Marina Expansion in Rockland (Again)

Nate Davis has done a wonderful job of once again clearly documenting the issues regarding the marina expansion into Rockland’s inner harbor.

As he points out, three years ago the residents of Rockland expressed their concerns at many City Council meetings and special “off the grid” presentations by the owner of Yachting Solutions. Now, that owner (Bill Morong) is back, having sold his company to Safe Harbors Marinas (which is a HUGE international financial entity with very deep pockets) as their employee/representative.

Those of us who, three years ago, fought hard to keep control of the harbor are now faced with the same battle. I, for one, am tired of it. I am grateful that Nate Davis is still in the fray and thankful for his well researched presentation to the Rockland City Council reminding everyone of where we were three years ago.

Lynne A Barnard

South Thomaston

Ben Dorr for Rockland City Council

I hope you will join me in supporting Ben Dorr for re-election as Rockland City Councilor!

What I appreciate most about Ben is that he does his homework! He comes prepared, is willing to consider all views and makes an informed decision for the people of Rockland.

He supports a local $15 minimum wage to support working families. He supports the Knox County Homeless Coalition and Habitat for Humanity and their housing efforts for the homeless in Knox County, which is dear to my heart. He is also working for more pedestrian access and safety including the creation of Oak St pedestrian mall. He was instrumental in creating a Resiliency Coordinator position and a City Planner position.

Being a Rockland City Councilor takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Ben is a small business owner and has shown he is willing to do the work and put in the time. Please vote for Ben Dorr this November!

Pinny Beebe-Center

Rockland

Concerns about the SHM’s proposed Rockland marina “expansion”

On 10/13/2021, when the Rockland public finally had an opportunity to voice concerns about the proposed Rockland marina expansion proposal, I was returning from a 3,000 roadtrip and unable to attend the City Council meeting.  I am a Rockland resident and I have deep, deep concerns about Safe Harbor Marina (SHM)’s proposal to reconfigure our harbor in order to service super-yachts. Chief among my concerns are these:

(1) First and foremost, the adverse environmental impact of this enterprise from start to finish and beyond. Significant dredging will be required, causing major disturbance of local sea life and requiring safe disposal of dredged matter. Furthermore, the targeted mega yacht customers of this project have very heavy carbon footprints, from construction through use – which is directly opposed to Rockland’s (and the State of Maine’s) legislated efforts to begin to address the extremely adverse impacts of climate change.

(2) Impact on Rockland’s and our regular visitors’ use of the harbor. Will there continue to be public access to the Boardwalk? Will 200 foot yachts block harbor views which are a main draw for the tourism that sustains Rockland?

(3) Impact on the harbor. How disruptive to the harbor’s use will construction of the proposed expansion be? Will the existing channel have to be moved or otherwise impacted? How many local moorings will be impacted and how? What about public docks?

(4) Impact on safe use of the harbor. Several years ago a mega yacht broke through its moorings in the Portland harbor during a storm, damaging itself and other boats and dock fixtures. Do we really want four or five of these disasters-in-waiting in our harbor when major storms are more common than ever?

(5) Impact on the character of our community. Rockland is a city where artists and art enthusiasts, local business owners, restauranteurs, fishermen, boat builders, factory workers, service workers, young families and retirees all live and enjoy what our community has to offer together. We are proud to be an overwhelmingly “year round” city where folks settle and live all year, not just dropping in to visit from away. Do we really want to “graduate[d] to a higher level of prestige” as a recent article in The Free Press described the potential impact of SHM’s proposed “marina”?  How would becoming a high class yachting “destination” benefit the majority of  our community? In my view, it will not.

The bottom line is for all of these reasons and more I ask that you hold off on making a decision on SHM’s application until a thorough investigation of all of the potential impacts of this project – environmental, economic, cultural, and more – has been conducted, its results have been thoroughly reviewed and considered, and the public, especially but not only those of us living here in Rockland, really have time to understand the short- and long-term impact of this project on our lives and community and express our views on the same.

Laurence Anne Coe

Rockland

A librarian’s perspective

A challenge to instructional materials can foment divisiveness within a community (“Group seeks to ban ‘sex books’ from school library”, Courier Gazette, 10/12/21), but it doesn’t have to.

In my career as a school librarian, I have dealt with my share of challenges. The most crucial lesson that I learned is the importance of having – and following – a good, clear, up-to-date policy and procedure for choosing materials and dealing with challenges.

It was heartening for me to read the response of the RSU 40 School Board Chair Danny Jackson and Superintendent Steve Nolan to the challenge of two books in the high school library: listening to the complaint, acknowledging the complainant’s concerns, and explaining the district’s process for dealing with challenges, which the superintendent assured would be followed.

It is common for challenged material to remain unrestricted as the challenge process runs its course; if material were restricted or removed at the start of a complaint, then a complaint would *be* censorship: receive complaint, remove book.

Complainants are sometimes asked to read, view, or listen to the material in its entirety – which is meant to ensure that the work is considered as a whole and not that excerpts are pulled out-of-context.

Defense of the material typically involves providing context for how the material is used.

