Letters to the editor — The Courier-Gazette
Switching on a tragedy in Port Clyde
Below is a note along with other materials I hand delivered to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office a couple of weeks after the Port Clyde wharf accident. This material was in a manila envelope intended for Chief Deputy Tim Carroll. I did not obtain a receipt from the receptionist for this information nor do I know if anyone other than the receptionist ever received or read it. My intention of making this public now is not to cast any aspersions on the sheriff’s office or the district attorney’s office regarding the results of their investigations. I would simply like to shed a different light, technically speaking, on what really might have happened.
The Note to:
Chief Deputy Tim Carroll, Chief Donna Dennison and the Knox County Sheriff Office
A few years ago in Sarasota, Fla., our daughter-in-law, experienced what is now known as an UA (Unintended Acceleration). This happened in a grocery store parking lot resulting in a crash involving three cars. She was driving a Nissan Altima and was blamed for the accident.
Last April 4 in Thomaston at the intersection of routes 1 and 131 to St George, my wife experienced her own UA, driving a Toyota. Fortunately, she had just enough time to instinctively put the car in neutral and slam on the brake with enough force to activate a Toyota designed Brake Override System. This action stopped the revving engine and kept her from crashing into a line of cars. We didn’t know anything about the “Override” until after the incident. Toyota has now installed these Brake Overrides in recent models for the very purpose of stopping runaways but apparently they don’t tell their customers at the time of the sale.
These incidents prompted me to do some investigation of my own. On the computer I typed in “Runaway Cars” and was astounded at the amount of information I received.
I have decided to present you this note and a few things I have found online, which is meant only to possibly offer some other considerations in your investigation of the accident on the Port Clyde wharf. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am offering this information only as a concerned citizen and do not expect or want any personal attention or recognition for this effort. As a former machine designer and engineer I have had considerable experience working with mechanical and electrical components. At one time in my career I did consulting work at a company that made printed circuit boards.
In this light I would suggest that you look at the inclusion of the cars electronics, particularly the PCB or (printed circuit board) that’s located inside and at the top of the gas pedal as being very possibly the real cause of the accident. In the material I have presented you will see a quite a bit about this matter of “Tin Whiskers." At the top of the gas pedal, which cannot be seen very well without removing it from the car, there is a place inside for a potentiometer switch mounted on a PCB that sends a signal to the throttle body motor that supplies gas to the engine. Gradually increasing foot pressure on the gas pedal activates the potentiometer switch and increases the speed of the car. I would suggest that early in your investigation, if possible, that you have the gas pedal of the Nissan Infinity removed and sent to an appropriate laboratory nationally that can x-ray scan it for “Tin Whiskers”. The results may still not be conclusive but worth a try.
The purpose of “printed circuit boards” is to provide pathways for the passage of electrical current. These pathways or conduits can be made of different types of materials, some being more stable and reliable then others. Copper is the most stable and reliable for circuit boards and would be referred to as copper plated. Copper circuit boards are also the most expensive. Tin is another material used for circuit boards and these would be referred to as being tin-plated. Tin-plated circuit boards are considered to be the least reliable and the least expensive. Over time it is now believed that the properties of tin will allow the growth of tiny strands or whiskers on the tin-coated pathways that are microscopic in size and can brake off. These broken strands, not visible to the naked eye can now float around on the circuit board, attach to others and become long enough to create short circuits between the pathways causing electronic and mechanical failure. Cars of today are loaded with electronics and tin-plated PCB’s and they often fail, causing expensive repairs. However, a car that breaks down, stops and needs repairs is a lot different than a car suddenly accelerating without anyone even pressing the gas pedal.
I hope that the Knox County Sheriff Office's investigation will eventually lead to the truth as to the real cause of the accident. I believe this will prove to be a daunting task. Undoubtedly there could be pressure from many to blame the driver, Mrs. Torgerson for this horrible event. Truth and justice for the Gold family and the death of their son is now in the hands of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. In my opinion, this investigation, if done properly, is going to be long and hard. I also feel sheriff's office is capable of doing the job while at the same time being answerable only to the people of Knox County. The sheriff's office can do what ordinary citizens can’t and that is to be heard locally and nationally if necessary.
I can be available to discuss this further should you desire, in strict confidence of course.
I strongly believe that the cause of the accident on the Port Clyde wharf was the result of a defective acceleration switch in the Nissan Infinity. The two car manufacturers that have and possibly still are having Unintended Acceleration problems are Toyota and Nissan. I have not to date seen any other car manufacturers having these problems.
My research also shows that the chances of experiencing Unintended Acceleration are 600 out of 1 million. Should one experience a UA and be lucky enough not to get into an accident the solution to the problem is simple. Remove and replace the gas pedal and hope that you are once again not “number one” of the 600 or replace the gas pedal and change car manufacturers. In any event replace the gas pedal. It only cost me $145. Toyota wouldn’t pay for it. Time to replace, about 15 minutes.
