Huge campground proposal tests Quietside’s allure as crowd-free eden
TREMONT, March 13, 2021 – This town on the Quietside of MDI has its own quietside – away from the noise and bustle of Bass Harbor where cops were hailed last summer to crack down on illegal parking on the road to the lighthouse and where the queue outside of Thurston’s Lobster Pound has become a permanent element of the landscape.
The sections known as West Tremont and Seal Cove make up the quietest side of MDI. They share a 10-mile stretch of Rt. 102 with Pretty Marsh, leading up to the northern end of Long Pond. The artist Judy Taylor has her studio here as well as Seal Cove Pottery & Gallery. And there is the Seal Cove Auto Museum and the Quietside Campground.
Guided kayak tours discovered Seal Cove a few years ago, making some locals unhappy because the parking lot at the launch area filled up.
Now comes a whopper of a proposed business which, if approved, is destined to reshape the entire area tagged with the romantic moniker, Algerine Coast.
Kenya and James Hopkins, acting as Perry Lawson LLC, are proposing to build a campground with 154 camp sites able to accommodate 42 cabins, 72 RVs and 40 tents on 43 acres at 661 Tremont Road. Lawson was James Hopkins’s maternal great grandfather who once owned the land. The Hopkins purchased the lot from the most recent owner. The proposal also envisions a Santa’s village which would keep the business open beyond traditional camping season.
The rendering below shows the Rt. 102 (Tremont Road) entrance at the left leading into the RV sites, the cabins and finally the tents at the eastern end of the property.
The Hopkins are in the midst of building a smaller campground, Acadia Wilderness Lodge, on six acres off Kellytown Road that will feature 11 cabins. Neighbors appealed approval of that project but were rebuffed by the town’s appeals board.
Now comes a project exponentially bigger with 14 times the number of camping sites.
“We live on Clark Point Road and foresee campers flocking here as a destination to view Goose Cove,” wrote Chris Wade in the petition. “We are the closest ocean viewing road to this campsite. This will present all modes of increased traffic from foot to campers coming to our community down our road. We will need increased policing as this campsite can easily hold 400-500 guests coming and going daily, weekly.”
The town of Tremont does not have its own police department. It contracts for part-time service from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Brett Metzger, manager of the Bass Harbor Campgrounds, said response time by the police is spotty if at all. He told of one time when he called police after drunken and unruly campers refused his request to keep the noise down. “They nailed trash and empty beer cans on our trees,” Metzger said. The police finally called the next morning at 8 a.m. to ask if assistance was still needed.
The proposed campground would be the largest commercial development on the Quietside since the Western Way condos were built in Southwest Harbor in the mid-Eighties. Moreover. it’s not just a Tremont issue. All the traffic to the campground will come through Southwest Harbor or through Mount Desert’s Pretty Marsh Road.
That has some neighbors and residents upset that Becky Hopkins has chosen to use her political views to seek support.
The project “encroaches on the entire quality and fabric of Tremont,” said Kohrman Ramos, who lives two houses away on Kellytown Road. “To make it sound like we’re against small business is disingenuous.” Kohrman Ramos said she loves that her neighbors on the street sell eggs and lobsters.
Kari Seavey isn’t having any of Hopkins’s gambit to make this a local vs. folks-from-away grievance. There are 16 Seaveys buried in the cemetery across from Kellytown Road, the earliest born in 1872.
“Most of the people opposed to this are locals who have been here for generations,” she said.
The town ordinance provides for light commercial businesses in residential/business zones in keeping with the natural environment. “This is anything but a light commercial business,” Seavey said.
“It will create traffic making it too dangerous.” she added that the number of children in the area has doubled since she moved there.
Becky Hopkins tried to flip the argument. “We are creating walking and biking paths that the kids in the community can use. The traffic on Kellytown Road and Tremont Road goes so fast it’s not safe to let my grandkids walk and ride their bikes. Kids in our communities can ride their bikes through the trails we create safe.”
To that, Kohrman Ramos replied, “To say that they want safe places for their children to hike and walk … well that would be lovely. I would like that for my children, too. Please set up those places … But you don’t need to have 154 camp sites with 71 RVs with the pollution and the traffic and destroying the rural nature of this community to do that.”
The Algerine Coast is a special sanctuary for MDI residents, Kohrman Ramos said, where locals may enjoy nature without hordes of tourists. The campers would take over these spots, she feared.
The proposed business will actually be managed by Kenya Hopkins, James’s wife, who has a mechanical engineering degree and an MBA from Michigan State.
James was gifted six acres of land on Kellytown Road from his grandfather with the intention of selling the land to pay off his student loans. But he chose to explore other possibilities and said he was told by John Larson, Tremont Code Enforcement Officer at the time, that the land was zoned for a campground.
The larger campground idea came about as he and his wife thought about coming to Maine to raise their children, Hopkins said. (they now live in Miami).
He acknowledged the local opposition to the proposal and said, “The last thing we want to do is to build something detrimental to the community. I grew up on Kellytown Road when it was a dirt road so I know the community well.”
Still, the scale of the enterprise is just too overwhelming for many residents. “It’s going transform the town completely,” said Kari Seavey. Another neighbor said that ancillary businesses – coffee shops, trinket stores, t-shirt shops – will follow the campground.
“We’ll become another Bar Harbor.”
Real estate report: Year starts with huge inventory challenge
SOMESVILLE, March 13, 2021 – Joseph Wright, owner of LS Robinson Co. https://www.lsrobinson.com/, from whom I rented a camp for many years before retiring on the island, has agreed to aggregate real estate sales data for the QSJ.
The LS Robinson Report is designed to showcase the unique characteristics of the MDI home market, which is highly differentiated. Maine Listings, the statewide multiple listings service, reports data only for Hancock County as whole.
The following charts are for the period of Jan. 1, 2021 through March 9, 2021, keeping in mind that many of the sales were actually conducted late last year but the backlog of loan applications and title work pushed the closings into January and February. The data clearly shows the biggest challenge facing the industry: lack of inventory, as the four towns on MDI reported a 36 percent decline in active listings from a year ago.
The opposite is true for land lots which showed an increase in inventory by 12 percent, no doubt owing to the fact that lumber cost has doubled in the same period and cost of all construction has dramatically increased.
Single family residential sales
State warns of invasive mussels inside faddish moss balls
Left: a moss ball, Right: display of moss balls for sale at a pet store
SOMESVILLE, March 13, 2021 – They are like bonzais for acquarians – live vegetation which can grow inside an aquarium tank or a terrarium. They’ve become faddish, and they are threatening to the environment.
In late February, a pet store employee in Oregon reported seeing a black-striped invertebrates hiding in moss balls to the U.S. Geological Survey, which has been tracking the highly invasive zebra mussel. Since then, there have been similar reports in 21 states, from California to Florida. Maine has not reported any yet.
This week the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued this invasive species alert:
If you recently purchased moss balls, immediately destroy them using one of these methods:
Freeze – Place the moss ball into a sealable plastic bag and freeze for at least 24 hours.
Boil – Place the moss ball in boiling water for at least 1 full minute.
Bleach – Submerge the moss ball in chlorine bleach for 20 minutes.
After destroying the moss ball, DISPOSE of the moss ball and any of its packaging in a sealed plastic bag in the trash. Do not dump moss balls down drains or in waterways or gardens.
If moss balls were placed in your aquarium, DRAIN and clean the aquarium:
Remove fish and other living organisms and place them in another container, with water from a separate, uncontaminated water source.
Aquatic plants may also harbor zebra mussels and should be destroyed along with the moss ball.
Sterilize the aquarium water by adding 1 cup of bleach for each gallon of water. Sterilize filter, rocks, décor, and any other items in contact with the water.
Let the water sit for 10 minutes and then dispose of the treated water down a household drain.
Zebra mussels are very adaptable to their environment. Once introduced to a new lake or other body of freshwater, they can quickly crowd out and devastate local populations of other species. They can also clog up the intake pipes in water treatment and power plants, and damage boats and fishing equipment. That puts pressure on already strained infrastructure dealing with algae outbreaks driven by the climate crisis and human land use choices.
First discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988, scientists and wildlife officials have been trying to keep the zebra mussel from invading the rest of the U.S. ever since. Over time, it’s established itself throughout much of the eastern half of the country. But it still hasn’t spread everywhere, particularly in the western U.S.
That’s made the recent discovery of these mollusks in aquariums all the more worrying.
“The issue is that somebody who purchased the moss ball and then disposed of them could end up introducing zebra mussels into an environment where they weren’t present before,” said Wesley Daniel, a USGS fisheries biologist and the first to send out a nationwide alert about the discovery, in a statement. “We’ve been working with many agencies on boat inspections and gear inspections, but this was not a pathway we’d been aware of until now.”
Why did Kurt Schrader change his vote leaving Jared Golden alone in his defiance of rescue bill?
SOMESVILLE, March 13, 2021 – U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader compared Donald Trump’s impeachment for inciting the mob that broke into the U.S. Capitol to a “lynching,” which led to an apology.
