tarbell, whose most famous work was her muckraking takedown of the Standard Oil Company. Her work led to its breakup as a monopoly. She was the bete noir of John D. Rockefeller whose scions would become legendary philanthropists and major influencers of the American Conservation movement. John D. Rockefeller Jr., only child of the patriarch, purchased and donated land for many American National Parks, including Grand TetonMesa Verde National ParkGreat Smoky MountainsYosemiteShenandoah, and, of course, Acadia National Park.

But Tarbell was a contemporary of the senior Rockefeller and did not live to see the glorious work of the Rockefellers in conservation. Her interest was solely in the unbridled pursuit of wealth by any means of American companies like Standard Oil.

“Rockefeller and his associates did not build the Standard Oil Co. in the board rooms of Wall Street banks. They fought their way to control by rebate and drawback, bribe and blackmail, espionage and price cutting, by ruthless … efficiency of organization,” she wrote.

QSJ has a tendency to veer toward the investigative side of the spectrum and must constantly remind itself to respect the comity of Maine’s neighborly sensibility. It is a place like no other. It certainly is not New York City, where QSJ spent 20 years and where Tarbell and Rockefeller did all their jousting.

The Quietside Journal was launched in April 2020 when like many folks, I found myself staying in Maine longer than expected. Those early days of the pandemic were fraught with fright and uncertainty – and learning. Businesses didn’t know whether to open. Hand-washing was said to be the best way to deter infection. Hand sanitizers, toilet paper and paper towels were being hoarded like American dollars in a Third World country.

Stores began to experiment with delivery. Maine imposed a quarantine for out-of-staters. Folks were canceling their summer reservations in large numbers which shook the hospitality industry on MDI.

The reporter in me began to chronicle some of this, especially on the Quietside. I taught myself the rudiments of the WordPress blogging platform, enough to launch theqsjournal.com. Some of this was simply muscle memory, much like when I covered the City of Middletown for The Hartford Courant in the Seventies. But I was also curious about my new year-round home (I’ve been summering on MDI since 1984) which led to articles about eel fishing, alewife runs, rising sea levels, special island people – Tim Garrity, Betsey Holtzmann, and my series on Quietside cemeteries.

By the end of the year, 20,237 individuals had read at least one article on the site, with 36,433 total views, according to WordPress stats. QSJ is now regularly read by more than 1,000 readers a week. It had 823 readers for all of April.

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The data is informing QSJ, directing its coverage. For instance the single biggest day for QSJ readership was when it reported a huge spike of positive Covid tests at Bar Harbor Hospital after the holidays. QSJ is also finding widening audiences for its pointed articles about environmental issues such as cruise ship pollution and salmon farm exploitation in our waters. QSJ took some heat when it disclosed a Bar Harbor health care worker went to work immediately after posing maskless at a Trump rally. But in all, QSJ has had fewer than 10 readers requesting that their emails be removed.

In early December, Poynter Institute pointed out correctly that QSJ’s business model is not having one. https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2020/how-a-retired-senior-executive-went-from-hearsts-manhattan-c-suite-to-hyperlocal-blogging-in-maine/

Therefore in 2021, QSJ is asking its readers to support a new initiative to sustain its restless soul. QSJ is selling branded t-shirts and stuff to promote and attract new readers. In exchange it will donate all profits to charity. We are starting this month with the Common Good Soup Kitchen. Each t-shirt sold will benefit the charity by $10. https://www.customink.com/fundraising/common-good-soup-kitchen-qsj-campaign?utm_campaign=desktop-post-launch-v3&utm_content=common-good-soup-kitchen-qsj-campaign&utm_medium=social&utm_source=copy-link

One downside of writing a news blog is its inevitability at alienating some folks – the lobster fisherman who refused to talk to me because of my articles on Right Whales, the restaurateur peeved because I got her hours wrong, the lower island residents who oppose an island-wide middle school, the wealthy Northeast Harbor maven who didn’t care for my article about her zoning dispute with her neighbor. I long ago accepted the role of a journalist and the attendant fallout. The concomitant isolation is the lot I chose in life. The conceit is that we provide relevant news and information which are good for the common good.

As theqsjournal.com enters its second year, I hope it’s achieving this purpose.

CROSSWORD

MDI Hospital battles health care giants to ensure its place in line for vaccines

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 15, 2021 – An informal group of stakeholders concerned that MDI may be marginalized in the helter skelter distribution of Covid-19 vaccines met Friday to strategize how to get leverage with the Mills Administration.

MDI Hospital CEO Chrissi Maguire said representatives from MDI towns, hospital officials and State Sen. Louis Luchini huddled to plot the best way to ensure MDI residents have their rightful place in line to receive the vaccine. Luchini supported the recent change by the state to cast the net wider than the previous 75 and over demographic to be included in the 1B tier.

