TRANSPORTATION: Weather tests highway maintenance funds

Managers of Maine’s highways are keenly watching snow amounts this winter, but haven’t hit the panic button as yet. Chief administrators for the Maine Department of Transportation, who oversee the state’s 8,200 miles of highways, and the Maine Turnpike Authority, who oversee the 109-mile turnpike, say snow removal costs are falling within their budgets this winter. But with six weeks of winter left, no one is breathing a sigh of relief yet. The turnpike is especially hard hit by foul winter weather since travelers generally opt to stay home, which decreases toll revenue, while overtime costs mount for snow removal. Read the story.

RETAIL: Radio Shack closing 13 Maine stores

The 13 Radio Shack stores scheduled to close in Maine by March 15 as part of the company’s bankruptcy case include the St. John Street store in Portland and the Maine Mall store in South Portland, court documents show. The closures will reduce the number of Radio Shack stores in Maine from 25 to 12, not including four independent merchants that offer some of the company’s products and services. Two stores will remain open in the Portland area: at 1064 Brighton Ave. in Portland and 251 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth. The stores closing are:

• 550 Center St., Auburn

• 37 Xavier Loop, Suite 2, Augusta

• 52 Western Ave., Suite 2, Augusta

• 1129 Union St., Bangor

• 663 Stillwater Ave., Bangor

• 8 Gurnet Road, Brunswick

• 149 Dublin St., Suite 2, Machias

• 1600 Main St., Suite 7, Oxford

• 264 St. John St., Portland

• 367 Maine Mall Road, South Portland

• 55 Colonial Drive, Standish

• 49 Topsham Fair Mall Road, Topsham

Read the story.

Longtime tavern to close

Sangillo’s Tavern, one of Portland’s oldest family-owned drinking establishments, intends to close Feb. 15. Its owner chose not to appeal the state’s denial of his request to have its liquor license renewed. Dana Sangillo, the third generation of his family to own and operate the bar, said Monday that he hopes someone will re-open the bar someday. It first opened on India Street in the 1960s and in 2000 moved to its current location at 18 Hampshire St. Last April, the Portland City Council voted 5-4 to recommend denial of Sangillo’s state liquor license renewal. The decision followed two public hearings, during which police expressed concern about an increase in crime and calls for service in the area. Read the story.

Thrift store closure to displace disabled workers

A downtown Waterville thrift store that gives employment opportunities to people with disabilities is closing Feb. 22. The operator of the thrift store said political momentum to eliminate sub-minimum wage certificate means the store can’t survive. The certificates allow people with intellectual disabilities to be paid below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour based on the productivity of that employee compared with a non-disabled employee performing the same work. The Ken-a-Set store, founded in the 1970s, employs 15 people with disabilities. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING: BIW snags $13M Navy award

Bath Iron Works has received a $13 million award from the Navy to modify existing contract work on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The money will be used to upgrade design services to replace one radar system with another on the warships. A similar award was made to the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi. Five destroyers are currently being built at the Bath yard. Read the story.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES: Disability insurer to open operation center in Scarborough

A U.S. subsidiary of Toronto-based Sun Life plans to open an operations center in Scarborough to handle disability insurance work. The company intends to hire 100 people when it opens in the former Cole Haan building on Ashley Drive in April, and double that workforce within a few years. The president of Sun Life’s U.S. subsidiary said Scarborough was selected because of greater Portland’s reputation as a disability insurance hub and its proximity to other Sun Life offices in New England. In addition to claims processors and other back-office operations, the center will employ occupational therapists, social workers, nurses and other clinicians. Read the story.

WEX earnings riding currency swings

Unexpected volatility in the foreign currency exchange rate caused WEX Inc. to experience lower-than-anticipated net income in the fourth quarter, although the company still turned a profit, the South Portland-based payment processing firm reported Monday. The company’s adjusted net income for the fourth quarter decreased 18 percent to $37.2 million, or $0.96 per share, from $45.7 million, or $1.17 per share, for the same period a year earlier. The net income results include the impact of a non-operating expense of $8.1 million related to a net foreign exchange loss for WEX, which maintains accounts in 17 different currencies because of its extensive international operations. CEO Melissa Smith that the company is reducing its foreign currency holdings and investing in hedges to offset the impact of such losses in the future. Excluding losses related to the exchange rate, WEX had net income of $47.9 million for the quarter, or $1.23 per share, which was in line with analyst expectations. Total revenue for the fourth quarter increased 16 percent to $211.9 million from $182.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2013. Read the story.

ENERGY: Heating oil prices tick up

A survey from the Governor’s Energy Office shows the average price of heating oil is inching up in Maine. The survey found the average statewide cash price was $2.60 per gallon, up 4 cents from two weeks ago. Average propane prices also are up a couple of cents, to $2.68, for heating customers. The prices for heating oil remain much lower than last year at this time. A year ago, heating oil averaged $3.88 per gallon and propane was $3.51. Those prices generally were the highest of last year’s heating season, the energy office said. Read the story.

DEVELOPMENT: Squash courts pitched for Bayside

A $2.4 million plan to build squash courts adjacent to a bowling alley in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland got initial city approval Wednesday. State Sen. Justin Alfond told a city development committee that he is willing to pay $340,000 for a third of an acre of land adjacent to Bayside Bowl, which he owns. Alfond said he wants to expand the bowling alley and build squash courts on city property now used as a salt shed. The committee unanimously endorsed Alfond’s offer, which now goes to the city council for action. Read the story.