Three candidates are running for two three-year terms on the Camden Select Board — Bob Falciani, Peter Lindquist and Alison McKellar.

Candidates were asked their views on the future of Tannery Park; what needs to be done with dam removal, fish passage and restoration on the Megunticook River and the role of voters in decision-making on these matters; and what actions the Select Board needs to take to help Camden's residents and businesses deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

To read Part I, why the candidates are running for the position, view the link below this story.

Tannery Park

Candidates were asked what needs to be done with Tannery Park within the next 12 months.

BOB FALCIANI

Falciani was elected to the Select Board in June 2017 and is currently chairman of the Select Board.

He is waiting for the completion of the most recent environmental report on Tannery Park, which will include information on the presence of chemical pollution, remediation of the chemical pollution and guidelines for use of the property based on both of those areas. The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the time limit to remediate the site, until the middle of 2022, he said.

In parallel with the completion of the environmental study, he is in favor of the town receiving proposals for the property, whether that might be low income housing or workplace operations, on part of the site. He said development on one part of the site does not eliminate the option of a home for the Camden Farmer's Market or a playground on the property. He said the town may receive proposals for interesting projects, or at the other extreme, none at all.

“The thing you need to do is turnover every rock and make the right decision for the town. If I had a crystal ball, it's going to be a mixed site,” he said.

PETER LINDQUIST

Lindquist is running for one of the two, three-year terms.

He wants to see a public meeting held with interested parties and members of the communities and neighborhoods to “admit once and for all that the liability issue that exists on that large, three-acre site will always exist, and it will never be dismissed by the federal government. I would make sure that point is so clear in everyone's mind,” he said.

The liability is due to chemical contamination, including unknown or unidentified chemical contamination, as well as any discharges from the property, according to information that has been compiled.

Regarding the question, “So what should we do with it? The simple answer, if you want to make it quick, is pave it. Pave the whole thing," he said.

He said in the future, the town could use that paved property for a skating park for kids in the winter or for a pavilion. He said there is no safe use for the property unless it is capped by pavement or frozen over in the winter, "because the government will never stand behind a lawsuit if somebody gets cancer tomorrow or 20 years from now."

He is not in favor of a soil cover for the property, or use of the property for public activities, and believes any attempt to develop or use the property is not a good use of the town's resources.

“The less we have to do with digging it up and using it for something else, the better,” he said.

Lindquist would volunteer to help find a new home for the Camden Farmers' Market. As an example, he offered closing lower Chestnut St. up to Wood St., or another street.

"This would make a good area for the market and it would probably be twice as vibrant.”

ALISON MCKELLAR

McKellar was elected to the Select Board in June 2017, and is currently vice chairwoman of the Select Board.

She would like to see a process “where we can get as close as possible to honestly presenting all of the real options to residents.” She said that people on all sides of the issue have gotten carried away with ideas at different times, from visions of an eco-village with solar and a playground with many uses, to the idea that "a magical unicorn developer" was going to come in.

“What hasn't happened in a very long time is just to say we're accepting proposals and to do that in a way that doesn't exclude anybody from submitting a proposal," she said.

"We can find out if there are truly any revenue-generating, job-creating opportunities for the town in the traditional sense, and if there aren't, it will be easy to say now, well let's put that to rest.”

McKellar thinks proposals for traditional development will be slim. She hopes the town will get proposals for different parts of the property, and that there will be opportunities to combine some of the proposals and for groups to collaborate.

"Maybe there will be a proposal that the Select Board can deliberate on with community input that is popular enough that a majority of residents would vote for it,” she said.

She is not in favor of the town retaining ownership, and continuing to manage the property.

She wants to make sure the town cleans up the contamination and industrial waste on the bank of the Megunticook River, along the perimeter of the property. The cleanup needs to be done before any decision is made on what is located on the property, near the Riverwalk or before any part of the property is given to another entity, she said.

Megunticook River restoration, dams, sea wall, public landing

Candidates were asked what needs to be done within the next three years on the Megunticook River regarding dam removal, fish passage and restoration of a more natural environment; the impact of sea level rise on the public landing and the decaying seawall at Harbor Park; and the role of voters in decision making.

BOB FALCIANI

The Montgomery Dam must be remediated in one form or another, according to Falciani. The town is actively working with the Midcoast Conservancy, developing a package where there will be a detailed presentation of the options. This will include drawings to help people see what the options are for Montgomery Dam and the sea wall around Harbor Park, and to get some buy-in for the options, he said.

He is waiting to see the renderings and the ideas that will be forthcoming in the presentation, so he can evaluate them, because he does not have a “fixed idea” on the solution. Any decision he supports will have to be financially and environmentally in the best interest of the town, as well as practical, and based on sound reasoning, he said.

Falciani hopes there will be a great solution that will remove the dam and allow it to accomplish all the things that the business owners and the people who love the harbor and the visual effects, are looking for. Other jurisdictions have done this, we're not the first, he said. In his experience, without exception, the public acceptance of what was finally resolved received resounding support.

“The Harbor is one of the icons of the community. None of us would want to do anything that would harm that,” he said.

The Public Landing is more complicated because there are also businesses that own part of it, Falciani said.

“We could look at a phased approach, possibly addressing the boardwalk, and the seawall supporting the boardwalk first,” he said.

He would like to see an actual plan for this within the next three years.

PETER LINQUIST

Linquist supports making any repairs necessary to maintain and prevent the Montgomery dam from failing.

He said that based on speaking to engineers, he is against removing the dam, or any other dam on the Megunticook River, due to the build-up behind the dams of toxic material that has been dumped into the river over 100 years. He does not want this toxic material to be released down the river.

“There is no good way to do it and it should not be moved or touched,” he said.

