Camden Herald letters to the editor Nov. 26

Nov 26, 2020

A chaplain gives thanks

In life and in death, MaineHealth hospitals Pen Bay Medical Center and Maine Medical Center offered faithful support on behalf of me and my late husband Bill.

At this time of Thanksgiving, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude, as a wife and as a chaplain. The care teams at PBMC and MMC supported, encouraged and embraced us in very uncertain times, and that meant everything.

I am reminded of a quote shared by a friend shortly after my husband’s death earlier this year. “Grief and gratitude are kindred souls…each pointing to the beauty of what is transient and given to us by grace.” I have since learned that these are the words of writer and editor Patricia Campbell Carlson, and they help explain why, in this year of personal loss, my heart embraces gratitude.

Since moving to Camden from the Boston area 11 years ago, my husband had three open heart surgeries. Two of the surgeries took place at MMC with Dr. Reed Quinn, head of cardiothoracic surgery.

The 2016 surgery was especially challenging because Bill developed endocarditis, an infection that caused significant damage to his heart valves. He endured over 13 hours of surgery and made it through, but there were complications over the next few years. In early 2020 Bill developed aspiration pneumonia. He died on March 9, three days before the first COVID-19 patient was diagnosed in Maine.

When Bill came back from the 2016 surgery he was weak but determined. Every nurse and every physician pulled me aside and said, “Your husband has a depth of courage and quiet determination that is striking to me. What can I do to support you, as his wife, because you’re an important part of his healing and his recovery?” One of the things that stands out for me is that the care teams at MMC and PBMC supported us as a family.

My grief for the loss of my husband of almost 27 years remains deep and tender. And yet healing grace “meets” me, day by day. Bill was a pastel painter and his spirituality is reflected in his creative depiction of Maine scenes — in particular the islands of Penobscot Bay. Signs and symbols of Creator God’s handiwork are in every painting, an offering of peace and hope.

And so despite this loss, I am filled with an equally deep gratitude for the beauty of Bill’s life, the richness of our marriage and for the compassionate care provided by so many at PBMC and MMC.

Bill died at age 68, with a full moon emerging. As I sat vigil alongside his bed at MMC, the Lenten moon spoke to us of the completion of a cycle. Our faith was strengthened to trust God’s never-failing love and care … then, and for all eternity.

Thank you all, and may God bless you during the sacred season that is upon us.

Rev. Abby Pettee

Chaplain at Pen Bay Medical Center

Schools finance scrutiny

Although I have had previous disagreements with Rockport’s BOS Chair, Debra Hall, I support her scrutiny on the impact of school board budgets on town property taxes. As the percentage of the Rockport property taxes allocated to schools approaches 70%, one wonders where the endpoint is. Are taxpayers willing to accept 75% or 80%? Do we simply dial back public safety, infrastructure, roads, parks and library costs to accommodate ever-increasing schools costs? Or working on a meager town budget allocation of 10% or 20%, do we even need a BOS? At that level the town manager can handle all oversight as a glorified tax collector.

I also support Hall’s scrutiny on the matter of a $7,000 bonus to the superintendent of schools and disagree with this paper’s condemning of Hall’s open concern. Contrary to this paper’s editorial view, I see nothing improper about scrutiny of public officials’ salaries.

As a former school superintendent and president of a regional superintendents’ association, I am acutely aware of public scrutiny on the salaries and benefits of public school teachers and administrators. It goes with the job; their pay comes from public taxes.

I have a serious concern about the $7,000 bonus paid to the superintendent for her oversight of a school building project. I know something about that work. In my last post as a superintendent of schools, I was tasked with the oversight of a $90 million school system buildings overhaul (almost $140 million in today’s dollars) as well as administration of a $60 million annual budget. I know the night meetings required and the weekends that are treated like week days away from family. As a public school superintendent, that is part of the job. When I retired, my school board gave me a ceremonial construction helmet and a golden shovel in appreciation for a job well done. They didn’t give me a dime in bonus salary – nor would I have expected one.

I know full well that school boards and select boards are independent of each other. I also know that school boards and their primary constituents, parents, can see a need for financial support that outstrips the community’s ability and willingness to fund it. To assuage this friction, I met regularly with the town manager and mayor, and annually stood in front of a large, packed high school auditorium to defend the school board budget. Quite frankly, I enjoyed it. We took pride in town-school board unity.

Rockport Chair Hall is spot on. As taxpayers, we deserve more oversight of school costs.

Doc  Wallace


New Hotel in Rockport

Stuart Smith boasts, “the vast number of people in Rockport are very much in favor” of his new hotel. Most people, however, were never consulted about his plans for a new hotel, most people don’t realize how his hotel will ruin forever the Rockport they know and love.

The Comprehensive Plan for Rockport went to great effort to discover what Rockport residents want and need. The very first page states that the people of Rockport want “preservation of the aesthetics of Rockport, which includes its rural character, beauty of the hills, beauty of the harbor, and the intimacy of the neighbor hoods.”

Smith’s hotel, because it is big, dark, and industrial looking, demolishes all of the above. Its size plugs the view of both the harbor, and the hills beyond; its 26 rooms with their ridiculous balconies do away completely with any sense of intimacy in Rockport Village.

Its parking problem will inevitably lead to bulldozers chewing up even more landscape to create parking lots. The extra cars, when not parked, will clog the roads and make the walking and bicycling that Rockport people love more dangerous than ever.

Mr. Smith arrogantly invites us to his hotel rooftop (where loud music will play every night) to see the view we formerly enjoyed just walking down Center Street. (Or in my case every time I looked out a window.)

Mr. Smith’s “goal is to…bring some vitality back to Rockport Village.” The Comprehensive Plan recognized that Rockport lacks retail shops, groceries, a barbershop, dental offices, and so forth. It states that these would revitalize the downtown. It never mentions a hotel. A hotel may benefit the few current shop owners; it doesn’t benefit most residents. Instead it takes away their space, their peace and quiet, their roads, and their privacy. It takes away their view of the harbor and the hills beyond, and it brings a whole new sense of anxiety to a once peaceful small town.


Andy Austin Cohen


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