Letter to the editor

Taxpayer Alert: Questions for Ray Andresen that he wouldn’t let us ask

Wed, 05/17/2023 - 10:00pm

Restore Megunticook is a group of Camden residents concerned about flood control, climate change and conservation in the Megunticook watershed. We’re also taxpayers who want our money to be spent wisely and effectively.

Recently, we invited Camden Select Board candidates to meet with us. Only Ray Andresen refused. 

Ray is a leader of Save the Dam Falls (STD), which wants to preserve the Montgomery Dam as it is today. Ray is also a member of Camden’s Budget Committee, which advises the Select Board about how to spend taxpayer money. And finally, he sits as STD’s representative on the Megunticook River Citizens Advisory Committee. This group was appointed by the Select Board to assess Camden’s options for managing climate change in our watershed.

Here are the questions we wanted to ask him:

  1. At the recent candidates’ forum, one audience member asked you about climate change. You said that Camden’s number one issue is sea level rise, not “water coming down” the river. You also claimed that the Montgomery Dam, built in 1930, was a “part of history,” a “treasure” that should be preserved. You seem to have made up your mind about this long before the Citizens Advisory Committee has finished looking at the evidence.

Is this why you’re running for Select Board: to preserve the dam at all costs no matter what the Committee recommends?

  1. Camden has just received a $1.6 million federal grant to finish preliminary studies of the river. After that, we’ll be eligible for millions of federal dollars to address the harmful effects of climate change. Federal grants require fish passage from Camden Harbor to Lake Megunticook. This probably means reconfiguring Montgomery Dam in some way.

If you’re elected to the Select Board, would you risk losing federal grants by refusing to modify the dam? 

  1. Our $1.6 million grant was delayed for half a year after two STD supporters wrote to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, the grant administrator. They claimed they were “embarrassed and appalled” by the “liberties the town took with the facts.” They said NFWF should put the money to “good and honest use” in other towns.

Do you agree that our $1.6 million grant should have been given to other towns? Were you also “embarrassed and appalled” by the Town’s application? What was wrong with it?

  1. If Camden doesn’t accept federal requirements like fish passage, taxpayers will almost certainly be stuck with the bill for future flood control and remediation measures. 

Will you vote for tax increases to cover the costs of flooding and other damage? If not, who will pay?

  1. STD has offered to donate $11,000 for so-called emergency repairs to the Montgomery Dam. A few weeks ago, you persuaded Camden’s Budget Committee to set aside another $30,000 of taxpayer money for this purpose. Town officials only requested $6,500 for routine upkeep. They estimate that the repairs you want might cost as much as $215,000. STD claims that the town’s estimate is “grossly inflated.” 

What engineering studies and other data did STD use to determine that town officials are wrong? Why should we spend money on the dam before the Advisory Committee makes its recommendations? 

  1. STD members have repeatedly said that the Montgomery Dam is essential for our tourist economy. Yet none of the leading online tourism sites or published guide books mention it at all. Meanwhile, DownEast Magazine recently described how restored fish passage in other coastal communities has become a major tourist attraction.

What’s your evidence that the Montgomery dam is important for tourism? Wouldn’t it be smarter to build fish passage, even if we have to change the dam? 

Ray and other STD members have insistently complained that Camden officials ignore them. The Citizens Advisory Committee was appointed to make sure that everyone’s views are heard – openly and in public. Citizen Andresen agreed with this process. But Candidate Andresen seems worried that it won’t come out his way. Taxpayers: be careful how you vote.

Tony Grassi

Robin Harlow

Barb Ohland 

Bruce Meyer

Susan Reider

Stephanie Smith

Rob Wasserstrom