Highlights from first months of 2006

17 years ago

As 2006 comes to a close, The Star-Herald looks back at some of the highlights in the community from January to June. Part II (July to December) will appear in next week’s edition.

January

 • Braden Dennis Doughty was the first baby of 2006 to be born at The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle. The son of Danielle and Ryan Doughty of Easton, Braden was born Jan. 2. He weighed seven pounds 14 ounces. In celebration of the New Year’s birth, TAMC Women and Children’s Health Services staff presented the family with a baby gift basket filled with toys, diapers, clothes and other accessories.

• Sgt. Tom Ward and Alan Dudley of the Maine Warden Service spent the morning of Jan. 4 breaking the ice on the Presque Isle Stream, where it intersects with the Aroostook River, to provide openings for Alex, a cadaver dog with the Warden Service, to try to detect the scent of Tela Hart. The Presque Isle woman was last seen Oct. 9, 2005. Searchers believe she may have fallen into the stream and been swept away by unseasonably high water levels that fall.

• The Presque Isle City Council voted 6-1 not to heat the former Cunningham Middle School despite an earlier vote to do so. According to City Manager Tom Stevens, the Council had to consider whether they should put $40,200 in the budget to cover the expenses involved with keeping the school heated over the winter months. By voting to not heat the facility, councilors were able to take out the expense for fuel, electricity and water, leaving only $5,000 for miscellaneous expenses to be added to the budget. “The Council couldn’t justify such an expense for an empty structure,” said Stevens.

• The Star City’s proposed budget came under fire when residents questioned increasing the city manager’s salary by approximately $10,000, as well as the city’s plan to hire a part-time parking enforcement officer. Residents Roger Thibodeau and Rudy Tardiff did not agree with the proposals and felt  money could be better spent.

• Richard Benjamin resigned from his post on the Presque Isle City Council to move back to New York to be closer to family. City Manager Tom Stevens said Benjamin was “fair” and “a good representative of the community.”

• The Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle was one of five libraries in Aroostook County to receive a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. The grant, which came from the Rose and Samuel Rudman Library Fund, would help support the library’s summer reading program.

• Aroostook County received a $44,520 grant to supplement emergency food and shelter programs. A local board, made up of the United Way of Aroostook and other county organization representatives and leaders, would determine how the funds would be distributed among the local food and shelter programs.

• Gov. John E. Baldacci and the Aroostook County legislative delegation welcomed representatives of the Nordic Heritage Center’s 2006 International Biathlon Union’s Junior World Championship Committee to the Statehouse Jan. 10. The governor and the Legislature proclaimed the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 3 as “Biathlon Youth/Junior World Championships Week.”

• Walter Dearborn was recognized at a ceremony Jan. 12 at the Fort Fairfield VFW where he received the Bronze Star and numerous other medals. A resident of Mars Hill, Dearborn was presented the medals by Col. Scott Field of the American Legion’s Walter Lovely Post 27.

• Maine Public Service Co. announced it had formally notified the Maine Public Utilities Commission of its intention to file for a distribution rate increase in March 2006. The company was seeking to increase its total revenues by approximately $2.7 million. If approved in full, the new rates would result in an increase of about 4 percent on average retail electricity rates.

• Baskets were presented to nine ladies with the Russian biathlon team upon arriving in Presque Isle. The athletes were adopted as part of a project by fifth-grade students at Zippel Elementary School. Items included granola bars, breakfast drink mixes, socks, lip balm, soups, hot cocoa, gum and candy.

• Earl McNeal of Woodland celebrated his 95th birthday with family and friends at the home of his granddaughter, Heather Bragg, of Washburn.

• Caroline Gentile, who taught physical education for many years at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, was honored at a ceremony Jan. 20 for her contributions to physical education at UMPI and throughout the state. Among those attending the ceremony was Gov. John E. Baldacci.

• Lowe’s filed construction plans with the local code enforcement office. Plans called for a store to be built at the site of the former Hoyt’s Cinema at the mall, located on Maysville Street.

• The town of Washburn received a $27,000 National Park Service grant that would be used to construct a basketball court and upgrade existing playground equipment at the Thomas Brewer Park. Parks and Recreation officials said the court would measure 94 feet by 50 feet and be paved with a hoop at either end.

• The Northern Maine Community College campus community was deeply involved in the Biathlon Junior World Championships. Six accounting students helped maintain the financial records, while students in the electrical construction and maintenance program constructed electrical panels that would provide 100-volt receptacles to vendors providing food service at the Nordic Heritage Center during the Biathlon Junior races.

• The Nordic Heritage Center hosts teams from around the world in the Junior Biathlon World Championships Jan. 27-Feb. 3. Fort Fairfield’s Hilary McNamee joined Stockholm’s Russell Currier and Fort Kent’s Newt Rogers on the U.S. National team.