Overnight the hospital redesigned its website to enable a public service campaign so MDI residents may pre-register. https://www.mdihospital.org/covid-19-vaccine/ The task force hopes building such a data base will garner attention from the Mills Administration which seems to focus first on southern population centers such as Portland, Augusta and Lewiston.

Maguire was clearly concerned with the prospect that MDI and other parts of rural Maine would be marginalized without the power of influence expressed by big hospital chains in southern Maine. “They forgot an entire major hospital,” she said of the state’s rollout as an example of the sloppy execution.

The Portland Press Herald reported Friday that big health care chains in southern Maine are gaining traction to win the lion’s share of vaccinations:

“Maine’s COVID-19 mass vaccination program for those 70 and older is getting closer to launching, with a major health network sending out notices to patients Thursday that immunizations would begin within two weeks.”

The PR machines of the big hospital chains are at full speed.

“We expect to have shots in arms of people 70 and older by the end of the month,” said John Porter, a spokesman for MaineHealth. MaineHealth is the parent company of Maine Medical Center in Portland and operates an extensive network of primary care practices throughout much of the state, especially southern Maine. An email from Dr. Joan Boomsma, chief medical officer for MaineHealth, told patients that vaccine appointments were coming soon.

While not quite ready, MaineHealth soon will be setting up a call center for patients 70 and older to schedule appointments, and is working with the state on online scheduling, Porter said. Appointments will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis for those 70 and older whose doctors are part of the MaineHealth network.

Maguire said in addition to battling for share of the vaccines, there are logistical hurdles such as where to hold patients for 15-minute observations after each shot. MDI Hospital does not have the capacity for such a holding pen.

All this has to be worked out to convince the state that MDI is poised to administer the vaccine in abundance.

The challenge is for a small, independent hospital like MDI to demonstrate it can efficiently execute a vaccination plan with the same efficiency as MaineHealth. When it comes to health care, scale matters.

MDI residents may help themselves by pre-registering on the hospital web site published above.

Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to email the governor’s office directly to voice your support for MDI Hospital’s efforts. https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/contact/share-your-opinion

MDI still extremely safe despite recent surges

The hospital reported another five new cases this week but four were related to one of the two holiday gatherings which spiked the numbers after Christmas. One new case was of someone who traveled away and came back and tested positive, Maguire said. “MDI is still extremely safe,” she said. But no one knows how safe we will be when the new strain of more contagious virus arrives.

Here is the latest report on the hospital website https://www.mdihospital.org/covid-19/

February hearings set for new rules regarding Right Whale entanglement

SOMESVILLE, Jan 16, 2021 – Four hearings have been scheduled in February to air public comments on a set of new rules issued by the federal government to reduce deaths of North Atlantic Right Whales caused by ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/events? A federal judge has given the government until May 31 to come into compliance with the Endangered Species Act. He ruled last April that the government failed to protect the whales with its current rules.

The new rules, which environmentalists have already said are not adequate, were issued on the last day of 2020 by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency which regulates fisheries. They include:

  • Introducing state-specific colors to mark gear so to trace origin of ropes by state
  • Increasing the number of and area of marked lines
  • Modifying gear configurations to reduce the number of vertical buoy lines by requiring more traps between buoy lines and by introducing weak insertions or weak rope into buoy lines to allow whales to break away
  • Increasing seasonal restricted fishing areas (but allow ropeless fishing)
  • Add up to two new seasonal buoy line closures

In the following map, fishermen in the red zone near the coast will be required to set three traps per line as opposed to the current two, according to the new rules. The number of traps increases the farther out.

In addition to the increased traps per rope, the new rules propose closing some areas but exempting “ropeless” traps. The rectangular area in yellow southwest of MDI would have those restrictions. All the rules may be viewed here: https://media.fisheries.noaa.gov/2021-01/TRTFactSheetRev011221.pdf?null


Feds Sued to Force Them to Protect Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales From Vessel Strikes

In addition to the hearings, conservation groups are sumultaneously suing the federal government for failing to respond to two emergency requests to protect right whales from being killed by ships and boats in U.S. waters. The groups are calling for more speed limits to reduce the number of vessel strikes.  “Just over half of known or suspected right whale deaths since 2017 have been attributed to vessel strikes, closely followed by entanglements in fishing gear. In just the past year, two of only 10 baby right whales born to the species were killed by vessel strikes off the coasts of Florida and New Jersey,” the conservationist said.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Law Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C. this week. The groups filed a request for emergency action in June 2012 and another in August 2020 after the second fatal right whale-vessel collision in six months. 

