Local & State – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Tue, 28 Mar 2017 02:32:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 LePage draws big crowd as guest bartender in Hallowell http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/lepage-draws-big-crowd-as-guest-bartender-in-hallowell/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/lepage-draws-big-crowd-as-guest-bartender-in-hallowell/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 02:02:19 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/lepage-draws-big-crowd-as-guest-bartender-in-hallowell/ HALLOWELL — Gov. Paul LePage took drink orders, pulled beer taps to fill plastic glasses and exchanged handshakes with patrons Monday evening as he worked behind the long bar at the Quarry Tap Room.

LePage is the latest and one of the highest-profile guest bartenders that the bar has brought in to help raise money for various charities.

On Monday, a dollar from each drink sale went to the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at aiding combat-injured veterans. There were donation jars amid trays of food. Many people tried to include a shot of the governor in their selfies and videos and sent Snapchats of the event.

Mills, of Manchester, who lost his arms and legs to an improvised explosive device on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, was guest bartender last month at the Quarry and was expected to arrive later Monday night after doing a similar bartending stint at the Sea Dog Brewery in South Portland.

Usually LePage’s wife, Ann, champions veterans’ causes, but Monday night LePage did his bit, wearing a black Quarry Tap Room T-shirt. Ann LePage sat at the bar, and her husband occasionally leaned over to try to tell her something or to take an order from those standing next to her. Asked how her husband was doing as guest bartender, she didn’t hesitate: “He’s doing great.”

LePage’s son Paul Jr., a licensed bartender, was behind the bar helping out his dad.

The standing-room-only crowd spilled out into a covered patio area. For a while, some people had to wait to enter the bar until others left.

The noise of the friendly crowd made conversation almost impossible, except at high volume.

“We came to see the governor,” said Robin Bonn of Litchfield, as she and her husband, William, both of whom served in the Navy, sat on a bench under one of the front windows. “We got to see him, but we haven’t said ‘hey’ to him yet.”

“I got to say hi to the first lady,” she added. “She’s such a sweet lady.”

In fact, Ann LePage served the Bonns cheese from a large platter when she took a turn navigating the crowded room to serve hors d’oeuvres to customers.

Chris Vallee, one of the Quarry Tap Room’s owners, tried to direct people into a line so they could order drinks, but it was almost impossible. “Who wants a drink from the governor?” he asked, getting a loud cheer in response. “He’ll pour whatever you want. He’ll take good care of you.”

Vallee also auctioned off several blue commemorative license plates, with bidding starting at $500 and all proceeds benefiting the foundation.

Rep. Martin J. Grohman, D-Biddeford, showed off the “Mills” plate he won with a $700 bid. “I’m going to hang it on the wall, or I might keep it on my desk,” said Grohman.

“I got a drink and a handshake,” said Bob Ibeneme of Hallowell, showing off a cellphone photo of the moment. He said he ordered a Captain and Coke, and the other bartenders helped guide LePage to the correct ingredients.

Rick Bowden, 59, of Augusta parked a beer for himself and a Coke for his designated driver atop a wall near the bar entrance. He said he came to the event after hearing about it on the radio.

Bowden said he was a homeless veteran when he came to Maine from Boston six years ago. “Now I have my own apartment.”

One of the Travis Mills Foundation’s efforts is the Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat in Mount Vernon and Rome, which was depicted in a mural on the front window of the Quarry. A portrait of Mills dominated the other window.

Lynn Harvey, the foundation’s executive director, said the retreat for combat-injured veterans and their families is scheduled to welcome its first guests July 2. “We’re just hoping for an early spring,” she said.

Other politicians have tried their hand as guest bartenders at the Quarry recently, including Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta. Next week’s guest, Vallee said, will be Zachary Fowler of Appleton, who won the History Channel series “Alone” after surviving 87 days in the Patagonia region of South America.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/lepage-draws-big-crowd-as-guest-bartender-in-hallowell/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173507_365583-20170327_LePageBarte.jpgAbove, Gov. Paul LePage carries a beer he just poured to a customer during a celebrity bartender fundraiser for the Travis Mills Foundation on Monday at the Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell. Below, Patrons record the action on their smartphones as Gov. Paul LePage, left, and his son, Paul LePage Jr., work behind the bar during a celebrity bartender fundraiser for the Travis Mills Foundation on Monday at the Quarry Tap Room in Hallowell.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:10:08 +0000
Portland council still at odds on $64 million bond for school renovations http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-council-still-at-odds-on-64-million-bond-for-school-renovations/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-council-still-at-odds-on-64-million-bond-for-school-renovations/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 01:31:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-council-still-at-odds-on-64-million-bond-for-school-renovations/ The Portland City Council is still at loggerheads over whether to ask local taxpayers to approve a $64 million bond to renovate four elementary schools.

For the second consecutive meeting, a proposal to fund renovations to Lyseth, Longfellow, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools failed to generate enough support Monday evening to be put on the June ballot.

Seven members of the nine-person council, including Mayor Ethan Strimling, would have to vote in support to advance the measure. Instead of voting again on the proposal this week, the council voted unanimously to postpone action until April 5.

“I think the worst-case scenario is dragging this out,” Strimling said.

City Councilor Justin Costa said he hoped the council could come together and find a way to put the full bond on the ballot.

“I hope that we can shortly get to a place where we can resolve this impasse,” he said.

The postponement will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the bond to be placed on the June ballot. The deadline for the council to finalize the measure is April 5, and additional bond proposals would need to be read at two council meetings.

It’s unclear what could happen between now and April 5 to break the impasse. Strimling, who strongly supports the $64 million bond, said the council does not plan to meet to discuss the issue.

Emily Figdor, co-founder of Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, a group of parents who are pushing for the bond, said after the meeting that she was disappointed the council did not approve the measure. She accused three councilors of “continuing to obstruct” the will of the voters.

“We’re not giving up,” she said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get this done. It’s time to let the voters vote.”

Councilors Jill Duson, Belinda Ray and Nicholas Mavodones voted last week against the bond, because they want the district to apply for state funding for two schools that barely missed the cutoff in the last round of funding.

The bond will remain alive until councilors change their minds to either support it as proposed, amend the order to a smaller amount, or indefinitely postpone the item, which would effectively kill it.

The dissenting councilors have expressed support for putting the $64 million bond on the ballot as long as voters were also given a chance to weigh in on a separate $32 million bond proposal.

Putting another competing bond on the ballot, such as the so-called “2+2” proposal being co-sponsored by Duson and Mavodones, would require a separate agenda item that would need to be the subject of a public notice, which would take two to four weeks. So far, no notice has been issued.

The “2+2” plan would ask local taxpayers to borrow $32 million to renovate Lyseth and Presumpscot schools, while seeking state money for Reiche and Longfellow.

If only one, or neither, of those schools receives state funding, Duson and Mavodones said they would support another local bond to move the projects forward. They say their proposal will not affect the timeline for repairs at the schools, since the full bond proposal would borrow the $64 million over six years and all four schools cannot be renovated at once.

Supporters of the four-school bond are skeptical that the city will receive state funding, noting the two schools in question have been denied four times. They also question whether a future council would support another bond should state funding fall through. And they’re concerned about delays.

The council cannot use ranked-choice voting, or offer a multiple-choice question, for multiple bond proposals. Instead, it would have to vote to place each bond on the ballot with a clear statement about how the winner is determined.

Attorney James Saffian, who advises the city on bonding items, said in a March 8 email to city staff that the language should say that the bond would not be effective unless it receives a majority of votes and more affirmative votes than any other.

That language would need to be added to the $64 million proposal, as well as any other competing bond, he said.

The council will have to finalize the bond question or questions by April 5 to make the June ballot. Otherwise, the bond will have to wait for the November ballot, or a special election.

Borrowed in stages over the next six years, the $64 million bond would result in an additional $92 million in debt after interest. Property taxes are projected to increase by 3.1 percent over a 26-year period, adding an average of $104 a year to the tax bill on a $240,000 home, or $2,700 over the life of the bond.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: randybillings

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-council-still-at-odds-on-64-million-bond-for-school-renovations/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1123771_longfellow-e1481821776483.jpg- Students exit Longfellow Elementary School at the end of the school day on Friday afternoon in Portland on May 10, 2013.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:24:33 +0000
Portland sets new limits for short-term rentals http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-enacts-rules-for-short-term-rentals/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-enacts-rules-for-short-term-rentals/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 01:18:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-enacts-rules-for-short-term-rentals/ Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, people using websites like Airbnb to earn a extra money by renting rooms and apartments on a short-term basis will be subject to new rules in Maine’s largest city.

The Portland City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to set limits on the number of short-term rental units for non-owner-occupied buildings and to require all hosts to pay a fee to register those units with the city’s Housing Safety Office.

The rules are intended to protect Portland’s limited housing stock from being converted into short-term rentals, while also allowing residents to take advantage of a burgeoning and profitable enterprise becoming more popular in many tourist communities nationwide, including Maine.

Portland officials have struggled for months to decide whether to regulate short-term rentals. While some communities don’t impose any regulations and others, like New York City, have banned them, Portland sought a middle ground that it believes will allow the practice, while protecting its residential neighborhoods.

But councilors warned that they still don’t know exactly how many short-term rentals are in the city, or the impact of the ordinance.

“This is, in effect, an experiment,” said Councilor David Brenerman, who serves on the council’s Housing Committee, which worked on the rules for more than a year. “We’ll see how it works.”

It was that experimental nature that prompted Councilor Justin Costa to oppose the ordinance, particularly the cap on non-owner-occupied buildings.

“I think we’re all in agreement there’s no iron-clad data,” Costa said. “That makes me a little bit uncomfortable with setting a firm cap at this point.”

Although hearings on the issue often filled chambers over the last year and a half, only a handful of people testified in front of the council Monday night.

Opponents like Ellen Sidar wanted the council to prohibit the practice, or at least set a limit on the number of short-term rentals allowed on one block. She noted that the city regulates bars in this manner.

“Without regulating the number of Airbnb on city blocks you will send our neighborhood into a death spiral,” said Sidar, who lives in North Deering.

Ralph Baldwin, of the pro-short-term rental group Share Portland, asked the council to relax some of the proposed restrictions, including the citywide cap. But otherwise he supported the ordinance.

“I think you’ve been very reasonable,” Baldwin said.

CAP SET AT 300

The new rules will cap short-term rentals in non-owner-occupied homes, excluding the islands, to 300 units. And no individual, regardless of the ownership structure, will be able to register more than five short-term rentals in buildings in which they hold a financial interest.

They will prohibit short-term rentals in single-family homes, including condominiums, that are not the primary residence of the owners.

And no more than two people will be allowed to stay in each bedroom and only two people could use other areas, such as a living room, to sleep.

There are more than 650 active listings for places to stay in Portland on Airbnb alone, the company says. Close to 200 of the rentals are likely rented out full-time, as a business investment, according to Tyler Norod, the city’s housing planner.

According to Airbnb, the home-sharing service hosted 174,000 people in Maine and earned $26 million in 2016. Nearly a third of those people were coming to Portland, which booked 51,241 people, generating $7.1 million for hosts.

Under state law, short-term rental hosts are supposed to collect a 9 percent lodging tax and remit it to the state. The only exception is for hosts who rent only one room for less than 15 days a year. In most cases, that host wouldn’t have to collect taxes, state officials said.

However, Gov. Paul LePage’s budget would beef-up collections by requiring online booking sites for short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, VRBO or homeaway.com, to collect taxes on all of the units rented though their sites and send that revenue to the state. Airbnb recently agreed to collect the lodging tax and send it to the state.

Owners will have to register their short-term rentals with the city’s Housing Safety Office. The revenue will be used to pay for the cost of the short-term rental program. Once costs are covered, additional revenue will go to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which is used to fund affordable housing.

Through fees and other limits, the rules also seek to discourage people from buying buildings for the sole purpose of converting them into short-term rentals. For example, the registration fee for an owner-occupied building will be $100 for the first unit, $250 for the second, $500 for the third, $1,000 for the fourth and $2,000 for the fifth.

Fees for non-owner occupied buildings are higher, with $200 for the first unit, $500 for the second, $1,000 for the third, $2,000 for the fourth and $4,000 for the fifth. These buildings also face additional caps in terms of the number of short-term rental units allowed in each building, with only one short-term rental allowed in two-unit buildings, two short-term rentals in three- to five-unit buildings, four in six- to nine-unit buildings and five in buildings with 10 or more units.

The escalating fees also will apply to units registered in different buildings by the same owner.

Both Councilors Brian Batson and Spencer Thibodeau tried unsuccessfully to amend the rules.

Batson’s bid to increase registration fees for non-owner occupied units by 50 percent was shot down, 5-4.

Mayor Ethan Strimling supported any effort to increase revenues from fees.

“If we can raise additional money to put into our housing trust fund, I will support it every time,” Strimling said. “It will be much more difficult a year from now to raise these fees once they’ve been in place.”

Councilors Pious Ali and Spencer Thibodeau joined Batson and Strimling in voting to support the higher fees.

Councilor Jill Duson, who leads the Housing Committee, said the city may begin accepting registrations a few months prior to the ordinance taking effect in January. She said the committee also will review the impact of the ordinance after it has been in effect for six months.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: @randybillings

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/portland-enacts-rules-for-short-term-rentals/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1136097_460649-20170109_AirBandB_15.jpgFoes of short-term rentals posted signs like this one in the Deering Highlands neighborhood. Critics worry that the rentals eat into year-round apartment availability, drive up housing prices and disrupt community character.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:24:10 +0000
Case against Maine electricity supplier could become class-action lawsuit http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/case-against-maine-electricity-supplier-could-become-class-action-lawsuit/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/case-against-maine-electricity-supplier-could-become-class-action-lawsuit/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:39:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/case-against-maine-electricity-supplier-could-become-class-action-lawsuit/ Lawyers suing Electricity Maine over the company’s billing practices are closing in on asking a judge to allow them to pursue a class-action lawsuit, which would enable them to seek millions of dollars in damages.

Tom Hallett, one of the lawyers representing the two Maine women who have sued the electricity provider, said Monday that lawyers are waiting on a ruling from U.S. District Court in Bangor on a motion to dismiss the case by one of the defendants in the lawsuit. If that is rejected, he said, the lawyers suing should be able to ask for class-action certification soon thereafter.

The lawsuit alleges that the company promised customers that they would pay no more than the “standard offer” price for electricity but then increased the rates sharply after an initial period with lower rates.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Katherine Veilleux and Jennifer Chon. But if it’s certified as a class-action suit, lawyers could add to the action tens of thousands of customers they allege were overbilled and seek damages for the entire group.

Hallett said lawyers are likely to seek at least $35 million from the lawsuit.

“That’s what we’ve found so far,” he said, adding that the amount being sought could change as lawyers go through Electricity Maine’s records and seek to expand the number of plaintiffs.

Hallett said that Veilleux and Chon are not commenting on the case.

Electricity Maine was one of the first electric supply companies in Maine to attempt to sign up large numbers of residential electricity customers after the state deregulated the electricity market in the early 2000s. In the first few years after deregulation, which separated electric generating companies from the utilities that deliver power to customers, most electric suppliers went after large industrial companies instead of individual homeowners because it was easier to work out a deal and oversee the contract with a few big customers rather than thousands of smaller accounts.

Electricity Maine’s advertising said its charge for electricity would never exceed the standard offer – the price set by an electric supplier and approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission for customers who don’t designate a supplier – said Ben Donahue, another one of the lawyers suing Electricity Maine.

“That was clearly unsustainable,” Donahue said, noting that the company spent a lot of money trying to attract customers with advertising and marketing between 2011 and 2014. But after an initial period during which the rates were below the standard offer, the bills jumped, he said.

“They had to raise the rates to recoup their money” that they spent to sign up customers, Donahue said.

That meant exceeding the standard offer rate for electricity, Hallett said.

“They knew that in order to survive, they would have to charge more than the standard offer,” he said.

Donahue said most customers – and Electricity Maine signed up nearly 200,000 in the state, the lawsuit alleges – saw prices increase at least 50 percent above the standard offer price. He said it wasn’t unheard of for customers to see rates double after the initial first few months of lower rates.

Donahue said about 1,000 people have contacted his law office since the lawsuit was filed last fall to follow its status and see if they could join a class-action suit. Donahue said his firm is sending out regular newsletters to those who have contacted the office to keep them up to date on the progress in the case.

The lawsuit names Electricity Maine and its parent company, Provider Power; Spark Holdco, a Texas-based company that bought Electricity Maine in May 2016; and Kevin Dean and Emile Clavet, top executives at Electricity Maine.

Spark Holdco has filed the motion to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they have an actionable claim under the law. A hearing on that motion is likely to be held this spring.

John. J. Aromando, an attorney for Electricity Maine, said he and the company have no comment on the lawsuit.

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On first day with lower speed limit, Interstate 295 traffic slows http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/on-first-day-with-lower-speed-limit-i-295-traffic-slows/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/on-first-day-with-lower-speed-limit-i-295-traffic-slows/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:27:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/on-first-day-with-lower-speed-limit-i-295-traffic-slows/ Maine State Police said Monday’s messy weather accomplished what lowering the speed limit from 70 mph to 65 mph on a stretch of Interstate 295 set out to do: slowed down drivers.

A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain coated roads and got most people to slow down Monday morning, but the weather couldn’t keep everyone from speeding.

State police said an early-morning speed enforcement detail in Freeport resulted in more warnings than speeding tickets. But one person was charged with driving with a suspended license.

“There weren’t many stops today for speeding. It was the weather,” said Sgt.Tyler Stevenson, the state trooper in charge of managing speed enforcement along the busy stretch of highway.

On Monday, the Maine Department of Transportation lowered the speed limit on I-295 between Falmouth and Topsham, a stretch where crashes increased dramatically after the limit was raised to 70 mph in 2014.

An analysis of radar readings showed average speeds of 78-81 mph, about 10 mph faster than before the speed limit was raised.

Stevenson said state police hope the lower speed limit will give drivers who are following others too closely or driving distracted more time to react to traffic slowing down in front of them.

“If people will drive just a little slower, it should help,” he said.

Stevenson said state police decided to do an early-morning speed enforcement detail in Freeport on the first morning with the lower speed limit. Only one person got a speeding ticket, while 10 received warnings for exceeding the limit.

Stevenson said state police want to give drivers enough time to adjust to the lower speed, so it wouldn’t be fair to hand out speeding tickets immediately after the limit was lowered.

“We do have plans for more focused speed enforcement details in the spring,” he said.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said more changes are in store for drivers who use I-295.

Variable message boards warning of accidents ahead will be placed at all exit ramps, giving drivers a chance to change routes to avoid delays.

“We are going to strive for more dynamic messaging,” Talbot said.

Plans are already in the works to lengthen I-295 entry ramps. The northbound entry ramp in Falmouth, which Talbot said is too short, is a top priority.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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Augusta’s Kenway Corp. acquired by Pennsylvania company http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/augustas-kenway-corp-acquired-by-pennsylvania-company/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/augustas-kenway-corp-acquired-by-pennsylvania-company/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:50:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/augustas-kenway-corp-acquired-by-pennsylvania-company/ AUGUSTA — Augusta-based Kenway Corp., which manufactures products from composite materials for a wide range of industries, announced Monday that it has been acquired by a Pennsylvania company, Creative Pultrusions Inc.

Kenway and its 70 employees are expected to remain in Augusta as a division of CPI, which itself is a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Hill & Smith Holdings PLC.

“As to the employees and the Augusta facility, this acquisition is very positive,” Kenway President Ian Kopp said in a statement. “CPI has signed a lease to remain in Augusta, and all employees are being retained. Though the majority owners Kenneth Priest and Michael Priest have retired, I will continue as president.”

Kenway and CPI are privately held companies, and few other details about the transaction were available.

In announcing the deal, Kopp said that over the past two decades Kenway has found itself working with CPI as a vendor, a customer and a competitor.

“We were always very impressed,” he said. “When presented with the opportunity to join CPI as part of Hill & Smith’s global composites manufacturer holdings, the decision was easy. They are a company who shares our values, our business philosophy and our vision for the future of the composites industry.”

Kenway got its start seven decades ago in central Maine as a boat builder. Kenneth G. Priest started Kenway Boats in 1947, building and selling wooden boats called runabouts. Over time, Kenway started producing fiberglass boats and using other composite materials.

In 1966, Kenway Corp. shifted its focus to serve industrial clients and eventually opened up a production plant on Riverside Drive in Augusta.

Today, the company uses composite materials to design and manufacture custom products for a wide range of clients in industries involved in transportation and light rail, marine, mining and mineral processing, pulp and paper, and infrastructure and bridges.

Over the years, Kenway bought other companies that put it back in the boat-making business: the New Hampshire-based Maritime Skiff in 2007 and the North Carolina-based Southport Boatworks in 2011.

Kopp said Monday that Southport Boats LLC will continue to be owned by him, Kenneth Priest and Michael Priest. But as the companies grow, that business will likely be looking for a location in the Augusta area into which it can expand.

In late 2015, Kenway acquired the assets of Harbor Technologies LLC, a Brunswick company that had recently dissolved. As a division of Kenway, its offerings were expected to expand from pilings and fenders made from composite materials to include beams, lumber and other products.

As a part of CPI, Kenway is now part of a global organization.

In a news release Monday about the acquisition, Shane Weyant, CPI’s chief executive officer and president, said Kenway’s products and manufacturing techniques complement his company’s strategic growth and focus.

“The Priest family needs to be commended for their inspiration and their success in developing Kenway as the market leader over the last 70 years,” Weyant said. “We welcome the entire Kenway team to our team and are grateful this third-generation family business entrusts CPI with upholding Kenway’s excellent reputation and advancing the company forward.”

CPI, located in Alum Bank, Pennsylvania, was established in 1973. According to the news release, Hill & Smith Holdings PLC is an international group in the design, manufacture and supply of infrastructure products and galvanizing services, which provide protection from corrosion.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

jlowell@centralmaine.com

Twitter: JLowellKJ

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Speakers at hearing back bill to make medical marijuana users eligible for organ transplants http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/bill-would-prohibit-hospitals-from-rejecting-organ-recipients-who-use-medical-marijuana/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/bill-would-prohibit-hospitals-from-rejecting-organ-recipients-who-use-medical-marijuana/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:48:12 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/bill-would-prohibit-hospitals-from-rejecting-organ-recipients-who-use-medical-marijuana/ AUGUSTA — Garry Godfrey had been moving up the long wait list for a kidney transplant for nearly a decade when he was abruptly deemed ineligible and bumped from the registry in 2012.

The reasoning caught Godfrey – who suffers from a hereditary disease that causes kidney failure – and his family entirely off guard.

After failing to get what he needed from prescription drugs, Godfrey had used medical marijuana to relieve his pain and other symptoms associated with Alport syndrome. But a Maine Medical Center policy excluding medical marijuana patients from organ donations because of the risks of fungal infections left the father and husband with an impossible decision: either stop using the only drug that worked for him and return to the bottom of the transplant list, or keep using medical marijuana and remain on dialysis until he dies of kidney failure.

“As I saw it, I only had one choice,” Godfrey told lawmakers Monday. “Marijuana made it possible for me to function daily and take care of my family. I should have never had to choose between a lifesaving organ transplant and a lifesaving medicine.”

Godfrey, a Milford resident, is the inspiration and namesake of a bill that would prohibit hospitals in Maine from rejecting would-be organ donation recipients solely on the grounds that they use medical marijuana. The bill, L.D. 764, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, received strong support from medical marijuana patients and caregivers who are licensed by the state to grow marijuana for patients. It comes nearly five months after Mainers voted narrowly to legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults age 21 and over.