Mark Wiener, a powerful Portland political consultant who worked for Schrader for years dating back to when the congressman served in the Oregon Legislature, tweeted out that his company, Winning Mark, would be severing ties with the legislator.
“Comparing the impeachment of a treasonous President who encouraged white supremacists to violently storm the Capitol to a “lynching” is shameful and indefensible,” Wiener tweeted.
“My words were wrong, hurtful and completely inappropriate. I sincerely apologize to my colleagues, constituents and friends for the pain I caused,” he said. “I recognize the horrible historical context of these words and have started to reach out to my colleagues personally to express that I understand the harm caused. I will work hard to rebuild trust and again, I humbly apologize.”
Around the same time, Jared Golden was tacking and weaving, and splitting his vote – yes for impeachment but no for conviction.
Six weeks later, they made news together as the only two Democrats to vote against the American Rescue Plan.
But when the legislation came back to the House after a Senate conference adjustment, Schrader changed his mind.
“Tomorrow I will be voting in favor of the American Rescue Plan to provide targeted assistance across this country. My concerns remain on the size and scope of this bill but believe the Senate changes provide meaningful relief for Oregonians in need.
“Funding for our local governments, small businesses, schools, families, healthcare providers and an extension on unemployment benefits will be a lifeline for many. And investing in vaccine distribution, testing and development is critical at this juncture when coupled with President Biden’s accelerated vaccine production. There is much work to do moving forward and passing this legislation is an important step.”
Which left Golden as the sole Democratic congressman to vote against the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, Joe Biden’s signature legislature which already is being compared to the Social Security Act and other landmark acts by Democrats.
Golden said in February that he believed the bill contained too much unnecessary spending. and he said Wednesday the final version of the proposal didn’t do enough to narrow its size and scope. But he’s already hedging his words, especially after Schrader called the legislation “a lifeline for many.”
“I know there are people who will continue to need assistance getting through the final stages of this pandemic, which is why I have argued that Congress should have addressed their needs with a targeted bill that extends unemployment benefits, funds vaccine distribution, and increases investments in our public health infrastructure.”
Mainers for Accountable Leadership, a liberal group in the state, said in the statement that Golden “voted against helping the people of Maine.”
“Never will vote for you for anything. Maine Democrats need a better candidate.” Facebook post from Jenny Boivin of Jay, Maine.
SOMESVILLE, March 1, 2021 – “One of two.” That would be Jared Golden’s new tagline.
He was one of two “Democrats” to vote against his party on the signature $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to overhaul policing.
No doubt Golden figured that the bills would pass the House, which they did, thus making his decisions moot. But this kind of political calculus is a risky one, particularly on such a high profile piece of legislation, even for someone in a district which Donald Trump won twice.
The anger from the left was swift and with great fury. Golden’s Facebook page lit up with more than 1,000 comments, many, like the one above, saying they will not vote for him in 2020. (Chellie Pingree, the predictable holder of the First Congressional District seat, gets only a dozen or so comments on her FB posts).
That put Golden on the same page as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, rabid Trump defender Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia who, in February, hung a sign that read “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. Trust The Science!” across the hall from another congresswoman who has a transgender child.
Lynn Michaud: “Personally, I feel like I’ll vote Republican against you next time as you’re basically voting there way anyway. Disappointing.”
Lee Bilodeau of Oakland, Maine: “I will never vote for you again. You might as well change to a Republican because you do not honor Democratic values or agenda. I cant wait to see you primaried.”
Brad Riley: I know you think you did the right thing but this was not the correct vote. You made republicans that vote for your opponents happy and made your voters angry. Independents too. All I’ll say is good luck and hope people forget about this consequential vote. We don’t have another 6 months to write a bill you’d support. The time to act was now. And you didn’t.
“Golden got his start at (Susan) Collins’ feet and may be positioning himself to fill her shoes. Not necessarily as a Democrat. I am thankful to have him giving the Democrats the House majority. And I appreciate his concern for middle and low income Mainers, especially underpaid and laid off working class people – who this bill is focused on helping. So his NO vote seems more pigheaded contrarian than well thought out. I wonder what the polling is in CD2. The majority of Americans of all political affiliations support the comprehensive bill. And as one person told me ‘We live in The County, but we’re not all idiots.'”
For Democrats to withhold support, however, “would be a big mistake,” said Daniel M. Shea, professor of government at Colby College. “He’s not my cup of tea, but his vote on House leadership is important.”
Golden is facing a notoriously volatile mid-term election where he will not have the benefit of a strong showing by progressives in a presidential contest. He took the 2020 election by 6 points which was much less than all the polling suggested. Moreover, he ran against a Republican candidate who could not campaign in person during the pandemic in the vast second district.
Maine’s Second is a winnable district by the GOP’s calculation, and Golden is fortifying himself against the onslaught of National Republican money next year by walking a line closely resembling a Republican on many big issues.
But could he go too far?
If a sizable number of Democrats withhold their votes and the Republicans vote in force as they always do, is he misplaying his hand?
If he goes too far to the right, is he vulnerable to a primary?
Colby’s Shea thinks a primary would be dangerous for Golden because that’s where the progressives in Maine can overwhelm.
Shea also wondered about Golden’s statewide ambitions as a result of his right-leaning decisions. Golden’s name was floated as a possible replacement for U.S. Sen. Angus King when King was rumored to be a cabinet consideration.
Golden also bucked the enormous popularity of the American Rescue Plan, which, according to polls, has an astonishing support of 76 percent of Americans, including a significant percentage of Republicans, especially mayors and governors who need to balance budgets ravaged by the pandemic. https://billmoyers.com/story/the-public-loves-the-american-rescue-plan/
Chellie Pingree said the plan will deliver direct relief to Mainers struggling with pandemic hardships; expand vaccine distribution; help schools operate safely; and deliver a$1.037 billion to Maine and $648 million to Maine’s municipal governments.
“With high unemployment and interest rates at zero, economists have made it clear that we cannot afford to go small with this stimulus package.
In Maine, more than 700 people have died from this deadly virus, a quarter of residents are behind on their rent, an estimated 215,000 are grappling with food insecurity, and more than 100,000 lost their jobs at some point in 2020.
‘The Most Beautiful Hotel in the World’ begins its journey; what does that forebode for the Quietside?
SOUTHWEST HARBOR, March 6, 2021 – There was no equivocation in its conceit.
The new owner of the Claremont Hotel, https://theclaremonthotel.com/, called it simply “the most beautiful hotel in the world” – not just the most beautiful one in Maine, the Northeast or the United States.
With that promise, guests will pay a hefty premium for this lofty privilege. Indeed, the Claremont will be among the most expensive hotels on MDI, and in all of New England.
QSJ compared the summer 2021 rates at the Claremont and the Harborside Hotel in Bar Harbor for the same type of water view room, and they priced almost exactly the same – $548 a night for Harborside and $545 for the Claremont – for the same two week days in July. A water view room at the Asticou Inn, which bookends the Claremont as the two historic inns on MDi offering the same accoutrement, priced at $340 a night.
Two years ago, QSJ stayed at the Claremont for $85 a night in a queen room with no water view.
The jaw-dropping rates have some locals scratching their heads and wondering how this will play out. In addition to the Claremont, Hotelier Tim Harrington acquired two other local inns last fall, – the Inn at Southwest from owner Sandy Johnson and the Clark Point Inn from Jennifer Grant and Mark Nicknair.
He is using them first to house staff working at the Claremont. But over time, will he execute a “cluster” strategy which made him so successful in Kennebunk? The Walsh family and the Witham family used the economy of scale of clusters to dominate the lodging business in Bar Harbor.
Harrington built and ran nine hotels and six restaurants in the Kennebunk area over two decades and sold the group to a private equity firm just before the pandemic raged. His efforts were not always greeted with alacrity.
QSJ left several messages for Harrington at the Claremont and is still waiting for a reply.
Five years ago, Rob Sneddon of DownEast magazine wrote, in an article entitled, Whose Town Is It Anyway? “Many business owners and residents welcome the transformation — and the affluent clientele it is attracting — but some people fear the Kennebunks are becoming a too planned and too precious Disney version of Maine.” https://downeast.com/features/kennebunks-whose-town-is-it-anyway/
“All of our marketing and all of our PR is built around the destination of the Kennebunks,” Harrington was quoted as saying. “We believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.”
“Others, however, see not a rising tide but a tsunami, fearing a wave of high-end development will overrun the old, distinct neighborhoods and leave in its wake a smoothed-over, 92-square-mile plain of tourist bait,” Sneddon reported. “Consider some of the reactions when Harrington converted an old house on Western Avenue, in the heart of Kennebunk’s Lower Village, into a boutique hotel.”
Kennebunkport resident Susan Graham wrote on her blog, Overheard at the Post Office, “The new structure, modestly labeled ‘The Grand’ but more accurately described as ‘The Super-Colossal,’ is over-scaled, too high, and too large in volume. It towers above everything around it.”
Harrington rejected such criticism. “We’re proud of what we’ve done,” he told Sneddon. “We have a good reputation for doing things kind of in keeping with the culture and the look of a historic New England fishing village.”
