Letters, Feb. 7
Don't drink the Kool-Aid
You may remember that years ago the entire world was shocked and horrified by the the deaths of an entire community of people who chose to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. We asked, “Why ever would a community choose to poison itself? How did one man convince them that this was a good idea?”
The answer to that seems to be that they were promised a greater reward. For the promise of the greater reward, the people followed the call and killed themselves.
What does this have to do with our current situation? It is simply this. We have the choice in our lives, in our communities and in our environment, to choose or not choose life. We have a similar choice being offered us, here in mid-coast Maine. Certainly this Kool-Aid is not the immediate killer that the Jonestown Kool-Aid was. But it is a killer nonetheless. It will kill the economic viability, it will kill the environment with pollution and it will kill the chances for a good, sustainable future for Searsport and surrounding areas. It will just do it a little more slowly. Why, then, would any community chose to “kill” the viability, the livelihood, and the environment on which it depends? Apparently for the same reason as the Jonestown people chose to drink the Kool-Aid. They believe the promise of something better.
This community has also been given promises — but not in writing. The tax base will skyrocket. There will be jobs for everyone at high salaries. The bay won’t be negatively affected. Fishing and boating will go on as usual. There is no air pollution. There is no light pollution. There is no sound pollution. There is no danger.
In other words, even though there is plenty of information right before your eyes which might lead you to make a different decision, there is too much Kool-Aid, too many mind games, and too much desire to believe false promises, to see it. As in Obi Wan Kenobi’s memorable quote from Star Wars, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
I won’t enumerate all the very real, very proven possible scenarios involving this situation, that put Searsport and the surrounding towns in danger, both in the long and short term. I believe we all know exactly what they are. I am glad we have the Good Harbor study, but frankly, I don’t think we need it to tell us what is in front of our faces. We just need willingness to open our eyes and then use some common sense to know that this is a death knell to our beautiful bay and its current ecosystem on which we all, in one way or another, depend.
It is time to realize that we are all part of a larger human “ecosystem,” and it is through the understanding and cooperation with this ecosystem that we can find the solutions we need.
There is not one town here that is a single unit, sitting alone in the middle of thousands of acres of wasteland, dependent on no one and answerable to no one. Like it or not, we are an interdependent community. Are there not mutual emergency response contracts with our neighbors? Yes, there are. Do we not all use the hospital, the doctors, lumber yards, supermarkets and shops that reside across town borders? Yes, we do. And do not these same facilities employ Searsport residents alongside residents of the other neighboring towns? Yes, they do. Will one town be able to cordon off just one section of the bay, or contain the air so it doesn’t impact its neighbors, or will they make sure that water and air and environment cannot impact or be impacted by others? Could any of us promise to insulate our neighbors from the risks we might incur?
Obviously the answer is no. Not even the Great Wall of China would offer protection from the dangers that this giant oil conglomerate suggests we blithely embrace.
Of course there are tensions and territorial struggles in these situations between towns that share the same resources. That’s life. Work through them. Find better solutions. Partner better ideas. But do not take lightly the sacred trust that has been passed to you from generation to generation, to protect our beautiful bay and the livelihoods of the people who live and work here.
I implore you to put an end to this project and instead, put all the possible resources you can muster, in conjunction with your neighbors, to bring in viable, sustainable livelihood and economic growth for our Midcoast. It has happened. It continues to happen. And if there is something positive that has come from this whole tank exercise, I would point to the coalition of people who have come together from the sheer love of this beautiful place. Put these people to work! Give them the mandate of finding sustainable businesses that can support the desire of local people to have good jobs while at the same time supporting the health and beauty of the community. You now have a passionate task force. Set them to it.
Turn Searsport into the poster child of economic recovery and viability and get listed on the top best places to live in the country. Look back on this grueling period of your lives as having been the sacrifice that led to a miracle taking place in bringing this town together, neighbor pulling for neighbor, retired people and working families all, sharing in a successful, vital community. Holding the lives of your people and environment sacred, you could reject the Kool-Aid being offered you by those who, believe it or not, have absolutely no goal other than to increase their wealth and control of our resources.
