Letters, Jan. 10, 2019

Jan 10, 2019

Innocent until proven guilty

In response to Mr. Brower’s Common Sense column, first off, I hope that The Journal will continue to offer a conservative point of view after the loss of Tom Seymour. It is not possible to find that middle ground Mr. Brower spoke of without hearing the other side.

America is great, although it’s losing some of its greatness mostly due to an abandonment of both common sense and our longstanding laws. Thus our predicament on the southern border.

Mr. Brower said most politicians want secure borders. That could not be further from the truth. The Democratic rhetoric about disbanding ICE proves without a doubt that they do favor open borders.

President Trump ran on a platform that called for a border wall. The $5 billion he wants will be used to secure our unsecured borders. It is not cruel or immoral to enforce a country’s laws. I, like many of those on the right, favor immigration — legal Immigration. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants.

Mr. Brower implies that fear of drug dealers, gang members and felons streaming into our country is not reality. I don’t know where he gets his information. There are families of dead and injured Americans, including police officers, who would question his sources. Yes, there are U.S. citizens who are less than desirable — so he evidently feels that a few more will improve the situation. Is that really your idea of common sense?

Mr. Brower states that “rather than just dump on Trump,” our nation should be looking for answers. Then dumps extensively on Trump. I would be the last person to defend our president's morality. It seems higher office generates egos and moralities that are far from commendable. I can think of few past presidents in my lifetime who had a clear moral compass. The majority of the really foul ones were Democrats. Not defending here, but the payments to females by the president are not criminal.

Mr. Brower states that Trump gets reinforcement from Fox News and others. I would suggest that ABC, NBC, CBS, and worst of all, PBS, are far more biased and, although I will not call it fake news, their reporting is to anyone with half a brain very twisted (spun).

As for the Mueller investigation, I believe that if he had anything substantial against President Trump it would have come out long ago. The goal of the Democrats and Mr. Mueller is to discredit until the end of his term.

I disapprove of the president’s habitual tweets. They have not served him or the country well. That said, President Trump is not the typical politician that we, both Democrats and Republicans, have railed against for many years. He has brought change that many people wanted and failed to get from the Washington elite.

As for your adoration of fired director Comey, he is not someone I would admire. As for calling Cohen a rat, if it looks and quacks like a duck, well ....

Finally, Mr. Brower, you show your level of fairness with your statement the “noose is tightening.” Remember, innocent until proven guilty.

Leo H. Mazerall Jr.

Stockton Springs

I'll take Tractor Supply benefits any day

Well, it didn't take long for the Belfast Boo-Birds to come out about the Tractor Supply development. Some are suggesting that the development is the beginning of strip development in Belfast. We already have this at the Renys Plaza.

The development plan shows various proposed uses and, in layman's terms, it's called mixed use that is widely accepted and even sought by many municipalities. You can live, work and play without stepping into a car.

Let's be perfectly clear. The market will dictate what type of uses will be the most “desirable,” whether they be a bank, hotel (which we need for conventions at the Hutchinson Center), convenience shopping, etc., and we don't need central planning by any politburo. We need new forms of housing everywhere in Belfast, whether it be inside this development, the old Public Works location or elsewhere, so a choice doesn't have to be made.

Oh, and this is a good one: The Tractor Supply development is a step backward in the city's efforts to fight climate change. Maybe the Boo-Birds need to mitigate the hot air being exhaled (CO2) to do their part for climate change. By the way, CO2 represents just .038 percent of the atmosphere; 99 percent is nitrogen and oxygen. Plants kind of like CO2 because it's part of photosynthesis that produces oxygen for us.

There was a suggestion that our Mid-Coast Public Transportation should offer bus service to the Rockland store. I can just see a Belfast resident hauling back 50-pound bags of bird seed or deer corn on the bus. Oh, don't forget the ride-sharing service to Tractor Supply. We can't even get a workable service going for people to get to doctors' appointments outside the area.

Tractor Supply will offer a variety of products providing healthy competition in the business community. The benefits will be wider choice, lower prices, higher property taxes paid to the city versus those for undeveloped land, and employment of local residents. I'll take these benefits any day.

Eric Schrader

Belfast

What about swimming, boating, seabirds?

We own the property at 290 Northport Ave., where Little River enters Penobscot Bay. We have lived here for 25 years. As abutters to the Nordic Aquafarms project, we have a number of concerns.

When Nordic Aquafarms came to town they told us the "effluent" (nice word for pollution) would be discharged a mile from shore into deep ocean currents. There are no deep ocean currents even at the original mile.