No doubt the retailers and restaurants in SWH will benefit from an inflow of wealthy tourists willing to frequent fly their credit cards, but the Quietside has worked hard over the years not to be Bar Harbor, which allowed the Walshes to turn an entire waterfront street, West Street, into a Disney clone.
Harrington has done major renovations to the Claremont with modern electrical systems and beautifully designed rooms and spaces. He’s adding an infinity pool and promises new restaurants and bars suitable for One Percenters. The inn is scheduled to re-open Memorial Day weekend.
Why should taxpayers fund Seal Harbor’s ‘volunteer’ payroll? Town selectman wants to know
MOUNT DESERT, March 4, 2021 – Alex Stephens got an unexpected cold shower this week.
What he thought would be a pro forma appearance to answer questions about the $50,000 annual grant for the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society, of which he is president, took a surprising turn at the select board meeting.
“I continue to be confused about why in particular this property on Mount Desert is contracted out for care from another organization,” said Geoff Wood, the newest Select member.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me to fund a village improvement society that’s paying health benefits to somebody who’s taking care of property that belongs to the town,” said Wood.
“I don’t want to disparage your society at all. You do excellent work and I’m sure you use the money wisely … but it doesn’t make sense to me,” Wood told Stephens.
Unlike societies in Somesville, Northeast Harbor and Pretty Marsh, the Seal Harbor VIS actually has employees and pays health benefits for its foreman. And unlike the others, Seal Harbor VIS maintains significant town property, including a park, and parking lot.
The Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society was founded in 1900. In 1919, John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased the Glen Cove Inn with its five acres of land, tore it down and donated the land to the town. Beatrix Farrand, the first woman named to the American Association of Landscape Architects, worked with the VIS to create a sweeping lawn – framed by shade trees – that afforded panoramic views of the harbor, along with eight miles of trails, a pristine beach and the Village Green.
Citizen-driven historical preservation, village improvement, libraries, conservation. make up a significant share of economic activity and public services without which the island municipalities would be challenged to replicate.
They are like mini NGOs in our midst. Owing to the fact that many of these organizations predate the forming of town governments, they have an outsized role as independent organizations.
The manner with which these organizations are supported is unlike the prevailing model in the rest of the country. In Fairfield County, Connecticut, for instance, public libraries are supported by taxpayers with some minority funding from private donors. On MDI, it’s just the opposite.
Other members of the select board defended the 100-year-plus practice of a private organization raking the beach at 5 a.m., tending to the monuments, maintaining the comfort stations for the public, and reasoned that this is actually a better outcome than if the town were to perform the task.
Public Works director Tony Smith has said that the work done by the VIS is cost effective compared to the town doing the work.
“He has said that,” Wood agreed. But he said, “Doesn’t change the question” of whether it’s sound policy to have taxpayers fund private employment and benefits. Wood said in an interview later that this was a question “that’s bothered me for some time.”
Member Martha Dudman said, “It’s one of those traditions that’s been part of the town for a long time … these village improvement societies do wonderful work and in the case of Seal Harbor their job is immense … the way it’s set up works for us and works for them.”
“Having been done the way we’ve always done it is not, in my mind, a justification for continuing to do it … if the town can’t take care of it I would want to know why,” Wood said.
Alex Stephens said the $50,000 town grant is about 35 percent of the VIS’s budget. The remaining comes from fund-raising.
But Wood questioned, “I don’t know why the village improvement funding request for Seal Harbor far exceeds any of the others … it’s the only one which has payroll and insurance benefits for employees that are not town employees.”
In his presentation, Stephens wrote, “A number of years ago, my predecessor, Paul Fremont-Smith, sought to better compensate Larry Taylor, who has worked for the VIS for 30 years. In addition to helping fund a retirement account for him, Paul also added health insurance for both Larry and his wife. The annual cost for the insurance has now risen to $33,640 and added substantially to our budget. This has posed challenges as we work to ensure that all of our employees, including our very capable and invaluable treasurer/secretary Deb Brown, are fairly compensated. While we have sought to meet the rising costs by more aggressive fund raising, it is simply not enough. As such, we have looked to cut some costs where we can. In 2019, we began the transition to using Constant Contact email notifications in order to cut down on printing, mailing and postage costs (roughly $3000 a year).
“Whenever I pass the beach and the Green and see it in full use, I am reminded of the reasons why the VIS is so essential. With the weather in Maine being as fickle as ever, having Larry and the VIS watching over the lands, beach and monuments means a lot to our residents and visitors.”
Both Pretty Marsh and Somesville are organizations of the hearty Northern New England ilk, staffed by local volunteers. Somesville is particularly visible to anyone driving through and seeing the lovely flowers on either side of Rt. 102. Somesville VIS is seeking $3,000 and Northeast Harbor $5,000 for this year. Pretty Marsh, which rarely seeks town support, is asking for a one-time $9,500 grant to repair its historic schoolhouse.
As the hearing came to a close, warrant committee member Donna Reis, who lives in Pretty Marsh, asked how many volunteers are in Seal Harbor VIS?
“We have a board with 26 members,” came the reply.
“And they go out and clean the beach?”
“No. they don’t clean the beach. Larry does that.” (Larry Taylor is the chief staff employee)
“so there’s no volunteers who actually do the work?”
SWH selectmen to consider marijuana store application
SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Feb. 20, 2021 – Tyler and Natasha Johnson would like to open the first marijuana retail store in Hancock County right here on the Quietside.
“This is the first application for cannabis retailing in Hancock County. Let’s see how many other municipalities jump on the bandwagon to grab some of the business of Maine’s booming industry,” said Antonio Blasi, who served eight years as a Hancock County commissioner.
The item appears on the agenda of the SWH selectmen’s meeting tonight:
Blasi believes Maine has a huge opportunity to create a cradle-to-grave holistic industry by farming marijuana, harvesting, processing and packaging. He favors allowing municipalities to get a piece of the tax revenue which now goes only to the state. He also believes creating a non-plastic wrapper on products would make the industry truly green.
Last November, four years after the state voted to legalize adult-use of recreational marijuana, Surry and Southwest Harbor citizens voted to allow retail marijuana businesses – the first in Hancock County to do so.
The vote in SWH was overwhelming, with 654 in favor and 396 against 18-page Marijuana Ordinance, which “provides for permitting, licensing and regulation of adult use and medical marijuana businesses and provides performance standards for adult use and medical marijuana businesses.”
That vote allows adult-use, also known as recreational, marijuana retail stores, testing, manufacturing and cultivation facilities to operate, as well as medical marijuana facilities.
WANTED: Senior law enforcement official willing to run as a Democrat in Hancock County
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 20. 2021 – In a county very well represented by Democrats in all aspects of government, the county government is an anomaly. Virtually every elected office is held by a Republican. In addition to Sheriff Scott Kane, the District Attorney, Matthew Foster, Treasurer, Michael Boucher, and Probate Judge, William B. Blaisdell, are all Republicans, as are two of three of the County commissioners, chairman William Carter of Franklin and Paul Paradis of Bar Harbor.
Kane ran unopposed in both 2015 and 2018. He did face a primary challenge in 2015 when he received 2,227 votes, 175 votes more than opponent Alan Brown’s 2,052.
But traditionally Democrats have not been able to field an opponent to challenge the Republican sheriffs. Clark, the council chair, held the job for 34 years before Kane.
Eighty percent of the municipal races lost by Maine Democrats in November were because of a lack of candidates, said officials from the Maine state Democratic party at Thursday night’s meeting of the county Democrats.
The recent imbroglios regarding Kane’s intemperate behavior – closing down a addict coaching service because of his personal political views and a failed attempt at acquiring riot gear – have awakened a sleeping giant to the heretofore low-profile county government. Democrats have opened a search, including seeking candidates outside the county to persuade them to move here to challenge Kane should he run for re-election in 2022.
Moreover, the county is becoming bluer, as indicated by these slide from the Maine state Democratic party.
County and municipal governments are just abstract notions for young voters. They do not own homes, and do not have families – the sine non qua of an active local citizen.
County government is like the plumbing part of a business – such as the accounting and tech support. They were essential elements of the corporation I worked at, but most of my colleagues gravitated to the sexy stuff – the creative side, marketing, content creation mergers and acquisitions.
Hancock County runs jails, a court, the airport in Trenton, probate, and registry of deeds. It has a treasurer who keeps track of everything, and a district attorney who prosecutes the bad guys. And then there is the sheriff’s office which provides police service for small towns, like Tremont, which doesn’t have the scale to have its own force.
In other words, not the stuff which will turn the head of a 25-year-old.
But Scott Kane may have inadvertently changed all that.
“We are facing in Hancock County a bit of a crisis with our sheriff,” Democrat Laurie Fogelman told the state party operatives Thursday night, seeking their advice on how to organize. “He came out and denied recovery coaches from Healthy Acadia at the jail because Healthy Acadia came out in support of Black Lives Matter and he said Black Lives Matter was a radical terrorist organization.
