Short takes on the week’s news

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Maine serves as guarantor for employee credit cards? Jeers, with interest.

Former Department of Economic and Community Development employee James “Jimmy” Cook was issued a state credit card with the understanding that he would be responsible for paying bills for authorized expenses. He racked up over $5,000 in travel charges, submitted reimbursement claims for that travel, received checks from Maine to cover those costs, and then didn’t use the money to pay the card. He spent the money on something else entirely, but since Maine is the guarantor for the card, Maine taxpayers paid the bill — again.

Cook, who was well-paid during his employment with the state, has since paid back a bit of the money, but only when prompted by multiple calls and aggressive letters.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work, and the process is unnecessarily convoluted.

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If Maine authorizes travel or other employee expenses, why doesn’t it simply pay the card directly?

It’s already doing the paperwork to cut reimbursement checks and it’s not more work to send checks to the credit card companies than it is to send the same checks to employees, and it would be much more efficient to cut out the middle step of sending checks to employees who then have to turn around and send other checks to the credit card companies.

The state hasn’t had to chase too many employees to pay their credit card bills, but it shouldn’t be in the position of chasing anyone at all.

Too confusing. Too time-consuming. Too cumbersome. Too vulnerable for Cook-like irresponsibility.

Cheers and more cheers on the plan to sync traffic lights along various thoroughfares in Lewiston and Auburn, coordinating the signals to move cars along more efficiently.

Drivers can look forward to motoring along East Avenue without having to stop every 10 to 15 seconds. Or cruising the speed limit on Minot Avenue and catching every green light.

Years ago, the cities programmed the signals along the corridor from Main Street in Lewiston, across Longley Bridge and up through Court Street in Auburn. The synchronization was a little rocky at the start, but now it usually works with an occasional tweak. Aligning the lights makes for more pleasant travel between the downtowns.

It’ll take a little time to program the computer system at the Androscoggin Transportation Center in Auburn for selected high-traffic streets, but once that’s done programmers can adjust synchronization based on traffic flow, matching the change of lights to accommodate volume.

This isn’t an invitation to speed, but it does remove one of the biggest frustrations of travel: stopping.

There’s a lesson to learn about water in Wells.

In 2008, the town rejected an ordinance that would have put a reasonable cap on the amount of water Poland Spring could extract from the aquifer for its bottling operation. The company supported the move, proving it wasn’t out to suck the district dry, but voters rejected the ordinance out of fear that removing too much water would affect the water quality. A fear not justified by available science.

Now, having lost what was quite possibly its largest customer, the Kennebunkport & Wells Water District is not selling enough water to pay its bills and is looking for a possible rate hike, which means higher water rates for remaining customers.

Poland Spring had no interest in running the well dry. Its interest was in responsibly extracting water for its operation, which it hoped to continue for some time to come.

Rejecting Poland Spring may have satisfied the political will, but that satisfaction will come at a high price.

Jeers, anyone?

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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