The fix is in
Even though the gathering has a distinctively festive feel, a lot of work gets done at the MBTA Holiday Meeting. This year was no exception, as nearly 120 MBTA members, scholarship recipients, family and friends gathered December 12 to network and share holiday well wishes at the Black Bear Inn in Orono.
The annual event marks the culmination of two important MBTA initiatives: the Membership Contest and the MBTA Educational Foundation Super Raffle. In recent years, it also has become a coming out party of sorts for the MBTA’s most recent scholarship recipients.
MBTA Vice President Jim Hanley was the evening’s emcee, and he briefed members on the recent board meeting and achievements of the past two months, including voter passage of the $100 million transportation bond in November, an effort that MBTA members worked hard to achieve, and one upon which MaineDOT’s current three-year work plan relied. Hanley also introduced the evening’s speaker, John Melrose of Eaton Peabody who offered members a progress report on the MBTA’s Fix It Now! initiative.
Fix It Now! is a grassroots community awareness campaign undertaken by MBTA earlier this year. As Melrose described it, “We want to grow a coalition similar to the one we built when we spearheaded the Maine Turnpike Widening campaign or support for L.D. 1790: An Act to Secure Maine’s Transportation Future.”
Then, Melrose spoke about the need for the campaign, rattling off data his firm has compiled for the MBTA board. That research, which is focused on state and regional transportation deficits, will form the centerpiece of the campaign outreach. And, by Melrose’s count, there are many transportation deficits in Maine, all the result of long-term underfunding of the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Maine’s bridges are eight years older than the national average, and Maine has a significantly higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges (15 percent) and functionally deficient bridges (18 percent) than the rest of the nation. Maintenance of Maine’s roads, too, has fallen behind. Nearly 30 percent of the state’s priority 1 and 2 highways and 40 percent of priority 3 highways are in poor or unacceptable condition. That takes a toll on the people who drive on those roads, according to Melrose, with the crash incidence at 75 percent higher on the worst ranked roads.
Simply put, said Melrose, “roads that have been fixed up are distinctly safer than roads that haven’t.”
Then, Melrose talked about the funding situation, with fuel tax revenues and state funding declining. Most stark among the data collected by Melrose for the Fix It Now! campaign is how state priorities have shifted away from transportation over the past three decades. In 1975, Melrose found, the state dedicated more than 25 percent of state revenues to its transportation system. Today, Maine spends less than 10 percent of state revenues on transportation.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why we’re in the pickle we’re in now,” said Melrose, “We would have been able to put another $8 billion into the system if revenues had kept pace with inflation.”
Melrose also pointed to recent successes that are helping – the change in the Maine State Police funding split between the Highway Fund and the General Fund, a change that MBTA members have fought hard for over the past several years. Also passage of a $50 million GARVEE (grant anticipation revenue vehicle) bond by the state legislature and a $100 million transportation bond by voters in November. And he praised MaineDOT’s efforts to economize, streamline operations and take advantage of special funding opportunities – such as being in line to receive reallocated Federal Highway Administration funds that had lapsed and gone unused in other states.
Melrose concluded with a call to action, saying that MBTA is working now to build a statewide coalition to change how we pay for Maine’s transportation infrastructure – especially important as federal CAFE standards kick in, calling for more fuel-efficient vehicles and further undermining the effectiveness of the fuel tax.
Throughout the evening, Jim Hanley offered updates on sales of Super Raffle tickets leading up to the drawing of the winning ticket. There were about 40 tickets still to be sold at the beginning of the meeting, and as the number of remaining tickets dwindled, excitement in the room grew for the final drawing, with everyone wondering who would be the winner of the grand prize – a $7,000 trip to anywhere in the world. By the end of dinner, thanks to the generosity of MBTA members and friends, every one of the 500 Super Raffle tickets had been sold.
Before the Super Raffle announcement came the annual wrap up to the Membership Committee Contest. This year’s contest was a cliffhanger, with more than 75 percent of the new members recruited in the last 10 days of the campaign. Led by Membership Committee Chair John Sturgeon of Sargent Corp., the committee had set another strong goal: to bring in 25 new corporate members. By contest end, they had recruited 34 corporate members, along with 21 individual members, two municipal and two association members.
That is a remarkable achievement and the MBTA owes a big thank you to the committee that worked tirelessly right up until the end of the contest to make it happen. Sturgeon presented awards to his top four recruiters at the meeting and the whole committee received a raucous round of applause for their Herculean efforts (you can read more about the membership campaign bulletin in this issue). The Membership Contest winners announced were: first place, Glenn Adams, Sargent Corporation; second place. Jason Mallett, The Lane Construction Corporation; third place, Jay Shorette, Dirigo Slipform; and fourth place – Mike Pelkey, E.J. Prescott. Many thanks to the winners – and all the committee – for your amazing efforts.
Then came announcement of the 2013 Super Raffle winners: Be Schonewald of Schonewald Engineering was the grand prize winner (when her name was announced, a cheer rose from the audience); Mark Pendergast of Salmon Falls Nursery won second prize (a $500 L.L. Bean gift card); and Greg Sanborn of Baker, Newman & Noyes took the third prize (a $250 L.L. Bean gift certificate).
This year, as in the past, the MBTA Educational Foundation committee did a remarkable job selling tickets. All 500 tickets sold out by the time of the drawing. Everyone on the committee helped out, with two standouts: Committee Chair Paul Koziell of CPM Constructors sold more than 100 and Bruce Hubbard of E.T.T.I. sold more than 200 of the 500 available tickets. Bruce was honored for his sales feat, but he decided to pay it forward, drawing the names of three scholarship winners who were at the Holiday Meeting to share his prize. The lucky students were Corey LaRue, Casey Cobb and Yi Peng, who each received a $50 L.L. Bean gift card.
The spirit of giving was in the air, and when it came time for the 50/50 Raffle, the winner Donna Oxley, of BBSC, CPAS donated her $211 in winnings back to the MBTA Educational Foundation scholarship fund. Thanks, Donna!
About the speaker: John Melrose is a senior consultant with the Eaton Peabody Consulting Group. He began his career with the Maine Municipal Association as director of community development and later formed and operated his own consulting business, Maine Tomorrow. He served as MaineDOT Commissioner during Governor Angus King’s administration. Currently, John consults on policy for the MBTA and other clients including the American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine, the Maine Waste Water Control Association and the Maine Service Centers Coalition. He holds a bachelor of arts in public management and a master of science in community development, both from the University of Maine.
- Grand Prize - $7,000 trip to winner’s choice - Be Schonewald, Schonewald Engineering
- Second Place - $500 L.L. Bean Gift Certificate - Mark Pendergast, Salmon Falls Nursery
- Third Place – $250 L.L. Bean Gift Certificate - Greg Sanborn, Baker Newman & Noyes
- First Place - Glenn Adams, Sargent Corporation
- Second Place - Jason Mallett, The Lane Construction Corporation
- Third Place - Jay Shorette, Dirigo Slipform
- Fourth Place - Mike Pelkey, E.J. Prescott
- $211 prize - Donna Oxley, BBSC, CPAS (guest of John Sturgeon)
(Thank you, Donna, for donating your winnings back to the MBTA Educational Foundation scholarship fund!)
Scholarship Student/Family Hosts
In addition to our sponsors, we had the following companies who also hosted scholarship students and family members: Bruce and Crystal Manzer of Bruce A. Manzer, Inc.; and Paul Koziell of CPM Constructors.
- Bruce A. Manzer Inc.
- Sargent Corp.