Letters, Camden Herald
A full heart of thanks
It is said that gratitude starts from the heart, and mine is indeed full.
On March 8, a fundraising benefit was held for my grandson Silas Brown, who experienced a brain injury at birth. He has cerebral palsy and continues to face a multitude of challenges from secondary complications.
Thanks to the overwhelming support from friends, family, and area businesses, Silas' benefit was a resounding success. Monies raised will continue to help him with therapies needed on his journey in life.
I feel lucky to be living in such a nourishing community. With a very grateful heart, I thank you all!
P.S. Those wishing to follow Silas' progress can do so at silassaga.com.
FHI Chronicles: From Borden Cottage to boardin' house
This morning I awoke mean-spirited, as I have often done in the months since the Fox Hill Invisibles redefined altruism to mean moolah and convinced Boston's McLean Hospital to play along on Camden's residential Bay View Street. I'll be right up front and admit that my morning mind-sets shamefully disrespect many concerned activists living in or near to our cash-strapped Camden community. These include, for example, those who have each published a curriculum vitae, artfully disguised as a Letter to the Editor, hinting at employment by Fox Hill, first at its democratically snuffed Version A, but now at its allegedly unsnuffable Version B, a hitherto top-secret and scaled-down plan which, should it also fall short of approval, would almost certainly drive Fred's Bedding World into bankruptcy, even though the outlet is located not in Camden but in Skowhegan.
Most issues associated with Fox Hill A made the trip over into Fox Hill B, while some new ones met them upon arrival. My purpose here is to focus on two among that mix which seem to me especially vulnerable to a dousing by the milk of my human unkindness.
Issue 1: Waiting in the Weeds
Not since Dean Wormer's revealing of "Double-Secret Probation" in the film Animal House has there been a gotcha surprise to equal the one the Fox Hill Invisibles sprung shortly after having their Version A rejected 4-1 by elected officials. The reference made above to bedding suggests another one here. Version A, in its slick replacement by Version B, has all the earmarks of the promotional pricing strategy used in mattress ads, all of which start with a mark-up (12 beds, in the Fox Hill scheme), then follow it weeks later with a pre-planned "bargain" markdown (to 8 beds) if and when too few targeted buyers (in this case, the members of Camden's Select Board) prove rube enough to say ayuh to the promotion's original price and its fine print (here, a zoning exception , the wording of which is worthy of first-ballot election to The Hornswoggle Hall of Fame).
Assuming that I have escaped from that analogy mostly unscathed, I have another to offer here. If and when the Fox Hill Invisibles are hammer-and-nail approved locally and touchy-feely embraced by Maine's Department of Expanded Definitions, they will have cleverly placed themselves in a position quite like that of members of Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club, which has traditionally been a "waiting club," so termed because its members patiently anticipate invitation to Harvard clubs that are a bit more exclusive.
The Fox Hill Invisibles , too, are waiting patiently. They are waiting for Camden's new Comprehensive Plan, which they wager will one day allow their legally buried Version A to be legally disinterred and their return on investment to be restored to the level they drooled over in the first place. For the time being, then, Version B serves their place-holding strategy. I know this to be true. Shortly after Camden's Select Board told the Invisibles to take a hike, a laid-off employee of Fred's Bedding World told me that the Invisibles had purchased only eight mattresses but had reserved four more on the store's long-term lay-away plan. The weeds on Fox Hill, then, continue both to be hidden behind and trampled on as the Invisibles scheme to turn, temporarily, Fox Hill's Borden Cottage into the McLean Hospital Boardin' House. [That dropped "g," by the way, is an outrageously obvious effort to win favor with Maine natives, whose devotion to apocope in speech is legendary. Myself, I would name the place Bedside Manna, an even better tribute to Maine dialect, not to mention (but I will) a more descriptive title for an institution offering , so it is said, altruistic nourishment to patients.]
Issue 2: Letter Imperfect
The Invisibles' tactical retreat to Version B has brought to local light a grab-bag each of acronyms and initialisms dreamed up somewhere by civil servants just back from lunch break. But the meanings of some of these forms need to be altered in order to understand their specific application to the Fox Hill Fiasco (FOHIFI or FHF). I'll provide one example of each. CLA, an acronym, was dreamt up originally to mean "Community Living Arrangement," but in the FOHIFI should be altered to mean "Commercial Living Arrangement." FHA, an initialism, refers to the "Federal Housing Authority," but, where the FHF is concerned, clearly stands instead for "Fox Hill Amassers." The better accuracy of these two alterations will be evident to anyone following the FOHIFI, so need not be further discussed here.
