Empty Spaces Part 1

Wayne Harvey

Updated 6 years ago

Signs of the recession are all around us from people losing their homes and jobs to big losses in the stock market.One blatant sign that’s of concern to local officials is the number of vacant businesses.Those empty buildings, with no business being created, no employees earning a paycheck, are a concern for economic planners in Maine, but it’s not the only thing that keeps them up at night.”Empty buildings are always a source of concern.” Says D’arcy Main-Boyington Brewer’s Director of Economic Development. “I think that with the retail and big box type stores the biggest concern is the perception because to go by and it’s very visible. Those are on well travelled roads and so those buildings are very visibly empty where as a building in an industrial park where there are manufacturers may not be as visible to the public but they cause me more stress I guess because it’s more damaging to the local economy.”One of the problems when it comes to businesses closing in Maine is that it’s not something that can be fixed locally. It’s happening everywhere.The goal is to fill those empty spaces quickly.” We get concerned when it happens” says Rod McKay Bangor’s Director of Community and Economic Development. “And we don’t like to see it happen but generally we don’t have to be concerned for very long before the building’s reoccupied.”McKay continued “The closures you’ve seen have been industry. Circuit City has closed all their stores so it’s not just what’s going on in Bangor, it’s what’s going on in the industry.”In Brewer, their approach is that if they take care of jobs in industry, the retail jobs will follow.”Actually what we do is spend our efforts and our finances to try to attract manufacturing and the value added businesses, not the retail and restaurant type businesses.” Says Main-Boyington “Our theory here is that if the economy is doing well, if we are putting money in people’s pockets through the value added type jobs, then people will have the money to spend on retail and restaurants.”The city of Bangor wants those empty buildings to be filled because that takes the tax burden off residents according to McKay.” Like any other organization our expenses are increasing and they way we can meet these increased expenses without raising the tax rate is by bringing in new development, so that new development the value of that is increasing the amount of tax money we have coming in and allowing us to keep our tax rate stable, so as not to put additional taxes onto property owners.”While neither city actively joins in the recruitment process of new businesses – they leave that up to the leasing companies – both city planners are willing to help, not only during start up of a new business, but says Main-Boyington throughout its lifespan.” We want to help them not only with the start up which is obviously a difficult time for a business but all the way through so we try to make sure that we maintain the relationships with our businesses and that we work on retention all the time and not just new start ups or expansions.”

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Income Tax Down? Gay Marriage Up?

Updated 6 years ago

Democratic legislative leaders in Maine are pushing a plan to lower the state income tax rate from 8.5% to 6.5%, while broadening the sales tax and raising some other taxes.Backers say it would shift more of the tax burden to out-of-state visitors, thus lightening the load on maine residents. Increases are proposed in the meals and lodging tax and the real estate transfer tax.Meanwhile, the author of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine says more than 60 legislators from both parties have signed on as co-sponsors.Democratic Senator Dennis Damon of Trenton said many legislators sought to have their names associated with the bill, prompting leadership to open it up to unlimited sponsorship. Normally, no more than 10 lawmakers can be listed as co-sponsors of a bill.The bill would make Maine the third state, after Massachusetts and Connecticut, to allow gay marriage. Maine law currently defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

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FairPoint Asks For More Time

Updated 6 years ago

FairPoint Communications wants to delay a scheduled $11,250,000 debt payment that’s due at the end of March.The company is asking Maine’s Public Utilities Commission to approve the payment hold off until June. It’s pledging to resume regular quarterly payments after that.FairPoint made similar requests to regulators in New Hampshire and Vermont.FairPoint chairman Gene Johnson told a local newspaper that the debt waiver is a one-time request and that operations will stabilize by summer.Johnson adds that a planned expansion of high-speed internet service is ahead of schedule.

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More Layoffs in Southern Maine

Updated 6 years ago

A company in Auburn that manufactures automobile trunk liners is laying off 152 employees, or half its work force.Formed Fiber Technologies says the decision was prompted by the sharp drop in car sales.C.E.O. Mark Bennett said Thursday that workers who remain on the job also face sacrifices. He said there will be no raises, 401k matches will be dropped, and everyone will have to take a week off without pay each quarter.Bennett said Formed Fiber Technologies is taking steps to ensure its survival so that laid-off workers can be called back when the economy picks up.