“There is a lot of us who are already talking about wanting to ensure we have a more progressive sheriff,” she said.
If you want to light a match under young activists to motivate them to join a cause to fight you, I can think of no better way than to call BLM a “terrorist organization.”
Another party member noted that more than 100 persons attended each of two county commission meetings since Kane’s bombastic behavior was made public. Many of the attendees appeared to be under Age 30. The last time the commission was the center of such attention was when Kane sought to acquire riot gear for his officers, last summer.
Hancock County has a huge split personality with Ellsworth being the dividing line between the progressive southern towns on the water and the rural towns up north. Thus, it’s another anomaly that the most liberal of the three county districts is represented by Republican Paul Paradis of Bar Harbor, owing to the fact that the Democrats ran a candidate in 2020 that many Democrats even found objectionable. The bottom line is that Republicans have had much more success in fielding qualified local candidates.
But come 2024, will Paradis be able to hang onto his seat? And will Democrats find able qualified challengers.
And is there a law enforcement officer in Maine who dares to publicly identify himself/herself as a Democrat?
Sizzling data for last 3 months, but dark clouds on horizon
NORTHEAST HARBOR, Feb. 20, 2021 – Mount Desert Assessor Kyle Avila’s semi-annual update of the town’s home sales data base came just in time to sate my craven, voyeuristic desire for information about my neighbors’ homes.
There were 43 transactions in the first 11 months of 2020 in the town of Mount Desert. Avila’s update did not include most of December, which was in the throes of the pandemic bubble. There were at least eight transactions in December, according to the Hancock County registry of deeds. That would bring 2020’s total to 51 transactions compared with 42 in 2019, which was considered a good year for sales.
Other MDI towns list property information, but mostly by property taxes and assessment. Avila’s data base not only lists sales prices but it allows you to search by date, owner’s name or address. http://gis.vgsi.com/mountdesertme/Sales.aspx
Some owners who wish not to be identified achieve opacity by creating dummy corporations or trusts. As previously reported, the highest price in 2020 was $3,375,000 for 11 Barnacles Way by Otium LLC, the legal shingle for Heather Evans, former wife on Alibaba President Michael Evans.
The lowest price was $265,000 for a ranch house at 23 Wall Street in Hall Quarry.
Below are two charts showing statistics for Maine and its 16 counties. The first chart lists statistics for the month of January 2021 and 2020 only, statewide. The second chart compares the number of existing, single-family homes sold (units) and volume during the rolling three months of November (2019/2020), December (2019/2020) and January (2020/2021).
For the three-month period ending Jan. 31, sales increases in January ranged from a 9.3 percent jump in Cumberland County to an increase of 82.1 percent in Piscataquis County, where home sales nearly doubled to 122 for the three-month period from 67 a year earlier. Hancock County showed a 52 percent increase.
The January numbers were a lagging indicator because of the backlog of sales which occurred in 2020 and could not close until January. The pandemic bubble was crushing for allied services, such as lawyers and lenders, as local banks were flooded with mortgage loan applications which backed up well into 2021. One Ellsworth lawyer said his firm is finally digging out of the log jam.
“Now the problem is lack of inventory,” said Avila, who noted that current listings are less than half of what is typical for this time of the year. “I’m hearing the same story from real estate brokers.”
For all the news about increasing sales and rising prices, there are worrisome signs for the Maine housing market, said Aaron Bolster, president of the Maine Association of Realtors, and a key period is just ahead.
“Coming off 2020, the best year ever for sales volume, we are struggling with historically low for-sale inventory statewide, “said Bolster, Broker/Owner of Allied Realty in Skowhegan. “Buyers are facing far fewer available home choices and sellers are reluctant to list their properties without their next move-in property in place. Buyer demand is strong, and a continuing positive trajectory for 2021 is dependent on homes for sale coming onto the market.”
“This high demand, low supply dynamic can be challenging for buyers and for sellers,” Bolster said.
Spring is usually prime season for real estate, Bolster told the Portland Press Herald, when many people decide to put their homes on the market. If more homes aren’t offered for sale, Bolster said, “it becomes unhealthy … and it could be a challenging year in real estate sales,” he told the newspaper.
The picture many may have is of a real estate market in which the agents are happily churning deals, Bolster said, but that might change as the year goes on.
“We definitely have some challenges here,” he said.
State rep wants to regionalize decisions affecting coastal issues
BAR HARBOR, Feb. 20, 2021 – Should the Town of Gouldsboro have an out-sized voice in determining whether a salmon farm be allowed to construct permanent fish pens which would obstruct the scenic views of Fisherman Bay and harm traditional Maine fisheries?
Should the Town of Bar Harbor alone benefit and license the cruise ships which sail up Frenchman Bay to port at its anchorage?
State Rep. Lynne Williams, D-135, thinks not.
State Rep. Lynne Williams wants all coastal stakeholders to have a say on regional issues
In her boldest action yet as a newbie state legislator, Williams has petitioned for a study group – the first step toward eventual legislation – to create regional governance on issues which affect more than one town. The actual language is now being drafted in Augusta so it can be disclosed to the public.
In an interview this week, Williams said she has taken note of the opposition to a Nordic-owned aqua farm which is expected to apply for a lease from the state to operate two giant pens in Frenchman Bay. Williams, who lives in Bar Harbor, also said towns other than Bar Harbor have a stake in deciding the future of cruise ships in Frenchman Bay.
“There’s not a history of municipal cooperation in Maine on certain issues,” Williams said.
There is no existing mechanism, she said, for settling conflicting issues among municipalities which share a coastal resource like Frenchman Bay. And Maine gives too much license to single municipalities like Bar Harbor to determine whether cruise ships may steam up and anchor in Frenchman Bay.
Other states, she said, such as California and Rhode Island have enacted safe guards to protect all interests, and she wants the legislative study group to explore those solutions.
Specifically, she is calling for the creation of regional enforcement entities in each of Maine’s bays.
The composition of her proposed study group would include two state senators, three state reps, three fishermen, three allied marine businesses such as ship builders and tour operators, five conservation groups, five municipalities and local businesses, one Marine Coastal Program rep, one Acadia National Park rep and one rep from the outer islands.
This group would meet four times and then propose legislation by Nov. 1.
The initiative takes direct aim at American Aqua Farms and Acadia Aqua Farms.
American Aquafarms is planning to use a 100,000-square-foot fish processing facility in Gouldsboro as its base to farm salmon. It proposed to build 30 150-foot-wide pens in two areas in Frenchman Bay.
Acadia Aqua Farms wants to use its lease for mussel farming to grow mussel seeds on a 48-acre area north of Leland Point in Frenchman Bay.
Mother of dead Right Whale calf also severely injured
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 20, 2021 – Somewhere in the Atlantic is a “dead whale swimming.”
That’s how Jane Davenport referred to the female named “Infinity.” Davenport is the lead lawyer for environmental groups suing the federal government for better protection of this endangered species.
Infinity’s calf was struck and killed by a sport fishing vessel Feb. 12. The captain of the 50-foot boat reported hitting a whale near the entrance to St. Augustine Inlet. The vessel began taking on water and was quickly grounded to prevent it from sinking.
Fresh cuts on the whale’s back and head suggest it was struck by a vessel’s propeller. The whale also had broken ribs and bruising, which are consistent with impact trauma. Final results of a necropsy are yet to come.
Because calves “stick to the mother like glue,” Davenport said, it is believed the female was also struck.
On Tuesday, the mother was seen for the first time since the calf’s death, and also had injuries consistent with a vessel strike on her left side, including a series of fresh propeller cuts, the Florida wildlife research institute said. Davenport said the injuries will likely be fatal.
The ship strike comes in a good year for calving of Right Whales, as 15 newborns were spotted.
North Atlantic right whales migrate annually to waters such as the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence to feed and mate before migrating to areas off the shores of Florida and Georgia to give birth to their young in the winter months, said Amy Warren, a right whale researcher with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
Infinity was observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence every summer for the past four years, Warren said.
“She’s definitely a regular visitor to Canadian waters,” Warren said.
In the last three years, however, the endangered species has been plagued by deaths caused by vessel strikes and fishing net entanglements.
Since 2017, 33 whales — including the most recent one — have been found dead in U.S. and Canadian waters, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA).
Another 14 live whales have been found with serious injuries, NOAA said.
“The population is estimated to be right around 350 individuals right now, so any loss is devastating to us as part of the community making efforts to protect these right whales,” Warren said
She said leading up to the decline in North Atlantic right whales, 23 were birthed annually.
So far this breeding year, 15 mother-calf pairs have been recorded, including the latest to have died, she said.
Another right whale calf was found dead last November. However, it was found to have died from natural causes, according to NOAA.
In its Facebook post, the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said mother-calf pairs spend most of their time at, or just below, the water’s surface.
“Vessel operators are urged to slow down (10 knots or less), remain alert while traveling through nearshore waters in Florida and near inlets, and to give these animals space when sighted,” the institute said.
