Former Ground Zero emergency director raises safety concernsSpecial town meeting set for Aug. 23
Searsport — According to his July 12 letter to selectmen and the planning board, Dr. David Goldschmitt has been a practicing emergency physician for 25 years and served as the director of the emergency department at Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He also stated he is unconvinced that a proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream will benefit the town and instead may increase the potential for disaster by way of tank failure or natural disasters such as earthquakes or terrorism. Goldschmitt further addressed concerns about traffic, environmental and aesthetic impacts.
At the regular selectmen's meeting Tuesday, Aug. 7, resident Anne Crimaudo called attention to Goldschmitt's letter, which outlined his concerns over the proposal from DCP Midstream to construct a 22.7 million gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point.
Goldschmitt, Crimaudo said, has property in Searsport and like some others in the region, is worried that allowing the fuel storage facility to come to town will bring more negative than positive consequences.
"I have several serious concerns for the safety and efficacy of this proposed project, and do not see the promised benefits, other than the tax incentive to the town. I feel that other avenues for additional revenue could be investigated rather than subjecting the region to potentially dangerous situations, simply to stabilize the budget," stated Goldschmitt in his letter. "In addition, the money gained form this project will most surely be eaten up by the potential need for reparations to the infrastructure of the town, and the potential loss of tourism from the increased noxious traffic situation."
In her own letter, dated Aug. 7, Crimaudo said she addressed both selectmen and the planning board because she was "somewhat confused as to which body has jurisdiction over issues of the safety and security of the town."
Crimaudo, reading her letter during the public comment portion of the meeting, said members of the planning board, told her they must consider the project only as it relates to the 18 performance standards an applicant must met before gaining approval for a given project.
"I am concerned that the planning board has stated that they are constrained by the 18 performance standards, none of which address safety," stated Crimaudo.
Given Goldschmitt's background, Crimaudo encouraged the board to pass his letter on to local emergency management personnel.
"DCP's application contains letters from our emergency management departments stating that they, with the assistance of mutual aid, will be able to handle any situation that arises," stated Crimaudo. "However, that is contrary to statements from the U.S. Coast Guard's letter to the Army Corps of Engineers."
Crimaudo said in that letter, USCG informed the Corps that "the potential for severe consequences as a result of a release of LPG does exist" and that "unfortunately, in keeping with the rural nature of the area, that capability... does not currently exist in the Penobscot Bay Region."
"I'm simply asking that we thoroughly evaluate Dr. Goldschmitt's letter," concluded Crimaudo.
In additional news relating to the DCP proposal, resident Tom Gocze addressed selectmen and the planning board about the ongoing "gag order" that bars the public from speaking in specific terms to an active application during recent planning board meetings.
"Our attorneys have shown that the case law DCP has cited as a reason to disallow public comment is not relevant," stated Gocze.
Gocze also said the situation is "creating an air of distrust in the process that is very unfortunate" and suggested the planning board allow one or two designated spokespeople to address issues of public concern at future meetings.
"We, the taxpaying residents of Searsport, should not have to beg to introduce relevant comments," stated Gocze.
Special town meeting
In other news, selectmen scheduled a special town meeting for Thursday night, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting, said Town Manager James Gillway, is to see if residents will consider applying $149,347 from surplus toward a 30-percent match to secure a $600,000 Small Harbors Improvement Program grant.
"Hamilton Wharf is in really bad shape," said Gillway. "...We're in the worst condition I've ever seen it down there."
Gillway said Harbormaster Wayne Hamilton believes the wharf is in such rough shape it may not survive the next winter. A couple of years ago, the wharf underwent some minor repairs to improve the strength of the structure, and had that work not been completed when it was, Gillway said the wharf "wouldn't be here."
"What if we don't get the grant?" asked Selectman Roland LaReau.
"Well, we're on the hook for it, we have to fix it," said Gillway.
Gillway said if the town can't obtain the grant funding, there would then be a need to call another special town meeting to see if residents would pay for the repairs.
Selectman Dick Desmarais said providing a 30 percent match would give the town a better chance of securing the grant.
"And 30 percent sounds a lot better than 100 percent," Desmarais said.