Courier-Gazette Letters to the Editor

Mar 26, 2021

Concern over Scrimshaw

As a citizen of Rockland who has three daughters, ages 5, 12 and 17, I am saddened and disheartened you would even consider this request. The owner and operator of scrimshaw recently led the police in a wild, high-speed chase. He's about to go to jail because he was charged. I don't think he cares about our city or its citizens. Our youths have nowhere to go, they have nothing to do here.

To allow businesses like this to open up but not support more tween and teen types of establishments is a failure to Rockland children. These kids are our city's future. If they have nothing here, they leave.

The median age in Maine is 43 years old. That's proof our children born and raised in this beautiful state are leaving in droves. Most of them do not return. I urge you to strongly consider not allowing this application to go through, not approving the application.

The lives of Rockland citizens and first responders should not have been put in danger in such a reckless and careless way. In the last three years, this man has been arrested for driving under the influence, do we really think it's in our best judgment to allow him to open establishment that offers alcohol? Could we trust him to make sure his patrons leaving the bar are not going and getting in their vehicles? Could we trust him to make sure that he would make the decision to cut a patron off because they were too drunk?

Personally, I don't think we should. I hope you look into the back ground and business dealings of Mr. Westervelt, and that his actions weigh heavily in this decision.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Sarah Gott

Rockland

Focus on our children's needs

The RSU 40 school board just voted to give three of the district’s highest paid administrators raises, while at the same time pushing for what amounts to reduction in several staff for special education services to a projected 334 students.

As the parent of a special needs child who has not received a single service under his individualized education plan (IEP) yet this year, I feel this is downright offensive. During this pandemic, people are not getting raises because services cost more. The children should be put first, always.

The budget plan is to flat-fund special services despite a $300,000 increase in costs for things such as out-of-district placements. To find that elsewhere in the budget, it could mean a reduction in as many as eight education techs across the district. These are the people who directly support students and help implement their programs.

It is always smarter to pay for services that benefit several students, rather than to spend funds defending the district against lawsuits that will inevitably crop up if the district continues to be unable to meet IEPs.

This past year has been a struggle for everyone. More parents have to step in to help their children and to advocate for them. This is the daily struggle of parents of children with learning or developmental disabilities. We all want our children to have access to appropriate learning and support.

Now is not a good time to cut the budget for helping students, especially if giving raises to administrators.

Rebecca Waddell

Waldoboro

Re: Mr. Reitz

Regarding South Thomaston's Select-board Chairman Walter Reitz’s letter of March 11, I would like to make a couple of points.

The disagreements noted in Mr. Reitz's letter, concerning the proposed Island Road Project have a lot to do with the side effects of COVID-19. What used to be face-to-face meetings at which debate and disagreement were thrashed out have evolved into misunderstandings and squabbling.

It is absolutely true, as Mr. Reitz states, the town voted overwhelmingly to do a job needed doing. Clearly, we need to be concerned and mitigate the rising waters that are driven by global warming.

We all agree that this will be a temporary solution. It is a solution that aims at solving a problem that could affect citizens of Spruce Head Island. To wit, if the water rises during storm surges, we won’t be able to get off the island. It is therefore a human and environmental problem first, and an engineering problem second.

In this regard, many of us are concerned with what we believe is a solution devised by engineers who did not consider the human aspects of the problem and seemed to have been oblivious to the environmental problems.

We know this to be true because the engineers proposed blasting a lot of ledge to accommodate their idea of where the road should go. Other expert engineers warned in their report that this blasting could endanger the water supplies of at least eight homes on the peninsula.

This plan was rejected by the town, as were other ill-considered suggestions and designs. Our concern with the poor design by engineers has not changed, and all we request is that local citizens who may have more practical and less costly suggestions should be called in for consultation, rather than talked down to by an engineer who clearly hasn’t given much thought to the people of Spruce Head, but was perhaps thinking of cubic yards of ledge and linear feet and thickness of macadam.

Engineering measurements are nice, but people come first.

Andrew Stancioff

Spruce Head

On the subject of marijuana

My family and I have been running a small farm and medical marijuana business in the Midcoast for 10 years. The opportunity to be an entrepreneurial woman and take care of my family with the work of my hands and mind is, to me, what Maine is all about.

At the end of 2019, there were over 65,000 patients who relied on Maine's medical marijuana program, almost 5% of the state’s population. That number has grown. There are roughly 3,000 providers of medical marijuana in Maine who supply locally grown medicinal cannabis. This burgeoning industry has produced jobs, grown revenue streams for cities and towns, and supported families.

The medical marijuana program is run by the Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) and they are undertaking a massive overhaul driven by leadership in the state government. This begs the question: why?

Maine’s more than 20 years of expertise in the medical marijuana industry has made it one of the best programs in the nation. The good this program has done for Maine has grown exponentially.

So why is OMP deciding to change the rules that govern the program to push out small mom and pop farms? Where is this push coming from?

Instead of fostering innovation by honoring the hard work of local farmers, clinicians and patient experience, OMP has so far ignored what we have to offer. There is no data to support the need for the proposed changes to the program. Patients of the program have not been asked for input, nor have doctors nor caregivers.

Why would this be?

What the proposed rule changes do is make it possible for massive out-of-state corporations to more easily dominate the industry in Maine.

Why am I mandated to have incredibly expensive 24-hour video surveillance of every nook and cranny of my farm? To use a mandatory and unreliable expensive tracking system? To apply for countless permits and suffer privacy invasions no other industry is subject to? To utilize so much wasteful, pointless plastic packaging? Why can’t I sell my wholesome, home grown product at a store? How is any small farmer expected to compete in this market?