“If this is legal in the state of Maine to use it, why should it impede or stop a person from being able to receive this life-saving surgery?” said Davine Grantz, a nurse whose brother found medical marijuana was the only substance to help control his kidney failure symptoms before receiving a transplant. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Presently, the bill would affect only Maine Medical Center because it has the sole transplant center in the state. Maine Med’s Maine Transplant Program policy states that “use of prescribed or recreational marijuana by any route of administration is absolutely prohibited” because of the risk of a type of infection caused by mold periodically found on marijuana leaves.

Godfrey said he was told by transplant center staff that he would have to stop using medical marijuana for a year before he could return to the bottom of the transplant list, and then continue to refrain from using the drug during the years-long wait for a transplant.

It was unclear Monday how many Maine residents in need of a new kidney have been affected by the prohibition on medical marijuana usage.

Maine Med representatives planned to offer detailed responses to numerous questions from members of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee during an upcoming work session on the bill. But in a statement provided to the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Transplant Program said the center’s goal “is to provide top-quality, personalized treatment that is based on safe, evidence-based practices that are in the best interest of the patient.”

“Our Drug Use Policy currently prohibits transplant candidates from the use of prescribed or recreational marijuana by any route (inhaled, oral) due to the risk of an invasive fungal infection known as aspergillosis, which has been documented by numerous medical journals,” the statement said. “For patients whose immune systems have been compromised during the transplantation process, aspergillosis can be a life-threatening infection.

“The Maine Transplant Program conducts a periodic review of its policies and makes revisions that are based on clear, evidence-based standards that take into account patient safety and the viability of transplant success.”

Maine voters first legalized medicinal use of marijuana in 1999 and significantly expanded the program a decade later by authorizing a regulated system of marijuana dispensaries and caregivers. While there are some questions about the program’s future now that voters have legalized the drug for adult recreational use, patients and caregivers are fighting to preserve the medical marijuana industry because it allows patients to receive specific strains or delivery methods for medicinal versions of the drug.

Caregivers and patients testified Monday that other states have passed policies protecting medical marijuana users’ access to organ transplants.

New Hampshire’s policy, for instance, states that the “authorized use of cannabis … shall be considered the equivalent of the authorized use of any other medication used at the direction of a provider” when it comes to transplants or other medical care.

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in July 2015 prohibiting hospitals or doctors from disqualifying a recipient of an “anatomical gift” based solely on the patient’s use of medical marijuana.

Speakers during Monday’s committee hearing acknowledged the potential risk of aspergillosis on moldy marijuana buds. But they said the type of black mold that causes the infection can be eliminated in carefully prepared medical marijuana products. For instance, cannabis tinctures – the liquid, concentrated form of the plant – can be administered without a risk of aspergillosis, speakers said. Others pointed out that organ donors in Maine are not screened for medical marijuana use.

Sanderson, the bill sponsor, asked hospitals to address during the future work session the issue of whether would-be transplant recipients could safely take medical marijuana by methods other than smoking.

Godfrey fears that any policy changes may come too late for him. He acknowledged that his time is likely limited with his “two beautiful boys” and wife of nearly 10 years because, even if Maine lawmakers changed the law, he would return to the bottom of the years-long kidney transplant list.

“It could make a difference in somebody else’s life, and that’s what matters,” he said.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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Long Creek youth correctional facility administrator resigns http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/long-creek-youth-correctional-facility-administrator-resigns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/long-creek-youth-correctional-facility-administrator-resigns/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 21:43:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/long-creek-youth-correctional-facility-administrator-resigns/ Jeffrey D. Merrill II, administrator of the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, resigned over the weekend, Maine Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said Monday.

Merrill had been placed on administrative leave last Wednesday, pending an investigation. His departure comes five months after the first suicide in decades at the youth correctional facility and three weeks after an escape by three residents that ended in a car crash.

Fitzpatrick declined to discuss the investigation that had begun into the facility, which comes at a critical time for Long Creek. A recent spike in the number of youths with acute mental health problems has stretched the abilities of staff at the locked, 160-bed campus. Long Creek has a staff of about 169 and now houses about 80 inmates at a cost of roughly $15.2 million annually.

Until a permanent successor is found, Colin O’Neill, associate commissioner of corrections, will continue day-to-day leadership at Long Creek.

“The most important priority right now is the kids,” Fitzpatrick said. “There will be no break in programming, there will be no break in mental health services or support. What I’m going to turn my efforts towards is recruiting a strong leader that will continue the program in the right direction.”

Two phone numbers listed for Merrill were not working Monday afternoon, and he could not be reached for comment.

Merrill was appointed to the post in 2013 and had previously served as acting superintendent at Long Creek. He has nearly 30 years of correctional experience in Maine

Fitzpatrick said he plans to look internally in Maine for a permanent replacement for Merrill before searching outside the state.

Whoever is selected, the next leader at Long Creek will inherit a facility with persistent challenges.

More and more, Long Creek residents show acute mental health problems that are beyond the scope of what the facility’s staff members are trained to handle every day, Fitzpatrick said.

The demand for intensive services has ramped up within the last two years, he said, and exasperated the Long Creek staff, leading to low morale and a difficult work environment.

“They signed up being correctional staff, but they’re not mental health professionals,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can’t expect people to not become demoralized and exhausted when they feel like they’re not getting enough help. My job is to keep ringing that alarm bell.”

According to a snapshot report by the Department of Corrections that examined case histories of all 79 residents at Long Creek as of June 2016, nearly a third – 29.5 percent – arrived at Long Creek from a residential treatment facility. Roughly 85 percent arrived at the facility with three or more mental health diagnoses.

“If you’ve got 30 percent of the population coming out of residential care, the obvious question to be asked is what’s going on in that residential care situation that’s not meeting the needs of these kids?” Fitzpatrick said. “Until we can identify where the deficiencies are in the system, I don’t think we can know where to put our resources. We have to do our homework and understand what it is that’s failing these kids.”

In acknowledging the problems, Fitzpatrick’s comments mirrored the conclusions of an annual review by an outside watchdog group, the Long Creek Board of Visitors, who highlighted the mental health challenges in a brief but assertive report that predicted another serious incident would occur unless changes are made.

“These vulnerable, acute-level youth residents are merely being managed for safety and not specifically treated for their acute-level needs,” wrote Tonya DiMillo, the board’s chairwoman. “They do not receive the depth of mental health interventions and medical treatment that they require, potentially causing a further increase of psychological risks. (Long Creek’s staff) is doing the best they can with the tools they have, but they are being asked to do things they are not trained for and/or in the scope of their programming.”

A tragic example of those mental health needs came in November, when Charles Maisie Knowles, a transgender boy who was housed in the girl’s unit, died Nov. 1, 2016, after hanging himself three days earlier. It was the first death in decades at Long Creek. A review by the Maine attorney general found the death was not suspicious.

Knowles’ mother said in a previous interview that she tried to raise the alarm with Long Creek staff about her child’s mental health problems, but she found little traction. The Department of Corrections has disputed that claim.

Knowles had been on and off suicide watch several times, and had a long and well-documented history of mental illness.

Fitzpatrick said his staff is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to search for ways to improve community mental health resources so that children get the care they need before they are sent by a judge to Long Creek.

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UMaine System trustees vote to make Machias campus part of flagship http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/umaine-trustees-vote-to-make-machias-campus-part-of-flagship/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/umaine-trustees-vote-to-make-machias-campus-part-of-flagship/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:32:09 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/umaine-trustees-vote-to-make-machias-campus-part-of-flagship/ AUGUSTA — To guard against a financial failure of the University of Maine at Machias, system trustees voted Monday to make it a regional campus of the flagship University of Maine in Orono.

Officials said UMM, which has posted budget deficits for years, was not sustainable on its own. Under the new structure, it will keep its name and degree-granting authority, and will be led by an academic dean who reports to the president at UMaine.

“I think this is momentous,” Samuel Collins, chairman of the University of Maine System board of trustees, said after the unanimous vote. “It’s not easy bringing two institutions together.”

The change will take effect July 1.

UMM has a roughly $9 million annual budget, and in recent years has needed up to $1 million in emergency system funds to balance its budget. The Machias campus also faces enrollment challenges because of a 31 percent decline in the number of students graduating from Washington County high schools since 2007.

The changes, officials say, will stabilize finances at Machias by reducing some personnel costs, and by increasing tuition dollars by adding new students.

UMM already has about 35 extra students this year who originally applied to Orono but were referred to Machias for a one-year program to build up foundational academic skills before returning to Orono in their second year.

The Down East campus, about 100 miles east of Orono, has 745 students, a 20 percent drop from five years earlier. The campus has 76 employees, including two administrators and 34 full-time faculty members.

The move would cut administrative salaries because it would eliminate the need for a campus president, a campus budget officer and an executive assistant to the president.

“I think we can look forward to this being a tremendous advancement for the universities, the communities they serve and the state of Maine,” University of Maine System Chancellor James Page said, noting that there is still work to do to implement the changes. “People approached this with open minds, tough questions at times and a realization that if we work together, we can achieve the right outcomes.”

Academically, officials say they will create new “four-plus-one” programs, which means Machias graduates could attend Orono for one year and graduate with both an undergraduate and a master’s degree. They also plan new “two-plus-two” programs, in which a student attends Machias for the first two years of undergraduate work, then goes to Orono for the final two years.

Some Machias professors hold graduate appointments at UMaine already, and the two campuses partnered in 2014 to have Orono handle financial aid management for Machias.

Also Monday, the trustees approved a new free-speech policy that affirms constitutionally protected speech, calls for civility and gives the university room to prohibit speech if it crosses into harassment or threats.

Officials said the policy would help the system navigate free speech issues, while making clear that students do not have the right to shout down a speaker, which has happened at other campuses in recent months.

The policy says in part that “demands for civility and mutual respect will not be used to justify restricting the discussion or expression of ideas or speech that may be disagreeable or even offensive to some members of the University community. Free speech is not absolute, and one person’s claim to exercise his or her right to free speech may not be used to deny another person’s right to free speech.”

The policy defends constitutionally protected speech, and reads: “There shall be no restriction at any System institutions on these fundamental rights, although the University may prohibit speech that violates the law, defames specific individuals, genuinely threatens or harasses others, or violates privacy or confidentiality requirements or interests.”

The trustees were also briefed Monday on the need to renovate or replace aging facilities – 40 percent of all system facilities are more than 50 years old. The latest review by Sightlines, a Connecticut-based firm, found that the system would have to spend about $35 million a year just to slow or stop deterioration of facilities, and should ideally spend $80 million a year to make improvements.

The report comes as the system navigates a multipronged approach to raising funds for facilities. The governor’s proposed budget calls for issuing as much as $100 million in bonds to pay for system renovations, new construction and technology upgrades in classrooms and labs. A bill sponsored by Rep. Erik Jorgensen, D-Portland, seeks $75 million in general obligation bonds for the system, and officials say they are also seeking another $25 million to $30 million in revenue bonds.

Those state funds would be used to tackle projects in a five-year $250 million capital investment plan, said the system’s director of facilities management, Chip Gavin. In addition to tens of millions of dollars in basic deferred maintenance, the five-year plan includes $20 million for a new engineering building at Orono and $12.5 million for a new student center and dorms at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

“Out of the gate, very few of the projects are new construction. A lot of this is focused on catching up,” Gavin said. “The plan is based on need to have, not nice to have.”

Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal asks for the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority to be given permission to issue as much as $100 million in bonds for the system. The authority can issue bonding after a majority vote of its board and a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature. Voter approval is not needed.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

Twitter: noelinmaine

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Sen. King part of group aiming to expedite vets’ appeals to VA http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/sen-king-part-of-group-that-wants-to-expedite-vets-appeals-to-va/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/sen-king-part-of-group-that-wants-to-expedite-vets-appeals-to-va/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:10:30 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/sen-king-part-of-group-that-wants-to-expedite-vets-appeals-to-va/ A group of U.S. senators including Maine’s Angus King wants to overhaul the way the federal Department of Veterans Affairs handles appeals.

King, an independent, is joining Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Jon Tester of Montana on the legislation. The senators say more than 450,000 appeals are pending before the VA and the system needs updating.

The senators say redundancies and inefficiencies in the process mean many veterans wait years before getting a decision on their appeals. They say they are proposing the Department of Veterans Affairs Appeals Modernization Act to expedite appeals and give vets clearer options after they receive an initial decision.

The proposal is a reintroducing of legislation from the last Congress. That proposal was supported by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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Bill would require state to give preference to Maine companies in government contracts http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/bill-requiring-state-give-preference-to-maine-companies-up-for-review/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/bill-requiring-state-give-preference-to-maine-companies-up-for-review/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:40:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/bill-requiring-state-give-preference-to-maine-companies-up-for-review/ AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are once again considering legislation to give Maine-based companies an advantage when they bid on state government contracts.

While past efforts to pass in-state-preference laws have failed, Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said it’s time to try again.

On Monday, Jackson introduced the “Buy American, Build Maine Act,” which requires all state construction projects to use American-made materials, including iron and steel. The measure also requires the state to give preference to Maine-based companies who submit competitive bids for services, labor and products, and gives those companies a chance to match a bid from outside the state if they are outbid on a contract. The measure exempts county and local governments and school districts from the requirement.

“We are certainly building a lot more support for it this time around,” Jackson said. “People should feel less concern about what it’s going to do for cost.”

Jackson drew on his own experience as a logger, noting that many residents in northern Maine, especially those who cut and truck lumber and trees, have watched their jobs get exported to Canada. He said when it comes to state work funded with state tax dollars, Maine companies and workers should be given a leg up.

“At the minimum we should be making sure that Maine businesses, Maine workers have an opportunity to get those contracts,” Jackson said. “There is nothing that would do more to help the state than have those dollars turned back into work, into people’s pockets right here in Maine.”

About a half-dozen people spoke in favor of Jackson’s legislation in testimony before the State and Local Government Committee, including executives for Maine companies who said the bill would protect and could help grow jobs.

David Grinnell, sales director at Dragon Products in Thomaston, said his company, which employs 100 workers, will soon be facing increased competition from a cement plant being built in northern Quebec that will be able to import cement to the eastern U.S. by ship starting next year. He said any preference for American-made and Maine-made products and services would help protect his companies’ financial interests. Grinnell said about 20 percent of Dragon’s sales are to the state government.

“It seems like a Maine company should get some kind of preference when it comes to state contracts that our tax dollars are paying for,” Grinnell said.

C.B. Smith, co-founder and CEO of Virtual Managed Solutions in Caribou, told lawmakers that his company had submitted a bid for a five-year state contract for web services for Maine Revenue Services. Smith said despite a bid that scored well, his company was passed over in favor of a Massachusetts company whose bid was $1 million higher.

“If we’d won that contract, we could have hired 24 more employees in the short term, and eight full-time, permanent employees,” Smith said. “That would have been a 25 percent growth in our workforce, and no small increase in money being spent in central Aroostook County. By awarding this contract to an out-of-state company, the state left our community behind.”

While House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, is the primary sponsor of the bill in the House, the measure also has bipartisan support, with two Republican senators and one Republican House member signing on.

Past efforts to require preference for Maine-based businesses in state contracting for goods and services have failed, with opponents usually citing the need for protecting taxpayers or maintaining flexibility for state agency operations.

A 2016 effort to pass a bill that would have given Maine companies preference on state contracts even if their bids were up to 5 percent higher was narrowly approved in the House but failed to pass the Senate and died between the chambers. A similar effort for a “buy American” provision in Maine law by Jackson in 2013 was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage.

Jackson said he had not spoken to LePage about his latest effort, but he intended to do so in hopes the Republican governor would support the bill.

Jackson’s bill, L.D. 956, also provides new definitions for a Maine-based company, ensuring those winning bids are not simply paper offices connected to a post office box, but are companies that actually do business in Maine.

Jackson said most New England states have similar provisions in their laws.

“Almost all of our New England partners are actually doing some sort of in-state preference for their workers,” Jackson said. “So we are actually behind the eight ball on that.” Jackson did not provide specific examples of what other New England states are doing.

A 2012 survey and report by the National Association of State Procurement Officers said that states often institute reciprocal in-state preference laws in response to neighboring states doing so. The 2012 survey received a response from 48 states and noted that 25 had some legal preference for in-state bidders on state contracts. But the organization, as well as the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, an international nonprofit organization of procurement officials, have typically opposed in-state preferences as being both anti-competitive and “impediments to the cost-effective procurement of goods, services and construction in a free-enterprise system.”

Jackson’s bill has been scheduled for a work session before the State and Local Government Committee next Monday. The committee could amend the bill before it votes on a recommendation to support or oppose the measure when it goes to the full Legislature for a vote.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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Maine Brew Bus expands with purchase of competitor http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/main-brew-bus-expands-with-purchase-of-competitor/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/main-brew-bus-expands-with-purchase-of-competitor/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:44:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/main-brew-bus-expands-with-purchase-of-competitor/ The Maine Brew Bus, which offers tours of breweries, wineries and distilleries in the Portland area, has bought out a smaller competitor.

The company announced Sunday it had acquired Maine Beer Tours, which offered similar all-inclusive brewery tours.

The purchase will increase Maine Brew Bus’s fleet to four 15-passenger buses and it will add at least five new employees. The company has expanded its summer and fall schedule, beginning in late May through October, with daily tours departing from Portland’s Old Port.

“We are very excited about this acquisition of Maine Beer Tours. We have admired their hard work with regard to local beer tourism, and adding their resources to our company complements our existing offerings,” Maine Brew Bus founder Zach Poole said in a news release.

Maine’s craft brewing industry has seen tremendous growth in the last decade. Last year, 82 members of the industry group Maine Brewers Guild brought in $150 million in revenue and employed 1,600 people, according to a recent University of Maine report. An estimated 35 percent of tourists in Maine visited a craft brewery or brew pub, according to the latest annual report from the Maine Office of Tourism.

Maine Brew Bus has capitalized on beer tourism. Its distinctive green buses offer more than a dozen regular tours across the Portland area and southern Maine. Tickets cost about $65 per person. On its website, the company said it ferried more than 5,300 guests in 2016.

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Maine hotels, restaurants took in record $3.6 billion in 2016 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/maine-hospitality-industry-finished-2016-at-record-3-6-billion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/maine-hospitality-industry-finished-2016-at-record-3-6-billion/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:30:09 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/maine-hospitality-industry-finished-2016-at-record-3-6-billion/ Maine restaurants and hotels had a record-breaking year in 2016, bringing in more than $3.6 billion in combined revenue, a 7 percent increase.

The record sales were driven by an improving economy, warm and dry weather, and Maine’s reputation as a place for food, drink and travel.

“My thinking on this is that there are more people who realize Maine can be a year-round destination,” said Steve Hewins, president and CEO of the Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association.

Every county in the state had an increase in lodging revenue in 2016, according to data from Maine Revenue Services. Franklin County, which recorded more than $16 million in sales, saw the biggest percentage increase, jumping nearly 30 percent from the year before.

Restaurant revenue rose everywhere except in Franklin, Oxford and Washington counties, the data show. Cumberland County led the way with almost $848 million, nearly a third of all restaurant revenue statewide. Portland, which has developed an international reputation for its food scene, accounted for $357.6 million of the total.

“We jokingly called it a gastronomical high tide and we’re planning for an even greater 2017,” said Jim Britt, principal at gBritt, a South Portland public relations firm specializing in the hospitality industry. Britt also organizes the annual Maine restaurant week in early March.

There seems “no end in sight to national and international media interest in Maine as a place to eat, drink and vacation,” he said.

Restaurant revenue totaled $2.6 billion, an increase of 6 percent, and lodging revenue was $950 million, an increase of almost 10 percent, according to association estimates based on data from Maine Revenue Services. Taxes on restaurant and lodging sales brought in almost $300 million in revenue for the state last year, the associations said.

Low gas prices, consumer confidence and a long, hot summer definitely played a role in boosting visitors and sales last year, as did the millions of visitors to Acadia National Park for its 100th anniversary, Hewins said.

But he also thinks a five-year marketing campaign that the Maine Office of Tourism launched in 2015 is starting to pay off. The marketing effort was aimed at getting first-time visitors to Maine and branding the state as a place to have authentic experiences. The number of visitors to Maine has grown for four straight years, with 35.8 million visitors arriving in 2016, according to the Office of Tourism’s annual report.

Sarah Diment, owner of the Beachmere Inn, a seaside resort in Ogunquit, said she’s met a number of guests in the past few years who were visiting Maine for the first time, a trend she attributes to the state’s advertising effort. Some guests told her they chose Maine because it was an unknown quantity, and they made an initial stop at her hotel before traveling elsewhere in the state.

“It is not the marketing effort we are making in those states,” Diment said. “It has to be the state of Maine marketing effort.”

The hotel had a stronger than usual year in 2016 mostly because of an extended “shoulder” season, she said. Because of the mild winter, guests arrived earlier in the season and stayed later. The hotel gets lots of generational guests and is frequently booked solid during the summer high season.

“The only way we have a really strong season is to have really strong shoulder seasons,” Diment said.

An extended tourism season is boosting business at hotels in the Boothbay region, too. Ramsey Lafayette, a regional manager who oversees three establishments for Lafayette Hotels in Boothbay Harbor, said it is common to have a lot of guests into September and October.

“Where we are seeing the biggest growth is in the shoulder seasons. September has really transformed,” Lafayette said. Key to that trend are 55-and-older guests who have the time and money to spend traveling outside the traditional summer season. Online reservations make it easier for people to schedule an impromptu trip to take advantage of nice weather or go to an event, further boosting lodging sales, Lafayette said.

“My theory here is that we are seeing a reduced booking window,” he said. “People used to book vacations three months in advance, (now) they book them three days in advance.”

Although tourists make up a big segment of lodging and restaurant sales, Mainers are contributing to the trend. About two-thirds of restaurant sales are from in-state residents, said Hewins, president of the restaurant and innkeeper associations. There is a wealth of dining options across the state and it is attracting locals just as much as tourists, he said.

Restaurants employed nearly 62,000 workers, and hotels, inns and resorts employed another 17,000, the associations said. Overall, the hospitality industry employs about 12 percent of the state’s workforce.

“We know the restaurant business is driven by in-state travel,” Hewin said. “It’s not just Portland, there are a lot of restaurants that are bringing people to small urban places.

“It is just a big part of our economy, probably more so than in other states.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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Fix or replace? 4 options for Brunswick-Topsham bridge due for public input http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/public-to-hear-four-options-for-midcoast-bridge-project/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/public-to-hear-four-options-for-midcoast-bridge-project/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1173089 Federal and state transportation authorities have spent several months evaluating alternatives for repairing or replacing the heavily traveled two-lane, steel-truss bridge that connects downtown Topsham with downtown Brunswick.

Next month, the Federal Highway Administration and Maine Department of Transportation will present to the public four options for fixing the 85-year-old Frank J. Wood Bridge, which is green but has patches of rust.

After spending several months reviewing the bridge project’s potential impact on historic properties – a federally mandated review – design engineers developed the four bridge replacement or improvement options, which range in cost from $13 million to $17 million.

But no matter which option is chosen, transportation officials recommend that the state soon invest an additional $800,000 on critical maintenance needs to extend the bridge’s life by five years.

A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 5 on the Brunswick campus of Southern Maine Community College. The campus is located at 29 Sewall St., on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station property.

A notice published by the Federal Highway Administration and MDOT says the agencies are seeking “additional general public and community input regarding all aspects of the project as they contemplate their selection of the preferred alternative.”

According to a summary of alternatives published on the MDOT’s website by T.Y. Lin International, a design and engineering firm in Falmouth, the bridge is a critical transportation link between Brunswick and Topsham, carrying about 19,000 vehicles each day.

There is also a sidewalk on one side of the bridge, which serves as a link for pedestrians to reach the Fort Andross mill complex on the Brunswick side and the Bowdoin Mill Complex on the Topsham side. Both mills house a number of shops, businesses and restaurants.