He does not favor testing the materials built up behind the dams. “This is what we've got to stop doing. It's not a good use of our resources. This is a perfect example of where disturbing something, ripping it up trying to change it and make it natural will be more detrimental to so many other aspects of our small community, that it's not worth it,” he said.

He said that the local school systems, the high school and middle school, and the new Hatchery program in those schools, which is like a think-tank, can interface with the larger community to discuss sea level rise, and see what other towns, cities, and countries have done.

The schools, in collaboration with other organizations, can study sea level rise in an open, innovative way that might actually show us some opportunities that we never thought of, he said.

ALISON MCKELLAR

We have to be working on all of those issues on parallel tracks, at different levels. On the overall issue of climate change, residents are becoming more aware of the fact that there are actual implications for Camden now. Being on the Select Board, and being often being confronted with these issues, has led her to research and get up to speed.

From a planning perspective, we need to evaluate better and communicate what we know with residents. We know now that the recommendation is that we should be planning for 2 feet of sea level rise for infrastructure that is expected to last until 2050, according to a report recently prepared for Camden by the Penobscot Bay Resiliency Project, a state effort that is also funded by NOAA.

“We know that our infrastructure on the public landing and along Harbor Park, and probably the yacht club and any number of private residences and businesses are already being affected. We also know it's going to cost millions of dollars to either redesign or fix everything,” McKellar said.

Things that have to be fixed right now, McKellar said, are parts of the wharf on the public landing that are falling apart. “It's a constant game of patching loose boards and fixing pilings,” she said.

What she recommends, and what the town is doing now, she said, is as much low-cost patching as possible, to make things safe at both the public landing and Harbor Park.

“There are certain ways we can do things that will make them very eligible for outside funding and other ways that make them more likely for taxpayers having to fund the whole bill,” she said.

Planning includes the Select Board making “all of the research available to the public, to help residents see all the choices and make decisions,” she said.

Making decisions involves comparing options not only for the costs and benefits but also to weigh the values they represent. It also includes discussions “to sort out where we agree or don't so that people understand the decisions.”

All of this needs to be done, according to McKellar, so that the town does not find itself facing an emergency, “…like the sea wall falling over, with no options beyond rebuilding the status quo for $2 million dollars.”

McKellar also spoke about effects of climate change that are specific to the region, namely, increased rain events and severe storms, which cause erosion control problems and flooding. She cited storm and rain events and erosion that occurred during construction of the new middle school in Camden last fall, and during the redevelopment of the Snow Bowl five years ago.

Every time there is a severe storm, “…we have flooding around Megunticook Lake, if we don't open the dam,” she said. “If we open up the dams all the way, it runs the risk of flooding businesses or straining our infrastructure.”

Development along the Megunticook River over the past 250 years has created more impervious surfaces, and reduces the areas somewhat where water can be absorbed before it reaches the river, she said.

“What has worked precariously for 200 years is starting to overflow in different ways," she said. "We may be talking about, planning, arguing about that river for the next 100 years.”

COVID 19

Falciani and McKellar both spoke about how they as individuals, and town staff and representatives, have reached out to ask business owners what help they need from the town during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lindquist spoke about focusing on the strengths existing within the town and community as a strategy.

"We are very concerned about the many businesses in the town of Camden from the water to the downtown retail, hospitality and restaurants," Falciani said. "We have asked all businesses to bring us their ideas of what we can do to help."

Falciani talked about how the town is using the Community and Economic Development Committee as a resource to reach out to all businesses. McKellar spoke about how Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin is working with businesses. Both mentioned small steps the town has taken during reopening of businesses by the state, including reopening public restrooms in downtown and placing picnic tables around town to help restaurants that are relying on take-out services to survive.

Falciani said the town is allowing temporary changes to help businesses, not usually permitted by local ordinances, such as putting up additional signs businesses need or placing tables outside on the sidewalks.

Both Falciani and McKellar said business owners in Camden have differing views on what the town needs to do.

McKellar said "Everyone's trying to figure out how we can continue to welcome visitors to Camden. Our economy has always been somewhat reliant on this influx of people who think this place is special and come for a day or for a summer."

She has heard opinions from business owners on what Camden should do vary from not being sure, in early June, if they wanted visitors to be encouraged to come to Camden, to others who think restrictions are too much, and would like the town to advocate for for lifting of restrictions to the governor

McKellar said it is important that town staff and elected officials are following state guidelines The town is also participating in a state program that provides funding and resources to help police officers and parks and recreation staff play a supportive, educational role, she said. She noted the town has signs around downtown and in the parks regarding mask wearing and social distancing.

 

She said regardless of what people believe about mask wearing, "it is a courtesy

to help people feel more comfortable," and she wants people to feel comfortable doing business in Camden, "because they're going to be doing business somewhere."

Linquist spoke about Camden's strengths, and how to use those  to help communities adapt to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. He does not think things are going to return to normal and wants to see the town adapt to changes brought about by the pandemic.

He wants to see use of the school systems as a communication avenue and a learning and support network.

"We've got a great community between Quarry Hill, the school system, the middle school and the walking quality of the town," he said.

Lindquist believes it is necessary to support inter-generational communities, and one way to do that is to provide internet service to everyone, a computer or a tablet for those who do not have them and a subscription to a media service. He thinks this is something the town can afford to do.

"This might open up opportunities for school groups to support and visit and help monitor and teach or communicate with people who are somewhat shut in, who still feel that things aren't back to normal," he said.

Another way to adapt will be for surrounding communities to rely more on one another, he said.

"All of our revenues are going to be down. Every town in Midcoast Maine is going to be short in terms of revenue. It will be up to us to be creative and see how we maintain services without laying people off and that's going to be hard. But it's a transition. And we've got to be talking about that now," Lindquist said.