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Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
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January 26, 2018     Quoddy Tides
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January 26, 2018
 

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26 JanuarY, 2018 THE QUODDY TIDES Page 13 Lubec eyes options to deal with town's dangerous buildings by J.D. Rule Emotions ran high during the public hearing convened to discuss Lubec's dan- gerous buildings. The meeting, held on January 24 in the town office preceding the select board meeting, attracted about 20 residents. Two buildings on Water Street were the focus of discussions, held in the wake of the loss of the McCurdy brining shed. These include the Donald Dodge building and the large structure owned by the Nordic Delights Seafood Company commonly known as the Pea- cock building. Both buildings have been the subject of public scrutiny for many years, and offi- cial patience has grown thin. Select board Chair Carol Dennison started by reading a statement provided by legal counsel that outlines three methods of pursuing abate- ment. These include a municipal officers hearing, which is based on a finding that a structure is "a riuisance or dangerous and must be abated or disposed of." The sec- ond method involves superior court civil action which, as Code Enforcement Offic- - er Jim Clark explained, may drag out two years or more. The third requires that the town establish that the structure poses "an immediate and serious threat to public health, safety and welfare." This method allows the town to take action much more quickly. All three strategies can result in the town performing the abatement and waiting as much as three years to recover the outlay, done through tax assessments. In the case of the Dodge building, the current owner informed Clark of plans to demolish the structure last November but did not carry it out. Clark pointed out that part of the problem lies in the building's location, near clam fiats and the open wa- terway, necessitating removal by hand. The owner - the third in as many years - has purchased, according to Clark, land adjacent to the property and intends to build a new structure, with a greater sepa- ration distance from the present-day Sally Ann's Caf6 and Market. The Nordic Delights building, which many have noted is crumbling, is a differ- ent story, as it is owned by an out-of-state corporation that has repeatedly ignored town demands, according to Dennison. Selectman Joanne H. Case, who has for several years asked that the town take ac- tion, became emotional during the hear- ing, declaring, "I want it down, it's driving me crazy." Town Administrator Renee Gray pointed out that the brownfield team responsible for clearing up the former Co- lumbian Packing plant was invited to tour the facility but was denied access by Nor- dic Delights management. Barbara Sellit- to, president of the Lubec Historical Society, asked, "When are you going to take action?" She cited 17 times that own- ers of dangerous buildings were asked to appear before the harbor board but failed to appear. While all who spoke agreed that it was time to take action, disagreement centered on the costs involved, primarily the bur- den placed on taxpayers. Harbormaster Ralph Dennison observed that if the town acquired the waterfront behind the Nordic Delights building, a wharf could be con- structed, allowing a safe harbor for fisher- men to park vessels during a storm. Several questioned why these two build- ings were the primary focus, leading Ral- ph Dennison to comment about the former cat food warehouse, saying, "That one's going to come down and kill someone." Near the conclusion of the select board meeting - following the hearing - the board moved to send a letter to the owners of the Donald Dodge building demanding that action start "not later than the end of February." THE MCCURDY BRINING SHED came visiting the following morning. (J.D. Rule photos) by J.D. Rule "It's ironic," laughs Michael Calder. "Years ago I used to drive way up this beach, up to the Duck Ponds, pick up smokewood to sell to McCurdy." The wa- terlogged driftwood, he explains, was used in the herring smoking process. Now he is working to clean up Campobello's Fox Farm beach, where the McCurdy brining shed was deposited by a recent super high tide and winter storm event - no easy task, considering that work cannot be done at high water, and each step must be com- pleted before the next tide lest more of the debris head seaward. Not everybody finds humor in this event, which has become a cross-border point of contention, with tempers flaring on both sides. The friction started, accord- ing to many from Campobello, when a representative of Lubec Landmarks, the building's owner, attempted to prevent in- dividuals from taking wood by "yelling and screaming." Campobello