Letters, Dec. 7, 2017

Dec 07, 2017

Transfer station picking

“We need to start thinking and behaving like we live on an island.” This is a quote I remember from a documentary I watched years ago and it has stuck with me.

The person who made the statement was making the point that if we (a community, town, city, state) lived isolated, on an island, we would have to make do with the resources available to us, and just as important, we would have to keep them sustainable for survival.

If you knew you had just enough resources to sustain your population, but no more, you would be very careful what you considered “waste.” And since you have a limited amount of space, you would also have to be very careful about how much waste you produced and where you put it.

I happened to be able to confirm this with someone I worked with a few years ago. He was from the island country of Jamaica. One day I asked him, “What happens to all the garbage in Jamaica? Does it get shipped somewhere?” He told me no. “Whatever you don't want or need anymore goes to another family member or friend and they use it. There is very little waste in Jamaica, it is too expensive to ship it away, and it is too expensive to buy new items and get them shipped to the island, so we use and reuse what we have.”

This is how we need to start thinking. Midcoast Solid Waste Corp. needs to become the Midcoast Resource and Recovery Corp., and the first step in doing that is to allow people to peruse and remove items from the transfer station in order to reuse them. The concern about citizens getting hurt by picking something up that is either broken or sharp is apparently our biggest barrier to this. Liability. Not logistics, not laws, not even politics are barriers to this idea.

Liability. The fear of what could happen. Liability. The fear of possible harm. Liability. The fear that someone might get hurt.

And in some sense, our towns' selectmen are right to be concerned. As selectmen they are responsible for their community, and the community entrusts them to do the right thing, especially when it comes to liability, exposure and finances. But this is where we must be bold and have the courage to do just that, “the right thing.”

It will not be easy, and that's OK. Doing the right thing usually isn't. Could someone get hurt? Yes. Will someone get hurt? Who knows? But the good that could come from reusing items and helping our neighbors, and ourselves, should outweigh the potential risks. What we need to do is design a system at the transfer station that minimizes risk as much as possible, minimizes it to a point that makes the idea of recycling and reusing a reality — and soon.

What I am asking is that the MCSW board of directors not make a hasty decision with regard to this subject. Why? Why is this so important? Glad you asked.

First, I mentioned the needs of the citizens from our four towns. It could provide a nice financial break for those who could use such discarded items. There would also be a financial benefit to the four towns, in that we could stave off filling the landfill if we could divert reusable items from it.

Second, the environmental impact would be calculable. Not only by keeping items from the landfill, but also in the carbon and pollution offset from citizens not purchasing items made with nonrenewable energy.

Third, and most importantly, the ripple effect. Right now most transfer stations in Maine do not allow picking. If Midcoast Solid Waste and the four towns were to be able to design a system in which reusable items were allowed to be removed at a minimum risk, then we might just start a ripple effect and other stations might follow our example.

If this were to happen, the positive financial and environmental effects to the state of Maine could create a legacy felt by our children and grandchildren.

Again, I ask the MCSW Board to not take this matter lightly. The people have entrusted you to not only do what is right by our communities for today, but to also do what is right for the future. Be courageous. Do the right thing.

David Edwards


Future funding gap

Sen. Collins and Rep. Poliquin owe an explanation and an apology to the people of the state of Maine for their votes on the so-called “Tax reform” bill. They were well aware that there was no demand for this bill. Indeed, poll numbers show that approval for this by the public was in the 20th percentile.

I suppose that there should be no surprise that such a bill would emerge from a government run by a billionaire president, millionaire bankers and legislators who are financed by corporate interests who apparently are despondent that they don’t have more.

The New York Times has rightfully condemned this bill as a “looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy”, which it said showed that “Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost.”

Indeed, in this Christmas season Ebenezer Scrooge and Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life” come to mind.

No legitimate economist has said this bill will pay for itself, deficits will soar, and there is no evidence that corporations will actually invest in the country or raise wages. Whatever small tax benefits for the middle and lower classes will quickly evaporate leaving a funding gap that can only be filled by attacking programs like Medicare.

One wonders what happened to the fiscally conservative and socially aware Republicans Maine used to produce who looked out for average citizens’ interests instead those of plutocrats.

Greg Rossel


School happenings

I am pleased to share with our community a sample of the many things going on at Regional School Unit 71 schools this season:

At Belfast Area High School, Phase 1 of the $7.6 million overhaul of the 65-year-old BAHS is underway including a revamped heating system, a newly remodeled kitchen, ventilation for the gym and pool — with more to come next spring. Principal McLean says "It's a physical manifestation of the intention and passion that this community has for its kids and their education.”

Also, every high school student at last has a laptop for academic use and teachers have upgraded technology which helps expand content and techniques in the classroom.

BAHS hosted the Post-Secondary Education Workshop — a college and career fair — in mid-October. Students attended four half-hour workshops on college, military, or careers to learn more about post-secondary possibilities and topics on college application.

Troy Howard Middle School is several months into its newly restructured programming — replacing “academies” created from multi-age themes with those established by grade level (sixth, seventh, eighth). The eighth-grade academy has begun to create new goals to “encourage a spirit of exploration and discovery,” in a variety of areas including: Core subjects (Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies); enrichment subjects (Music, Technology, Performing and Visual Arts); and much more.

At the THMS garden, students have finished the season of pulling and cleaning garlic, tidying the gardens and other fall chores. The Waterfall Arts living plant sculpture spend the winter being cared for by the middle school students.

The elementary schools are hopping: Capt. Albert Stevenson School, with a new principal, Glen Widmer, in place, is collecting non-perishable food for its Food Cupboard. In November CASS held a Family Game Night in partnership with The Game Loft and a week later the school hosted school-wide morning of exercise, including a 1-km walk/run around the grounds with a family meal at midday.

At the Tri-Town Schools (Ames in Searsmont, Weymouth in Morrill), kindergartner trips to the Searsmont Library are very popular. The Chewonki Foundation gave a presentation on bats. Fifth-graders at Nickerson (Swanville) visited the Waldo County Technical Center in November. And the school’s all-family Thanksgiving dinner was a “full house” of students and families.

At East Belfast School, a buddy program pairs older (third to fifth grade) and younger students (K to third) for weekly theme-based projects. The second- and third-graders visited the Cole Land Transportation Museum (Bangor) in October.

For more information, go to the district website (rsu71.org) and from there find the individual schools, contact information for their principals, and dates for music and special events. Our schools are really working for the children and families of the district!

Caitlin Hills


RSU 71 Board of Directors

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