Now that the pipe has been shortened to .6 miles, it puts the effluent very close to shore and discharging in 35 feet of water, which is the approximate low tide depth at the terminus of the pipe. This new pipe length puts the pipe terminus about a quarter of a mile from our low tide mark.

Recently Nordic showed the public some modeling of the pollution plume that will move back and forth in front of our house and how it dilutes as it expands. Essentially this model shows an area that is polluted and will remain polluted. During Nor'easters, it will all splash up onto our shore. During the summer, this pollution plume will be pushed townward by the prevailing winds.

This pollution plume has the potential to close 3 or 4 miles of shoreline to swimming for people as well as dogs. This is also exactly the area where we anchor and moor our boats and where children swim and dive from those boats. Friends who visit by water anchor in that area, also.

Right now there is a flock of 200-plus black ducks and mallards in Little River cove. Several varieties of gulls, seabirds such as bufflehead and golden eye, kingfishers, eagles, osprey, great blue herons, loons, mergansers and cormorants and many more species also feed in the cove.

I cannot say what impact this effluent will have on these bird species and I am guessing that Nordic would not be able to answer this question either. I would appreciate the opportunity to get an answer about this.

I am also concerned and frankly quite amazed that Nordic will be digging a trench between the Theye and Ekrote properties. There is a lovely stream that flows there and I am not aware of the changes in law that allow for a stream to be dug up.

Early on I was told by Nordic Aquafarms in no uncertain terms that they would be using horizontal drilling techniques, and so I was quite surprised when I found they were planning on digging a trench. I would be happy if my facts are wrong on this point.

Because of these and other concerns about the pollution allowances being requested by Nordic Aquafarms, we are requesting that the DEP hold a public hearing as part of the assessment of Nordic's pollution discharge permit application.

We would like to close with a reminder to all that the reason a company needs this kind of permit is to grant them the ability to pollute to a greater extent than is currently allowed.

Jeffrey Mabee

Judith Grace

Belfast

Pause/reset needed

As renter advocates, we spent the past few weeks interviewing community members about the Peirce proposal for inclusion in a white paper. We enjoyed a Christmas party where the Francis team and their Realtor discussed market strategies. We were warmly received by neighbors opposed to the project.

What we found is that no one has been well-served by this process. For the sake of the larger community as it moves forward to address the housing crisis, we hope city officials recognize a pause/reset is needed.

There’s been significant municipal acrimony in Belfast over the past year and it would be a shame to impact this work. We are neutral and want all sides served as well as renters' rights addressed.

Following the lead of other localities, we are asking that next Tuesday the council form a "Renters Task Force" to analyze the reservoir proposal, at least three others in the pipeline (to include a nonprofit art and housing plan), and identify long-term rental strategies for Belfast in general — to include all properties in Level 1 (2 to 10 units) and then Level 2 (10-unit buildings and above, including high-density developments).

To really combat the crisis, the city must identify 10-plus-unit sites, because at this level we make exciting progress.

This task force should be easy to assemble and last no more than six to eight months.  It will improve dialogue and community relations. This quick time frame is important because it’s rapid for such comprehensive stakeholder work to:

- identify Level 1 and 2 sites as corollary to the Comprehensive Plan (with more specificity), thus expanding September’s goals

- define terms "affordable" v. "workforce" specific to Belfast demographics

- gather empirical data to ensure proposals meet affordable/workforce metrics, establishing barometers for success

- update empirical data, using outreach to hospital/business HR and analysis of open units on the market, historical vacancy rates and saturation points — establishing market demand data

- establish best practices for vetting proposals to ensure consistency — does the city solicit proposals more in line with the RFP model to increase transparency?

- establish protocols for dialogue with abutters/community in general

- establish potential limits to zoning language to counter community apprehensions, and

- establish entity to foster continual community input and encourage dialogue among all proposal partners and community members.

We are happy to facilitate this task force, pro bono. We encourage attendance at upcoming Avesta events in Portland. They have an exemplary record in this sector.  Based on our interviews, more sustained dialogue is needed. This initiative should engender community excitement, and something divisive because of poor municipal rollout requires a pause — otherwise rental initiatives that come later may have less support.

Without a pause, Belfast is not serving the needs of renters. This would insert tenants into community tension, and that is not fair to your rental community and may hurt advocacy going forward. Please follow the lead of surrounding communities: Pause, Reset, Analyze, Renew — with community buy-in and a brighter future for rental housing in your community.

