ACA enrollments down 30 percent over last year

Early indicators show that Affordable Care Act enrollment for 2019 is down significantly in Maine compared with 2018, when sign-ups in the state led the nation in terms of a percent increase from the previous year. The change is a sign that the move by congressional Republicans in late 2017 to eliminate the federal income tax penalty for those without health insurance could be contributing to the decline in new sign-ups. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, net enrollment in ACA-compliant individual health insurance plans in Maine totaled 13,669 sign-ups from Nov. 1 through Nov. 17, a decrease of over 31 percent from the 19,880 sign-ups that occurred during Nov. 1-18 in 2017. It indicates a sharp decline following a year in which Maine saw a 72 percent spike in ACA sign-ups over 2016 in the early weeks of open enrollment. The ACA open enrollment period stretches from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 in most states, including Maine. Read the story.



Councilors approve tax break for Scarborough Downs development

Scarborough Downs is on track to be redeveloped into a mixed-use village center under a 30-year, tax-supported plan approved by the Town Council on Wednesday night.The deal with hometown developers was widely considered one of the most important and contentious decisions to face the council in decades, prompting Councilor Don Hamill to fly back from a vacation in Ireland just to vote against it. The council approved a credit enhancement agreement that would reimburse as much as $81 million in property taxes to the developers over three decades if they meet certain goals in redeveloping the 500-acre harness racing venue. Read the story.


Trade group uses loss of construction jobs to rally support for infrastructure

The Portland metro area lost about 400 construction jobs over the past year, placing it among the 10 cities with the highest percentage of such losses in the nation, according to a construction industry trade group. The Associated General Contractors of America held a press conference Thursday in South Portland to make its case for a proposed $1.5 trillion national infrastructure overhaul that would fund road, bridge and waterway projects across the country over the next decade, and with it more jobs for construction workers. AGC economist Ken Simonson said while most cities added construction jobs over the past 12 months, Portland lost such jobs at a faster rate than all but nine of the 358 metro areas nationwide where the trade group tracks construction employment. There are currently about 9,800 construction jobs in the Portland area, down from 10,200 a year ago, he said. Read the story.


Boulos drops CBRE affiliation

Commercial real estate brokerage CBRE|The Boulos Co. of Portland is dropping its affiliation with international brand CBRE Group Inc. after 17 years. Boulos, which operates brokerages in Maine and New Hampshire, said Thursday that going independent will allow it to have more autonomy and build new relationships. The company, founded by Joe Boulos in 1975, said it will drop CBRE from its name as of Dec. 31 but will not make any changes to its ownership, management or personnel. The company has over 30 employees working at its Portland headquarters. Read the story.


New manufacturing facility planned for Gorham

A Massachusetts manufacturer wants to expand its presence in Gorham with a new 76,000-square-foot plant. A public notice about the project indicated it would include 170 parking spots, a hint at how many jobs Harvey Performance Co. could bring to the town. The company makes precision tools and is based in Rowley, Massachusetts. It plans to build on a 13-acre property on Narragansett Street, which is part of a former racetrack, the notice said. Read the story.



Boutique hotel planned for Commercial Street

Another high-end hotel has been proposed on the Portland waterfront, the ninth to be built or planned for Commercial or Fore street in the past 15 years. Developer Jim Brady wants to build the Center Street Boutique Hotel on a half-acre portion of what’s now a surface parking lot on Commercial Street. The 135-room hotel would be designed to match the buildings in the designated historic district, including the Sawsey and Co. building next door, Brady said in an interview Wednesday. Renderings of the hotel show a six-story, red-brick building with tall windows and a rooftop patio on the corner of Commercial and Center streets. They have been submitted to the Portland Historic Preservation Board, which must approve the design, but no site plan or a development proposal has been submitted to the city. Read the story.



Kelp company gets $600,000 grant

A Buxton company that is developing a kelp-based additive for bread has received a $600,000 federal grant. VitaminSea will receive the Small Business Innovation Research grant as follow-up financing to the $100,000 that the company received last year to prove the feasibility and costs of adding kelp to bread and other products made by bakeries. The second phase of financing will allow VitaminSea to develop a prototype and partner with bakeries to develop its own recipes, and conduct market testing. Read the story.



Brewers join wildfire relief effort

Maine brewers have joined Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s fundraiser for California wildfire relief efforts by brewing a special beer and donating all profits. Sierra Nevada created the Resilience Butte County Proud IPA and is asking other brewers to replicate the recipe, while working with suppliers to provide the raw ingredients. Among the 1,000-plus breweries to answer the call are Portland brewers Allagash Brewing Co., Foundation Brewing Co., Liquid Riot Bottling Co. and Urban Farm Fermentory, as well as Kennebunkport Brewing Co., Mason’s Brewing Co. in Brewer, Sebago Brewing Co. in Gorham and Tributary Brewing Co. in Kittery, according to a list on Sierra Nevada’s website. All sales will go to the Sierra Camp Fire Relief Fund, which the Chico, California-based brewery started with $100,000 in seed money. Read the story.

Brunswick man buys historic Portland bar

Joe Christopher of Brunswick bought Three Dollar Dewey’s and acquired its lease at 241 Commercial St. Christopher intends to reopen the pub, which closed in July, by March 1. He also owns Three Rivers Whitewater, a rafting company in West Forks, and the Inn by the River at The Forks and the Sugarloaf Inn, which he acquired in 2017. Christopher intends to renovate Dewey’s, but maintain its rustic atmosphere. He also said he would keep the pub’s signature free popcorn. Read the story.

Saco tears down failed wind turbine

A wind turbine that has stood on York Hill in Saco since 2008 was torn down Friday, after a decade of never meeting expectations. The wind turbine was purchased from and installed by the Colorado-based company Entegrity Wind Systems in February 2008 for about $200,000. At the time, the company guaranteed the turbine would produce 90,000 kilowatt-hours a year for 10 years, valued at about $12,800 per year, and compensate the city if the turbine didn’t make that production goal. But Entegrity Wind filed for bankruptcy the next year, and the turbine never produced close to that amount of electricity, according to city officials. The cost to take down the turbine was estimated at $20,000. Read the story.



Portland considers cannabis zoning

The city planning board unanimously approved out a new marijuana zoning map Tuesday. The proposal, which now goes to the City Council for consideration, would treat adult-use and medical marijuana businesses the same, allowing recreational businesses into the same zones where Portland decided to allow medical dispensaries and grows back in 2010. The city also must adopt an adult-use licensing and permitting process, but will have to wait for the state to complete writing its licensing and testing regulations before it can do so. A three-month moratorium on all cannabis businesses in the city lapses on Dec. 13. Read the story.

Licenses up for grabs in Hallowell

Hallowell expects to be one of the first to award local licenses allowing adult-use marijuana establishments. City Manager Nate Rudy announced last week that the city will be accepting applications for retail cannabis cultivation, product manufacturing and testing facilities, as well as retail stores. The application period ends at 4 p.m. on Dec. 6. Rudy said Monday the licenses would enable an adult-use operation, but any such establishment also needs a license from the state. Read the story.

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