As I know it, the Maine medical marijuana program is an exemplary beacon of hope for those with cancer, epilepsy and other life threatening and debilitating illnesses. It is a job creator in rural and urban areas of the state.

These rule changes will make it harder and more expensive for patients I have personally helped for years to get the medicine they need. I hope that the lawmakers reviewing changes to Maine’s thriving medical marijuana industry will see what these changes will do to family farmers in Maine. One great way to start would be to pass LD 939. It will be in front of the Legislature’s Veterans & Legal Affairs Committee Monday, March 29.

These are reforms that we actually need.

Arleigh Kraus

Warren

A pledge to re-wild

What does this mean? Imagine yards with native grasses, road medians in town with flowers growing and bees and butterflies stopping to eat and rest, the elimination of pesticides and the associated warnings for children and pets not to play on lawns.

Rewilding our landscapes recognizes the inescapable reality that all things are connected and that when we have a functioning ecosystem, all forms of life can thrive. Across Maine and beyond, Maine's Wild Seed Project has launched a campaign to restore native plants in our landscape.

Wild Seed Project, based in Portland, is asking people to replace intensively managed non-native landscape across Mane with native plants that provide food and habitat for native species. Their website, wildseedproject.net, includes free guidance, tools and resources to inspire people for the coming growing season.

The rewinding project dovetails Rockland's Healthy Lawns and Gardens effort. Effective this year, Rockland City Council voted to eliminate the use of pesticides for property owners, businesses and public spaces.

The ordinance includes an allowance for property owners to transition away from pesticides for the long-term and sustainable health of our lands, waters and residents (humans, insects, birds, pets and wildlife).

This is a campaign we can all participate in, as it works on any scale, from a small house lot to a city park, and the City of Rockland in partnership with all residents will work to turn towards natural care of our community’s landscapes.

Here is a link to learn more about the City’s new ordinance and our pledge to eliminate harmful additives to lawns and gardens: rocklandmaine.gov/documents/charter-code/pesticide-use-and-lawn-care.

Annette Naegel

Rockland

Myth of affordable ADUs

I would like to address the March 11 Courier Editorial, where detached single bedroom Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) were described as being affordable, and would create more affordable housing for those in our community who need it.

However, for the following reasons, these ADUs are not affordable housing.

First, the high cost of constructing a stand-alone apartment or dwelling on a lot or renovating an existing detached outbuilding or garage into an apartment, along with the cost of borrowing, will make them unaffordable rentals.

For example, if the estimated cost for the turn-key construction or renovation of a small 425 square foot one-bedroom ADU is $175 per square feet, or $74,000 while the estimated cost of bringing separate sewer, water and electrical lines into the site from the public street is estimated at $21,000, the total project cost is $95,000.

Next, added to these costs is $26,000 for the cost of borrowing for 10 years at a 5% interest rate (not including closing costs). This brings the total estimated projected cost to $121,000 or $12,100 per year or $1,008 per month in mortgage payments. Combined with an estimated $292 per month for insurance; utilities, maintenance and property tax expenses, the total necessary estimated monthly cost and rent for a one-bedroom ADU is $1,300 per month or $15,600 per year followed by annual increases. The definition of an affordable rent is 30% of income.

Under this scenario, a person would need to earn a minimal annual income of $52,000 in order to rent a one-bedroom ADU for it to be affordable whereas, for a person earning a minimum wage of $15 per hour in 2024, 50% of their income would be going for a ADU rental thereby making them unaffordable for lower income persons.

In summary, as the numbers show, single bedroom ADUs are not affordable housing.

Concerning the comments made in the March 11 Courier that the people who opposed the detached ADUs are wealthy and prosperous homeowners, there is no truth to such statements, as they are all working class and middle-income persons residing in modest homes or in larger older homes with high property taxes.

As for being snowbirds, only one couple who worked hard and paid taxes all their lives reside in Florida in the winter. Most of the rest can only afford short, discounted vacation trips to the Sunshine State on Budget Airlines!

Rodney Lynch

Rockland

Gratitude for a great place to be

There is much to celebrate in the midcoast, even as this has been a challenging 12 months in so many ways. Having just had my second Pfizer shot at the Samoset, I am so grateful that the resort opened its facilities to be used as a vaccination site – and that so many have volunteered to help.

Included among those volunteers are many nurses who are taking extra shifts to assure that our allocated doses can actually get into our arms. Thank you all!

Thanks to the Spruce Head Community Hall and Historical Association with Keith Dunn’s leadership, down in Spruce Head we just celebrated Edgar Post’s 100th birthday with a joyous drive-by parade, led by fire trucks from St. George and South Thomaston and a Coast Guard vehicle (Edgar served in the Coast Guard in and after WWII).

The car line was steady from Spruce Head Marine all the way to the turnaround at Atwood’s – and Edgar enjoyed seeing the parade pass twice — both going and coming!

The Jackson Memorial Library has provided a variety of programs and online and zoom assistance, the St. George CDC food bank has continued its vital support of the community, and Neighbor to Neighbor rides have helped deliver food and continued to provide transportation by following careful protocols during the pandemic.

The Farnsworth Art Museum has found a way to welcome visitors and provide interesting online opportunities. Local restaurants are offering extra meals with the support of patrons. The list goes on.

All of this has happened in a state in which the emphasis has been on health, safety, accurate information, and careful attempts to maintain some semblance of an economy. It has been hard, and we have all learned on the fly. What we have learned is that working together and caring for each other works. If “it takes a village,” this village that is Maine is extraordinary.

Thank you all!

Chris Williamson

Spruce Head

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