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Local Care for Sick Kids

Updated 6 years ago

The folks at Kiss 94.5 got talking about the Children’s Miracle Network on Thursday – it’s their annual Radiothon, live from the Bangor Mall.One hundred percent of the money they raise in this three-day event goes toward medical equipment and therapy for local children.And the need is great. Nearly 150-thousand children received services last year. All the money stays here in eastern Maine, helping the EMHS network of hospitals provide kids with the life-saving care they need.”Without that network,” says Healthcare Charities President Michael Crowley, “young families would have to go to Boston, or well outside their hometown network, in order to receive certain treatments and certain care.””It’s really simple,” says Mandy Exly of Kiss 94.5. “Thirty cents a day and you can help save the life of kids right here in Maine.”The Radiothon runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Bangor Mall’s center court.If you’d like to donate, you can call 1-888-499-5437.

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Domestic Abuse and the Economy

Updated 6 years ago

In tough times, the entire family can feel the effects of a job loss or a financial struggle, but for those touched by domestic abuse, the pains of a bad economy can run much deeper.”I think our economy has made people who are already perpetrators do this more and worse and it has made a few people who might not otherwise have been as violent, be more violent.” Says, Francine Stark, Training Coordinator at Spruce Run.She adds, an abuser’s way of thinking stems from the need for control.”Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior, of coercive behavior, that may or may not include physical violence. But it’s the perpetrator using this to have control over their partner, over their children, and their family.”She says some may use tough financial times as an excuse to lash out.”People that have a pattern of being abusive, in these times, it’s another excuse for them to use all the kinds of tactics they’ve been using before or get even worse.”Stark says the struggling economy and bad job market is also making it more difficult for those in an abusive situation to get out.”Many of the victims of abuse are losing their jobs and losing their hopes for plans they have to try to get away to make things better.”Stark explains, one good thing is that, despite the bad economy, there are still places victims can go to get help.”We still have a legal system in place that serves to assist people in extending their safety. Law enforcement is going to be just as responsive to people who are abusive in these times as before these times.”Spruce Run is still able to operate on a 24 hour basis and help people find the resources they need.For more information on domestic abuse or to get help, you can contact Spruce Run by calling their 24 hour hotline at 1-800-863-9909 or visit their website at

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Back to Basics part two

Updated 6 years ago

Are you tired about the high cost of energy?Worried about chemicals and other things found in your food?You’re certainly not alone…In fact, there’s a growing number of people who are taking things into the own hands and living more like our ancestors did…. Tonight we’ll meet a couple from Hancock who are among those that are getting back to the basics..and watch out for the stampede. Okay we’re going to get your supper. Gonna get your supper…Welcome to the three pines bed and breakfast in Hancock… Not a typical b and b….ed and Karen Curtis are retired engineers who worked in the aerospace industry…back in the early 1990’s the couple decided they had enough of working in an office and decided to move to maine. I wanted to stay home…. I like the outside part of it. Working outside after sitting at a desk for so long under flourecent lights”…What they’ve done is create a place that others dream about… They grow their own vegetables which the eat all year long… They make maple syrup, honey, raise chickens for eggs and sheep for their fleece”.. once a year we have the sheep shorn. And Karen washes it and I cant it and then spin it. She also has taken it down to fiber festivals and sold some fleece”..And when they learned how much it was cost to run electricity to their home the Curtis’ decided to invest in solar power—something ed has always been interested in.. Now, they’re completely off the grid… They generate enough power to run their home and b and b… They even have a solar panel that runs the water pump and lights in the barn… so we try to be as self sufficient as possible”..”was that a goal of yours”?”i think so. It kinda came together that way”… I haven’t bought a vegetable in quite a few years”….”that’s gotta feel good”…”you know exactly what you’re getting. We grow organicly although we’re not certified. We know exactly what’s going into the soil so we know what we’re getting out. I save as much seed as I can from the vegetables so I know where that’s coming from”…You might think that it would take a lot of hard work to live the way they do, and you’d be right…but the Curtis’ wouldn’t have it any other way… They know where their next meal is coming from, they live environmentally friendly and they do it in one of the most beautiful spots around… Not surprising why so many people want to get back to the basics… I just like getting out and doing the physical part of it. I feel better. Feel more healthy”You can visit our website to see this story again and to find links to websites that can help you get back to the basics…You’ll find information that will help you grow a better garden along with information on a rebate program for those who buy solar power equipment here:University of Maine Cooperative ExtensionGarden InformationSolar PowerThe pines bed and breakfast

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Brewer Housing Authority Gets Grant

Updated 6 years ago

The Brewer Housing Authority has gotten a grant for nearly $50,000 that aims to make their residents more self sufficient.The money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will support the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.It helps residents in Brewer’s Public Housing set goals for education, jobs and home ownership. Then gives them the resources to help them achieve them.Brewer Housing Authority Executive Director Gordon Stitham says the program is important. “You’re taking someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to either go on to school or to better themselves as far as education, better themselves as far as getting some assistance for childcare, so they can go on to work.”Stitham says they’ve been offering this program for the past several years and its been a success.In the past year, six tenants have moved out of public housing and into their own homes.