NOAA spokesperson Allison Garrett said in an email that she couldn’t comment on how fast the boat was going, or whether its operator was breaking any laws at the time, as such information is part of an open law enforcement investigation.
Warren said the messaging to boaters is to always keep a sharp eye on the water. However, her centre wants to see stricter rules for vessels to better protect right whales.
She said only boats longer than 20 metres are required to limit their speed to 10 knots in certain parts of U.S. waters at specific times of the year to protect right whales.
“We believe that the vessel that struck this calf was under 65 feet (20 metres), so there was no speed restriction. And we do think that speed could play a role,” she said.
Warren said there should also be speed limits for boats measuring under 20 metres.
Last year, the Government of Canada implemented a mandatory 10 knot speed-limit restriction throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for vessels longer than 13 metres, in an effort to protect right whales.
The calf, a male, had fresh cuts on its back and head that indicate propeller strikes, according to the FWC. He also had broken ribs and bruises. The final results of the necropsy are pending.
The calf’s mother, named Infinity and designated as whale #3230, was seen on Tuesday for the first time since the incident, according to FWC.
“She has injuries consistent with a vessel strike on her left side, including a series of fresh propeller cuts. Researchers collected photographs and are working to assess the severity of these wounds.”
“Vessels 33 feet and longer have struck and killed right whales. Collisions with whales can result in damage to or total loss of vessels,” according to the FWC. “Vessel operators are urged to slow down (10 knots or less), remain alert while traveling through nearshore waters in Florida and near inlets, and to give these animals space when sighted.
“Mother-calf pairs spend the majority of their time at, or a few feet below, the water’s surface. They can be surprisingly difficult to see, especially in low light and poor weather.”Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
Years of low birthing numbers have been a great cause for concern for the species, which is considered critically endangered, as estimates suggest there could be as few as 360 right whales left.
Because female right whales consistently give birth around every 10 years, the species has been dying faster than it can reproduce. In 2018, out of the roughly 100 females who are able to give birth, not a single calf was identified. In 2020, there were 10 births.
People should report whale sightings to 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5345) or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16.Q
When a folksy, quaint saying becomes weaponized, is it a slur?
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – If you weren’t born here, there’s a name for you — a “come from away,” or a CFA for short.
I had just interviewed the emergency room doctor at MDI Hospital who told me that people who run, hike or do anything in a gym are the most likely to transmit Covid-19. He said when he walks on one of Acadia trails, he gives way by 12 feet to passing hikers and runners.
The exact situation presented itself late last fall on the Ship Harbor Trail when four women headed toward me maskless. I looked around to find a 12-foot distance but it was difficult on that narrow trail.
As the women passed me, I said, “You really ought to mask up.”
The first retort:
“Do you even live here?”
I said yes.
The second retort:
“I’ll bet you weren’t born here because if you were born here you would know we are outdoors and there is no danger of catching the virus from another person outdoors.”
The women went on their way, with loud exchanges about the “idiots from away.”
Fast forward to last week when I commissioned mockups showing photo-shopped composites of cruise ships and fish farm pens overtaking the our beloved Frenchman Bay. I shared the post on an FB page where several Bar Harbor residents defended the cruise ships and challenged the vantage point in the mockups. (an overwhelming number of comments thanked me for creating the visuals).
One of my detractors, a former BH council member, pointed out that I worked 17 years in Boston and how could anyone from Boston have an educated opinion about Maine? She was a strong defender of the cruise ships.
Until I started writing this blog – and therefore inviting potential backlash for my comments – I thought the phrase “come from away” was a folksy, quaint aphorism which helped define Mainers as they quietly poked visitors who didn’t know the proper way to eat a lobster and who couldn’t find their way back to their hotel. Fair enough. Innocent fun. Ha, ha, ha.
That is until I learned that the phrase wasn’t even authentically Maine. It’s Canadian, as defined by multiple dictionaries. McMillan Dictionary defines it as: a termused in Canada’s Atlantic provinces for someone who has moved to the area from somewhere else.
The Broadway hit, “Come from Away,” has sparked serious introspection in Canada about the true meaning of this phrase and whether Canadians should continue to use it. No such introspection exists in Maine.
In 2008, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party debated the following resolution:
“The terms ‘CFA’ or ‘come-from-away’ can be hurtful and does not project the welcoming society needed to attract and retain newcomers to Nova Scotia. Be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Liberal party urges members and all Nova Scotians to refrain from using the term ‘CFA’ to label newcomers to Nova Scotia.”
The term is common throughout Atlantic Canada, but Nova Scotia’s senior federal cabinet minister Scott Brison made headlines for suggesting the term should be banned from local vocabulary.
“It’s in our collective interest, economically and socially, to not use terms that reflect a negative view of people who choose to make Atlantic Canada their home,” he said.
Some posit that the expression may have been a reaction to another slur aimed at residents of Newfoundland, “Newfie,” which came around during WWII as American G.I.s derided the locals. (I am quite familiar with American G.I.s deriding locals).
There are very few terms and words used to distinguish people that do not have an ugly aspect in their etymology. Use these words at your peril.
Boaters must drain craft under law proposed to protect lakes
MDI’s Billy Helprin testifies in favor of LD 184
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 14, 2021 – The finger lakes on MDI have one great attribute because they were carved by glaciers. Like Somes Sound, they are deep. More than 100 feet in Long Pond, Eagle Lake, Echo Lake and Jordan Pond.
But that’s no comfort, as invasive species can cause devastation quickly.
In 2017, Lakes Environmental Association and Maine Department of Environmental Protection identified variable leaf milfoil growing in Long Lake, Naples, in southern Maine. Long Lake had previously been thought to be safe from this invasive aquatic plant, but substantial growth was found in Mast Cove in Naples.
Variable leaf milfoil has the potential to occupy large areas of Long Lake because the water body is relatively shallow with many coves; perfect for milfoil growth. This invasive plant grows and spreads incredibly quickly. Any fragment larger than an inch can re-root and become a new infestation. Milfoil grows to the surface, and then spreads out in mats dense enough to prevent recreation and boating.
I pay my $20 fee every year for my milfoil sticker and proudly displays it on my canoe. But now, even more urgency needs to be felt by the public, said Billy Helprin, director of the Somes-Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary in Somesville. Billy is the keeper of the flame for all the visitors who make MDI special – alewive, loons, eagles, ospreys, etc. The lakes are crucial to the seasonal symmetry of these visiting species.
Billy recently testified to support adoption of proposed Maine registration to require all boaters to drain their craft of all water before they transport it elsewhere.
The situation is much more dire in lakes and ponds in southern Maine where state Rep. Walter Riseman, who represents Harrison, Bridgton and Denmark, introduced the bill at the urging of the Lake Environmental Association.
The idea is that if someone has a water craft in a lake with known invasive plants, such as Long Lake, the boater must drain the water which potentially carries the microscopic cells of the species. By the time the boater launches his craft into a pristine lake, say, Eagle Lake here, the cells will have long evaporated.
“We have been lucky in Maine so far, largely due to being tucked way up in the northeastern corner of our country far from big population centers, to have so few of our more than 6,000 lakes and ponds infested with aquatic invasive species,” Billy Helprin said in his testimony before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. “‘Luck’ is the key word, and luck is not usually an integral part of an effective management plan to defend against a serious threat that has the ability to: render waterbodies toxic from cyanobacteria; unusable for any recreational purposes; cause serious harmi to fish, loons and other wildlife; and significantly reduce property values and property tax income for towns.”
The legislation won’t have any teeth unless the public knows about it and Helprin urged the committee to consider a strong campaign to educate the public.
“The announcement and education efforts surrounding this law could be the critical factor in the prevention of particular invasive aquatic species infestations,” he said. “Awareness of the infestation threat and cascading effects of failure to prevent is critical to success. DEP and IF&W are well aware of how much more expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive it is to mount an aquatic species removal/control effort compared with preventative measures.”
Vaccine appointments open up; state cases moderate; MDI still safer
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – The ability to get vaccinations is getting easier and the number of Covid cases in Maine has declined to the level of early November. Two days this week, the cases fell below 200.
QSJ has become a seasoned veteran of the online scrum to register for Covid vaccinations and will offer my services free to anyone who doesn’t find the computer particularly friendly for this endeavor. You’ll need your Medicare ID info.
I finally broke through the Marginot Line this week and scored appointments for me and my wife. I did it through the Northern Light Health portal even though it has a very challenging process and frustrated many for its once-a-week signup on Mondays at 2. Northern Light signs you up for the second dose at the same time for exactly three weeks after the first dose.
Earlier I had pre-registered on MDI Hospital, Maine Health and an assortment of smaller venues from Millinocket to Skowhegan. I have not heard from any of those.
Northern Light added a server Feb. 1 to handle the additional load, but that server crashed leaving many signups hanging. The loading was still slow this week as well, but the system did not crash.
Don’t assume you won’t get an appointment because the platform is jammed Mondays at 2 p.m. That’s when the traffic spikes, no doubt about it. But many people just quit and walk away leaving many appointments unfilled. This week, there were unfilled appointments through Thursday morning. Northern Light also has added a second vaccination pod at the Bangor Cross Insurance Center where they have the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 persons a day.