Instead, at this point, I feel it only fair to reveal that I briefly attended, in a room above my garage, the Online Law School of the University of the Ozarks, one consequence of which is that I can hold my own with any frocked lawyer when it comes to slicing baloney. Fox Hill B's proposed Commercial Living Arrangement offers me a welcome opportunity to prove that boast by exposing here a loop-hole, or dupe-hole, in CLA wording that you can bet the Invisibles are poised to exploit. To wit:
Throughout the CLA's language in its legal definition, mention is made not of the number of occupants permitted in a qualifying dwelling, but rather the number of beds. The Invisibles, then, can argue, and most surely will, that it is legally okay to bring eight king-size beds into McLean Hospital Boardin' House and secure an Amish bundling-board down the middle of each, thus accommodating 16 (not merely 8) occupants in the eight beds, each of which would be equipped with a king-size, two-side sleep-numbered mattress. [Don't bet against this probability. I checked back with the laid-off employee of Fred's Bedding World and he told me that the eight mattresses purchased by the Invisibles fit those specifications, as do the other four in the long-term lay-away plan. And I have a couple of leads indicating that bundling-board manufacturers have also been contacted.]
Perhaps now I can shed my mean-spirited personna and return to being Mr.Nice Guy. But, come to think of it, I hope not, at least so long as outsiders impersonating altruists continue to march into Camden munching on moolah.
Bring light to dark places
I have been following all the pros and cons since [the Fox Hill] story started, and what comes across from the opposition in all this is talk about "dire consequences" and "going down a slippery slope."
All creating this fear-based conjecture about a future that is totally unknown.
Even if this could be a precedent, I don't see Maine as being the kind of place where things then happen in a domino effect.
Maine people are pretty discerning.
I think McLean, and the work it does, would be bringing new and refreshing energy into Camden, which could certainly use some. Trying to maintain the status quo is not a healthy way to move forward.
Instead of spending all this energy and money being AGAINST something, imagine what could be done if it were channeled FOR something....for instance, like the homeless issue that Christine Parrish wrote about in the last Free Press.
That would be a compassionate action and bring more light into dark places.
McLean and Fox Hill 'a gift horse'
We have lived in our house adjoining the Fox Hill property to the West for the last 20 plus years. We have seen that property change from a quiet and empty family house for sale and unattended to, to the arrival of the Cawleys when it became a place of great activity, constant construction and the occasional party. Not your average family residential home.
Years later, with the Cawleys now in residence closer to the sea, Camden has a more than 10 acre property with a 10-bedroom 16,000 square foot main house and another 50,000 square feet of space under the roofs of bowling alleys, sprawling parking garages, arcades and movie theaters. The real estate market has spoken enough to say that it would be difficult to find one buyer to live on such a developed property and that something else needs to happen to it. Either it is developed into seasonal house lots, each with its own cleared view of the ocean, or maybe it becomes something else that can conform to the characteristics of a residential area and even add to our town. And then along comes Tom Rodman and McLean Hospital. The repercussions from their plan remind me of the heat that MBNA got from some (myself included) when it first arrived in the Midcoast. In retrospect, could we have designed a more perfect big business to come to our town? Good high paying jobs with work for many directly or indirectly. No pollution, civic minded and a big supporter of the arts. We didn’t realize what a gift horse that was.
My wife and I view the project proposed by McLean and Fox Hill as a perfect fit for this neighborhood and for Camden. We are especially pleased that the investors and promoters of this plan have been willing to wade through a protracted and often labored town process and have additionally been willing to down scale their plans to the point where zoning is seemingly no longer an issue. We didn’t agree with the Town Selectman’s willingness to turn their backs on their own Planning Board’s long and thoughtful decision to approve this for a town vote and we certainly didn’t believe that it was in the best interest of the town to not allow, we the people, to vote on this original proposal. No town should run its affairs and make long term strategic decisions based on worry over being sued. Trust the town attorney you have working for you and move on.
The Fox Hill rehabilitation project has imbedded within its business model two key characteristics which we think make this a plan to support. First it is a residential business which by definition is a fit with this part of town. Second, the business proposition itself is completely based on the patients (customers) need for quiet. A residential business whose primary concern is healing in a setting of privacy. This appears to another gift horse which Camden has been handed. Let’s welcome this new important addition to our town and get beyond the negativity and litigation paranoia.
