Prosecution, or persecution?

The Waldo County District Attorney’s Office and the Maine State Police recently outlined their case in this paper for charging Katrina Mitchell with criminal responsibility for the death of her 7-month-old daughter, Annabelle, by their family dog.

Three months after this tragic event, as Katrina and her husband John were recovering and trying to get on with their lives, they were having their evening meal with their 3-year-old son, Jett, when a knock came to the door. Law enforcement officers entered and arrested Katrina and took her off to jail.

At the same time, the same county and state agencies spread the story and pictures of Katrina and her daughter over all the major newspapers and media outlets in the state of Maine, essentially poisoning the jury pool in this state and putting this family through the horror and stress of this tragedy all over again.

I realize that the agencies involved want to make an example of Katrina, but I wonder if the public’s resources are being wisely spent in this case, since the evidence being presented is circumstantial, and the version presented by the aforementioned officials is a matter of conjecture.

The only witnesses to what actually transpired that April afternoon — being Annabelle and the family dog — could not tell us what happened, even if they had survived that day.

Katrina, who by the way is an honorably discharged Iraqi War veteran, and John are friends if mine, and I have known them since before the birth of their wonderful son, Jett. I know them to be honest, hard-working, caring people, and good and loving parents.

There was no way that they could have foreseen what took place that day and, I believe, they would never have done anything to intentionally bring harm to their children.

The idea that criminalizing this situation and putting Katrina in jail for any length of time will somehow benefit the state of Maine and her people does not make any sense to me, and certainly is the last thing that the Mitchell family members deserve in their effort to recover from this tragedy and rebuild their lives.

Surely the people’s resources could be better utilized in dealing with the many real crimes that are being perpetrated daily in our state and county than pursuing a prosecution that, to this citizen, seems closer to persecution.

Christopher Groden

Belfast

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Maskers seek public support…

[Editor’s note: This letter was received after the Aug. 10 edition of the Journal had gone to press, and posted online as a guest column on Friday, Aug. 12.]

As you may know from a recent press release or mailing, Belfast Maskers is required by the city to move out of the railroad building to make way for the development of the waterfront.

A new wrinkle has just come into this situation and that is, instead of the nine months we were originally given to move, we have just been notified of a new timeline with October 5 as a deadline!

That means that instead of nine months to relocate, find a place for storage and performance, pack, remove electrical grids and cables, pianos, 25 years of costumes, and much more we are now told we have only nine weeks.

That is nine months vs. nine weeks; pretty much an impossible task without a great deal of help, both financial and physical.

This is where you can be of help, if you so choose. Next Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m., there will be a City Council meeting at Belfast City Hall, on the first floor of the building, near the Church Street entrance.

Maskers has accepted that we do have to vacate the building owned by the city, and we are trying to comply with this new very sped-up request, but that is almost impossible without help from the city. We will be asking for such help from them at this meeting, during the public forum.

If you are willing to come to show support for the city helping Maskers we feel that would make a great deal of difference. You might choose to speak on our behalf at the “open to the public” portion of the meeting (the first portion of the meeting) or just sit in attendance.

Either way, your presence would indicate to the city that you, too, feel that if we are to comply with their request, we need to have their help with moving, disposal and storage of properties.

Belfast Maskers is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and one of the very few non-profits in Belfast which has never asked for a dime of financial support from the city; the organization has paid insurance, rent, and all maintenance for that building for nearly two decades. Now we need the city’s help in order for Maskers to comply with a speedy exit from the building, as they require.

We hope to see you at the meeting, next Tuesday, Aug. 16 to show your support of Belfast Maskers, as you have supported us in the past. We will be moving forward and continuing to add to the quality of life which makes Belfast the unique little city that it is.

This is just a bump in our road but we need you to help us so that we get over that bump and make the road ahead smooth for Maskers continued presence here in Belfast.

Belfast Maskers board of directors

and Artistic Director Aynne Ames

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… while city manager counters group’s claims

[Editor’s note: This response from Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum was received later in the day on Aug. 12, after the guest column from the Maskers had been published online.]

The opinion letter sent by the Belfast Maskers is unfortunate, inaccurate and misleading. Here is what I sent them on Aug. 8.

Dear Matt [McDonald, president of the Maskers board of directors],

I send this to clear up today’s confusion and to try to get everyone — including the City Council — on the same page. We have been notified by our Insurance company that they are canceling our Fire Insurance on the Railroad building on Oct. 3, 2011. This means that we will have no fire insurance of any kind after that date.

More significantly, our insurance carrier has also determined that if the building is in poor shape for Fire insurance then it is in poor shape for General liability insurance. They have advised us in writing that if the Maskers are still using the facility for storage on October 3, 2011 then they they will pull our General Liability insurance on that day as well.

This means that the City will have no insurance should anyone get inside the building and be hurt or if someone is hurt outside from some part of the building. Any claims for damages will then have to be met with City dollars hiring lawyers and trying to resolve the claim with more City dollars.

As a practical matter the City will also be constructing a waterfront walkway officially called the “Harbor Walk” next spring. This walkway will come within 10 feet of the entire Railroad building.

I would expect that the Community will be wanting this walkway to be a great experience and when they walk past the Railroad building I think they will be wondering why we left it up. In fact I think they would have expected us to take it down.

As the head of the Board I send this information to you. I understand that this is not convenient but my responsibility is to the City and I am asking you to talk with your Board and see what you can do to be out of the building by Oct. 3, 2011. Please let me know at your earliest convenience.

I will mention this to the City Council as well at the Meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 16 to keep them informed. I had sent communication to you earlier today and it soon became apparent I needed to advise the Council as well. I am sorry but at this point I just don’t see how the City can let a group occupy a building that can’t be insured.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Joe Slocum

I did indeed say that I would try to keep them there as long as I could. It was the Maskers who said nine months, and I said as long as I could. The Maskers themselves lost their own insurance on the building because of this condition.