Walmart and Sam’s Club joined the fray this week across the country, although the appointments remained spotty. The Sam’s Club in Bangor was not active as of Friday. Walmart showed off its robust platform which performed at high speed. Appointments for both of its Bangor locations worked well. Make sure you click on pharmacy. As of today, Walmart had many appointments available for Feb. 19 in Bangor.
Walmart lacked the ability to schedule the second shot at the same time. You’re asked to sign up for the second shot later.
In all the hysteria, MDI continued to be a relatively safe place.
As of Wednesday, Bar Harbor Hospital reported 63 positive tests for local residents since the beginning of the pandemic, and eight non-residents. Not all residents choose to test at the local hospital, however. The hospital this week also reported it has administered 1,357 first doses and 511 second doses of the vaccine.
According to the Maine CDC, MDI could have had as high as 134 cases or a low of 87 cases. Maine CDC gives the numbers as a range for each zip code on the theory that privacy is illusive in small villages.
For bigger towns like Bar Harbor, it gives the precise number, 52. Ellsworth reported 208. Southwest Harbor’s range is 20-49, Mount Desert 6-19, Northeast Harbor, 6-19, Bass Harbor, 1-5, Seal Cove, 1-5.
Hancock County meanwhile is reporting 152.3 cases per 10,000 residents, the fourth lowest in the state.
COA’s one-day haul speaks to its momentum as a rising star in the academic world
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 12, 2021 – Fundraising is now high art and MDI non-profits can learn a thing or two from the College of the Atlantic.
An anonymous donor challenged COA to match his/her $24,000 gift in a 24-hour period to raise $50,000 from other donors.
When the date came, Feb. 9, the college met that goal in hours, and then another challenge came in for $25,000 more to be matched. Again, the funds raised met the second challenge.
Total one-day haul? $186,085.
COA President Darron Collins said, “I’m so moved by how the greater COA community — on campus, across MDI, and all over the world — came together on Tuesday to support the college. It reaffirms that what we do is of real value locally and globally. I didn’t sleep across the entire 24-Hour period and wouldn’t have changed a thing in that respect — the 24-hour fire afforded me the chance to really touch base with students during a time when such personal contact is difficult. I have hundreds of hours of thanking to do now and I look forward to every minute of it.
“I lit the ‘Eternal 24-Hour Flame (sic)’ at 12 am on 2/9 and kept with it until 11:59:59 pm. That fire was a magnet for socially-distanced engagement … including pancakes, bacon and eggs, homemade tortillas, hot chocolate, steak, and loads of conversation.”
It was 25 years ago when my son and his cousin were enrolled in a summer program at the College of the Atlantic, a small, fledgling institution which took over a monastery on the outskirts of Bar Harbor in 1969. It didn’t figure much in my life as a summer vacationer.
Then someone told us about COA’s Beech Hill Farm and suddenly our vacation was scheduled around the farm’s hours of operation – closed Sunday and Monday so you’d better get there on Saturday. And Tuesday always promised the best stuff.
There is also COA’s Peggy Rockefeller Farms – part of the largest remaining contiguous area of historic farmland on MDI. PRF manages 45 acres of organic farmland, raises certified organic fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, broilers, turkeys, pasture and hay, as well as pasture-based beef and lamb.
The late David Rockefeller donated the farms to COA in January 2010, to be used in perpetuity for agriculture and conservation. The gift of the farms was accompanied by an endowment to help cover costs of management, maintenance and repairs.
Timing has always been a good to COA. In 1968, Father James Gower, a Catholic priest and peace activist, and his former football teammate from Bar Harbor High School, businessman Les Brewer, conceived the idea for the College of the Atlantic. The anti-war fervor of the Sixties fueled their passion.
COA’s ecological mission, established long before “climate change” entered the vernacular, is riding a global wave of companies, governments, NGOs and citizens seeking solutions.
How many small colleges are so positioned to benefit from such inexorable forces? At the footsteps of Acadia National Park with frontage on Frenchman Bay, no less, with a singular mission to train young minds to preserve earth? It syncs nicely with all the summer and year-round residents who share its sensibilities as they watch their own milieu protected and supported by an energetic cohort of young people from all over the world.
All first-year students are required to take an introductory course in human ecology. Other requirements include two courses in each focus area (Environmental Studies, Arts and Design, Human Studies), one quantitative reasoning course, one history course, and one course that involves extensive writing.
With its focus on interdisciplinary learning, College of the Atlantic does not have distinct departments, and all faculty members consider themselves human ecologists in addition to their formal specialization.
The intersection of the beauty of Acadia, a single mission of purpose to sustain that beauty and a bountiful audience of like-minded supporters eager to write checks make for a perfect trifecta. In 20 years COA has quintupled its endowment.
The best part of COA is the students and teaching population, representing 50 foreign countries, including France, Mexico, Nigeria, Namibia, India and Texas. What a special treat – in such an ethnically homogeneous region, to be exposed to such a range of humanity. I can’t imagine how the cafeteria keeps up.
QSJ raises $1,178 in fundraiser for Common Good Soup Kitchen
Maine DEP law protects public, scenic vistas, shores, habitats
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 13, 2021 – I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty good with language. It’ll be interesting to see how the fancy pants lawyers for American Aquafarms distill the following to its benefit.
“In the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA), 38 M.R.S.A. §§ 480-A through Z, the Legislature has found and declared that Maine’s rivers and streams, great ponds, fragile mountain areas, freshwater wetlands, significant wildlife habitat, coastal wetlands, and sand dune systems are resources of state significance. Section 480-A states that these resources have great scenic beauty and unique characteristics, unsurpassed recreational, cultural, historical, and environmental value of present and future benefit to the citizens of the State and that uses are causing the rapid degradation and, in some cases, the destruction of these critical resources. The Legislature’s recognition of the scenic beauty of these protected natural resources through statute distinguishes the visual quality of those resources and its value to the general population.
“Applicants for permits under the NRPA are required to demonstrate that a proposed activity meets the standards of the NRPA that have been established by the Legislature. Standard 1 in Section 480-D of the NRPA requires an applicant to demonstrate that a proposed activity will not unreasonably interfere with existing scenic and aesthetic uses.”
The Act also specifically calls out Acadia National Park:
“Scenic resources. The following public natural resources and public lands are usually visited by the general public, in part with the purpose of enjoying their visual quality. Under this rule, the Department considers a scenic resource as the typical point from which an activity in, on, over, or adjacent to a protected natural resource is viewed … A scenic resource visited by large numbers who come from across the country or state is generally considered to have national or statewide significance. A scenic resource visited primarily by people of local origin is generally of local significance.
E. National or State Parks (e.g., Acadia National Park, Sebago Lakes State Park);
F. Public natural resources or public lands visited by the general public, in part for the use, observation, enjoyment and appreciation of natural or cultural visual qualities.(e.g., great ponds, the Atlantic Ocean).
MDI towns ponder a future without Fiberight recycling plant
SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Jan. 13, 2021 – This town, and Bar Harbor, are beginning to consider the possibility that the Fiberight plant in Hampden may not be able deliver on its recycling promises, and what alternatives exist.
The two biggest towns on MDI are part of a consortium which is seeking to engage Delta Thermo Energy to operate the giant Fiberight plant which shut down last May because of financial reasons.
“I think there’s an ideal of like what this new company is going to do, and then there’s a reality of what they actually are going to be able to do,” said Bar Harbor Council member Val Peacock at its Feb. 2 meeting. “… and then there’s a set of track record of these companies not really being very soluble.”
Vice chair Matt Hochmann asked, “Can they deliver on their promises?”
Bar Harbor is the only town on MDI which has achieved any semblance of recycling since May. That’s because it is the only town which sorts its garbage – between trash and recyclables -before the waste is hauled away. After the plant closed, BH found another source to take its recycling but the percentage has fallen to only 12 percent of its total waste, reported Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt.
She said Fiberight was never able to achieved the 80 percent recycling and hit 50 percent during tests. She said the town could save $5,000 a month by halting the sorting until the plant restarts, but the council favored continuing the sorting as a commitment to recycling.
Further complicating the matter was the recent disclosure of Delta’s technology which consists of mashing the solid waste with sewage sludge to produce fuel to burn to generate electricity. In other words, the stuff would be incinerated, as in a traditional waste energy plant.
Henry Lang, manager of Penobscot Energy Recovery Company, which is the incinerator in Orrington currently burning most of the waste from the 115-town consortium, said he reviewed the Delta documents online and added, “Sure looks like a waste energy plant to me.”
The two towns on MDI which are not burdened by any concerns about Delta are Mount Desert and Tremont. They comprise most of a partnership called Acadia Disposal District, which includes Trenton.
Tony Smith, public works director at Mount Desert and a member of the board of the consortium, said, “My focus, and that of the MRC board, is working with the bondholders to re-open the Hampden facility in full compliance with current permits and have it operational so that our members can resume efficient and environmentally sound disposal of their MSW.”
