August 21, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Baxter Academy on track to open Sept. 4

I am writing in reference to Noel Gallagher's Aug. 16 story

"Portland charter school denied occupancy approval."
click image to enlarge

Baxter Academy, a charter school located on York Street in Portland, is scheduled to open Sept. 4.

Staff file photo

Inspections of older buildings undergoing renovation are challenging, and Baxter Academy has proceeded on a conservative path to ensure that the required permitting gets done. We will soon welcome more than 130 students from 35 cities and towns. Their safety and well-being are of utmost concern to us.

Ms. Gallagher's article is factually accurate but lacks context. I believe it is alarmist. Portland's three commercial television stations and MPBN contacted me within an hour of the Portland Press Herald's online release of the story. It is standard in school construction to do sequential checks to ensure that the school will be safe.

I have been at Baxter daily since May and have observed the skilled craftsmen who are working to transform this 150-year-old building into a 21st-century schoolhouse. Project supervisor Dan LaBrie, a senior vice president at Rufus Deering, has closely monitored the renovation every step of the way. How fortunate we have been to have such skilled and committed people supporting us in this effort. Safety and adherence to code have been at the forefront of every discussion. After months of being the focus of much public discussion, Baxter will soon be ready to deliver a compelling, standards-based STEM curriculum. We have assembled a remarkable cohort of highly experienced and skillful teachers. Creating a school -- with a strong parent community, a committed and wise board, a dynamic faculty and students who have chosen to attend -- is the dream of many educators. Going forward, the good work of our students and teachers will speak for us.

Baxter Academy will open on Sept. 4.

Carl Stasio

executive director, Baxter Academy

Portland and Moody Neck

Portland Pipe Line must share its contingency plan


In his Aug. 12 Maine Voices article ("Pipeline company's stellar record speaks louder than tar sands oil foes"), Jeff Leary offers praise of Portland Pipe Line's record of safety and generosity and its long history of service. I would like to second this. There is no doubt it has provided meaningful jobs over its 70-plus years. I would add that I have experienced that generosity as a board member of the Portland Harbor Museum at SMCC.

But I would add another point. The company has had an exemplary safety record. But as anyone who has ever tossed a coin knows, 10 or 30 heads are no guarantee that the next toss will be another head. In public safety, thorough contingency plans are always necessary.

Accidents do occur to the best of companies. There is no "fear mongering" in this. If you add together the age of the pipeline, its present route through a critical environment like Sebago Lake and potential damage from tar sands oil, you have a case for real public concern -- even fear.

But citizens of the region have the right to expect great transparency in planning for the risks.

Where will contingency plans be publicly posted?

Who will be the forces immediately available to respond?

How will they be trained and by whom?

Will there be periodic drills to practice the necessary procedures?

What kinds of special equipment will be needed?

What efforts are being taken to enlist federal and state aid?

Plans of this sort will be expensive. But they would be cheap relative to the loss of our region's water supply.

Portland Pipe Line is a fine company. But I think we must require nothing less than comprehensive planning. Unsupported trust is not enough. We need to see the plans created with real public input.

(Continued on page 2)

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