Presque Isle area Year in Review (Part 2)

Compiled Paula Brewer, Special to The County
6 years ago

Editor’s Note: As 2018 begins, The County takes a look back at some of the top news stories of 2017 in and around Presque Isle. In this second of a two-part series, we present highlights from July through December.


The Presque Isle Historical Society on July 1 celebrated the grand opening of the historic Maysville Grange Museum. Renovations transformed the former fire-ravaged Grange building to a bright repository of local history.

Teens involved with this year’s Survivor Aroostook camp at the Northern Maine Community College Campus went on full alert during a mock disaster drill, putting the medical skills they learned earlier in the week to the test.

Three months in, Presque Isle’s city-run ambulance service was running smoothly but aiming for more volume, according to fire chief Darrell White. White told the PI City Council that emergency services were going “very well,” with quick response and transport times and smooth collaboration with the emergency room staff.

Jurors heard the case against Robert Craig, an 81-year-old Florida man accused of killing Leo Corriveau, an elderly acquaintance, at his Presque Isle home. After less than 45 minutes of deliberation Friday, they found Craig guilty of murder in the death of 86-year-old Corriveau.

City officials started a conversation with regional Amish community leaders on ways to address residents’ complaints about horse manure in roadways and public areas.

Northern Maine Community College chef Rob Ottaviano’s Aroostook County lobster roll recipe was a top-three finalist after judging by 250 VIP ticket holders at Down East  magazine’s World’s Best Lobster Roll Competition and Festival at Thompson Point in Portland on Saturday, July 8.

A July 15 crash seriously injured 16-year-old Quintin Thompson of Washburn. In the aftermath, local resident Damian Languell rushed to the scene and pulled the driver from the burning remains of the vehicle.

Matt Bell of Ashland’s Northeast Pellets traveled to Washington to meet with President Trump. Following the president’s signing of the softwood lumber agreement in the spring, Bell asked Trump if he would consider incorporating wood pellets in the agreement. The U.S. Trade Commission invited Bell to Washington to meet with other independent small business owners.


Visitors visited local gardens Saturday and helped out Grace Interfaith Food Table during the annual Gardening for Food tour Aug. 5.

PenAir, the Alaska- based airline company that provides the only passenger air link between Boston and Presque Isle, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but vowed to continue its East Coast flight service.

After more than half a year without a police chief and a close referendum vote in favor of keeping a local police force, Washburn hired Robert Thibeault as its new top law enforcement agent in town. Thibeault, a Mapleton resident, begin as Washburn’s police chief Aug. 8.

Larry Berz, planetarium director of the Francis Malcolm Science Center in Easton and a long-time teacher at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, announced his plans to head out west for the best views of the coming Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

Eight-year-old Palo Nason summed up the eclipse like this:  “It looks like an eyeball looking down.” Nason was one of a group watching the skies Aug. 21 at the Fort Fairfield Public Library.

After a decade in operation, Presque Isle’s Cornerstone Christian Academy closed its doors due to falling enrollment. Days before classes were set to begin on Monday Aug. 28, parents were told that the private religious school would not open this school year.

Forty-five Somali immigrants from the Lewiston area visited The County and toured Aroostook farmlands Aug. 19 to see if northern Maine could one day be home to their family farms. The group rode a bus to Aroostook and made stops at the SAD 1 Educational Farm and the Amish community in Fort Fairfield.


For the second time in its 11- year history, Northeast Pellets suffered a catastrophic fire and owner Matt Bell once again said he planned to rebuild. A bulldozer operator at the nearby ReEnergy biomass plant reported the fire at Northeast Pellets’ main production building shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, drawing more than 20 firefighters from four towns to extinguish the blaze. No one was injured. Bell said he expected existing pellet stockpiles to satisfy most of the coming heating season’s needs.

A nighttime fire on Friday, Sept. 1, destroyed a building storing lumber mill equipment for the Bridgewater Lumber Company.

After a summer “out of orbit” for repainting, the planet Jupiter has returned to its spot in the Maine Solar System Model on Friday morning, Oct. 6. Located 5.2 miles from the Sun, which is housed at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the planet is one of the most easily spotted features of the solar system model, which stretches from UMPI to Topsfield. After it was exposed to the elements for 14 years, volunteers helped make the planet look like new again. Helping to put the planet back in orbit on Friday are, from left, Dan Robertson of Beaulieu’s Garage and Body Shop; and Chris Langille and Scott Jordan of Langille Construction. (Joshua Archer | Star-Herald)

In the second full week of classes at Presque Isle High School, a 15-year-old allegedly blackmailed and solicited sexually explicit smartphone photos from as many as 20 female students, according to Presque Isle Police Detective Kris Beck. School officials alerted Presque Isle police about some allegations after one of the victims came forward. The 20 victims were all high school age girls. The SAD 1 school board expelled the teen Sept. 20, and on Sept. 22 he was charged with 16 counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.

