2012: what a year
Camden Herald staff has collected headlines from the past year highlighting some of the highs and some of the lows, briefly excerpted and summarized from stories published in the past year in chronological order.
Pharmacy robberies on the rise
Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne has investigated three robberies that have occurred in the same Rite Aid in that town this year. He only remembers one other pharmacy robbery in his 23 years with the department. Rockland Police Department Deputy Chief Wally Tower, who has been a police officer in the Midcoast for three decades, only remembers one and that was in 2010. Statewide, during the past three or four years, pharmacy robberies and bank robberies, which are also for the most part drug-related, have been on the rise, said James Pease, who is a detective sergeant for the Rockland Police Department and a supervisor for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Development director investigated
State police are investigating the Camden development director for possibly impersonating a state government official who holds the job he once held. No criminal charges have been filed against Camden Development Director Brian Hodges. The state police computer crimes unit obtained search warrants Dec. 20 to seize the computer and computer records at Hodges' office at Camden Town Office and at the home where Hodges lives in West Gardiner. The investigation began Oct. 17 when Maine Community and Economic Development Director George Gervais complained that someone was sending out emails to state employees, purporting to come from Deputy Commissioner Deb Neuman.
Whooping cough comes to Lincolnville
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, has been diagnosed in one student at Lincolnville Central School and parents are being advised to pay attention to symptoms of illness their children may exhibit. The bacteria that causes whooping cough has inched back into the U.S., Maine, and the Midcoast during the past decade. Health officials hoped to eradicate it with mass vaccination; instead, it reemerged, even in countries such as Australia, Canada and Holland, where there are a high number of children receiving the vaccination. The recognition of whooping cough dates back centuries, with an epidemic hitting Paris in 1578. Known as the "dog bark" or "chin cough" it was a leading cause of childhood death, until 1931, when a vaccine was developed. Little whooping cough was reported into the 1980s, but then it began to creep back into the population. Whooping cough presents a sound that some great-grandmothers remember well, but would just as soon forget, with frantic attempts of a small child gasping for air, with little relief, as whooping cough runs its course. According to a notice sent home from the school on Friday afternoon, Jan. 13, the student was diagnosed last week and has since completed a five-day course of antibiotics. The student, according to the school, was infectious from the last part of December into the first week of January until beginning antibiotic treatment.
Appledore crewman falls to death
The first mate of the schooner Appledore who sustained serious injuries Jan. 17 when he fell approximately 50 feet onto the 86-foot ship's deck while working aloft has died, according to a family member. According to Lt. Jeff Fry, senior investigating officer for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West, J.C. Smith, 25, was in a harness and working near the top of the schooner's mast when the accident occurred at approximately 9 a.m. At the time, the Appledore was tied up at the wharf, with Smith and two other crew members on board.
Camden Conference congratulated
At its meeting Jan. 17, the Camden Select Board recognized the Camden Conference and congratulated the organization for "its 25 years of consistently presenting excellent, thought-provoking programs to create greater understanding of world affairs," a press release said. The Select Board also thanked the Camden Conference for establishing an event that "provides an important economic boost for the Midcoast region."
Police Taser disorderly man
Camden police officers responded to the complaint of a disorderly male outside The Smokestack Grill on Feb. 4 at about 11:30 p.m. Officers arrived at the Mechanic Street location to find William Asher, 42, of Rockland, highly intoxicated, according to Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne. As officers attempted to assist Asher, he became quite aggressive with the officers and took a fighting stance, Gagne said. The man continued to challenge the officers and after repeated commands by the officers to the man to get on the ground, a Taser was used on him, police said. "It was quite apparent he had quite a high blood alcohol level," Gagne said, noting police are unsure at this point if other factors were involved as the man was highly combative.
