Maine Islands Coalition August 14, 2009

<<< Return to Maine Islands Coalition -Minutes Selection Page

Maine Islands Coalition
Meeting Minutes
August 14, 2009
10:00 A.M. Island Institute, Rockland, ME

In Attendance
Roger Berle, Chair, Cliff Island
Marjorie Stratton, Co-Chair, Vinalhaven
Malcolm Donald, Rep, Cranberry Isles
Eva Murray, Rep, Matinicus Island
Mark Greene, Rep, Long Island
Mary McAleney, Rep, Long Island
Ellen Mahoney, Rep, Peaks Island
Donna M. Damon, Chebeague Island
Lisa Shields, Rep, North Haven
Chris Rector, Senate District 22
Meredith Strang Burgess, House District 108
Jonathan McKane, House District 41
Peter Stuckey, House District 114
Justin Alfond, Senate District 8
Eloise Vitelli, Arrowsic, Women, Work, and Community
Linda Hogan, Portland, Hour Exchange
George LaPointe, Commissioner, Maine Department of Marine Resources
Rob Snyder, Island Institute
Shey Conover, Island Institute
Chris Wolff, Island Institute
Emma Miran, Island Institute
Mary Terry, Island Institute

Meeting Called to Order:
Roger Berle called the meeting to order at 10:14 a.m. and welcomed guests and committee members.
Legislative Updates
Jonathan McKane reported that in this last session the Marine Resources committee tackled issues related to seaweed and lobster licensing. He noted that the lobster licensing legislation came out of conversations of the MIC and introduced by the Speaker of the House. The legislature passed State tax reform. No real state insurance reform was addressed as the legislature looked to the federal government in this area. Rep McKane noted that he supported a bill to allow the people of Maine to purchase insurance outside of the state.

Chris Rector discussed the lobster licensing changes noting that they were designed to assist island fishermen by recognizing the unique circumstances on the islands. The legislation will help to keep licenses on the islands in support of the local island fishery. He mentioned trap limit discussions and noted that there was no consensus in this area. Senator Rector noted the passage of the Housing Bond Bill which has provisions to address the housing needs of the islands and remote coastal communities.

Justin Alfond noted that the session had been challenging due to budget concerns. The Education and Cultural Affairs committee faces a repeal effort on school reorganization. The group worked to provide high school students with technology. Overall, the legislature will use September to set priorities for the January session.

Meredith Strang Burgess primarily described her work on the E-10 (a fuel mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline) and a bill mandating that a choice of ethanol and non-ethanol fuel be readily available to Maine consumers. Several MIC members commented that there are issues of mix consistency and stability of the E-10. This lead to a conversation around the damage E-10 can do to older engines, E-10 storage issues, and the need to add a stabilizer to E-10 for storage.

Two bills to address E-10 availability in Maine will be combined and carried over to the January 2010 session. The impact of the availability of only E-10 on Maine boaters, fishermen and recreators is being sought.

Strang Burgess also noted that the Federal Government just closed the comment period for regulation of E-15 and rule making is underway.

Peter Stuckey discussed his work on the Health and Human Services committee. Reductions in the 2009 and current budget have had serious implications. He noted that the committee had to make difficult decisions that changed programs for children, elderly, and other groups. He feels we are at a point where the cuts now will cost the State later.

There was a general conversation about the need for weatherization of island housing stock. Several attendees noted that the programs available for weatherization were difficult to access and involved energy audits. Peter Stuckey mentioned that Maine Community Action programs and MSHA require an audit to qualify for most weatherization programs. It was noted that there is a shortage of certified energy auditors on islands. Donna Damon suggested a state training program to certify islanders as auditors.

Chris Wolff mentioned that with the new AmeriCorps grant to fund fellows, one goal is to have fellows work in community to define community needs and assist in moving the weatherization forward. Rob Snyder noted that the Housing Bond Bill contains money that does not have to be programmed solely by income eligibility of unit size. A number of housing groups and others interested in islands are working to program that money so that it can be used to create energy efficient housing stock.