Emilio L Corrado

Tenant Advocate & Housing Consultant

Saco

Melody Tallchief

Acting Executive Director, Midcoast Rental Alliance

Brunswick

A bad economic place to be

Who faces the financial risk resulting from environmental damage or failure of the proposed Nordic factory?  Belfast taxpayers, and we need to be protected.

Even assuming that the factory operates as proposed, this is not an environmentally risk-free process. According to Nordic, the plant will discharge 7.7 million gallons of effluent daily into the bay, containing suspended solids, 1,500 pounds of nitrogen, and other chemicals from the feed and processing operations. In case of disease outbreak, fungicides and antibiotics will be added.

Environmental remediation costs are enormous. Remediation for the Penobscot River estuary pollution caused by a defunct chemical plant will cost between $246 million and $333 million (BDN 10/3/18).

Does Nordic have an insurance policy covering environmental remediation and specifically naming Belfast as an additional insured?  No.

Is Nordic posting a bond indemnifying Belfast for potential environmental remediation costs?  No.

Is Nordic self-insuring? Possibly, but what guarantee do we taxpayers have that Nordic, which only started production in 2015, has the financial wherewithal to absorb the costs of environmental remediation? None.

What about financial risk from business failure?

Asked what would happen if the proposed factory failed, Nordic’s Erik Heim responded  “The worst thing is that valuable infrastructure will be established here [which] will be attractive to investors.” Experience shows that something worse can happen.

VeroBlue Farms, which had planned to become North America’s largest land-based fish venture, has filed for bankruptcy. The Iowa Messenger reports that in 2014, Webster City, Iowa, welcomed VeroBlue and its promise of 150 jobs, but now is owed $135,997.96 for unpaid sewer and utility charges plus $279,000 in unpaid property taxes.

According to Geir Myre, head of aquaculture insurance at XL Catlin, recirculating aquaculture system salmon farms can be financially risky and “some insurers don’t want to insure those kind of farms,” in part because of risk that the fish inventory can be completely wiped out in RAS systems (linked to release of hydrogen sulphide). (SalmonBusiness 9/11/18)

Nordic says it will avoid financial collapse by being bigger than any current land-based factory. Well, GM was bigger than the other car companies, and the taxpayers of the United States had to bail it out.

The city of Belfast has already agreed to pay Nordic $240,000 in startup costs (BDN 2/7/18). What protection do taxpayers have if the unexpected happens: the factory fails and owes Belfast money? Is Nordic establishing an escrow fund with periodic deposits designated for service charges or property taxes?

And who will pay if Nordic closes the plant, leaves Belfast, and environmental damage has occurred? The potential extends beyond Belfast to neighboring towns such as Northport and other surrounding communities. What financial protection has Nordic provided to Belfast if any of them seeks to hold Belfast responsible for environmental damage? None.

There is only one group at financial risk here: not an insurance company, a bonding company, an escrow account or Nordic itself. It is the taxpayers of Belfast.

That’s a bad economic place to be.

Kathryn Shagas

Belfast

Comments (1)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Jan 10, 2019 13:02

Has Nordic Aqua Farms consulted with the businesses that have drawn sea water from the Bay for decades?  I highly doubt it, from the depth of their proposed piping systems vs the fresh water run off layering.  The varying salinity values that businesses which already extract sea water can tell you.  Remember the porgy fish kill from the Bay's water quality?  How the Penobscot Bay's shores were lined with dead porgies?  Ever been to a business and seen lobsters "toe" up from the fresh water run off?  Does Nordic realize how much the salinity levels drop during spring run offs?  Does Nordic Aqua Farms know the salinity of the bay when the fresh water runs off draining from Little River?

 

How many "batches" of fish can they afford to loose?  I know tanks of lobsters that have died from fresh water run off.  The majority of the time the Bay is most likely fine for what they need.  Just like the water quality is fine for the porgy's, however it happens.  What Nordic investors need to realize the risks involved with LIVE product!

 

No different then a farmer dependent on the weather, to grow their crops.  Some years the weather is great and big crops are harvested.  The same goes with bad weather and small crops are harvested or God forbid lost completely.  Who has the desire to make a $500,000,000 investment with those kinds of risks?

 

The City Council has determined the risk is low enough to make tax dollar investments.  The council should realize the investment of a quarter of a million dollars our tax dollars comes with risks.  The Council decided not to require any sort of bond to protect Belfast tax payers investments in Nordic.  Time will tell!



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