Year End Review

Election, MET, Rockport library dominated headlines in 2018

By Staff | Dec 31, 2018
Highlights from The Camden Herald in 2018. Top left photo courtesy of Michele Stapleton.

The top stories of 2018 for The Camden Herald were the results from election day Nov. 6.

Residents in Camden and Rockport approved borrowing $4.9 million to preserve and repurpose the Mary E. Taylor school building, an issue that had driven debate for years.

"I am thrilled with the results of the election," said Alison McKellar, who led the effort to preserve MET. "It was a big ask of the voters and we saw an impressive level of support for our historic architecture and outstanding educational programs."

Democrat Vicki Doudera of Camden, known locally for selling real estate and writing mystery novels, was elected Nov. 6 to serve House District 94 in the Legislature. She defeated incumbent Owen Casas, I-Rockport, by a vote of 2,944 to 2,647.

Democratic State Sen. David Miramant of Camden defeated Republican challenger Wendy Pelletier of Hope by a margin of 12,325 to 7,180.

Miramant won his third consecutive two-year term representing State Senate District 12, which includes all of Knox County except the town of Washington.

And after five years of debate and extensive effort on the part of volunteers, the new Rockport library gained the community's approval in the Nov. 6 election.

Voters approved a $1.5 million bond for the new library project by a vote of 1,067 to 922.

They also approved a $300,000 "bridge loan" to provide funding if needed for design, construction and equipping of the new library by a vote of 1,025 to 891.

"I am extremely pleased," said Town Manager Richard Bates. "It has been number one on my goals for my whole tenure here. It is time to get it built and start to bring this great community back together again."

In Camden, voters resoundingly passed a ban on plastic bags that was placed on the ballot by citizen referendum.

While it is impossible to encapsulate an entire year of news in any one story, here are a few of the other highlights from the year that was 2018:

Winterfest

Winterfest 2018 included a polar plunge and the carving of ice sculptures on a bitter-cold Saturday in February. The fest included numerous activities leading up to the 2018 U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl.

Unfortunately, the championships were plagued by unseasonably warm conditions and persistent periods of rain throughout the weekend, but that did not dampen the spirits of the many who participated.

Those hardy souls were part of the annual toboggan celebration and pageantry with over-the-top costumes, and much-anticipated, albeit wet, thrill rides down the historic 400-foot wooden chute to snowy, frozen Hosmer Pond.

Students speak out

Pearl Benjamin, a 16-year-old high school student from Camden, gave a powerful speech March 1 at the State House calling on legislators to do more to protect teens from gun violence.

She attended a rally of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition along with her mother and four of her classmates. She delivered a stern warning to lawmakers that they must take action or they would be replaced.

"When my parents were teenagers, the norms were cassette tapes, cigarettes and boom boxes. In my generation, what’s normal are smartphones, Netflix, SnapChat ... and mass shootings," she said. "...Why do my classmates and I now expect regular 'lockdown' drills to prepare for the threat of an armed peer? Why have we been burdened with anxiety at our schools, afraid that ours might be the next to fall victim to an angry guy with a gun?"

Benjamin has since become a regular columnist for The Camden Herald.

The issue of gun violence in schools continued to be a concern among Camden-area young people in 2018.

Nearly half the students at Camden Hills Regional High School participated in the national school walkout March 15 and listened to speeches from their classmates calling on lawmakers to take action to keep children safe from gun violence in schools.

"We will not be silent as our peers are murdered," Lindsey Reilly, 17, of Hope, said into a megaphone before the assembled students. "We will not be silent as our lawmakers take the NRA's dirty money. We will not be silent as we are told we are too young to make change."

Rockport Town Office goes viral

The Rockport Town Office was closed April 17 because of a computer virus sent Friday, the 13th, attacking town servers.

Town officials said there was no theft of data, but files were encrypted in an attempt extort a ransom to get the encryption removed.

Information technicians worked throughout the weekend to restore the encrypted data and rebuild the town's network. Town Manager Rick Bates said the Town Office was closed for employees to re-enter transactions from April 13 and tax payments, before the office could begin processing new transactions.

The Town Office reopened April 18.

Graduation

Rows and rows of gown-clad young men and women lined up outside Camden Hills Regional High School’s gymnasium June 8 as they awaited their graduation ceremony.

Camden Hills graduated 156 students in 2018, with one going into the military and 120 going on to further their education after high school.

Every year, a guest speaker is selected by the class officers to pass on some words of wisdom to the new graduates, and this year it was Chris Van Dusen, children’s book author and illustrator.

John French retires

John French retired from the Camden Select Board in June, after completing seven consecutive terms, and serving on the board for 21 years.

Strawberry Festival

Strawberries, summer sunshine, a parade and music in the shade drew a multi-generational crowd to the 25th Annual Strawberry Festival held in Lincolnville Center July 14.