As to my opinion of the results of the sheriff's office and the district attorney’s investigations I can only say that I am very surprised it only took six months. Given the complexity of the case and its participants, including Nissan, if Nissan actually was included, I think it could possibly take years and to really find out who is responsible for the death of Dylan Gold, a 9-year-old boy, it probably will.
Lack of vision, leadership
I would like to take a minute and express what I am thinking amid all of this turmoil in our school district. I am a resident of Rockland, I am married to a teacher working in the current RSU 13, and I am the father of two RSU students.
First I would like to say that my children have thrived in this school district. We have been extremely fortunate in my opinion to have the opportunity to enjoy the professionalism and goodwill of all teachers and staff and would not change anything in that regard. However, this district has been plagued for years, by a complete lack of vision and leadership, at both the superintendent and school board levels. I will grant that all of the participants have been well-intended and I do not believe that any of us would assume that these positions are easy, or even rewarding for that matter..but they are of vital importance to our children, our community and our future.
Superintendent Lew Collins was hired to replace Dr. Lucarelli. Our interim superintendent Neil Guyer, by all accounts did a better than adequate job filling in during the transition, with the help of the business manager, and other members of that team. There were very few complaints generally.
When Mr Collins took over, there is no doubt that he inherited some difficult challenges. However, one does not enter into a position such as his, without some understanding of what lies ahead. The history of his tenure with the district is short, but memorable. What I think is most important to this story, is his inability to lead. That is the bottom line as far as I am concerned. This superintendent does not possess the abilities necessary to lead the array of people required to operate a school district successfully. I think this fact is clear and indisputable. What vexes me most, are the members of our school board who would rather believe, and would like the public to believe, that Mr Collins was somehow the victim of a coordinated vendetta which began from the outset of his assuming the job, and was orchestrated by the interim superintendent, and members of his team, along with others. This is really difficult to believe, and further I find it difficult to grasp why members of the board would insist that Mr Collins has done nothing wrong in all of this, and is deserving of the unbelievable severance package of which we are all aware. Are we supposed to believe that Mr Collins has been granted his severance deal because a member of the school board stormed into his office to demand an explanation regarding the sweeping no confidence declaration from both teachers and administrators? I believe that we should all be demanding that explanation. I also believe that anyone who accepts the position of superintendent, with all of its challenges, and substantial compensation, might expect some acrimony from time to time. There has to be more to this story.
Mr. Collins may be adept at some of the skills necessary to seek employment as a superintendent, but he lacks that which is most important; the ability to lead. Members of the school board who support Mr. Collins appear to be blinded by their determination to win at all costs, and seem to be denying what is obvious. I assume that board member Robishaw for example, when considering a candidate for fire chief, would choose and individual who could lead men and women in and out of a burning building, rather than one who was more adept at manipulating budgets. Leadership is the key ingredient.
The school board is a failing enterprise in our district, and I have to say that the idea now being floated around, that we should blow the whole thing up, and start again, could be the last straw for many of us, who hope every day that our board will be able to pull together and create a functioning leadership body for our school district. Our out-going board chairwoman has failed in her capacity as the leader of this board. As chairman, she has allowed things to spiral out of control. She has demonstrated over and again that she does not believe in a unified district, she demeans the neighbor communities and now is apparently assisting in the circulation of a petition aimed to destroy what many have been working to build.
It is a striking contradiction to me when I compare the manner in which our kids handled this merger of districts versus how the adults are handling it. The board chairman has characterized the former SAD 50 in very negative language, and has apparently done nothing toward reaching common ground and compromise with St. George. And while we are all drawn to this pitiful weekly embarrassment that has become our school board, we are missing the larger, and more troubling product of our current conditions. We are losing our community.
I have seen a trend over the past couple of years, and I've been deeply troubled, by the number of people whom I know, or have become acquainted with, who have moved out of our region because of this school districts difficulties. We are seeing more empty houses, we are losing families who would otherwise enhance our neighborhoods, our schools, and our industry. As towns, and as a region, we will fail to attract businesses that we so desperately need to sure up our tax base, because we are failing our schools.
In many of our elementary schools, when kids develop problems amongst each other, our teachers will often emply the phrase “stop and think”. I belive that it is time for our school board to stop and think.
We must not rehire Mr Collins as our superintendent. Mr Collins resigned his position, and he has left us with a very generous severance package, and apparently a gag order against any negative feedback, should he use our district as a reference moving forward. Mr. Collins has yet to demonstrate even a thread of leadership, having presided over one of the most acrimonious periods in our school district, union or otherwise, in memory. Mr Collins has dedicated a substantial amount of energy toward naming culprits, while taking none of the blame upon himself. Enough is enough.
