Decide in haste, repent at leisure

The taxpayers of Belfast may soon find themselves investors in a development scheme that would commit city funds in an as yet unspecified [amount]. Arguments for and against have already appeared in The Republican Journal.

What concerns me most of all is the process by which the Civic Center’s most enthusiastic promoters have presented their proposal, though I do indeed applaud and respect their hard work. In a time of great financial uncertainty and declining state revenues for schools, nothing less than a clear plan with concrete and specific costs [should be] expected from [the parties involved]. [To do otherwise] would be extremely imprudent. Before any commitment is made, these should be available for public scrutiny, for it is we, the taxpayers, who will be left with the responsibility.

More concerning to me is the repeated suggestion that the Civic Center is a kind of economic and cultural salvation for Belfast. This glowing image is based on a feasibility study, which may or may not fit the place or time. After all, such a study is a prediction, not a solid promise of success.

As to cultural salvation, that is also a matter of interpretation. The arts are always a wonderful addition to any community, and yet we, the taxpayers, must ask, is the Civic Center our most urgent priority, are there other less costly ways to provide a new home for the Maskers and other concerns that directly impact the majority of citizens?

Those firmly wedded to the development of the Mathews Brothers property seem to dismiss other options, such as the possibility of the Crosby School, as simply inadequate and unimaginative, or the stirrings of nostalgia.

I can say from experience that our city councilors are willing listeners and are generally open to voter concerns. I urge you to call and let your views be known. Otherwise you may wake up one day a reluctant investor in a project with an unspecified financial commitment and an unproven possibility of financial success.

Joanne Boynton

Belfast

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Let’s get moving

Several years ago, in an organized process labeled “The Vibrancy Project,” participating citizens ranked the creation of a performance/events/civic center as the highest-priority measure to improve the quality of life and commerce in Belfast.

This is a goal that has been discussed and “committeed” here for over 30 years. Facilities like it exist in cities throughout Maine, including the surrounding towns of Bucksport, Unity, Ellsworth, Rockport, Rockland and, of course, Camden.

Numerous studies have found that towns with ample facilities for conferences, special events and performances get a hefty economic boost. They can be a key element of economic development.

But is this recession year a good time to take on a costly project? The answer is yes, this is a good time. Our city now has a $3.7 million surplus — an amount far in excess of the $1 million set-aside that a prudent government should have (or even more than the $2 million that a paranoid government would prefer). Further, our city last year retired almost $1 million in bonds. The city has money to invest and a strong borrowing opportunity. Economists of every political stripe advise that a recession is precisely the time for the public (government) to spend, since private spending is down. And property values and construction costs are low now.

Our City Council has rightly placed economic development as a first priority. Shouldn’t the Council move now to make a significant investment in economic development with the resources in hand? Shouldn’t the excess surplus and “replacement” bonding opportunity be invested for this purpose?

Without the cty’s (the Council’s) leadership, we’ll miss this best-ever chance to have a Civic Center. Is our city government capable of leading in this direction? Note that this same question of capability is being asked about our federal government in Washington.

Our government setup in Belfast has one advantage over Washington’s when it comes to taking action. Here, there are no checks and balances that often stymie action in Washington. We have just one branch of government. Our Council is both a legislative and an executive body. We elect councilors not only to study issues more thoroughly than the rest of us can, but also to take action to make Belfast a better place. The Council is our city’s CEO.

Belfast citizens deserve a Council that can now pull together to seize the present opportunity. Failure to do so will leave us leaderless.

Jon Cheston

Belfast

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What does Belfast’s future hold?

Are you interested in the well-being of Belfast, now and in the future? If so, look with me into my crystal ball! Thanks to many citizens of Belfast both past and present, I can see a future Belfast of many differing jobs from existing and new business, a drawing card for fresh produce, live entertainment, large community activities and gatherings, new and differing venues, and a properous city with an outstanding educational system.

I believe, if the city of Belfast would purchase the Matthews Brothers building with the dedication of its citizens to bring to life this dream, it will happen. This is an opportunity we may never have again. I encourage each and every citizen to look at what this means to the future of Belfast. Let’s not wait for someone else to make a decision concerning economic development in Belfast! We need to push forward ourselves to make this happen!

Catherine A. Heberer

Belfast

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Feral cats on Islesboro

In the March 3 issue of the Republican Journal, there was an appeal for donations from the Islesboro Island Feral Cat Association [“Island Feral Cat Association to hold benefit raffle,” page A2]. Evidently a considerable effort has already been spent in maintaining a local population of between 200 and 300 feral cats.

