A look back at second-half of 2014

9 years ago

Editor’s Note: The following is the second of two articles highlighting some of the top news stories from 2014. This article highlights the events from July to December.
Compiled by Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer
The second half of 2014 featured a variety of news stories, including everything from the closing of one of the most iconic businesses in downtown Houlton to a tropical storm making its way all the way up to northern Maine. Here is a look back at some of the top stories from the second half of 2014.

July
The final chapter of a storied history in the Shiretown was written as Lynn York decided to close the doors to Yorks Books after 46 and a half years. Yorks Books opened in Houlton in January of 1968 through a corporation formed by the York family and their lawyer, Roland Atchison.
A facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities in Danforth has received nearly $1.4 million thanks to a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office. The Danforth Habilitation Residential Center, a small, home-like nursing facility for individuals diagnosed with co-existent health problems and intellectual disabilities in the Danforth area, used the funds to build a replacement facility.
Helping new and expecting mothers is something the Pregnancy Care Center of Aroostook has been doing for nearly 30 years. And to better serve that purpose, the Pregnancy Care Center’s Houlton location had a new office that offered more privacy to continue serving the public’s needs. The center moved to 56 Military St. in the basement of the former Military Street Baptist Church.
High winds and heavy rains wreaked havoc on the busy July 4 weekend as Tropical Storm Arthur made its way across Maine. An estimated 20,000 customers of Emera Maine and an additional 5,200 from Houlton Water Company were without power for varying lengths of time in southern Aroostook and northern Penobscot and Washington counties as the remnants of what was once Hurricane Arthur made its way across the state. The entire town of Houlton was without power for a 45-minute window, while other areas endured much longer outages. Littleton was without power for more than 24 hours. Bridgewater had a high wind gust of 46 miles per hour, and Houlton maxed out at 44.
It was another night to remember as an estimated 5,000 people crammed into downtown Houlton for the annual “Midnight Madness” celebration, capped off with fireworks over the Gateway Crossing bridge.
For the second time in less than a year, the Houlton branch of the Salvation Army had a new leader at the helm of the spiritual and charitable organization. Major David Wetzel was appointed to lead the Houlton Salvation Army, replacing Damon and Phyllis Hayward who served in that role for 10 months. Prior to the Haywards, Steven and Irma Pearl were in charge of the group for a seven-year period.
Police Chief Butch Asselin was unanimously selected as the town’s next manager. Asselin replaced Eugene Conlogue who served as town manager from September 2012 until his abrupt resignation on April 18.
It was the perfect day for roaming around at the Houlton International Airport for the second annual Wings and Wheels event. Around 2,500 people attended the event, which featured airplanes, skydiving and more.
August
The town was looking to replace two department heads following the surprise resignation of Lori Weston as economic and community development director. Leigh Stilwell resigned as public works director in mid-July.
Road paving was in full swing as the Maine Department of Transportation was in the midst of a $2.35 million project covering a 5.48-mile span in the Shiretown.
The 55th annual Potato Feast Days celebration was another “smashing” success for the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. Jane Torres, executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber said she noticed an encouraging trend at all of the town events during the summer of more families participating.
The SAD 70 school board has one less member following the surprise resignation of vice chairman Tracy Rockwell. Rockwell served on the school board for five years, representing Hodgdon. Her term expired in 2015. In her letter of resignation, Rockwell stated a change in her job now prevents her from meeting her obligations to the district.
The third time proved to be the charm for the RSU 29 budget as voters approved a $12.75 million spending package. The budget failed at the polls two previous times, but managed to pass 304-287.
September
Alumni of Ricker College descended on Houlton Sept. 12-14 for their annual Homecoming Weekend. Ricker College closed its doors in May of 1978, but alumni have been faithfully holding reunions in Houlton since 1995. Ricker College drew students from the Mid-Atlantic through New England and many alumni still travel to the reunion from those areas. This year’s reunion was extra special as it featured a performance by the 1970s rock band Orleans, who played in Houlton at Ricker College on Oct. 3, 1973 with a then-relatively unknown Bruce Springsteen opening for them.
Big changes greeted students in RSU 29 when they returned to school. For budgetary purposes, the district closed Wellington School in Monticello, and relocated nearly 66 pre-kindergarten to third grade students. To make room for those students, the district had changed which grade levels will be contained in each of its three remaining schools. Sixth-graders now attend classes at Houlton High School; grades 3-5 will attend classes at Houlton Southside School; and grades pre-kindergarten to second grade will be contained at Houlton Elementary School.