The federal marine fisheries agency has not responded to either petition. The petitions ask the Fisheries Service to expand the areas and times when its existing 10-knot speed-limit rule applies, to make all voluntary vessel-speed restrictions mandatory, and to apply the rule to small vessels (shorter than 65 feet) as well as large ones to avoid collisions that kill and injure right whales.
“We need to have slowdowns in right whale danger zones just like we have lower speed limits near schools,” said Jane Davenport, a senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “Last year, boat strikes killed a newborn and a six-month-old. Each of these tragic deaths robs the mother of her baby and the species of its future. It’s past time for the Fisheries Service to act on these common-sense speed limits.” 
North Atlantic right whales are among the world’s most imperiled marine mammals, with only about 360 animals alive today. Thirty-two right whales have been found dead since 2017, and the Fisheries Service believes at least another 13 have died, or will die, from existing injuries. The agency estimates the actual number of deaths each year is likely much higher, since most dead whales sink. 

The groups filed the lawsuit under the Administrative Procedure Act. The agency has 60 days to respond.

Meanwhile, NOAA is proceeding to meet the May 31 deadline imposed by U.S District Court Judge James E. Boasberg. It’s a tall order. It must aggregate all public comments, conduct an environmental impact study, revise its proposed rules if needed and complete the process by the end of May. If it doesn’t impose stricter rules, it’s likely to face requests from the conservationists for the judge to impose them.

A fresh look at taxpayer-supported services in SWH during a pandemic

SOMESVILLE, Jan 15, 2021 – Poor Ruth Davis. The owner of Quilt N’ Fabric walked into a buzzsaw at the Southwest Harbor selectmen’s Zoom hearing this week.

She was there with her tin cup as president of the 122-member Southwest Harbor/Tremont Chamber of Commerce seeking a grant of $6,000 to pay the chamber’s rent for its visitor center rent the Harbor House. But two plain-speaking members of the select board minced no words.

“The visitors center is hugely valuable. I think it’s really important the service continues. I don’t think it should be at taxpayers’ expense,” said Kristin Hutchins, selectmen chair.

Selectman Chad Terry added that if the chamber just asked $5 a month from each of its members, “then you’d have your six thousand”.

“Sorry, I’m with Kristin. I don’t think the taxpayer ought to fund a private .. a member-based business that only supports its members. Yes it does do things for the town but I don’t feel all taxpayers benefit from it.”

Davis, who is also on the warrant committee, said, “All taxpayers do get something out of it … I talk to the real estate people – because I’m concerned about this. A lot of the new properties and old properties that have been bought are over a million dollars a piece one of which is a commercial property in the center. They’re going to pay big bucks to the town when they are assessed at their full value.”

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Warrant Committee member Ellen Pope said, “If there’s ever a year to be flexible, especially as Ruth said this is probably not a recurring request, I would think this is the year. Anybody who walks through downtown can see that businesses are struggling.”

But Terry, owner of GT Outhouses and not a chamber member, added, “And it’s probably the year that our municipal sharing funds from the state are probably going to be slashed so therefore we’re going to have to require more from the taxpayer …”

Former Selectmen Lydia Goetze, who is on the warrant committee, and Selectman George Jellison favored the town rejoining the chamber as a paying member at $500 a year rather than giving it a grant under the “community service umbrella.” SWH is the only town on MDI that does not belong to its chamber.

Another new request before the board was for $5,000 from the Common Good Soup Kitchen, located in the center of the town. The town already supports two food pantries, including the Bar Harbor Food Pantry.

SWH taxpayers pay about $250,000 a year for charities and community services that benefit residents. The biggest check – $60,000 – goes to the library. Maine is among the few states with an unusual model where private donations constitute the lion’s share of library budgets, owing to the fact that many libraries in Colonial times were started before the municipalities. Towns in Connecticut, where QSJ lived for 34 years, routinely get 75 percent of their budgets paid by taxpayers.

The following is a list of organizations supported by the town in the current fiscal year:

Bar Harbor Food Pantry $2,500
Downeast Health/WIC $1,035
Downeast Horizons/health $1,800
Eastern Area on Aging $1,500
Northern Light Home Care $1,870
Hospice of Hancock Count $1,000
Island Connections $2,500
Island Explorer Bus Service $10,000
MDI Community Campfire $3,000
Mt Height Cemetery $9,200
Westside Food Pantry $2,500
Downeast Community Partners $3,574
Harbor House $59,640
SWH Public Library $60,000
SWH/Tremont Nursing $ 11,000
Mt Desert Nursing Assoc $2,000
SW Harbor Historical Society – $2,500
Island Housing Trust $2,500

TOTAL $249,501

Climate change is an existential crisis in lifetime of MDI students

MOUNT DESERT, Maine – It is the year 2100. Bass Harbor is an island to itself, having been cut off from the rest of MDI by rising waters. The entire Fresh Meadow area in the northern part of the island is a cove the size of Echo Lake. Much of MDI’s marshes has disappeared.

