Massive fire visible from miles away destroys old mill

MECHANIC FALLS, Maine (AP) — A massive blaze quickly burned through and destroyed a large old mill building, with flames throwing up a thick cloud of smoke visible for miles.

The Mechanic Falls building served several businesses —including a warehouse for Maine Cycle — and was filled with vehicles and spare parts. The fire was first reported at 1 p.m. Sunday, but the building had been completely engulfed by the time firefighters arrived at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Witnesses say there wasn’t much left of the building about an hour after the fire was first reported.

Fire officials say there are currently no reports of any injuries. Town Manager Zakk Maher says he expects cleanup of the fire will take days, but the current focus is making sure the smoke dies down without anyone getting hurt.

Public can weigh in on hydropower project

HALLOWELL, Maine (AP) — Regulators are giving Mainers another chance to weigh in on a proposed hydropower project.

Maine’s Public Utilities Commission will hold a third public hearing Wednesday in Hallowell. The commission’s examiners’ report on the project is set for release Dec. 7.

The New England Clean Energy Connect aims to bring vast amounts of hydropower from Quebec to meet the needs of Massachusetts energy users. Supporters say the project will save Massachusetts and Maine ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Critics question its economic benefit and environmental impact.

The power corridor would run from Beattie Township, on the Canadian border north of Coburn Gore, through Farmington and Jay to connect with the power grid in Lewiston. It would cross the Kennebec Gorge, a scenic, 10-mile stretch popular with whitewater rafters.

Cleveland Indians donate to Sockalexis statue in Maine

CALAIS, Maine (AP) — A Maine man who’s creating a monument to a Penobscot Nation baseball star says he’s received a $10,000 donation from the Cleveland Indians.

Ed Rice, director of Louis Sockalexis Monument Fund, said the 8-foot bronze sculpture in Maine is estimated to cost between $80,000 to $100,000.

Rice said he’ll be traveling across the state, starting in November, to drum up support.

The author of the 2003 biography “Baseball’s First Indian” says Sockalexis inspired the nickname for the Cleveland Indians in spring training in 1897. The team was called the Cleveland Spiders during the time that Sockalexis played three seasons in the outfield.

Oink oink, honk honk: Rogue pig goes hog wild in traffic

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — It was a classic case of a ham on the lam.

Police in Maine’s capital city are looking for the owner of a 50-pound piglet that wore itself out while dodging traffic Saturday evening after presumably escaping.

The Portland Press Herald reports Augusta police went door to door looking for the animal’s owner without any luck.

They say the pig is being cared for by a person familiar with farm animals until the owner can be found.

The animal was in good condition other than being tired out from running around.

Backers say bike route could boost northern Maine tourism

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (AP) — Supporters say a 320-mile bike route in Maine could boost tourism in northern Maine.

The Bangor Daily News reports that bike groups are working with state and local groups for a 320-mile federally designated bike route from Bangor to Fort Kent.

The Northern Maine Development Commission is working with the Maine Department of Transportation and several bicycle groups on the idea.

The commission’s senior planner Jay Kamm says the route would be part of a national long-distance cycling network.

That U.S. Bicycle Route System features different types of roads including scenic byways and low-traffic local roads. The idea is that communities along the routes could try to appeal to long-distance bike riders.

Maine has new plan to address student mental health needs

CALAIS, Maine (AP) — Maine is developing a new framework to assist with student mental health needs through collaboration between providers of education and health.

The Maine Department of Education says the initiative is called Maine-AWARE, which stands for Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education. The department says it has received a $5.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services toward the project.

The education department says the initiative is designed to help schools and communities focus resources on the students and families who need them the most. It says the project will also attempt to develop school-level support services.

Three school systems will serve as pilot sites for the initiative. They are the Calais School Department and a pair of regional school units.

Maine senators sing praises of law to protect songwriters

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Legislation backed by Maine’s two senators that is designed to protect songwriters has been signed into law.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King both supported the Music Modernization Act, which is now law. The bill is meant to ensure that songwriters are paid for the value of their work.

Collins and King say the legislation sets up a new, simpler licensing entity that will make it easier for digital music companies to obtain a license to play songs. They say the new rules will make it more likely songwriters are paid “a fair market value for their music.”

The senators say the act also updates music licensing laws to make it easier for songwriters to be paid when their music is played online.

Peak foliage conditions have arrived in most of Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Northern and Down East Maine are moving past this fall’s peak foliage, while the rest of the state is just starting to get there.

The Maine Office of Tourism says the state has reached the part of autumn in which it’s “ablaze with color.” It says most of the state’s progression to colorful leaves will begin about now, while coastal Maine tends to reach peak conditions later in the month.

Maine fall foliage spokesperson Gale Ross says some of the best leaf-peeping spots in the state are in central and southern Maine and along the coast. The state listed all of the state as in “high” or “peak” foliage conditions with the exception of far northern Maine in its Oct. 10 foliage report.

Homeowner overcharged for sewer bill for 8 years gets refund

OAKLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine town says it will refund a homeowner $1,110 after mistakenly overcharging him for sewer bills for eight years.

The Kennebec Journal reports Oakland officials voted unanimously Wednesday to refund the money. Officials say the house had been billed as two units since 2011.

Town Manager Gary Bowman believes the town thought the man’s in-home business was an additional unit. The property will be charged as a single unit.

Bowman says Oakland “can’t be held responsible that everything is correct.” He adds that the homeowners “should be accountable for knowing what they pay.”

Councilman Dana Wrigley says most residents don’t question bills because of the town’s authority.

Oakland’s quarterly sewer rate is $50 per unit in addition to water consumption.

Solution to Maine lake’s algae blooms shows promise

SMITHFIELD, Maine (AP) — Officials involved in the cleanup of a Maine lake say they might have found a long-term solution to algae blooms that have caused the body of water to look like pea soup.

The algae blooms have typically marred Smithfield’s East Pond in mid-August. The Morning Sentinel reports the East Pond Association and 7 Lakes Alliance is finishing the second half of a treatment that prevented the blooms this summer.

The treatment is alum, which is a combination of aluminum sulfate and sodium aluminate. A scientist and an engineer loaded a barge with tanks of it on Friday to apply on a 670-acre area of the lake.

The project cost more than $1 million. It was funded with a combination of grants and donations and $232,000 in state money.

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