Iconic office building fails safety inspections

Multiple fire safety violations were discovered in the Time & Temperature building during a surprise November inspection, adding to problems in the iconic downtown Portland high-rise. Fire department officials found 19 violations during a Nov. 3 inspection triggered by an anonymous complaint. Five floors in the 14-story building lack sprinkler systems, and multiple floors did not have hard-wired smoke detectors, according to the inspection report. Inspectors also found multiple expired fire extinguishers, inoperative emergency lighting, missing exit signs, blocked fire exits and other problems. The department is working with the building owner to resolve the violations, which were found in floors occupied by tenants, said Assistant Fire Chief Keith Gautreau. Read the story.

Homes sales, prices continue to rise

Sales of single-family homes in Maine increased in October, both in value and volume, compared to a year ago. Maine Listings announced Tuesday that sales of single-family existing homes increased by 8.05 percent in October, compared to the same month last year. Prices also jumped 6.5 percent to a median sales price of $205,000 over the same period, according to a release from the Maine Association of Realtors. The median sales price means half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less. Greg Gosselin, owner of Gosselin Realty Group in York and president of the Maine Association of Realtors, said inventory continues to be low, but has started to increase, and that strong October numbers have brought the state on par with the record-setting 2016. Read the story.

Real estate group buys Yarmouth firm

Portland-based Portside Real Estate Group, one of Maine’s largest residential real estate firms, has acquired competitor RE/MAX Heritage of Yarmouth for an undisclosed sum as part of an ongoing expansion effort in southern Maine. RE/MAX Heritage has been in business for 17 years, according to a Portside news release. All of its agents and staff will be joining Portside, it said, and RE/MAX Heritage will take on the Portside name, giving Portside locations in Yarmouth, Falmouth and Portland. The combined entity has a team of 53 agents and staff, with a projected sales volume of more than $240 million in 2017, said Portside owner Dava Davin. Read the story.


Local solar company helping Puerto Rico

A Maine solar energy company is building emergency equipment for parts of Puerto Rico still without power two months after a powerful hurricane devastated the island. ReVision Energy has partnered with a national solar electricity cooperative and international relief organization to build and deploy dozens of portable trailers outfitted with solar panels to provide emergency power. Called “solar outreach systems” – or SOS – the 12-foot-long trailers are equipped with six solar panels that can be folded onto the trailer body. The small systems will generate enough power to charge cellphones, lights, radios and laptop computers. Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, blew through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, ruining the island’s electricity grid and leaving millions without power and clean water. As of Monday, about 47 percent of Puerto Rico had electricity, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Read the story.


Shrimp fishery likely facing fourth year of closure

The Maine shrimp fishery appears headed toward another closed season in 2018, based on bleak stock assessments made earlier this year, regional fishery regulators say. If a panel meeting in Portland on Nov. 29 agrees with the recommendations released last week, 2018 will be the fourth year the small but much-loved winter fishery is closed. Abundance of the species was at a 34-year low in 2017, the commission said. During the annual summer scientific survey, data showed that survival of the shrimp that spawned in 2016 was the second lowest observed in the history of the survey, which began in the mid-80s. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has reported that the environment for shrimp is increasingly “inhospitable,” attributing the rising temperature to climate change. There is consensus among scientists around the world that the Earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activity, including burning fossil fuels to heat homes, emissions from cars and the gases emitted by livestock. Read the story.

Officials say the city of Portland won’t invest millions of dollars in customs upgrades at Ocean Gateway terminal, which could lead to the ferry service between the city and Nova Scotia to end. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Federal mandates threaten Portland-Canada ferry service

Portland officials say the city will not invest millions of dollars in upgrades demanded by the federal government to keep a customs inspection operation at the city’s Ocean Gateway terminal, and that decision could end ferry service between Portland and Nova Scotia next year. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says its agents currently work in temporary, inadequate facilities at the terminal and that upgrades were supposed to be part of reviving international ferry service four years ago. But those upgrades, which include building a new inspection building and adding other improvements, could cost Portland as much as $7 million. Portland officials plan a formal response to Customs and Border Protection with possible paths forward, including a smaller investment by the city or a passenger pre-clearance facility in Canada. Read the story.

Holiday traffic expected to set record

A strong economy, affordable gas and a decent weather forecast had experts predicting record-breaking travel in New England over the Thanksgiving holiday. More than 2.2 million New Englanders were expected to journey 50 miles or more from home over Thanksgiving weekend, a 3.5 percent increase over last year, which would be the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005, according to AAA. The Maine Turnpike Authority predicted traffic volume would top last year’s record-breaking 1 million transactions by about 2 percent, or an extra 20,000 tolls paid. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving traditionally has the highest traffic volume of the weekend. Last year, the MTA reported 257,000 tolls paid, which was 4 percent higher than 2015. The system reports higher volume on Labor Day, Columbus Day, and throughout all of August. Read the story.


Vote on workforce board funding postponed

The Maine Department of Labor abruptly postponed a potential vote Wednesday on a controversial LePage administration proposal to require workforce development agencies to spend a larger portion of the federal dollars they receive on job training. Gov. Paul LePage wants Maine’s three regional workforce development agencies to devote 60 percent of their federal funding to worker training, in his latest push against a system he says spends too much on administration. But critics contend the 60 percent threshold – which would be the highest in the nation – is unrealistic and could destabilize a system that provides career counseling, job training and business services to tens of thousands of clients annually. On Wednesday, the Maine State Workforce Board was scheduled to hold an “emergency meeting” to vote on the 60 percent threshold. But some members and leaders of the workforce development agencies objected to the timing of the meeting – the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving – as well as to plans by the chairman to allow members of the 25-person board of gubernatorial appointees to cast votes by proxy without being present. The board will consider the proposed policy at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Dec.1. Read the story.


New VIP Tires & Service president announced

VIP Tires & Service, an auto chain of 56 stores throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, announced a new president Tuesday. Timothy Winkeler, who joined VIP in 2010 as vice president of merchandising, has been promoted to president. He also retains his chief operating officer title. Winkeler replaces John Quirk, who will assume the role of chairman and CEO. Read the story.

Koegel to leave Maine post for national appointment

The longtime head of the Volunteers of America Northern New England will step down in March to take an executive position with the organization’s national headquarters. June Koegel, longtime CEO, accepted the position of executive vice president and chief operating officer with Volunteers of America in Alexandria, Virginia, according to a news release from the organization. In her new role, she will lead initiatives to provide enhanced supportive services and opportunities to Volunteers of America’s 32 affiliates nationwide, oversee operations of the national office and work as liaison to the national board of directors. Koegel has been with Volunteers of America – an affordable housing and human services nonprofit – for 32 years, the last 26 years of which have been spent leading the organization’s Northern New England affiliate, based in Brunswick. Read the story.