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Organizers readying for American Folk Festival

Updated 6 years ago

It sure doesn’t feel like it now, but before you know it, August will be here, as will the American Folk Festival on the Bangor waterfront.Organizers say the look of the event will remain the same but there will be some schedule changes and a new twist to raise money for the event.”The 2009 American Folk Festival is going to continue the tradition of providing a world class cultural and musical experience for the people of this region.”Organizers of the American Folk Festival have been busy making plans for this year’s event.”People can anticipate the majority of the festival to be just like last year…with a whole new lineup of performers.”Eight of the planned 22 acts were announced this week.”Blue grass is one of the major traditions that is very important to our audience…so this year we’re bringing Danny Paisley and Southern Grass up from the Virginia area our stage.””From Quebec city, a quintet of singers who go by the name of *Les Charbonniers de L’enfer.””We have a 300 year old dance tradition that’s Indian.””This will be the first year that we’ve been able to present Brazilian music.”Along with new acts like Cherish The Ladies, from Ireland, and Lil Ed and Blues Imperials, Reggae from Clinton Fearon and traditional Cajun music from The Lost Bayou Ramblers, organizers have added a fundraiser to the mix.The “festival countdown concert”, will be held May 16th at the Collins Center for the Arts, in Orono.Organizers say it costs over a million dollars to put on the folk festival.They are hoping the event, featuring the Acadien ensemble Vishten, and blues group Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy, will raise almost 40 thousand dollars for the cause, and help keep admission to the event free.”One of the primary goals of our festival is to make sure that we can do this as a celebration of culture, music, and community, without having to do something that we feel would change the nature of this festival…so it’s very important to us that we maintain the festival as an event that does not require an admission fee.”The American Folk Festival is scheduled to take place August 28th, 29th and 30th.

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Kids in Garland Excited About Reading

Updated 6 years ago

Kids at elementary schools all over Maine are getting excited about reading this week.It’s all part of a national promotion called “Read Across America.”Amy Erickson has more.bite 3: “a lot of people think kindergarten is too early but that’s actually where the window of opportunity is. Kids are sponges at this age and can just take right off.”These kindergarteners at the Garland Elementary School love reading…and it shows…bite 11: ‘here comes the yellow power ranger.”Not only are they reading on their own…they’re even writing stories!Their teacher, Kelly Gay, knows how crucial it is to instill a love of reading early on…bite 1: “especially in kindergarten is when it’s very important to get kids to not only want to be read to but to be excited about learning to read and this is just one way to get them excited.”bite 4: “i read at home and in school.”On Thursday, as part of “read Across America” week, Gay invited guest readers into the classroom…including yours truly…bite 10: “let’s get a pet, said jack one day. I promise i’ll look after it.”bite 2: “they have to listen to me read 4-5 times a day so to have someone else come in…i’ve had community members, my parents…they’re glued to it when someone else is reading.”Sheriff’s Deputy Sean McCue also took a turn in the reading chair…(nats of McCue reading)bite 8: “it’s good for us to come here because reading is part of learning and it gets the kids to meet us in their environment so they’re more comfortable with us.”bite 9: “it’s always fun and the questions very rarely have to do with the book, but that’s ok, too.”Riley Thompson told us why she loves books.bite 5: “sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re fun, sometimes they make you learn stuff.”Her classmate, Blake Thompson, has a different reason.bite 7: “um…the pictures.”Amy Erickson, WABI TV5 News, Garland.

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Burglary Surprise

Updated 6 years ago

A caretaker on Mount Desert Island got a big surprise on Tuesday.Police say the caretaker went to check on a summer residence in the Pretty Marsh section of Mount Desert after getting a report about an alarm going off.They say that when he arrived a man was still inside the home.43-year-old James Grindel is being charged with burglary.Authorities say Grindel confronted the caretaker and rammed the caretaker’s car several times with his own vehicle while he was leaving.Grindel was eventually arrested in Tremont.Police say more charges are possible.

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Textile Plant Layoffs

Updated 6 years ago

True Textiles has been hit with more layoffs in recent days.Employment at the three plants in Guilford and Newport has reportedly dropped over the past several months from about 650 to between 450 and 500.90 workers were laid off in January, and operating hours were subsequently reduced from three shifts to two to help put production in balance with sales.True Textile, whose three plants were formerly known as Interfacefabric inc. and Guilford of Maine respectively, says it has no plans to close the Maine operations.

