Joe's Pretty Good Meeting
I went to Pizza Joe Parnell's harbor expansion informational meeting last night. (He took it on himself as a concerned citizen to hold a town hall style meeting that the Borough powers felt was not needed. Also, Joe was the assistant harbor master before being dismissed. He fought that and failed, so there’s that history.) As I headed out the door Chip asked when I'd be home. "Soon. The minute people start screaming horrible things I'm leaving," I said.
That never happened. Joe did well. We all did. I stayed almost to the end, about 1 ½ hours. It was hot in the crowded hall, and the discussion started to loop around to the same ground that had been covered. I can’t recall the last time I left any meeting at the Haines Assembly Chambers feeling so good. There were no winners or losers, just a lot of honest discussion.
The topic had the potential for a terrible scene, yet everyone was polite, and even respectfully agreed and disagreed. (No cheers or jeers.) Will and Margaret talked about what the commercial fishermen and their families want from the new harbor and why. Tresham talked about tourism concerns. Debra talked about the history of the project and the funding. Diana spoke about the process too, and the harbor committee and assembly views and her concerns about stepping backwards now. Annie shed some light on the frustration with the time frame for public comments that made a lot of sense. Heidi asked many questions. Don from the harbor committee answered them honestly, and also talked about sport fishing concerns. He was great. No one swore or told anyone they were stupid, yet people spoke passionately on all fronts.I bet I’m not the only one who learned a lot and felt better for it.
When I got home Chip asked what was decided. I said, “Nothing, really.” But I did say it was a great meeting.
Chip asked what the problem was, then. “There’s not enough money to make a bigger harbor like the one we have, ” I said.
Instead we’ll get a 750 foot long steel wall of a wave barrier 25 feet high stuck on the end of the breakwater and stretching across the cove. It will be about three stories high at low tide.
(There’s a reason there is not an artist rendering of the project on display at the library.)
Still, supporters argued that’s okay, an evil we can live with, because we need new slips and more parking, a drive down float, and a better sport fish ramp with floats.
But there are no new floats, new ramps, new boat slips, or any improved harbor parking in this phase of the plan— much less landscaping the sea floor muck dredged up on the shore— that all comes after we find another 10 million-plus dollars. That may be really tough these days.
It seems to me, that for 19 million dollars, we should, at least, get some things most people want, like the drive-down ramp and a better parking lot around the ice house area. Is that, perhaps, possible?
That’s my ten cents, and as last night proved, I am not the smartest person in the room. If you are, speak up. There's a lot to gain, and to lose.