April 27, 2013

Letters to the editor: Ex-coach successful by any standard

I'm writing to express my displeasure with the University of Maine's decision to fire Tim Whitehead and your paper's April 10 headline, "Fired UMaine coach failed to meet goals."

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click image to enlarge

The University of Maine made a mistake by firing hockey coach Tim Whitehead, a reader says.

2013 Press Herald File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

Really? What should the goals of a program be? Tim was described as "a very decent man," someone who "coached with tremendous integrity" and "nothing but a gentleman." No videos of him abusing players, no sex or recruiting scandals, and excellent academic performance by players.

(Full disclosure -- Tim is my cousin, and these are my words.)

As recently as 2012, Tim coached the Bears to the NCAAs. After an abysmal start this season (bye-bye, Mike Mangene; hello, nine freshmen, goalie change), the team made the Hockey East playoffs.

In this topsy-turvy Hockey East season, their second-half record compared favorably. They kept the University of New Hampshire from home ice advantage and scared the skates off UMass Lowell (coached by Norm Bazin, who played and coached under Tim).

In this age of "one and done," it's become increasingly difficult to get and "hold" prize recruits. Most of HE, including UNH, is within "Greater Boston," with Maine and Vermont long bus rides away. Alfond is a great old barn, but good seats are $50 (a fun night at the casino).

Tim was excited about next year's recruits, so the new coach may have some success -- but a sustained run at the top? Jim Montgomery chose Denver over Orono in a heartbeat. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Shawn Walsh and Paul Kariya aren't walking through that door.

Tim Whitehead a failure? I wish the Black Bears well, but I hope the school and its fans remember Tim with gratitude and respect. For 12 years, he bled Black Bear blue.

As I wrote to him, "You have been, are and will be a great coach, but more than that, you are a great man." Certainly not a failure.

Greg Titherington

Tamworth, N.H.

Boston tragedy spotlights strength of region, nation

It's taken a few days to really digest what happened April 15, especially given the confusion that followed.

It makes me sad to think this world has become such a dark and hateful place that we are forced to deal with situations like the bombing April 15.

What gives me hope are the stories that follow of strangers helping strangers with little hesitation, of people around the country coming together no matter how far, to support people they've never met and a region they may have never visited, the resilience of all those runners affected by what happened April 15 and their resolve to not let some cowards deter them from what they love to do.

That's what being an American is all about. That's what being a Northeasterner is all about.

Life isn't easy, but what gets you by are the people you can lean on when times are tough, the community that rises up to support each other in times of need. That's what being a human being is all about.

While it brings a tear to my eye thinking about what transpired April 15, it also brings a smile to my face and a tremendous sense of pride to see the reaction from the region and the people across the country.

Hate only wins when good people give up and stop trying to lift each other up. It's nice to see so many who continue to fight that battle on a daily basis.

Mike Gagnon

Old Orchard Beach

Timing prevented bombing from exacting greater toll

I have run the Boston Marathon 19 times and later served as a volunteer for the Boston Athletic Association, checking runners at various checkpoints to establish their official times.

On April 13, I went to Boston to meet old friends and other runners with whom to share the big weekend celebration.

That Saturday, the Convention Center on Boylston Street was jammed with runners, some there to pick up their number for Monday's race and to visit the many booths that displayed and sold shoes, books, T-shirts and memorabilia of the marathon.

There were thousands jammed into the hall, many of them wearing or carrying backpacks.

A bomb, easily planted, when detonated in that crowd would have killed or maimed several hundred -- and probably more than a thousand.

Had such an explosion occurred, it would have served to cancel the race and to achieve the devastation of 9/11.

Thankfully, the people who carried out the attack did not carry out their cruel plan two days before, when the human devastation would have been unbelievable.

Thank God we were spared what might have been.

John H. Linscott

Portland

PUC chief shouldn't make decision on water contract

Last August, Nestle Waters/Poland Spring and the Fryeburg Water Co. submitted an agreement for approval to the Maine Public Utilities Commission to expand Nestle's groundwater extraction enterprise in Fryeburg.

This unprecedented 25-year contract, with four five-year rollover extensions, allows Nestle exclusive rights to Fryeburg Water's spring water source and for leasing the entire Portland Road pumping station.

The agreement guarantees Nestle will pay the same rate for its bulk water extraction as all other Fryeburg Water Co. customers.

It contains no provision to study the effects of the extraction or to ensure sustainability and exempts Nestle from any damage it causes the aquifer.

This agreement grossly favors Nestle over other Fryeburg Water Co. customers and brings into question whether PUC commissioners are unbiased in making this decision.

Commissioner Mark Vannoy has recused himself because of his prior work on Nestle/Poland Spring's behalf; Chairman Thomas Welch won't.

Welch was chairman of the PUC from 2003 to 2005. He then worked at the Pierce Atwood law firm, where he took on the task of the Nestle/Poland Spring and Fryeburg Water Co. restructuring in 2007 and 2008, specifically advising Nestle how best to maneuver it through the Maine PUC.

In 2011, Welch was reappointed to the PUC and is now deciding this case.

A public hearing on the Nestle/Poland Spring and Fryeburg Water Co. agreement will be held at the PUC office in Hallowell on May 7.

I encourage those in Maine who care about our groundwater to attend and tell Chairman Welch that his work on behalf of Nestle/Poland Spring disqualifies him from being an impartial decision maker for this contract.

For more information, go to https://mpuc-cms.maine.gov/CQM.Public.WebUI/External Home.aspx, docket No. 2012-00487.

Denise Penttila

Kennebunk

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