The Frank J. Wood Bridge, which is 805 feet long, opened in 1932. It was rehabilitated in 1985, 2006 and 2015.

T.Y Lin says in its report that the bridge is “fracture critical,” meaning it is vulnerable to collapse if certain components fail, such as the truss bars and floor beams. Detailed state inspections in 2012 and 2016 “found many deteriorated areas.”

T.Y. Lin also reported that load ratings done in 2013 and 2016 found “some floor system members are no longer adequate for Maine’s legal loads.”

The bridge is currently posted for a 25-ton limit.

While the state and federal design teams try to agree on a permanent solution, the MDOT plans to do temporary repairs to address the most severe problems so that the bridge can maintain its 25-ton load rating for another five years. The cost is estimated to be $805,000.

Two replacement options – which would keep the existing bridge alignment or create a new curved upstream alignment – would cost $16 million and $13 million, respectively. There are also two bridge repair options, which would cost $15 million or $17 million, with the more expensive alternative adding a second sidewalk on the eastern side of the bridge.

A group of residents called Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge opposes replacing the bridge, which is known locally as the Green Bridge. The bridge has been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Friends group formed last year after the state announced it favored replacing the bridge over rehabilitating the structure.

“This may be our last chance to speak up for the rehabilitation of our bridge over demolition!” the Friends group says on its Facebook page, referring to the upcoming meeting. “We need as many of you there as possible.”

The April 5 meeting is scheduled to run from 6 to 8 p.m. and will be held in the L.L. Bean Learning Commons and Health Science Center at SMCC.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for MDOT, said the bridge project is scheduled to begin in 2018. Additional information on the project is available at www.maine.gov/mdot/env/.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/public-to-hear-four-options-for-midcoast-bridge-project/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173089_919640_20160815_bridge_0161.jpgThe Frank J. Woods Bridge between downtown Brunswick and downtown Topsham is currently posted for a 25-ton weight limit.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 09:07:02 +0000
In a first for Maine, Scarborough and South Portland will start collecting food waste http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/in-a-first-for-maine-scarborough-and-south-portland-to-start-collecting-food-waste/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/in-a-first-for-maine-scarborough-and-south-portland-to-start-collecting-food-waste/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1173095 South Portland and Scarborough are getting ready to launch Maine’s first municipal food waste collection programs.

The two pilot programs will offer free, weekly curbside pickup of food scraps such as bread, coffee grounds, dairy products and meat in select neighborhoods. Based on the results, the programs could expand in both cities, potentially providing a model for other southern Maine communities.

The goal of both pilot projects is to reduce the amount of waste sent to an incinerator or landfill. Other American cities – including San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado – have implemented successful food waste programs. As of 2014, nearly 200 U.S. cities had some form of food waste collection.

“This is where national leaders in waste management are trending,” said Julie Rosenbach, South Portland’s sustainability coordinator.

Julie Rosenbach, South Portland’s sustainability coordinator, says food waste collection is the next major trend in waste management. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Food waste makes up almost 28 percent of household trash in Maine, according to a 2011 University of Maine study. In 2015, Maine towns and cities generated 1.19 million tons of solid waste. Of that, 39,659 tons, including food waste and lawn trimmings, was composted, about 3 percent of the total, according to a report in January from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Efforts to remove food and other organic waste from the state’s waste stream have grown in recent years. Towns and cities have arranged places where residents can drop off kitchen scraps, or have partnered with private companies to offer residents fixed prices for compost pickup. Organic collection companies such as Garbage-to-Garden and We Compost It! offer fee-based collection to homes and have expanded business in southern Maine in recent years.

But the South Portland and Scarborough programs go a step further by integrating food waste into regular collection of trash and recycling.

ECOMAINE STARTS TAKING FOOD WASTE

In September of last year, ecomaine, the Portland waste processing company collectively owned by more than a dozen towns and cities, began accepting food and organic waste in exchange for reduced tipping fees. The food waste is shipped to Exeter Agri-Energy, an anaerobic digester that converts organic waste and cow manure into electricity, compost and animal bedding.

“We were basically waiting for ecomaine to take food. The minute they did that we started setting up the pilot,” Rosenbach said.

Sending food to a waste-to-energy incinerator is inefficient – Rosenbach likens it to trying to fuel a campfire with oatmeal – and some food waste does not break down in landfills. Delivering it to a digester like the one in Exeter, in Penobscot County, is the highest use for the material, she said.

South Portland is testing the one-year project on about 600 households in the Knightville and Meetinghouse Hill neighborhoods. Beginning in May, every household will get a white, 6-gallon lidded bucket for disposal of food waste. Those buckets will be collected every week on the same day as trash and recycling. Residents can first put food scraps into a clear plastic bag, then that is inserted into the bucket.

Garbage-to-Garden was the winner of the three companies that bid for the new service. The company will be paid $43,700, including the cost of the bins and outreach and education services. South Portland will also have large compost bins available at its transfer station for any resident to use.

Even though tipping fees at ecomaine are slightly less for food waste than for trash – $55 a ton versus $70.50 a ton – the pilot project isn’t expected to save money, said Rosenbach. However, diverting food from the waste stream could get South Portland closer to its goal of 40 percent recycling by 2020, after hovering around 28 percent for the past seven years, she said.

“This is the largest chunk of our waste stream we can target,” Rosenbach said.

Neighboring Scarborough is trying out a nine-month pilot project for about 180 homes in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood. Residents will be given green, 35-gallon bins that will be collected every week along with either trash or recycling, said sustainability coordinator Kerry Strout. Pine Tree Waste, the company that provides collection services for the city, uses dual-body trucks and can only pick up two types of material at a time, Strout said.

Food waste collection will not add to the town’s solid waste budget, she said. Scarborough will also provide composting bins at its transfer stations for residents who are not part of the pilot program.

DATA COLLECTION, BEST PRACTICES

Travis Wagner, an environmental policy professor at the University of Southern Maine, intends to work with South Portland, Scarborough and ecomaine to analyze the data produced by the two programs. He also intends to measure how the drop-off composting bins are used at the Falmouth, Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth transfer stations. The goal is to come up with best practices for municipal programs based on participation and cost, Wagner said.

“By looking at these different approaches, maybe other towns can glean off this and learn what works and doesn’t work,” he said.

Even though collection and disposal of food waste is in its infancy, it is likely the direction in which municipalities and private companies are headed, said Scarborough Public Works Director Mike Shaw.

“This is similar to where recycling was 10 or 15 years ago,” Shaw said.

“You’ve got to look to the future here,” he said. “The model we have for getting rid of food waste will change.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/in-a-first-for-maine-scarborough-and-south-portland-to-start-collecting-food-waste/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173095_114013-FoodWaste1.jpgAn attachment on an excavator grinds up food waste at Agri-Cycle Energy in Exeter, a sister company of Exeter-Agra Energy. Food waste collected in South Portland and Scarborough will go to ecomaine in Portland and then be shipped to Exeter-Agra.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:21:28 +0000
Textile museum nearing reality at Biddeford mill complex http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/textiles-museum-close-to-reality-at-former-biddeford-mill-complex/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/textiles-museum-close-to-reality-at-former-biddeford-mill-complex/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1173035 BIDDEFORD — On Saturday mornings, the Pepperell Mill Center bustles with activity: Farmers’ fill tables with vegetables for a weekly market, children play at an indoor playground and people drop by to visit a brewery, distillery and creamery.

A century ago, this floor of the mill held 1,500 looms in a sweltering room where workers wove cotton into sheets that were shipped around the world. The room was kept at 115 degrees with 75 percent humidity so the thread wouldn’t break.

As time marches forward in the former Pepperell Manufacturing mill, a small group of volunteers has spent years preparing to open a museum to highlight the history of a city once defined by its textile manufacturing. The first Biddeford Mills Museum exhibit is set to open this year in Building 13 of the sprawling mill complex, which is being redeveloped for small businesses, light manufacturing and residential uses.

“Biddeford is here because of the mills,” said Pete Lamontagne, a museum board member and “mill vet” who worked at Pepperell for 38 years.

The Biddeford Mills Museum formed as a nonprofit five years ago and last year announced it was teaming up with the Maine Historical Society to develop an exhibit in Building 13. A donation of $30,000 from Bangor Savings Bank, presented to the museum Friday, coupled with an anonymous $35,000 donation have allowed the museum to push up its timeline and complete its first exhibit by September. The first phase of the exhibit will be installed in June.

The total cost of the first exhibit and educational programs to accompany it is around $90,000, said Jeff Cabral, president of the Biddeford Mills Museum board.

The exhibit will be in a space in the Pepperell Mill Center that functions daily as a lobby, on Saturdays as a farmers market and occasionally as a function space for special events. It will include movable panels and a timeline that highlight the history of the mills, technology, immigration and other topics to show how the mills played an integral role in the history of the city, state and Industrial Revolution.

The opening of the exhibit has been long anticipated by a small group of former mill workers – the “mill vets” – that has spent the past five years collecting and saving pieces of the mill’s history, including tools that belonged to people who worked there. The mill vets also lead public tours during summer months, regaling visitors with impressive statistics about the million-square-foot mill complex, its history in the city and anecdotes about the generations of people who worked in the once-thriving mill. In the spring and fall, they lead tours for local schoolchildren, many of whom have grandparents who once worked there.

Lamontange said the mill vets feel strongly about preserving the legacy of the mills.

“We can finally see the light now that a museum is going to happen,” he said.

Scott Joslin, general manager of the Pepperell Mill Campus and a museum board member, said when developer Doug Sanford and his company took ownership of the mill after it closed in 2009, they inherited artifacts, including machines, tools and pieces of fabric. It seemed natural to work on a way to showcase these items while preserving the mill’s history, Joslin said. Someday, they hope to have a kiosk near the entrance to the Pepperell Mill Center where mill vets can greet visitors and share information about the mill’s history.

“They history here is so rich and very significant,” Joslin said.

The museum was recently given the 2017 Originality Award at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

“The Biddeford Mills Museum celebrates an important piece of our heritage and makes it accessible to visitors,” said Steve Lyons, acting director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “Working with past employees of the mills, they have created an immersive tour for visitors that builds pride and provides a unique Maine experience.”

The mill vets will resume their tours in June, with proceeds going to the museum.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/textiles-museum-close-to-reality-at-former-biddeford-mill-complex/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173035_797463-BMM-model-View-2-e1490622194990.jpgA rendering depicts the Biddeford Mills Museum to be installed at the Pepperell Mill Center. The museum will highlight the city's textile manufacturing history.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:35:32 +0000
Families hit hard: For some caught in crisis, tragedies multiply http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/victimizing-families-for-some-caught-in-crisis-tragedies-multiply/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/victimizing-families-for-some-caught-in-crisis-tragedies-multiply/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168260 Click to view slideshow.

On workdays, Gail McCarthy drives 70 miles to her job and then another 70 back home.

It’s a lot of time alone in the car with her thoughts, and they often go to the same place.

“I can’t even listen to the music,” she said of her drive between Stetson and Rockland. “I’m too worried a song will come on that will make me think of them and I’ll start shaking and lose control.”

There is no preparing for the pain of losing a child, and McCarthy knows that pain twice over.

In November 2013, she lost her daughter, Ashley, to an overdose of methadone, which she bought on the street to avoid withdrawal symptoms from heroin addiction. She was 21.

About 17 months later, her son, Matthew, died of an overdose of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. He was 24.

As the drug crisis has ravaged Maine, claiming hundreds of victims, few families have lost more in such a short period than the McCarthys.

An overdose death is not like a car accident or a lost battle with cancer. Often, families watch loved ones in the grip of addiction turn into completely different people. They watch them struggle to break free from the drugs, only to slip back down again. The roller coaster of addiction carries not only the user, but also everyone close to them.

In some instances, family members even admit to feeling a sense of relief after a death.

“There is a sense of peace,” said Patty Dumont of Poland, whose son, Nicholas Douglass died in December 2015 from an overdose at age 25. “You don’t have to worry anymore. Just watching the news, wondering if my son’s name was going to be on the news every day. Waiting for the phone call that I received.”

Among the more than 100 families of overdose victims interviewed by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since the summer of 2016, at least seven had lost more than one person. In some cases, those who died were siblings. In others, they were parent and child.

Many more families of overdose victims had children or parents still living who were addicts.

Leigh Haskell, a clinical psychologist in Portland who specializes in grief counseling, said the incomparable pain of losing a child or parent to drugs is often compounded by a sense of bewilderment and helplessness.

“Many families come to realize that they didn’t know the severity of the issue or how long it had been going on and that can be shocking,” she said. “And for families that did know and tried with all their might to get help, it’s anguishing that despite all those efforts, it didn’t work.”

Haskell has seen a noticeable increase in the last five years in clients who have lost loved ones to addiction. She said the one thing family members of overdose victims have in common is shame, and that often prevents people from speaking out.

“What I tell them is to seek out the people you feel understand,” she said. “Focus less on the people who you think are judging you.”

Addiction strikes some families repeatedly because it is driven largely by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Children who grew up in families scarred by alcohol or drug abuse, divorce, poverty, or physical or sexual abuse are much more likely to develop addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Carrying a genetic burden does not necessarily mean that a person will get the disease,” said Vivek Kumar, who studies the genetics of addiction at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. “Environment is key, but its influences are harder to quantify. There are cultural and social norms that are not under our control.”

A child or teenager might see substance use in the home or among friends, realize that it’s wise to stay away, and yet still gravitate toward that behavior because it’s what they know.

Gail McCarthy’s children, Matthew and Ashley, are memorialized on candles at her home in Stetson. Even after her daughter died, her son continued to use drugs, McCarthy said, and she remains angry that they couldn’t get him the help he needed before it was too late. “There is no help out there,” she said. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Even when a family member sees someone close to them struggle mightily with addiction or die from overdose, they can’t always stop.

That’s how it was for Matthew McCarthy.

Still stuck in the nightmare of her daughter’s death, Gail McCarthy remembered telling her son, through tears, “Promise me you’ll never do these drugs. I can’t lose two kids.”

“And he said, ‘I promise, Mummy. I promise,’ ” she said, sobbing.

Matthew couldn’t keep that vow.

When McCarthy is sad, she lies down on her daughter’s old bed, still neatly made inside her home, so she can be close to Ashley. Or she opens a plastic bag that holds the clothes Matthew was wearing when he died, so she can smell him.

Her family will never be whole again and every time she reads an obituary or hears about another overdose, she aches for the parents.

Some days, McCarthy isn’t filled with sadness but with anger. Anger that her children, who were raised in loving though far-from-perfect homes, turned to drugs. Anger that they couldn’t get help before it was too late. And most of all, anger that there were people out there so willing to sell her babies substances that could kill them in an instant.

She knows exactly who sold the drugs to both of her children. For a long time, she wanted them to pay.

SIGNS OF TROUBLE: ‘I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN’

FROM THE EDITOR
COMING TUESDAY: Disease or bad behavior: Does addiction call out for compassion or punishment?

Ashley and Matthew McCarthy were raised in Hampden, a mostly affluent suburb of Bangor.

They lacked for nothing, and McCarthy said she never really worried about them because they were always honest with her. She knew they drank and smoked pot.

“I used to think all these parents had their head buried in the sand. How stupid,” she said. “Boy oh boy, until it’s your family.”

Ashley was prescribed opioids after being diagnosed with painful uterine cysts. Her mother thinks that’s how she got hooked.

She started stealing to support her habit. A week before her daughter died, McCarthy slapped her during an argument over her drug use. It was the first time she had ever done anything like that. She was so frustrated. She didn’t know how to reach her.

A few days later, they reconciled. Ashley needed help. She needed her mother.

The day before Ashley died – Gail’s birthday – they spent together shopping in Bangor. Ashley didn’t have any money but wanted a journal, so McCarthy bought it for her. It was a white book with pastel polka dots on the cover. She told her daughter to write in it every time she thought about using.

Ashley never got to open it.

McCarthy started writing in it herself on Nov. 21, 2013, the day after Ashley’s overdose.

Matthew started using opioids before Ashley, McCarthy said. She thinks it was his senior year of high school. He stopped playing hockey, which he loved, and started losing a lot of weight.

“I should have known,” McCarthy said. “He lived and breathed hockey.”

When Ashley died, Matthew took it hard, his mother said, but she didn’t know how hard.

Even though she pleaded with him, Matthew kept using.

“We called all these places, trying to get him help,” McCarthy said. “They told us we needed to wait or we had to call back and that was just to get him into Suboxone. Everything was just going to take so long and he needed it immediately.”

VITAL SIGNS: In early 2016, lawmakers approved funding for a 10-bed detox center in Bangor. It would be only the second detox center in Maine, alongside the 16-bed Milestone facility in Portland. But more than a year later, the Bangor center has yet to open.

The day Matthew died, McCarthy had gone to a counseling session after work. When she got the call on her cellphone to come home, no one told her why, but she knew. She had bought a cake to celebrate what she thought was one week of being clean for Matthew. Written on it was, “I’m proud of you.”

She got to the house. The ambulance was still there, which she knew was bad news. If they had saved him, the ambulance would have taken him to the hospital.

His body was still in the bathroom. His mouth was open. His tongue was white.

“I thought, ‘My big baby. He’s got to be so cold,’ ” McCarthy said through tears. “Why did I think these stupid things? So I went into the bedroom and got a blanket and put a pillow under his head. And then I laid down beside him.”

FOR FAMILIES IN CRISIS, COMMON FRUSTRATIONS

McCarthy and her husband got divorced in 2013, not long before Ashley’s death. She doesn’t know whether the divorce contributed to her children’s substance use but said they took the split hard.

The parents tried to get help for both kids at different times but never had insurance or the money to pay for what they probably needed. What little help they did get wasn’t enough. There wasn’t any follow-through.

“There is no help out there,” she said. She was tempted to call the cops on each of her kids. But then what? Have them sent to jail, where they wouldn’t be treated? Or risk a criminal charge that would affect their futures?

Other families had the same frustrations.

The Fecteau family in Biddeford has been struggling to navigate the mire of Maine’s opioid crisis. Cathy Fecteau, right, lost her son Matthew to an overdose last summer. He was 27. Two of his siblings, an older brother and his younger sister, Lizzy, left, are also fighting opioid addiction, but the quest for treatment can be frustrating and sometimes fruitless. Matthew’s brother graduated from a detox program with these instructions: “Go find a doctor.” Listen to Cathy’s story. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Matthew Fecteau of Biddeford, who died last summer of an overdose at age 27, has two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister, who have both struggled with addiction, their mother, Cathy Fecteau said.

The family has struggled to find treatment, too. In one instance, a relative helped them buy Suboxone on the street because they couldn’t find a provider. In another, Matthew’s brother graduated from a detox program with instructions to “go find a doctor.”

Matthew also got stuck in the criminal system. He was out of jail less than two months when he overdosed and died. Near the end, he was more focused on getting help for his sister than himself, his mother said.

Paula Cahill of York lost her husband in 1999 to a cocaine overdose. She raised three sons on her own after that.

“I did everything I could do not to have them turn out like their dad,” she said.

But all three battled addiction and she did, too, for a time.

In 2015, her middle son, Joseph Cahill, overdosed on fentanyl and died. He was 27.

“You can’t put a cake in front of a person who is addicted to food and say don’t touch it,” said James Cahill, the oldest brother, explaining how prevalent drugs were. “When you put a drug addict in front of people who are doing drugs, they are going to say ‘yes’ eventually.”

Haskell, the Portland psychologist, said support is lacking not only for people who are struggling with addiction, but also for those who are struggling to cope with the grief of losing family members to an overdose.

“The reality is that people never completely go back to the way it used to be,” she said. “They get better at managing their lives without the lost person, but there isn’t a fixed point. You just get more able at living with the loss.”

A GRIEVING MOTHER, COMING TO TERMS

Even into 2016, Gail McCarthy still had a great deal of anger about what happened to her children. She kept thinking about confronting the two people who sold them their fatal doses.

McCarthy found out about her son’s dealer because of all the text messages in his phone.

Within the span of about 18 months, Gail McCarthy lost both Ashley, 21, and Matthew, 24, to opiate overdoses. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Eventually, the dealer was arrested for drug trafficking and she showed up in court on the day of his sentencing.

“The first thing I said to him was, ‘You should get the death penalty. An eye for an eye. You took my son,’ ” she said. “And he was crying and saying how sorry he was and that Matt was a good man, and then I realized, he’s just a kid. He’s just a kid. He wasn’t this monster. He was somebody else’s son.”

Before she left the courthouse that day, McCarthy gave him a hug.

She never got to meet the dealer who sold Ashley the methadone that took her life. In January, he died of an overdose. He was 27.

McCarthy found no solace in the news. Instead, she felt pain for his mother, whom she knew. Hampden is a small town.

She didn’t know how to reach the woman, so instead, she found the obituary online and posted a message.

She expressed sorrow for the woman’s loss.

“You know I lost Matt and Ashley the same way,” she wrote. “I would love to talk to you and we could share. I might be able to help you thru this. Please call me.”

McCarthy hasn’t received a response yet. Maybe someday she will.

Staff Writers Mary Pols and Kate McCormick contributed to this story.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/27/victimizing-families-for-some-caught-in-crisis-tragedies-multiply/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1168260_588466-Family_Gail-McCart6.jpgA GRIEF COMPOUNDED: Sitting on the bed of the daughter she lost to a methadone overdose in 2013, Gail McCarthy of Stetson inhales the lingering scent from the clothes her 24-year-old son, Matthew, was wearing when he died of a fentanyl overdose just a year and a half after 21-year-old Ashley's death. Among the more than 60 families of overdose victims interviewed by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since the summer of 2016, at least seven had lost more than one person to the epidemic.Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:55:37 +0000
Cost to attend UMaine System likely to top $19,000 next year http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/after-six-year-tuition-freeze-umaine-system-students-face-increase-this-fall/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/after-six-year-tuition-freeze-umaine-system-students-face-increase-this-fall/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 02:01:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/after-six-year-tuition-freeze-umaine-system-students-face-increase-this-fall/ AUGUSTA — Students in the University of Maine System are likely to see an increase in tuition and fees this fall, the first hike in six years.

The additional tuition, fees, and room and board costs will result in an overall increase of 2.9 percent, officials said Sunday.

“We held tuition flat for six years to ensure we kept tuition affordable for average Maine families,” Chancellor James Page said after a budget briefing at the board of trustees meeting in Augusta. “We needed to show we are good financial stewards and we’ve done that. Now it is time to invest.”

For in-state students, tuition, fees, and room and board would increase to $19,074 a year, compared to the current $18,545. Out-of-state students – who pay about three times as much as Mainers for tuition alone – would see an increase of about the same amount, for a total of about $41,500.

The trustees will vote on the increase, first proposed last year, at their May meeting as part of the budget.

Several student representatives to the board of trustees said students on their campuses know about the pending increase and aren’t that upset about it.

“When you show students the data, they understand it,” said Samuel Borer, a junior at the University of Maine studying physics and math. “It came down to people understanding what was happening.”

There was some early confusion, according to Brad O’Brien, the student representative from the University of Maine at Augusta.

“There was a lot of fear,” said O’Brien, a senior in liberal studies. “There was a lot of conversation, talking about how the money was going to be used.” Campus and system leaders met with students to explain the changes, he said.

“We are looking at specific strategies” in planning for the future, Page said. “We’re not going to come back and start piling up costs.”

Adjusted for inflation, Maine has had the second largest decline in tuition nationwide over the last five years, according to the College Board, which tracks college costs. Tuition decreased in Washington state this year after a $200 million infusion from the legislature specifically to lower tuition up to 20 percent, and California saw a slight decline in tuition. All other states increased their tuition and fees over the same period.

University of Maine System officials say they intend to increase tuition annually, tied to the rate of inflation. Their budget projections anticipate that the state allocation for the system will also increase at the rate of inflation.

