TOURISM & LEISURE

Boutique-style hotel planned as next step in Thompson’s Point redevelopment

A Portland developer has submitted plans for a 148-room hotel in the burgeoning arts and entertainment complex at Thompson’s Point. A hotel has always been central to the vision to remake the former railroad yard on the Fore River, said Chris Thompson, a principal with Forefront Partners. Designs of the Thompson’s Point hotel show a five-story, red-brick building between the Brick South event center and the outdoor concert space. The hotel would have a full-service restaurant and bar, pool and other amenities. Valet parking would be offered for guests, using existing parking lots in Thompson’s Point. The development initially included 24 condominiums on the top floor, but was replaced with hotel rooms in the development application. The company is planning an upscale hotel with a direct connection to the neighboring event space and concert venue, and a large outdoor yard with views west over the Fore River. Read the story.

Status of Saddleback still unknown

The ski season kicks off this weekend at Sunday River and Sugarloaf, but Maine’s third-largest ski area – Saddleback – could sit idle for the third consecutive winter. Saddleback owners Bill and Irene Berry of Farmington announced on June 28 that they would sell the Rangeley ski area to the Australia-based Majella Group. Majella CEO Sebastian Monsour said at that time that the company would purchase Saddleback by the end of the summer and turn it into the “premier ski area in North America.” But the sale has not been completed. A post Thursday morning on Saddleback’s Facebook page – Majella’s preferred medium for sharing information about the ski area – offered little clarity about when a deal might be finalized. Monsour said the Majella Group was still committed to the deal and working to finalize it, but called it a “complex and challenging deal. It has posed numerous challenges to our investors.” Read the story.

AGRICULTURE

Group trying to launch veteran-owned farming collaborative

A statewide group is working to organize a veteran-owned farming collective in Auburn. The president of United Farmer Veterans of Maine, Jerry Ireland, told members of the local Chamber of Commerce Thursday that there was potential in Lewiston and Auburn to build a model of how the future agricultural economy could look. The plan calls for organizing veterans-turned-farmers on 1,000 acres around the area of Fox Ridge Golf Club, setting them up to share resources, grow crops and raise livestock in consultation with each other and bring value-added goods to market. Six veteran-owned farms, and one or two others owned by veterans’ family members, already are on board with a combined 400 acres, Ireland said. Read the story.

‘Sugarbush’ fails to get conservation status

The Land for Maine’s Future board passed over a controversial proposal to protect 23,000 acres along the Maine-Quebec border when it allocated $3.2 million to 15 conservation projects statewide Thursday. In the first competition for LMF funding in three years, board members selected projects ranging from a new boat landing in Lubec to a new, multi-use rail trail stretching for 32 miles in central Maine. But board members opted not to fund the largest and highest-profile project – a proposal to protect one of the nation’s largest maple “sugarbushes” – because of concerns about permanent, guaranteed road access to the remote Big Six Forest north of Jackman. Opponents cited the $1.25 million price tag to acquire the sugarbush, and that there was no guaranteed public access. LMF staff only released the names of projects that received preliminary allocations of nearly $3.2 million on Thursday. A detailed list is expected to be released next week. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

State tightens medical marijuana caregiver system

Maine is cracking down on how caregivers grow and distribute medical marijuana, allowing surprise inspections and implementing a plant-to-patient tracking system. The state Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules Wednesday that tighten Maine’s fast-growing and changing medical marijuana program. DHHS has spent more than a year working on the new rules, which fold in laws passed by the last two legislatures, establishes a system to monitor and enforce compliance actions, and sets requirements for patient designations, caregiver and dispensary reporting and record-keeping, and written certifications, including changes to the medical provider-patient relationship. The Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a state-based trade group, is reviewing the new rules, and plans to hold an educational forum for members to talk about their impact on Nov. 18. Read the story.

Republicans call for changes after scuttling pot bill

Republicans intend to send lawmakers charged with drafting Maine’s recreational marijuana rules back to the drawing board in the wake of the Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation must get tougher on people who drive high, crack down on loopholes in the medical marijuana program and kill a tax-sharing provision for towns that host recreational growing operations or retail stores if it wants the support of LePage and the House Republicans that scuttled the committee’s special session legislation Monday. The proposed implementation bill died in the House after it fell 17 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override LePage’s veto. Read the story.

 ENERGY

Biomass operation gets loan for shrimp farms

The owner of a wood-fired power plant in West Enfield that wants state financial help to build three shrimp farms on the property got a boost Tuesday when the Maine Rural Development Authority approved a $500,000 loan for the venture. Board members voted 6-0 to approve the loan to Kathadin Shrimp Farm LLC, which is solely owned by Stored Solar West Enfield LLC. The approval came with conditions, which include receipt of management agreements with the shrimp farm operator, as well cash equity and capital investments by Stored Solar. The company has a five-year plan to co-host a mix of biorefineries, agriculture and aquaculture operations that can use excess electricity, steam and carbon dioxide from the plant, which now are wasted. Read the story.

 Storm recovery costs likely will be reflected in summer CMP bills

Central Maine Power has 30 days to send utility regulators a preliminary cost tally for restoring electric service following the Oct. 30 wind and rain storm, an expense that largely will be picked up by customers. The cost must be reviewed and approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, and will appear in rates after July 1, possibly spread out over a period of years. The charges reflect what CMP spent on labor and equipment to get the lights back on, according to John Carroll, a CMP spokesman, and don’t increase the company’s profit. Carroll declined to estimate how much it will ultimately cost to restore power to the 470,000 customers who were in the dark at the height of the storm. But Eversource, neighboring New Hampshire’s largest power company, has said damage could top $35 million. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

ImmuCell completes expansion facility

Biotech firm ImmuCell Corp. of Portland has completed construction on a $20 million, pharmaceutical-grade factory that could help reduce the amount of antibiotics used in the dairy industry. The facility is designed to produce nisin, an antibacterial peptide that ImmuCell plans to sell in purified form as a natural alternative to antibiotics for treating a disease that afflicts lactating dairy cows. If ImmuCell succeeds in obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, the product would give it a competitive edge in the bovine health industry. Completing the production facility is a major step toward obtaining that approval. The 43-foot-tall, 16,000-square-foot nisin plant took about 13 months to build, and is located next to ImmuCell’s headquarters building at 56 Evergreen Drive in Portland. Read the story.