First I will have you, the reader, review the emails from early 2017 written by the members of the Ernestina-Morrissey Commission. This is when they first discovered that the yellow pine timbers, stored for them at New Bedford's Water Treatment Facility at Quittacas Pond had been taken away for personal gains for others and no longer available, as promised for their restoration project.

Then I will ask you to consider the statements from some of the same "plaintiffs" in their December 2018 statements, taken just days before the City of New Bedford handed to  them their first-ever offering, which amounted to $100,000 through the City’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds (and matched by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so really a $200,000 value)

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Tuesday January 10, 2017, 8:09 p.m.

From:Ernestina Morrissey [mailto:sema@ernestina.org]

To:Christina R. Connelly

Cc:Laura Pires-Hester

Subject: wood for Ernestina

Hi Christina, I stopped by the office and left you a message for you and Mayor Mitchell about the yellow pine for Ernestina.

Scott Lang was Mayor when yellow pine beams form Fairhaven Mills were reserved for use with Ernestina. Harold Burnham (DCR consultant on the project) and David Short looked at it in April (2015) when they came down for a talk at the Whaling Museum. They examined the wood which was outside piled alongside a road out of the way, and told staff at the Waterworks they wanted it for the new deck Ernestina will need. That they didn't need it right away and would make arrangements to pick it up and bring it to Maine for milling into 3" planks for decking.

I received a call from Harold today. The procurer from Boothbay Harbor Shipyard called (Quittacas) Waterworks this week to make arrangements to pick up the wood and was told: "it was taken for someone to build a house".

I hope this isn't true, that it can still be recovered to be used for the Ernestina. Please let me know what you find out.

Respectfully, Mary Anne McQuinlan

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This letter, unfortunately, confirms that Mayor Mitchell's repeated statements that the City brought the matter to the attention of the Ernestina Commission are not true. It also seems undeniable that whatever is to be said in the future, the organic first response from the Commission to the City is a formal notice which arguably implies legal action. Note the specific reminder of the history of the Ernestina's timbers and keep in mind, this conversation between these same two parties already took place, when McQuinlan informed Connelly of the DCR coming to Quitticas to arrange for the DCR consultant to review the yellow pine beams 13 months prior, back on December 4, 2015, and again on December 11, 2015.

On December 15, 2015, (see my first part in this series) McQuinlan sent a letter of elation to Connelly. Following the appraisal by DCR consultant Burnham, Connelly was told that the beams would clearly and absolutely be used for the restoration project. McQuinlan asked Connelly to pass along thanks to Ron Labelle (apparently unaware that he retired at that point). She also typed out the words: "Please make sure Mayor Mitchell knows about that wood."

It cannot be overstated that the Ernestina is on record stating to the City that DCR consultant Harold Burnham, accompanied by a David Short,  told the staff at Quittacas:

  • The Ernestina Commission wanted it for the new deck Ernestina will need.
  • That they didn't need it right away and would make arrangements to pick it up
  • He told them the Commission would be coming back to bring it to Maine for milling into 3" planks for decking.

McQuinlan was not referring to the established December 10, 2015 visit by Burnham, who was with Fred Sterner, but also confirmed a second visit to the Quittacas yard in April of 2016 with David Short. This is a revelation of yet another contact by DCR/Ernestina with the Quittacas staff. The Quittacas staff appeared to be given specific and enough information about that southern yellow pine lumber.

Here are the emails within the City responding to the earlier visit to the Mayor's office when she was unsuccessful in finding either Connelly or Mayor Mitchell:

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 3:04 p.m.

From: Diane Roy (Principal Clerk Mayor's Office)

To: Christina R. Connelly

Subject: Fairhaven Mills timbers

Maryann McQuinlan (provides her phone numbers) ---- wanted to speak to you regarding the timbers that were from Fairhaven Mills that were supposed to be used for the Ernestina Restoration...she was told that they were stored at the Waterworks .....when she had inquired about it, she was told the timbers were gone!!!! Would like to speak to you regarding this matter

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 3:43 p.m.

From: Christina R. Connelly

To: Zeb Arruda

Subject: FW: Fairhaven Mills timbers

Hi Zeb, do you know anything about this? I'm sure by Waterworks she means Quittacas. I'd like to have more info on this before I call her.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 3:45 p.m.

From: Zeb Arruda

To: Christina R. Connelly

Subject: Fairhaven Mills timbers

The timbers were stockpiled for years at Quittacas. They were disposed of last year.  Zeb

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When he says "last year," technically, it was; but on January 10, 2017, he could have also easily have said "two weeks ago" when the last of it left the property in the second half of December. It seems clear that the Mayor's Office understood that this was no small matter at the time.

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Wednesday January 11, 2017, 9:30 a.m.

