Rockport responds to Camden: ‘Doesn’t sound like cooperation between communities, it sounds like extortion’

Wed, 03/23/2022 - 1:15pm

    The following public response was issued by the Rockport Select Board to Camden Select Board decisions made Monday, March 21, concerning Rockport’s outstanding sewer bills with the Town of Camden.

    For 30 years, Rockport and Camden worked together to solve shared wastewater issues. For the last several years, prior to entering into a new agreement, Rockport asked Camden to explain why Rockport wastewater users are billed for Camden’s needs that have no relation to the treatment of Rockport’s waste. Culvert replacement on Cobb Road? No response. Trucks or employees with no responsibilities to repair issues across the Rockport line? No response. Why has Camden’s wastewater rate doubled since 2016? No response.

    The only response? Take it or leave it.

    Or better yet... take it or we will cut the pipe, let wastewater back up and create an environmental and public health disaster of Camden’s own choosing. For what purpose? Because Camden refuses to consider ANY change to its wastewater rates. Not one penny different. That doesn’t sound like cooperation between communities, it sounds like extortion.

    Rockport has never viewed this conversation in the stark terms the Camden Select Board suggested at their meeting on Monday, March 21, 2022.

    The truth could not be further from this. No less than six times over the last year Rockport approached Camden to engage and answer these key questions.

    Rockport provided a new interlocal agreement proposal in October with no response and no deliberation by the Camden Select Board. Clearly, Rockport wants to talk about what separates us to understand how we can work together.

    We want Camden to explain why the communities of Brunswick and Topsham, Augusta and its neighbors on the Route 202 corridor, and the communities in the Waterville area that utilize the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District all have similar agreements like the draft Rockport is proposing to Camden (and in the spirit of the previous agreement) but why are those Maine communities wrong in how they determine fairly apportioned costs, but Camden is right to treat Rockport like your average Pearl Street resident without any of the services?

    Rockport even recently requested involvement by Maine DEP to assist in establishing steps toward mediation, but this offer was rebuffed by Camden officials. Maine DEP’s mediation would’ve included 25% grant funding for an independent rate analysis which was completely denied by Camden.

    Again... take it or leave it.

    Rockport’s residents, like Camden’s, want our harbors and waterways protected but one simply cannot in good faith look at a town that sends an average of 70,000 gallons of waste to Camden’s wastewater plant, which is permitted to process 1,000,000 gallons, and state Rockport is to blame.

    If Camden wants to say that they cannot manage their wastewater collection and must take back the 12.7% of capacity Rockport is allocated in their system, then so be it.

    Instead, Monday evening’s Camden Select Board meeting is the first such time Camden suggested their wastewater treatment limits are at risk with even a small contribution from Rockport’s wastewater users.

    If this issue had been delivered to Rockport in 2016 when we first initiated this process, then we very well could have had another mutually beneficial option available today, instead Camden wishes to dictate the timeframe in which we must remove our waste from their system... or else.

    Likewise, Monday evening was the first such time that Camden officials raised concern with expansion of Rockport’s wastewater system.

    Like any rational community neighbor, Rockport welcomes the opportunity to discuss its hopes for expanded economic opportunity within its borders, but for the Town of Camden to publicly pledge to subvert these plans is outrageous.

    Camden’s Select Board made a series of incorrect and misleading statements concerning Rockport’s hopes for economic development opportunities due to wastewater expansion and treatment. Only for the Camden Select Board to double down on these inaccuracies with a threat to reach out to funding agencies and work against Rockport’s efforts to improve our community.

    Rockport wants to have an open dialog to set the record straight, however, it is hard to have these long-term planning conversations when the dialog begins with “take it or leave it,” let alone retain a desire to work with a municipality actively working against the well- being of their neighbor.

    To recap – Rockport has reached out to Camden to discuss this partnership over six times over the last year. We have not received a meaningful response, let alone a counteroffer.

    Due to the “public health and safety aspects” of the general obligations outlined in the Interlocal Agreement, neither party has the indiscriminate right of withdrawal nor, in our view, the right to threaten actions that could lead to an environmental and public health crisis.

    As a result of the dangerous and hazardous actions of the Camden Select Board, the Rockport Select Board is requesting a meeting of the Administering Committee under Section XI of the Interlocal Agreement, as soon as possible.

    Further, the Administering Committee should commission a neutral, third party to conduct a rate study which will provide clarity in the short term should Camden continue to request an end to this partnership.

    Camden can cut pipes; Rockport wants to find solutions. We remain ready to meet with Camden at their earliest convenience to resolve this matter for the residents of both communities.

    Rockport Select Board:

    Michelle Hannan, chair

    Mark Kelley, vice chair

    Eric Boucher

    Denise Munger

    John Strand