Eastport officials reject invitation to discuss regional economic development

Posted March 03, 2014, at 12:47 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — The Eastport City Council has rejected an invitation from Calais and Baileyville officials to hold a joint meeting to discuss a regional approach to economic development.

In rebuffing the overture from Calais and Baileyville officials, Eastport officials placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Calais.

In an email to Calais City Manager Diane Barnes in mid-February, Eastport City Manager Larry Post wrote that “at present council has no interest in pursuing joint issues.”

“The reason is that Calais has been involved in several joint ventures with other communities,” added Post, such as for regional ambulance service and schools, but subsequently “has chosen to withdraw and go it alone. Thus the track record does not seem conducive to my council for joint discussion or ventures at this time. Perhaps at a later date.”

“They had some concern at this point as to how productive those [discussions] would be,” said Post on Monday.

“We are looking forward to perhaps doing that in the future,” added Post, who said he communicated with individual councilors about the invitation. The request also was discussed at a City Council meeting, he said.

The Calais City Council and Baileyville Town Council held a joint meeting in late January to discuss matters of mutual interest. The focus was on economic development.

“Banding together, we can make a lot more happen than going it alone,” Tim Call, chairman of the Baileyville Town Council, told the gathering in January. By the end of the meeting, the two panels agreed to hold another meeting, likely in March, and to invite the governing bodies of Eastport and Princeton.

Several members of the Eastport City Council declined to discuss their decision or did not return a phone call seeking comment.

“No, I don’t want to discuss it, really,” Councilor Scott Emery said Monday.

Councilor Gilbert Murphy referred calls Monday to Post, then abruptly hung up when a reporter suggested the decision was not the city manager’s. Councilor Collen Dana-Cummings also declined to discuss the matter Monday although she said the council’s decision was unanimous. Council chairwoman Mary Repole did not return a phone call on Sunday.

Call, who was one of the most vocal elected officials speaking in favor of the regional approach when Baileyville and Calais officials met in January, was undeterred by news of Eastport’s rejection.

“Eastport has a lot going for it,” Call said Sunday. “They’re an important part of our community.” If Eastport officials do not want to participate, “That’s entirely up to them.”

Baileyville officials planned to contact the Princeton Board of Selectmen to see if they would participate in the next meeting.

If Princeton officials participate, “it’s a big enough area to make things work” for the three communities, said Call.

“We’ll press on and see where we end up,” said Call.

Calais Councilor Billy Howard indicated he was not surprised by the response of Eastport officials.

“I can see their point totally,” said Howard on Sunday.

Asked if Eastport’s lack of participation would affect discussions by leaders of the other communities, Howard said, “I don’t think so.”

“Everything now is just talk,” added Howard. There is no firm agenda yet, he noted.

Calais Mayor Marianne Moore did not return a call seeking comment.

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