This fall is also the start of the system’s new three-tiered tuition plan, part of the move to a unified budget system.

Currently, each of the seven campuses charges its own tuition, ranging from a high of $8,370 a year at the flagship campus in Orono to a low of $6,600 a year at the campuses in Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

In the fall, tuition will be $8,580 a year at the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Farmington; $7,860 at the University of Southern Maine; and $6,840 a year at the campuses in Augusta, Fort Kent, Machias and Presque Isle.

In-state tuition for graduate programs will increase to $7,722 a year at the University of Maine, $7,074 a year at USM and $7,002 a year at Farmington. Tuition at the University of Maine School of Law is unchanged at $22,290 a year.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

Twitter: noelinmaine

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/after-six-year-tuition-freeze-umaine-system-students-face-increase-this-fall/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/10/1098638_edi.10242.jpgThe University of Southern Maine, above, has been hard hit by recent cuts made by the UMaine System in an effort to close a budget deficit. Now we're learning more about a new center that would house combined graduate programs currently operating at USM and the University of Maine.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:44:22 +0000
Skowhegan animal abuse case may be linked to ‘pet flipping’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/skowhegan-animal-abuse-case-may-be-linked-to-pet-flipping/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/skowhegan-animal-abuse-case-may-be-linked-to-pet-flipping/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 01:02:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/skowhegan-animal-abuse-case-may-be-linked-to-pet-flipping/ SKOWHEGAN — Before walking into Nicole Bizier’s garage on March 17, Detective Katelyn Nichols hadn’t worked on an animal cruelty case.

“It was disturbing, walking into the garage and seeing dogs basically stacked in cages,” said Nichols, who works for the Skowhegan Police Department.

Authorities began investigating Bizier, 32, earlier in March, when the state Animal Welfare Program received an animal cruelty complaint for a stray dog found in Pittsfield. The state agents determined that Bizier last owned the dog, which had severe tissue damage around its mouth from wearing a muzzle for an extended period.

Agents found that Bizier was still allegedly selling dogs online, something authorities ordered her to stop doing in February, when she was charged with tampering with public records and falsifying private records.

In mid-March, state agents and Skowhegan police executed a search warrant at Bizier’s home, where they allegedly found 11 dogs in poor conditions, and arrested her on multiple charges.

At this point, it sounds like Bizier was “pet flipping,” Nichols said. Pet flipping is when someone gets an animal for free and then turns around and sells it. While Nichols said she’s never seen this type of behavior before, she suspects that it may happen more often than people realize.

Typically, those who “flip” pets are stealing them, said Brandi Hunter, vice president of public relations and communications at the American Kennel Club.

Someone will let a dog play in the yard or leave it tied up outside a store while running errands, and the dog will be stolen. The group has even heard of people stealing dogs from cars, Hunter said, though she added that not every theft is about pet flipping.

According to the club’s National Pet Theft Database, the number of stolen dogs has increased dramatically since 2008, when 71 were reported stolen. In 2015, 831 dogs were stolen.

While there are no data on dogs stolen in Maine, Natalie Messier, president of the nonprofit Maine Lost Dog Recovery, said her group received 804 reports of lost dogs in 2015 and 12 percent were unaccounted for. In 2016, the number of reports increased to 924, and 11 percent are still unaccounted for.

Messier said if people find a stray or lost dog, they must report it to the local authorities. If they keep it without doing so, that’s against the law, she said.

With this case, however, it seems that Bizier was getting the dogs for free from people who were looking to give them new homes.

Nichols said a number of possible victims have come forward, as well as a number of people who say they gave her their animals, thinking they were going to a good home.

On average, Bizier was selling the dogs for $250 to $500, Nichols said.

Bizier was charged with theft by deception, cruelty to animals and illegal operation of a pet shop. She was taken to the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, where she got out on bail for $500. Attempts to reach Bizier for comment were not successful.

ANIMALS IN SQUALID CONDITIONS

Nichols was one of the Skowhegan police officers who took part in the search of Bizier’s home.

The one-car garage, which held tools, yard equipment and toys in addition to the four adult dogs, was very cold, Nichols said, and had no form of heating. The dogs were in cages that gave them just enough room to turn around, she said, and they didn’t have water or food bowls. The cages had hay and some had dog beds, but those were “so dirty they almost looked brown,” Nichols said. The dogs were relieving themselves in their cages.

While Nichols was in the garage, another Skowhegan officer called her saying there were puppies locked in a closet.

Nichols, who has a dog herself, was shocked.

“It’s hard to believe a human being could keep animals locked up in a closet,” she said.

Inside the house where Bizier lives, which is a small single-wide trailer in Skowhegan, it smelled “like old food and animal urine,” Nichols said. There was clutter everywhere.

In the home’s only bathroom, police found four puppies in the bathtub. They had a blanket, but it was soaked in urine. There was a bowl of wet cat food and no water bowl.

“It looked like they were expected to drink from the dripping faucet,” Nichols said.

It seemed the 4-week-old puppies were not allowed to leave the tub. They acted lethargic, she said.

“Normally, puppies at 4 weeks old, they’re excited and jumping around. But these seemed exhausted,” Nichols said.

In a house closet three more puppies were found. The total space for the dogs was about 2-by-2-feet when the door was closed with a small cardboard box filled with cat litter, which they didn’t use.

The puppies slept through the transfer from Bizier’s residence to the Humane Society of Somerset County, Nichols said.

The mother pit bull “started wagging her tail and was very happy” when the police started to take her out, she said.

The dog was malnourished and was supposed to be nursing. It needed a great deal of medical attention once at the Humane Society.

The other adult dogs were very scared, Nichols said, and the police had to ask Bizier and her boyfriend to help take them out of the residence.

“It broke my heart,” Nichols said. “Animals and children, you know, they’re defenseless and unless someone speaks up for them, they’re on their own.”

Nichols said they’re working with the Somerset County District Attorney’s Office regarding further charges, but after that it’s up to the court system.

“I honestly don’t know what her motive was,” Nichols said, whether it was money or something else.

A DIFFERENT SCALE

The animals found in the Bizier case are now in state custody, said Liam Hughes, director of the Animal Welfare Program since 2011.

Nichols said they are no longer at the Humane Society, but she could not disclose their current location.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that those animals are healthy or they stay healthy,” Hughes said.

The state will ask for custody at a possession hearing, Hughes said, and then work toward getting them out of the shelter system and into “forever homes.”

However, if the dogs have behavior problems, which often happens with animal cruelty cases, they may have to remain in the system longer for training, Hughes said.

“They may always carry emotional scars afterwards based on the treatment they received,” he said.

Hughes said he once had a dog that was afraid of feet, for example. If a foot touched it in a certain way, it would react because the previous owner had kicked it a lot.

Bizier was first arrested in February after the Animal Welfare Program, which is part of the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, received four complaints from people who bought dogs to later find out that they were not properly vaccinated.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

mstamour@centralmaine.com

Twitter: madelinestamour

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/skowhegan-animal-abuse-case-may-be-linked-to-pet-flipping/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173082_103644-Dog-arrest-1.jpgVeterinarians say this dog found running loose in Pittsfield was muzzled for an extended period of time, causing severe tissue damage.Sun, 26 Mar 2017 21:09:51 +0000
Messy morning commute in store for drivers in southern Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/messy-morning-commute-in-store-for-drivers-in-southern-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/messy-morning-commute-in-store-for-drivers-in-southern-maine/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 00:59:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/messy-morning-commute-in-store-for-drivers-in-southern-maine/ A messy and slick morning commute could be in store for those driving to Portland and elsewhere in southern Maine on Monday.

James Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the precipitation, which could produce a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain, should start around 5 a.m. and turn to rain by 11 a.m.

“It could be a bit dicey during the morning commute,” Brown warned, adding that Monday morning’s temperatures will hover right around 32 degrees.

The good news, Brown said, is the wintry mix in the forecast will not accumulate. He said it will last into the afternoon over inland areas, mostly north and west of Lewiston.

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Work begins toward building new Hallowell fire station http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/work-begins-toward-building-new-hallowell-fire-station/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/work-begins-toward-building-new-hallowell-fire-station/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 00:22:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/work-begins-toward-building-new-hallowell-fire-station/ HALLOWELL — Less than a week after an anonymous donor pledged up to $1 million for construction of a new fire station, Hallowell officials were still wrapping their heads around the steps to be taken in the coming months to make the station a reality.

“We, as a city, have a lot to do because there are several parameters attached to the gift, and there’s a very aggressive timeline,” Mayor Mark Walker said Friday. “But it’s all very exciting.”

The first step happened during a public hearing Thursday, when the City Council unanimously voted to rescind their late January decision to move the Hallowell Fire Department to a shared, yet-to-be-built station in Farmingdale. The hearing was the result of a petition circulated by Stephen Langsdorf that forced the council to revisit its choice to forgo contracting fire services with Augusta and instead lease space in Farmingdale.

The city must decide by April 20 whether to accept the money, build the station at Stevens Commons and enter into a binding obligation to build the station by June 20.

City Manager Nate Rudy and Walker are hoping to meet with Stevens Commons owner and developer Matt Morrill in the coming days to discuss building the fire station somewhere on his 54-acre property at the top of Winthrop Street. Morrill acquired the property from the state last April.

In October, former Hallowell Fire Chief Mike Grant proposed building a new public safety facility, including a fire station, on the campus, and Morrill said reconstructing the campus’ Erskine Building as part of a multi-phase project was an option.

Rudy said the generous gift puts all options back on the table.

“This is an amazing gift to the city, and we are very surprised to be involved,” Morrill said Friday in a statement.

Morrill has asked the city for $600,000 to improve the infrastructure on the campus, and the request is part of a $2.36 million bond package voters will decide in an April 28 special election.

Walker’s goal is to have the new fire station completed before next year’s Water Street reconstruction project begins in April.

That would give the city about 12 months to go through the design, permitting and approvals, bidding and construction process.

Another concern city officials will have to address is the number of historic buildings on the Stevens Commons campus. Walker said some are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and with that comes parameters when it comes to reconstruction or new construction near those buildings.

Hallowell’s council holds its next regular meeting April 10, and Rudy said he would expect the council will vote on whether to accept the anonymous pledge at that meeting.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

jpafundi@centralmaine.com

Twitter: jasonpafundiKJ

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/work-begins-toward-building-new-hallowell-fire-station/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173063_778236_20170208_hallowell_2.jpgHallowell Fire Chief Jim Owens, shown in February, is one of the city officials who will have a lot of work ahead if the City Council moves forward with an aggressive timeline to build a new fire station.Sun, 26 Mar 2017 20:27:32 +0000
Maine bill would require written permission for foraging on private property http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-senator-proposes-law-requiring-landowners-to-approve-foraging-on-their-private-property/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-senator-proposes-law-requiring-landowners-to-approve-foraging-on-their-private-property/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:51:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-senator-proposes-law-requiring-landowners-to-approve-foraging-on-their-private-property/ Get off my lawn, and out of my blueberry bush.

That’s the message in a proposal before a Maine legislative committee that would restrict foraging for wild, edible vegetables, fruits and fungi on private property.

Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, made the proposal, which would prohibit the harvest of such food without written permission or a bill of sale from the owner of the property.

Foraging is a tradition in Maine, where wild-picked berries, mushrooms and fiddleheads, which are the twisty fronds of a young fern, are all popular. Saviello’s proposal received a chilly reception from foraging enthusiasts, outdoors lovers and even some landowners at a public hearing, and it likely will be altered before a key vote.

“As an outdoorsman and recreational forager, the current wording of the bill would impose a severe hardship on me and, I’m sure, many others,” testified Tom Seymour, who said he enjoys “many wild edibles, and most of these are plants that no one knows of.”

Saviello is working on walking back his bill. He said it could be saved by making it clear that it differentiates between foraging for personal use and collecting for a commercial operation.

Maine landowners have a long history of sharing access to their land to hunters, snowmobilers and foragers, and the intention of the bill is not to jeopardize that, Saviello said. Rather, he was motivated by constituents who have had their fiddlehead patches raided by foragers who seem to be gathering grist for some kind of commercial operation, he said.

A new iteration of the proposal could set limits on how much could be foraged without permission, Saviello said.

“I would hope you would go to that landowner and say, ‘I might pick some ramps, some mushrooms, I might pick some raspberries,’ ” Saviello said, referencing a kind of wild onion that is popular in restaurants. “Hoping people are courteous. And Mainers are.”

The proposal did find support from the Maine Woodland Owners, which said landowners deserve to benefit from a growing interest in wild mushrooms.

“lf money is being made from foraging, we think the landowner should at least have the opportunity to benefit, too,” said Bill Williams, deputy executive director of the group, in testimony.

The bill is currently before the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which is expected to cast a vote on it soon after Saviello makes changes. It will be up for discussion Tuesday.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, said he feared that the proposal could have unintended consequences as written.

“I wouldn’t want to see somebody that was out brook fishing catch a trout, pick a few fiddleheads to go along with the trout, have a gun with him and get arrested for a felony,” he said. “It needs more clarity.”

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-senator-proposes-law-requiring-landowners-to-approve-foraging-on-their-private-property/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1173042_51334_20151021_mushrooms09.jpgPeople forage for mushrooms at Negutaquet Conservation Area in North Berwick. Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, has put forth a bill that would prohibit foraging for wild, edible foods on private property without the owner's consent.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 09:06:43 +0000
Maine Maple Sunday a sweet success for syrup producers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-maple-sunday-a-sweet-success-for-syrup-producers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-maple-sunday-a-sweet-success-for-syrup-producers/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 20:43:11 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-maple-sunday-a-sweet-success-for-syrup-producers/ WINDHAM — Angie and James Horler of New Gloucester and their sons, Isaac, 9, and Joshua, 6, spend every Maine Maple Sunday at the Nash Valley Farm.

Sunday was no exception. The two boys munched on puffy mounds of maple cotton candy while their parents beamed outside the sugarhouse.

“My first Maple Sunday was when I was pregnant with Isaac, and we have come here every year since,” Angie Horler said.

The Horlers said they like to visit the Nash Valley Farm, not only because it is a tradition, but they also like the low-key atmosphere. There are hardly any lines and the operation features a sumptuous array of maple sugar products.

“And the people here are real nice,” James Horler said.

Maine Maple Sunday is a major hit with thousands of people who descend on the state’s maple syrup-making operations on the fourth Sunday of March. Some operations stretch it out over the weekend. This year, 85 sugarhouses opened their doors to the public to serve pancake breakfasts, maple syrup on snow, maple-infused baked beans and other treats.

Boilers said they expect a better-than-average season in quality and yield this year despite a topsy-turvy season, which started for some operators in January, a month early because of warm weather, then slowed to a trickle during the chilly early spring.

“It’s definitely been different. A lot of the syrup was made back in January,” said Richard Morrill, who produces about 60 gallons a year at his Nash Valley Farm.

Maine is the third-largest producer of syrup of all the states. In 2016, Maine turned out 675,000 gallons. New York was second with 707,000 gallons and Vermont first at 1,990,000 gallons. But Quebec is the maple syrup capital of the world, producing 11.1 million gallons of Canada’s 12.1 million gallon output in 2016.

Maple syrup prices range from about $55 to $63 a gallon this year.

The sap runs when temperatures drop into the 20s at night and rise into the 40s during the day. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup.

Maine Maple Sunday means total indulgence for some syrup lovers. Samantha Roberts of Windham stood in line for the cash register at Nash Valley Farm with seven bags of maple cotton candy.

“I will send one bag to my mother in Oregon, but the rest are mostly mine,” said Roberts, who also planned to buy some maple whoopie pies and maple pecans.

Betsy Hart of Windham said she always looks forward to Maple Sunday.

“We come here pretty much every year. It is nearby, it is easy and prices are reasonable.” Hart said of the Nash Valley Farm.

Scott Dunn talked maple syrup production nonstop Sunday at the Dunn Family Farm in Buxton, where hundreds of people stopped by for a pancake breakfast and maple syrup demonstrations.

Dunn maintains1,500 taps and has produced 71 gallons so far this season, with no end in sight as long as the current weather pattern holds.

Dunn said he sells his product by word of mouth.

“And by the honor system on the porch,” where people can pick out what they want and leave money, Dunn said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

Twitter: QuimbyBeth

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/maine-maple-sunday-a-sweet-success-for-syrup-producers/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172957_385343-20170326_maplesund2.jpgA large crowd lines up to visit Cooper's Maple Products in Windham on Maine Maple Sunday. In top photo, maple syrup is for sale at Dunn Family Farm in Buxton on Maine Maple Sunday.Sun, 26 Mar 2017 19:20:42 +0000
Driver backs into Ted’s Fried Clams, another vehicle in Shapleigh http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/car-backs-into-fried-clams-eatery-another-vehicle-in-shapleigh/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/car-backs-into-fried-clams-eatery-another-vehicle-in-shapleigh/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 20:19:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/car-backs-into-fried-clams-eatery-another-vehicle-in-shapleigh/ No one was injured but a car was destroyed Sunday afternoon when it backed into the Ted’s Fried Clams building on Emery Mills Road in Shapleigh and then struck another vehicle.

York County Sheriff William King said Althea Cram, 93, of Acton was backing up about 12:30 p.m. in her 2006 Dodge Stratus when she pushed too hard on the accelerator and crashed into the corner of the building and then into a 2007 Toyota Prius occupied by Hoa Nguyen, 62, of Springvale.

Neither woman required medical attention after being examined by rescue personnel, the sheriff said.

The Dodge was a total loss. The building and the Toyota received minor damage.

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Resources for users who want to stop, and how others can help http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/resources-for-users-who-want-to-stop-and-how-others-can-help/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/resources-for-users-who-want-to-stop-and-how-others-can-help/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170901 Q: I want to learn more about addiction. Where can I go?

A: The National Institute of Drug Abuse has extensive resources about the science of addiction.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a good tool for learning about different treatment options and what they entail.

The Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services has information and resources that are more specific to Maine.

Q: If I’m in a crisis related to drug addiction, what can I do?

A: The state of Maine operates a crisis hotline called 211 that is available 24 hours a day to help people find resources. The website for that service is: 211Maine.org. Call 911 if you see someone overdose, but be aware that Maine is not one of the more than 30 states with “Good Samaritan” laws that ensure no one will be charged with a drug-related crime when police respond to an overdose.

Q: Where can I get help?

A: Depending on where you live and your level of resources, you can seek out a detox facility or an in-patient residential treatment facility, or enroll in a medication-assisted treatment program. The 211 service has a comprehensive list of options.

Q: What is medication-assisted treatment?

A: It uses medication, often in combination with counseling or other behavioral therapies, to reduce cravings and prevent relapses. Medication-assisted treatment is increasingly viewed as the most effective method of treating opioid addiction.

Some patients might be suited for methadone, a synthetic opioid that is distributed in clinics. Maine has 10 methadone clinics, but they are scattered so many people in rural areas have difficulty accessing them.

For others, buprenorphine, better known as Suboxone, is more appropriate. It can be prescribed to patients and taken at home. SAMHSA keeps a list of Suboxone providers by state.

Another medication, Vivitrol, is available, but not widely. Vivitrol is a monthly injection that prevents the body from feeling the effects of opioids.

Q: What is detox?

A: For someone who wants to stop their heavy opioid use, detox is often the first step. At the moment, Maine has just one true detox facility – Milestone in Portland – although another is in the works for Bangor.

During detox, the body metabolizes the drugs that are in the system over a period of several days, often with the help of Suboxone. After detoxification, a person can then either enter an in-patient treatment facility or find counseling.

Q: What are the options for residential treatment?

A: People who have struggled to get sober or who may not have strong personal support systems can benefit from a stay in a residential treatment facility. In Maine, there are about 200 beds eligible for MaineCare, and there are dozens more beds at private facilities, all of which are costly. SAMHSA keeps a list of all treatment facilities by state. Maine starts on Page 461 and goes to Page 476.

Many addicts in recovery avoid medication and stay clean in sober houses, which are usually staffed with counselors, and with the help of the 12-step program popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous. There are hundreds of regular meetings held all over the state.

Q: What are my options if I have no insurance?

A: This is the biggest barrier to effective treatment for many with opioid addiction, particularly since Maine tightened eligibility requirements for MaineCare. Treatment facilities may have scholarships or grants that they don’t advertise. Also, community collaboratives such as the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative try to connect people with resources.

Q: What are some signs that someone might be abusing or addicted to drugs?

A: In early addiction, many people can function normally and hide any evidence. As things worsen, though, problems often appear. Money will often be a constant source of attention. An addicted person may start selling things, steal or commit other crimes to get money to buy drugs. They may start lying more frequently. They often lose weight.

Injection drug users often show signs, such as track marks on their arms. If they always wear long sleeves, that could be a sign.

Q: What should I do if I suspect that a friend is using heroin?

A: Not everyone is ready to acknowledge they need help. You can talk to them about it, but they may push you away. You also can talk to loved ones and organize an intervention. If someone is not ready to stop using, you can try to ensure they are using safely.

Q: Are there ways to ensure that I or my loved one is using safely?

A: Maine has needle exchange programs in the following cities: Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, Ellsworth, Augusta and Machias. Users can drop off used needles and exchange them for new ones at no cost.

Mainers also have access to Narcan, also called naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. A law that passed last year made the drug available to anyone without a prescription, but rules have not been finalized by the Maine Board of Pharmacy. Until that happens, Narcan is available only through prescription from a primary care physician or through some treatment organizations and hospitals.

One other safety precaution: Users should never do opioids alone.

Q: I’m about to have surgery and I’m concerned about prescription painkillers. What questions should I ask my doctor?

A: Opioid-based painkillers are still widely prescribed, but there are many more safeguards in place now to ensure people do not become addicted. Also, many medical practitioners are moving away from opioids and encouraging patients to manage pain in other ways. Sometimes it’s a holistic option such as acupuncture. Another option is prescribing medical marijuana, which is non-habit-forming and carries no overdose risk.

Q: I’ve been on prescription painkillers for chronic pain. How can I ensure that I won’t get addicted?

A: Extended use of opioid-based painkillers can lead to a dependence. Talk to your doctor about tapering down your dosage, rather than stopping abruptly.

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Bill Nemitz: Do my words bother you? That’s OK – you didn’t hear them from me http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/bill-nemitz-do-my-words-bother-you-thats-ok-you-didnt-hear-them-from-me/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/bill-nemitz-do-my-words-bother-you-thats-ok-you-didnt-hear-them-from-me/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172626 First, let’s get one thing straight. I did not write this column.

I know, that’s my name up there and that’s my picture right next to it and any reasonable person would therefore conclude that these are my words and I can thus be held accountable for everything that follows.

Wrong. Never wrote it. Never said it.

How can I make such a ridiculous claim?

Easy. I just did.

It’s the latest thing in public discourse these days, brought to us by our chief executives both here in Maine and in what’s left of Washington, D.C.

Up in our neck of the woods, Gov. Paul LePage did it with remarkable aplomb during a town hall forum in Gorham on Wednesday.

A woman in the audience asked why he vetoed a politically charged solar-power bill last year, yet signed another bill granting a $13 million bailout for Maine’s biomass-to-electricity industry.

Timely question: Just the day before LePage’s town hall, Portland Press Herald staffer Ed Murphy reported that struggling loggers have stopped delivering biomass to Stored Solar of West Enfield, one of two companies receiving the state subsidy.

Their problem? According to the loggers, Stored Solar stopped paying them for their deliveries weeks ago – adding fuel to many a critic’s prediction that the bailout would end up benefiting only the corporations.

So there stood LePage with this hot potato of a question on his hands and what did he say?

“I did not sign that bill,” he replied flatly. “It went into law without my signature.”

The crowd lapped it right up. But sitting off to one side, Maine Public State House reporter Steve Mistler’s ears went up.

