For years local officials have said it is not a question of "if" but "when" methamphetamines and their lab operations come to the Midcoast.

This week, we heard from Maine Drug Enforcement Agency after searching a South Thomaston residence for such a facility after previously charging a man hiding there with possession of bath salts.

Methamphetamines now join the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse, alcoholism, street drug use and bath salts problems in the community. It should not be confused with methadone, the more familiar "meth" of the Midcoast.

More and more we are becoming a society of substance abusers, and we are paying a high price. Part of that price comes from the loss of loved ones. Some of it comes in the forms of victimization and crimes prompted by the need to gain enough cash for drugs. A high percentage of local residents have a friend or family member they have had to watch disintegrate as a result of this ongoing problem.

This is also costing us money. Tax dollars are being used for law enforcement and to subsidize treatment for drug addicts, as well as money squandered in lost productivity among workers who no longer can do their jobs.

Whether it comes in form of alcohol abuse or the cooking of methamphetamines, it's getting to a point where we can no longer afford it.

Real treatment options are needed, something more than just handing out medicine at a clinic. We need more drug counselors and mental health workers and support systems to help families coping with substance abuse and the many side effects it brings to any number of lives.

It was announced earlier this month that Massachusetts-based McLean Hospital may turn Fox Hill in Camden into a private, residential alcohol treatment facility serving 11 clients with round-the-clock staff members. That may be a start, though it appears clients likely would have the financial means to seek treatment anywhere.

Hopefully more treatment options will become available for even those who have hit bottom.

The drug problem is a strong adversary, but the problem has not always been as bad as it is now. That means we could be doing a better job of combating it.

 

What will happen to Rockland's Wal-Mart?

One of the most significant changes the city has seen in some time will come when Rockland's Wal-Mart closes and sends its jobs to the new superstore being built in Thomaston.

Lost to the city will be thousands in taxes collected each year on personal property. The new owner of the Wal-Mart building, whoever that may be, will pay property taxes on the building and land, but all of the shelves, cash registers and other personal property will no longer be there to be taxed.

Many in the community are also concerned about what will happen to the Wal-Mart building once the superstore moves in. Who will buy the property and what business will be housed there?

Other Maine communities have seen Marden's and Ocean State Job Lot occupy former Wal-Mart buildings. It may be a difficult sale this time around because there are wetlands around that spot.

The Rockland Economic Development Advisory Committee has been hard at work on this problem, expanding the scope beyond Wal-Mart to the Camden Street strip. This group has called for increased walking and bicycling opportunities and is continuing research on potential for the area. This committee's work in coming months will be very important.

Rockland residents concerned about the direction the city is taking with regards to Wal-Mart need to make their voices heard while changes are still be contemplated. Now is the time to write letters to the editor and to city councilors about what you want to see happen on Camden Street.

We also feel the city should make it a priority to do something about the old Bonanza Restaurant building. The empty building that has been allowed to sit and rot for years is an eye sore. The time has come to clean up the property or force the owners to do so. More than enough time has passed for a new buyer to try opening a new restaurant there. If the building cannot be used, it should be torn down.