Washington County Commissioner Speaks at Machias Rotary Club
Washington County Commissioner Chris Gardner gave an honest speech about local economic growth at the Machias Rotary Club meeting last Tuesday.
“This County is dying. We have more deaths than births,” said Gardner. Gardner emphasized the important role of the county’s youth.
He described how a large amount of young adults leave the area due to lack of job opportunity. Gardner believes in investing in the children of Washington County because they are going to decide whether or not this region plummets or prospers.
“If we don’t find a way to bring our youths back we are going to be in big trouble,” Gardner stated. The Commissioner went on to explain how locals need to start talking about what the community has to offer and stop focusing on what it doesn’t have. Gardner has confidence in current resources and trusts that if investments can be made in what is unique in Washington County then opportunity will expand.
Gardner spoke with aspiration when talking about wind energy development in Unorganized Territory. When the Commissioner first heard that wind energy companies were interested in bringing business to local UT areas, he was grateful. He said that when wind energy developers asked him “what can we do for you,” Gardner responded by saying, “choose us.” “We should try to entice people to come and work in Maine,” Gardner said.
Unorganized Territory makes up most of Washington County’s region. According to Gardner, bringing business to UT areas is essential in the process of building a strong local economy.
Gardner spoke briefly about the possible closure of Downeast Correctional Facility. “It’s easier to protect jobs than find them,” said Gardner. According to Gardner, Downeast Correctional Facility has the best work force because the employees are determined and want to hold on to their jobs. Gardner furthered his opinion on the issue by stating that when the facility became a facility not two cents was spent on it; Now the state wants to take dedicated workers’ jobs away and spend over a million dollars to build a new establishment in Southern Maine. Commissioner Gardner strongly trusts that once Governor LePage sits down and has the discussion with officials he will agree that closing the DECF is not a solution.
“I think the Governor will see that this is not the best thing,” said Gardner.
Washington County Board of Visitors Makes Local Plan for Jails
Local authorities’ feelings of mistrust and apprehension continue to smolder underneath Joseph Ponte’s proposal for a state takeover of Maine’s county jail system. However, at the annual Washington County Board of Visitors’ (WCBOV) meeting, members were able to put raw emotion on the backburner and discuss a plan of action to remedy the vexing issue.
If Ponte’s proposal is put into motion the men and women who were elected by their communities to oversee and manage Maine jails will be stripped of their authority, and in turn, that jurisdiction will be handed to a less familiar, statewide Board of Corrections. Further consolidating Maine jails suggests to be more cost efficient, but past jail consolidation attempts have failed to meet the management and financial goals created by state officials and legislatures. The proposal will have a harsh impact on employees as well as inmates and their families.
If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another: UT Citizen’s March On
Unorganized Territory residents in Washington County continue to battle for their rights as time presses on. Bill LD 616, an act that would ultimately redeem UT citizen’s democratic rights, will see its final vote in the Legislature between now and April 16th.
Property owners, from Trescott and Edmunds, met on Sunday the 23rd and discussed ways in which to reach out to misinformed representatives. LD 616 is a bill that concerns the liberty of UT citizens, and it is not a proposal for or against future wind development in Maine.
Tribe Ready to Manage Own Fisheries After State Negotiations
On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, a Passamaquoddy delegation traveled to Augusta, Maine to finalize a Memorandum of Agreement between the Tribe and the Department of Marine Resources. “We were cautiously optimistic,” said Chief Joseph Socobasin, “We were coming out of a Joint Tribal Council Meeting where the MOA was approved by a 9 to 1 vote. We had a reliable mandate to seal the agreement.”
Sheriff Donnie Smith to the State: "Take the Jail."
Two term elected Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith first found out about last week's announcement by Maine Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte to take over the County jail system from a constituent via email. Ponte said that the “county system was on the verge of collapse and that the state corrections system is well-positioned to take over the jail operations immediately.” This is a responsibility closely vested and constitutionally entrusted to elected Sheriffs statewide.