Changes in Lincolnville Center
In describing Lincolnville Center, locals often point to things that used to be, but now are gone: the empty lot where the post office used to be, where Dean & Eugley's auto repair shop used to be, where the "Blue House" apartments used to be, where the telephone company used to be, where the bookstore or the farm stand was, where the schoolkids used to play basketball. There had been small businesses like blacksmiths and cobblers, R.S. Knight's general store, a post office, fire station and school. Today, the stretch of road still bears the alternate name Main Street, but so vague and few are the landmarks that a visitor could easily pass through without experiencing any sense of having arrived somewhere, much less departed. Some, like the fire department, post office and school have moved off the main route. But most notable changes — the ones everyone are talking about — surround the sale last year and planned reopening of the Center General Store, which closed about two years ago.
Hope's new town clerk
The Hope Board of Selectmen appointed a town native to serve as the next town clerk and tax collector. Rosie Bowman was appointed to the position by selectmen Feb. 14. Bowman was born and raised in Hope and continues to live in town. Former Town Clerk Katie Butler resigned from the position last month to take a job with Waldo County District Attorney's Office. She worked for the town for nearly two years, after being hired to replace Florance Merrifield, who retired from the town after 32 years. Bowman begins the job Feb. 28.
Pen Bay Healthcare announces layoffs
In advance of possible reductions to the state's MaineCare program, Pen Bay Healthcare is eliminating some positions, delaying building projects, and not soliciting contract or consultant work. Tuesday, Feb. 21, Pen Bay administrators circulated a letter to staff explaining why eight employee positions — three at Mid Coast Mental Health and five at Pen Bay Medical Center — had been eliminated.
Lawsuit against Camden dismissed
A suit filed against the town of Camden by a former employee who claimed the town violated his constitutional rights was recommended for dismissal this month by a U.S. District Court judge. In early October, former Camden dispatcher Alan Clukey, along with his wife, Dera, said in the suit that the town failed to rehire him and provide due process after he was laid off during a restructuring of its emergency dispatch service. On Feb. 15, Judge John Rich III dismissed two federal counts against the town, and by default, the two state-law counts also cited in the complaint were dismissed. Clukey and two other Camden dispatch employees were relieved of their jobs when the town began contracting dispatch services with the Knox County Regional Communications Center in Rockland. On June 13, 2007, Camden voters decided to discontinue the town’s own emergency dispatch service and join the rest of the county at the central communications center.
Rockport selectmen vote to demolish RES East
In a 3-2 decision, with board members Tracy Murphy and William Chapman opposing the motion, the Rockport Select Board voted Feb. 27 to demolish the former Rockport Elementary School East structures at the corner of Route 1 and West Street. The vote, which occurred at a regularly scheduled select board meeting at Rockport Opera House, came after a lengthy discussion about the feasibility of retaining any of the building sections that comprise the school, in particular the gymnasium and other portions that were part of its original 1954 construction. There was little discussion and no decision as to whether the property would be kept or sold, with no one on the select board advocating for selling it. The town acquired the 7.6-acre site in 2009 when School Administrative District 28 ceased using it as a school. The 40,000-square-foot school building was built in several stages and consists of 12 classrooms, two adult bathrooms, two children's bathrooms, a mail room, a janitor's closet and a boiler room that is accessible from outside the building.
Looking to a future without Walmart
The Rockport Select Board discussed the future of Commercial Street, near the Rockland municipal border, when it met Feb. 27. Chairman William Chapman said there has already been communication between the town and the city of Rockland in regard to the impact on the Glen Cove area after Walmart closes its store at 265 Camden St. in Rockland.
Appleton variance approved, again
The Appleton Board of Appeals voted Feb. 28 to approve a variance, once again, for a Route 131 house that has been in the center of a dispute for about three years. At a November meeting, the board of appeals approved a variance setback from public right of way, but Jacob Boyington, owner of Appleton Ridge Construction LLC, did not use figures from a survey in the first application so a second hearing was organized to correct the record.