Our School board should drop plans to consolidate our middle schools, and should also drop plans to close any of our small schools at this time. The budget savings numbers being floated to the public are dubious at best, and come with no substantial data to back them up. We have all been through enough turmoil for the time being, and experience shows, that these simple consolidation plans lack the necessary planning, and do not take into account the impact in costs long term. Again, enough is enough.
We need to take a breath, we need to look at what is working well, and celebrate that, while constantly striving to improve the quality of our schools, and therefore, the quality of life for everyone in this district. We have so much here to be grateful for, and we have the potential to create a school district that will exceed all of our expectations, but in my opinion, we need to do that by taking small steps, toward big accomplishments.
It's your money
If Knox County communities had $9 million-plus dollars to be divided up, should we let each municipality have local control on these funds or send them to Augusta to spend as they please? And what if these funds came from your income and sales taxes?
Would it be nice if you could go to your annual town meeting or directly to your Council and discuss how these funds should be used in your community? Maybe you have some seriously deteriorating roads, buildings with leaky roofs and inefficient costly heating systems. You many have a debt payment you could erase or you simply want your property taxes reduced! If the money stays in your community you have the opportunity to have a say in how it is used.
Is this a pipe dream you may ask? No, this is the amount that the state of Maine has raided from your revenue sharing since 2009! From 2009 to the current state budget ending June 30, 2015, more than $9 million has been taken from you! Knox County is a small county; statewide the total being taken from you exceeds $340 million!
A 40-year-old law states that 5 percent of your sales and income taxes are to be distributed back to the communities. This law has been adhered to until 2009 when small amounts were raided and this past year it was proposed to take it all! Why? Because it is easier to take it from you than make the necessary changes in Augusta; it is easier to put the blame on the local city and town when taxes are raised.
Each community has different stories to share on how revenue sharing has had an impact on your property taxes and services. I urge you to contact your town manager, selectmen and council members so you can hear directly what the impact is on your community.
As one nationwide commercial states “It’s my money and I want it now." Folks, this is your money so please call your representatives in Augusta and tell them you want your money to stay in your community.
Route 1 widening
I never thought I would be moved to write another editorial about Route 1 after the horrors of 10 years ago, but here I am. A nice Maine Department of Transportation appraiser was here last week to tell us what they consider fair compensation for damage to our property while rebuilding Route 1 here in South Warren. Their offer is for a temporary construction easement and the cutting of 10 trees lining the highway on the upper side of the house; the right to drain water into our upper lawn, etc. However, this does not begin to cover what is actually being destroyed.
The DOT has declared a huge easement on this side of the road on the lower side of the house, when there is an empty field on the other side of the road. They are cutting all of our 19 mature trees lining the road and bulldozing the four raised shade nursery beds we built for the Warren Garden Club’s plant sale, and in which my husband now has about $1,000 worth of Christmas tree seedlings. The DOT is also digging into our septic system drainage, bulldozing down the hedge and shrubs on our lawn, and digging into my beautiful hosta and wild flower gardens. They will also be blasting the ledge our house sits on and digging an 8-foot underground drain along the road to drain water into a small stream on our lower neighbor’s property. They are already draining into our upper lawn, why do they need another drain? They are generously leaving us two trees (which the CCC planted in 1933), but moving the telephone poles back 10 feet, so CMP will be right behind them cutting those two trees. There goes every bit of any privacy for which we have worked so hard. A pair of catbirds has built a nest in that hedge for years and years. The babies are so cute running all over the lawn. So this year, dead baby catbirds and no lawn. To give the DOT some credit, they are planning to narrow the shoulder to 4-feet and not 8 along here. At 8 feet I could shake your hand as you drive by.
Years ago when we wanted to replace an old garage and plant some trees, my husband went over to the DOT office in Rockland and talked with the engineer, who in-turn got out his maps and said they didn’t actually have a right-of-way along here because in 1931 when they laid out Route 1 (as we know it today), they bought chunks of property up and down the road that they needed to “improve” the highway. Nothing was bought from my great-grandfather on this property. I have family deeds going back to 1792 and nothing was ever said about buying or selling a right-of-way. But when we did plant the trees, my husband thought we would be on the safe side and carefully measured back 33 feet from the center of the highway and planted accordingly.
Why is this happening? When the DOT appraiser left, my husband and I, very upset, looked at each other and agreed this plan did not make any sense! When the first appraiser (from an outside firm) was here last summer, we told him there must be a mistake on these plans, because if their claimed right of way was 66 feet, why does the map show them going way over into our property. He did not know and said he would get back to us; of course, we never heard from him again. When the DOT right-of-way man for this project came here even earlier, he said he didn’t see any reason to cut the lower trees, and I think he was correct.
