New owners win battle in war over Sunday River Golf

Sunday River Golf Club in Newry will open for business this summer under new management. A Maine Business and Consumer Court judge ruled Wednesday that Portland-based Newry Holdings LLC has the right to operate the award-winning golf venue until a pending ownership dispute is resolved between Newry Holdings and the club’s developer, Bath-based Harris Golf Inc.

Judge Richard Mulhern also ruled that Harris Golf must turn over to Newry Holdings assets in its possession associated with the club, including customer information, course equipment, computer passwords and web domains. Among the assets Harris Golf was to turn over by Friday afternoon is information about customers who already have paid for club memberships this year. However, the ruling says Newry Holdings is under no obligation to honor those memberships.

Harris Golf President Jeff Harris has said the company will provide refunds to any paid members who are denied access because of the ownership dispute. A lawsuit is pending in Cumberland County Superior Court to determine whether Newry Holdings or Harris Golf is the club’s rightful owner. Read the story.


Gas tax hike, electric car surcharge among proposals for highway fund

Lawmakers seeking ways to plug a hole in the state’s highway maintenance budget are considering measures that would raise the state’s gas tax by 7 cents a gallon and place an annual surcharge on hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Members of the Legislature’s transportation committee heard hours of testimony Tuesday from transportation advocates and trade groups in favor of increasing fees and taxes to improve the state’s deteriorating infrastructure, and from environmental groups opposed to imposing a charge on owners of alternative-fuel vehicles.

State officials predict the state’s highway fund, which pays for the maintenance of roads and bridges, will have an annual shortfall of $159 million from 2017 to 2019, out of a $375 million annual goal. The Maine Department of Transportation expects to receive $100 million in general obligation bonds annually to help cover those costs.

About 91 percent of Maine’s gas tax is directed annually to the state highway fund, said David Heidrich of the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Besides increasing the gas tax, one bill proposes imposing a $200 surcharge on annual registration of hybrid, all-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, raising some fees charged by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and allocating 10 percent of the sales tax paid on motor vehicles and transportation-related items to the highway fund. Read the story.


The Eastern Mountain Sports store on Marginal Way in Portland will close as part of its parent company’s bankruptcy. Staff file photo by Gordon Chibroski


Portland Eastern Mountain Sports will close in bankruptcy

The only Eastern Mountain Sports store in Maine will close in a deal to resolve the bankruptcy of its parent company. Eastern Outfitters, the parent company of Eastern Mountain Sports and Bob’s Stores, received permission from a bankruptcy court to close 48 of its 86 stores as part of a plan for UK retailer Sports Direct International Ltd. to acquire the company.

There was no information released about what will happen to the staff or inventory at the Marginal Way store in Portland. Eastern Outfitters filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware on Feb. 5, citing more than $7 million in unsecured claims by creditors. The order means Eastern Outfitters can now enter into an agreement with Hillco Resources LLC and Gordon Bros. Retail Partners to liquidate the stores. The Portland store occupies 8,000 square feet. Read the story.


Down East ceases publication of Dispatch arts magazine

After six years of covering southern Maine’s nightlife, music scene, cultural events and at one point staging a giant outdoor pillow fight, Dispatch magazine has gone out of business. Former editor Nick Schroeder said Thursday he was told of the decision to cease publication of Dispatch in February by the publication’s owner, Camden-based Down East magazine. Schroeder was editor of Dispatch from February 2015 through the last issue in December 2016. Schroeder, who now works as cultural editor for the arts and news weekly The Portland Phoenix, posted a “eulogy” for Dispatch on his Facebook page late Wednesday night.

When Dispatch stopped publishing, Schroeder said he was the only full-time editorial employee and that most of the listings, articles and pictures were provided by freelancers. The Portland-based magazine published 10 times a year and had a website. Read the story.


Harpswell lobster wharf to go on auction block

The lobster wharf next to Cook’s Lobster & Ale House on Bailey Island in Harpswell will be sold at bankruptcy auction this month. The quarter-acre property at 66 Garrison Cove Road includes a 187-foot commercial pier built around 1950, a bait shed and a small office leased by Eastern Traders, a lobster dealer based in Nobleboro that serves about two dozen local fishermen.

The property will be auctioned April 25 to satisfy debts owed by owner Norman “Curt” Parent, an island resident who also used to own the adjacent restaurant. Parent still owes about $373,000 to creditors after the $1.25 million sale of the longtime eatery to Nick and Jen Charboneau of Lewiston in 2015. At the time, Parent had hoped to keep the wharf, but court records show that earlier this month, a court-appointed trustee persuaded a judge to sell Parent’s last big asset to satisfy his remaining creditors. Parent could not be reached for comment. Read the story.


Bill seeks to cap gifts, fees for docs from pharmaceuticals

A bill that would clamp down on gifts and speaking fees from drug companies to doctors in Maine has attracted bipartisan support, and only one person – representing the pharmaceutical industry – testified against it during a public hearing Tuesday. Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, said the bill so far is attracting wide support because it’s tied to the issue of opioid prescribing, which many now realize has fueled the heroin epidemic.

The bill would prohibit gifts of more than $50 annually to doctors by drug companies, and limit speaking and consulting fees to genuine research. Some medical ethics experts are critical of the cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and physicians, and say practices such as unnecessarily costly speaker’s fees and lavish dinners influence prescribing patterns.

Hamann said he was inspired to write the bill – modeled after a 2005 law in Minnesota – by a Maine Sunday Telegram article in December that spotlighted how some doctors who prescribed opioids were receiving thousands of dollars from drug companies that manufacture opioids. Read the story.


Economists sign on to support immigrant hires

Nearly 1,500 economists have signed a letter to President Trump and top congressional leaders stressing the importance of immigrants for economic growth.

Thirteen economists from the faculties of Maine colleges and universities signed the letter, including six from Colby College, four from Bates, two from the University of Maine and one from Bowdoin. The letter sent Wednesday notes that immigrants start businesses, are clustered in math, science and engineering and can offset any economic drag from baby boomer retirements. It notes that “the benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs, and smart immigration policy could better maximize the benefits of immigration while reducing the costs.” Read the story.