February

    • Three Greenland biathletes received an Aroostook County welcome when they flew into the Northern Maine Regional Airport. Twelve sixth-graders from the Presque Isle Middle School, accompanied by teacher Elaine Hendrickson, made signs greeting the Winter Olympic hopefuls as they walked into the terminal. Hendrickson and her husband, Eric, housed the Greenland athletes who were in Presque Isle competing in the 2006 Biathlon Junior World Championships.

    • Norma (Pelkey) Dawson donated a kidney to her father-in-law, Hampton “Hamp” Dawson of Presque Isle and Ormand Beach, Fla. Uncontrollable blood pressure, combined with kidney failure, brought about the need for a kidney transplant. When tests on blood relatives to find a matching donor failed, Norma decided to get tested and was found to be a perfect match. The successful transplant was performed in Jacksonville, Fla.

    • After considering the advice of SAD 1’s attorney, school board directors voted to convey the Cunningham Middle School property to the city of Presque Isle with the understanding that the building would not be used for elementary or secondary education purposes for the next two years.

    • Members of the Presque Isle City Council voted unanimously to accept the sole bid of $27,000 for the fire department’s ladder truck. The only bid on the vehicle was placed by the town of Limestone. City officials were pleased that the bid came in above their minimum sale price of $20,000.

    • Fifth-grade students from Presque Isle, Mars Hill and Mapleton accepted The Star-Herald’s challenge of designing advertisements for the newspaper’s annual “Newspapers in Education” supplement. The newspaper’s staff went into the classrooms and shared information about the NIE project, as well as told them a little about their respective jobs at the newspaper.

    • Snowmobile and NASCAR enthusiasts teamed up to raise $22,500 for AMHC’s Sexual Assault Services. The organization’s second annual Snowmobile Run, featuring NASCAR’s Busch North Series Champion Andy Santerre, featured a 100-mile ride, autograph session, dinner,  auction.

    • The Presque Isle Fire Department took delivery of its new ladder truck. The truck, which can pump over 100 feet out from the truck, was purchased for $731,000 with the majority of the money coming from the department’s capital plan.

    • The Aroostook Medical Center received funds from the Maine Comprehensive Cancer Consortium’s Skin Cancer Task Force, the American Cancer Society, and the Maine Comprehensive Cancer Control Program to implement the No Sun for Baby Program. The hospital-based program targets new or expecting parents and provides Baby Sun Safety Kits to parents on proper sun safety for newborns. The kit consists of a baby sun hat, beach pail and shovel, inclusion of sun safety information in childbirth education classes, and an evaluation  to be returned by parents.

    • A Fort Fairfield man was killed in a snowmobile accident when he failed to negotiate a right-hand turn, left the trail and struck a tree. This was the first snowmobile fatality in Aroostook County of 2006, and the third recorded statewide.

    • Beth Michaud, a senior at Presque Isle High School, joined close to 250 high school-aged musicians who took part in the 2006 American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division High School Honor Choir. Michaud performed at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

    • Located in Bridgewater, Wood Prairie Farm was chosen as a finalist in the Outstanding Fruit or Vegetable category in the Gallo Family Vineyards Gold Medal Award program. Owner Jim Gerritsen said he and his family grow 16 different varieties of potatoes and sell them both as tablestock or seed. The award competition is designed to recognize and promote artisanal food producers who demonstrate excellence in preserving and supporting traditional ways of growing and producing food products.
• The Washburn Trail Runners Snowmobile Club received a $40,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to be used toward the purchase of a new trail groomer.

    • Nine Northern Maine Community College students and their advisors spent their February vacation performing community service work in the Perkinston, Miss. area which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The group did outside work, clearing glass and debris from people’s yards.

    • Fort Fairfield and Central Aroostook finished first and second, respectively, in the state cheering championships. Both teams used stunts and a whole lot of spirit to take the top spots in Class D. Members of the Panthers’ squad later learn they’ll be heading for Florida over Christmas break to take part in the Capital One Bowl halftime show as part of the All-American cheerleading squad.

March

    • IBU Biathlon Youth/Junior World Championship officials, as well as community merchants and individuals, noted that the event held at the Nordic Heritage Center was very positive. IBU officials were pleased with the good job done by volunteers. Restaurants and retailers saw a rise in sales both during and after the Biathlon.

    • Officials in Fort Fairfield continued to monitor the slightly higher levels of trihalomethanes, a drinking water contaminant in the town’s drinking water supply noting that the levels had already begun to decrease. The utilities district anticipated resolving the problem within six months by enhancing coagulation and sedimentation, reducing the amount of chlorine in the water, and using more groundwater from the town’s well. The water remained safe for human consumption.

