High-speed ferry readying for service

The Cat, the newest ferry to shuttle passengers between Maine and Nova Scotia, has finished its sea trials and is headed to Portland. The 349-foot vessel, with a passenger capacity of about 750, left Charleston, South Carolina, where it had undergone two months of extensive renovations and repairs, according to a news release from its operator, Bay Ferries LTD. Read the story.

Gas prices continue to tick up

With the unofficial start of summer, gas prices are creeping up in northern New England. GasBuddy surveys Monday show the average retail price in Maine at $2.37 per gallon, up 2.5 cents from the week before. In New Hampshire the price per gallon is $2.28 per gallon, up nearly 3 cents in the last week. The average price per gallon in Vermont is $2.34, up 1.7 cents from last week. The national average of $2.32 has increased 11.1 cents during the last month and stands 42.7 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago. Read the story.

Private parking company backpedals on boot use

A Portland parking company’s decision to start issuing tickets and fines did not raise objections from city or state officials Thursday, although the practice by other companies has been challenged in other states. Some local officials have welcomed Unified Parking Partners’ new ticket policy because it replaces the company’s use of metal wheel clamps – or boots – to immobilize vehicles until their owners pay extra fees for exceeding their prepaid parking time. Since it began managing private parking lots in Portland in 2014, Unified has been criticized for its aggressive use of the boot when a vehicle stayed beyond the time paid for by the driver. The company would charge a fee of $40 to $70 before removing the boot and allowing customers to drive away. The company changed its enforcement policy Wednesday and began issuing $20 “tickets” to people who overstay their prepaid time. The company says the amount will be doubled if not paid in 10 days. Read the story.


Vendors relocated to accommodate tourist throngs

Street vendors who sell art, crafts and homemade goods to incoming tourists near the Portland ferry terminal on Commercial Street are adjusting to new city rules that restrict where they are allowed to set up their stands. The policy went into effect Wednesday, and the arrival Thursday of the Norwegian Gem, a 2,400-passenger cruise ship, was a test run. The new Waterfront Marketplace policy requires vendors to stay in the grassy area along the Eastern Promenade Trail between the Maine State Pier and the Ocean Gateway terminal when ships with more than 1,000 passengers are in port. About half of the 71 cruise ships due to arrive in Portland Harbor from June through October will be over the 1,000-passenger threshold. Read the story.


Solvency issues put Maine low on fiscal ranking

Maine ranks among the bottom 10 states and Puerto Rico in terms of fiscal health, according to a George Mason University study released Wednesday. According to the study, by the Virginia college’s Mercatus Center, Maine fell eight places from the previous year to land at No. 43. The center advocates for free markets and is funded by corporate donations from Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and others. Problems for Maine include a below-average amount of cash on hand to cover short-term liabilities, and a lack of “fiscal slack” to raise taxes or increase spending if needed, the study’s authors said. However, Maine officials said the study, which is based on financial reports from fiscal year 2014, is outdated, and that Maine’s fiscal health has improved considerably since then. Read the story.


Free mobile app for national parks launched

App developer Chimani Inc. has launched a free mobile app to guide visitors through all 59 national parks in the U.S. to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. The announcement was made Tuesday, in conjunction with Subaru of America, which is funding a marketing campaign for the launch. Subaru has partnered with Portland-based Chimani for three years to help educate visitors on the importance of reducing waste in national parks by using a mobile app rather than a paper guide, according to a news release from Chimani. The apps offer hiking trails, points of interest, park facilities and other information along with GPS-enabled maps that work without a cell or WiFi connection. Read the story.


Former hotel sold in a$7.3 million deal

An 86-unit apartment complex in Portland originally built as a hotel in the 1920s has been sold for $7.3 million. The Ambassador Apartments at 37 Casco St. is the latest in a string of multifamily housing structures that have changed hands in recent months, said Vince Ciampi, a broker at CBRE|The Boulos Co., who represented the sellers, Shirley Quirk and the estate of John J. Quirk & Sally Quirk. Joe Porta, a partner at Boulos, represented the buyer, Ambassador LLC. The sale closed May 19, Ciampi said. The Ambassador contains 82 studio units and four one-bedroom units, most of which are occupied, he said. Real estate brokers continue to see strong demand for large and small apartment properties in Portland, Ciampi said. Read the story.

Distribution center on track for summer opening

FedEx is on schedule to open its new southern Maine and eastern New Hampshire distribution center in Biddeford in late August. The Biddeford center, set to open Aug. 26 in the former Hostess Brands plant at 1 Baker’s Way, is needed because of increased demand from online shopping, said Mike Williams, senior manager at the Memphis-based company’s Saco facility. Williams will assume the role of manager at the Biddeford center when it opens. Daniel Stevenson, Biddeford’s director of economic development, said FedEx has received all the necessary permits to open in the former industrial bakery this summer. Read the story.

Best Western planned for Rumford

A new 60-room Best Western Plus hotel is planned for Route 2 in Rumford. Developer Tony L. Carter, president of Pennacook Falls Investments, made the announcement Thursday. The four-story hotel, which will include conference center and an indoor pool, is expected to open in the fall of 2017. Read the story.


Tour bus operator agrees to restitution

Former customers of a Cumberland businessman who arranged vacation tours on their behalf and then failed to deliver will receive restitution. Attorney General Janet Mills announced Thursday that her office reached an agreement with Barry Somes to pay restitution to 38 customers who were promised services that were never provided. They will share in $30,728 in restitution, according to a release from the AG’s office. Somes has agreed to pay restitution to any bona fide future claims arising from his past practice and he is permanently enjoined from operating similar businesses. In February, the state filed an Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act complaint against Somes, of Cumberland Center. The complaint alleged that Somes operated under numerous business names, including as a nonprofit, failed to deliver on promised vacation tours after taking advance payments, failed to make promised donations and failed to provide refunds to affected consumers. Somes operated businesses including TourBUSters and Club Impac, among others, and a nonprofit called Lids For Kids. The businesses purported to offer motor coach tours to destinations around the northeastern United States and Canada, promising that net profits from the tours would be donated to benefit children, but then didn’t follow through. In the last several years, the Attorney General’s Office received dozens of complaints from consumers seeking refunds of deposits paid to Somes. Through the settlement, Somes does not admit to this conduct, but he has agreed to pay restitution and to refrain from any similar conduct in the future. Read the story.

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