Letters, July 5
Searsport Tank commentary
“Inappropriate” and “impermissible.” That's how Kelly Boden, a lawyer for Denver-based Duke Conoco Phillips, LLC (DCP), describes the public comment period during the Searsport Planning Board's June 4th meeting to consider DCP's application to the town to construct a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied propane storage tank in the town.
In a strongly-worded letter to Board Chairman J. Bruce Probert, Boden cautions that comments made by non-Searsport residents during the public comment portion of the meeting “risk the Board reaching conclusions based on information outside the hearing record.” She complains that she is “concerned . . . that opponents of the project are taking advantage of the "open to the public" portion of the Board's meeting agenda in a manner that is prejudicial and disruptive.”
Boden, in fact, had attempted to halt the public commentary when it was in progress, but was peremptorily told by the commentators to sit down while they had their say.
Of particular concern to Boden was what she felt was the “inaccurate and grossly exaggerated nature of the comments with respect to safety.” In the letter, Boden states that “The comments made . . . cast a shadow on the process which we hope can be eliminated, but at a minimum, we ask that the Board make clear, that in order to prevent any continued due process problems, further substantive public comment will be taken only during the public hearing.”
Boden alleged, in her letter, that “Monday's public comment . . . was characterized by yelling, insults and outbursts, frequently by individuals who do not live in Searsport.” As the vimeo tape of the meeting clearly shows, however, such behavior only occurred when Boden herself attempted to break into the public comment session (http://vimeo.com/43989745). Petulantly, she complains that “It was especially distressing to have been prevented by the crowd's outbursts from raising our objections to the problem posed by what was being said in the public comment period, a concern we raised with counsel for the Board both before and during the meeting Monday night.”
By the “reasonable man standard,” such a letter suggests a high degree of anxiety on the part of the writer. What are these people so afraid of that they would take the draconian step of trying to suppress public scrutiny of, and public commentary on, their negotiations with the town of Searsport over the proposed construction of a liquefied propane storage and distribution facility? Taken together with the remarkable speed with which the project has been rushed through the permitting process and an equally remarkable lack of transparency, it seems that DCP realizes full well that placing a tank with the explosive power of a half-megaton hydrogen bomb right next to a fuel storage facility with an additional megaton or so of combustible fuels in the middle of a residential area of Midcoast Maine might raise some legitimate regional safety concerns.
The additional fact that five neighboring towns have written to Searsport expressing reservations about how the project might affect them lends force to the thesis that DCP is trying to foist an issue-laden project on the Midcoast. Chief among the towns' concerns is that permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection were predicated on Searsport having sufficient resources to mitigate any emergency that might arise from a facility-related fire or explosion. As it turns out, those resources actually consist of the combined emergency response facilities of all Waldo County towns, committed under a pre-existing shared responsibility agreement. Despite this, Searsport has chosen not to include its neighboring towns in discussions and decision-making regarding the tank project, while at the same time assuming that it may rely on the support of those towns in the event of an emergency.
It goes without saying that DCP LLC is well aware of all this, and of the negative consequences of having it generally known that these neighboring towns are expected to commit their physical and financial emergency response resources in support of a project that will only benefit Searsport. The fact is that the public comments regarding safety that were made at the June 4th meeting were anything but “inaccurate and grossly exaggerated.” As the vimeo tape reveals, all the commentators were both civil and well-informed. DCP's panicky reaction to their expressed concerns only serves to confirm that fact.
When big corporations resort to the blatant suppression of truth in order to further lucrative ambitions that pose serious issues for the communities in which those ambitions are intended to play out, it behooves the “reasonable man” (and woman) to call those ambitions into question. It appears to this writer that we have reached that stage in the game.
Following a 4-0 decision by selectmen June 5 accepting his resignation with the understanding "effective immediately," Searsport’s ex-Fire Chief James Dittmeier has embarked on making himself out as the legitimately aggrieved party. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the absence of Joe Perry, "the only" selectman, he said, who stood up publicly for him, Mr. Dittmeier ducked the opportunity at a board meeting two weeks later, as reported in last week's Republican Journal, to stand up for himself on his own two feet in public and confront his alleged oppressors, his explanation being that this was "an emotional subject for me." Instead, he wrote a letter to the board for another, Don Garrold, to stand up and read.
After a lavish tribute to his own stellar performance as fire chief, Mr. Dittmeier's letter referred darkly to various conspiracies directed against him. He attributed his victimization to the selectmen other than Perry, presumably because those four would not tolerate his campaign while a town official of publicly belittling and attacking townspeople who expressed concerns about DCP Midstream's proposed propane megatank terminal. The Town Office staff also was involved, he said, because they failed to support him in calling down repeated and unwarranted state inspections upon the owners of a local campground, people who happened to be strongly opposed to DCP’s plans.
Thanks But No Tank also earned Mr. Dittmeier's wrath channeled via the righteous-toned and ever loyal Mr. Garrold, who read out how his "dear friend" was the victim of "a planned attack" because three TBNT members wrote to the town complaining about the chief's comments on social media sites personally disparaging individuals who raised concerns about the proposed development. Some comments appeared on the fire department's Facebook page, normally used for training information and business announcements. Others were on DCP’s own "Propane for Maine." Finally, that always reliable whipping boy, the Press, came up short in Dittmeier's angry estimation because of a willingness, he claimed, to "print anything to sell papers."
If examples of public viciousness sell newspapers, then reporters missed a great opportunity in the following and heretofore unreported example of Mr. Dittmeier's malevolence found this past spring at the department's Facebook site but since removed: [Joining in an angry rant against tank opponents, Mr. Dittmeier suggests to his fellow firefighters how these people should be dealt with] "We need to hit them where it hurts -- in their pocketbook by not spending money in their establishments." This call to boycott is enough to inspire his subordinate at the fire department Gayle McKeige to write in the next entry: "Let's get a list of businesses and post it!!!"
In proposing an economic attack on very many of the same people who employed him, Mr. Dittmeier steps not only over the bounds of polite discourse and professionalism, but over those of common decency. It's hardly a surprise, then, that he lacked the decency to make his self-serving comments to the selectmen in person. Mr. Dittmeier is anything but a victim.
What should you look for in a candidate for the state legislature? I look for a range of experience and expertise. That is why I am supporting Brian Jones for District 45's representative to the Legislature. Take a look at his record. He has taught at both the high school and college levels, and has served as a school principal. But he has plenty of experience outside the classroom as well. He has served the community of Freedom as a selectman and a volunteer firefighter. Brian is not running for office for his own glory, but to continue to serve his community as he has done so ably. I'll be supporting him, and I hope that the voters of Palermo, Montville, Freedom, Knox, Thorndike, Unity, Troy and Burnham will as well.
Paul P. Foisy
My family would like to send a big thank-you to Fran Riley and Roland Littlefield! They own and operate United Realty. Over the past 11 months Fran and Roland have helped us buy and sell various properties. This was all happening at a time when we were grieving the loss of a family member. They took charge and handled everything, giving us the opportunity to do what we needed to do. They went above and beyond what you would expect from a realtor. They treated us like family! We couldn't have done this without them and their hard work. Again ... Thank You Fran and Roland!
The Cross and Greenlaw families