Letters, Sept. 22
Best decision ever
I recently filled out a form survey from Waldo county Hospital about my stay. This is an overdue thank you.
My stay in late April into May was 10 days and nights, then finally my gall bladder was removed. Everyone I encountered, beginning with the Emergency Room, all doctors, nurses, CNAs, technicians, therapists, dietitians, administrators and housekeepers, everyone was just so kind. I have only spent that length of time once in a military hospital when I was a young man.
I have had a 42-year career in the airline business plus four years on active military duty and have lived in Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Atlanta. I chose to retire in Belfast, Maine, and have lived here for 15 years. It was the best decision I ever made.
Again, thank you, Waldo County Hospital and all staff.
Friends of Sears Island would like to thank all who attended our recent anniversary celebration and art auction, as well as everyone who made it possible by donating their time, artwork, or other talents.
The auction was a successful fundraiser for Friends of Sears Island, which will do a great deal to support our conservation and education programs. The A.V. Nickels Inn provided a lovely atmosphere for the celebration, and a good time was had by all.
Henrietta the felted chicken caused a particular ruckus among bidders, commanding a very respectable price!
Friends of Sears Island
While the tidy little neighborhoods surrounding Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast sleep peacefully, that same hospital is working diligently, and for the most part, quietly, to bring a 30,000-gallon propane storage tank onto its campus. The hospital, which boasts of “115 years of our serving our neighbors,” is serving up this above-ground monster to replace an existing 5,000-gallon tank “farm” — five 1,000-gallon tanks.
The new tank’s dimensions would be about 10 feet in diameter and up to 70 feet in length — the size of a railroad car. The new home for this behemoth will be within 150 feet of a helipad, and immediately adjacent to a busy parking lot thruway that sees hundreds of cars a day, along with trash removal vehicles and tractor-trailers.
What makes this a potential problem? Well, for starters, the Department of Homeland Security lists tanks of 15,000 gallons and up in their “Chemicals of Interest” appendix. That is, such tanks can be terrorism targets.
But even if terrorists don’t find this particular tank an appealing project, any failure in the tank itself could have a devastating effect on this densely populated part of Belfast. It is that population density that is really at the heart of the problem. The impact radius of a tank this size, should there be a failure, is up to a half-mile. That covers Belfast City Park and a lot of homes and businesses in this tightly packed part of the community. And in them, a lot of people.
But even when such tanks are compromised and don’t explode, large-scale evacuations of up to a mile have been necessary during tank leaks in places across the nation. Getting all the residents, hospital staff, patients, and local business people out to safety on the same road that the emergency vehicles are trying get in on would be no small task in these neighborhoods of dead-end streets. It would be a nightmare.
The hospital and the prospective propane tank installer and propane provider claim that one tank is safer than the several tanks making up the “farm” that had been in use. But the older, more problematic tank farm hasn’t disappeared; it has just been moved across the street. And now, instead of replacing these five 1,000-gallon tanks on the hospital side of the street with a single 5,000-gallon tank, they want to bring in this 30,000-gallon monstrosity.
It’s a money-saving effort. Who can blame them for that? Except for the hundreds of residents in this area, I can’t think of a soul. We all have to do our best to be fiscally responsible, but in this instance, the choice is between saving dollars and potentially saving lives.
It is the hope of this “neighbor” that the decision favors, as should be the focus of such an institution, our lives. The Sept. 14 Planning Board Committee meeting turned in a 3 to 2 vote against the proposal, but the decision was made to table it pending further research.
The next Planning Board Committee meeting is Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, although it has not been established whether this issue will be addressed at that time. That information will be made available on the website at cityofbelfast.org/index.aspx?NID=106. The city planner’s office can also be reached at 338-1417, ext. 25.
Belfast’s Planning Board Committee is considering a proposal from Waldo County General Hospital to replace its array of five 1,000-gallon propane tanks with one 30,000-gallon tank as a cost-saving measure. It would be approximately the size of a railroad car and situated behind the hospital’s maintenance building on its main grounds.
The deciding factor for the Planning Board is whether or not “the proposed development shall provide for safe and healthful conditions. No proposed use may be approved which creates a substantial risk of causing damage to the public health or welfare.”
I would argue that a tank of this size, on the hospital’s grounds, within one of Belfast’s most densely populated areas and adjacent to Belfast City Park, certainly does pose a substantial risk to public health and welfare for the following reasons:
- The site for the tank is within 150 feet of the hospital’s helicopter pad and adjacent to a congested parking lot that sees daily automobile, tractor-trailer and trash truck traffic.