Bank robbery foiled
Camden National Bank in Waldoboro went into lockdown March 7 at noon after an employee observed a man near the bank wearing black clothing, a ski mask and glasses, according to Waldoboro police. The man walked out of the woods into the parking lot, and ran toward the rear of the bank, police said. The employee alerted the other bank staff and they immediately locked all the doors, preventing the man from entering the bank. They then called 911. At approximately 11:45 p.m. March 7, Waldoboro police officers assisted by Lincoln County sheriff's deputies executed a search warrant at 756 Bremen Road in Waldoboro where police seized evidence and arrested 41-year-old Carroll B. "Brad" Demmons. Demmons was charged with attempted robbery and was transported to Two Bridges Regional Jail.
More support for Zenith
The Five Town Community School District board nearly unanimously approved March 7 a measure to allow the district's special education director and director of the school's alternative education program to form a committee to better support the Zenith program. A discussion began several months ago looking at alternative education models for students enrolled in the Zenith program and at the Harbor school, located on Route 17, Superintendent William Shuttleworth told the board. Harbor school offers a program for students with emotional disabilities. The item was first brought to the Facilities Committee in February. An idea had come forth that the vacant Farmers Fare building, located on the corner of West and Cross streets in Rockport, could be a possible place to relocate Zenith or to capture students that might do best in a hands-on, farm-to-school, outdoor-type program.
End of a media era
Dear Bar Harbor Times, Capital Weekly, VillageSoup Gazette, VillageSoup Journal and the Scene subscribers, readers and users of our respective websites:
It is with deep regret that I inform you that effective Friday, March 9, 2012, we will discontinue these publications. The company will cease operation beyond that which is necessary to complete the closure process.
The profound changes in the newspaper publishing business, a weak economy and our investment in new products created severe financial challenges. Over the recent months, I have worked with outside professionals to achieve a financial restructuring that would allow us to continue. These efforts failed as of 3 p.m. today, March 9, 2012. We can no longer sustain our operations.
I am deeply saddened by the disruption this brings to the lives of our 56 dedicated staff members.
I am grateful for the loyal support and participation of current subscribers, members, users, advertisers, vendors and my staff. I am confident that others will step forward and replace the loss of professional journalism and community service previously provided by our publications.
Richard M. Anderson
Wildfire smolders for days on Lasell
A wildfire on a privately owned island off of Camden continued to burn on the morning of Sunday, April 15. The fire was reported around 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening, April 14. As of Monday morning, April 16, the fire was reportedly still smoldering but under control. Lasell Island is approximately four miles east of Camden and about four miles west of North Haven's Pulpit Harbor. The fire began on the east, or North Haven-facing, side of Lasell.
All police positions, but one, eliminated
Lincolnville town meeting Saturday, June 16, lasted for more than three hours as residents and town officials discussed numerous articles on the warrant. Cathy Hardy said she wanted to "eliminate all part-time" police presence while continuing to employ full-time Lincolnville Police Chief Ron Young. Hardy said the cuts would reduce the municipal protection budget by $37,906. Hardy and others pointed out Lincolnville is one of the only municipalities of its size in the region with a municipal police force. Lincolnville already pays more than 9 percent of the Waldo County protection budget, Hardy said.
Search for Sage continues
It's hard to drive anywhere in Knox County without seeing Sage's photo. The 14-year-old spaniel mix has been missing from her West Rockport home since May 23. Fred and Gail Ribeck, who have had Sage since she was a pup, haven't given up. Periodic sightings of Sage bolstered the Ribeck's spirits and allowed them to continue hoping their beloved canine would be found alive.The Ribecks said Sage escaped through an unlatched door when they were traveling. Sage — a mix of Brittany and springer spaniel — lost her sight at age 9. The Ribecks said she was diagnosed with a rare disease that cost Sage her vision.
