Rockport and Camden’s feud over shared sewer treatment bills has gone too far and now threatens efforts to regionalize emergency services.

For years, local fire departments and ambulance services warned us they do not have the staffing and/or volunteers needed to provide the coverage demanded in Midcoast Maine without a more regional approach. The days of the small-town volunteer departments are coming to a transition as the cost of training, the sophistication of the work and the demands — mental and physical — on first responders increase.

For a town to go it alone in providing these essential services, the cost is staggering. However, we have an opportunity for the towns of Knox County and the greater Midcoast area to work together to provide what is needed.

Talks had been proceeding among several communities aimed at creating this regional approach.

However, now, with two of our largest municipalities locked in a legal dispute, some are stepping away from the table.

Camden has filed a lawsuit against the town of Rockport for failing to pay its share of the shared wastewater treatment bills. Rockport argues it is being charged too much, according to its calculations, and it simply stopped paying the full amount on its bills. Camden has fired back by arguing this is a breach of the agreement.

A judge in the case has required the towns to go into a dispute resolution process. We urge the towns to participate in this process in good faith and accept the resolution offered. Then it will be time to get back on track.

If there are grudges and grievances from the past, it is time to let them go. If there are personalities involved, it is time to sacrifice egos to the more important needs of the community.

Voters and taxpayers need to put pressure on their elected officials and municipal staffs to do the right thing. Trying to go it alone on these kinds of services may have an emotional appeal for some, but that is the past. We cannot afford to take steps backwards at this point.

A spirit of compromise means starting to look at Knox County as a whole as being our own community. This runs counter to the longstanding local culture and means trying to make a change in our attitudes.

Voters can also help in this by finding the divisive elected officials driving these divisions and replacing them at the polls over time.

As far as the sewer fight goes, Rockport’s position seems pretty shaky. The town has faced major battles and legal costs over the placement of its library and development of a village hotel. The idea of building a wastewater treatment plant on the shores of Rockport does not pass the straight-face test.

Piping more wastewater to Rockland might be under consideration, but it stands to reason if you cannot get along with Camden, you are not going to get along with Rockland, either.

In addition, let’s not forget Rockport filed a lawsuit in 2020 to recoup money from the school district, which had not assessed Camden enough and assessed too much to Rockport. So, Camden is not the only town to quit playing nice and utilize the courts.

Somehow, despite this recent history of feuding, these two communities must build a sense of friendship. You share schools, utilities and a police force. For these municipal governments, it is time to grow up and put the needs of your people first.