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Letter from Matinicus - Straighten up and Fly Right

Islanders Move to Straighten up and Fly Right

By Eva Murray

Illustration by Ted Walsh

At this year’s Town Meeting, residents of Matinicus Island decided at long last to listen to reason. Voters overwhelmingly agreed to basically do what everybody had been telling us we should do. This movement to give up anarchy and crankiness in favor of recognizing the obvious wisdom of the smarter folks off-island, came as a surprise to many reporters and writers, who like to think of Matinicus as a haven for pirates, eccentrics, gun-nuts, no-account scofflaws and wild-eyed ax murderers. Such folkloric notions of island life are anachronistic, and nobody here would wish to be thought of as living in an anachronism. Disappointed journalists will have to adjust; the modern twenty-first-century islander has begun to see the light, in ways I shall forthwith describe. The Power Company will abandon the filthy practice of burning diesel fuel in its generating plant, and will change over to a clean, green, all-wind-powered system. Islanders have been hearing for several years how this is the only right thing to do, but until now we had refused, intransigent sorts that we are, to accept an environmentally sensitive ethic. All will be well soon, however. The little diesel plant near the harbor is to be demolished and two 100-foot-tall wind turbine towers erected. A certain piece of relatively flat property at a high elevation on the south end of the island will be taken by eminent domain, as neither the municipality nor the Power Company have any property adequate for the physical plant. To pay for it all, a $750.00 Green Energy Services Surcharge will be added to each and every ratepayer’s bill. One result will be that electric clocks will not work on Matinicus any longer, as there won’t be any mechanism to regulate the “frequency,” however, this is just electrical engineering jargon, mumbo-jumbo that wouldn’t interest the average person, who should sleep better knowing that his electricity, at a mere $3.15 a kilowatt hour, no longer pollutes the atmosphere. In fact, it won’t do anything at all during the foggy spells in July when the wind doesn’t blow, leaving island homes and business are in the dark. To make up for it, in January, when the population is below 50 people, there will be enough wind-generated electricity to light up half the city of Portland. Islander passed a resolution suggesting that all their friends and relations bring their cordless power tools out here then to charge up. This will only be a temporary measure, because we all understand that the real future source of electrical power for this community of roughly 100 ratepayers will be in the “tidal bore.” The eventual plan will be to close off the harbor and install a tidal power generation system. After all, cost is no issue when compared with the lessened environmental impact, and with just how darned cool and technically interesting the whole thing will be. The impact on the lobstering economy, if any, resulting from the complete closure of the harbor, will be investigated by a blue-ribbon panel of experts. A local philanthropic organization will provide staff to handle the paperwork to apply for the grants necessary to fund this study. In exchange, islanders will be reminded to tip their hats politely and pass on the street side when meeting a board member of said philanthropic organization in town. Another initiative passed this year at the April 1 meeting, in the interest of following all the good advice we have gotten, was the consolidation of our one-room school. Our tiny district, School Administrative District 65, will be combining with SAD 33 (Frenchville-St. Agatha). This choice was made by a very efficient functionary within the Maine Department of Education. He noticed that the Superintendent of Schools for Matinicus Isle Plantation evidently also works in SAD 33, and deduced that those places must be near each other. Dennistown Plantation, over by Jackman, will also be joining the new consolidated district (for the same reason). Matinicus taxpayers expect to save a considerable sum on heating oil, copy machine paper, chalk, Flute-a-phones, and consultancy fees to run the school, as we can will be able to purchase in bulk and share expert staff within our larger district. If the boiler malfunctions, the Internet goes wonky, or a student falls and skins a knee at recess, a service technician or nurse, duly certified, fingerprinted, and randomly drug-tested to be eligible to work within a school will be immediately dispatched from the central administrative office. We will be able to expect them to arrive within two weeks, tops. The island school, at last up-to-date and offering all customary and required services, will soon be able to publish its hot lunch menu, bus-line soccer schedule, and pee-wee cheerleader tryouts (these will be held in St. Agatha, which applicants are advised to learn how to pronounce and spell). Island elementary school graduates will no longer have to bother with the fuss of applying for a secondary education at Gould Academy, Kent’s Hill, or Phillips Exeter. They will (and in fact, must) simply attend their local district high school at no cost (except for the commute and the snow tires). An added benefit will be the traditional week off in October for the Aroostook potato harvest. The island’s airstrip, which has long been a source of irritation in the muddy season for pilots and flying service customers alike, will at long last be paved, in accordance with much sensible input received over the years. The fact that the strip is on private property need not be a worry; what are 500 dump-truck loads of hot-top among friends? The job will soon be put out to bid; given the present ferry schedule, paving and related construction is expected to take 14.5 years. Finally, islanders will implement the complete removal of roughly 750 acres of dead and dying spruce trees before the end of next week without damage to the landscape, leaving behind the recommended minimal amount of flammable biomass. You don’t have to tell us this stuff twice.

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