As a Searsport resident and Maine native, I would like to comment on the DCP Midstream informational meeting held recently in Searsport. I want to thank the folks from DCP Midstream for providing the opportunity to meet with citizens and applaud them for the professional way they handled such a highly emotional group.

I am an engineering professor at Maine Maritime Academy and I have a clear understanding and appreciation of the systems and design considerations of this proposed facility. My understanding of the engineering concepts of the proposed facility eliminates most of the fear that some would have due to a lack of knowledge.

Undoubtedly, most residents of Searsport and neighboring communities have decided whether they support or oppose the development of this propane terminal. If you oppose this project, then what I suggest will be of little interest. If you are undecided on this issue, then you may be interested in what I have to say.

All too often with an issue of industrial development versus tourist-based industry, the opposition only considers the worst-case scenario and will not apply a useful and open-minded risk assessment to benefit analysis to evaluate the proposal.

Most often, the worst-case scenario becomes the only case scenario and everything goes downhill from that point. Emotions take over and blinders are worn to prevent one from seeing all the facts. Some call this tunnel vision, but I just think of it as closed-mindedness.

What is the overall economic impact of this proposal? About 100 construction jobs for locals lasting about 18 months with competitive pay and benefits, plus permanent jobs for 12-15 locals with salaries and benefits averaging $70,000 per year.

Community investment of $800,000 per year; annual property taxes on a $40-50 million-dollar facility; clean, safe and secure energy supply for the region; and a company with a solid history of community involvement. These are a few of the potential positive long-term benefits of this proposal and they affect much more than Searsport — they will have a spin-off effect throughout coastal and central Maine that is difficult to quantify.

So, what are some of the negatives pertaining to this project? Most folks are concerned about safety and the environmental impact of this type of commercial development, and DCP is in the process of applying for all applicable permits associated with these potential risks.

No one can guarantee that a facility of this type will be 100-percent danger-free, but statistics tell us that the chances of a major disaster are infinitely remote. Natural gas and propane are clean and safe forms of energy and the industry maintains the highest safety records in the energy sector.

Some folks are worried about the flare stack issue, but I think this concern was clearly answered by the DCP project engineer. The flare would only be used in case of extended power failure and is a prudent safety device required at a propane facility of this size.

Some folks are concerned about the appearance of the tank and how it will detract from the local scenery. Let’s face it, there are already several petroleum storage and clay mixing tanks at Mack Point because it is zoned as an industrial location. What harm will another tank represent in an industrial area that already has several?

Perhaps DCP would paint the tank camouflage; or even better, commission an artist to paint a mural on the tank which creates the illusion that the tank is actually much smaller than it is in reality!

As for the increased road traffic caused by trucks entering and leaving the site, it can’t be much worse than getting stuck behind a giant windmill component lumbering along Route 1 on its way to a wind farm in rural Maine.

Searsport has a strong and proud maritime heritage, and this is in large part due to our natural deep-water port. Mack Point is an important asset for Searsport and the coastal region but it is also a critical component of the three-port initiative for marine transportation and growth for the entire state of Maine.

Many residents act like Searsport has the potential to be some kind of Camden or Mount Desert Island tourist destination; but we are much different than that, and if you don’t like it you should move to one of those areas of coastal Maine. We happen to have one of the best deep-water ports on the East Coast and the industrial infrastructure in place to support this kind of project.

In light of these challenging economic times we need to attract not just seasonal, but year-round businesses to the area and employ young people to keep them here in the state of Maine. We need companies that will take part in our communities while also providing good jobs and benefits for employees.

It is time for local and state leaders to look at what can be done to make Maine communities more attractive to large businesses and create a welcoming and accommodating business environment.

Will the town of Searsport and the state of Maine ever be open for business? If the town votes to enact a moratorium on all commercial development on 50 acres or more, will this send a positive message to large businesses to consider Searsport as a home? I think not.

Let us not overlook or ignore the potential of a large business or compatible industrial development which would bring excellent jobs, benefits and significant tax revenues to Searsport.

Let’s not make the mistake of placing all of our economic eggs in one basket, which is apparently to expand our already healthy tourist-based economy. A mix of tourist-oriented businesses and industry can exist together in harmony and provide excellent jobs with benefits year-round for Maine families.

We need to diversify our investments for the future of our town and the entire state of Maine. Become informed and keep an open mind about the proposed propane facility and make your voice heard, or don’t complain about the outcome.

Again, I want to thank DCP Midstream for considering Searsport as a potential site for its operations. I support the company’s efforts and wish them luck as they work hard toward educating citizens and answering all potential concerns about the proposed propane terminal.

I have examined the risks to benefits of this project and I support this economic opportunity and oppose the local ordinance that will prevent any significant commercial development in our town.

Peter Sarnacki is a resident of Searsport.