The ever-observant Mistler followed the biomass bill closely last spring and distinctly remembered LePage reluctantly signing it. He even remembered double-checking and seeing the actual signature on the actual document.

And so Maine Public immediately ran with Mistler’s story, headlined “LePage Says He Didn’t Sign $13 Million Biomass Bailout (He Did).”

It was hardly LePage’s first head-on collision with the truth. But unlike many of his past whoppers, this one wasn’t about some distant memory or some story that could never be fully vetted.

No, this was a flat-out denial of a recent signature that’s still there, plain as day, for all to see. This was the preschooler solemnly swearing he didn’t eat the cookies, oblivious to the Oreo chunks still lodged between his teeth.

So how did Team LePage contain the damage from this one?

They didn’t. No pushback, no clarification, no claim that the governor, once again, was taken out of context. Not a peep.

Lie? What lie?

Damage? What damage?

I’m telling you, folks, you just can’t go wrong with this look-people-in-the-eye-and-lie strategy. I mean, you literally can’t go wrong. Ever!

Cut to Washington, D.C., where President Trump has spent the last few weeks drowning in his made-up claim that the Obama administration had “wires tapped” in Trump Tower during last year’s presidential campaign.

Umm … nope. Never happened.

Yet still Trump clings to this fabrication. It’s only a matter of time before he tweets that he heard about the wiretap from none other than the Man from U.N.C.L.E. … or was it Agent Maxwell Smart?

Then, late on Friday, Trump one-upped even himself.

While the repeal and replacement of Obamacare went down in flames all around him, a strangely serene president told a gaggle of reporters in the Oval Office: “You’ve all heard my speeches. I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days.”

Correct, Mr. President. As the Washington Post points out in a delightful, rat-a-tat video montage, you repeatedly said “one of my first acts as president” would be to deep-six the Affordable Care Act “immediately … starting on Day One.”

Foiled again? Fuggedaboutit. It’s time, Trump now tells us, to move on.

So this is what we’ve come to, folks.

While fake news swirls through the gutter in the stiffening political winds, our highest elected officials no longer obfuscate, equivocate or prevaricate.

They just flat-out lie.

There is no ink on that piece of paper.

There is no video on that screen.

There is no unassailable truth. Reality itself is now up for grabs.

And while those smart enough to have not voted for them in the first place watch these “day-is-night, night-is-day” twisters in utter amazement, Trumpists and LePage loyalists nod along in blissful agreement with whatever spews from their heroes’ mouths.

In LePage Land, there simply is no signature to what’s starting to look like yet another shameless corporate giveaway of millions in taxpayer dollars.

In Trumpworld, repeal and replace was … meh … somewhere down there on the to-do list. (A fantastic to-do list, by the way. Totally fantastic. Terrific list. …)

So now I get it.

Facts are facts, until they’re not. What happened happened, until it didn’t.

Memory is in the eye of the rememberer – perhaps best illustrated by the time on “Get Smart” that Agent Max took a fire extinguisher to the head of the Chief.

“I said I was sorry,” Max later told Chief. “You just didn’t hear me because you were in a mini-coma.”

There’s a lot of that going around these days. Indeed, considering how high LePage and Trump have risen, maybe this complete lack of accountability for what comes out of one’s mouth is the new normal.

I don’t know about you, but I find that strangely liberating. Kind of like not having your cookies and eating them too.

Tempted to give it try? Allow me.

Paul LePage is a fraud. He’s disgraced his state, squandered millions on boneheaded ideological crusades and, one year after trying to organize a Republican coup against then-candidate Trump, now fantasizes about the call from the White House that will come … someday?

Donald Trump is beyond a disgrace to the office of the presidency. He’s supremely unqualified, has no leadership acumen whatsoever and poses a serious danger to the entire planet.

Say what?

You didn’t like that?

Not my problem.

I didn’t write it.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/bill-nemitz-do-my-words-bother-you-thats-ok-you-didnt-hear-them-from-me/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/09/Top-Story-Block-Bill-e1412944716710.jpgPORTLAND, ME - MAY 15: Images of Portland Press Herald news reporters and columnists, Wednesday, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Sun, 26 Mar 2017 04:29:52 +0000
Opioids rewire – and take control of – the brain http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/opioids-rewire-and-take-control-of-the-brain/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/opioids-rewire-and-take-control-of-the-brain/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168165 Could you forget how to ride a bicycle?

That feeling of forward motion, untethered to a parent steadying the seat, stays with most people into adulthood. Hence the expression: You never forget how.

But imagine for a minute that you did have to forget. Could you unlearn something like that?

That’s what addiction is like, except instead of trying to unlearn something that is fun and mostly free of consequence, you’re trying to unlearn something that has the power to take over your life.

Or to kill you.

Dr. Ruben Baler, a neuroscientist with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said there are many metaphors to explain addiction, but he’s partial to the bike-riding analogy.

“One of my hopes has been that if you can just get people to understand the science, the stigma would just melt away,” Baler said in a telephone interview from NIDA’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. “That hasn’t really happened though.”

The science of addiction is complicated. It’s easier for people to see it as black-and-white. A person makes bad choices and has to live with them. Or, a person started using these drugs, so they can stop; it just takes willpower. This line of thinking is persistent, and even understandable, but researchers say it impedes progress in slowing down the drug crisis.

“Every drug of abuse from the moment of the first use, changes the wiring and connectivity of the brain,” explained Vivek Kumar, a researcher at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor who studies the genetics of addiction. Opioids are particularly problematic, though, because of the speed at which they can take over the brain.

‘DOPE SICK’: THE WORST FLU IMAGINABLE

But how does that happen?

Inside the brain are numerous receptors, tiny sites where chemicals, natural or otherwise, bind during neurotransmission.

When the brain feels pleasure, it’s because the body releases chemicals such as dopamine, which attach to receptors. Opioids stimulate a large release of dopamine for the purpose of alleviating pain.

Ask someone to describe the first time they used heroin and the responses are almost romantic. It’s an overwhelming sensation of warmth and safety. It’s like being wrapped in a gentle euphoric hug.

But opioids also bind to other receptors not related to the reward system. Over time – and it doesn’t take long – the brain adapts to these changes in neurotransmitters so that they function normally only when opioids are present.

Even activities that increase dopamine production naturally – things like exercising, eating certain foods, even listening to music – are shunted aside.

“One thing about opiate addiction that stands out is how much a driving force avoidance of withdrawal is,” said Emily Feinstein, director of health law and policy at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “Withdrawal then becomes a deterrent to stop.”

Users call it “dope sick,” and their description of it is grim: the worst flu imaginable, amplified by a power of 10. Those suffering from opioid addiction never get back the same feeling of that first high but they are always chasing it.

Here’s another metaphor: If you’re starving, because you haven’t eaten in three days, and your mind is starting to hallucinate, what would you do to find food? Might you do something risky or potentially harmful to satiate that hunger?

Many people suffering from addiction say that they became a different person while using. Loved ones say the same thing. I didn’t recognize my son or daughter anymore, they say.

GENETICS, ENVIRONMENT PLAY A ROLE

This is why.

Heidi-Sue Stuart lost her son to heroin in November 2015, but the young man she knew was lost to her long before that. Things changed drastically after a car accident in 2009 left Corey Coburn with severe facial injuries. He had six different plastic surgeries. A metal plate was inserted around his eye. His jaw was wired shut for eight weeks.

Stuart said she slept in the same room with her son for a while because the pain scared him so much.

His doctors prescribed several painkillers: morphine, Percocet, then OxyContin. Six months in, doctors tried to wean him down from high doses with Suboxone.

But Suboxone wasn’t enough. Coburn’s brain had been rewired.

“After the accident you could tell the change. He was angry all the time. He was irritable. He seemed overwhelmed. He seemed stressed,” his mother explained. “Then you would see him relieved. I think he was taking whatever he could to just get by.”

“I know it’s true, myself included, when you think of a heroin addict you think of someone in the alleyway and you don’t think of it being someone close to you and someone you love.”

VITAL SIGNS: Fatal drug overdoses in Maine climbed by 80 percent in the last three years — from 208 to 378.

Baler, the NIDA neuroscientist, said the effects of opioids on the brain are relatively easy to explain, but what complicates addiction is what drives a person to misuse in the first place or why some people are more prone to addiction than others.

No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted, but genetics and the environment play a role. Poverty, abuse in the home, unstable parents – those are all risk factors.

“The multidimensional aspects of addiction put it in the same family as other psychiatric disorders,” Baler said. “That’s why it makes so much sense to have a multipronged approach to treatment.”

‘WE NEED TO GO WHERE THE EVIDENCE IS’

Vivek Kumar, a researcher at The Jackson Laboratory, said it’s hard for him to watch so many people lose their lives to addiction, knowing that science explains how to treat it. Photo courtesy of The Jackson Laboratory

He said medication-assisted treatment like Suboxone or methadone helps to stabilize the brain to make it possible for long-term behavioral recovery.

The key is long-term. It’s so much easier for the brain to learn than to unlearn. Think back to riding a bicycle. Where would you even start to unlearn that skill?

That’s why it’s so important to think about addiction as a brain disease when thinking about treatment and recovery, Feinstein said.

“Abstinence-only is often not successful because the brain hasn’t recovered,” she said. “We still sort of have this approach of you go to a provider and they have one kind of treatment, sort of like how we treated cancer a while ago.

“But everyone is different. If you don’t give the person the treatment that matches their disorder, the success rate is not going to be high.”

Relapse, which happens for as many as 60 percent of opioid addicts – sometimes more than once – often is a clear sign that more or different treatment is needed. But many treatment programs still view relapse as failure.

Even within the treatment community, there is a lot of bias and stigma – the same attitudes carried by those who suffer from addiction.

Abstinence-only advocates may take the position (even unintentionally) that a patient can’t be fully “clean” while on a methadone or Suboxone maintenance program, thereby closing off a scientifically proven form of addiction treatment.

Supporters of medication-assisted treatment, on the other hand, may rely too much on the medicine and not the behavioral therapy that is paired with it, leaving patients with a long-term reliance on the medication because they haven’t gotten to the root of why they used in the first place or because they haven’t learned the skills to suppress urgings or cravings.

Kumar, the Jackson Lab researcher, said if the goal is to help people suffering from addiction, “We need to go where the evidence is.”

The evidence, according to scientists, is medication-assisted treatment coupled with behavioral therapy.

But it’s not a magic bullet. It is work and it can be costly.

Kumar said it’s hard for him to watch so many people lose their lives to addiction, especially knowing that just as science explains addiction, it also explains how to treat it.

“I’m safe in my lab writing grants and doing work. I’m dealing with mice,” he said. “But I do think that, after all these years of waging a war on drugs, we have a real opportunity to get this under control.

“But will we? I don’t know.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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Note from the editor: How the 10-part ‘Lost’ series came to be http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/note-from-the-editor/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/note-from-the-editor/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1170456

GETTING HELP: Resources for those who want to stop, and how others can help

As a devastating public health crisis tore through families and communities across the state, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram set out to document the heroin epidemic’s impact. A team of reporters sought to understand the causes and consequences of the rapidly rising death toll by listening to firsthand accounts of survivors – the loved ones left behind after an opioid-related death.

The newspaper met with Attorney General Janet Mills, whose office oversees the state medical examiner, and requested help in finding families who suffered losses and were willing to share their stories. Mills mailed a personal letter to family members of the hundreds of victims who have died recently and asked them to contact the newspaper if they agreed to be interviewed. In addition, reporters found families through obituaries, funeral home directors and drug counselors.

After interviewing more than 100 families who agreed to share their stories about their lost loved ones, reporters produced 60 individual portraits of overdose victims. In addition, these interviews and those of drug addiction experts and people in recovery revealed aspects of the crisis that were going unreported.

How women in particular are succumbing to the drug epidemic because of insufficient treatment facilities. How the state made treatment harder to get. How some families are devastated by multiple overdose deaths. How hundreds more children are being removed from drug-infested homes and stressing the child welfare system.

This 10-part series is the result of a yearlong project involving more than 50 reporters, editors and photographers.

Cliff Schechtman

Executive Editor

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/note-from-the-editor/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1168118_345794-Women_Emard_05.jpgHOLDING ON: Behind the wheel of her daughter's car this month, Ann Howgate of Lebanon clutches the blanket that EMTs used to cover Kristina Emard after the 28-year-old woman was discovered dead in the vehicle on Sept. 25, 2016. Kristina, who'd served in the Army and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, died from an overdose of cocaine and fentanyl. Learn her story, listen to audio memories and read much more at pressherald.com/lostSun, 26 Mar 2017 23:08:26 +0000
Speed limit lowered to 65 mph on stretch of I-295 starting today http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/speed-limit-drops-monday-on-stretch-of-i-295/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/speed-limit-drops-monday-on-stretch-of-i-295/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1172659 The speed limit on a 22-mile stretch of Interstate 295 between Falmouth and Topsham is now 65 mph beginning Monday morning.

The lower limit, which began Monday morning, comes after the Maine Department of Transportation concluded that speed played a role in a 29 percent increase in crashes on that stretch of road during a two-year span between the year before the state raised the speed limit to 70 mph in 2014 and the year after it had been in effect for a full year. Driver distraction and traffic volume, which increased 6.4 percent in that same time period, also played a role, according to an MDOT analysis.

Message boards have been warning motorists about the upcoming speed reduction for the last two weeks. All permanent speed signs along the Falmouth-Topsham stretch of I-295, which state officials say is the most heavily traveled section of roadway in Maine, will be replaced by the end of the month. The drop in the speed limit took effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The lower speed limit is the first of several planned initiatives to reduce crashes on the Falmouth-Topsham portion of I-295, which runs 53 miles from West Gardiner to Scarborough. MDOT began monitoring I-295 after it noticed an uptick in crashes in 2015. Since then, the Falmouth-Topsham section appears to have been the only area with a corresponding increase in crashes.

Source: Maine DOT
Interactive: Christian MilNeil

An analysis of radar readings found the average high speed was 78-81 mph, 10 mph faster than before the speed limit was raised.

The agency is planning a long-term technical study of the I-295 corridor that will focus on highway interchanges in the Falmouth area, but it will also make more immediate safety improvements that will roll out through 2019, including traffic signals, new lighting and evaluation of new ramps in Yarmouth, Falmouth and South Portland, and two dozen message signs to inform drivers about road conditions and crashes.

The state is also considering expanding medians and turnoffs to help state police enforce speed limits. State police have said that enforcement is not easy during high-traffic times, and that pulling a driver over can create more of a safety problem than it solves.

That Topsham-Falmouth stretch of I-295 is one of the most challenging in the state for troopers because of the high volume of traffic, state officials say.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at:

poverton@pressherald.com

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A deadly epidemic: Addiction to opioids has put an entire generation at risk http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/lost-heroins-killer-grip-on-maines-people/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/lost-heroins-killer-grip-on-maines-people/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 07:59:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168118

Behind the wheel of her daughter’s car this month, Ann Howgate of Lebanon clutches the blanket that EMTs used to cover Kristina Emard after she was found dead in the vehicle on Sept. 25, 2016. Howgate had desperately sought treatment in Maine for Kristina, 28, an Army veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and died from an overdose of cocaine and fentanyl, a powerful opioid. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Dr. Mary Dowd slid into a chair inside the Portland offices of Catholic Charities and surveyed the list of patients, all battling opioid addiction.

There was Rachel, a 40-year-old mother of three balancing her sobriety with a toxic relationship with her ex-husband. And Michael, 32, anxiously awaiting the birth of his second child and celebrating seven months free of heroin, hoping many more months lie ahead. And Tanya, 34, working two jobs to pay for her medication-assisted treatment and save for a down payment on a new house.

There was Shannon, 32, who confessed to a recent relapse after nine months clean. She wasn’t happy about the setback but said she could have easily “gone on a run” of destructive drug use. She came to see Dowd instead.

She knew she’d fail a drug test but said, “I want to be held accountable.”

There was Andrew, also 32, who had recently completed a detox program and was soon to check into a 45-day residential treatment center in Auburn, a prospect that terrified him.

“I’ve been trying to shake it on my own,” he told Dowd, pausing to look down, his voice lowering to a whisper. “I just couldn’t do it.”

It was a Wednesday morning in January but it could have been any day of any month in any of the last few years. This is how Dowd spends them.

Many people struggling with addiction find treatment and regain their lives. She sees it every day. Those are the lucky ones.

But it’s the people she never gets to see who frustrate her. The ones who don’t make it. The ones who are dying in unprecedented numbers.

They are dying in the potato fields of Aroostook County and the lobster-fishing harbors Down East. They are dying in the western Maine foothills where paper mill closures have sown economic anxiety. They are dying in cities like Portland and Lewiston and in the suburbs, where opioids are in plentiful supply.

The death toll reached 378 in 2016, driven almost entirely by opioids – prescription painkillers, heroin and now fentanyl, a powerful synthetic. More than one victim per day. More than car accidents. Or suicide. Or breast cancer.

Only four years ago, there were 176 overdose deaths, less than half the 2016 total. Twenty years ago, just 34 people died from drug overdoses.

But in the last few years, the crisis has been more acute here than almost anywhere else. From 2013 to 2014, Maine saw the third-highest increase in any state, 27 percent.

The following year, 272 Mainers died from overdose, a 26 percent increase, putting the state behind only New Hampshire, North Dakota and Massachusetts in the rate of increase. That gave the state an overdose mortality rate, adjusted for age, of 21.2 per 100,000 people.

Comparable state-by-state data has not been compiled for 2016 but the recent numbers for Maine, where deaths increased by another 39 percent, suggest the trend is worsening.

It shows no signs of stopping.

The list of deaths would be longer if not for the increased availability and use of the drug Narcan, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

In 2016, rescue workers used Narcan 2,380 times, up from 1,565 the year before, according to state data. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been critical of Narcan and has used language that suggests people get what they deserve and shouldn’t be saved after a couple of overdoses.

The hardest part for Dowd and the many others like her throughout the state who treat addiction every day isn’t the number. It’s the sense that Maine hasn’t seen the worst of it yet and an entire generation is at risk of being lost.

“I don’t know how we can just sit and watch this happen,” said Dowd, who is soft-spoken by nature but passionate in bursts. “Where is the outrage? Where is the urgency?”

CONFRONTING ADDICTION: SOCIETY’S ‘MORAL TEST’

Shortly after delivering the eulogy, Angela Fauth of South Portland bends to kiss the casket of her cousin Randy Ouellette during his burial service last month at New Calvary Cemetery in South Portland. Ouellette, a popular bartender at Blackstones in Portland, died alone in his apartment of an apparent heroin overdose on Jan. 29. He was 42. Staff photo by Derek Davis

A yearlong Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald examination of the opioid crisis and the collective response reveals that the state was largely unprepared, particularly for the increased demand for treatment, and is now trying to catch up.

For several years as the problem worsened, policymakers – led by LePage – made it harder to get treatment, not easier. They reduced reimbursement rates for methadone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. They tightened eligibility for MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, leaving many low-income people without the ability to pay. They fought increased access to Narcan, prompting Attorney General Janet Mills, a frequent adversary of the governor, to sidestep him and use funds her office controls to provide the overdose drug to local police departments.

In a radio interview in mid-March, LePage accused Democrats of blocking his efforts to increase treatment for opioid addiction. The governor’s assertion, which contradicts his previous opposition to more treatment spending, heightens the partisan conflict over an issue that was already dividing policymakers along party lines.

Until recently, there has been little increased spending on treatment to tackle the crisis. What new spending has been authorized hasn’t had an impact yet or has been offset by cuts elsewhere. The LePage administration agreed last December to spend $2.4 million for medication-assisted treatment for uninsured Mainers, many of whom lost insurance during cuts to MaineCare. And in February, the administration worked with lawmakers to add $4.8 million more for treatment into a supplemental budget.

COMING MONDAY: Families hit hard: For some caught in crisis, tragedies multiply

About 15,500 people received opioid addiction treatment in Maine in 2015, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. But the total number of Mainers addicted to opioids is unknown. The Office of the Surgeon General estimates that, nationally, only 10 percent of people living with addiction get treatment.

And despite a consensus that addiction has reached epidemic proportions, policymakers and treatment specialists – even among themselves – are not united on a solution, even as deaths reach unprecedented levels.

The state has hired more drug agents, which has led to many more arrests and heroin seizures, but those efforts didn’t address demand or stop the overdose death rate from rising.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to overcome remains societal perceptions. Though a well-documented body of scientific research shows that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, many still see it as a choice, a bad behavior that represents a character flaw or moral weakness. From this perspective, addiction is not a condition to be treated but a stigma to be hidden or denied.

Neither LePage nor Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew agreed to be interviewed by the Telegram and Press Herald for stories about the opioid crisis. The administration has long been critical of the newspapers, accusing them of having a liberal bias.

Others, however, say every day that passes is a missed opportunity to save lives. They say the solution isn’t one thing. It’s more of everything. More treatment beds. More medication-assisted treatment. More education and prevention. More money for people who don’t have insurance. And mostly, more compassion.

Because recovery isn’t a straight line. People stumble and fall. Sometimes they stumble and fall many times.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General in the final two years of President Obama’s administration, published a report on addiction in November – the first of its kind. In it, he called for a fundamental shift in the conversation. He said the societal response will be a “moral test” for the country.

“There are millions of people living in the shadows,” Murthy said in a Telegram interview. “Many don’t want to talk if there is a camera nearby. They worry about losing their job or being ostracized by friends. And I understand that but that’s not the environment we need.

“It’s so important for individuals to step up and share their stories,” he said. “They remind us that we can’t be satisfied with incremental progress. Because lives are at stake.”

In 2015, a total of 52,404 lives were lost, 33,091 from opioids alone. That’s up 11 percent from the previous year and nearly triple the total from 1999. At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the annual U.S. death toll peaked at 50,786.

By comparison, 37,757 people died in car crashes in 2015. The number of gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252.

“I spent a lot of time being terrified,” says Lynn Ouellette, whose 22-year-old son, Brendan Keating, died of an overdose on Dec. 16, 2013. “People know what happened in the end,” the Brunswick woman says, “but they don’t know about the terror leading up to it. It’s like being on a plane you’re always worried is going to crash.” Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

THE HUMAN IMPACT: FRACTURED LIVES

Over the course of a year, the Telegram and Press Herald interviewed more than 100 families who lost someone to an overdose or had a family member in recovery. The families shared their stories of lost loved ones, 60 of whom were profiled by the newspaper.

Collectively, they revealed much: that people know very little about opioids until they are forced to learn; that opioids take over a person’s life in a way no other substance can; that effective treatment is hard to find and even harder to pay for; that addiction can happen in any family.

Many spoke of the overwhelming guilt and shame that are paired with addiction, how hard they are to overcome, and how it is time to reframe the conversation. Because often lost in the debate over addiction policy – a debate sometimes driven more by ideology than scientifically sound practices – is the human impact of the opioid crisis.

Families are left to agonize about what went wrong. Children grow up without a parent. Lives are fractured, perhaps irreparably.

Lynn Ouellette’s son, Brendan Keating, died from an overdose in December 2013 – as the addiction problem was just beginning to develop into a full-blown crisis.

There are things Ouellette will talk about when it comes to her son. How he got a tattoo of her last name while she was going through breast cancer. How he built her a beautiful walkway shortly after he graduated from masonry school.

But she still doesn’t share the details of finding the 22-year-old unconscious from an overdose in the basement of her Brunswick home.

“It’s still too hard,” she said. “But I was always terrified that’s how it would end. I spent a lot of time being terrified. People know what happened in the end but they don’t know about the terror leading up to it. It’s like being on a plane you’re always worried is going to crash.”

In a bedroom of Heidi-Sue Stuart’s home in Lisbon, there is a blood-stained section of rug that’s covered over by a chair.

