Searsport residents speak out

A thorough recap of last week’s Searsport Selectmen’s meeting by Tanya Mitchell of the Republican Journal.

Residents take board to task on security questions

Argument continues after meeting adjourns

By Tanya Mitchell | Sep 22, 2012

Searsport — Residents used words such as “inadequate” and “insulting” to describe responses to safety-related questions that had been posed about a 22.7 million gallon liquefied petroleum gas storage tank a Colorado company hopes to construct at Mack Point.

Resident Harlan McLaughlin was one of three people who addressed that issue with the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night, Sept. 18.

McLaughlin had asked selectmen at the Sept. 4 meeting for a copy of answers to questions he and some of his neighbors posed regarding the possible risks associated with the proposed development from DCP Midstream.

Tuesday, McLaughlin thanked selectmen for sending him the responses to the more than 60 questions residents had asked at an informational meeting about the proposed development that took place in Searsport last winter.

But, McLaughlin took issue with the nature of the responses. He noted one of the questions asked what the tax implications might be if the tank were to be constructed in town, and McLaughlin, citing the list of responses, said the answer was listed as “unknown.”

“Shouldn’t some of these proceedings stop until the answers are known?” asked McLaughlin. “Our feeling is that [the question] wasn’t answered in good faith, that it wasn’t answered genuinely.”

Later in the meeting, resident Peter Taber noted another answer that he described as “insulting.”

The question, according to the document, was “If a wide load needs a warning truck and two state police vehicles when a windmill blade moving 40 mph goes down the road why does a 100,000 lb bomb go without safety escort?”

Citing the document, the response Taber said he took issue with was, “100,000 [pound] bombs, should they exist, are controlled by the department of defense.”

Taber said other answers in the document either took on a similar tone, which he described as “condescending,” while others were deferred with notations that those issues fell under the jurisdiction of state and/or federal agencies.

“Do you think these answers are sufficient?” McLaughlin asked the board. “… Do you feel responsible to give answers that satisfy us?”

“Some members of the public will never be satisfied,” said Selectmen Dick Desmarais.

Fethke suggested McLaughlin take his concerns to the planning board, and McLaughlin characterized that response as “a punt.”

McLaughlin asked who authored the responses, and Board Chairman Aaron Fethke said he penned some of the answers and Almon “Bud” Rivers, emergency management director for the town, wrote the remainder.

“I was one of the people who thought the answers were insulting,” said resident Astrig Tanguay, who also questioned the adequacy of the town’s evacuation plan, particularly how the plan might address how to execute an evacuation during special events like the Fourth of July or Fling into Fall.

“I think the evacuation plan is adequate,” said Fethke, who also suggested Tanguay schedule a meeting with Rivers to discuss the matter.

“I don’t want another meeting,” said Tanguay.

Selectmen Doug Norman said he was not sure the town has the financial resources to address evacuation needs that may be associated with every special event, adding an emergency plan is only as good as those who are executing it.

“Or as the public who knows what the plan is,” said Tanguay.

Town Manager James Gillway said there was a lot of emergency management information available on the town web site, though both he and Rivers confirmed there was nothing in the evacuation plan regarding special events.

Selectman Roland LaReau said once Good Harbor Techmark completes its risk assessment study of the proposed DCP project later in the fall, “there should be a lot more information regarding a lot of the specifics that we may be unable to get right now.”

Rivers said his responses to the questions he answered resulted from conversations he had with the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as state and county level emergency planners.

“We tried to seriously address those questions with what we know now,” said Rivers.

Selectman Doug Norman told Taber he would be happy to sit down with him at any time and discuss any issues of concern that may arise in town.

“I’m always open to make things better,” he said.

After the 36-minute meeting adjourned, Taber and McLaughlin continued to question Desmarais about the adequacy of the answers to the questions, an exchange that spanned about 15 minutes and became heated at times.

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