Grace Munger, now Age 97, still remembers her first encounter with global warming when she was 14 (See photo). Folks on MDI were gobbling up room air conditioners. Never had there been such a need, But the summer heat of 2018 was not only scorching but prolonged.

“We tried to warn them,” she said.

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When she turned 16, she joined other spirited classmates to assist the Bar Harbor Climate Emergency Task Force. They were mentored by Ruth Poland, an environmental scientists who taught an AP course on the subject at the high school. Their work caught the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which funded a gap year for the team so they may advance their cause.

In short they were the modern day Champlain Society, the Harvard students who came to MDI during summers in the 19th century to study plant and animal species, ecology, marine life and climate. They were the precursor to the preservation movement.

Ruth Poland went on to become the head of the EPA in the second Kamala Harris administration. But despite her efforts, the country was still buffeted by those who would not accept that global warming was man-made.

But her class back in 2020 would have none of that denial. They first presented to the Bar Harbor Town Council. Their presentation was divided into six core themes: Sea Level Rise, Storm Intensity, Ocean Acidification, Heat & Warming Oceans, Species Movements and Agriculture. The local paper, Mount Desert Islander, reported:

“On behalf of the high school science class, (Sam) Mitchell suggested that Bar Harbor convert all energy uses to electricity by passing a solar ordinance, approve solar energy production in Salisbury Cove, modernize the electric grid and replace old town vehicles with electric vehicles.”

The town council was so inspired that it moved later that year to ban cruise ships, one of the worst polluters on the planet.

After the council presentation the students took their show on the road and presented to citizens in public forums.

In front of members and guests of A Climate To Thrive, senior Cate Pope told of an extreme case of earth’s average temperature of a 9-degree increase by 2100. In fact, it exceeded that by another 2 degrees.

Jane Pope explained the earth’s feedback loop which traps warm air inside its atmosphere. “If it reaches a point of no return … that would be very bad.”

Munger was only a junior then and when her turn came up, said that an estimated 3.3–8.2 feet of global sea level rise from ice melting and thermal expansion was expected to occur by 2100. She said that the sea level rise predictions are locally higher than the global scenario, where Bar Harbor would see 4-10 feet of rise. 

“With only a 3.3–foot sea level rise, it will cost Bar Harbor $360,000 to repair roads alone and six addresses will be inaccessible to emergency services.”With 6 feet of sea level rise, it will cost Bar Harbor $3,000,000 to repair roads and 750 addresses will be inaccessible to emergency services.”

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Sam Mitchell (photo) reported that the escalating temperatures have warmed the Gulf of Maine seven times faster than the rest of the ocean in the last 15 years. The high temperatures were demonstrated by the class to negatively affect Bar Harbor’s marine life. 

Isabella Michael, who was one of five summer climate change interns with A Climate To Thrive, stressed the importance of the world working to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming to avoid runaway climate change; a breaking point in the climate threshold that, when exceeded, can lead to large changes in the state of the system. 

Munger was able to find in her archives a link to the ancient technology used by humans back then called the internet: https://www.aclimatetothrive.org/gulf-of-maines-climate-emergency

Munger also managed to stay in touch with some of her classmates.

Isabella Michael joined the Air Force and became a pilot. She was among the crew of astronauts who landed on Mars in 2042. Their mission was to explore alternative living environments as earth became more inhospitable.

Elaina Cote graduated from Colby College, Yale Law School and became secretary of the Interior.

Cate Pope attended Bates College and University of Maine graduate school and became a marine biologist. She created the non-profit Deep Oceans which operated a 300-foot marine research vessel in the Arctic.

Grace Munger graduated from University of Maine and Stanford Business School. She patented a ropeless technology for fishing and went to found and run her own global company. Her foundation has given away $3.4 billion to marine research. She was credited with saving the North Atlantic Right Whale from extinction.

But it was her formative years as a high school activist that she remembers so well. And she still has the original presentation her class made in paper in her private library. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/15rvGZjHhp9ILDHlvjesfIBtanjULz1jKjMFf6NOk1zw/edit#slide=id.p

‘Zoombombing’ may be coming to a public meeting near you; how towns must protect against online vandalism

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 15, 2020 – The change of demeanor on Lawson Wulsin’s face was undeniable and drastic. The mood suddenly went from celebratory to panic. As he prepared to introduce the MDI high school students who would present their findings on climate change to an eager audience on Zoom, a racial slur appeared on the screen.