You do have a choice. A wiser person than I gave this advice, “Choose life.”
Good Harbor study 'flawed'
The Good Harbor Report on the proposed LPG installation at Mack Point in Searsport has been issued at the request of the town of Islesboro, and it has concluded that the project should not be approved.
Surprisingly, what is certainly the most important part of the report — the safety analysis — was relegated to an appendix and farmed out to an independent firm, Baker Engineering, which concluded that any blast effects from the variety of causes they investigated would essentially be limited to Mack Point and a short, adjacent section of Route 1.
I have not made a careful study of Baker's methodology, or of the simplifying assumptions that were built into their models, but I really don't think that such a study would be useful or necessary. It is clear that Baker's methodology is based on LPG installations that are of a far smaller scale than the one proposed for Mack Point, and that it is therefore seriously flawed and wholly inadequate.
I base that contention on a real-life incident that took place on Nov. 19, 1984, at the LPG tank farm in San Juanico near Mexico City. In that well-documented event, the sudden failure and leakage of the main LPG supply pipeline to the facility released an expanding vapor cloud that mixed with air and drifted silently to the facility's fire pit, whereupon it ignited, exploded and melted all the facility's steel tanks, thereby releasing its entire complement of LPG in a series of catastrophic blasts that sent jagged projectiles flying over a half-mile, flattened the local town of 40,000 residents, killed over 500 of them, and severely injured over 5,000. It was Mexico's worst industrial disaster ever, and it involved less than 13 percent of the volume of LPG that is planned for storage at Searsport. If a similar event should occur at Searsport, the resulting vapor cloud explosion would burn hot enough (3,600 F) not only to melt the LPG tank, but also to melt all, or most of, the other steel fuel tanks by which it would pass, thereby releasing not just the 23 million gallons in the LPG tank, but also the 77 million gallons of fuel in the other tanks as well. This would result in a “pool fire” of over 100 million gallons of fuel, at least 20 times the quantity of fuel involved in the conflagration at San Juanico. The energy release involved would be equivalent to over 3 million tons of TNT, or a moderate-sized hydrogen bomb. To assume that such a blast/blaze would only affect a small area around Mack Point stretches credulity and violates common sense.
Looking at it another way, just the LPG contained in the tank would, on evaporation, expand to cover an area 8.37 miles in radius, enough to engulf all or most of Searsport, Belfast, Stockton Springs, Prospect, Waldo, Swanville, and Islesboro.
Don’t pull the rug out from under Maine’s working poor
In the current vitriolic atmosphere instilled by the current state administration, its effort to further demoralize, scapegoat and further marginalize Maine’s most vulnerable populations, single mothers, the elderly and those caring for a disabled family member, by balancing the state’s budget on the backs of these individuals, a bill sponsored by Rep. Beaudoin, (D) of Biddeford, seeks to reverse the targeting of those receiving state aid by proposing an extension of transitional benefits that enable these individuals and families to successfully return to Maine’s workforce by providing extensions of much-needed support services, childcare, reduced Maine Care premiums (affordable health insurance), transportation in order to work, and extended supplemental nutritional assistance.
The proposed legislative Bill LD78, the extension of transitional benefits for families no longer eligible for assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Maine Care program because of increased income and a return to the workforce contains vital support services necessary in order for these families to successfully transition out of poverty and assume productivity. These extended benefits come in the wake of the current administration’s desire to eliminate individuals from public assistance, citing Maine’s’ current budget deficit as a direct result of Maine as a welfare state.
Without these extensions of support services, most of these families will fall back into poverty, as such services as childcare, transportation, food stamps, and affordable Maine Care premiums are essential in bridging these families as they re-enter the workforce. These families, mostly single mothers, the elderly and families caring for a disabled family member, have proven they can succeed with these support services. An extension of these support services is based in reality, necessity and logic, as an extension of these transitional benefits allows these families to once again move through a transitional period originating out of dependency and now fulfill a sustainable and productive contribution to their respective communities.
