The president of a nonprofit organization trying to retrieve remains of a U.S. landmark from Canadian shores has agreed to step down from the Lubec Board of Selectmen for a month, she said Monday.
Rachel Rubeor of Lubec Landmarks, who is also a selectwoman, said she agreed to the board’s request after an executive-session meeting on Thursday in response to comments she made that Canadians found offensive.
Canadian and American contractors will begin collecting the remains of McCurdy’s Smokehouse, which has been on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1993, from a beach on Campobello Island on Tuesday.
“I told [fellow selectmen], of course I will take a month’s absence. No questions asked,” Rubeor said Monday, “and I may just keep on staying away. Sometimes I stop and I ask myself, why am I doing this?”
The board’s chairwoman, Carol Dennison, did not return telephone messages left Monday, and the town office was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The fiery 76-year-old Rubeor touched off something of an international spat when, in a Jan. 10 letter to U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, she blamed “vandals” for taking remains from McCurdy’s brining shed from the beach after the massive wooden structure broke away from its pilings and washed up on Campobello shores in the wake of a Jan. 4 blizzard.
Some Campobello Island residents said they felt insulted by Rubeor’s comments, arguing that international laws gave them salvage rights to the shed, which they characterized as debris created in part by Lubec Landmarks’ inability to maintain the shed for many years.
Dennison and the board issued an apology to Canadian and Lubec residents on Thursday for Rubeor’s remarks, saying that Rubeor was only speaking for herself.
Rubeor said her negative comments were directed at the people who were dismantling the shed, not all islanders or Lubec residents.
One of the two contractors conducting the salvage work, Peter Thornton of Sunkaze Project Solutions of Old Town, said he had been arranging permits or trying to find a Canadian contractor to handle the Campobello Island recovery of the shed and its parts since the day after the blizzard.
An initial plan, to hire a boat to tow the shed’s remains through Lubec Narrows to Lubec, fizzled when the U.S. Coast Guard expressed reservations early last week, he said.
He said that he and the Canadian contractor, Harper Calder & Son Construction of Welshpool, New Brunswick, will have the last permits secured by Tuesday morning. He found Harper Calder on Wednesday and began seeking Canadian and American environmental protection and salvage permits the next day.
The permitting process went quickly despite the potential environmental hazard of employing heavy construction equipment on a beach, he said.
“I guess if you have never been involved with this kind of work it would seem like a lot of red tape, but from my perspective, doing this all the time, it went really well,” Thornton said Monday.
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