Homemade strawberry shortcake with whipped cream was served, along with pies, inside the Community Building, and hot dogs were grilled outdoors. Members of the United Christian Church even picked and hulled the 180 quarts of strawberries from Raven's Berry Farm in Freedom, and made the shortcakes.

LifeFlight Swim

Despite a rainy start to the day, droves of swimmers and their attendants in kayaks or paddle boards took the plunge into West Penobscot Bay Aug. 12, making their way from Northport to Islesboro in the sixth annual LifeFlight of Maine Islesboro Crossing.

LifeFlight Director of Communications Melissa Arndt said nearly 140 individuals swam in the event, which raises funds for LifeFlight.

Arch nemesis

The storied Camden arch was struck by a delivery truck, forcing the town to dismantle it and close Union Street for a time. The arch was repaired in October.

Windjammer Festival

Hundreds of visitors made their way to Camden Harbor Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 to attend the 25th annual Camden Windjammer Festival, which featured a parade of schooners, lobster-hauling demonstrations and a variety of nautical-themed competitions for people of all ages.

On Sept. 1 dozens of children participated in the First Fish Relay Race at the Public Landing. Teams of two donned rain slickers, hats and gloves and attempted to toss mackerel into lobster claw-shaped traps.

As schooners made trips throughout the harbor and ferried passengers along the Camden coast, those on shore were treated to musical performances, face-painting booths and the occasional pirate sighting by Maine-based professional buccaneers Pirates of the Dark Rose.

Middle School groundbreaking

The community celebrated the new Camden-Rockport Middle School's groundbreaking Sept. 13.

The planned opening of the new school is September 2020.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included SAD 28 Superintendent Maria Libby, CRMS Principal Jaime Stone, SAD 28 Board Chairman Matt Dailey and sixth-grade student Charlotte Delahey.

Libby called the path leading to the groundbreaking "a long journey." She recounted how, as the former CRMS principal, she brought her concerns about the condition of the middle school building to the school board in 2008 and again in 2012. A formal plan was initiated in 2013 to build a new school and renovate the Mary E. Taylor building.

"After a failed vote in 2015, we all pulled up our bootstraps, made a stronger case, engaged the community more thoroughly, and secured voter approval in June of 2017," Libby said. "Those challenges were perhaps the harbingers of what was to come, for we have had our fair share of challenges since."

Christmas by the Sea

The community gathered to celebrate Christmas by the Sea in downtown Camden Nov. 30, with songs, the annual parade, discounts at local stores, and fundraising for local causes and student organizations.

The Dark Lord of the Sith, aka Eric Blumenthal of Appleton, makes his way out of the water at the Polar Plunge in Camden Feb. 3.
Event co-chairman Holly Edwards leads the colorful sea of characters involved in the costume parade at the U.S. National Toboggan Championship Feb. 10 at the Camden Snow Bowl.
Toboggan races at the Snow Bowl.
Pearl Benjamin gives a speech calling on legislators to do more to protect teens from gun violence March 1 at the State House in Augusta. (Photo by: Michele Stapleton)
Students from Camden Hills Regional High School gather outside to observe the national walkout protest against gun violence in schools March 15.
Servicemen and -women march through downtown Rockport on Memorial Day.
Graduation arrives. Kyle Wood takes a photo of, from left, Cooper Russell and Trevor Iltis. (Source: File photo)
Phyllis Baker adds whipped cream, the finishing touch, to homemade strawberry shortcake at the Strawberry Festival July 14. (Source: File photo)
LifeFlight swim. (Source: File photo)
2015: Select Board Chairmen Bill Chapman (Rockport), left, and John French (Camden) keep it fun while competing to see which town would get the most donations for an American Red Cross Blood Drive. (Source: File photo)
From left, Camden-Rockport Middle School students Wesley Mayhorn and Cadence Ankers and principal Jaime Stone, Rockport Town Manager Rick Bates, Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell, CRMS Building Committee Chairman Will Gartley, SAD 28 Superintendent Maria Libby, school board Chairman Matt Dailey, Ledgewood Construction project manager Peter Reynolds, Oak Point senior architect Tyler Barter and Ledgewood assistant project manager Justin Hibbard pitch in for the official groundbreaking Sept. 13 for the new Camden-Rockport Middle School. (Photo by: Erma Colvin)
The Camden Arch had to be repaired in 2018 after it was hit by a truck. (Source: File photo)
Charles Moss dashes across the harbor in the Lobster Crate Race at the Windjammer Fest. (Source: File photo)
Sen. Dave Miramant was reelected in November. (Source: File photo)
Rep. Vicki Doudera was elected in November. (Source: File photo)
The new Rockport Library funding gained approval in the November election. (Source: Town of Rockport)
Lyman Morse is all lit up for the annual Christmas by the Sea parade in Camden, sponsored by the Camden Area Business Group. (Source: File photo)
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