The blood belonged to her son, Corey Coburn, who coughed it up when he overdosed on the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and died on that spot in November 2015. Stuart held her son in her arms and screamed for help that never came. He was 28.

She doesn’t have the money to replace the soiled rug. So there it stays, a constant reminder.

Molly Parks died of a heroin overdose April 16, 2015, leaving behind her father Tom, center, sister Kasey, left, and stepmother Pat Noble. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

In Saco, Tom Parks has left a pile of boxes in his garage that hold the possessions of his oldest daughter, Molly. She injected a lethal dose of heroin in the bathroom of the restaurant where she worked in April 2015, ending her life at 24.

Parks mourns his daughter every day but can’t bring himself to go through her things. He’s not scared of what he’ll find, just worried that the act might make it easier to move on, to forget, and he doesn’t want to forget.

It’s the same reason he wrote his daughter’s cause of death into her obituary, a disclosure that is still uncommon. He wanted people to know what killed Molly.

In Lebanon, Carly Zysk has battled opioid addiction for years, hoping to spare her parents from mourning the loss of another child.

Her brother, David, had been free of heroin for four years. He had gone back to college and maintained a near-perfect GPA. He had become a leading advocate for the Greater Portland recovery community.

At a candlelight vigil for drug overdose awareness in August 2015, David Zysk spoke about the need for people to stay vigilant in their recovery.

“As much as I hope and pray that the words about to come out of my mouth ring untrue, given the stark facts it is completely possible that not everyone who is here right now will be here a year, a month, or a day from now,” he said.

Zysk’s words were prophetic. A little more than two months later, he died alone after injecting heroin in a South Portland hotel room. He was 33.

“I still think people have this idea in their head about who is caught up in this crisis,” says Dr. Mary Dowd, who specializes in treating addiction and sees hundreds of patients through her work at Catholic Charities Maine, Milestone Foundation and the Cumberland County Jail. “It could be anyone.” Staff photo by Gregory Rec

PROMISES OF HELP FAIL TO MATERIALIZE

For Mary Dowd, the main goal is to keep people alive, keep them coming back to see her.

In addition to her work at Catholic Charities, Dowd is the medical director for Milestone Foundation, which runs a 16-bed detox center in Portland. She sees patients at Discovery House in South Portland, where she prescribes Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid dependence. She also works part-time at the Cumberland County Jail, where addiction drove so many of the inmates’ crimes.

There may be no one who is more connected to the opioid crisis in southern Maine, professionally and emotionally, than Dowd. She has submitted passionate pleas to newspaper op-ed pages, hoping her words might light fires.

“Hasn’t this crisis been in the headlines long enough? Haven’t enough of our children overdosed and died?” she wrote in an August 2015 piece to the Telegram, advocating for better access to Narcan and more funding for treatment.

In another submission from December 2016, she revisited the crisis by looking back at promises that failed to materialize.

“Last year I was hopeful. Things were happening: summits, task forces, community forums, much talk about the opioid crisis in the Legislature, in the news and in towns throughout Maine. I told my patients things were changing, help was on its way,” Dowd wrote. “But for my patients, nothing has changed.”

Not one lawmaker contacted her after that piece ran.

So she keeps going to work, frustrated.

She allowed a Telegram reporter to spend several days with her on the condition that her patients not be identified.

Among the dozen patients Dowd saw that morning in January, the oldest was in his late 50s and the youngest in her early 20s. The majority were in their late 20s or early 30s. Most had children and an underlying mental health problem that led them to use in the first place – anxiety and depression being the most common. Many had a history of substance use in their families.

Their history of use varied, but patterns emerged: They started on a prescription opioid first, often after a surgery or injury. They swore they would never use heroin, until they were using heroin. They swore it was a one-time thing. They tried managing addiction on their own, often by purchasing diverted Suboxone on the street. When they couldn’t find that, they reverted to heroin.

Opioids, perhaps more than any substance, have a profound impact on the brain. Essentially, the drugs take over to the point where the brain can only function when they are present. Getting clean means fixing a brain that has been rewired.

That’s how it has been for Michael Murphy, who agreed to be identified. As of January, he had seven months of sobriety, but it didn’t come easy. He tried many times to get clean on his own but couldn’t do it. It took him a while to ask for help.

Eventually Murphy found his way to Catholic Charities and Dowd, whose clinical approach is compassionate and judgment-free.

“It’s hard to get to that point where you ask for help,” he said. “You think you can manage it and then you just fall back.”

Dowd knows each of their stories, which is remarkable considering she sees hundreds of patients.

She knows that the best way to connect with patients in recovery is to meet them where they are, to understand that relapses are going to happen.

Westbrook native Stephen Barbour, a recovering heroin addict, spends time at a residential treatment facility in Haverhill, Mass., in the spring of 2016. Acting against medical advice, he left the facility just three days later, with hopes of managing his addiction on his own. Staff photo by Gabe Souza

THE EVOLUTION FROM PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS

The roots of the current opioid crisis were planted in the late 1990s.

At that time, the medical community was under pressure to treat pain more aggressively. Pharmaceutical companies responded. Purdue Pharma, in particular, developed a time-release version of the opioid painkiller OxyContin that was marketed as a wonder drug.

Maine’s fishermen, loggers and other physical laborers provided plenty of demand for the new pain medications, and the prescriptions flowed.

The pill was created to dissolve gradually in stomach acid, releasing the drug slowly into the system over a period of up to 12 hours. But it had a flaw: Enterprising users could crush the pill and snort it, getting the entire dose all at once to produce an instant and powerful high. “Hillbilly heroin” was born.

Kimberly Johnson, who ran the Maine Office of Substance Abuse under two governors from 2000 to 2007, said Maine was the first state to raise the issue of OxyContin nationally.

“For a while, we were voices in the wilderness,” said Johnson, who’s now director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville, Maryland.

She remembers the first time she encountered a woman hooked on heroin, a powerful and addictive drug made from poppy plants that is often injected directly into the bloodstream.

“It would be what we call a classic case now but you just didn’t see it then,” Johnson said. “She had been in a car accident and was prescribed an opioid for back pain. The prescription stopped but she still had pain.”

Johnson still remembers what the woman told her.

“She said, ‘You’ll think this is crazy but someone told me heroin would take care of that pain,’ ” she said. “And of course it did.”

The shift from prescription painkillers to heroin and now fentanyl can be explained with simple economics.

Yes, the rise in painkiller misuse in the 2000s led to tightening of prescribing practices – a fight that continues today – but high-level drug traffickers also began to flood the market with heroin.

It still found its way to big cities, but from there it started to spread to secondary markets, such as Lawrence or Lowell, Massachusetts, and then to places like Maine. Supply and demand.

VITAL SIGNS: In 2014, Gov. LePage began pushing lawmakers to add agents to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in response to the opioid epidemic. In late 2015, money was finally obtained for 10 additional agents. Heroin investigations by MDEA increased from 306 in 2014 to 531 last year, while investigations of other opioid cases decreased from 245 to 155.

Timothy Cheney, a longtime advocate for treatment and a member of the state’s Substance Abuse Services Commission, has studied addiction for a long time and has lived it, too. He was addicted to heroin in the 1970s, before it had spread beyond inner cities.

“To understand an addict, you have to understand their pain. We try to avoid pain,” he said in an interview at his home in Walpole.

It may start as physical pain, but it almost always progresses to suppressing emotional pain, a much more nebulous thing.

“You have to ask yourself, what is happening in this society? We have a breakdown in community, people feeling a sense of disenfranchisement, a sense of dislocation, a sense of not belonging, and in some cases, a sense of no purpose,” Cheney said. “But nobody wakes up and says this is what I want, to be imprisoned by these drugs.”

Cheney, who also is involved with Grace Street Recovery Services, a Lewiston-based treatment center, and founded Chooper’s Guide, an online addiction resource center, joined the state commission because he was tired of seeing inaction.

“The minds that created this problem are not going to be the ones that solve this problem,” he said, paraphrasing Albert Einstein. “And we need new thoughts because, obviously, Maine hasn’t done a very good job in what they are doing.”

Other states are struggling to address the crisis, too, although some have tackled it more aggressively.

CAUGHT IN THE CRISIS: ‘IT COULD REALLY BE ANYONE’

The biggest barrier to meaningful progress remains stigma.

Dowd had a family practice in Yarmouth about a decade ago when she began working part-time at the Cumberland County Jail. She was struck by how much addiction played a role in criminal behavior and decided to practice addiction medicine full time.

In the nearly nine years since, she has learned this: The only thing that separates her from most of the people who sit across her desk every day is circumstance.

“I still think people have this idea in their head about who is caught up in this crisis,” said Dowd, who wears sandals in wintertime and speaks in a warm but no-nonsense manner. “It could really be anyone.”

On that same day in January that she met with patients at Catholic Charities, Dowd checked in during the afternoon at Milestone, the only true detox facility in the state. For opioid users, detox means a gradual weaning off their substance, often with Suboxone, to stabilize them for entry into a more long-term treatment program, either a residential rehab or intensive outpatient program that couples medication with counseling and group sessions.

Dowd does medical intakes on every patient who comes through Milestone. There are 16 beds there, but patients typically spend only five to seven days. Some don’t make it that long. The facility turns away dozens every week because it doesn’t have room.

Those who do secure a spot are often desperate. Like her Suboxone patients, their stories have similarities. Many have tried to stop before, and some even had long periods of clean time before relapsing. With each relapse, the addiction worsened.

Dennis, 33, told Dowd he’s been using anywhere from 1 to 2 grams of heroin a day. He started about six years ago, after a shoulder surgery for which the doctor prescribed Vicodin. He didn’t know he was dependent until the prescription expired.

He had some legal trouble related to his drug use early on and ended up in jail. After he got out, he was drug-free and stayed that way for three years.

“But time passes,” he said. “You forget. You stop working on your recovery.”

Pills turned into heroin simply because that’s what he could afford.

At that point, Dowd asked him what she asks every patient during an intake: Why did you decide to come in?

“I’m just sick of fighting every day,” he said, his voice weary. “It’s like I’m leading a double life. I work all day and then I’m a drug addict at night. I’m just tired.”

She asked him what he planned to do after detox. He told her he got accepted into Milestone’s residential program in Old Orchard Beach. It’s a lengthy program – nine months or more – but he’s ready. And grateful. The program keeps open just three scholarship beds for people who can’t pay and, if Dennis can hold it together, one of them is his.

When he left, Dowd said she was glad he had found a treatment bed. Most patients aren’t that lucky, especially if they don’t have MaineCare or private insurance. Most facilities don’t have scholarship beds.

Jennifer Ouellette, clinical director of York County Shelter Programs, has seen the opioid crisis move in slowly but she still remembers her first client who died.

“I remember feeling so sad because he had no family support,” she said. “And all the things people value when it comes to death – I remember thinking who’s going to do that for this guy? And then I started thinking about this guy as a child. It really had a profound effect on me.”

So, she started keeping a list of people who died.

“I kept that list for years until it got to be over 100. Then I had to stop. It just got to be so painful.”

Sometimes you wonder if you make a difference, she said, and then you get a card or a phone call out of the blue and it’s someone who is doing well.

“But I see no human compassion at all sometimes. I see people say, ‘You’re choosing to use,’ but you’re missing about 30 chapters before that needle goes in the arm,” she said. “No one starts there.”

BOLD RESPONSES IN VERMONT, MARYLAND

As many states grapple with their own crises, nearby Vermont offers a sharp contrast to Maine in its response.

In 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, devoted his entire State of the State speech to the opioid crisis, focusing particularly on increasing access to treatment, on treating addiction as a public health issue rather than as a crime, and on compassion.

Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2014 proposed a $6.7 million plan to create a coordinated system for treatment and recovery in Vermont. The number of overdoses in the state remained largely unchanged from 2011 to 2015 before rising in 2016. Associated Press

Within a few months, Shumlin had proposed a $6.7 million plan to create a coordinated system for treatment and recovery that is referred to as the “hub and spoke” model.

By 2015, the number of people enrolled in a methadone program had tripled.

The number of overdoses hovered between 97 and 108 a year from 2011 through 2015, before rising to 155 in 2016.

Vermont also instituted a program that steers low-level lawbreakers with drug addictions into treatment and other services, bypassing jail but using the threat of prosecution as leverage. Operating entirely outside of a courtroom, prosecutors in participating counties can allow people arrested on drug charges to move on with no charges if they adhere to a contract.

That type of intervention has happened in small pockets of Maine. The Scarborough Police Department’s Operation HOPE is a good example. But there is no state support and Operation HOPE is in danger of folding.

Just this month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and proposed spending an additional $50 million over the next five years to battle his state’s crisis. Maryland officials believe the high death toll more than justifies the declaration, which they hope will help break down silos within government that have impeded meaningful progress.

Here in Maine, the LePage administration’s response to the drug crisis, until recently, was heavily weighted toward increased law enforcement.

In his own State of the State address in 2014, LePage spent much of his time talking about the policy goals that have defined his administration: tax cuts, bloated government and welfare reform.

He mentioned the drug crisis at the end but focused on drug-affected babies and how that would further strain the welfare system.

LePage then mentioned traffickers and said the state needed more drug agents. He never used the word “treatment.”

In the summer of 2015, after a particularly deadly two-week stretch, LePage announced a summit to address the crisis. But again, he focused on law enforcement and said that there was plenty of treatment available. In a note to Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick, who was then speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, the governor wrote: “2014 – $72 million spent on Rehab. – Demand Addressed/Supply Growing,” before signing his name.

In the last few months, the LePage administration has committed to $5.5 million in new spending for medication-assisted treatment, both for the uninsured and for those enrolled in MaineCare. It’s not clear why the state changed its approach.

Experts who have studied the epidemic for years have concluded that the investment in treatment has the biggest payoff. The return for every $1 spent on treatment is $4 to $5 saved on health care and as much as $7 on law enforcement, according to estimates by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In addition to relatively flat funding of treatment, it was only last year that lawmakers overrode a LePage veto to provide funds for needle exchanges, and little state money has been committed for Narcan – both of which are proven to reduce harm and save lives.

‘WE’RE JUST NOT GETTING AHEAD OF IT’

Maybe the solutions are simpler than massive line items in a state budget.

Some think every physician in Maine should apply for a federal waiver that allows them to prescribe Suboxone. Soon, thanks to relaxed federal regulations, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will be able to apply as well.

Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, submitted a letter to House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, asking them to convene a joint select committee to work solely on Maine’s drug crisis. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Ouellette, with York County Shelter Programs, said maybe organizations can offer more free care.

“Maybe you do a bottle drive or maybe you don’t buy new office furniture for a couple years. If everyone did this …” she said before snapping back to reality. “But I think everyone is kind of doing their thing, which is to try and survive, to keep the lights on and to keep their clients alive. That’s no way to operate.”

Rep. Eleanor Espling, a Republican House leader from New Gloucester, late last year proposed a joint special committee devoted solely to the crisis. The idea didn’t get much traction and instead was effectively replaced by yet another task force. LePage, during his State of the State address in January, declared “everything is on the table” when it comes to battling the crisis and,  so far, his administration has committed more resources.

Ouellette, the Brunswick psychiatrist who lost her son more than three years ago, said she worries that a lack of consensus will lead to inaction. She doesn’t want other parents to feel what she lives with every day.

“We’re trying to address this as the problem is growing, and it’s growing at a much faster pace than we’re addressing it,” she said. “We’re just not getting ahead of it.”

That’s how it feels for Dowd, too. Two weeks after that morning in January, she was back at Catholic Charities, seeing some of the same patients as before.

Tanya, the 34-year-old mother of three who is trying to buy a house in Buxton, returned. She and Dowd talked about the previous 14 days.

Tanya said she had watched the HBO documentary “Intervention,” about addiction.

“It was sad because it reminded me of how I used to be,” she said. “But I feel so far from that.”

Tanya has four years under her belt. She’s proud of that. She’s still on Suboxone. She sees Dowd twice a month and does additional counseling once a month.

She works a lot. She wants to go back to school.

“Work is fine but I want a career,” she said.

Another young woman, Jessica, came in next. The nurse had warned Dowd that she believed Jessica was using again. She was fidgety. Her handwriting compared to the previous session was messier.

When Dowd asked her, Jessica just shook her head.

Her answers were short.

Dowd tried one last time to break through.

“You know, if you relapse, we’ll still work with you,” she told her. “It’s always better to be honest.”

The woman walked out, prescription in hand.

Dowd sighed and turned back to the list to see who was next.

Staff writers Mike Lowe and Steve Craig contributed reporting for this story.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/26/lost-heroins-killer-grip-on-maines-people/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1168118_345794-20170203_ouellette_1.jpgDON NOT USE FOR FILE UNTIL AFTER HEROIN SERIES RUNS A RECURRING SCENE: Shortly after delivering the eulogy, Angela Fauth of South Portland bends to kiss the casket of her cousin Randy Ouellette during his burial service last month at New Calvary Cemetery in South Portland. Ouellette, a popular bartender at Blackstones in Portland, died alone in his apartment of an apparent heroin overdose on Jan. 29. He was 42.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:15:29 +0000
Feature obituary: Dana Morton, 75, worked for CIA, built engineering firm http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/before-mainer-dana-morton-built-smrt-engineering-firm-he-went-to-work-for-the-cia/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/before-mainer-dana-morton-built-smrt-engineering-firm-he-went-to-work-for-the-cia/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 00:26:55 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/before-mainer-dana-morton-built-smrt-engineering-firm-he-went-to-work-for-the-cia/ Dana R. Morton’s penchant for finding out things that other people didn’t know was apparent from his college days, one of his longtime friends recalled Saturday.

“He had all this information about lots of stuff,” Terry Weymouth of Buxton said. “How he found out the things he found out, I still don’t know. In college, he found a ski dorm at Sugarloaf that was just $2 a night – if we did the dishes. It was quite a tragedy when the lift tickets went from $6 to $8.”

Morton, who died March 16 in Portland at age 75, went on to find out more things that most other people didn’t know. After college he went to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

After getting stationed in places like Area 51, the top-secret Air Force base in Nevada, and working on projects including development of supersonic reconnaissance jets such as the SR-71 Blackbird, he returned to his home state of Maine and helped found SMRT, an engineering firm.

Weymouth said Morton was always coy about what he knew and didn’t know.

“It was always a joke with my wife – she would say, ‘Dana, do you still work for the CIA?’ And Dana would just smile,” Weymouth said.

Morton grew up in Gorham. He and Weymouth, who grew up in South Portland, met in the freshman dorm at the University of Maine in the fall of 1959. They later joined the same fraternity.

Weymouth said Morton’s knack for mechanical things showed in college, when he paid $125 for a 1929 Ford that had been stored in a barn and got it running. In the winter, it sat at Morton’s parents house, but in the spring, Weymouth and Morton would drive it up to Orono to use for weekend jaunts.

The trips up to Orono, in the days before an interstate highway made it a relatively short venture, were especially enjoyable, Weymouth said.

“We weren’t 21, but let’s just say we were able to get beer, and we did that for several years in a row,” he said.

In the CIA, which recruited him from college, Morton was part of a new crew of engineers that the spy agency brought in, said Noble Dowling, who worked with Morton in the mid-1960s, when the Cold War was in full swing.

Dowling said prior to the early 1960s, most CIA workers were spies, spy handlers or analysts who worked on finding out information. Morton, Dowling and others were part of a new wave of CIA hires who were engineers and scientists who could make sense out of the detailed information that was being collected.

Dowling said other CIA employees stole the telemetry – readings on speed, altitude and the like – from Soviet Union rocket tests and then he and Morton would analyze it. Dowling specialized in figuring out the capabilities of Soviet rockets, while Morton’s focus was on determining the kinds and capabilities of nuclear warheads the Soviets would pack on top of the rockets.

“It was an interesting period because we were among the few engineers hired by the CIA,” said Dowling, now 79 and living in Florida.

Dowling said he and Morton and the other engineers would usually socialize only with one another. They had weekly cookouts, he said, mainly because they were the only people they could talk shop with while grilling steaks in the backyard.

After a few years, Dowling left to work for rocket manufacturers for the U.S. space program. Morton, he said, “went into the black stuff,” meaning supersecret projects, including the SR-71, a high-flying, supersonic spy plane that was the successor to the U2 and was used to capture photographs of military installations and equipment inside the Soviet Union. Ultimately, the spy planes were supplanted by spy satellites.

Arthur Thompson, eventually Morton’s business partner, said Morton returned to Maine in the late 1970s, where he opened his own engineering and surveying firm in Buxton, That firm was later blended into SMRT with Thompson and others. The Portland-based engineering firm now has more than 100 employees and offices in four states.

Thompson said Morton’s was eager and positive, two traits that were essential in a startup.

“When all the chips were down, he was always ready to go, go, go,” Thompson said. “He always had this little twinkle in his eyes – he would walk in a room and really light it up.”

The Morton family plans a celebration of Dana Morton’s life in July in Kennebunkport. Morton lived in Kennebunkport and also had a house in Venice, Florida.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/before-mainer-dana-morton-built-smrt-engineering-firm-he-went-to-work-for-the-cia/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172837_234151-Picture1.jpgDana MortonSat, 25 Mar 2017 20:38:11 +0000
Dozens rally in Augusta in support of Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-rally-in-augusta-in-support-of-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-rally-in-augusta-in-support-of-trump/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 23:33:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-rally-in-augusta-in-support-of-trump/ About three dozen people rallied in support of President Trump on Saturday in Augusta, according to WCSH-TV.

A video shot by the Portland television station showed people cheering in front of a state office building.

About 40 rallies were scheduled around the country on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times. They came a day after a bill designed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a Republican version was pulled before a vote was taken in the House of Representatives.

House Republican leaders said the measure, which was backed by Trump, lacked support. Trump blamed Democrats for the bill’s defeat.

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Harbor Freight will join growing Pine Tree Mall in Waterville http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/new-tenants-call-for-expanded-pine-tree-mall/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/new-tenants-call-for-expanded-pine-tree-mall/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 22:45:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/new-tenants-call-for-expanded-pine-tree-mall/ WATERVILLE — Construction of a 6,384-square-foot addition to Pine Tree Mall at 369 Main St. will start soon to make way for a Harbor Freight tools and equipment retail store.

Meanwhile, an announcement is expected soon about a restaurant to be housed in the former Friendly’s restaurant nearby in that same area of upper Main Street, near Exit 130 of Interstate 95.

Harbor Freight, with headquarters in Calabasas, California, carries power, air and hand tools, as well as floor jacks, gas generators, welding equipment, winches and tool storage items, among other things.

The addition will be built onto the north end of the mall where the former 8,691-square-foot Aaron’s rental store is located, and Harbor Freight will include that space as well as the addition, for a total of 15,075 square feet.

Project broker Charlie Craig, a partner in the Dunham Group, of Portland, said Friday that officials hope to break ground in April or May and complete construction about three months afterward – by the end of the summer.

Founded in 1977, Harbor Freight has 700 stores in 47 states and employs more than 17,000 people. In Maine, Harbor Freight has stores in South Portland, Bangor and Auburn.

Craig also is brokering a lease for the former Friendly’s building west of the mall. He said he expects a new tenant to be named within a month.

“There is announcement forthcoming – a new tenant for the former Friendly’s,” he said. “It’s a restaurant that likely will be very popular.”

Businesses in the Pine Tree Mall include the Ming Lee restaurant and Advance Auto Parts. The Cigaret Shopper on nearby Armory Road also is part of the development, which is owned by Sanderson Development. Craig said two more buildings are available for lease on the lot – the former Jiffy Lube and a 39,000-square-foot warehouse at 10 Armory Road that is the former Huhtamaki machine shop.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: AmyCalder17

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/new-tenants-call-for-expanded-pine-tree-mall/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172758_188081_20160123_friendlys_1.jpgAn announcement is expected soon about a restaurant occupying the former Friendly's restaurant on upper Main Street in Waterville.Sat, 25 Mar 2017 20:03:19 +0000
Persistence spells success at Maine State Spelling Bee http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/cumberland-county-student-wins-maine-state-spelling-bee/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/cumberland-county-student-wins-maine-state-spelling-bee/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 22:05:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/cumberland-county-student-wins-maine-state-spelling-bee/ After hearing the word that potentially would earn her a trip to Washington, D.C., as the Maine state spelling champion, Naomi Zarin grimaced and turned to the two boys and one girl who had misspelled in the previous round.