Further reductions to the state’s DHHS budget, its weeding out of Maine Care recipients, as well as TANF recipients, will only shift the costs of supporting these families to the already overburdened local communities. Restrictions and tightened eligibility requirements to local General Assistance offices have already impacted families, as well as town budgets. Local communities are not equipped to handle the financial burden for these support services, thus allowing vulnerable families to either fall through the cracks due to ineligibility for General Assistance, their only resource, and cycle again into dependency, homelessness, and a financial burden to communities that can least afford the added expense.
The extension of transitional benefits necessary for this successful transition, affordable health care premiums, transportation, child care, and food stamps are all vital components of a support system that allows for success. I urge the current legislature to pass LD 78 in an effort to move forward, not backward, in welfare dependency.
Pastor's message inspired
It was my pleasure to host the Rev. Andrew Stinson from the Second Congregational Church in Warren on Jan. 29 to deliver the invocation to the Maine House of Representatives in Augusta. Rev. Stinson gave an inspirational message to the Maine House, speaking of sacrifice and the hope that people will come together to solve Maine's problems. I am proud of Andrew and hope the powers that be in Augusta heard his message.
Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos
Elwells say thank you
We would like to thank all our family and friends for their help in organizing the benefit dinne that was held for us Feb. 2 at the Jackson Community Center. Thanks also to all the volunteers and to the people who came to the dinner and auction and provided help — food — and auction items. It was all greatly appreciated.
All the proceeds will be used to pay part of our medical bills at Eastern Maine Medical Center and at Waldo County General Hospital. It takes a lot of time and effort to put on a supper and we do truly appreciate that we have so many family and friends who are and have been ready, willing and able to help in times like these.
Again, our sincere thanks to all who donated time, labor, items and money.
Jay and Ellie Elwell
Belmont needs a veterans' memorial
As a taxpayer and citizen of Belmont, there are several things that I have on my mind, which i would like to see responded to.
I would like to see a memorial park at the Town Office grounds for the veterans of all wars, a rock or stone, with a bronze plaque. I have contacted State Sand and Gravel of Belfast. They will donate a suitable rock or large stone, free of charge, int he spring for a memorial park at the town Community Building at Greer's Corner, near the existing flagpole. Steve Lucas has told me that he would deliver the rock or stone to the town Community Building grounds free of charge.
I have talked with the Smith brothers at Smith Memorials on Route 1 in Searsport. They have told me t hat they can make a bronze plaque, similar to what is in other owns, honoring the town's veterans. They will get back to me with the cost. By spreading the word, perhaps we can get people to help with the cost of the bronze plaque. The money can be sent to the Town Office for the memorial park and plaque. Once the park is established, the Boy Scouts could be responsible for keeping it mowed and trimmed and putting up a wreath and flag for Memorial Day.
I would like to see if the town would put a plaque or something similar to honor Wilbur buck, a veteran of World War II, who gave the land to the town of Belmont about 1954 to build an elementary school to replace the aging one-room Greer's Corner Schoolhouse. The Belmont Elementary Schoolhouse became what is now the Belmont Town Office and Community Building.
I would also like to see if the town will pay the liability insurance on he one-room Greer's Corner Schoolhouse, presently occupied by the Greene Plantation Historical Society, and to aid in the upkeep of the one-room schoolhouse. it is perhaps the only building in Belmont that is on the national Register of Historic Places. Presently there are only one or two people trying to pay the liability insurance from their own pockets. The schoolhouse was built in 1907, and closed in early winter of 1955. Many of Belmont's students attended the one-room schoolhouse. There are not many such buildings left. This schoolhouse sits on ledge, and is in remarkably good condition.
Finally, I would like these items to come up at this year's annual town meeting.