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Originally published in Compass, October 11, 2012
Local impact of bond questions: Education and transportation

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by Jessica Brophy

This series of articles takes a closer look at the bond issues and citizen’s initiative facing voters in November. According to the state Treasurer’s website, the state already owes more than $472 million in General Obligation Bonds.

Higher education bond issue

The first bond issue asks whether the voter wants to approve an $11.3 million bond issue to provide funds for various projects in higher education.

Nearly 70 percent of the money would be used at the University of Maine in Orono to build a $7.8 million laborator and three million dollars would be dedicated to the Maine Community College System.

Also included is $500,000 for Maine Maritime Academy, to be used for “capital infrastructure improvements and equipment.”

If the education bond is passed, MMA plans to use funding to help finance construction of a new classroom and laboratory facility ont he college’s campus in Castine, according to a press release.

“Over the last 15 years, the enrollment at MMA has expanded from 650 to 950 full-time students; during this time there has been little expansion of educational facilities,” said the press release.

The new facility will offer “modern classrooms and research spaces that will enhance the applied science program and stretncthen MMA’s reputation as a world-wide marine engineering center of excellence,” the press release continued. “Once complete, the new facility will allow for renvoation and expansion of other campus areas.”

Transportation and infrastructure bond issue

This question asks voters to approve a $51.5 million bond to improve highways, bridges, local roads, airports and ports, and other projects. Approving the expenditure of $51.5 million would make the state eligible for $105.6 million in federal and other funds.

Currently, the only major Maine Department of Transportation project in this area is the planned roundabout in Blue Hill at the top of Tenney Hill.

This bond initiative also includes $41 million for highway and bridge work and $300,000 for LifeFlight. A portion of the $300,000 for LifeFlight is tentatively slated to help fund the construction of a helipad on Blue Hill Memorial Hospital’s campus, said LifeFlight Marketing and Educational Outreach Manager Melissa Arndt.

Currently, BHMH uses a spot on the town wharf near the fire station—across the street from the hospital—as a helipad.

“From the patient’s perspective, it’s an advantage to have the helipad closer,” said Arndt. “It’s safer and quicker. If they’re too far, you’ll have to put them onto a stretcher, and then onto an ambulance, off the ambulance and so on. We transport the most critically ill patients, and they could be in a lot of pain, hooked up to a lot of equipment, and the more you move them the more room there is for error.”

According to hospital officials, there are no specific plans for the placement of the helipad at this time.

According to Arndt, 331 patients have been transported via LifeFlight in Castine and Penobscot, the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle since 1998 when LifeFlight began operations. Approximately 280 of those flights were picked up from BHMH.