Legislative Strategies for 2009-10
Given people’s schedules, this agenda item was addressed in the morning.

Donna Damon mentioned the need to add value to shellfish to create island jobs. The Shared Use Kitchen Coalition is one organization that might be able to assist islanders create kitchens for commercial use to add value. Lisa Hogan noted that both farms and fisheries have taken advantage of shared kitchens as a resource that serves the community, consumer and producer. (see http://www.thresholdtomaine.org/Shared%20Use%20Kitchen.htm).

Rob Synder noted a list of possible legislation that will affect the islands:
* Island fishing zone/territory
* Governor's Task Force on the Economic Sustainability of Maine's Lobster Industry
* Ocean Energy Task Force.

George LaPointe mentioned that both Matinicus and Isle au Haut are discussing lobster subzones and the implications. He also noted the need to clarify the use of emergency regulations and public safety in terms of economic impact and overall safety issues for the islands.

Panel Presentation – Economic Development and Available Resources
Discussants
Eloise Vitelli: Women, Work & Community
Linda Hogan: Hour Exchange Portland
George LaPointe: Maine Department of Marine Resources
Emma Miran: Stonington Planning and Development Fellow
Shey Conover: Island Institute GIS Specialist

Eloise Vitelli, Director of Program and Policy provided an overview of Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community (WWC). The organization, now in its 30th year, started as a service for displaced homemakers. Recognizing that we are all in transition, the mission is to help Maine women and men succeed in their workplace, business, and community. There are four primary areas of focus: workforce education, starting a business, asset management, and leadership. These areas are approached using four guideposts: take risks, learn new things, scan the horizon for future opportunity, and self-assessment. The purpose is for participants to come out of the process with a plan. Eloise noted that work around self-employment in the creative economy and food sector might be useful for islanders. WWC assists people to build networks, find funding options and to develope small businesses. Additional information may be found on the WWC website: http://womenworkandcommunity.org/.

Linda Hogan, Executive Director and Social Architect spoke about the Hour Exchange program in Portland. Formerly the Time Dollar Bank, the Hour Exchange serves the greater Portland area. The organization is not based on barter but rather the idea that one hour of service is worth one hour of service in exchange. It is a membership driven organization where services are exchanged for time credits to be spent on other services. There are between 600 and 800 active members in Greater Portland who provide services a wide variety of services. The Hour Exchange program provides a community currency of up to 22,000 hours or the equivalent of $400,000 as valued using United Way evaluation.

The Hour Exchange has created a Time Bank co-op hybrid that deals with weatherization issues. The Hour Weatherization Co-Op is a network of individuals who exchange services and labor to help people weatherize their homes. This basic weatherization program is a way to assist the members of the Time Bank and then, expand into the larger community.

Additional information about the Hour Exchange program may be found at http://www.hourexchangeportland.org/index.htm.

George Lapointe, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources spoke about the lobster industry with a focus on the Governor's Task Force on the Economic Sustainability of Maine's Lobster Industry. Given that marketing is a big component in the industry, there are three main agenda items around this issue. The first is the creation of the Maine Lobster Marketing Institute to bring more resources into the contemporary market. The second is the Maine Lobster Harvest Marketing Program designed to increase the demand for the fall product, which is most often a soft-shelled catch. The third item is to look at the economics of the individual harvester, including business education, to work toward an increase in net profit.
George also spoke about the Ocean Energy Task Force and the public meetings to be held along the coast this fall. As test sites are evaluated, the economic development and impact will be assessed. Question around exclusive use, insurance issues, and the impact on fisheries are all a test of sharing the ocean resource.