Books that are part of a library collection are usually available for independent reading, as opposed to required reading, and evidence should support the material’s inherent quality, appropriateness for current and future students, and relevance or value in the library collection.

The challenge process when done well involves a lot of listening, and ideally building greater understanding.

A good challenge procedure protects free speech as well as the right to request reconsideration. Both are core values enshrined in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Kelley McDaniel

Portland

To Knox County Commissioners

I write to encourage and urge you to allocate significant funds – six figures at minimum – from your ARP funds to support the Midcoast Internet Corporation. I ask that you do this with a sense of high importance and urgency. Please start anew and assess the cost/benefits of a major fiber infrastructure.

I ask that you abandon acceptance and reliance on a monopolistic, entrenched internet infrastructure provider with limited capabilities and little financial motivation to provide the capabilities and benefits of a fiber based, open access internet in favor of a foundation that will be built to last.

The Midcoast can and should be an attractive destination for telecommuters, knowledge workers and modern business start-ups often driven by younger, professional work forces and entrepreneurs.

We have a high quality of life, wonderful scenery and outdoor recreation, a thriving and eclectic restaurant scene, a leading arts scene, the Camden Conference, improving schools and so much more. But  we lack the fundamental infrastructure demanded by workers and businesses in the 21st century economy: accessible, affordable and reliable internet and connectivity options.

Investment in fiber internet is a current need and a prerequisite for successful participation in this technology focused economy. Fiber internet is more than the current state of the art; it will be long lasting as the best of breed.

In my view, failure to capitalize and exploit the opportunity will make us – especially our smaller towns – economic and residential backwaters as the century progresses. It will inhibit property value growth and limit educational opportunities for our children and job opportunities for our workers.

Next to climate change mitigation, I believe that an open access, affordable, quasi-public internet utility is an absolute necessity of overriding high priority.

Fiber Broadband is an innovation that is part of a continuum of creativity and innovation that goes back to colonial times when our forebears harnessed the rivers to power mills, transport goods and connect towns. The railroad and telegraph followed. The twentieth century saw the flight era, ATT Long Lines providing communications nationwide, and rural electrification. Then came the interstate highway system and, finally, the computer and first generations of internet.

I suggest that fiber broadband’s value and utility will have greater impact than any of its predecessors. Locales that fail to embrace and adopt this technology will suffer from “failure to thrive.”

The Midcoast Internet Coalition and Corporation are not engaged in a lark and are not making a selfish money grab. They seek to meet, embrace and help shape the future.

Won’t you join with them in turning the possible into the actual? It is often said that it is never too late to do the right thing. It is also never too late to do the smart thing. Please reconsider your positions on this important matter.

Walter Reitz

South Thomaston

Support for Ben Dorr

Ben Dorr is both a business owner and a government servant. Both aspects are important to be a Rockland City Councilor. He is careful and does his homework on complicated issues. He asks questions and wants to add to his understanding of existing policies and what needs changing to craft better policies. He knows what the complex responsibilities of a City Councilor are and takes them seriously.

Ben does not push a personal agenda or create conflict through blame. He listens and assesses and values fairness. A high priority for Ben is to invite conversations in order to share perspectives, identify benefits and minimize conflicts. Instead of an “us-and-them” attitude, Ben’s level and thoughtful approach yields fair and legal ways to help Rockland thrive. His experience as a government servant is very valuable.

Connie Hayes

Rockland

A Letter from Knox County Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether

In the kerfuffle of last week’s Knox County Commissioners meeting, I fear my reasons for voting against Rockport’s Midcoast Internet Development request of $750,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act disbursement to Knox County have become lost. Please allow me to try to explain the choices the Commission was tasked with and the reasons I voted as I did.

During the Commission’s discussions with County departments and municipalities, as well as local agencies, and interested and engaged individuals, the severe and immediate needs that were identified far exceed the $7.7 million available. We have heard from representatives of our most vulnerable community members — the homeless and housing insecure, those struggling to obtain affordable childcare in order to work, people forced to choose between groceries and medication, those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, and yes, those households that either could not get or could not afford internet service when schools and businesses were conducted remotely. These voices, including that of our own Sheriff Tim Carroll, have shared heartbreaking stories of desperation. No one could have failed to have been moved by Sheriff Carroll’s account of the unfolding hidden crisis in our County as winter moves in, when most residents are tucked into warm homes, while others suffering from mental illness and hiding homeless in the woods.

Every one of these individuals is part of our community, and I want to believe that we in Knox County are the kind of people who care and are willing to sacrifice a little to help. Unfortunately, pre-existing inequities have been significantly worsened during the pandemic, and we are now in a position, thanks to the ARPA funds, to make life-altering, positive changes for the neediest among us.

To take just one example, the funds allocated to the County provide an opportunity right now to assist the Knox County Health Clinic, a volunteer-based nonprofit advocating for and providing free or low-cost medical, dental, and prescription support, as well as mental health and wellness services to the uninsured and underinsured.