Although I have no doubt these folks mean well, they have created an artificial population of an exotic and extremely efficient predator more than capable of making serious inroads into the island’s population of birds and small mammals. No matter how much supplemental food people make available, the genetic composition of these cats will impel them to hunt and kill.

Ground-nesters such as ovenbirds, woodcock and several other species will be particularly vulnerable, but as the cats are adept climbers, no tree nests will be safe either (think young squawking to be fed). Species active at night, such as flying squirrels and (again) woodcock also will be at risk as well as migrant birds passing through during annual flights. The small rodent population that hawks, owls and foxes depend on could be decimated. Bad news all around.

In a study in Britain published in 1989 in the Natural History Magazine, the authors estimated that at least 20 million birds were killed annually in that country by domestic felines — and on Islesboro we are talking about cats that have reverted to the wild state, making them all the more effective as full-time predators.

I’m sorry to say that the only realistic and lasting answer to this serious ecological problem is to eradicate all these cats, not to husband them, as difficult as this may be for the association members to hear.

Gerry Atwell

Wildlife biologist

Searsmont

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Woehr wants warden to know

[Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to VillageSoup columnist John Ford Sr. by Dick Woehr, who was recently the subject of one of Ford’s columns. Woehr asked VillageSoup to publish the letter as well.]

Dear John,

Warren Doersam just sent me a copy of the VillageSoup sports [section] regarding your article about me [“A water rescue and an attempt,” p. 14 in the March 3 sports section]. You did an excellent job at reporting the facts. Everything was as you said it was.

However, you did not report the one factor that made all the difference by my being alive. That is, if it had not been for you coming, there would not have been a rescue. You were the prime “mover and shaker” in that endeavor.

And I am indebted to you for saving my life. Whenever I have occasion to relate this story, I never fail to emphasize your active part in this venture. So, let’s give credit where credit is due.

Just thought you would like to know my feelings on this. I wish that would have taken more of the credit as you deserve. Perhaps if you have an editorial page you could print this (or an addendum to another article you write). At any rate, I am eternally grateful for your efforts.

Dick Woehr

Clifton

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Waldo CAP seeks support

At this time of year during town meetings, county residents consider budget requests from a variety of local nonprofit organizations that provide important services to our neighbors in need and contribute to the quality of life that we enjoy across our region.

Waldo Community Action Partners is one such organization that provides essential programs that support low-income and vulnerable members of our community, including emergency fuel assistance, home weatherization and repair, appliance replacement, transportation, Head Start child care, dental services and holiday food distribution. Last year, WCAP provided a remarkable $7.7 million worth of services to the residents of the 26 towns in Waldo County.

While much of the funding for WCAP programs comes from state and federal governments, town financial support is critical to help provide services for those with legitimate needs who don’t quite fit government guidelines. For example, WCAP’s transportation program (which drove county residents 2.3 million miles last year) must get county and town funding to be able to qualify for federal funds — each dollar contributed by towns for transportation services results in an additional three dollars in federal support.

In the case of fuel assistance, if it were not for WCAP’s ability to stretch federal, private and municipal dollars to meet the home heating needs of so many low-income families and seniors, it would mean that more town General Assistance funds would be required to fill the gap (only 50 percent of which would be reimbursed by the state).

When you attend your town meeting this spring, please give thoughtful consideration to the requests presented by nonprofit organizations that serve our community. Their programs not only contribute to a vital safety net of support for growing numbers of our family, friends and neighbors in a time of need, they also represent an efficient way of providing services in light of much more costly alternatives.

Catherine M. Miklovich,

Chairwoman

WCAP Board of Directors

Joyce C. Scott

WCAP Executive Director

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Attention, parents and children

Once again, the Child and Parent Council at Broadreach and the Waldo County YMCA are working together to plan a special day for children and parents. Building on a traditional celebration in April called Child and Parent Day, the groups have collaborated for several years to include the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day. The Y in Belfast gets even busier on Saturday, April 3 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when 500 children and parents show up to have a good time. There will be more details about what to expect as we get closer to the date.

Many local programs, services and individuals volunteer to sponsor children’s art and craft activities, some supervised play, stories, free books, a dress-up/costume room, good food and many other choices. The planners are still looking for energetic volunteers who have creative ideas about art, music, dancing, exercise and other healthy pursuits to engage children and inspire parents. We appreciate the support of the community to make this a community celebration.

If you would like to be involved or have some great ideas contact Patrick Walsh at Broadreach, 338-2200, ext 109 or Beth Corey at the Y at 338-4598.

Patrick Walsh

Child and Parent Council

Broadreach Family &

Community Services