Wulsin told the group to hold fast while he attended to the problem. It lasted only minutes but it clearly disrupted the flow.

Nonetheless the culprit was removed and the session by the A Climate To Thrive was flawless from that point on.

ACTT had just been “Zoombombed” or as Wikipedia calls it “zoom raided.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoombombing

Several days later, Wulsin sent out this statement:

“Dear Attendee,

On January 8, at the beginning of our educational event, “The Gulf of Maine Climate Emergency,” an individual vandalized the presenter’s screen.  A single word of racist hate speech was visible to all attendees for ten seconds before we ended the screen share and removed the individual from the meeting. A few minutes earlier, when only a portion of attendees had arrived, a separate individual wrote a racist comment in the public chat.

I want to acknowledge the harm experienced by our community and validate the wide range of emotions and reactions that you may be feeling. We have reported the incident to the school district, the local police, and to Zoom and are exploring strategies for how to reduce the risk of future security breaches.

Let me be very clear: demonstrations of hate and racism are not welcome and will not be tolerated at any ACTT events.

Our work depends on trust, respect, and compassion. As we deepen our connections to each other and our planet, it is imperative that the spaces in which we gather are safe. On Friday, that safety was violated. I commend the students for the courage and strength they demonstrated by presenting a compelling program after the disruption; thank you.

I reaffirm our commitment to inclusivity and look forward to continued engagement with our community. Please reach out with any questions or concerns – I am always happy to talk.

Sincerely,

Lawson”

Zoombombing is the internet scourge of vandals who interrupt meetings by sharing pornographic images and/or racist content. Public meetings which post advance notices are most susceptible.

Thus far, public town meetings have been spared of this, although other MDI meetings have succumbed to Zoombombing, according to sources.

Even at this late stage, many of the towns’ Zoom meetings have inadequate protocol. The hosts of these meetings must understand the top two vulnerabilities.

The vandals typically do not allow themselves to be visually apparent, hiding behind a black screen, until they pounce with pornography or the like until the host detects them and kicks them off. But that could take a while, especially when the room is full like the Mount Desert planning board session this week when, at one time, more than 100 persons dialed in. The second vulnerability is when there is “screen share” and a vandal may take advantage of the annotate function to upload an image or video to share with the group, like a presenter. Hosts should plan ahead to allow only certain presenters to have that access.

Unfortunately, we live in an age when such precautions are necessary.

(psst, I plan to hawk my 1968 Mickey Mantle Topps card at the next Zoom session of the planning board.)

New SWH harbormaster has strong pedigree on Quietside

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SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Jan. 16, 2021 – There are Gilleys buried in virtually every cemetery on the Quietside, so the chances of one becoming the town’s newest harbormaster is better than, say, a Millstein becoming one.

Town Manager Justin VanDongen announced this week he has hired Jesse Gilley, a lifetime town resident, to replace Adam Thurston, who left after 10 years to become deputy harbormaster in Mount Desert.

The 29-year-old Gilley has a rich portfolio of abilities which seem perfect for a harbormaster, including work for the Charles Bradley Marine Construction Co. in Southwest Harbor. The harbormaster must have a strong background for maintenance of docks and floats owned by the town.

“I’ve spent my whole life working on the waters around here as a private boat captain to commercial fishing,” said Gilley. He did take three years off to work as a scallop fishermen off New Bedford. He is a young father of a son and is expecting a daughter soon.

Major disruption to carriage road around Eagle Lake in 2021

BAR HARBOR, Jan. 16, 2021 – Work has begun in earnest to rehabilitate and upgrade the carriage road around Eagle Lake which will affect hikers and bikers for much of the 2021 season.

Map of carriage road system and trails around Eagle Lake

Construction began recently on a short access route between the carriage road and a staging area at the south end of Liscomb Pit Road in Bar Harbor. Once work begins this spring on the carriage road itself, the entire loop is expected to close, and individual segments around the lake will then reopen as they become available. A short connector between Intersections #6 and #9, located along state Route 233, will remain open as much as possible (See map). 

“Recreationists should anticipate closures generally from one intersection to another from April 15-November 15, 2021 weather and schedule permitting,” The Park Service said. “Those planning to recreate on the Eagle Lake Carriage Road for any activity during this time should consult Current Conditions to determine the exact closures for any specific timeframe.

“This work, originally scheduled for 2020, experienced delays in scheduling.”

Harold MacQuinn Inc. of Hancock is performing the work. The photo above shows an access road down to the lake connecting with a staging area on Liscomb Pit Road.

