REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Contractor sues developers over stalled ‘midtown’ project

A Vermont construction company is suing the developers of the failed “midtown” project in Portland, saying the corporate structure set up by the developers was designed to allow them to walk away without paying some of its contractors. PC Construction Co. said it provided substantial pre-construction services on the project that cost at least $235,000. But, the suit alleges, The Federated Cos. and other developers “have been playing a shell game” by setting up companies that were thinly capitalized and “making misrepresentations so that they could walk away from the project” without paying their bills. The complaint said that many of Federated’s corporate entities were dissolved. A call to the company’s offices in Florida said its phone system was not set up to receive calls. Read the story.

New owners try to evict Ocean State Job Lot from Falmouth center

A Rhode Island-based retail chain that invested $1.3 million in upgrades at a formerly vacant space in the Falmouth Shopping Center is fighting an eviction notice from the center’s new owners. Ocean State Job Lot, which moved last October with Planet Fitness into the faltering Route 1 retail center, said it will fight the order. John Conforti, Ocean State Job Lot’s owner and chief financial officer, said the center’s new owners claim the 10-year lease is invalid because of a technicality in the exchange of documents. New owner Joseph Soley couldn’t be reached for comment and partner Jonathan Cohen declined to comment. Conforti said he invested $1.3 million in the building to bring it up to code and to sublet space to Planet Fitness. Read the story.

ENERGY

Customer group calls for more action on CMP bills

A group that says it represents about 3,500 Central Maine Power customers has issued a letter to state officials demanding a more thorough investigation into customer complaints of inflated CMP electric bills. Calling itself CMP Ratepayers Unite, the group said it sent the letter because of concerns that the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s ongoing fact-finding probe into the matter has raised more questions than it has answered. The group also said Maine officials need to provide “immediate relief” to CMP customers who believe they have been overcharged by the utility while the PUC probe continues. The PUC responded to the letter in a statement Thursday, saying that its investigation will be comprehensive, and that it already has taken steps to offer relief and protection to affected CMP customers. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Hospitals withdraw from opioid treatment program because of pending lawsuits

The parent of Mercy Hospital is leaving partnerships it has with Portland and Bangor to increase access to substance use treatment, saying the move was prompted by a lawsuit that Portland recently filed against opioid manufacturers. Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems announced Thursday that it was leaving the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative and a similar group in Bangor. Eastern Maine Healthcare, a nonprofit, also is the parent of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. The city of Portland filed a $1 billion lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies in April, blaming the companies for causing the opioid crisis. While the primary defendants included large corporations such as Purdue Pharma, Teva and Cephalon, one of the five physicians also named as a defendant is a former Mercy Hospital primary care doctor. Bangor joined several Maine communities in a similar lawsuit in December. Read the story.

Adult group homes face funding crisis

A workforce crisis threatens to close group homes and cut other Medicaid services this summer for thousands of adults with intellectual disabilities – a looming problem caused when Maine lawmakers failed to extend the legislative session. When lawmakers adjourned on May 2, they left in limbo more than 4,000 adults with autism or other intellectual disabilities who receive Medicaid-funded services, such as group home placements, day programs, in-home care and supportive work environments. The MaineCare reimbursement rate that lawmakers had proposed to increase in 2018 would instead be cut on July 1, meaning that agencies would be reimbursed for direct care workers at the equivalent of $9.17 per hour, less than minimum wage. Nonprofit agencies that provide the services say they are making crisis contingency plans to close many group homes or cut other services, such as day programs or in-home care, if the matter can’t be resolved. Read the story.

COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Lobstermen seek more space at Portland waterfront

Lobstermen want to lease floating docks in Portland Harbor, claiming they have run out of affordable work space on the city’s increasingly gentrified central waterfront and need a new place to store and repair their gear. A handful of them are petitioning the Portland Harbor Commission for permission to install what would be the first floating storage docks on the waterfront. Current rules allow ship and boat moorings, but make no mention of storage docks. Harbor Master Kevin Battle is meeting with the lobstermen to review their proposals. New rules would need the OK from Portland, South Portland and state Department of Transportation, as well, which would be a months-long process. Read the story.

NOAA: Number of ‘overfished’ species at record low

The number of American fish stocks that can be described as “overfished” has hit an all-time low, the U.S. government announced Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made the statement as part of its annual Status of Stocks Report to Congress. Six populations of fish are being removed from its list of overfished stocks, including the popular commercially fished stocks of Gulf of Mexico red snapper and Georges Bank winter flounder, the agency said. NOAA Fisheries classifies jeopardized fish stocks as “overfished” or experiencing “overfishing.” The agency’s report said that 35 stocks out of 235 are overfished, which is the lowest number since the agency started tracking fish populations in this way in 2000. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Judge dismisses label lawsuit against Poland Spring

A lawsuit that alleged that Poland Spring’s bottled water does not come from a spring has been dismissed by a federal judge in Connecticut. The suit, filed last summer, said that the source of the bottled waster isn’t natural springs but rather “ordinary groundwater” from wells in Maine. U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer late Thursday dismissed the suit on narrow legal grounds, essentially finding that the group of consumers that sued can’t use state law to enforce the federal standard for what constitutes “spring water.” Meyer made clear that he didn’t side with Nestle Waters on many of its legal arguments in the case, but decided that the consumers who sued were going about it the wrong way. One of the lawyers for the consumers who sued said an amended complaint would be filed soon. In his opinion, Meyer gave the consumers a month to re-file. Read the story.

Portland Science Center closes

The Portland Science Center has closed after nearly three years of bringing traveling exhibits about pirates, sharks and the human body to the city’s waterfront. The Massachusetts-based owner of the center, The Gold Group, has closed the business and will opt out of its lease, said Stephen Goodrich, owner of the building at 68 Commercial St. where the center was housed. Goodrich said Tuesday he was told that the science center’s attendance had declined recently, compared to its early exhibitions. Read the story.

Argo marketing company sold to Georgia firm

Fifteen years after starting the company from a laptop on his couch, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque has finalized the sale of Argo Contact Centers to Georgia-based ITC Capital Partners for an undisclosed amount. Levesque said Monday that Argo’s 300 jobs, roughly 200 of them in Lewiston, will stay in the city and that selling was best for the company’s future. Since 2013, Argo, a mostly in-bound call center, has been headquartered locally at 64 Lisbon St. after an extensive, multimillion-dollar renovation of the former McCrory’s department store. Read the story.

LABOR

Historic unemployment rate continues

Maine continued its streak of posting unemployment rates below 4 percent. The preliminary rate of 2.7 percent for April is unchanged from March, and the 29th consecutive month where the jobless rate has fallen under 4 percent, according to a release from the Maine Department of Labor. That streak is the longest period on record. In April of 2017, Maine’s unemployment rate was 3.3 percent. Read the story.


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