To the editor:
I attended a meeting last week with the Humane Society and a business focus group who gathered to discuss ways to increase our income, decrease our spending and increase our adoptions. In this particular meeting, we discussed the need for Board members to attend Town Meetings to answer any questions about Shelter operations that taxpayers might have.
This has been on my mind since then and because of this, I would like to personally invite everyone reading this to come out to the Humane Society and see where your tax dollars are being spent. This way when you go to your next town meeting, you will have a better understanding of where the money goes and can be better prepared to ask questions and to vote on this budget item.
As the executive director, I can tell you where every dollar goes. For instance, we use the least expensive cat litter available. Our pet food is free through a special shelter program, so all the food that is donated to us by generous people goes into our pet food pantry, to help people who cannot afford to feed their own pets. I do all of the supply ordering. A lot of our cleaning supplies are donated by caring people, but when we run out, we purchase the cheapest of everything. Lights are shut off when people leave the rooms. And employees go home when the work is done. All of these expenses are variable expenses and everyday we as a shelter work to reduce the costs even more.
Our fixed expenses, such as mortgage, heat and taxes are the same every month, whether we have 20 cats or 200 cats. These are things we can’t control, so we pay them month to month.
Our vet bills are sky high, because 90 percent of the animals admitted to the Shelter are unspayed or unneutered. It is a law that we must alter these animals before they are adopted. So this is also something we can not control.
Not a single penny goes to waste. Nothing is spent on anything other then the care of the animals. Every decoration, picture or curtain you see at the shelter, I bought with my own money. The dog and cats toys and treats, for the most part, the employees buy out of their own pay checks. Nothing is spent where it shouldn’t be spent.
You may ask, why did they ask for an increase last year, when other shelters did not? Well, explaining that is simple. Others shelters, such as the ones down south, work the same way we do, they charge a per-capita fee to each town (so much per person). Where we are, the population is five times less than Bangor. So the math is simple, more people to tax, less money per person. Most of the other money we operate on is from fundraisers. We are all exhausted from bake sales, yard sales and box lunches. But we keep going because the shelter is our heart and soul. It is what we do. Donations are a huge part of our funding but donations are down due to the economy.
So whether you are an animal person or not, please take 15 minutes and come to the Humane Society animal shelter. (263 Callaghan Rd. — go out the Ludlow Road past Walmart, take your second right, we are a mile in on the right) Give us a chance to show you where your money goes before you go to your next town meeting.
Heather Miller, executive director
Houlton Humane Society
To the editor:
The town of Oakfield is on track to become the second town in Aroostook County to host a large commercial wind farm with 34 turbines of 1.5 megawatts capacity each. Oakfield, like many small towns, has no ordinance in place to control or regulate this type of large commercial development and thus the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) is the only official reviewing authority.
MDEP has recently completed a review of the First Wind compiled data required for permitting of the Oakfield project. The DEP permit was issued on Jan. 21. There is no doubt that production of electrical power from wind turbines can have a future in many Maine communities and also in Oakfield, but there are aspects of the current development approach that are extremely troubling. One does not have to look very far to see glaring examples of errors made in wind farm development, errors that we as a state seem determined to keep repeating.
The Mars Hill wind power project was an MDEP reviewed and approved project. Once operational it demonstrated a level of turbine noise that even today continues to disrupt lives for some residents. This is noise that also can potentially cause serious health issues for some people. Seventeen legal actions in Mars Hill citing noise and shadow flicker clearly testify to a seriously flawed review and permitting process.
The turbine setback distances in the Mars Hill project were not adequate to protect downwind residents. Close inspection of the turbine setback distances approved for Oakfield show that they are disturbingly similar to Mars Hill. Rather than significantly increase setback distances in Oakfield over what was used in Mars Hill, it appears that the developer instead chose to obtain noise easements from property owners and thereby limit any future legal action. Turbine noise issues are also evident in Freedom and Vinalhaven, Maine and Cohocton, N.Y. to name a few.
