Two more hotels in Portland pipeline

Developers are proposing two new waterfront hotels that could add almost 300 rooms to Portland’s hot tourism market. Furniture chain West Elm unveiled plans Tuesday for a 150-room boutique hotel as part of a redevelopment on Portland’s eastern waterfront. That announcement followed a proposed change to the development plan for a former lumberyard on Commercial Street to include a hotel and conference center. As Portland has grown into a successful tourist destination, the supply of rooms and the revenue of hotels have kept pace. But it’s uncertain whether adding hundreds of rooms in an already crowded market will pay off for developers. Portland’s hotel occupancy rate hovers around 70-85 percent during the peak summer season, but dwindles in the colder months. That puts the city’s average year-round occupancy rate just above 60 percent – perfectly good, but not on fire, said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of operations at hospitality analysis company STR. Read the story.


The Cat sidelined for engine repairs

The high-speed ferry that operates between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, resumed passenger service Thursday after repairs were made to the vessel’s engines. On Monday, the ferry arrived in Portland powered by just two of its four engines after the crew detected an “abnormality” in one of the engines during the 6.5-hour voyage. Bay Ferries was forced to cancel three trips between Yarmouth and Portland – two from Maine to Nova Scotia and one return trip – on Monday and Tuesday. The ferry service does not operate on Wednesday. The downtime gave crews from Bay Ferries, based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and engine manufacturer MTU time to make repairs. Mark MacDonald, chairman and CEO of Bay Ferries, said the repair team found a defect in one of the starboard inner main engine’s 20 cylinders. Read the story.


Idexx earnings beat last year’s second quarter by 9 percent

Veterinary diagnostics company Idexx announced revenues 9 percent higher in the second quarter of 2017 compared with a year ago. In its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Westbrook company reported revenue through June of nearly $971 million compared with $884 million in 2016. The company’s CEO noted that the strong performance and momentum in domestic markets caused the company to raise its 2017 expectations for revenue and earnings per share. Read the story.

On-the-job fatalities higher for older workers

Maine’s older residents are dying on the job at a higher rate than workers overall, and for most of the last decade, at a higher rate than their peers nationwide. An Associated Press analysis of federal statistics found that while the rate of workplace fatalities has decreased nationally, older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than workers overall. The workplace death rate for older people in Maine was above the national rate for seven of the 10 years between 2006 and 2015, though it has been dropping in recent years. In 2015, workers age 55 and over made up 27 percent of Maine’s workforce. Read the story.


Lawmakers sustain veto of solar incentives bill

The Legislature heeded warnings from Maine’s largest utility company about higher electric rates Wednesday and narrowly sustained a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a bill that would have temporarily kept the current financial incentives in place for rooftop solar panels. The veto override easily passed in the Senate, 28-6, but it failed in the House, 88-48, falling three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override. The vote capped months of debate and lobbying and in many ways became a political litmus test for renewable energy. It marked the second year in a row that LePage has seen his veto of a key solar bill sustained by a narrow margin. Wednesday’s outcome also sets the stage for a pending rule approved by the PUC, which will gradually phase out a key financial incentive for homeowners who install solar-electric panels. Read the story.

Con Ed proposes delivering Maine wind energy to Boston

New York energy giant Con Edison hopes to partner with developers of new Maine wind farms to deliver power to Boston through a bid process under consideration in Massachusetts. The Bay State issued a request for proposals for clean energy earlier this year so it can meet its aggressive renewable energy goals. The RFP drew 46 bids by a July 27 deadline. Among them was a proposal from Central Maine Power Co. to build a transmission corridor through western Maine to deliver Quebec hydropower. Con Ed is proposing a partnership with a group of energy developers called Maine Power Express LLC to deliver northern Maine wind power to Boston markets. Under the plan, MPX would build a 630-megawatt wind facility in Penobscot and Aroostook counties called County Line Wind. Then the partnership would deliver that power via an underground power line on an existing energy corridor that eventually connects to an underwater transmission line to Boston, according to a press release issued Wednesday. Read the story.


‘Pet Sematary’ house for sale

The house that inspired Stephen King’s famed novel “Pet Sematary” and where he wrote the story is for sale in Orrington. The 113 year-old, four-bedroom home sits on 3 acres and is listed for $255,000. King was living in the rental home in 1979 when local children created an informal pet cemetery in the woods behind the house and he got the idea for his horror story. Figuring in the plot is a cat who comes back to life, its personality markedly unimproved by the experience. Read the story.

Former mayoral assistant heading trades council

Jason Shedlock, who for a short time was Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling’s assistant, has been hired as executive director of a construction trades council. The Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council, a trade association representing 5,000 union-affiliated members, announced the hire of Shedlock in a press release issued Thursday. This is the first time the council has had a permanent executive director position, said Shedlock, who assumes his post Aug. 7. He said the council decided that a full-time dedicated staff was necessary in order to meet the increasing workforce demands and manpower needs within the trades. As executive director, he will be responsible for the organization’s day-to-day operations, and coordinating and implementing the council’s workforce development initiatives, outreach, advocacy and capacity building. Read the story.

Maine Med pitches plan for new garage

Maine Medical Center officials say they want to build a large parking garage for employees off St. John Street after plans for a smaller garage at Congress and Gilman streets ran into neighborhood opposition. The new garage, with 2,222 spaces, would be on land that the hospital already leases for surface parking for employees. It’s about a third of a mile from the hospital’s current entrance, but will be closer if the hospital relocates its main entrance as part of a $512 million modernization plan that will be submitted to city officials this week. Read the story.


Lawmakers propose limits on homegrown pot

Mainers won’t be able to grow more than a dozen marijuana plants on their land for personal use under a new legislative proposal. The plan would prevent landowners from hosting large unlicensed marijuana crops, which state lawmakers worry could feed the black market and lead to violence, as has happened in other states. But critics claim the proposal rolls back the amount of personal grow allowed under current law and blocks farmers from renting their land to people who want to grow their own cannabis but have no place to do it. The plan only limits the number of mature plants – a flowering plant or one more than 12 inches tall or 12 inches wide – that can be growing on the property. This would not affect commercial growers or medical marijuana caregivers, who can grow plants for up to five patients at a time. Read the story.