Tank issue prompts call for town officials to assert authorityProject opponents seek cooperation for Good Harbor study
Searsport — The regular session of the selectmen's meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 21, lasted less than 20 minutes, but that was long enough for residents on both sides of the ongoing tank debate to offer two very different sets of comments on the issue.
Searsport resident Don Garrold urged selectmen, members of the Planning Board and Town Manager James Gillway to recognize what he described as the abuse of public comment sessions at municipal meetings by "special interest groups" and their "hired professionals." Garrold delivered his comments in the form of a letter he read to the board during the public comment portion of Tuesday night's meeting.
"I believe your authority is being overwhelmed," said Garrold, who was visibly displeased with other residents in attendance who have publicly stated their opposition to a proposed 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank at Mack Point.
The project proposal has been a point of contention around the region since the would-be developer, DCP Midstream of Denver, Colo., announced its intentions to construct such a facility in late 2010. The project is now working its way through the review process with the town Planning Board.
Garrold stated that while he understands the importance of giving the public a say in matters relating to the town, that openness has given those opposed to the project an additional avenue to "push out industrial development in our area."
Proposals or issues that come before town boards, said Garrold, are meant to be judged through the framework of municipal ordinances, all of which have been enacted via voter approval.
Garrold said there's plenty of room in town for additional industrial developments, as well as those who wish to operate tourism or recreation-based businesses, but he cautioned that relying on recreation alone to support the local economy is "a fantasy that is dreamed of by only a few."
Garrold's comments were prefaced by an audible sigh and what appeared to be a shake of his head in disagreement with comments that came from another Searsport resident, Peter Taber.
Taber, who addressed selectmen prior to Garrold, asked the board to seek the cooperation of town employees for an independent all hazards risk assessment that Good Harbor Techmark is expected to perform in the coming months. As part of the study, which was commissioned through Islesboro Island Trust, Good Harbor would identify potential intentional, natural and accidental threats to a fuel storage facility of the proposed scale and vulnerabilities associated with the project site.
The Good Harbor study was initially announced at the Monday, Aug. 13, Planning Board meeting. At that time IIT and TBNT attorney Steve Hinchman asked Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert if he would help facilitate the cooperation of town employees during the data-gathering process of the study.
"[Probert] essentially threw it back upon you gentlemen," said Taber to selectmen. Taber recalled that Probert and other Planning Board members expressed doubt that they had the authority to make that request of town employees, and suggested selectmen might be the appropriate body to do so.
And, Taber said, because of the "hostile behavior" on the parts of some in the emergency management and fire departments, he felt that making that formal request was warranted.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Aaron Fethke said he thought town employees would be cooperative, and Gillway agreed, though he did ask Taber if Hinchman would put that request in writing.
Taber agreed to deliver that message to Hinchman, and Gillway said the town would issue a response so that all of the written correspondence on the matter would be included in the formal record.