Statewide, all our jails have growing populations, and our Knox County Jail is in serious need of expensive repairs – repairs that have been postponed for too long. We have a social obligation – and now an opportunity – to help those incarcerated who can be released safely become productive members of society. Doing so requires resources and support to ensure that they don’t succumb to the lifestyle that led them into jail in the first place. With ARPA funds, we can help them obtain jobs, places to live, transportation and emotional support.

Thanks to our wonderful corrections officers and their excellent managers, our Jail has managed to avoid a dreaded Covid-19 outbreak but keeping everyone safe hasn’t happened without placing a huge strain on the employees. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office is proposing to hire additional staff to perform the jobs that society and state representatives are demanding, extra trained staff to keep the jail population down, to assist in properly discharging inmates and to have a deputy available when patrol officers require trained and experienced help with people suffering from substance abuse disorders or mental health issues. Staff in the Communications Department must keep their equipment working at the highest standard to ensure that when you call 911, you can be confident of reaching one of the exceptional dispatchers within moments. The employees and equipment needed to offer you that assurance is expensive, but it is critical and non-discretionary.

The Commissioners have spent many hours discussing agency, municipal and County department requests for ARPA funds, but even after having to cut out very worthy requests, we are still faced with a list totaling $12 million. So, we still have more difficult choices to make.

I want to be very, very clear. I am not against high-speed broadband. Far from it. It is as critical as any infrastructure in our County and Country. But it is my job as a commissioner to help prioritize our decisions about the most immediate use for the limited funds we have. In choosing what projects to carry forward, we have relied on the clear guidance provided to us from the U.S. Treasury, and we are submitting our list to a specialized attorney with expertise in interpretation of the Federal guidelines.

U.S. Treasury guidelines state, “Eligible investments in broadband are those designed to provide services meeting adequate speeds and are provided to unserved and underserved households. Underserved or unserved households are defined as those that do not have any access to internet or have service at speeds of less than 25 Mbps (Megabits per second).

From my research, 98.9 percent of Knox County residents have access to at least 25 Mbps, and 94 percent have access to speeds of at least 100Mbps. The immediate priority is to find and assist the unserved and underserved 1.1 percent, and where possible, use what resources are available to assist those households.

I applaud the Midcoast Internet Coalition for what they are doing. They are working tirelessly to improve internet service for everyone in Knox County, and we encourage them to continue, but I, as one commissioner, believe that our community has more pressing and even life-threatening needs that must be addressed with the American Rescue Plan dollars that we have been entrusted to distribute.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to clarify my position on these decisions, and I’m confident that we can come together as a caring community to work in the best interest of everyone in Knox County.

Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether

Spruce Head

Nicole Kallach for City Council

I enthusiastically support Nicole Kalloch’s City Council candidacy.

I like her background and experience. Nicole manages two businesses. In moving one of those businesses to Rockland a few years ago, she displayed her considerable skills as a leader/manager – knowledge of business and planning, a capacity for negotiation and collaboration, and a dedication to getting things done. Nicole would also bring a healthy understanding of budget management and other financial issues to her City Council work.

I applaud Nicole’s approach to the issues facing our community. As she emphasized in announcing her candidacy, “Rockland’s biggest challenge is its tax base… raising taxes is also contributing to the city’s housing crisis.” Kalloch stresses that she sympathizes with local homeowners struggling to keep up with rising taxes and inflation, and will work to make Rockland more attractive to businesses to grow its revenue base.

While still getting up to speed on the complex issues surrounding zoning ordinances to expand housing, Nicole has expressed concern that neighborhoods could lose their identities if housing patterns become denser. She singled out the proposed Midcoast Habitat for Humanity (MHH) project on Talbot Avenue as a special concern. “I worry about the precedent it sets… if we allow a housing development on a wetland. I am also very concerned about the impact the project will have on the homes and ecosystems downstream.” Nicole favors building more affordable housing on less environmentally controversial land parcels, like the property currently under development by MHH on Philbrook Avenue.

By entering this race for a spot on the City Council, Nicole Kalloch is pledging to add public service to her already busy private sector work responsibilities. I hope the community will take her up on that generous offer.

John Bird

Rockland

Letter of Support – Ben Dorr 

I am writing this letter in support of Ben Dorr, candidate for re-election to Rockland’s City Council.

I had the pleasure of serving with Ben during my last two years on City Council. I found him thoughtful, deliberative and willing to consider all sides as he reached a vote. I have also found him to be patient and considerate with all Rockland’s residents, and I have seen that each of his votes on an issue appear to be based on his values and what is best for our city. He is be serving for all the right reasons.

It is not an easy position, one is rarely prepared for the criticism and personal attacks that city councilors face weekly. By its nature, each decision made and vote taken, pleases some and angers others. I have watched Ben work to find a middle ground, a reasonable compromise, to listen to each person’s positions with an open mind, but in the end, to choose what he thought would be best for the city and its people.

Ben grew up here in the midcoast. His roots here are deep. His family has a long history of public service, one he continues. He chose Rockland to buy a home in and start a business in. Rockland is lucky to have thoughtful young people willing to serve for the betterment of the community. Ben is one of those people. I ask you to join me in voting to return Ben to another term on city council.

Valli Geiger
State Representative
District 93: Rockland & Owls Head