The work to be performed on the Eagle Lake Carriage Road includes:

  • Rehabilitation of the existing carriage road surface and subgrade, 6+ miles. 
  • Rehabilitation of existing drainage features including roadside ditches, stone-lined drainage channels, and select culverts. 
  • Reconstruction of several sections of dry-laid stone masonry retaining walls. 
  • Stabilization of stone slope protection walls between the carriage road and areas with steeper slopes. 

“Upon completion of this project, all 45 miles of historic carriage roads in Acadia National Park will have undergone this type of improvement to ensure the preservation of the resource and the experience for future generations. Acadia National Park contains nationally significant cultural resources including the best and most extensive example of a historic carriage road system in the United States.”

The work is currently planned for completion by mid-September.  The Island Explorer bus system and Bike Express will not provide service to Eagle Lake in 2021. 

“Upon completion, this project will cure $1.3 million in deferred maintenance, and all 45 miles of historic carriage roads in the park will have undergone this type of improvement. Friends of Acadia has been raising money and providing support for the initiative since 1991,” The Park Service said.

This time there’s nowhere Jared Golden can hide

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 9, 2021 – He voted against Nancy Pelosi as speaker twice. He was the only House Democrat to take an oblique position in Donald Trump’s impeachment in 2019 by splitting his vote. In the 116th Congress, he voted against his party’s position 102 times, including a major bill. He was one of two Democrats to vote against the party’s signature gun control legislation.

Is Jared Golden a Democrat or Republican, or as the oft-used moniker a DINO (Democrats in name only)?

All one needs to do is to go to Golden’s Facebook page and read the partisan comments after he offered his condolences to the dead Capitol Hill policeman’s family. It clearly demonstrated the Second District’s split personality and the weight on Golden each time a highly public political action is required.

Les Gibson: Really Mr. Golden?While Officer Sicknick’s death is an absolute tragedy, and one that should not have happened, where are your words of sympathy for the shooting death of the female Air Force veteran from San Diego?Do you have no regard for your fellow veterans?The manner in which you cherry pick things is reprehensible.

Maureen Craig Harding Will you be supporting Impeachment this time around, DEMOCRATIC Representative Golden? Trump bears responsibility for Officer Sicknick’s murder. I ask you to support impeachment.

in late 2019 Golden became the only member of the House to split his decision on a historic matter with grave implications for the president and the nation’s political landscape. His unusual choice to charge Mr. Trump with abuse of power but not with obstruction of Congress left him open to criticism from both parties.

Stephen King famously tweeted, “If my congressman, Jared Golden, votes for only one article of impeachment, I will work with all my might to see him defeated next year.”

The flipside was when a conservative advocacy group began a $2.5 million ad buy against lawmakers who won Trump districts and voted for impeachment, Mr. Golden was at the top of its list.

As it turned out Golden managed to win re-election on Nov. 3, prompting some in the media to hail that he could be a candidate for the Senate seat in 2024 should Angus King choose not to run at Age 80.

But before that he’ll need to win re-election in 2022 in the notoriously volatile mid-terms. That will not be a slam dunk. Golden won re-election during the pandemic year against his opponent, a paraplegic who could not campaign with mobility around the huge Second District. Even then, he won with only 53 percent of the vote, as opposed to Chellie Pingree, who gathered 61 percent in the First District. In two years, with Trump gone, a less strident Republican candidate could retake the district, which was held by Republican Bruce Poliquin until 2018.

That may be why Golden has been stiff-arming his home state journalists on the question of the proposed resolution to impeach Trump a second time. He refused to address the question posed by Colin Woodard, perhaps the best journalist in Maine.

Woodard wrote in the Portland Press Herald today, “Golden said that the president was responsible for Wednesday’s “violence and lawlessness, and he should be held accountable,” but did not commit to a position on what form that accountability should take.

The New York Times wrote, shortly after Golden split his vote, “The political risks for Mr. Golden also underscore how difficult it has become for a lawmaker who is willing to cross party lines on some of the most fraught issues to survive and stake out a role for himself in Congress at a time when partisan loyalty is more expected than ever.”

To which Golden replied:

“It might be a lonely place for me to be in Washington … but it’s not a lonely place for me to be here in Maine, and in my district.”

The Times added:

“That dynamic, to some political observers, made Mr. Golden’s decision to back only one of two impeachment articles all the more perplexing. He argued that the obstruction of Congress charge against Mr. Trump was not warranted because House Democrats had not fought hard enough in the courts to try to force critical administration officials to testify in their impeachment inquiry. The decision, he said, was not a political calculation, but about establishing a solid precedent.

“People were automatically going to this cynical place of, ‘This young freshman thinks he can get away with pleasing both sides,’” said Mr. Golden, 38. “‘He doesn’t understand he’s about to get run over by a Mack truck that’s coming right down the middle of the road.’”