Inadequate setback between turbines and homes is clearly causing numerous noise and shadow flicker complaints, lawsuits and even serious health issues for some people in our state. Yet Maine stubbornly persists in using the same flawed permitting criteria that was shown to be inadequate in Mars Hill and inadequate in Vinalhaven. After the turbines are installed and the noise starts, the means for rectifying the negative impact on nearby residents are limited. Turbines that are nearly 400 feet tall and solidly anchored on the high ridges are not easily movable.
Clearly, the time to address setback issues is prior to installation. Although the number of Maine communities experiencing severe noise issues after turbine installation is steadily increasing, our MDEP and Legislature remain on the sidelines.
We know that low frequency noise is generated by wind turbines. We know that low frequency noise is attenuated less over distance and by structures such as the walls of homes. We know that low frequency noise can cause secondary vibrations within structures. It is also becoming alarmingly clear that high levels of low frequency noise can have serious impact on health for some people.
In spite of this knowledge, Maine continues to limit noise with only an antiquated dBA criteria, a criteria and measurement that basically ignores low frequency noise. Why? The science is straightforward and the same instruments that measure dBA levels can measure dBC noise levels.
Evidently only increased public awareness and public demand for action will result in essential regulatory changes being made. A Google of “Dr. Nina Pierpont” or “Wind Turbine Syndrome” is suggested as one of many readily available online sources for pertinent, in-depth, peer reviewed information and concrete recommendations for adequate turbine setback distances.
The current practice of making homes unlivable and property unusable in order to develop wind energy is not right and is not necessary. The solution is as simple as providing adequate setback from homes in the development stage of the project. The ball is in the court of the MDEP and they have yet to respond to a need that becomes ever more clear with each new wind power project.
The MDEP should immediately call a halt to this critically flawed permitting process. All pending wind turbine projects should be frozen until the permitting process is updated and the restrictions on noise levels is adjusted to meet World Health Organization recommendations, as a minimum. Noise measurements using the dBC weighted scale should become common practice for industrial size wind power projects and safe levels of low frequency noise established and included in site development rules.
Does it not seem entirely reasonable that Maine citizens should expect environmental protection from our Department of Environmental Protection? The situation now is that each small rural town must hire lawyers and noise experts to develop protective covenants or suffer the consequences.
To the editor:
In recent months, it has become very apparent that Maine people are fed up to the eyeballs with having the choice only between Democrats (read: socialists or progressives) and Neocon Republicans (read: Rockefeller liberals) when it comes to state and federal elections. Aroostook County’s leadership back towards true conservative republicanism was never more evident than when Aroostook voters led the state in rejecting gay marriage by more than 73 percent of the vote a couple months back. Additionally, your Aroostook County Republican Committee (ACRC) made state and national (Internet) headlines, if not Maine major media headlines with our overwhelming vote asking Senator Olympia Snowe to go over and join the Democrats in the Senate where she belongs. We also censured both Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins for their votes on the stimulus package in recent months, and called for “Truly Clean Elections” where all state and federal-level candidates taking money from either the Snowe or Collins machines would be ineligible for ACRC endorsement.
In Aroostook County, real Republicans still hold sway, and you can bet the Maine GOP is not pleased, though they know that momentum is with the real conservatives in this country. If getting back to the Constitution and enforcing all of our Bill of Rights sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, you should know that the Republican caucus for all towns in southern Aroostook will be held soon, at the Houlton Fire Station on Saturday, March 13th at 3 p.m. This caucus is where we elect new members to the ACRC, delegates to the Maine State convention in May, and where we will hear from the Gubernatorial candidates and hold a straw poll. Be sure to come out and make your voice heard. If you, like me, are a former disenfranchised and disgusted Republican, I urge you to come out and give Republicanism, Aroostook County style, a try. I am pretty sure you will like what you see and hear.
Machine politics in this state is on its deathbed. Come out and help us drive a stake through its heart!
Steve Martin, member at large
Maine State Republican Committee