July 19, 2011
Mr. Jon Southern,
Eastport City Manager
Respected Members of the Council
I write to respond to your recent query regarding the intentions for the sale and purchase of the property referred to as the Boat School encompassing a variety of smaller parcels attached. Please pardon the delay in responding as I have been traveling and tied up on a variety of business and personal issues as well as lacking Internet service for several days.
I would open by heaping praise upon each and every member of the Council and City Manager for their conduct in the matters related to the possible acquisition of the properties. On a personal basis they have done their best to make Marlow feel welcome in Eastport. I would especially comment on Jon Southern, Capt. Robert Peacock and John Miller’s able assistance and offers to help, though no member’s contributions should be overlooked.
The words to follow are among the most difficult that I have had to write over my lifetime and carry great disappointment since we all have so much work and effort involved in this long-running proposition.
We have decided for a number of reasons, businesswise and personal, not to proceed with the purchase. There are numerous reasons for this decision, only some of which are outlined below.
The delays encountered by the long running and protracted lack of meaningful discussion and negotiations with Husson College, together with the disruptive atmosphere that has developed over the period, including damage to the buildings and properties with the heightened and tense emotions over the past few months have caused significant roadblocks to the proposed event. The orchestrated and often loud public demonstrations over the period have also lessened our will to proceed.
The lease held by Husson has at times seemingly been used as a negotiation tool to force a direction in negotiations that has never been made clear and to the writer’s view remains in doubt at this moment. I add that Thom Johnston has been a pleasure to work with, a gentleman in all respects.
In a professional reading of the lease Husson apparently claims certain rights that may cause further aggravations and possible legal difficulties, which we have no time for or interest in. It has been repeatedly pointed out to me by Dr. Clark that the lease is renewable at Husson’s will and the implication provided that a legal argument could ensue. In direct language I have been told that until Husson determines its pathway forward the ball is essentially in their court. Though I have made many overtures and offers to Husson, including offers to hold costs to a very low amount, including an offer to accept equipment that is in my opinion not suitable or in good condition as partial compensation, no meaningful response has come. I have also observed what appear to me to be punitive acts by persons having access to the facilities in way of equipment destruction, vandalism, disappearance and related acts.
At the same time, a year of recruitment has been lost, the momentum now gone while Husson determined its pathway but would not allow, according to Dean Pike and others, acceptance of any deposits or entrance fees at shows. I understand from others that several were dismissed from school that were previously registered or intent on attending for 2011-2012, reducing the class and causing angst among the concerned parties.
I cannot say who is responsible for the deterioration of the facility since we began discussions but it is obvious items are missing and damage has been done.
Adding to the caution signs the above and other events waved is the frustrating year of attempts to find a way to blend our own ideas of a proper school atmosphere and opportunity for follow-up hands-on education.
The atmosphere created by the high level of dissent, much of it obviously generated and incited intentionally in public meetings, discussions and private-semiprivate chatter is distasteful, akin to looking an idealistic and capable gift horse in the mouth. The seemingly personal harping by the local paper and misrepresentation of spoken words have taken their toll as well, including such unseemly and gratuitous statements purposely picked for editorial presentation of a pot or window or words similar. The direct comparison of an open-handed proposal from Marlow seeking no financial assistance with that of what to me read like a herd of former carpetbaggers taking advantage of Eastport and Downeast is difficult to reconcile if presented in barroom rhetoric, to say nothing of, ostensibly, a fair-minded journalistic endeavor. But perhaps our final decision is the desired result, as called for in a strongly worded editorial urging the Council to reject the proposal and consider what to me appear to be cockamamie ideas lacking merit, with former, present and probable future chance of success dubious. The hateful and completely baseless bashing of Council member John Miller, with accusations of being on my payroll or words similar printed as editorial content seem beneath a community journal of repute. Though I recognize Freedom of the Press as a valid and significant birthright, I do not believe that it precludes some editorial discretion in printing wild statements that provide no fact or basis to provoke careful consideration.
The verbal bashing routinely overheard from significant numbers of people unaware who sat nearby seem to take on the aura of a town seriously divided, which is a valid tenet when the dialogue is meaningful and intending to explore the issues, but it is meaningless and often hateful sounding when no alternative or case history to indicate such nonsensical statements can be found.
In Eastport I have met with and listened, conversed with, dined with and shared a cocktail with a number of concerned and genuine persons looking for a way forward to end the cycle of downward economics, local issues that thwart civic efforts to advance pertinent causes. The Ladies of the Commons and the aforementioned Council and Manager are among those. Meg and Linda of The Commons have opened their properties to us with generosity and advice with offers to help. But the original tide of good will that flowed to my mailbox and email address from others has at times taken on a surly, judgmental atmosphere of entitlement, a cause I do not embrace.
The matter of the former town dump and its pollution extent is of great concern to me, as I try to run my companies on a high plane environmentally. I cannot bring myself to buy into a known and severe-appearing environmental issue of unknown total scope. Though I recognize that in the past humans made mistakes that today we would not, the mess is there and must be dealt with.
I learned of the town dump’s general metes and bounds on two visits ago but until my last visit had no inkling of the extent of the damage. I did view the area from the shore at low tide and subsequently inquired to the best of my ability to determine the scope of mitigation required under Federal and State law.
The gifted pile of debris found in my pickup truck bed that obviously came from the town dump was a mystery as to its purpose or donor. No note accompanied the foul cargo. I did visit the site once again and obtained samples of black goo and other items oozing from the bluff. I have done initial analysis on the materials and there are extensive hydrocarbons and other identified toxins in the mix. I do not know without a complete phase one and two audit what the extent of it is, though the street rhetoric speaks of it as a lot of buried debris of all manner, chemical and metals, plastic, wood, batteries, refrigerant units with Freon systems, etc.
There are the varied opinions as to the rights and obligations between the City, Dean Pike, Husson, etc. as to reasonably complicated claims of monies owed at sale for various agreements relative to maintenance. I have no opinion on these matters other than they are more annoyances and the source of more rhetoric.
And finally, there is the near manic obsession among some about the school and its reality versus a fictional accounting of its foundational elements. While some are pragmatic, recognizing the value of a viable school, at the same time recognizing the economic realities associated with it, others appear to lack reason and place sometimes ludicrous demands on its operation, the person charged with its care in danger of becoming a pariah regardless of cause. It too appears to have entitlement status, though in reality it must make economic sense of perish, as I do not think the Town has adequate resources to fund it.
I have funded the Pirate Festival fireworks celebration as I indicated to John Miller that I would do. I am not aware of any obligations I have incurred beyond that agreement but if I have incurred clerical expenses for copies of surveys, etc. please send them to me for consideration.
I close this lengthy, nonproductive missive with regret for the division I see among Eastport citizenry, recognizing at the same time that there is a core group of residents who are trying their best to find a middle ground. I add my appreciation to all of those mentioned who I believe tried their best to find a way forward.
Thank you for the opportunity to examine the possibilities and the yeoman like efforts of those mentioned and others unknown.
With sincere regret,