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Blue Hill OB Unit’s Future Still Unsure

Updated 6 years ago

The fate of the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital’s obstetrics unit is still up in the air.The hospital was headed for bankruptcy when they started tightening belts back in December.To start the hospital cut 30 positions, then the board of trustees voted in February to cut the OB department unless supporters could raise $600,000 by March 10th.Efforts fell short of that goal, but they did raise a significant amount of money. Now supporters are waiting to see what happens. “I think there’s a lot of people within the Hancock County area that use Blue Hill, and I think they’re probably a lot of anxiety knowing they would have to travel the extra distance to Bangor.” A former patient of Blue Hill Memorial told TV5 on Wednesday.Hospital officials say the state owes Blue Hill Memorial $3,000,000 in payments.Dr. Erik Steele did meet with the obstetrics staff on Tuesday and thanked them for their hard work and congratulated them on raising the money for the program.Dr. Steele then began planning for the next fiscal year in budget meetings.They say the economic stimulus monies that are part of the Mainecare settlement will be included in discussions, but they need to analyze all the information before finalizing the budget.The administration of the hospital will be looking at whether the stimulus money and the funds raised by the staff will be enough to preserve the OB department for another year.

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More Laptops for Maine Students

Updated 6 years ago

Maine is expanding its program to put a computer on the lap of students to include all 7th through 12th graders.The education department announced on Wednesday that the state is negotiating a four-year lease with Apple inc. for 100,000 laptops.That’s enough for all students and staff.The price tag would reportedly be about $25,000,000 per year.Maine kicked off its first-in-the-nation program by distributing more than 30,000 computers to each 7th and 8th grader in public schools in 2002 and 2003. About 30 high schools also have laptops: now the remaining 100 or so public high schools would get them.

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Augusta Area Votes to Close Schools

Updated 6 years ago

Two school departments voted on Wednesday night to each close a school.School officials in Augusta unanimously voted to close Hodgkins Middle School, and the Brunswick School Board voted unanimously to close Hawthorne Elementary School.The Augusta School Board cited budget constraints for the closure of Hodgkins, or the district could have ended up laying off some teachers.

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They Do the Math

Updated 6 years ago

Hundreds of high school students put pencil to paper today – it’s math meet time.In our part of the state, 31 teams from 18 high schools gathered at Bangor High School for the Eastern Maine Regional Math Contest.It’s the last meet of the year, and we hear the questions are tough.Joshua Scripture has been the captain of the Bangor Red Team – one of the top teams in the state.As a senior, this is his last math meet ever. He says that means it’s a bittersweet competition.”I look back at all the great memories I have,” Scripture says. “These math meets may seem kind of weird for some people – that math meets would be fun – but it’s a blast for a lot of people.”He says along with hanging out with his friends, he likes the chance to tackle truly challenging problems you just don’t see in class.

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Women and HIV in Maine

Updated 6 years ago

There are more than twelve hundred people living in Maine with HIV. Even rural areas aren’t immune. Organizers of a panel discussion at Colby College Wednesday hope that by talking about it, they can help prevent more cases.”It’s fallen out of the headlines,” says Sean Douglas, with HealthReach Harm Reduction. “We don’t see red ribbons at the Oscars anymore.”But HIV isn’t going away, and there are people living with the disease all over the state.”Traditionally, I think people will think of HIV as something gay men get or injection drug users get. But women are the one of the fastest-growing groups that are contracting HIV in the U.S.,” says Eliza Quill, with HealthReach Harm Reduction. That’s why she says the focus of Wednesday’s panel discussion was women, living with HIV in Maine.”I thought my life was over,” says one panelist.”People just don’t realize it. Especially in Maine…we have 1243 people living with HIV in Maine – but that’s only the people who have tested positive in Maine,” Quill says.She estimates there are an additional three to four hundred people in Maine with HIV who don’t know they have it – and that’s cause for concern.”Because it tends to be the folks who don’t know what their HIV status is who will end us spreading it unknowingly,” Douglas says.Quill says there are more than 56,000 new infections in the U.S. every year. “A third of those are women, and half are under the age of 25,” she says.Organizers hope to de-stigmatize HIV, and promote safety first. They say a quick, 20-minute test can tell you your status.”It’s just an oral swab, we don’t do blood tests anymore,” Douglas says.They’re hoping that, by talking about it, they can get past what people use to think about HIV.”This notion that, it’s not in my family, it’s not in my neighborhood, it’s not in my community,” Douglas says, “when in all actuality it’s touching all aspects of Maine.”For more information and local resources, you can go to:

