Whether you are tuning into our video interviews online, attending a Heart and Soul meeting or talking politics with friends over breakfast, one issue has risen above the rest in Rockland — roads!

Driving around Rockland forces you to swerve to avoid hitting deep potholes head-on, and if that has not caused fender-benders to date, we believe it will in the near future. Residents who are already paying some of the highest property taxes in the area now need to budget extra for vehicle repairs because city roads are some of the bumpiest this side of the moon.

As we continue to make money from the tourist industry, it is important to remember we will be judged by the quality of our streets. If visitors cannot be sure of their vehicles' making it safely through town, they may bypass us entirely.

We appreciate City Manager Tom Luttrell's coming in and sitting on the hot seat for a video interview about this issue. He noted that plans are in place for paving projects this spring and summer, including South Main Street and Camden Street.

However, the issue has grown beyond merely addressing the physical problem. Since roads have deteriorated to this state, it is clear we need better long-range planning for road maintenance, and this is something we should reasonably expect local government to provide.

At some point, adequate money was not budgeted to provide for road maintenance, and as with any deferred maintenance, the problem has only become more expensive with time.

The city does not put aside enough money each year for this priority, but instead, we continue to go out to bond on a project-by-project basis.

Luttrell said one option would be to put $500,000 in the budget each year for paving, and that may make better sense going forward, though the taxpayers will not look forward to paying for it.

City leaders should put their heads together and work on a long-range road maintenance plan that can be supported by city staff and residents.

Our axles will thank you.


Cushing needs Site Plan Review Ordinance

We urge Cushing residents to approve the proposed Site Plan Review Ordinance March 18.

Planning Board Chairman Bill Aboud said the town had an ordinance providing some regulation of development in the town, which a group of residents managed to overturn completely at the 2018 town meeting. This has left the town with nothing to protect its character as a rural fishing community or its residents from incompatible commercial development.

Without a site plan ordinance, Aboud said, someone can put a machine shop making noise at all hours right next to a residential home. Without ordinances that allow the town to say where these uses are best located, there is nothing to protect residents except the bare minimum of state standards.

Concerned residents put a moratorium on any development in place while this new site plan ordinance was being drafted. Ordinances can also be amended by townspeople over time.

However, to continue to operate with no local rules in place is not libertarian so much as it is irrational.

Many people like the idea of total property freedom until their neighbor's freedom infringes on their own enjoyment of their property.


Thank you to our firefighters

The terrible loss of Capt. Joel Barnes of the Berwick Fire Department, who died after becoming trapped in a room on the third floor of a burning apartment building March 1, serves as a reminder of the danger our local firefighters volunteer to face for their communities.

Barnes' funeral drew 2,500 people, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Barnes' last act was to protect a fellow firefighter from the heat and save his life.

These are the heroes in our community who know any call could be their last. Locally, we have seen some big fires, including the one on the front page this week, and every fire is dangerous.

In Rockland in particular, we are very fortunate to know that within four minutes, on average, firefighters and paramedics will arrive on scene.

Other communities in the area are at a crossroads, trying to figure out how to provide these critical services as it becomes more difficult to attract volunteers and to complete the specialized training needed to become a firefighter or EMT.

As we said last week, talks among municipalities about how to share this burden are a positive step.

If you know a firefighter, be sure to tell them you appreciate the excellent work they do in our communities.