Nancy Oden

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Machias Valley News Observer, May 23, 2009

NEWS with VIEWS

by Nancy Oden

What Happened to the Jonesboro Store?

First, a reminder that THURSDAY, JUNE 4 at 4:00pm in the County Courthouse, Machias, will be the County Commissioners’ meeting with a PUBLIC HEARING on the $240,000. windmill kickback. Come help the Commissioners decide how to spend our money.

I’d like to see it as our “local contribution” to a grant proposal for a live-in (if working people have lost their homes) College of Practical Skills, which would teach out-of-work, local workers new skills, mostly agriculturally related, so they could start their own small farms or businesses.

OR we could divide up that $240,000. and create ten new JOBS. That money is due to come in every Fall, so those ten new JOBS would be as permanent as anything these days.

These new JOBS could be used for winterizing people’s homes, helping people build raised-bed gardens to grow some of their own food, and for taking on other public works around Washington County, thereby lowering our taxes. There’s plenty to do, and this “free” money should be used directly for Washington County people’s needs.

Now, the Jonesboro General Store re-opened last year under new owners, and it looked good. The new owners were ready for customers in their restaurant/general store and all seemed well.

Then the State came in and said they needed just one more piece of equipment – a fire suppressor system– which they had not heard of previously. So, they went back to the banks, but, with the banks hoarding our money, they weren’t able to get even a small loan of five thousand dollars.

So they went, at my suggestion, to the Washington County Development Authority (WCDA), one of those mysterious, so-called “economic development” entities about which most people know little or nothing.

WCDA has taxpayers’ money supposed to be spent on small businesses or helping Washington County’s people. Unfortunately, much of their largesse has gone to failed or ridiculously unworkable or inappropriate entities. Right now, they have about $25,000. just sitting, unused, in their treasury.

Well, the Store owners made an excellent presentation to WCDA, presented all sorts of proper paperwork, were given encouragement, told to go ask their bank again and then come back if they were still unable to secure a loan.

They came back month after month, all the while being led to believe they would get some kind of help from WCDA – either a grant or a loan guarantee.

Jim Parker, WCDA chair (who lives in Veazie) put them on the agenda month after month, but never actually helped them, just spouted a lot of mealy-mouthed words.

Meanwhile, Fall turned into Winter, then more Winter, and with the Jonesboro Store operating in the red with volunteer clerks, the store’s stock got lower and lower. Without income from the unused restaurant, they quietly went out of business.

The owner was so distraught, having put her life savings and optimistic energies into the store that, along with disappointment in WCDA and the banks, she became ill and went to the hospital sick and with a crushed spirit.

That whole affair was disgraceful, and a testament to why we should have PUBLIC discussion and decision-making on how our monies are spent. I guarantee most of what WCDA has already spent our money on would not have happened in the light of PUBLIC discussion and debate.

But with Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC), another of those seemingly ubiquitous “economic development” entities, handling WCDA’s clerical work (at $35 per hour!!! of taxpayers’ money), and not putting notices in the newspapers so people know where and when WCDA will meet (this is illegal, by the way), the Public has little chance to know what they’re doing.

If you care about how your tax money is spent, please come to the County Commissioners’ meetings, at least, and, if you can find it in the newspapers, come to the monthly WCDA meetings, too.

Now to the garden, where food and flowers grow and peace reigns.

Spring is fleeting and wonderful. Do go outside and allow yourself a sense of wonder at the beauty that surrounds us.

Please don’t use “lawn care” chemicals. They’re all toxic and get into our drinking waters, as well as hurt wildlife, pets, and our children, too.

Dandelions are beautiful; you can eat the young leaves and flowers in salads and, while not as tasty as chocolate, they’re good for you!

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