- The blast radius from a catastrophic failure of such a tank would be one-half mile in all directions. Within that radius are several dead-end streets where residents would be forced to flee toward the accident site in some cases.
- According to NOAA’s ALOHA software, should a 30,000-gallon propane tank explode, the thermal radiation from the blast could be lethal for those within 522 yards, could cause second-degree burns for those within 737 yards and could inflict pain on those within 1,148 yards within 60 seconds.
- The Department of Homeland Security has listed quantities of 15,000 gallons or more of propane as “chemicals of interest” for potential terrorist threat “based on the belief that these chemicals, if released, stolen or diverted, have the potential to create significant human life and/or health consequences.”
- Representatives from Dead River, the potential installer and supplier for this tank, have estimated that should a fire involving a 30,000-gallon tank occur, and it could be brought under control, it could take two to three hours. This should offer some comfort, since that might provide adequate time to evacuate ambulatory and non-ambulatory patients, hospital staff and area residents. Yet, since no evacuation plans or warning sirens have been deemed necessary, it is unlikely that a successful evacuation could happen.
In the end, no one can guarantee the safety of this installation. To say that because a 30,000-gallon tank has not exploded it could never explode is not defensible. Propane leaks of 30,000-gallon tanks have occurred around the country. An explosion is just an ignition source away.
I urge all concerned citizens to attend what most likely will be the final Planning Board committee meeting on this issue (date to be determined — check website: cityofbelfast.org) or email Sadie Lloyd, assistant city planner (firstname.lastname@example.org) to voice your concerns. The safety of thousands rest on this one vote.
Qualities I'm looking for
I’m voting for Jonathan Fulford for Maine Senate District 11. As a small business owner and a Waldo County resident involved in local town government, I follow a number of issues that affect our daily lives here in rural Maine.
Energy policy, school and local government funding, support for youth, health and emergency services. No matter where I go in support of these issues — whether it’s a legislative hearing at the Statehouse or a community forum in Belfast — Jonathan Fulford, from Monroe, is there.
Never have I seen a candidate work so hard for true understanding of the issues, the different perspectives, and the best way to forge a path to improve the situation. He researches and reads up on the issues, studies innovative solutions pioneered in other states, and talks with all the players involved.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired and dismayed by the decline in civility in our state politics. Name-calling, provocation, threats are just some examples of late. We have to move beyond the polarization and get back to reasonable discourse and problem-solving.
From what I have observed, Fulford possesses the qualities I am looking for to be my voice in Augusta: respect for the values of Maine people combined with an eye to the future and how to make Maine a safe and kind place to live, with quality jobs, quality pay, and a secure environment. Please join me in voting for Jonathan Fulford this November!
Fulford for fair government
Jonathan Fulford understands that state government cannot and should not try to do everything. He also understands that when the state government does act, it must be fair and accountable to Maine residents. Sadly, the current administration and Republican leadership fails this basic standard.
The most recent series of actions at Maine Department of Health and Human Services underscores the problem:
A sole source contract for $23 million is issued to operate a department program (imagine the outrage if this were a road construction contract).
The agency chooses not to continue to accept federal funds to provide mental health services to young Mainers who need help.
And, most recently, the agency is prepared to award a contract in excess of $60 million for the ASPIRE program to a New York-based firm. Good luck to any Mainer who tries to directly contact the firm in New York.
Folks, the avoid actions make so sense. When Jonathan Fulford is elected to the state Senate, he will work hard to ensure that Maine citizens can count on their state government to be fair and accountable to them.
Dark money in Maine politics
Jane Mayer’s recent book "Dark Money" chronicles the deliberate takeover of our country’s political power and discourse by the extreme conservative corporate ideology of the Koch brothers and other very wealthy interests. Her disturbing conclusion is that big corporate money — most from secret untraceable sources (“dark money”) — has drastically shifted the political landscape away from the voting preferences of most ordinary people.
Up here in Maine, we may think we are insulated from dark money. Sadly, this is not the case. Big corporate donors are flooding our elections with cash, including dark money funneled through lobbyists and lawyers.
Those of us who live in Waldo County are fortunate to have a clear choice between our state Senate candidates. We have Mike Thibodeau, whose contributors include the biggest law and lobbyist firms in the state. These lawyers and lobbyists have given more than $25,000 so far to Thibodeau’s campaign and leadership PACs. We don’t know, and have no way of knowing, who is paying them to fill Thibodeau’s political coffers.
Our other choice is Jonathan Fulford, a Clean Elections candidate funded only by $5 contributions from publicly identified Waldo County residents and public monies supported by taxpayers.
I know who I trust to serve Waldo County interests. And it’s not the guy with the dark money checkbook in his back pocket.