That is opposite of the views of Jim Vallette, vice chair of SWH’s Warrant Committee who has been a vocal critic of the consortium (Municipal Review Committee). “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 good business for the towns.”
QSJ requested an interview with Michael Carroll, director the MRC, who replied in an email that he didn’t have time.
SWH struggles to find balance after firing town manager
SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Feb. 13, 2021 – This town is still seeking solid footing after firing Justin VanDongen, the former town manager who was a polarizing figure. The select board held its first meeting since the firing this week in a harmonious session and a show of unanimity on all issues.
Still, there are vacancies for town manager, police chief, and a host of big capital intensive projects to resurrect. The town almost lost Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell, who submitted her resignation during the waning days of the VanDongen era, but was persuaded to rescind it after he was fired.
She’s now out of the country on a planned vacation which comes at a price. The town is unable to accept any vehicles registration because Lowell was the only person certified to do so. This notice appeared on the town’s website this week:
NOTICE TO RESIDENTS, February 9-19thThe Town Office will be doing Re-registrations ONLY this applies to vehicles, and atv/snowmobiles. New Registrations will resume Monday February 22 You can also Re-register vehicles and trailers online at https://www1.maine.gov/online/bmv/rapid-renewal/
The town also had to cut back on services the last week of 2020 because of poor scheduling. Selectman George Jellison told QSJ at the time there would be a reckoning after Jan. 12. It was unclear what he meant by that date.
VanDongen left the town with a host of unfinished business. SWH must properly train its office staff to handle numerous functions.
The selectmen added Don Lodge, chair of the Warrant Committee and an experienced public works veteran, to its infrastructure committee to help find a solution to the decrepit town garage which must be replaced. The board voiced a unanimous wish that the project be completed for under $1.6 million. Voters decided last year by nine votes to reject a $1.9 million proposal.
Postscript: NEH zoning fight kicked back to appeals board
NORTHEAST HARBOR, Feb. 13, 2021 – As expected the Planning Board unanimously re-affirmed its decision to approve the “replacement” of the house at 11 Barnacles Way and sent it back to the Zoning Board of Appeals which had asked the Planning Board for clarification. The Planning Board also attached the written explanation of compliance with zoning ordinance written by the lawyer for Otium LLC, the owner of 11 Barnacles Way. Neighbors William and Majorie Grace appealed the Planning Board decision last fall.
Mockups of Frenchman Bay in 2025; How Maine is slowly destroying its pristine coastline and the environment
LAMOINE, Feb. 5, 2021 – QSJ commissioned the following mockups to show realistically what Frenchman Bay could look like in a few short years. These “mockups” are composites of actual photos taken of cruise ships, fish farm pens in the waters surrounding Acadia National Park.
The town of Bar Harbor already uses Frenchman Bay for cruise ship anchorage (Anchorage B), so the mockups contain reasonable assumptions for views from the north – Sorrento, Lamoine, Hancock.
There are at least two applications under way to develop fish farming in Frenchman Bay, and there is no telling how many more will surface if they are approved. Here is QSJ’s take on fish farms published late last year.
QSJ also wrote last fall about the most noxious element of cruise ships – that they are among the worst polluters on earth. No one monitors their emissions as their stacks bellow dark smoke which, during the prevailing southwesterly wind of summer here, heads directly toward the aforementioned towns. This video is a good summary of cruise ship pollution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N9JHYtAzVk
What an irony that Portland and Bar Harbor, two of the most progressive communities in the United States, are parties to such willful destruction of the planet. Whatever effort to reduce our carbon footprint on MDI is canceled – in a huge mismatch – by supporting the cruise ships industry.
At least one Bar Harbor Council member has stated falsely that Acadia National Park monitors air quality and has given Bar Harbor a passing grade. It does not, and it has not. Its air screeners cannot reach Frenchman Bay to detect pollution from the ships.
Moreover, the number of ships have gone from a handful in the late Eighties to nearly 200 in 2019 increasing the chance of the ships striking Right Whales as they churn into Frenchman Bay.
QSJ commissioned these photo composites from an incredibly talented designer Mark Riewestahl, owner of Black Spruce Design https://blacksprucedesign.com. Mark is graduating this spring from College of the Atlantic but is already in his second year of growing a successful LLC. He has enjoyed working with local MDI organizations, such as the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.
Bar Harbor cruise ship straw poll will only unleash more animus
BAR HARBOR, Feb. 5, 2021 – This town has a habit of throwing good money after bad so why not commission a survey on the question of cruise ships which will only generate more questions. Let’s keep kicking the can down the road ..
The Town Council has already received “buckets of emails,” as one council member put it, so there is plenty of data to support either position – ban or restrict cruise ships. In fact the council member Val Peacock told the research firm hired to manage the survey to consider the emails which she forwarded from a file she compiled.
The idea of a survey came from council member Gary Friedmann late last year. But at a project review meeting with the research firm Pan Atlantic this week, it became painfully clear the construction of a comprehensive questionnaire will be difficult.
Annie Clark, Communications Director for the Collins campaign, said at the time, “A two-week-old online poll—especially in this environment—might as well be two years old,” Clark said. “That said—we think this is a very tight race.”
Was the poll a marketing ploy? Certainly Pan Atlantic got a lot of press. Town Manager Cornell Knight wrote in an email that his staff chose Pan Atlantic because “they had the best proposal and would do a good job.” Its president, Patrick Murphy, did not return a message left by QSJ.
QSJ would have asked him to explain his methodology as stated by the company, “Data were weighted using US Census Bureau data to match the composition of Maine’s historical voting population based on Congressional District, age, education, and gender.” What does not mean?
Indeed, research firms often rely on templates and other data points to manage the cost of surveys and collating results. One eagle-eyed Bar Harbor council member spotted just such a misplaced template in Pan Atlantic presentation. “You’re not going to send our report to Raymond, are you?” Council member Jill Goldthwait asked sarcastically, when she discovered that the presentation to Bar Harbor was meant for the town of Raymond. “You’re a victim of cut and paste.”
The error was minor and the Pan Atlantic team was chagrined.
What is not minor, however, is the extreme deadline put on the project to have final deliverables by late March. The firm must design a 4-page questionnaire, have it vetted by the council and at a public hearing, mail out the survey and give the council a final report. Will the voters trust the results, given Pan Atlantic history and the deadline?
The issue simply does not lend itself to a straw poll, like the one conducted by MDI towns last year with a yes/no answer: Do you support the town continuing to explore an islandwide middle school?
Council members spent most of the review session with questions which only illuminated the complexity of the issues.
Among those discussed:
Do cruise ships defile the Bar Harbor Brand?
Are traditional Maine institutions such as the lobster industry marginalized by cruise ships?
Who benefits or are harmed directly and indirectly by cruise ships?
Do cruise ships “crowd out” residents wishing to use restaurants and other village services?
Is one mailed survey per household adequate?
And there is the question of security. How do you prevent people from gaming the system?
In this case, there are only two essential questions: Should the Town of Bar Harbor ban cruise ships? Or should the town restrict them? On the second question, ideas abound – from capping the number of ships or passengers, to restricting visits only in autumn, to imposing no-ship days so residents may plan around a calendar. Many of those ideas are already contained in the emails.
What would a $12,600 survey do to settle the question? Not much. It may only contribute to the tortured debate. Moreover, with such a small project the research firm will need to manage costs to squeeze out a profit, and it’s already managing expectations.
Pan American founder Murphy fielded questions about whether a single paper survey per household is adequate and how to combat fake entries online. Jill Goldthwait correctly identified the cruise ship question as “a hot issue” which goes beyond Bar Harbor. But her motivation was not altruism, but in keeping the survey out of the hands of neighboring towns residents.
Which begs another question: What about all the other towns impacted? The stakeholders on the issue of cruise ships include every town on MDI and Frenchman Bay. As a Lamoine resident said, “Cruise ships benefit only one town” and harm 10, with their lights, noise, air pollution and out-of-context presence “on our pristine coastline.”
Patrick Murphy said he expected to receive 400-500 responses. Is such a straw poll meaningful or will it only agitate an already aggrieved citizenry mistrustful of the motivations of this council?
Bar Harbor lost its innocence long ago when it allowed hoteliers to demolish West Street and turn it into a cheap Vegas-like strip. The town won’t let me play guitar for tips in public but it’s happy to allow the cruise industry to unload hordes of camera-crazed tourists behaving badly but armed with a passport which speaks volumes to a town which has lost its soul – a 3 3⁄8– by 2 1⁄8-inch plastic card. Why not open a casino and be done with it? At least it will be less polluting.
Mount Desert’s Public Safety hazards with no solutions in sight
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 4, 2021 – Is there a common good remaining in our conjugated society whereas something so obvious as a benefit is orphaned and subject to the murmurs of officialdom – even here in our lovely hamlet?
Simply, can we still solve problems as a community?
Here is one problem: The causeway connecting Northern Neck peninsula on Long Pond to the rest of the island is in danger of collapsing because the two underlying culverts are rusting and metal shards are creating injuries to unwary visitors. During high season, about 60 households traverse that causeway.