From: Christina Connelly

To: Mary Anne McQuinlan

Subject: wood for Ernestina

My apologies. I spoke with our DPI Commissioner and he confirmed that the wood has been removed from the water treatment plant. He said to me that he was under the impression that because of the condition of the wood, the Ernestina no longer wanted it, so clearly the two accounts contradict one another. Zeb is trying to get me more information on whom from his shop spoke with folks from the Ernestina. He is also trying to run down where it ended up to see if it can be reclaimed. Until now, I was unaware of this arrangement, so this has taken me by surprise. Perhaps I'd heard it said in meetings and discussions, but I don't recall.

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Wednesday January 11, 2017, 10:07 a.m.

From:  Ernestina Morrissey [mailto:sema@ernestina.org

To: Christina Connelly

Subject: wood for Ernestina

Thank you for your quick response, I hope intervention has a happy result. To have to purchase old-growth wood like this would be prohibitive.

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Thirteen months earlier, McQuinlan wrote to Connelly (12/11/2015) telling her that DCR thought the wood was great, would be picked up and used, pleaded with her to tell the Mayor about the shipwright's assessment of the lumber, etc. On December 4, 2015, it was Connelly who directed Labelle to ensure Burnham/DCR would be received in Quittacas by DPI on December 10, 2015. Later on December 4, Labelle included Connelly in an email letting her know that he had made the arrangements. And another email sent to her on December 7 with the subject "Pine at the water works."

She was also included in the August 16, 2013 email from Neil Mello regarding "Mill timbers at quittacas." I guess I believe her, but that's pretty bad.

Also, note McQuinlan's lamenting a loss of the Mill beams because of the prohibitive cost.

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Fri Jan 13, 2017, 8:53 a.m.

From: Ernestina Morrisey

To: Christina R. Connelly

Subject: Re: wood for Ernestina

Hi Christina, I know you have other responsibilities and need time to get all the details about what happened to the yellow pine for Ernestina-Morrissey. I just want you to know that there is a Commission meeting next Friday 1/20 at the National Park and they will have to be provided with an explanation of what happened to the wood.

Fair Winds, Mary Anne

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Fri Jan 13, 2017, 2:07 p.m.

From: Ernestina Morrissey

To: Christina Connelly

Subject: Yellow pine

Some background:

Attached are some photos of the beams. One with Harold for scale to see how big they are. Some are 25 feet long. This is a significant amount of wood. In fact, the staff at the Waterworks told Fred and Harold that they did not have a fork lift there big enough to lift the beams to load them on a truck. There is more than one truckload here. The first time Fred ever saw the wood was a few years ago (2011) with Leon Poindexter. It was stored inside. When he took Harold to see it in late 2015 (Dec 10) it had been moved outside. David Short looked at it in April (2016) This is "old growth" yellow pine. Fairhaven Mills was built about the same time as Ernestina-Morrissey. The tightly grained, hard, strong, wood was valued for structural beams in buildings and decks of ships. Yellow Pine is still available but most "old growth" was harvested long ago and demolished buildings' beams are a source for use now.

Thanks for your help.

Mary Anne

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It is pretty clear in the second email that McQuinlan is expressing frustration and is explaining what this lumber parcel was and that the loss is significant. She is also demanding that someone go before the Ernestina-Morrissey Commission and explain to them face-to-face how this could have happened.

Now let's fast forward to December 20, 2018. This is just nine days before the Ernestina-Morrissey Commission will be handed a check by the City of New Bedford from Community Preservation Act funds for $100,000 of which will be matched by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and have a $200,000 value. In every year prior, the City has turned down the Ernestina-Morrissey Commission grant applications.

On December 10, 2018, Mary Anne McQuinlan made the following statements to City's lead investigator, Sandra Vezina:

  • The estimated sum the media has been reported ($330,000) is ridiculous
  • Brand new southern yellow pine might be worth that, but not what was donated
  • The cost to mill and clean the mill timbers would be a financial wash
  • They ended up getting beautiful Douglas fir for the deck

The estimate is a median average from five nationally renowned antique lumber or reclaimed beams experts. But why not let 2018 Mary Anne argue with the 2017 Mary Anne?

January 13, 2017 (pre-CPA grant) Mary Anne McQuinlan:

  • This is "old growth" yellow pine
  • The tightly grained, hard, strong, wood was valued for structural beams in buildings and decks of ships

January 11, 2017 (pre-CPA grant) Mary Anne McQuinlan:

  • To have to purchase old-growth wood like this would be prohibitive.

She didn't say buying brand new yellow pine would be prohibitive, she said "old growth," such as that which was donated. I don't blame McQuinlan. She couldn't have known her emails would be part of a media investigation, as well as an investigation by the District Attorney's office. Her complete bipolar attitude about the loss of the beams has the appearance of an arrangement more than anything else, in my opinion.

Part 3 coming soon.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at talkerkenpittman@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.