    • The United Way of Aroostook held a meeting to introduce a new countywide coalition that would work to address emergency fuel assistance needs in northern Maine in the wake of record high fuel oil and energy costs. Others involved in the meeting were the Aroostook County Action Program, Helping Hands, the Aroostook Agency on Aging, and other  organizations.

    • The University of Maine at Presque Isle planned to host approximately 200 high school students and teachers as part of Foreign Language Day. Many county schools sent their students to participate in mini-classes in language, culture, and folk dancing presented by university faculty, staff, and students.
• Presque Isle Fire Chief Jim Krysiak was placed on paid administrative leave and was temporarily relieved of his duties under the city’s personnel rules and regulations. Until the matter was resolved, city officials declined to comment further.

    • The town of Fort Fairfield’s pool committee made a presentation to the Town Council requesting their support to build a new pool. The pool, which would replace the existing facility built in 1950, would be funded by the citizens and organizations of Fort Fairfield, as well as the town at a total cost of $375,000.

    • A late December snowstorm earned Aroostook County the distinction of being declared a state of emergency by President Bush, a declaration that triggered the release of federal funds to help communities pay for emergency protective measures that were instituted to save lives, protect public health, and property. In addition to municipalities being eligible to apply for reimbursement, other groups including private/religious non-profit groups and those that provide critical services such as power, water, sewer,  and emergency medical care were encouraged to apply.

    • Seth “Brad” Bradstreet III of Newport was nominated to be the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources by Gov. John E. Baldacci. Bradstreet, the owner and operator of Bradstreet Farms, has gained experience through serving on the Maine Potato Board, the county committee of the USDA Farm Service Agency, the Newport Water District, a selectman, the Farm Credit of Maine as a director, former president of the Mid-Maine Young Farmers, and a director for SAD 48. Bradstreet received the Young Farmer of the Year Award in 1994.

    • The Presque Isle Area Chamber of Commerce held its 2006 Annual Recognition Dinner to honor those in the community who have shown dedication to both Presque Isle and Aroostook County. Tim Doak and Melanie Stewart were recognized as Outstanding Volunteers for their work in making the Biathlon a huge success. The Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center earned the Business of the Year Award for turning around hospitality in Aroostook County, while Bob and Lynn Graves were honored as Citizens of the Year for exemplifying the family experience and raising funds for cancer research through fund-raisers like their annual golf tournament. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Audrey Thibodeau for her overall accomplishments in life including teaching for several years in Houlton, founding the A.R. Gould Auxiliary, raising awareness in the area of dyslexia, and creating the Pony Club.

    • Mars Hill applied for a $60,000 community enterprise grant to continue work on a park adjacent to the firehouse. The funds for the park, slated to landscape around the fire station and tear down a couple of old potato houses, would continue the town’s downtown revitalization plans and attract folks into the heart of town.

    • Hoping to bring back some of the town’s holiday spirit, the Mars Hill Town Council decided to buy new decorations to adorn downtown poles during the season.

    • The MBNA Call Center in Presque Isle, which opened its doors in 1998 on Green Hill Drive, closed its doors for the last time. Call centers in Fort Kent, Farmington and Portland were also closed. Bank of America, which merged with MBNA, announced it would reduce the combined national workforce of Bank of America and MBNA by 6,000 employees because of the buyout and duplication of services.

    • The Presque Isle Public Works Department received a grant of $700,000 from the federal government to move the Public Works Department from the Industrial Park to a hangar being used by the Industrial Council. The project would adequately address the needs for office space, storage, and maintenance while reducing renovation costs due to reusing the already existing hangar.

    • Gabe Sexton, a student at the Presque Isle Middle School, won the county spelling bee when he correctly spelled “congealed.” The contest was held March 9.

    • SAD 1 Assistant Superintendent Jeff Bearden reported that $1.5 million would have to be cut from the 2006-2007 budget before being presented at the budget workshop. Increases in energy costs, insurance rates, and cost of living adjustments for all employees contributed to the budget cuts. Until the state promise of 55 percent funding is realized, the remaining costs would fall onto local municipalities.

    • Presque Isle High School students participated in the first-ever AgriScience Science Fair sponsored by the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center. Students were judged on creativity, scientific thought, thoroughness, skill, and clarity in the areas of biochemistry, microbiology, food science, botany, engineering, environmental science, and zoology.

    • Due to a decline in enrollment in SAD 1, one third grade and one fourth grade teaching position at Zippel Elementary School was eliminated for the 2006-2007 school year. This move was part of the alignment to the Essential Programs and Services funding model.

    • Washburn’s Matthew Porter was recognized as the Maine Potato Board’s 2005 Young Farmer of the Year at the Board’s annual dinner and meeting held at the Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center. Porter, a grower for five years, grows about 150 acres of potatoes each year with his wife, Billie.