Friday the 13th proves lucky for whale
Friday the 13th is regarded as an unlucky day, but for one minke whale it was precisely the opposite. As Captain Merril Halpern, 78, of Rockport cruised along the Maine coast en route to Frenchboro after departing Roque Island in his 38-foot-sloop Orca he and his crew came upon the whale. Initially the group was excited at the sighting but quickly realized that the whale was in severe distress. After determining the whale was entangled in the lines from a lobster pot, Halpern, crew member Rui Luz, 58, crew member Tom Rodman, 63, and Rui Luz's daughter, Raquel da Luz, 20, decided to radio the Coast Guard. Because Orca was approximately nine miles offshore, the radio transmission was spotty; cell phone reception proved equally bad. As the group stood aboard Orca watching the whale struggle, it became evident that immediate assistance was necessary. Luz, Rodman and Halpern explained the whale would submerge for about 20 seconds before surfacing for an attempt to blow and take a breath. Luz said he asked Halpern for permission to take the dinghy and attempt the potentially dangerous rescue himself.
Adventuress returns to water
More than 1,000 spectators gathered in Rockport to witness Adventuress' return to the water. The 1924 Fife yacht was launched at Rockport Marine Park Saturday, July 21, after undergoing almost three years of intensive work at nearby Rockport Marine. The 83-foot yacht was designed and built by Fife and Son at the Fife Yard in Scotland. Adventuress was built by William Fife III, one in the lineage of revered boat builders, according to the Rockport Marine website. She is one of few large Fifes in North America.
Apple crop fails for some
Sunday, Sept. 2, Bob Sewall and Mia Mantello of Sewall Organic Orchard announced via Facebook that their 550-tree Lincolnville orchard — the oldest certified organic orchard operating in Maine — had experienced a "total crop failure" in 2012. Sewall and Mantello are not alone, according to John Bunker of FEDCO Trees. Bunker said he has heard widespread reports of apple crop failure in mid-Maine this fall, Bunker's own apple crop — at his home orchard in Palermo — has also failed. Bunker said the apple crop failure can be attributed to several factors including a "pretty phenomenal" crop in 2011, high temperature spikes followed by freezing nights in March and budding that occurred about three weeks earlier than it typically does.
Union Hall work progresses
Rockport Select Board members approved several proposals made by Mike Sabatini representing Landmark Corporation Rockport Properties LLC and Glen Cove TND LLC during their regular meeting Sept. 10. After determining that consulting work being performed by Selectman Geoffrey Parker did not present a conflict, Sabatini made a brief presentation citing proposed work to be done in the area of Union Hall. The most noticeable project taking place currently is work being done to the rear wall of the structure. Sabatini said it was discovered the rear wall was severely bowed. “It is in really rough shape,” he said. “The 12-inch [thick] wall bowed 6-inches...it's basically disconnected from the rest of the structure.” Sabatini went on to explain the proposed floor plan of the building, which will house a cafe and market on the first floor in addition to one or two residential units on the top floor.
Neighbors rally to stop demolition
Neighbors of an antique house slated for demolition at 58 Chestnut St. are continuing their efforts to save the residence. Built in 1882, the home was once a livery stable, according to the great-great grandson of the builder, Geoff Pittman. The home is currently owned by Robert Hammer and Sue Crowe, former residents of Lincolnville. Hammer and Crowe were issued a demolition permit for the residence, barn and foundations on Aug. 27. While demolition has not yet started on 58 Chestnut St., Hammer told The Camden Herald in a Sept. 6 phone interview that he and Crowe have donated a number of architectural components salvaged from the existing structures to Habitat for Humanity. From Chestnut Street, the view of the home's interior showed it appeared nearly gutted Wednesday, Sept. 12.
Woman falls 65 feet from Maiden Cliff
A Belfast woman was listed in "fair" condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, after falling from Maiden Cliff while climbing on Tuesday, Oct. 2. Previously published reports identified Maria Millard, 28, as the injured climber. She was assisted by Camden First Aid Association and Camden firefighters after she reportedly fell about 65 feet while climbing on Maiden Cliff in Camden with friends.
New chamber director announced
Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerce announced Staci Coomer has been named executive director, effective Oct. 10, 2012. Coomer replaced Dan Bookham, who left the chamber and now works for Allen Insurance Agency.
