2013-11-22 / Front Page

Tar sands gets emotional

Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council passed the first reading of a moratorium regarding the possibility of transporting tar sands oil through the city.

Nearly 20 people expressed concern, including Edward Rose, who confronted Councilman Michael Pock to disclose his connection to the petroleum industry and urged him not to vote on the moratorium.

Pock claims his only connection is some carpentry he had done on Parker Poole III’s mother’s home. Poole was the vice president of A. R. Wright Co., a distributor of petroleum products.

Former councilor Rosemarie De Angelis prompted the council to take a vote regarding Pock’s possible bias regarding the moratorium. Pock then asked his accusers to stand at the podium and to “find a box for (De Angelis) to stand on.”

The moratorium was voted to undergo a second reading that will be held Monday, Dec. 16 by 6-1. Pock was the lone council member to vote against the proposal.

After the vote was held and the room cleared, Pock apologized for his comments, citing the scrutiny he and fellow councilors had been under. De Angelis was among the large crowd that left following the decision, but Pock claimed he “will make it up to her somehow.”

Bert Russell, vice president of operations for Sprague Energy and a New Hampshire resident, explained to the council how difficult the effects of a moratorium could be on businesses on the waterfront. Sprague Energy applied for building permits, but the company has put its plans on hold until the issue has been completely sorted.

Russell also urged council members to elect a different mayor in the mayoral caucus following the meeting, claiming the city needed a new mayor, a new path, and “a different brand of leadership.” Mayor Tom Blake was a vocal proponent of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance. Russell asserted that council member Gerard Jalbert was a more fitting candidate for the position.

“Funny how someone from New Hampshire will tell us who we should have for mayor,” said South Portland resident Tess Nacelewicz at the podium.

Her comments were met with applause. Russell had left the meeting after he made his comments.

Perhaps the most moving comments of the night came from Cape Elizabeth resident Greg Griffin. The 32-year veteran lobsterman urged the council to realize that it wasn’t a matter of if there would be an oil spill involving tar sands, but when. According to some studies, bituminous oil has been found to be more corrosive than other petroleum products during transportation.

“Children yet to have jobs will have the ocean,” said Griffin before succumbing to tears. “The ocean is forever; that’s pretty sustainable.”

In other news, the $14 million bond that was passed by South Portland voters to build a new municipal public works building was discussed. The proposed 41,500-square-foot building will hold transportation, public works and parks departments off Highland Avenue.

“It’s a much needed project,” said Russ Lunt, South Portland resident and retired public works employee. “I’m glad we could get the ball rolling on that.”

The project will replace the city’s existing facility on O’Neil Street.

The council also voted to accept a donation of a bulletproof vest for a member of its K-9 unit from the PETCO foundation. The city currently has three active duty dogs and only two vests, according to City Manager Jim Gailey.

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