Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sidely’s “Believe it or not……”

Many in our midst consider us an incorrigible anti-government type, and wonder why we come to the discussion table with an instinctive distrust of spending by government authorities, whether at the municipal, state, or federal level.  Or by those sketchy and vaporous entities known as ‘quasi-governmental agencies.’

Look no further for an explanation than this news report we came across today.  It turns out that MRRA, the “Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority,’' has won a $1.5 Million grant to construct a new, 6,500 sf storage facility for snow-removal equipment.

MRRA, we need to remind you, is in the same category as the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Maine State Housing Authority, and lest we forget, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  Which is to say it is an organization with virtually no legitimate oversight or accountability, and which is praised at every turn for its ‘remarkable contribution to economic development.’  As if the massive funds it expends come from someone else other than you and your neighbors.  And Side.

In other words, it subsists on OPM: “other people’s money.”  Which leads to a particularly cavalier understanding of the term ‘value.’

If you’re the type who keeps a calculator nearby, you might be offended by the fact that a 6,500 sf shed could cost $1.5 Million, or $230 per square foot.  At that rate, a commodious 2500 sf  house would cost nearly $600,000.  That house, of course, would include windows, a basement, plumbing, a kitchen, and any number of other complicated aspects of a family domicile.

Shocking as this all may seem, the worst is yet to come.  And remember, we’re talking here about a place to park snow removal equipment under a roof.  (We feel obliged to tell you that we keep our convertible John Deere lawnmower/snow blower in a shed on the order of 200 sf, along with all our other yard maintenance paraphernalia.)

The ‘worst’ is this passage in the news report:

“The Navy, when it operated the air base on the site, did have a a dedicated snow removal building, but that was found to be larger than needed for civilian use of the airfield.”

To which we reply, in the modern vernacular, AYFKM? 

There is an existing shed for storing such equipment, but it’s TOO BIG?  So you’re going to build a NEW ONE?  For $1.6 MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS?

We suppose that when we eventually sell our home, if the new buyer has a snow blower smaller than our John Deere, he’ll feel it necessary to build a smaller shed, rather than use the one we built.

Could someone please get real?

OK, enough beating on that dead horse; let’s move on to the next one, and see if it stands up and rides off into the sunset.


Nobody, we repeat NOBODY, with the exception of Side, has reported on NNEPRA’s third consecutive rejection of a TIGER Grant Application.  We told you about that in this post:

We set the stage on the TIGER 6 Grant subject in these posts:

For the life of us, we can’t understand why not one single media outlet in Maine has reported on this outcome, which renders NNEPRA short of $14 Million in their proposed $30 Million “Downeaster Service Optimization Project,” a capital plan for only one purpose – expanding service between Portland and Brunswick.

Apparently, the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald, the Brunswick Times Record, the Forecaster, and various others, don’t consider this meaningful news worthy of being reported to the general population.  What a great indication of their ‘government watchdog’ role in service to the general public.

On to the next item.  Even though we’re getting a bit tired at this late hour.


We told you of proposals to pilot commuter bus service in communities between Portland and Brunswick in this post:

Today we came across a news report stating that Freeport’s town council has given ‘strong support’ to the idea.  Not only that, but the numbers are looking better than initially estimated.

So lest you think a passenger train is the only alternative to  personal auto travel (or a horse and buggy for the more traditional among you), be advised that others are at work to compete with the highly subsidized Downeaster rail service.

Fill ‘em up, Pardner!


Alright; now we’re even MORE tired, but we have one more subject to discuss.  The Brunswick Bobbsey Twins, and many others, posting on published news articles, have stood up for NNEPRA’s commitment to complying with each and every environmental regulation associated with operation of the Downeaster.

We’re quick to admit that we’re not subject area experts in such things.  But we’re also not prone to tying our shorts in knots with the cabbage that fell off yesterday’s truck and wrapping them around the axle of the noon balloon as it arrives in Brunswick.

So we can’t help but wonder about this recent photo of a Downeaster engine being refueled at the Cedar Street “Park and Ride” lot just east of the Spring Street overpass, and just steps away from the front door of the MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program building.

Apparently the contractor doing the refueling is a licensed dealer from Massachusetts.  It remains to be seen whether that raises any issues or not.

But could someone please explain to us why a contractor from Massachusetts had to refuel a train at its northern most terminus in Maine, in a Park and RIde lot accessible to the general public, without any obvious means for containing spillage or any other hazardous consequences of such a procedure?


We look first to NNEPRA, which operates the Downeaster.  Perhaps they’d say the train was ‘running on fumes,’ and had to be refueled in order to make it back to Portland.  To which we would say, ‘what; these things don’t have fuel gauges?’  And there are no fuel suppliers in the nearby area?

Even more, given the ‘regular’ schedule for Downeater service, isn’t there a standard operating procedure for seeing that trains are refueled on a predictable basis?

Which leads us to raise a question heard elsewhere recently:  “Is this any way to run a railroad?”

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