March 29, 2010

Historic houses could be up for sale soon

A legislative panel holds a public hearing today on a bill to allow the sale of the state-owned properties.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Two historic houses not far from the capitol could be up for sale soon as state officials move toward implementing a master facilities plan.

The houses at 187 and 189 State St. are connected, but are actually two properties, State Historian Earle Shettleworth said. The state refers to them as the Smith-Merrill House.

The house at 189 State St., on the corner of State and Child, was built in 1830 by Jacob H. Arnold.

The Queen Anne-style turret was added in the 1890s, Shettleworth said.

Next door, the home with the green shutters was built by Edward Williams, a merchant who helped lay out Capitol Park, he said. It, too, was built in 1830.

The homes are now occupied by the State Planning Office, which also uses space across the street, in the 1910 Guy Gannett House.

The plan is to move all the workers to the old Department of Labor building, which is on Union Street just on the other side of Capitol Park, said Chip Gavin, director of the Bureau of General Services.

That clears the way for the sale of the two frame homes, but the state wants to keep the Gannett House, in part because it's so close to the governor's mansion, Shettleworth said.

"It's historically and architecturally a very significant building," he said. "We hope in the long run to find a new compatible use for it."

The Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. today on a bill to allow the sale of the Smith-Merrill House and the Elizabeth Levinson Center in Bangor.

DOME DARK FOR EARTH HOUR

The State House dome went dark Saturday for one hour in support of the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour 2010, the House Majority Office said.

The effort is meant to draw attention to the work the state has already done to conserve energy, including the use of blended bio-heating oil, and improvements to lighting and ventilation.

STUDENTS PUSH HIGHER TAX

Students from the Maranacook Student Health Center Advisory Committee came to the State House last week to unveil a new video that calls for an increase in the state tobacco tax.

"Almost all smokers start before they are 21, which is why the tobacco industry targets us," said Maranacook senior Justin Greeley. "But when tobacco prices are high, fewer kids get hooked."

Greeley was joined by Superintendent Rich Abramson, Winthrop Dr. John Barnes and several other students, according to Health Policy Partners of Maine.

MAINER REPRESENTS CONSUMERS

Joe Ditre of Manchester, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, has been named to a national group that represents consumers before the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

His role will be to help ensure that the national health care plan just passed will represent the best interests of consumers, according to the health care group.

"I hope to bring the voices of Maine people in some meaningful way to the discussions," Ditre said in a news release. "I am eager to help make sure the consumer voice becomes a larger part of the discussions around health care and coverage."

TISSUE DONATION HIGHLIGHTED

Rep. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, sponsored a resolution last week to highlight the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation.

"Right now, more than 100,000 Americans are awaiting life-saving transplants through the gift of organ donation," Langley said in a statement. "Here in Maine, 125 people are awaiting kidney transplants."

For more information on how to become a donor, go to www.maine.gov/sos/bmv/organ.htm.

ETHANOL-FREE GAS

The Legislature recently passed a joint resolution calling on Congress to increase the availability of ethanol-free gas.

It was sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lisa Marrache, D-Waterville, and Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess, R-Cumberland.

Marrache said ethanol is hard on older engines, particularly those in airplanes and boats.

Strang Burgess said ethanol is less efficient than gas, which drives down fuel mileage for vehicles.

CLIMATE-CHANGE LOBBY

The Natural Resources Council of Maine released a letter last week with the signatures of more than 500 Maine businesses urging Maine's U.S. senators to support a climate-change bill.

"We urge you to do all you can to ensure that the United States acts swiftly and effectively in 2010 to address the threat of global warming," the letter said. "Now is the time for leadership. Maine people are counting on you to help."

The Maine businesses that signed on included Hannaford Bros. Inc., Lee Auto Malls, Oakhurst Dairy and Mattson Development.

COMING UP THIS WEEK

The House and Senate will take up the budget this week and several major bills are outstanding, including medical marijuana and casinos.

The Appropriations Committee will hold a public hearing on two bond bills at 1 p.m. today in Room 228 of the State House.

Both bodies are to meet through Friday, with double sessions possible.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

scover@centralmaine.com

 

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