Why do we care as a community?
Long Pond is the largest lake on MDI and used by thousands of canoeists and kayakers, many of whom port their water crafts over the causeway to return to the Pond’s End canoe and kayak rental center.
Cathy Waters wasn’t expecting the rusting hulk of a 40-year-old culvert to collapse when her leg pierced through the metal. It sliced her leg cleanly through multiple shears of excisions from her knee to her ankle. The injury required two surgeries. That was last summer.
Flash back 30 years, my son and I are walking onto the same culvert at the causeway. We throw pebbles into the pond. I try to teach my boy how to skip the rocks. It is still one of my fondest memories. We get down on our bellies in a prone position, put our heads down and look through the culvert to the other side.
Today that culvert is a clear and present danger to tourists, boaters, summer residents and anyone who needs to get onto Northern Neck. Cathy Waters was among the first to learn the hard way of the danger lurking under water, as most of the rusted metal lies below the surface. Unless something is done, she won’t be the last.
Northern Neck is the peninsula jutting southward on Long Pond which bisects the lake. It was once an island until 1950 when a developer, Tom Flynn, built a causeway for access to his lots so they could be sold more easily.
Three current residents of Northern Neck petitioned the town of Mount Desert this week for relief to repair the current causeway and culvert and were told the town did not own the causeway and did not have the authority to repair the culverts which did not seem like an unreasonable response, except that the problem was not solved.
All sides shared similar concerns about this public hazard. Public Works Director Tony Smith offered the town’s assistance, but first, he said, the residents must form a road association and claim some standing, and perhaps commit to paying for some of the repair.
The three petitioners – Bob Foster of 3 Pine Cove Lane, Rob Shea of 36 Northern Neck Road, and Bill Waters 118 Northern Neck Road, said in a prepared statement, “We are volunteers who see to the year-round maintenance of the road surface. We collect funds from the owners to pay the costs. We are not a road association. We have no authority to compel our neighbors to pay into our operating funds. We have no authority to place a lien on the properties of owners who do not pay.”
Northern Neck is one of the most interesting summer enclaves on MDI, along with Seal Harbor, Seal Cove and Bar Harbor’s Shore Road district. Its history is a rich tapestry of Americana (see related story below).
But the conundrum presented in this case on an island dominated by seasonal residents is not unique, or even rare. There will always be some who choose the lowest denominator so not participate in the greater good in a “what’s it in for me” stance or the assumption that some rich neighbor will simply write a check.
The petitioners said there are 60 privately owned Lots on Northern Neck that are taxed by the Town of Mt. Desert. “There are 55 individual owners of these Lots. Fifty-two (95%) of the 55 owners are seasonal residents.”
The problem not solved? A dangerous and menacing threat at the causeway.
Asking the homeowners to rally behind this cause – all 55 of them – at this time of the year is not practical. I live on a road with seven households. Only four agreed to help fix the common road. When the kayakers come on Memorial Day, it will be the true test.
A lesser safety problem brought before the town’s selectmen’s board was the crosswalk to Somesville Landing eliminated after Rt. 102 was paved last year.
Problem: There is no crosswalk to enable pedestrians to walk from Bob and Pat Foster’s agency in Somesville across Rt. 102 to the entrance to Somesville Landing. This was a concern raised by select member Geoff Wood, who lives in the area.
Response: Patrick Adams, regional transportation planner at the Maine DOT, said he conducted a site audit of the road and it was simply not safe to erect a crosswalk suggesting it was safe. He said it “was less less than five seconds” from the crest of the hill” and less than three seconds after that before a driver would confront someone on a crosswalk.
The Somesville Landing Association is a private organization providing access to Somes Sound for Mount Desert residents on the western side of the town. Members may launch boats and store dinghies. The town manages permits for the mooring field.
Adams said he couldn’t recall any serious pedestrian accidents at the site but said, “There have been many, many close calls.”
The following are excerpts of the minutes of the selectmen’s discussion:
“Mr. Wood inquired about the sidewalks in Somesville. In his earlier inquiry about the sidewalks in Somesville, it was explained that the DOT had determined there was not enough visibility to ensure safe crossing at some of the crosswalks in the Somesville area and they were removed. This resulted in no crosswalks between the lights and the library, making it difficult to get to the landing in Somesville. While the landing is not public, it is a place visitors and locals use.
“Mr. Wood understood the circumstance. He wondered how the elimination of the crosswalks has been mitigated. He inquired about whether sidewalks could be built on the other side of the road from the library crosswalk, or perhaps installing an additional crosswalk with warning lights. Otherwise, it seemed the ability to reach the landing was being abandoned.
Director Smith did not feel the ability to reach the landing was being abandoned. The other side ofthe street is too narrow in some places for sidewalk.
Director Smith noted the flashing lights and speed detectors at either end of the stretch of Route 102 running through Somesville has been an attempt at slowing drivers down. Additionally, the Town has looked at possibilities such as seasonal speed bumps and islands as well to control vehicle speed. None have been shown to be practicable.
Mr. Wood hoped the issue would not be forgotten. Part of the marketing of the area is access to the Somesville Landing. The landing property has within its deed that Somesville residents have access to the landing. Currently it cannot be accessed safely.
The inside story of Long Pond’s Jewish history
SOMESVILLE, Feb. 5, 2021 – Long Pond was sometimes referred to as “Great” Long Pond to distinguish it from the much smaller Long Pond in Seal Harbor. Its finger-like shape is symmetrical to Echo Lake, Somes Sound and Eagle Lake as if all were carved out by a giant hand.
It is the summer retreat for the famous, Susan Sarandon; the wealthy, former Fidelity CEO Ned Johnson; and oodles of lawyers and doctors from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Of the locals, Ken Paigen, the late director of Jackson Labs, would vanquish the field in the annual Long Pond regatta on the first Sunday of August in his 26-foot sloop Soleil. He always waved when he passed me as he steered Soleil on its ruthless, cold, calculating tack.
There is an inside story about Long Pond which I stumbled upon in 1985 when driving down Northern Neck. “Hey, there are a lot of Jewish sounding names,” I said to my wife as we passed several wooden name plates hammered into trees and posts which were unmistakably Eastern European of the Ashkenazi persuasion. They were out of context from my own expectation for what a small Maine community should look like on Britannica.com. “Jews in Maine?” I said to myself.
First, it gave me a level of comfort as an immigrant with a Jewish name who seeks peace with the diaspora which is code for “why we are still hiding.” I didn’t give it much thought until I discovered Judith S. Goldstein’s “Crossing Lines,” her masterpiece on the history of Jews in Maine and in three communities – Bangor, Mount Desert and Calais. Used copies are available on Amazon, which is where I purchased my copy.
Here is an excerpt:
“While Bar Harbor sought the tourists, and Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor ignored them, hardly anyone noticed a small group of European Jewish immigrants who slipped into the western part of the island especially around Long Pond. These people have fled Hitler in the 1930s in the Nazi conquests in the 1940s. They came from the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie from cities throughout Europe such as Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest.”
Much of Great Long Pond’s shores are on Acadia National Park land and the diversity of mountains, lakes and streams reminded them of their homeland.
“As European Jews they shared common interests and tastes, as well as a history of displacement and regeneration in America. They were not observant. None sought to develop any religious institutions on the island. Several in fact were married to non-Jews. The European Jewish immigrants who gathered around the untouched beauty of Long Pond did not look to the island’s clubs for social affirmation. They simply enjoyed the freedom of Acadia National Park with its magnificent coast, ponds, trails and carriage roads. In Somesville and other communities on the western part of the island as well as on Cranberry Isle, they found the simplicity of New England country life.”
Some of the Jewish families are still extant on Northern Neck.
The conductor Max Rudolf was one of the first to come to the island. “Fearful of the outbreak of anti-Semitic hostilities in his native Germany Rudolf had taken his family to Prague in 1929 then to Sweden and finally to the United States in 1940. A casual question from a friend led Rudolf, the charming and highly intellectual artistic administrator of the Metropolitan Opera and his family to the island in 1950.” (Rudolf’s grandson is still a summer resident of Northern Neck)
Mary Peltz, editor of the Opera News and longtime summer resident of Bar Harbor, was the one who recommended Rudolf consider the Arthur Prey cottages on Long Pond.
According to “Crossing Lines”: “For generations , Prey’s family had owned property on Northern Neck on Long Pond and unbeknownst to Mary Peltz, Prey just sold his large holdings to Tom Flynn, speculator from Ohio. Rudolf followed her advice and spent a month on Mount Desert. By that time Flynn was desperate to sell lots in his newly formed subdivision. He was not alone. Mike Garber, a Jew from Connecticut who came to know and love the island when he was stationed at the Trenton airbase during the war. Within a few years Garber acquired a great deal of land in Bar Harbor and around Long Pond. It did not matter to him or Flynn who bought the land of where the buyers came from and it was from Flynn that Rudolf bought three parcels.”
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, email@example.com. 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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 Teton, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Shenandoah, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
Several days later, Wulsin sent out this statement:
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.
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.)