A wind turbine project nearly nearly six years in the making was taking shape in Oakfield as First Wind was getting ready to erect the first of 48 turbines along the hills of Oakfield. Once complete, it was stated to be the largest single wind farm in the state, covering a span of about 150 acres.
The Aroostook County Jail is facing yet another financial crisis. In what was becoming a yearly event, jail officials told the Aroostook County Commissioners that they simply did not have enough money to make it through the current fiscal year. In fact, the jail was facing one of its largest shortfalls in recent memory, despite efforts to increase state funding by expanding the number of inmates confined at the Shiretown facility.
It was a bittersweet ceremony for the inaugural “Mike and Heidi” Memorial Ride/Walk held in memory of Mike Kitchen and Heidi Pratt. The couple was killed in their home Sept. 23, 2013, before it was set ablaze. The Memorial Ride/Walk goal was to raise $5,000, but that amount was surpassed. The event brought in $6,244, which added to memorial funds in Kitchen and Pratt’s names and will keep the Memorial Fund viable for several years.
October
Officials with the St. Mary of the Visitation church in Houlton were gearing up for what was expected to be a huge celebratory event as the congregation celebrates its 175th anniversary. Four days of celebration were scheduled to commemorate the historic event.
Houlton’s Riverfront Park was the place to be. Thanks to the efforts of the park’s committee, Vital Pathways and Pioneer Broadband, free wireless Internet, more commonly known as Wi-Fi, and a new webcam overlooking the Gateway Crossing Bridge are now available for people to access.
Organizers of the Linneus Haunted Hayride were gearing up for another season of screams and chills, all in the name of good-natured fund-raising. The hayride, which serves as a fundraiser for the town’s recreation department, has been going on for at least 15 years and typically drew between 2,500-3,500 annually and is the sole fundraiser for the Linneus Recreation Department.
Nearly 250 walkers helped raise a whopping $10,442 to help local families in their fight against cancer as part of the Bridge to Hope Cancer Walk. Throughout its nine-year history, the walk has collected more than $70,000, with the majority of those funds going to people in southern Aroostook County.
The Houlton Town Council unanimously approved the hiring of Christopher Stewart as public works director and Nancy Ketch as community development director and grant writer.
The era of 35mm film projection came to end at the Temple Theatre as the cinema was temporarily closed to commence with its digital upgrade.
November
The first of the month brought with it double-digit snowfall in parts of Aroostook, with spotter reports submitted to the National Weather Service figures topping out at 16 inches in Ludlow and Orient. It was one of the earliest in the season that many residents recalled seeing such a large amount of snowfall.
There was a warm tribute at the American Legion, as James “Jimmy” Schools, a Vietnam-era Marine Corporal, received a long overdue “Welcome Home.” Schools, who is battling cancer, received his distinguished pins and certificates that he did not receive upon his return home from Vietnam in the 1970s.
Change was underway for the Houlton Town Council and RSU 29 school board following the November elections. A total of 2,096 votes were cast in Houlton this year. There are about 3,800 registered voters in Houlton. Three of the seven members of the Houlton Town Council were new councilors as Jane Torres, Brent Dickison and Matt Carr were successful in their bids to join the board. Three new faces were also joining the RSU 29 school board as Susan McLaughlin, Susan Tortello and Darryl Scott White were elected.
The town of Ludlow was celebrating its 150th birthday with a special ceremony at the town office. Refreshments were provided and items for a time capsule were be gathered
All-terrain vehicle and snowmobile enthusiasts had a new place to seek shelter from the elements while riding thanks to the efforts of the Aroostook Riders ATV Club. Members of the club erected a lean-to on the “Rail Bed Trail” in Littleton and envisioned the structure being much more than just a simple shelter.
Students at Houlton Elementary School had a special opportunity to meet popular children’s author and illustrator, Chris Van Dusen from Camden. The program was sponsored by the Parent-Teacher Organization and with funds from the Title I program.
December
The Houlton Town Council unanimously selected Florida resident Terry Joseph McKenna as its new police chief. The hiring ends a five-month search for the Shiretown after former Police Chief Butch Asselin was named Houlton’s town manager on July 28.
For the second consecutive year, Houlton Regional Hospital was selected as one of the top nine health care centers in the state. The Leapfrog Group announced its list of “top hospitals” and HRH was included in the list of care centers that “demonstrate the highest standards of care.” The Leapfrog Group is an independent nonprofit organization representing employer purchasers of health care.
On the 100th anniversary of his disappearance of Aroostook County Sheriff’s Deputy Harold C. Hillman of Island Falls, Luke Dyer, a Van Buren police officer, was trying to get Hillman’s name added to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Houlton High School dedicated a seat in its gymnasium for Jack Ketch, a long-time fan of the Shires who passed away.
After 20 years of serving Aroostook County as the Register of Probate, Joanne Carpenter of Houlton retired.
Hodgdon residents and the surrounding community turned out to support a 2012 graduate of Hodgdon High School who had been diagnosed with cancer. A pair of alumni basketball games raised more than $3,000 for Maya Gardiner to assist with medical expenses.