Rokes Farm preserved
When Rokes farm in Camden was poised to hit the real estate market in February 2011, a group of interested parties almost immediately materialized. Ideas for the idyllic property — which spans 40 acres and was once an egg farm — ranged dramatically. Nearby, an abutting parcel of historic farmland — owned by the Spear family — was more aggressively on the market. Some considered the heritage of the place and deduced that the farm could be in danger. They took action. Now, with both properties in hand, Maine Farmland Trust must raise $303,000 to place agricultural easements on the properties before committing them to the ownership of private farmers for the next generation, thus the Saving Camden Farmland for Farming campaign is underway. Combined, the properties represent 54 acres of prime Camden farmland.
Angus King and Cynthia Dill debate foreign policy
Two candidates vying for a United States Senate seat took the stage at Camden Opera House on Thursday, Oct. 11, for a foreign-policy centered debate sponsored by Mid-Coast Forum on Foreign Relations. Democrat Cynthia Dill and independent Angus King appeared before a diverse audience with Mid-Coast Forum on Foreign Relations President Mac Deford acting as moderator. Though Republican candidate Charlie Summers agreed to participate in the debate when it was scheduled in July, his campaign canceled the Camden appearance during the first week of October, citing a desire to focus on "town-meeting style" appearances, according to previously published reports.
Farmer's Fare sold at auction
Stuart and Marianne Smith of Camden purchased the building that formerly housed Farmer's Fare on Route 90 at a public auction Oct. 18. Stuart Smith was the sole bidder for the property, agreeing to pay $375,000. The auction was led by Keenan Auction Company of South Portland.
Beer and wine approved at Toboggan Championships
Camden Select Board members heard a proposal for a beer and wine tent during the U.S. Toboggan Nationals from West Bay Rotary during their regular meeting Oct. 23. West Bay Rotary President Sandy Cox spoke to selectmen during the meeting and said the organization plans to make use of the 30-by-50-foot tent currently used for the chili-chowder challenge. Cox said the beer and wine tasting event would take place Feb. 8 from 3 to 7 p.m. on Snow Bowl grounds after the toboggan chute has closed.
Armed jail escapee captured by Rockport Police Chief
Rockport Police arrested and charged a Belfast man on five counts including unauthorized use of property, operating after suspension, theft by unauthorized taking, violation of conditions of release and possession of a firearm by an unauthorized person on Thursday Nov. 1, said Rockport Police Chief Mark Kelley. Victor Pendleton, 21, formerly of Augusta, was released from Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset two days prior to his arrest in Rockport, according to Kelley. He was apprehended at the entrance to the Grassy Pond pump out station by Kelley around 9:45 a.m. Kelley said Pendleton was driving a stolen vehicle and carrying a concealed handgun at the time of the arrest.
Hope school vies for distinguished school honors
Hope Elementary School has been nominated for recognition as a Title I Distinguished School as part of an initiative of the National Title I Association. Hope Elementary School will represent Maine as a Title I school that has exhibited exceptional student performance and has significantly closed the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years, according to an email from Hope Elementary School principal Carol Hathorne.
Camden Hills Political Affairs Forum stirs student debate
“Politics can seem so untouchable sometimes,” Carolin Helmholtz, a sophomore at Camden Hills Regional High School said Friday, Nov. 2. She and about a dozen classmates decided this year to do something to change that attitude by forming the Political Affairs Forum, a group whose original intention was to provide a forum for debates. Senior Emily Ruger proposed the original idea and heads up the group.“People should be disagreeing with each other left and right,” she said, adding she has learned the most about politics by talking about issues and hearing perspectives from both sides.
Local voters approve same-sex marriage
Voters in Knox County supported ballot Question 1, which asked, "Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?" With 86 percent of precincts reporting at 7:30 a.m., Maine residents approved same-sex marriage with an approximate 53 percent in-favor vote, according to Bangor Daily News. The question was the first in the nation to be placed on the ballot by supporters of same-sex marriage, rather than opponents seeking to repeal existing legislation.
Plane crash claims three
Investigation of a plane crash at Knox County Regional Airport revealed a loss of elevator control when the Cessna clipped a pickup truck upon take-off. Three college students were killed in the crash.