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Annual Tree Tapping

Updated 6 years ago

It’s wasn’t a beautiful spring day, but that didn’t stop Gov. John Baldacci from participating in an annual event that serves as a harbinger of spring. Baldacci was joined on a rainy Wednesday by Lyle Merrifield, president of the Maine Maple Producers Association, as he tapped a maple tree on the lawn of the Blaine House.Maine Maple Sunday is fast approaching. The event, scheduledeach year for the fourth Sunday of March, will be held on March 22. Baldacci noted that maple syrup is a multi-million dollar industry with licensed producers creating 215,000 gallons of syrup last year.

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Back to Basics

Updated 6 years ago

For many generations people had to work hard to live…They raised much of their own food, made their own clothing and anything else they had to do to get by….Now, it appears that more people are getting back to the basics…The troubled economy and concerns about the food we eat are driving factors…We decided to see how some Mainers are becoming more self sufficient… Bob Cataan is a man who trully does wear many hats… A pharmacist by profession—bob is also a farmer, a timber harvester and veteranarian. I like the animals that are really big. They’re big enough to kinda scare you. Bob didn’t grow up with farm animals, but they’re certainly a big part of his life now.. When he’s not tending to the cattle or other critters–he can be found doing any of the scores of jobs that keep him busy…Bob is among a growing number of people who are getting back to the basics… They’re raising more of their own food and using the environment to not only save money, but to also give them peace of mind… I don’t think it was a cost savings measure, but the quality of food is dramatic compared to the grocery store. You know where everything comes from. You know what it was fed. You know what went into it regarding medicine…He’s certainly not alone… The city of Portland recently passed an ordinance that allows residents to have up to 6-hens at their homes… One of several Maine communities that have done so… There are also some people who still harvest ice during the winter like these folks in northern Maine. It will be used all summer long to keep food from spoiling and drinks nice and cold…”you might ask yourself, “what possesses grown men and women to venture out in 33 degree below zero weather to cut chucks of ice out of a frozen lake?” for the owner of several sporting camps it’s, in the words of Hank Williams Jr. A family tradition”..Family is also a big reason why bob Cataan has created his little farm.. He says you may save a little money raising your own food—once you make the initial investment for animals and equipment–but that’s not the reason he does it… He does it for his family. “do you like having animals at your house?””yeah” “why?” it’s so fun”.. they have more respect when they go to eat their dinner. At night they know what went into it from the beginning to the end. So when you leave extra you’re leaving all the extra work you did. And if there is anything extra, nothing gets wasted. It goes right back”…Just like out ancestors did … they didn’t have a choice. If you have an opportunity it’s a great way to show your kids how farm life is or how animals are and how to take care of them. Teach them some responsibility. It’s kinda a growing experience.

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Starting Your Garden Early

Updated 6 years ago

The first official day of spring is just around the corner, but with snow still covering the ground, Mainers have to go indoors to start their spring planting.”It’s really to extend our season, we don’t have enough days to grow many plants effectively.” Says Gleason Gray, a professor at the University of Maine Cooperative Extention.To give your vegetables a good head start, you should let them germinate inside before transplanting them to your garden. But growing plants indoors takes more than just a green thumb.”The major factors are temperature, light, water, and the growing medium that you use to plant the seeds in.” Says Gray.He says a heating mat should be used to warm the soil to 70 degrees, growing lights should be put above the plants, and the best soil is a well-drained greenhouse mix. Once you have the right conditions, Gray says it’s just a matter of timing.”One of the earliest vegetable seedlings would be pepper plants which is 8 weeks before you plant it out, tomato plants are 6 weeks before you plant them out and then when you get to the vine crops it’s only 2 to 3 weeks.”He says the best time to plant vegetables outside is the end of May, so the earliest you should start planting inside is the beginning of April. He says it’s easy to see when a well-grown seedling is ready for transplant.”When it’s ready for transplant it will not be tall and streched, that means it’s had a enough light, it means it’s been grown at the right temperature, and it will have a good root system.”He says reading the back of the seed packages will help novice gardeners know how early to plant and what care is needed.For more information on growing seedlings indoors try these helpful links.•University of Maine Cooperative Extension – free online newsletter for home gardeners. •Marjorie Peronto, an educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, has published a guide on starting seeds at home. •University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers an extensive array of gardening information You can also call your local Extension office. In Penobscot County,the number is 800-287-1485 (in Maine) or 942-7396.

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