Then what must be the truth hit us. The DOT has probably made a deal with the sewer company. We remembered when everyone’s property along the other side of the road was dug up to run pipe in order to pump the sewerage all the way from Warren Village miles down Routes 1 and 97 to go in with the state prison and the big mess out here when it failed this past summer. We had noticed a sewer man hovering over the DOT project engineer at one of the public meetings. The DOT map of this project doesn’t even show the sewer line, although every rock and tree on this side of the road is carefully mapped. Their map even shows a berm to protect a half dead tree close to the road on the other side. Isn’t a sewer man one of our selectmen?
When the cordial DOT project engineer spoke at the first public meeting (when he assured us they were a new, kinder DOT and would not behave as they did on Phase I, but would work with the folks along the road), he had a letter from the Warren selectmen stating they wished to continue this project with a 4-foot paved and a 4-foot gravel shoulder, as on Phase 1, to mitigate the appearance of a big road through residential neighborhoods and slow down speed. The DOT man said that they agreed and would do the four and four. (Why town selectmen have a say on a state road baffles me). The engineer also said he knew that with the new improved road, people would probably drive faster and there would be more accidents, but that was an enforcement issue and not a DOT problem. He also said they were staying in the current roadbed. Then public meeting number two came. The engineer had a new letter from the selectmen saying that they now wanted 8 foot paved shoulders. Evidently a couple of developers and our “volunteer” paid misguided fire chief had gone to a selectman’s meeting and changed their minds. The DOT right-of-way man was at this meeting also. How did he know about it? The impacted folks did not. I said to the engineer, won’t it look funny to have the shoulders one way up the road and another way down the road. He said they would probably pave over all the gravel part of the shoulders up the road to match.
My friend Irene told me to be sure to ask the appraiser what they were going to do to replace the trees and re-landscape. So I did ask and he said the DOT doesn’t do that and thought I could take the $2,300 and do it myself. My husband and I have already spent over half of our lives getting our yard to where it is now. We will not live long enough to replace what is being destroyed and even if we did, by some miracle, live to be 90 odd, there will be no place left to replant. And $2,300 would not begin to cover it.
Diana Overlock Sewell
As members of the Midcoast Community Chorus and as residents of Midcoast Maine, we want to share with our neighbors a powerful reminder we recently experienced about the deceptively subtle but critical importance of community consciousness. Over several days of putting up posters for our January concert, we found a startling and painful difference in attitudes between local small business owners and the “big box stores” that are beginning to take up residence in our area. Local store owner after local store owner graciously welcomed our efforts to advertise the concert by helping us place our small attractive poster in their windows, on bulletin boards or even tape it to their wall when they had no other place to put it. In contrast, we ran into nothing but cold, impersonal rejection from one of the biggest box stores underscoring how shockingly disconnected the international stores really are from the genuine welfare of our community.
It is relevant that not only has the Midcoast Community Chorus regularly brought outstanding music and a wonderful sense of community spirit to our neighborhood, we have donated approximately $50,000 to our community including $10,000 each year to worthy local causes including Knox County Health Clinic, Restorative Justice Project, New Hope for Women, Maine Farmland Trust and Five Town Communities That Care.
We fully appreciate that many local residents benefit from big box store discounted prices they can offer because of mass production and international low wages. We also recognize that local employees welcome a paying job. However, it seems important to also recognize that communities are composed of individual human beings who are real people struggling to earn a living wage and contribute good quality products as well as good will toward their friends and neighbors. There is no one definitive good answer to this challenging modern day dilemma. However, it seems to us that welcoming local residents and offering the space and cost of one community bulletin board which would benefit the entire community would be the least these international megastores can offer local residents.
Polly Armstrong, St. George
Liga Jahnke, Friendship
I am pleased the Maine Supreme Court ruled in favor of transgender student Nicole Maines' rights to use the restroom she identifies with. It is important for "humanity" (still in quotes until we accept all humans regardless of their gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexuality, etc., etc., etc.). Making anyone feel stigmatized because of misunderstandings, phobias, religious zealotry/bigotry, etc., is not only cruel it is inhumane.
Transgender youth must be allowed to choose the gender they identify with. Did you know approximately one in 100,000 human babies are born hermaphroditic or pseudo-hermaphroditic? This means human genetics are producing human babies with both male and female genitals to variable degrees. There is no blaming these babies; it is what it is. Most likely parents and doctors choose these babies' genders at birth; because of the amount of transgender activity, it is obvious these choices are/were in error. Amphibians (and now bees) have been warning us about hermaphroditic variables for decades due to pesticides, chemicals and other contaminants. Continued use of man-made toxins will no doubt produce increasingly high rates of genetic and gender variables.
It is imperative humans understand their genetic dynamics. Humans of all gender variables must be loved, nurtured and accepted into society. We must not fear humans who are different from ourselves, no matter what the difference.