Florida octogenarian Robert Craig, convicted in July of murder in the death last year of 86-year-old Leo Corriveau of Presque Isle, was s e n t e n c e d Sept. 12 to 33 years in prison. Craig, 81, of Clearwater, Florida, was emotionless as Aroostook County Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II announced the sentence.

A cargo plane made a successful controlled emergency landing in Presque Isle Sept. 20 after the pilot determined that the plane’s landing systems were not functioning. The Northern Maine Regional Airport was temporarily closed when a Wiggins Airways plane carrying U.S. Postal Service cargo made the emergency landing.


News came Oct. 4 that, for the second time in its 24-year-history, the Aroostook Centre Mall would go up for sale. Mortgage lender Wells Fargo was to hold a public sale of the property on Oct. 31.

In a rare September with days that felt like August, some potato farms paused their harvest work on the hottest of days. Temperatures some days reached the high 80s.  

The Maine Warden Service reported the discovery of the body of retired Rev. Clement Thibodeau of Caribou, who had been missing since July 15. A passerby at Upper Pistol Lake, south of Springfield, discovered the priest’s remains and alerted wardens. Hundreds of people attended a memorial service in Caribou to pay their final respects to the popular spiritual leader.

The Seven Islands Land Company ended production at its hardwood floor subsidiary MooseWood Millworks due to “economic constraints” and “competition from larger manufacturers,” according to MooseWood general manager Alex Ingraham.

Hundreds of enthusiasts from nearby New Brunswick and parts of the Pine Tree State poured into the Nordic Heritage Center to enjoy locally crafted brews and wines Oct. 14 at the third Aroostook County Brew and Wine Festival.

The state’s largest biomass electricity provider, ReEnergy, asked manufacturing businesses to consider setting up shop next to its plants to take advantage of affordable heat and power. Leaders from Latham, New York-based ReEnergy visited the company’s Fort Fairfield plant to offer tours and announce a request for proposals for “co-location.”


No interested buyers emerged for the Aroostook Centre Mall at a Halloween auction, and the property’s mortgage holder bought it for less than one-third of its assessed value. Mortgage lender Wells Fargo held a public sale of the Aroostook Centre Mall Tuesday at noon, after the mall’s former owner, Sitt Asset Management, failed to meet payments on a 10- year, $10.3 million loan. Without any other interested buyers, Wells Fargo ended up purchasing the mall for $4 million, the start of the bidding price.

Palo Nason, 8, at right, looks at the solar eclipse Monday afternoon at the Fort Fairfield Public Library, as mother Pamela shows Raja, 6, and Kaya, 4, how to use the special solar-filter glasses. (Anthony Brino)

After a moderate drought that had water officials in some towns concerned, a fall deluge replenished the Aroostook River-fed wells that supply approximately 6,000 people with drinking water in Presque Isle.

When Cornerstone Christian Academy in Presque Isle abruptly closed in August, most of the students ended up enrolling in the Easton School District. According to Easton Superintendent Roger Shaw, about 50 students from Cornerstone enrolled in Easton across the K-12 grades, even though Easton is not the home district for most of them.  

The Presque Isle Rotary Club’s 70th annual auction featured a twist on tradition, a television homecoming and the aim of funding a new playground in downtown Presque Isle. The first-ever Rotary Auction Store opened Nov. 18 at the Aroostook Centre Mall with $40,000 in donated merchandise up for sale or silent auction, ahead of the televised auction on Dec. 16.


The town of Fort Fairfield rang in the winter holidays with a celebration of their rebuilt community bandstand. The original structure collapsed under the weight of snow last winter. The Fort Fairfield Housing Authority and the town of Fort Fairfield hosted a ribbon cutting and tree lighting at the new bandstand Dec. 3.

The Maine State Police reported an 8-year-old girl flagged down help for her seriously injured mother Nov. 30 after their car went off the road and crashed into a tree. Lili Parady, 26, of Fort Fairfield was travelling south on Route 1 in Westfield when she failed to negotiate a curve and drove off the road, colliding with a large tree. Her daughter made her way to the roadside to flag down a passing motorist, who called 911.

Canadian mineral exploration company Wolfden Resources unveiled its initial plans Tuesday evening for analyzing a 6,871 acre parcel of land just north of Patten in the hopes of one day establishing a mine in the Pickett Mountain area.

Several inches of snow blanketed The County, with a foot recorded in Madawaska and 8 1/2 inches in Presque Isle, during the first big snowstorm of the season on Dec. 13.

True to the goal of not raising property taxes, the Presque Isle City Council adopted a 2018 budget Dec. 18 leaving the municipal portion of the tax rate at the same amount.