“You guys have a pretty good chance,” she said.

Zarin proceeded to ask several questions of pronouncer Jeannine Uzzi about the resin used in varnishes and printing ink that has long been burned as incense during ceremonies in Central America. Uzzi also provided two alternate pronunciations.

Zarin, an eighth-grader from Gray who attends Friends School of Portland and won the Cumberland County bee in February, thought for a bit. She clutched her left arm in her right hand, and turned to the panel of three judges.

“C-O-P-A-L,” she said.

After 42 rounds and nearly three hours, Zarin was crowned champion of the Maine State Spelling Bee on Saturday afternoon inside Hannaford Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.

“I had never heard it before,” Zarin said of her winning word. “Once I heard the alternate pronunciations, I was a little more sure, but I really didn’t know how to spell it.”

A year ago, Zarin was runner-up to Syra Gutow of Castine in a state bee that lasted 57 rounds. This year, three students wound up in a tie for second place after spelling correctly through 40 rounds before stumbling in the 41st: Brady Holmes, an eighth-grader from Ashland District School representing Aroostook County; Colin Aponte, a home-schooled seventh-grader representing Hancock County; and Nina Dabas, a fifth-grader at Waterville’s Mount Merici Academy representing Kennebec County.

All three were making their first appearance at the state bee, although Aponte is the younger brother of 2013 state champion Brandon Aponte and soaked in the nerds-are-cool vibe of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, scheduled this year from May 28 to June 3 in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. The finals are to be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

“It was a really cool experience,” Colin Aponte said Saturday afternoon. “That’s my biggest motivation, is to try to get back there.”

Aponte appeared imperturbable throughout 39 rounds Saturday, thumbs hooked in the front pockets of his cuffed jeans, rarely asking any questions beyond language of origin, and delivered his letters in the same measured cadence.

Not until Round 40, when organizers of the bee began using a list of words selected from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary instead of those from the Spell It! study list made available by Scripps, did Aponte appear the least bit nervous. He worked his way through “oncology” but missed the schwa in “quadrilingual.”

Fourteen spellers, each a county champion, had begun the competition shortly after 2 p.m. Sixteen rounds whittled the field to five, who spelled perfectly for 15 more rounds before Sam Hanson, an eighth-grader from Berwick Academy representing York County, went out on “schnecke,” a cinnamon bun derived from German.

That left Holmes, Zarin, Aponte and Dabas, the fifth-grader, whom the audience found especially engaging.. The letters often came out so quickly from Dabas that head judge Michael Ashmore once asked her to repeat a spelling because he couldn’t keep up with her.

Upon hearing her first word, “mosque,” Dabas asked, “Is this an a-RAY-bic word?”

Dabas, 11, guessed most of the languages of origin, asking Uzzi for confirmation more than information. She finally fell on “jactance,” offering an “i” instead of the second “a.”

“Now that I think about it, I should have spelled it that way,” she said later, still sounding ebullient. “I feel disappointed that I didn’t spell that word, but you know, I can come back next year.”

Indeed, spellers remain eligible until entering ninth grade. Holmes said he only began studying in earnest for the state bee after winning his school bee in January, working with a teacher during lunch and with his older sister Haleigh, a ninth-grader, at home.

“Obviously, I wish I could have gotten first, but second, it’s good for me,” he said. “Because before, I hadn’t made it to the state bee. I had just made it to the county bee. So it felt good.”

Holmes’ downfall was “scaup,” a diving duck with word origins in Scandinavia.

“I feel bad,” Zarin said, “because two of the words from off-list, the ones that Brady and Nina had, I didn’t know them. So it really was a lot of luck.”

In the round that felled her three nearest competitors, Zarin received “optimum.”

In earlier rounds, she resorted once to finger-writing on her arm for “accommodate” – “It wasn’t that hard, but the consonants, whether they’re double or not, I have to visualize that” – and had some anxious moments with “Backstein,” a German cheese.

She said she has never been to Washington, and is particularly looking forward to visiting the Spy Museum.

Oh, and what does “copal” mean again?

“Some sort of fruit maybe?” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know.”

The spelling bee was sponsored by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

Gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/cumberland-county-student-wins-maine-state-spelling-bee/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172730_909524-20170325_spellingb7.jpgNaomi Zarin of the Friends School of Portland reacts after winning the Maine State Spelling Bee on Saturday. She correctly spelled the word "copal" in the 42nd round.Sun, 26 Mar 2017 08:45:42 +0000
China voters OK $750,000 project at Town Meeting http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/china-voters-ok-750000-economic-plan/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/china-voters-ok-750000-economic-plan/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 21:30:11 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/china-voters-ok-750000-economic-plan/ CHINA — Residents at Town Meeting approved a $750,000 economic development project, passed most changes to the land development code and appropriated money to pay emergency responders.

About 150 people attended the Saturday meeting at China Middle School, approving 55 of the 56 warrant articles. The total approved municipal budget was about $2.2 million, not including the money set aside for economic development. The budget includes an increase of $29,000, or 1.32 percent, from last year’s budget. However, it won’t affect the tax rate, because revenue has increased by about $129,000, according to Town Manager Dan L’Heureux.

Residents approved a $750,000 project for Causeway Road, proposed by a committee that focuses on economic development, despite a question about whether the plan is ready.

The Causeway Road project proposed by the tax-increment finance, or TIF, committee is intended to improve safety in the area, create more parking space and assess the bridge’s integrity.

A total $69,169 of TIF money was approved to fund annual budget items, as well.

A proposal to appropriate $40,000 for stipends for emergency responders also was approved.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

mstamour@centralmaine.com

Twitter: madelinestamour

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/china-voters-ok-750000-economic-plan/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172694_570992-20170325_ChinaTM_536.jpgResidents hold up blue cards to vote "yes" on a warrant item Saturday during the China Town Meeting in the China Middle School gymnasium.Sat, 25 Mar 2017 18:45:29 +0000
Three Vassalboro residents charged after drug raid near school http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/three-vassalboro-residents-arrested-after-drug-raid-near-school/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/three-vassalboro-residents-arrested-after-drug-raid-near-school/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 21:28:38 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/three-vassalboro-residents-arrested-after-drug-raid-near-school/ Three people from Vassalboro face drug charges after a Maine State Police raid Friday on a home on Webber Pond Road, next to Vassalboro Elementary School.

State police said Joshua Vogel, 36, was arrested on one count of aggravated furnishing of drugs – the charge is elevated because the alleged offense occurred in an area designated as a safe zone – and four counts of unlawful possession of drugs.

Linda Moore, 45, was arrested on a charge of obstructing government administration and unlawful possession of drugs.

Patrick Linteri, 34, was summoned to court on charges of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs.

According to state police, the investigation was conducted by Trooper G.J. Neagle.

He, Sgt. Blaine Bronson, Cpl. Rick Moody and investigators Reid Bond and Blake Conrade seized a variety of pills, including Dronabinol, Clonidine, Lorazepam, Clonazepam and Meloxicam, state police said.

Vogel was being held in lieu of $10,000 cash bail. Moore’s bail was set at $1,000. Both remained at the Kennebec County jail on Saturday afternoon.

Correction: This story was updated at 8:52 a.m. on March 26 to correct the location of the raid. 

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Dozens dip into Maranacook Lake to raise funds for Special Olympics http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-dip-into-maranacook-lake-to-raise-funds-for-special-olympics/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-dip-into-maranacook-lake-to-raise-funds-for-special-olympics/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 21:18:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-dip-into-maranacook-lake-to-raise-funds-for-special-olympics/ WINTHROP — The ice was thick, the water cold, and the spirits high Saturday for the noontime plunge into Maranacook Lake.

Dozens of people linked up to leap into the lake, and they raised more than $28,000 for Special Olympics Maine in the fourth annual Maine Law Enforcement Torch Run Ice Out Plunge.

They jumped into estimated 31-degree water through a hole in the ice cut by officers with the Maine Warden Service.

Wardens and Winthrop firefighters in dry suits, which help insulate them from the cold and the water, waited in the water to assist jumpers to a set of stairs so they could climb out quickly and grab towels. The cold dips were witnessed by hundreds of people standing on shore and on the ice.

Josh Deanda-Whaley and Sandor Doczy-Bordi, 13-year-old friends from Winthrop, each took the plunge as part of the Pond Town Pub team.

It was Josh’s second year and Sandor’s first. Afterward, Sandor said he might return for another year.

“It was really fun,” he said. “After a while it felt warm.”

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com

Twitter: betadams

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/dozens-dip-into-maranacook-lake-to-raise-funds-for-special-olympics/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172669_903739-20170325_IceOutPlung.jpgJumpers leap into Maranacook Lake during the Maine Law Enforcement Torch Run Ice Out Plunge on Saturday at Winthrop's town beach.Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:27:16 +0000
Man reported missing in Augusta found in Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/man-reported-missing-in-augusta-found-in-portland/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/man-reported-missing-in-augusta-found-in-portland/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 21:10:14 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/man-reported-missing-in-augusta-found-in-portland/ A 72-year-old man who was the subject of a Silver Alert after he disappeared Friday morning from his sister’s home in Augusta was found Saturday afternoon in Portland.

A message that Donald DuPerre had been found was posted just after 4 p.m. Saturday on the Augusta Police Department’s Facebook page. In the note, police thanked people for their help in finding DuPerre.

Portland police said he was found at the Concord Coach Lines bus station.

DuPerre, who is in the early stages of dementia, walked away from his sister’s Boothby Street home about 9 a.m. Friday, police said.

She told Augusta police that he was carrying two green vinyl suitcases and wearing a lightweight blue coat, a blue Donald Trump baseball cap, bluejeans and tan sneakers.

Police said he might be trying to return to Florida.

Later Friday, police indicated DuPerre had been seen hitchhiking in Old Orchard Beach.

A Silver Alert was issued for him Friday afternoon. Such alerts are posted on billboards on highways and to a network of lottery machines.

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Federal aid sought to boost business plans in Winthrop http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/federal-aid-sought-to-boost-business-plans-in-winthrop/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/federal-aid-sought-to-boost-business-plans-in-winthrop/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 20:58:04 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/federal-aid-sought-to-boost-business-plans-in-winthrop/ Two established Winthrop business owners are hoping to expand their offerings in the next year and are seeking assistance through a federal economic development program.

Kimberly Stoneton, the owner of Bloom Salon on Main Street, hopes to open a new coffee shop next door to her salon, in an empty storefront on Main Street.

Ryan Chamberland, who owns and teaches classes at United Fitness & Martial Arts Studio on Route 133, plans to launch at least two new offerings: a martial arts class for central Mainers with physical and mental disabilities and a fitness class for home-schooled children.

Both Stoneton and Chamberland have been working with the town to secure funding through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which helps cities with economic development needs.

A public hearing about both projects will be April 3 at a Winthrop Town Council meeting.

Stoneton said she plans to go forward with the new coffee shop even if she doesn’t receive the $30,000 community development grant.

Chamberland is applying for $50,000 in block grant funding to help cover the costs of repairs and renovations to United Fitness & Martial Arts Studio

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

ceichacker@centralmaine.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/federal-aid-sought-to-boost-business-plans-in-winthrop/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172647_883912-20170324_WinthropB3.jpgRyan ChamberlandSat, 25 Mar 2017 21:19:42 +0000
How Maine’s members of Congress voted http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/how-maines-members-of-congress-voted-last-week-13/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/how-maines-members-of-congress-voted-last-week-13/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 20:20:23 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/how-maines-members-of-congress-voted-last-week-13/ Along with roll call votes last week, the Senate also passed the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act (H.R. 244), to encourage effective, voluntary investments to recruit, employ and retain men and women who have served in the military with annual federal awards to employers recognizing such efforts. The House also passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act (S. 305), to encourage the display of the U.S. flag on National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

HOUSE VOTES

TRAINING VA WORKERS: The House has passed a bill (H.R. 1367), sponsored by Rep. Brad R. Wenstrup, R-Ohio, to authorize the Veterans Affairs Department to establish a program for providing one-year executive management fellowships to VA employees. Wenstrup said the fellowships would help the VA identify staffing shortages, train employees to fill those shortages, and match qualified job applicants to vacant positions. The vote on March 17 was unanimous with 412 yeas.

YEAS: Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

OVERSIGHT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The House has passed the Reducing DHS Acquisition Cost Growth Act (H.R. 1294), sponsored by Rep. John H. Rutherford, R-Fla. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department to notify Congress of significant cost or scheduling problems that develop in the agency’s acquisition programs. Rutherford said the notices will work to hold program managers accountable for program failings. The vote on March 20 was unanimous with 408 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

HOMELAND SECURITY STRATEGIC PLANNING: The House has passed the DHS Multiyear Acquisition Strategy Act (H.R. 1249), sponsored by Rep. Brian K. Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department to submit to Congress a multiyear plan for the agency’s purchases of technology systems, property and other assets. Fitzpatrick said Homeland Security spends billions of dollars annually without a cohesive strategic vision. The vote on March 20 was unanimous with 409 yeas.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

OVERSIGHT OF TSA SPENDING PLANS: The House has passed the Transparency in Technological Acquisitions Act (H.R. 1353), sponsored by Rep. Kathleen M. Rice, D-N.Y. The bill would require Homeland Security to provide Congress with more information about its 5-year strategic investment plan. Rice said tighter congressional oversight should avert the wasting of resources that businesses deploy to meet TSA acquisition plans that then change without adequate notice given to the businesses. The vote on March 21 was 414 yeas to 2 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

ANTITRUST LAW AND HEALTH INSURERS: The House has passed the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372), sponsored by Rep. Paul A. Gosar, R-Ariz. The bill would declare that health insurers are subject to federal antitrust laws. The vote on March 22 was 416 yeas to 7 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

SMALL-BUSINESS HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: The House has passed the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 1101), sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas. The bill would authorize the formation of association group health insurance plans by small businesses in multiple states. Johnson said that if small businesses join together to buy health insurance, they will lower costs for themselves and their employees by broadening risk pools. The vote on March 22 was 236 yeas to 175 nays.

NAYS: Pingree / YEAS: Poliquin

FOOD SECURITY MEASURES: The House has passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act (H.R. 1238), sponsored by Rep. David Young, R-Iowa. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department to develop a program for increasing defenses against terrorism in the country’s food, agriculture and veterinary sectors. The vote on March 22 was 406 yeas to 6 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

SENATE VOTES

PRISON SENTENCING COMMISSION: The Senate has confirmed the nominations of Danny C. Reevers and Charles R. Breyer to serve as members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission for multiyear terms. A supporter, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the confirmations were needed to give the commission a quorum and allow it to do its work of establishing sentencing guidelines for the federal courts. The vote on March 21 was unanimous with 98 yeas.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine, Angus King, I-Maine

MANAGING ALASKA’S WILDLIFE REFUGES: The Senate has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 69), sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, disapproving of an Interior Department rule regulating hunting and fishing activities on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. A resolution supporter, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, called the rule a wrongful attempt by the federal government to usurp power by restricting Alaska’s management of the refuges in favor of management by remote bureaucrats. The vote on March 21 was 52 yeas to 47 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

RECORDS OF WORKER INJURIES: The Senate has passed a resolution (H.J. Res. 83), sponsored by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., disapproving of a Labor Department rule adopted on Dec. 19 requiring employers to keep records for five years of work-related injuries and illnesses suffered by their employees. A resolution supporter, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said the rule violated a law that established a six-month record-keeping requirement. A resolution opponent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said “employers already vastly underreport workplace injuries and illnesses, and without this rule, underreporting will skyrocket.” The vote on March 22 was 50 yeas to 48 nays.

YEAS: Collins / NAYS: King

INTERNET PRIVACY: The Senate has passed a resolution (S.J. Res. 34), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would disapprove of a Federal Communications Commission rule governing privacy and broadband Internet providers. A resolution supporter, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the rule unnecessarily targeted providers and, if upheld, would “make our internet ecosystem less efficient by adding more red tape.” A resolution opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the rule, by requiring consumer consent for providers to collect and sell personal information about browsing history, sought to protect personal liberty. The vote on March 23 was 50 yeas to 48 nays.

YEAS: Collins / NAYS: King

ISRAEL AMBASSADOR: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of David Friedman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel. An opponent, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Friedman had no diplomatic or government experience, extreme policy views on Israel and the Palestinians, and a history of opposing a two-state solution in Israel, which made Friedman “antagonistic to any realistic peace process with the Palestinians.” The vote on March 23 was 52 yeas to 46 nays.

YEAS: Collins / NAYS: King

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Jail inmate who attempted suicide remains in critical condition http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/jail-inmate-who-attempted-suicide-remains-in-critical-condition/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/jail-inmate-who-attempted-suicide-remains-in-critical-condition/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:40:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/25/jail-inmate-who-attempted-suicide-remains-in-critical-condition/ A 26-year-old Cumberland County Jail inmate remained in critical condition Saturday evening at Maine Medical Center after attempting suicide earlier in the week.

Dante Majeroni has been on life support at the hospital since a suicide attempt Tuesday night in his maximum security cell, the sheriff’s office said.

Majeroni was arrested Feb. 15 on domestic violence charges and had been in maximum security after he was accused of trying to contact the victim of the alleged assault.

It was Majeroni’s second suicide attempt in recent weeks. He had been placed on suicide watch after the first incident.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce, who oversees the jail, said two investigations into Majeroni’s latest suicide attempt are underway.

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Report: Union at Bath Iron Works investigating allegations of missing funds http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/report-union-at-bath-iron-works-investigating-allegations-of-missing-funds/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/report-union-at-bath-iron-works-investigating-allegations-of-missing-funds/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 03:49:27 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/report-union-at-bath-iron-works-investigating-allegations-of-missing-funds/ A spokesman for the largest union at Bath Iron Works confirmed it is investigating allegations of missing funds in Local S6 of the machinists’ union.

Jonathan Battaglia of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers told WCSH-TV on Friday that the investigation is ongoing. He wouldn’t disclose the amount of money in question.

Battaglia said the internal investigation is progressing quickly, but couldn’t say when it would be completed.

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Forty-nine Maine lawyers express support for Gorsuch http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/forty-nine-maine-lawyers-express-support-to-gorsuch/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/forty-nine-maine-lawyers-express-support-to-gorsuch/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 02:37:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/forty-nine-maine-lawyers-express-support-to-gorsuch/ AUGUSTA — A group of 49 Maine lawyers have signed a letter to Maine’s U.S. senators supporting President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, and two former chief counsels for Republican Gov. Paul LePage, were among those who signed the letter sent to Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, on Thursday.

Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings this week. The full Senate will vote on whether to confirm him to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

“While most of us will never have the opportunity to appear before the United States Supreme Court, each of us has a strong interest in supporting the confirmation of highly qualified jurists who will maintain the Supreme Court’s commitment to the rule of law,” the Maine lawyers wrote in their letter to Collins and King.

Neither Collins nor King has decided how they will vote.

Collins will review the transcripts from Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings and continue to meet with constituents on both sides of the confirmation issue through next week, when she will make her decision, spokeswoman Annie Clark said in an email Friday night.

On Thursday, King said he would carefully review Gorsuch’s record and his confirmation hearings and listen to the people of Maine before deciding how he would vote.

Joshua Dunlap, a Portland-based defense attorney, also signed the letter. He said Friday that he clerked for Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and got to know and respect Gorsuch when he and Kelly were assigned to the same panel.

“He is an extremely intelligent individual who, as I observed him on the 10th Circuit, really displayed a remarkable ability to key in on the key issues that are at the heart of a legal dispute with an ability to resolve those,” said Dunlap, 33, a Vassalboro native.

Gorsuch has a way of making the law clear and accessible to the “everyday people who don’t have legal training,” he said.

Dunlap also vouched for Gorsuch’s common decency.

“There are a lot of people who are very smart, there are a lot of people who are very kind and decent individuals. Unfortunately, sometimes those two don’t seem to mix. But he really has both of those,” Dunlap said.

Some Senate Democrats have said they will vote against Gorsuch’s nomination, and some suggested they may try to block Gorsuch’s nomination with a filibuster.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has emerged as a top critic of Gorsuch.

The Washington Post reported that Schumer said Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on Trump. Schumer said later that the judge is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” handpicked for Trump by conservative legal groups.

 

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Feature obituary: Shirley McFarland, 80, tireless advocate for Sagamore Village http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/feature-obituary-shirley-mcfarland-80-tireless-advocate-for-sagamore-village/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/feature-obituary-shirley-mcfarland-80-tireless-advocate-for-sagamore-village/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 01:39:37 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/feature-obituary-shirley-mcfarland-80-tireless-advocate-for-sagamore-village/ Shirley McFarland, a tireless advocate for her neighbors in Portland’s Sagamore Village neighborhood, died Sunday. She was 80.

Mrs. McFarland was instrumental in starting various programs, including a health clinic, a food pantry and day care service. She was the driving force behind the success of a community garden that brought neighbors together and kept kids out of trouble. In 2003, she was recognized with a Jefferson Award for outstanding senior service. In 2008, the community center was named in her honor.

Hundreds of people are expected to gather Sunday to pay tribute to her.

“Shirley was amazing. She had this heart of gold,” said Peggy Akers, a nurse practitioner who worked at the Sagamore Village Health Center. “She was just absolutely incredible in how she built all these bridges in the community for everyone.”

Mrs. McFarland moved to Sagamore Village in 1966 with her three young children. She was a single mother who worked odd jobs to put food on the table. At the time, she was on welfare, receiving $147.50 a month.

Her daughter Julie McFarland spoke Thursday about their struggle growing up and her mother’s relentless advocacy for others facing hardships in life.

“She was all about the community and doing things for the families in Sagamore,” her daughter said. “I left Portland and went to the land of opportunity. Mom stayed to give all the other kids hope.”

Mrs. McFarland, known for wearing colorful tie-dye shirts, was the driving force behind the success of its community gardens. She led popular gardening programs for local youths that helped build their confidence and kept them out of trouble.

Helen Mohn, who lived in Sagamore Village for 10 years, said the gardens brought neighbors together. Mrs. McFarland led nutrition and cooking classes using produce from the garden. She also donated produce to families in need.

“I don’t know what I would have done without her,” Mohn said. “She was a tremendous volunteer. If she saw something that needed to be done, she found a way to get it done.”

Mrs. McFarland volunteered for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. She also served as treasurer of the Sagamore Village Tenants Council for more than 20 years. Her service led to various outreach efforts, including a food pantry, a bread program and community policing efforts.

Mrs. McFarland also advocated for the creation of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Sagamore Clubhouse.

Her son Bruce Wayne McFarland said she devoted her life to the community and its local youth.

“She kept kids on the straight and narrow,” he said.

Another hallmark of Mrs. McFarland’s life was advocating for health-based services for her neighbors. Her efforts led to the creation of the health center, a community-based, nurse-managed clinic that provides primary care, public health and mental health services to residents. The center has provided training to dozens of nursing students over the years.

“She had such a passionate concern for the residents,” said Helen Peake-Godin of South Portland, who works at the center. “Shirley used to bring people over to the clinic. I remember many days her walking with a resident we hadn’t met yet.”