Sometimes his action can come perilously close to major implications. Pelosi won re-election as speaker by only seven votes, 216 as opposed to 209 for Republican Kevin McCarthy, minority leader who signed onto a lawsuit that sought to overturn results in four states that Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden. 

“I vote with the Democratic Party like 88 percent of the time,” Mr. Golden said. “That’s, I think, a perfect way to step back and compare it to past Congresses and see how truly divided and partisan Congress has become — that I’m now one of the standout members.”

No doubt about that. If Golden chooses against impeachment next week, he will surely stand out.

Nonconforming is not a dirty word; the Graces of NEH think otherwise

Photo of the Grace’s house at 10 Barnacles Way, Northeast Harbor, and visible new house under construction next door.

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 9, 2021 – Think twice before inviting Bill and Marjorie Grace and Heather Evans for drinks on the porch next summer at the same time.

It’s not because of their geographical distancing. They live next to each other. Or more precisely, they own summer homes next to each other.

It’s not because of social standing. They are Northeast Harbor semi-royalty.

It’s because the neighbors are engaged in a mano a mano zoning dispute that has lawyers, town boards and various arbiters thrust into an imbroglio which could well last into the rest of 2021 and beyond.

And this show is coming live to a Zoom screen near you Wednesday Jan. 13 at 6 p.m., as it is the second item on the Mount Desert planning board’s agenda.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82850431734?pwd=azZvK0dOSTlzcStHSHpxaEtRVVZTZz09 

Meeting ID: 828 5043 1734  Password: 016906

Cheek by jowl. Owner wants to demolish house at right which is ‘non-conforming

It’s not the longest ongoing zoning fight in the town of Mount Desert. That distinction would belong to Hall Quarry, where residents have held up an application to restart a quarry business for more than six years.

This case is a familiar tussle between people of means against the realities of a small town, which couldn’t even muster enough zoning appeals board members to hear the Graces’ case for three months. And what did the appeals board do when it finally got a quorum in late November? It kicked it back to the planning board which had already approved the application for the new building. The application is 7-month-old and counting.

The owners of 9 Barnacles Way in Northeast Harbor acquired the lot and then proceeded to build two houses designed by Matthew Baird, an architect of some renown with a minimalist sensibility and copious use of shingles and wood siding. They first built a house on the water and were in the process of building a second home, when they acquired the house next to the Graces – 11 Barnacles Way – to complete a “family compound” consisting of three stand-alone homes.

Only no one apparently told the Graces, who own the house at 10 Barnacles Way. In June they appeared on Zoom at the planning board to say legal notices of such application for construction did not reach them and that it was their opinion the proposed house next to theirs is out of scope for a “non-conforming” use. It would be too high and encroached on the setback abutting them,

Marjorie Grace then declared she did not care for construction next door during the summer. (Mount Desert does not have a noise ordinance and many summer residents do not understand that the loud screeching noise emanating from your neighbor’s construction of a new addition is not an infringement of local ordinance.) As a side note, the Grace family once owned a swimming camp on Long Pond and became the bete noir of all the residents when they introduced jet skis which were eventually banned.

The Grace’s challenge to 9 Barnacles Way is a test of what passes for acceptable land-use in a century-old warren of pretzel-shaped lots that predate zoning. The operative word is “nonconforming” – a widely misunderstood concept that has many believing that a home which does not conform to current zoning may not be altered, expanded, stirred or shaken.

The problem started at its inception when the Graces did not even acknowledge receipt of information sent to abutters about a significant project next door. After the vapor of that contretemps settled, the serious business of the day took shape. The new owners of the house at 11 Barnacles Way wanted to demolish a “nonconforming” house and replace it with another house but 30 percent larger. Trouble was the Graces at 10 Barnacles Way are about a long putt away, their back step practically serves as a landing for the house next door, which is less than the 75 feet from the water and less than 25 feet away from the Graces. In other words, not in conformance with the current land-use ordinance.

Architect Baird recently sent this to the code enforcement officer, “Attached please find a pdf of the clarified height calculations that we reviewed in the hearing on 6/10.  

The situation was made more complicated because the Graces apparently don’t even know the names of the new neighbors, who have been operating under the legal shingle of the Lapsley Family LLC, which was created by the three Lapsley children in 2013. But Robert Lapsley of Seattle told QSJ they sold the property two years ago to a Heather Evans of Northeast Harbor. In the latest filing, the owners are now identified as Otium LLC, with Mary Costigan of law firm Bernstein Shur in Portland as their representative. Costigan did not return multiple emails and calls from QSJ.

