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Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011: Homeowners insurance, school costs and wind power

Insurance short-sightedness

About once each decade, regional winter storms bring rotten branches down upon power lines and for days the populations suffer power outage in their isolated homes, suffering terrible cold. In desperation and at considerable expense, some of these agonized families, having no alternative heat, are driven to rent gasoline generators to bring their oil furnaces back to life, sometimes causing fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Insurance companies, apparently ever-vigilant for savings or desirous of extra income, have stood in the way of writing homeowner coverage by insisting that additional heating systems employing differing fuels may not share a single chimney.

Years in advance of deadly storms, competent installation by licensed providers are able to establish dual standby, safe backup heat. In every deadly storm, families are killed by hasty improvisation, yet they could have comfortably survived by bringing online preinstalled backup heating systems during the disaster in total compliance with insurers’ wishes, operating with a single fuel on a single chimney.

Insurers often charge a premium for reluctantly allowing single flue backups. If at the time the home is purchased a thoughtful family wishes to provide for exegencies, often the insurer will delay or even obstruct the mortgage in response to their self-serving knee-jerk policy.

This is reckless endangerment. And insurance company officials should be held accountable for needless loss of life when they create risk while evading phantom financial responsibilities.

Charles E. Mac Arthur


School costs explained

Caveat: Although I am a member of the RSU 26 board of directors, the thoughts expressed in this letter are purely mine as a private citizen and do not speak for any bigger entity.

These days we often hear that Maine’s school-age population is decreasing while the cost of educating children is going up. Is something amiss? Nope. The cost of everything from books to fuel is rising. There are so many unfunded mandates. And schools are doing better by a wide range of students.

Special education is a major cost driver. We have a perfect storm here: the confluence of increased need for services, increased severity of presenting disabilities and emphasis on educating in the least restrictive environment. A special needs child may need a one-on-one ed tech for successful mainstreaming.

The increased demands of today’s kindergarten require children to arrive at school with a wider range of skills in place. Not all households are capable of nurturing these abilities. If we don’t want 5-year-olds to start behind and fall further behind each year we need quality pre-K classes to be universally accessible.

Many youngsters can’t survive the social and educational complexities of a typical high school. Alternative education classes are essential to prevent them from slipping through the cracks.

Doing right by the diverse student bodies of today’s schools does not come cheap. But it is, in my mind, a moral imperative.

Julia Emily Hathaway


Pig in a poke

Let’s be honest, the Maine Citizens for Clean Energy initiative is all about forcing mountaintop wind power on Maine. The coalition is not a citizens group but a collaboration of Maine’s wind development lobbyists in disguise. It’s bad enough that the NRCM has chosen to mire itself deeper into its commitment to mountaintop wind development — even more so that it is teaming with corporate wind development interests whose singular goal is to turn mountaintops into cash.

The parties to this two-part coalition need each other. Their respective, exaggerated arguments in favor of mountaintop wind development — big job gains for the development interests and big environmental gains for the “green” groups — are so pitifully weak that they’re likely hoping for a little synergy.

That these groups — five years after Maine’s first wind project went into operation — are still unable to articulate a concrete argument supporting their claims seems to matter little to anyone in the coalition.

It’s no surprise that Reed & Reed and the “jobs” groups want to use the force of law to feather their beds. Seeing the NRCM, Environment Maine and others hitching their wagon to the corporate wind lobby to sell Mainers a pig in a poke is a real shame, though.

Hopefully, Mainers will recognize this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe they will see they are being used by these groups to turn ideology and corporate welfare into statute. Sadly, this coalition won’t be telling Mainers what they’re really up to.

Alan Michka

Lexington Township

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