The City of Belfast has supported the Maskers for two decades and in recent years, forgave rent payments, made repairs to this old building, installed expensive electric outlets in Steamboat Landing and gave them free access to use Steamboat Landing for performances.

By anyone’s standards, the City has routinely supported the Maskers.

The only reason we asked the Maskers to move earlier than anyone planned is because of this new insurance development. We received this notice just this week.

I am really sorry that after two decades of strong and friendly support the Maskers did not have the courtesy to call us up to discuss these any of these issues before submitting this misleading appeal to the public. Until today, that is how we have always worked things out.

Joe Slocum

Belfast City Manager

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Searsport woman gives thanks

On July 28, there was a tremendous amount of smoke damage to my apartment, due to a fire in the adjoining home.

I want to thank my daughter, Cynthia, for her support and help, and also my dearest friends, Kathy and Tim Canning, who offered me their home to seek shelter in during my time of need.

There are others I want to thank, too. Lisa and a gentleman from Warren Street who held my hands to hold me up while we watched my apartment fill with heavy black smoke and completely be destroyed.

The Searsport Fire Department was there in minutes, it seemed — thank you one and all, firefighters. Other fire departments were assisting, but in the confusion I do not remember them, but I want to thank them, too.

Thank you to the Red Cross for putting me up in a motel. The gals at Irving just took me under their caring wings, giving me coffee and a sweatshirt to keep me warm.

The two gentlemen, who I did not know, who came to me and offered me coffee and money — thank you! I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to find out that strangers do care.

If I have neglected to mention anyone, please accept my apologies. I sincerely appreciate every kind deed that was offered to me, from one and all. Thank you.

Fay A. Gaul

Searsport

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Belfast resident gives thanks to ‘great guys’

This letter is a note to the city of Belfast.

Recently the Public Works Department replaced the culvert at the end of my driveway.

Before he started digging, Bob Knowlton and I spoke about several things involved.

Shortly after we spoke, I developed chest pain and was rushed away to Waldo County General Hospital, and from there to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, having had a “minor heart attack”.

When I returned four days later, the culvert was very nicely installed with my big flat rocks in place above the ends and the mailbox standing tall where it belongs.

A few words cannot express my appreciation of the great guys in the Public Works Department.

John Stover

Belfast

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Thank you from Kylie!

We had a wonderful turnout at the benefit supper that was held for Kylie Merithew on Saturday, Aug. 6. A big thank you to all who came to show their love and support to this family and especially Kylie as she continues her fight against Leukemia.

We would like to especially thank the area businesses for their raffle donations and advertisements: the Republican Journal, Channel 5 News, Tozier’s Jerry’s Hardware, Makin’ Waves, Perry’s Nut House, Holmes Greenhouse, Dairy Queen, Young’s Lobster Pound, McDonald’s, Hannaford, Searsport Lion’s Club, Swanlake Grocery, Renys, Angler’s Restaurant, Searsport Automotive, Searsport Motor Company, Greg’s Auto, H&D Seafood, Silkweeds, Maritime Energy, Steamboat, Hamilton Marine, Grasshopper Shop, Cook’s Crossing, Dino’s Pizza, Shehans Florist, Dunkin’ Donuts, Blonde Moments, Coastal Cuts, Angela Austin Beauty, Andy’s Garage, Joyce Gesner, Kyle Edgerly, Just Barb’s, Family Tradition Restaurant, Sue Smedly and the Avon baskets from her gram, Judy.

Many thanks also to those who helped in the kitchen, as well as all the family and friends. Please continue to keep Kylie in your thoughts and prayers, as she still has a long way to go.

The Merithew family

Searsport

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Back to the future

I think it’s time for the Democrats to reconsider their choice of Barak Obama for president.

It’s encouraging that Democrats have not blamed the loss of our AAA credit rating on George W. Bush. That’s progress; and while the S&P downgrade has been questioned, its legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that most Americans feel that the country is borrowing too much money.

Then there’s the 10-percent unemployment and the $14-trillion national debt. Every day there seems to be more bad news. Yesterday’s was that 74 percent of adults believe the economy will get worse. Today’s is that Obama’s job approval has dropped to 40 percent, just as he leaves for still another expensive vacation.

Face it; Obama’s “fundamental changes” aren’t working. Our economic growth has virtually stopped. Just imagine, the United States has been the economic engine of the world and we have slipped out of first gear and are just creeping along. Our country is in a depression and it is more than an economic depression. It’s a depression of our spirit.

It’s my humble belief that what has happened is that liberals convinced themselves that they could control the economy if they took control of the government. They were half right. They can control the spending, but they can’t control the income. They believed that increasing taxes would increase income, but the reverse is true whether they like it or not.

Sadly for liberals, it isn’t the government that controls the income. It’s you and I. It’s the people and the companies that have invested their money and their skills to make the American Dream come true.

It may come as a surprise to you but the first responsibility of every small business owner is, “To make the payroll.” There probably isn’t a small business owner in the country that hasn’t gone weeks or months without taking any money out of the business so he or she could — make the payroll.

I was one of those people. My company car was a Volkswagen minivan. My office was my house. My financial backing was a $10,000 loan. My first employee got paid out of that until we started to make some money, then I got paid. Five years later there were six employees, a rented office and a used Mercedes.

My point in saying this is to let you know that there are hundreds of thousands of young men and women itching to go into some business and start hiring people right now. What they need are low taxes and a business-friendly government.

You get to choose — more of what we have now, or more of what made the American dream come true.

David Huck

Swan Lake