Photo of first of three Barnacles Way homes designed by architect Matthew Baird to create a family compound

QSJ had no luck tracking down Heather Evans. The new owner continued to use the name Lapsley Family LLC in its filings last summer seeking planning board approval.

Meanwhile, David Perkins, the Grace’s lawyer, has been more obliging.

He told QSJ that the planning board erred in June when it approved the Lapsley’s application for expansion without giving consideration that nonconforming changes should be subject to “strict” interpretation of Maine’s “settled case law” that “disfavored” any development which would make a non-conforming situation even more non-conforming. He said the planning board chose a “liberal” interpretation which makes it inconsistent with case law.

QSJ is not a lawyer but several observations are worth noting.

The planning board consists of members who are more schooled at the local land-use ordinance than members of the zoning appeals board. They meet regularly, whereas the appeals board only meets when there is an appeal. The planning board, and members of the selectmen board, are the only town boards which receive a stipend (a maximum of $3,000 a year for planning board members depending on the number of meetings they attend) as to demonstrate the special need and priority of these two important boards. They also have an expert – a code enforcement officer – to assist with their deliberations. Lastly, they conduct site visits for each application.

The zoning board of appeals on the other hand has had trouble fulfilling its duty for most of 2020 and now into 2021. Its chairman, William Ferm, has not returned any of the emails or phone messages left for him since November by QSJ. It does not have professional advice from a code enforcement officer and it does not conduct site visits.

At its last meeting on Nov. 24, members were obviously caught unaware of the complexities of “nonconforming.” It debated height restrictions and setbacks without resolving any of the issues. So it “remanded” the application back to the planning board.

This ping-pong game could go on for some time. The planning board could take its time. When and if it gets back to the appeal board, that could be well into late 2021 given that board’s difficulty getting a quorum. Whatever the decision, the Graces could tie it up with a lawsuit against the town which would soak taxpayers for legal fees.

This is not to say the planning board cannot err. Indeed, the appeals board’s overturning of the planning board’s controversial 2017 rejection of the Hall Quarry application was later supported by Maine’s Superior Court.

While the system may seem to be fair, it is not. The loss of time for the applicant is a real loss. What’s more valuable for the wealthy than time? The Graces may tie it up in the courts for years, thereby ensuring many quiet summers. The Hall Quarry residents have enjoyed seven years of quiet since they began their protest.

Perkins, lawyer for the Graces, contended that owners of the 9 and 11 Barnacles Way have not delivered their promises as represented by their architect, making it hard to settle the grievances privately. The promise of better natural buffers, for instance, have not materialized, he said.

Given the challenges of the zoning board of appeals which add cost, time and stress on citizens and homeowners who only wish to see a better quality of life, it seems an easy solution to fortify the ZBA with the same expertise and stipend as afforded the planning board. The town of Mount Desert can certainly afford it.

Quietside legislators weigh in on who should get vaccine priority

SOMESVILLE Jan. 10,2021 – State Sen. Louie Luchini, who represents Maine’s District 7 which includes all of MDI, said in response to a question from QSJ that he would support moving those older than 65 into the same 1B group as those over 75, as long as the current distribution problems are resolved.

“If we can get the vaccine supply to states, I’d support prioritizing those over 65,” Luchini said. “Those are the people most at risk, and the demand is certainly there to vaccinate a large population quickly. (Moving them into the same group 1b as those over 75, instead of 1c).”

This was in response to QSJ’s question of whether he supported the “Florida Model.”

“By ‘Florida Model’, do you mean prioritizing over 65 after healthcare workers (rather than over 75)? ” Luchini asked and then answered in the affirmative with a few caveats.

“Supply of vaccine is a huge issue for Maine, and all states. But the federal government’s inability to quickly send it to states is incredibly problematic,” he said.

“Dr. Scott Gotleib (former Trump FDA Commissioner and Pfizer board member) said yesterday that the US has 35M vaccines on a shelf, and the federal government is essentially stockpiling vaccines faster than they’re distributing them,” Luchini wrote in an email this week. “I haven’t verified those numbers, but if true, it shows a logistical incompetence that could cost lives.”

State Rep. Lynn Williams, A Democrat who replaced the popular Brian Hubbell, said she does not support moving the Age 65 group up. “The improved health of this age group (60 is the new 40) makes it reasonable to hold off on vaccinating them until all of the 75+ are vaccinated, as well as essential workers.” she wrote in an email. “We can all voluntarily stay home or otherwise away from public settings; essential workers cannot.”

State Rep. Genevieve McDonald, who represents Tremont, said, “I don’t know what the Florida model is … I’m looking forward to Jan 20th when someone competent who will prioritize public health is leading our nation. I am hopeful at that time we’ll see increased efficiency in the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine across the nation.”

Maine has the highest median age of any state.