Correcting the facts
Deb Dodge, the spokesperson for Citizens for Responsible Zoning, continues to get the facts wrong about McLean Hospital. She is either misinformed or being intentionally misleading. Fox Hill Real Estate (FHRE) is the owner of the property and not claiming to be a community living arrangement (CLA) as she has stated. McLean Hospital will be licensed as a CLA. In order to conform to the Federal Housing Act, the Maine legislature enacted MRSA 4357A, a Law Governing Municipal Zoning with Respect to Community Living Arrangements. A CLA is defined as a housing facility for eight or fewer persons with disabilities that is approved, authorized, certified or licensed by the State.
The State policy ensures persons with disabilities are not excluded from the benefits of normal residential surroundings by municipal zoning ordinances. The 1997 statute allows McLean Hospital to operate an 8-bed community living facility at the property on Bay View Street without the need for a zoning amendment, thereby addressing concerns expressed by some residents regarding zoning issues and potential lawsuits.
It is ironic the few vocal citizens who expressed concerns about Camden being mired in lawsuits as a result of potential zoning changes are now the ones threatening legal action.
These are the facts.
We support custodians
MSAD 28 is considering outsourcing our custodial staff as a cost savings measure. A company, with no experience in an educational system, is being considered to clean our school buildings.
Schools are the heart of a community. CRMS is a microcosm of what is happening outside its doors. We are all working towards the same goal - nurturing the youth of the community. To achieve this we can’t allow certain members to be ranked as more or less important.
Custodians take care of our personal surroundings and are integral to the fabric of CRMS. They are a crucial component in helping our schools run smoothly. As one teacher commented:
"Most importantly, our custodians understand, care, and can be trusted around our middle-schoolers. This is key to the smooth operation of our school. One of our custodians also volunteers to help out in coaching and sporting events, substituting in classes when no one else is available, and knowing every child’s name."
Students learn all sorts of lessons from us, and a lot of it we don’t intend. If we let our custodians go, we will be teaching that our values don’t really include the connections we make with the people who clean our buildings. We don’t value the role they play in keeping our buildings safe or that they’re available at a moment’s notice to be involved in what teachers need to do to insure students are learning. A few related comments from staff members:
"We had been trying to set up a bookroom to fully implement our new reading program. In order for the room to be arranged and organized properly, I had to make sure (Maggie) understood the purpose and pedagogy of our program. A few days later I walked into a perfectly workable bookroom that went beyond custodial responsibilities."
The custodial staff is imperative to the way our school runs on a daily basis. Most importantly they are constant and know our students. They take an active role in knowing our students at an intimate level, for example, coaching two different seasons. We cannot tell you how confident we feel in our building being safe during Maine winters. They’re here on weekends and in the very early mornings, preparing sidewalks, walkways, and parking lots. Lastly, our custodial colleagues are positive and happy; showing initiative in what has to be a flexible manner in a school setting.
If schools are the heart of a community, then it should come as no surprise that custodians are former students, relatives, and those we honor as veterans each year. They are our colleagues, friends, and a vital part of CRMS. As we teach our children to be committed citizens of the world, we also need to impart the value of community connections and personal relationships that can’t be expressed in monetary terms.
Please help us support the MSAD 28 custodial staff by contacting the district’s Board members and saying NO to outsourcing.
On behalf of National Doctor’s Day on March 30, Pen Bay Healthcare wishes to thank our dedicated physicians who care for the needs of our citizens and community. For the third year in a row, Pen Bay doctors have opted to forego celebrating Doctor's Day and donate any budgeted funds for continuing clinical education. These funds have already been directed to support nurses attending RN-to-BSN programs as well as critical care, obstetric and newborn care education. They also help support continuing education for our medical assistants and certified nursing assistants. As always, our physicians continued support of the nursing and clinical staff is greatly appreciated. The physicians’ investment will be evidenced in the delivery of quality, safe patient care, improved patient experience and stronger employee engagement.
We appreciate and thank our Pen Bay doctors!
VP Nursing Services
Pen Bay Healthcare
Thanks for supporting turkey dinner
A big thank you to the diners at the turkey dinner sponsored by the John Street United Methodist Church in Camden on February 15. The dining hall was arranged with linen table cloths with touches of Irish green all around. We served more than 80 people who were full of compliments to the chefs who donated their time and talents in all phases of the meal preparation. We are grateful to Executive Chef Scott Wilcox of Midcoast Culinary Solutions and Executive Chef Sean Wilcox of Point Lookout who demonstrated their cooking skills in the well-presented and delicious roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash and peas, making the event a big success.
100 percent of the ticket proceeds will be donated to local charities and to the church’s special mission: Imagine No More Malaria (INMM). Several patrons picked up the green bracelets in support of this project, and made cash contributions to the effort.
Judy McKearney, Chair
Christian OutReach Everywhere (CORE) Committee