Media Archive

Sebec needs to be mindful of its community responsibilities

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 164, No. 31, July 31, 2002
To the editor:

The governing body of my hometown seems to have been distracted from their duties and allowed themselves to be caught up in a bitter personal feud. I am very concerned that local and state environmental laws have been publicly disregarded and that their proper enforcement is in question. Indeed, I feel as if we do not have a town government at all, but have resorted to a more tribal approach. This is not what I pay my taxes for. I am also concerned and appalled that public servants and citizens are being seriously slandered at municipal meetings and the opinions and interests of taxpayers are being ignored.

Sebec Lake is the most valuable and certainly the most vulnerable asset we have as a town. Everything that happens on the lake affects all us, both here and downstream in Milo and beyond. The very nature of a town can only be gauged by its ability to maintain its natural resources. With proper stewardship, from all surrounding communities, Sebec Lake will continue to flourish for years to come.

Is it not only natural to assume that a permit for a commercial marina be carefully submitted with accurate information, detailed intent and plot plans at least drawn to scale? Is it not natural that public discourse on such an important matter be encouraged and welcomed ? Is it not alarming that any inquiry or scrutiny into town planning board operations be met with such absolute hostility? And ... is it not likely that some environmental restrictions would apply to a new commercial business to be located 10 feet from the shores of the lake?

Those of us who have politely yet continually asked these questions over the last year, including the board of selectmen, have been insulted, accosted, threatened and accused of being "flatlanders from away." In fact, I am a 7th-generation Sebec native and among my concerned citizens I count many with an appropriate degree of Maine civility. I would suggest that the planning board of the town of Sebec is run amuck and feels it is answerable to no one. Not the board of selectmen, not the taxpayers, and not the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

No permits for a marina have ever been issued. Gasoline, oil, sewage, parking, spillage, moorings, water quality, and safety are all issues that need to be addressed and resolved before a permit should be issued. This is not a case of "I'm mad" as much as a small group of our spunky neighbors would like it to be reduced to that level. It's much bigger than that. This is the governing process of one of the fastest growing towns in the county and the question of failure and inability of town officials
to enforce the laws, maintain order and adhere to some basic protocol, such as the age old custom of elected public officials showing a little restraint in their declaration of allegiances and in their printed public outcry, lest they inevitably be proven misguided. Let me repeat. This is not and should not be reduced to a personal issue, however convenient. It looks bad for the town and makes us not only a laughing stock, but also makes us very vulnerable in all future dealings.

I would suggest this to all town officials, both elected and appointed. Do not step into town office with so obvious an agenda. Respect the town and the office and duties that go with it. Do not make lightly of your responsibility to not only the most outspoken and familiar among you, but truly to all sides. Educate yourselves to all municipal process. Do not allow yourselves to be dragged down to such an emotional level as to endanger the town.

I would also suggest you brace yourself. We will be faced with drastic changes over the next few years. If we do not encourage and display strong town government, along with good comprehensive planning, as the majority of our neighboring towns in all directions have chosen to do, we will lose all control as citizens over these changes. We will also render ourselves ineligible for state money for municipal improvements and continue to be vulnerable to this ridiculous waste of civil energy, as well as real legal consequences from many sides. I suggest hundreds of hours of anger and frustration would have been avoided if the town government had been operating properly, questions had been asked and answered correctly, if insults and insinuations had been withheld a little longer and all proper procedures had been followed. As it is, the town spirit is divided to the point of breaking.

To the townsfolk. Be vigilant and participate in this and all other issues. Do not form your opinions from mere rumormongering. Educate yourselves to the issues and show up at town meetings. We need more rational dialogue.

To the planning board. You cannot plan if you do not have a plan. You are not members of the "non-planning board" or the "we don't need a plan board" or "I got my own plans" board. Put simply, respect the office, respect the town and all its people, respect state and local laws, protect our common resources and listen to your citizens.

David Mallett

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.