NEWS
(from the March 2009 Maine Townsman)

Houlton: The police department will start up a Citizens Police Academy on April 8. The program, one of many being tried around Maine, will allow up to 30 residents to learn basic information about highway safety, juvenile correction and other topics. The course will be taught by volunteers such as Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin, state police and other law enforcement officials.

Caribou: Officials met with Gov. John Baldacci in early March to firm up plans to begin construction of a connector between Route 161 and U.S. Route 1, forcing traffic away from the downtown. Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who arranged for the meeting, called it the start of extending I-95 from Houlton north. The project is estimated to cost $20 million.

Statewide: The federal stimulus package passed by Congress in February contains almost $10M for Maine under the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program from a nationwide total of $2 billion. The money will be used to fight drug trafficking and gang violence.

Mechanic Falls: The state will impose heavy fines on the municipality if its public works crew doesn’t stop dumping snow near the Little Androscoggin River. The town has agreed and are figuring out an alternate place for the white stuff.

Waterville: City Hall and a nearby non-profit organization received envelopes on Friday, March 7, containing an unknown white substance. No one was injured, though the buildings were temporarily evacuated until the town’s hazmat team could evaluate the situation.

Westbrook: The historic Warren Memorial Library, citing losses in investments and endowments, announced in early March that it will close this spring. Although a private library, the landmark has been a proud achievement of the community since the Great Depression. The city runs Walker Memorial Library.

Chelsea: The small town near the state capital will become one of a growing number of Maine municipalities to make hunting and fishing licenses available online through a program of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Chelsea residents without a computer can access the online service at the town hall.

Lyman: Special town meeting voters rejected a proposal in February to appoint their town clerk, choosing instead to keep the position as an elected job. The vote was 28-14.

Kennebunk: Selectmen have given their approval to a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District for Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed new grid project. The tax revenue will be captured to help pay for future capital and infrastructure projects and for economic development efforts.

Alfred: Poland Spring officials told selectmen in early February it is not actively looking for new water sources, including a town-owned site the company had previously considered. The company said the site was not appropriate for its needs.

Biddeford: The city council in early February voted to spend up to $50,000 to hire a consultant to study ways municipal government and the city’s school department could merge services and improve efficiency. The vote was 7-2. Councilors are hoping the investment will pay for itself in future savings.

Wells: A York County Superior Court judge agreed with the city’s code enforcement officer and fire inspectors in deeming a 21-unit apartment complex unfit for human occupancy. The complex was considered unsafe, dirty and presented both fire and electrical hazards and the judge concurred. The housing was cleared out by city officials, who then padlocked the property.

Baileyville: A decision by the town’s leading employer and property taxpayer, Domtar, to indefinitely shut down its pulp mill on May 5 is putting serious pressure on the town council’s municipal budget. Officials said that every municipal service is on the table. Town officials also want to sell the town-owned medical building.

Augusta: An abandoned mill owned by Augusta Tissue Co.. has been foreclosed on by the city and will be demolished. The mill closed in 2001 owing the city about $626,000 in taxes and interest. The received 18 bids on demolishing the site, ranging from under $50,000 to $3.5 million. The low bidder, Costello Dismantling of Massachusetts, will get salvage rights to the steel and other materials.

Bar Harbor: Supporters of a 6-month moratorium on larger commercial development in the Town Hill area of town have submitted the requisite number of signatures to place the issue before voters in June. In January, Hannaford had proposed building a 35,000 sq. ft. store on Route 102 in the Town Hill area. Moratorium supporters want the project put on hold until the town has adopted growth and development plans and regulations for this area of town. The moratorium proposal has a retroactive provision in it.

Brunswick: About $10 million of Governor Baldacci’s proposed $306 million bond package would go to redevelopment at the Brunswick Naval Air Station (BSAS). A little over half of the money would be used to retrofit base buildings while the other $4.75 million would be used to make improvements to four buildings on the base for classrooms in an educational partnership between Southern Maine Community College and the University of Maine.

Calais: The city is working on purchasing two new ambulances and a used one. Bids were due on March 25 and the city council was expected to award the bid for the three vehicles on March 26. The city is expecting to spend up to $400,000 to purchase the ambulances.

Ellsworth: Standard & Poor’s has upgraded the city’s credit rating from A to AA-, a two step increase. “We’re very excited about this,” said City Manager Michelle Beal. The improved credit rating comes as the city is preparing to borrow $7 million for a new wastewater treatment plant.

Vinalhaven: Discussion of a proposed wind power project on Vinalhaven attracted over 60 people to a meeting on March 14 at the Blue Hill Town Hall. The meeting lasted two hours. The $14 million Fox Islands wind project received support of islanders last July when they voted 382-2 in favor of it. It is estimated that residents of Vinalhaven and North Haven who belong to the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative could save about half a million each year in reduced power costs.