Emma Miran, the Stonington Planning and Development Fellow discussed her work with the Stonington Economic Development Committee. The Committee has promoted a buy local program, addressed affordable housing issues, and undertaken a strategic Economic Development Plan for the next 1 to 5 years. The plan describes the community and discusses the need to create a Stonington Brand. The report assessed the area infrastructure with an eye toward how the infrastructure could support economic development. In looking at fund development, the report referred back to an under utilized micro loan program.
In 1994, Stonington and Isle Au Haut received a $150,000 grant to support mico-lending. After the first year, the two communities split and by 2002 the fund was not actively used. Historically, the funds were primarily used for commercial fishing and construction services. Each loan helped to retain 2 to 3 jobs and create 1 to 2 additional jobs. Prior to 2002 there were 18 loans with only one in default. Given the record of accomplishment, Stonington, with Emma’s assistance, applied for additional monies and received an additional $150,000 in federal grant money. The program is being re-introduced to the community and includes income requirements and other measurable objectives. There have been 5 new loans within this past year. For additional information see: http://www.stoningtonrocks.com/contact.html.

Shey Conover, Island Institute Community GIS Specialist, spoke about local foods on the islands. The Institute has received funding for an Island Agricultural pilot program to support island farming and gardening at all levels. One component of this program is the Four-Season Island Agricultural fund. This summer 12 awards were made in support of island farming and gardening programs, for a total of $10,000. The Institute is undertaking a partnership with the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) to provide technical assistance workshops that are island specific. Dates and topics will be announced soon.

Shey also reported that the Sustainable Island Living Conference will be held at various venues throughout Rockland November 13 – 15. The conference will begin with a keynote on Friday evening. Saturday will provide a mix of workshops for islanders and Sunday will include extended workshops and site visits. Plans are underway for a full weekend of educational and networking activities. Local restaurants, hotels, and organizations will provide support for the event. Details will be out soon.

The group broke for lunch and informal conversation and was reconvened at 1:20 pm.

General Updates
Roger Berle announced that membership renewals will be out in September. There will be a focus on renewed commitments from the island communities. Dues will remain the same.

George LePointe spoke about the Working Water Front successes and noted that there will be a bond bill out to voters in 2010. Participants discussed the program and the flexibility it allows to protect working waterfront for commercial fishing use.

Chris Wolff noted that the Island Institute will be undertaking a strategic planning process. This is an opportunity for the MIC and the II to reflect upon their working relationship and move forward on strategic initiatives.

Comments and Island Happenings
Malcolm Donald reported that fishing and tourism are both down on the Cranberries. The school issues with MDI are slowly resolving. A few larger homes are being built.

The Town of Long Island reported that there are 30 families who depend upon the lobster fishery and times are tough. There has been some discontent this past winter that island construction work has been done by off islanders. Mark Greene noted that Long, and other islands, grapple with how to keep employment on island, especially as fishermen need to supplement their work. There is an opportunity for young people to fill in the missing skills and needs such as plumbers.

Senator Rector noted that the Mid Coast Community Technical College is training able-bodied seaman for marine based work. The jobs pay well and the program is successful enough that replication is being considered.

Donna Damon noted that islands need trades people and suggested a trades training loan forgiveness program, community loan programs, or affordable housing programs for those who provide a trade on island. There was discussion of how such programs would benefit the islands.

Marjorie Stratton spoke about the Vinalhaven turbine installation and noted that this project has been very successful as the community and contractors have worked together. She noted that the island received a Safe Routes to School grant allowing for new sidewalks. She also noted that a newly formed local granite company, the Four Fossils, are subcontracting for a local retaining wall with local granite. The island has completed one mile of paving.

CHRIS – Please fill in. The recorder did not record the meeting so I have an empty file and can’t go back to listen. I missed the update from Peaks, North Haven, Matinicus, and Chebeague

Roger Berle reported that the Cliff school numbers are down and the community is working to “sell our story” to bring families and children.

Topics for the next meeting were discussed and the meeting was set for Friday, November 13, 2009, 10 am at the Island Institute Offices in Rockland

The meeting adjourned at 1:55 pm.

Respectfully Submitted,

Mary K. Terry
Island Institute Fellow

08/09<<< Return to Maine Islands Coalition -Minutes Selection Page