Mayor Stephen Smart says the outcry resulted in the permitting pro- cess becoming a rulebook matter instead of what he initially thought would be a simple process. "That added four days to the permit process," Smart says. Beach access is controlled by the Roosevelt Cam- pobello International Park, according to Smart, but as the debris was on Crown lands - the intertidal zone - permits from New Brunswick's Department of Energy and Resource Development were required. Permits needed for cross-border employ- ment became a second hurdle. Much of the rancor played out on social media, including an argument between a reporter from an out-of-town paper and a number of readers. Rachel Rubeor, presi- dent of Lubec Landmarks and also a mem- ber of the town select board, was the focus of much of the ire, resulting in select board Chair Carol Dennison distancing the town from Rubeor's comments. As a conse- quence, Rubeor has agreed to take a one- month leave of absence from her elected duties. "The board feels that I have em- barrassed them," she says. Dennison, in an interview, states that Rubeor had been urged to "take some time off" and con- firmed that the right to push Rubeor off the board is reserved for the voters. "She can't take part in any board discussions involving dangerous buildings," Dennison says. Asked how to deal with the hard feel- ings, Shelly Tinker, president of the Lost Fishermen's Memorial Association, stat- ed, "The mess belongs to Lubec. We need to get over there and clean it up." Tinker, a lifetime resident whose fisherman .hus- band hails from Campobello, organized a work party to move debris above the high- water mark prior to formal clean-up oper- ations, attracting participants from both sides of the border. Tinker's organization at Campobello's Fox Farm the afternoon of January 6. This photograph was taken return to is not associated with Lubec Landmarks; to salvage what's possible of the Mc- it maintains a memorial to fishermen lost Curdy's Smokehouse brining shed and its from both Washington and Charlotte contents." Lubec Landmarks intends counties. In particular, Tinker is con- eventually, according to Rubeor, to use cerned about the safety of fishermen; she salvaged materials to construct a replica became emotional during the interview of the shed. when she described risks created by float- Remediation work began the afternoon ing pilings, of January 16, commencing when the tide While charges of vandalism and scav- had receded sufficiently to permit Calder enging were tossed about indiscriminate- and his crew to enter the beach. Hazards ly, photographs taken the morning of included splintering boards and rusty January 9 confirm that at least four roof spikes, all coated with ice. Fortunately, trusses had been cut away, apparently with the sub-zero weather experienced earlier a chainsaw, which may have contributed had abated, but snow delayed the work. "I to a subsequent partial collapse triggered don't want to pull the roof apart until I can by the structure shifting during a high tide, finish it before the tide comes back in," and further adding to concerns about pub- Calder said. lic safety. Once Calder pulled the last portions of CAMPOBELLO CONTRACTOR MICHAEL CALDER was hired to remove the debris from the beach, allowing Thornton Construction of Milford to transport the material back across the bridge to Lubec. The McCurdy brining shed has crossed the internation- al bridge twice - once under and once over. This photo was taken on January 22. Rubeor remarks that she was concerned the shed up the beach and into a nearby that the January 4 storm might bring the parking lot, crews from Thornton Con- shed down and had attempted to arrange a struction of Milford used boom trucks to boat for the removal of historic artifacts transport the recovered material across the before they might be lost. "We didn't get it bridge to a lot in Lubec, where it was done in time," she says. Worries of this separated and cleaned. Tempers had kind of damage predate Lubec Land- cooled, with friendly banter replacing the marks. John P. McCurdy, the last operator barbs, such as one comment on social me- of the smokehouse, said that when storm dia claiming, "We've known all along you conditions were expected, "I would park a wanted that shed." truck out on the wharf," hoping that the In an interview, Rubeor points out with added weight would stabilize the struc- a laugh that the wandering shed will one ture. day become a part of local lore. "Years According to the Maine Community from now people will recall the frigid day Foundation, the $15,000 grant from the the brining shed sailed under the bridge Belvedere Historic Preservation Fund pre- and vanished into the sea smoke on a jour- viously earmarked for piling repair and ney to visit the neighbors, only grudging- earlier storm damage "has been redirected ly coming home a few weeks later."