A celebration of her life will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Jones, Rich & Barnes Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St., Portland. Following services, friends and family are invited to the community center at 21 Popham St. in Portland.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

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Sen. King says Obamacare repeal threatened Maine more than most http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/king-says-obamacare-repeal-threatens-maine-more-than-most/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/king-says-obamacare-repeal-threatens-maine-more-than-most/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 01:21:57 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/king-says-obamacare-repeal-threatens-maine-more-than-most/ SKOWHEGAN — During a discussion Friday about the growing opioid crisis, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine took aim at House Republican efforts to overhaul the nation’s health care system just hours before the controversial bill was withdrawn.

In a meeting with health care professionals at Redington-Fairview General Hospital, he said Republican proposals would worsen the opioid problem.

“My sense is this is an all-hands-on-deck problem,” King told the group. “The big part of this is educating the public of the nature of the problem, the magnitude of the problem, and what works.”

King called the drug addiction crisis a “disaster that’s coming at us, in addition to what we are already seeing.” And he blasted proposed cuts in the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying they “would be devastating” and make it even harder to treat those struggling with drug addiction.

He also said any repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have a profound impact on rural hospitals and patients alike, especially people struggling with opioid addiction. He said in eight of Maine’s 16 counties – including Somerset County, of which Skowhegan is the county seat – the local hospital is the largest employer.

“It would be a disaster, frankly,” he said. “What we’re finding is that treatment can work, but it costs money, and right now there isn’t enough treatment access in Maine, so anything that shirks that is a bad idea. It’s no secret the opioid epidemic is one of the worst public health crises in the history of the state of Maine.”

King told the group of seven central Maine health care professionals that, 45 minutes into their meeting, four people on average had died in the United States from drug overdose during that time.

“We’re losing one person a day in the state of Maine,” he said. “Nationwide, we’re losing five people an hour to overdose deaths.”

Sherry Rogers, chief nursing officer at Redington-Fairview, brought the issue closer to home by noting that 20 percent of newborns at the hospital are “drug affected” in some way.

The House postponed a vote on the legislation, called the American Health Care Act, on Thursday. Republican leadership had made several changes aimed at pleasing both conservatives and moderates, but the concessions weren’t enough. Friday’s vote was canceled and the bill was withdrawn.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that 24 million fewer people would be insured by 2026 under the Republican bill, King noted.

King previously called the legislation “bad” and “shortsighted” because “it strips tens of thousands of Maine people of their health insurance, skyrockets costs for older, working-class folks – especially in northern and Down East Maine, and deals a blow to our fight against the opioid epidemic, which is taking the lives of our family, friends, and loved ones.” Instead, King said, Congress should commit to making meaningful improvements to the Affordable Care Act.

King noted that about 75,000 people in Maine are covered by the ACA, many of whom would lose their coverage under the replacement bill, especially people over the age of 50.

“Maine is the oldest state in the country. Why would we want to support something that practically targets seniors and increases their costs?” he said. “This proposed bill is absolutely unacceptable to the country, but particularly to Maine.”

The number of drug-related deaths in Maine hit a record high of 378 in 2016, up from 272 in 2015.

 

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Maine’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic receives $500,000 grant http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maines-refugee-and-human-rights-clinic-receives-500000-grant/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maines-refugee-and-human-rights-clinic-receives-500000-grant/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:35:20 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maines-refugee-and-human-rights-clinic-receives-500000-grant/ A Maine legal aid clinic for refugees and immigrants has received a $500,000 grant to continue its work over the next four years.

The grant from the Portland-based Sam L. Cohen Foundation is the largest the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic has received in its five-year history. The foundation also provided seed money when professor Anna Welch launched the clinic at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland in 2012.

The grant will fund Welch’s position as the clinic director for the next four years. Welch said it will also allow her to bring on a student attorney as a summer intern.

“The need for legal aid for Maine’s immigrants is high,” Welch said in a press release. “Many of our clients have been subjected to abuse, persecution, and torture in their home countries. They need help with asylum claims, work permits, and many other humanitarian matters. Without a lawyer they have little chance at winning their cases.”

The students handle 20 to 25 cases each year.

Welch said interest in the clinic has increased since the presidential election last fall.

“Since we learned of the election results in November, we’ve gotten a lot of calls from people quite terrified about what that means for them and their future in the United States,” Welch said in an interview. “I’ve noticed if not on a daily, then every other day, I’m getting inquiries from people seeking assistance. Prior to the Trump election, I would get one a week.”

The clinic also runs training sessions on legal rights for immigrants at Hope Gateway, Preble Street Teen Center, Sacred Heart and other community organizations. It has published a “How to Apply for Asylum” manual with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project.

“We’re grateful for the ongoing support of the Cohen Foundation, which has been crucial to the development of the RHRC,” Maine Law Dean Danielle Conway said in a press release. “For a law school that is committed to delivering justice and preparing graduates to make a positive difference in their communities, the clinic is at the very heart of our mission.”

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327.

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Flight Deck Brewing takes off at Brunswick Landing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/flight-deck-brewing-takes-off-at-brunswick-landing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/flight-deck-brewing-takes-off-at-brunswick-landing/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:09:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/flight-deck-brewing-takes-off-at-brunswick-landing/ BRUNSWICK — On the Friday after Valentine’s Day, Nate Wildes and Jared Entwistle, co-owners of Flight Deck Brewing, decided to have a “soft opening.” They assumed a few dozen people would come to it.

More than 500 showed up.

In the next six days, they served over 5,000 people, and continue to work full-tilt to keep up with the demand. A small bed stuffed in the corner of their office is evidence enough of the 100-plus-hour weeks both have been pulling.

“Oh, to be wanted,” Wildes said with a laugh.

The demand for beer from the new brewery located at Brunswick Landing has far outstripped expectations, to the point the pair’s plans for distributing some of their beer locally have been put on the back burner.

“We have not distributed one keg of beer, and not distributed one bottle of beer, because we have not been able to brew enough for just the tasting room,” Wildes said.

Originally, the soft opening was intended to test whether the building was ready for the public. Built in the former small arms range that served Brunswick Naval Air Station, the rectangular bullet-proof box of concrete brought its own set of challenges and benefits.

Challenges such as cutting windows into the foot-thick walls. Benefits like being able to put those windows basically wherever they wanted.

The result is a well-lit, open space with towering ceilings. Walls that were once thick concrete slabs have been opened up with floor-to-ceiling windows and a set of massive doors that can be opened when the weather is warmer. The industrial-sized beer cooler is made out of the garage doors that were once on the former base’s fire station.

Bare concrete walls – which still carry bullet holes from its former purpose – coupled with stainless steel brewing tanks and wooden tables give the place a distinctly modern industrial feel.

“People have complimented us on our ‘industrial chic’ decor,” Wildes said. “In reality, it looks like it does largely because of the building.”

Other bits of decor reference the days when Brunswick Landing was still the naval air station. Hats, photos of military life, and other paraphernalia dot the walls. All of the pieces of history were unsolicited donations from former Navy personnel.

While Wildes tends to handle the marketing of the business, Entwistle is the man behind the beer. At the grand opening on March 16, Flight Deck offered five different beers of distinct styles: Hibiscus Tea, a light beer; P-3 Pale Ale; 44th Parallel IPA; Pilots Porridge Oatmeal Stout; and Rye Wing Porter.

“My philosophy has kind of been, we wanted to start out with a wide variety of old-style beers that people really know and like,” Entwistle said. “It’s the motto of easy drinkable beers that someone, no matter who it is, is going to like it.”

Entwistle started brewing 10 years ago in college on a much smaller scale, basically as a way to get cheaper beer. “I fell in love with the process of it all, and it really became a passion of mine. I did it throughout college, and I’ve always wanted to own a bar brewery area,” he said.

Despite the smashing success of the opening weeks, Wildes said their vision for a brewery in Brunswick hasn’t been without criticism. Questions like whether Maine – which has over 90 breweries – can really support another one have been thrown their way.

Wildes said they have no fear that they’ll be a success, as brewing has entered a different era from the former “build big, brew big” models.

“It’s just like the coffee shop model of 30 years ago,” he said. Criticism of coffee shops then was similar, with many people wondering whether an area really needed more than one coffee shop.

The massive early customer numbers, and the huge attendance of the grand opening, certainly assuage any ideas that another brewery isn’t needed in Maine. Hundreds of people packed into the tasting room to toast Flight Deck at their ribbon cutting, including U.S. Sen. Angus King.

“Who would have ever thought there would be an economic development boom for beer in Maine?” King said to the crowd. He praised the growing industry that is becoming self-sufficient, with Maine farmers growing ingredients used by many breweries.

King said a bar he recently visited in Washington was carrying six Maine beers out of the eight they had on tap.

Flight Deck Brewing is located at 11 Atlantic Ave., Brunswick Landing. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit flightdeckbrewing.com.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/flight-deck-brewing-takes-off-at-brunswick-landing/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1172420_Flight-Deck-Jared-Entwistle.jpgJared Entwistle, one of the two co-owners, is the man behind the beer for the new Flight Deck Brewing at Brunswick Landing. The brewery held its grand opening on March 16.Fri, 24 Mar 2017 20:58:54 +0000
Maine internet providers blast Senate vote to strip customers’ privacy protection http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maine-internet-providers-blast-senate-vote-to-strip-customers-privacy-protection/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maine-internet-providers-blast-senate-vote-to-strip-customers-privacy-protection/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:05:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/maine-internet-providers-blast-senate-vote-to-strip-customers-privacy-protection/ The heads of two Maine-based internet service providers blasted an ongoing congressional effort to repeal privacy protections for their customers Friday, saying it is wrongheaded and an invasion of privacy.

Sen. Susan Collins joined her Republican colleagues Thursday in voting to overturn landmark privacy protections for broadband internet customers, making it easier for internet service providers to collect, sell and share detailed information about individuals’ web browsing, app usage, personal movements and internet search terms without their consent.

The vote broke along party lines, with 52 Republicans voting in favor of repealing the protections. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, voted against it.

Fletcher Kittredge, founder and CEO of Biddeford Internet Corp., which does business as GWI, said the vote was “absolutely appalling” and a threat to everyone who uses the internet.

“This is very, very bad,” he said. “Your ISP can look at your traffic and discover the most intimate details of your life, and selling that information will ultimately be more valuable than selling the internet connection, which is something libertarians and civil libertarians ought to worry about, especially as the government and hackers will ultimately have access to it.”

The House, which also is controlled by Republicans, is expected to take up the measure early next week.

The privacy protections, which were to go into effect later this year, would require that internet providers obtain permission from subscribers before sharing or selling data on their users’ browsing, internet use, geo-location history and other information. Currently, broadband providers can collect all of that information unless a user tells them not to collect it.

The adoption of the rules in October by the Federal Communications Commission was bitterly opposed by major internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Communications, which argued they would result in higher costs for consumers because they would reduce the opportunity to profit from the sale of precision-targeted advertising.

But Kittredge and the head of a Machias-based internet provider, Susan Corbett of Axiom, disagree with their national competitors, saying the measures are a clear threat to their customers. They note that internet providers – unlike web services like Google or Facebook – have the ability to collect the full picture of everything you do, from the video feed of your smart television to what disease you just looked up on the internet.

“As an internet service provider we have access to individual’s data, where and how they surf the web, the sites they frequent and other important information most customers would be uncomfortable sharing,” Corbett said in an email. “We believe customers have a right to know if a company is selling or using their data in a way that invades their privacy and should be given a choice to decide for themselves.”

Kittredge said the situation will get worse with the continued expansion of the “internet of things,” where cars, household appliances, home security cameras, baby monitors, and other devices become connected to the internet.

“If you’re monitoring someone’s web connection, you know what they think, who they associate with and every intimate detail about them,” he said. “When you add access to video and audio feeds of what is going on in the house, they will know more about you than you know about yourself.”

He said history suggests all that data, if collected by your internet service provider, will be available to the government and hackers, and for sale. “I’m sure my competitors are seeing dollar signs, but in the long run I think it’s a really bad idea because it reduces the value of an internet connection when you can’t trust your ISP.”

He said his company would collect and sell such information “over my dead body,” but it puts GWI at a competitive disadvantage against its competitors.

He also said he found it “deeply upsetting” that Collins voted for the measure. “As a Republican who is very close to becoming a former Republican, this goes against every principle and precept I thought the party had.”

Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark defended Collins’ vote in a statement to the Portland Press Herald, saying that the Obama administration’s “new so-called ‘privacy’ rule” had “created an inconsistent, confusing standard.”

“This new rule put extensive restrictions on internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast, while leaving much less strict standards in place for edge providers like Google and Facebook,” Clark said. “This inconsistency created confusion for consumers, competitive disadvantages for internet service providers, and limited broadband innovation without ensuring privacy for internet users. Therefore, Senator Collins voted to eliminate this misguided rule and looks forward to internet privacy rules that apply consistently to all providers.”

But Kittredge says that argument doesn’t hold water, for two reasons: First, he said, you can avoid using Facebook or Google, but everyone has to have an internet provider. Second, internet providers like his company collect everything, whereas web service providers like Google and Facebook have only a partial picture of an individual’s online activity.

“An ISP sees everything and can put it all together and draw inferences,” he said. “If you’re worried about inconsistency then the thing to do is apply the same rules to Google and Facebook, not say, ‘Geez, someone else is robbing you, so our remedy is to allow everyone to rob you.”

King’s spokesman issued a statement on the senator’s vote that echoed many of the same points.

“Broadband providers can see nearly everything that someone does online, from what sites they access to where they are physically located when they do it, which is why Senator King believes that they must be required to obtain a person’s consent before sharing that data with third-parties,” spokesman Scott Ogden said in an email.

He said King understands the concerns of those looking for consistent standards, but noted that repealing the rule does not accomplish it, since the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that regulates web services like Google, has no jurisdiction over internet providers.

“The result will be that broadband subscribers are left with no privacy or data security protections at all, and he thinks that’s a mistake that will compromise the personal information of millions of Americans,” Ogden said.

The cable industry’s trade association applauded the repeal, describing it as a “step toward reversing the FCC’s misguided approach” and “restoring a consistent approach to online privacy that consumers want and deserve.”

The Republican sponsor of the bill and President Trump’s new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, have both said that the rules are onerous, and that it is unfair that internet providers would face these regulations when web companies like Google or Facebook do not.

“It’s unnecessary, confusing, and adds another innovation-stifling regulation,” bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said when he introduced the measure last fall.

Civil liberties groups have opposed the effort to repeal the privacy rules.

“We’re disappointed that the Senate – including Senator Collins – voted against protecting the basic privacy of Mainers and all constituents in favor of protecting corporate profit,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “We believe we should have to consent to sharing sensitive information with the rest of the world when we use the internet. We hope that the House will stop this from moving forward.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, D-1st District, said she will oppose repealing the regulations when the bill comes before the House.

“It is unconscionable that the House and Senate leadership have chosen to make repealing broadband consumer privacy rights a top legislative priority in Congress when there is so much to be done to bring broadband access to Americans,” Pingree said via email. “I do not support this invasive resolution and strongly believe that internet service providers should not be given a blank check to collect data on their customers just to help companies boost their advertising.”

A spokesman for Maine’s other House member, Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, said he was undecided.

“The congressman will closely review the legislation if it is brought up in the House,” Brendan Conley said via email. “He wants to ensure that the internet remains a level playing field where consumers are protected consistently across the internet and gaps in consumer protection are not created.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

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Committee votes down bill to allow 18-year-olds to carry concealed weapons without permits http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/committee-votes-not-to-pass-bill-allowing-18-year-olds-to-carry-concealed-weapons-without-permits/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/committee-votes-not-to-pass-bill-allowing-18-year-olds-to-carry-concealed-weapons-without-permits/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 21:29:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/committee-votes-not-to-pass-bill-allowing-18-year-olds-to-carry-concealed-weapons-without-permits/ AUGUSTA — Lawmakers disposed of two bills Friday that would have loosened Maine laws that allow an adult to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

The bills offered by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, would have allowed someone as young as 18 to carry a concealed pistol, and removed a provision in state law requiring those carrying a gun on their person or in their vehicle to disclose that in any encounter with law enforcement.

Brakey, the chief architect of a 2015 law that did away with Maine’s permit requirement for concealed weapons for adults 21 or older, pushed the two measures, saying that because 18-year-olds are allowed to openly carry firearms in Maine, they also should be permitted to carry concealed weapons.

He said the requirement for immediate disclosure to law enforcement is vague and could force people to incriminate themselves in violation of their constitutional rights.

But a bipartisan majority on the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee disagreed, voting 11-1 against lowering the age requirement and unanimously against removing the disclosure requirement.

The “ought not to pass” recommendations will now face votes in the House and Senate.

“It just overwhelms me to think that we are looking at an opportunity to take something that is a safeguard away from law enforcement by not telling them there is a weapon in that vehicle,” said Rep. Lloyd “Skip” Herrick, R-Paris.

Herrick, a former Oxford County sheriff, pointed out that when the law removing the permit requirement was adopted, a key point to gaining support for passage was a broad agreement on the disclosure requirement.

Brakey said he was disappointed by the votes, and blamed gun control advocates.

“I was very disappointed to see so many legislators, including fellow Republicans, failing in their duty to uphold the constitutional rights of Maine people and caving to special-interest groups funded by NYC billionaire Michael Bloomberg,” he said.

Brakey’s effort to further loosen Maine’s concealed-handgun laws followed the defeat of a statewide ballot question in November that would have required federal criminal background checks for all private gun sales in Maine.

State law now requires all federally licensed firearms dealers to check buyers’ backgrounds through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But guns sales between private parties in Maine require no similar background checks.

Guns and their regulation are a perennial issue in the Legislature, as most studies suggest that guns are in about 50 percent of all Maine households. Because of the unregulated private market, it’s nearly impossible to determine the precise number of guns that Mainers own.

FBI data show that Maine ranked in the middle – 26th among the 50 states – for the number of names run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2015, although those figures do not include private sales.

The 94,744 background checks processed by the FBI in 2015 equaled one check for every 14 residents, compared with one check for every 1.4 residents of Kentucky (the highest) and one for every 99.5 New Jersey residents.

Also Friday, the committee endorsed a bill to allow cities and towns to ban firearms from municipal buildings or functions, including at polling places, if they pass local ordinances to do so.

Similar bills have failed in the Legislature, but lawmakers listed several cases around the state in which local officials complained about residents bringing guns to municipal meetings or polling places.

“There is a need that has been articulated even if nobody’s gotten shot,” said Rep. Lois Reckitt, D-South Portland. “I’d rather do something before that happens.”

Lawmakers said problems with guns in town offices or polling places have cropped up in Winslow, Augusta and Portland in recent years, and town officials wanted the authority to govern their buildings and functions as they see fit.

The bill, LD 351, was backed by the committee, 8-4. Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, opposed the bill, saying there is little proof that gun-free zones make people any safer.

Corey said guns are already banned in public schools, where Windham voters cast their ballots. “I don’t support gun-free zones; that’s outside of what I do,” Corey said. “So I’m not going to create the ability for somebody to create a gun-free zone. I wish we had fewer of them.”

The committee unanimously endorsed a bill by Corey to prohibit government, both state and local, from creating any kind of gun registry.

The bill originally caused concern for law enforcement because inventory lists of private guns held as part of investigations or for safe-keeping could have been considered a registry. Law enforcement can also keep track of weapons that are being stored with a responsible third party, when a court requires their removal from a person’s possession as part of a protection-from-abuse order.

Corey amended his bill to a single sentence that prohibits the creation of a “comprehensive registry of privately owned firearms and the owners of those firearms.”

After the vote, Corey said he believes the language change achieves what he wanted.

“We really just didn’t want the mass aggregation of data,” Corey said. “I think that’s really all we were trying to get at.”

The committee on Friday rejected two other bills, including one that would have prohibited local police from confiscating guns under a federal order of the president, and one requiring an individual to complete firearms safety training within six months of buying a gun.

The committee also endorsed a bill to eliminate a requirement that any federally licensed gun dealer keep a state copy of the federal form that is completed when a person buys a gun. The law change would still allow local police access to the federal records but require law enforcement to first present a written request to the gun dealer.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/committee-votes-not-to-pass-bill-allowing-18-year-olds-to-carry-concealed-weapons-without-permits/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/03/599673_shutterstock_90457432.jpgFor the third time in as many years, gun rights supporters are trying to pass a law making it legal in Maine to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.Fri, 24 Mar 2017 23:01:56 +0000
Former nursing school student sues school, saying she was expelled for complaining http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/former-nursing-school-student-sues-school-saying-she-was-expelled-for-complaining/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/former-nursing-school-student-sues-school-saying-she-was-expelled-for-complaining/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 20:28:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/former-nursing-school-student-sues-school-saying-she-was-expelled-for-complaining/ The trial of a former student’s lawsuit against a college she said provided her with subpar nursing training – and then expelled her when she complained – opened Friday in federal court in Portland.

Courtney Mason sued InterCoast Career Institute, which once operated campuses in South Portland and Kittery, claiming that the school provided poor facilities and a deficient learning environment, then kicked her out of school for complaining. She said she paid $35,000 to attend the school for a little more than a year to get the training and education to become a licensed practical nurse, but was expelled a few months before graduation.

ICC lawyers, however, said Mason was a poor student with attendance problems who couldn’t get along with minority students who also attended the school.

California-based ICC had programs in South Portland and Kittery, primarily for nursing students and others seeking careers in health fields. The school failed to gain accreditation from a national body after being ordered to do so by the Maine Board of Nursing and shut down in 2015.

Another lawsuit against the college, a class action filed on behalf of hundreds of other ICC students, alleges that ICC operated a “sham” college designed to take students’ money without providing a quality education. That suit is still pending in federal court in Maine.

ICC presented itself as “a gold-star nursing program,” Mason’s attorney, Guy Loranger, told a seven-man, one-woman jury in U.S. District Court as the trial opened Friday. But instead, it provided large, poorly run classes in “essentially a refurbished warehouse” in Kittery that was poorly equipped and staffed. Clinical experience, he said, was in a nursing home where the students served residents meals and helped them bathe, but didn’t provide the kind of experience that licensed nurse practitioners require.

Mason, who lives in New Hampshire, toured ICC’s South Portland campus when she considered applying to the school in 2012.

She was impressed, Loranger said, but when she was accepted to the school, she was assigned to the Kittery campus, which she said didn’t live up to ICC’s promises. Her lawsuit alleges breach of contract.

Mason’s classes were large – nearly 50 students, Loranger said – and study halls were noisy and chaotic, dominated by what he said was a “clique” of students from Brockton, Massachusetts.

“It was almost like a local high school,” he said.

When Mason emailed her complaints to the Maine Board of Nursing, which helps oversee training programs in the state, Loranger said she was called into a meeting with ICC administrators, who demanded to see the information she sent to the board. Mason refused and was expelled in December 2012, Loranger said.

Neil Evans, the attorney for ICC, painted a different picture.

He said Mason had a history of absenteeism and trouble getting along with the minority students at the school who lived in Massachusetts and, like her, drove to Maine for classes. He said Mason complained when the other students, primarily Haitians, did not speak English. He said Mason was counseled to follow the school’s policies on behavior and its anti-discrimination rules and once was thrown out of class for disparaging the school with an obscenity.

It finally culminated in “a very ugly scene” in a study hall in late November 2012, Evans said, when Mason and other students got into an argument over noise.

Mason was expelled because the argument was the final straw on top of attendance and other disciplinary matters, he said.

The other students were suspended for several days, Evans said, but they didn’t have the disciplinary record that he claimed Mason had compiled.

Evans also said he will show jurors that Mason sent the letter to the nursing board in late December, after she had been expelled, not several days before, as she claims. He said the complaint wasn’t a factor in her expulsion.

Mason is seeking unspecified damages. U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. told the lawyers Friday that his reading of Maine law is that punitive damages can’t be sought in breach-of-contract suits, but would hear arguments if they disagree, before he instructs the jury.

The trial is expected to continue until late next week.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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