    • The 2006 Junior Miss and Miss Mapleton Pageants were held at the Presque Isle High School Auditorium. Chelsea Rae Kaiser was named Miss Mapleton, and Whitney LaPointe was awarded the title of Junior Miss Mapleton.

    • Evergreen Wind Power, the developer of the Mars Hill Wind Farm, acknowledged plans are progressing and that the company looks forward to generating power in Aroostook County this year.

    • The Central Aroostook boys’ and Presque Isle girls’ varsity squads cruise through the playoffs earning state basketball titles to bring gold back to Aroostook County. The Panthers beat Richmond 65-55 completing a run in which they beat playoff opponents by an average of 21 points per game. Meanwhile, the Lady Wildcats went into the playoffs no. 1 and finished no. 1 with an 48-36 win over Lake Region.

April

    • Moderator Robert Sawyer read articles 3 through 42, all of which received voter approval during the 25-minute Ashland town meeting. The biggest item approved for the evening was the town’s budget of $1,179,169, which reflected a 10-percent increase from last year’s budget. Also, Dave Milligan and William Lothrop were re-elected to two, 3-year terms on the Ashland Town Council.

    • About 40 citizens turned out for the annual town meeting in Washburn. During the meeting, all 29 articles were approved. Town officials indicated this year’s budget was approximately $1.1 million. Incumbents Mike Umphrey and Kermit Fuller were re-elected to the Town Council.

    • Miss Greater Mars Hill 2006 Tina Tardiff was crowned at a pageant held at the Mars Hill and Blaine Community Center.

    • Bridgewater Grammar School third- and fourth-graders walked away with a $1,000 first prize in this year’s Maine DOT poster contest for their entry encouraging work zone safety.

    • The Ashland Rotary Club donated to the new walking trail that will be constructed in Portage Lake by the Portage Walking Trail Association. The trail will be built between the road and the railroad tracks off of Cottage Road.

    • City officials were given a tour of the former Gouldville Elementary School to help them gain information before deciding whether to accept SAD 1’s offer to turn the building over to the city. More than one room’s ceiling on the third floor showed signs of water damage. Councilors were also concerned about the condition of the boiler area, which turned out to be good.

    • The SAD 32 board of directors voted not to renew Superintendent Roland Caron’s contract. Board chair Cyr Martin said the majority of the directors “did not have the confidence in him and decided not to go with him.”

    • The building permit for Lowe’s was issued by the Presque Isle code enforcement office. Officials said the building cost, without electrical or plumbing permits, was $6,657,818. Construction of the home improvement store, to be located on Maysville Street, would be one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken in P.I.

    • Ashley Sweetser was crowned the 2006 Miss Presque Isle. Sweetser, who performed a hip-hop dance to Madonna and Britney Spears’ “Me Against the Music,” received an $800 scholarship for being named the new  queen.

    • An April 17 accident killed four Ashland sisters and kept Route 11 closed for the better part of the day. The girls were heading north when the driver ended up on the opposite side of the lane. At that point, a southbound tractor-trailer hauling a load of lumber met the car and, unable to avoid the automobile, drove over it.

    • The Presque Isle City Council, in an executive session, voted to oust Fire Chief Jim Krysiak. Councilors agreed that “the employee intentionally and knowingly doubled up on, and received reimbursement for, reimbursement requests to the city of Presque Isle, County of Aroostook, Maine Fire Chief’s Association and Maine Fire Training and Education, and/or a combination or combinations thereof, for the same travel and miscellaneous reimbursable expenses over a five-year period.”

    • Congressman Mike Michaud presented Chester DeMerchant with numerous medals earned in WWII during a ceremony held at the American Legion Post 88 in Presque Isle.

    • Larry Fox, former principal at the Presque Isle Middle School, was approved as the new director of the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center. Fox replaced Melissa Vance who was going to retire at the end of the school year.

    • Turbines for Evergreen Wind Power’s wind farm in Mars Hill ended up coming to Presque Isle to be stored at the Industrial Park. An engineer working on the project called Larry Clark, executive director of the Industrial Council, concerned that they had already run out of room for the large blades in Mars Hill. An agreement was reached and the blades were being stored  at the intermodal site.

    • Residents in Blaine, Chapman, Westfield and Easton participated in their annual town meetings. Voters in Blaine approved a municipal budget of $183,113; Chapman’s budget was approved at $287,572; Westfield at $300,100; and Easton at $669,662.

    • The Easton pageants were held April 22 at Easton High School. Being crowned were Abagale Shaw, Little Miss Easton; Michelle Osgood, Miss Easton; and Abigail Stewart, Junior Miss Easton.

    • Local historian Dr. Richard Graves had his first book, “Forgotten Times: Presque Isle’s First 150 Years,” published. Six hundred copies of the book were made available for purchase, and Graves was featured at book signings in the area. (Watch for more Year in Review in the next issue.)