More police needed in Rockport?
Increased levels of personnel may be the focus of budget talks in Rockport this year, according to Town Manager Robert Peabody. He said Nov. 19 that select board members have deemed personnel a “high priority” during the upcoming budget cycle. Particularly, Rockport officials hope to make staffing changes at the police department, library and town office, Peabody said.
Camden First Aid Association makes emergency call for help
The ambulance company that provides service to Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville is facing an emergency of its own. Camden First Aid Association is calling for donations from community members to assist in stabilizing the organization's finances, according to a Nov. 22 letter from CFAA Board Chairman Steve Corson. CFAA is a private, nonprofit ambulance service that receives funding from the communities of Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville but, according to Corson, those funds only make up a small percentage — 6.7 percent — of the organization's costs. Corson added Medicare is billed for at least 60 percent of CFAA calls, but only pays a percentage of what is billed. Same goes for MaineCare, according to Corson's letter.
Exploring options for public landing, river to harbor walk
Camden town officials announced receipt of two $15,000 grants to study options for the Public Landing and creation of a river to harbor walk.
Tannery property for sale, again
The former Apollo Tannery site located at 116 Washington St. — owned by the town for nine years — will now be marketed by a commercial real estate broker on the recommendation of the Camden Economic Development Advisory Committee. Selectmen unanimously approved the suggestion, with the caveat town officials or CEDAC approach Watershed School about the property as well.
Trading post closes doors
Pushaw's Trading Post in South Hope will close — at least temporarily — on Dec. 29, said owner Sandy Pushaw. Sandy Pushaw, who owns the store with her husband Jerry and his sister Susan Pushaw, said the closure is due to a marked lull in business. She explained the Pushaw family is optimistic they will be able to re-open the store in the spring, though no decisions have been made yet.
Action plans prioritized
The top three priorities for action chosen from Camden's Downtown Master Plan were revealed to selectmen Nov. 27. Co-chairman of the Downtown Business Group Oscar Verest said marketing, advertising and branding; consistent town-wide sign design and installations; and improvements to Camden Opera House topped a much longer list of goals.
Homeless shelter closes
Mid-Coast Hospitality House officially closed Nov. 27. Mid-Coast Hospitality House was established in 1989 and has functioned as a nonprofit corporation supported by local churches and community members. Hospitality House was the only shelter serving not only Knox County, but also Waldo, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, she said.
Drugs located in student vehicle
A planned stay-in-place drill at Camden Hills Regional High School also allowed two Lincoln County Sheriff's Office canines access to the school, where a small amount of drugs were located inside a student's vehicle.
New dog park opens
PAWS opens a dog park as part of its expansion. In previous months, several locations formerly open to dogs changed rules and banned dogs, including Merryspring.
MOFGA mourns Libby's death
State of Maine flags flew at half-mast in the Kennebec County town of Mount Vernon on Dec. 15 as friends gathered to remember longtime Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Executive Director and renowned organic farming advocate Russell Libby. Libby died at his farm in Mt. Vernon Sunday, Dec. 9, he was 56.
School and law enforcement officials review emergency plans
Local officials review emergency plans and brace for student questions following the death of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. School officials and local law enforcement in most cases already had reviewed emergency plans at the beginning of the school year.
Fourth Ragged Mountain property acquired by land trust
Coastal Mountains Land Trust and The Maine Water Company celebrated completion of its acquisition of the fourth and final piece of a 203-acre property on Ragged Mountain in Rockport. Purchase of this key property permanently protects a large portion of the western slopes of the mountain, a mutual interest of the land trust, the water company, and the former owners, John and Rhonda Hart. The Maine Water Company has purchased this property as part of its ongoing effort to own and manage the watershed of Mirror Lake, the public water supply that serves the towns of Camden, Rockport, Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, and Warren.
Secret Santa makes Christmas for five families
Renys "Secret Santa" pays off layaway items for several people. The woman, who wished to remain annonymous, spent about $150 and paid five accounts, which were days away from being replaced on store shelves, according to store staff.
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