PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For the second time this month, classes at Northern Maine Community College were canceled and the campus evacuated after a bomb threat.
According to Presque Isle police Detective Sgt. Wayne Selfridge, an NMCC employee in the business office received the call at 10:59 a.m. Monday.
“A bomb threat was called in and the campus was evacuated,” Selfridge said. “The buildings were searched and no bomb was found.”
The search, which included three members of the Presque Isle Police Department, a Maine State Police trooper with a bomb-sniffing dog, and a Presque Isle Fire Department unit, lasted about two hours, but campus officials chose to cancel classes for the remainder of the day, Selfridge said.
The threat was called in to the campus business office in Christie Complex, a major campus facility containing administrative offices and classrooms, which is connected to the college library.
On Oct. 2, two calls to separate desks in the Christie Complex made direct threats of a bomb in the complex and forced the daylong evacuation of the entire campus and cancellation of classes.
No bomb was found in that incident.
The threat Monday immediately put into effect the campuswide emergency alert system which relayed messages to students by telephone, cell phone, e-mail and fax to evacuate the campus.
“It took about 20 minutes to clear the entire campus,” Jason Parent, NMCC director of development and college relations, said Monday afternoon. “By 1 p.m. students were allowed to return to the residence halls.”
On any given day up to 1,000 students are on the campus in addition to 100 employees.
“Today we happened to have a nursing advisory committee meeting on campus with professionals from around Aroostook County,” Parent said. “Luckily, they were able to move the activity over to The Aroostook Medical Center.”
Parent said officials around the campus cannot recall similar threats in recent history, and the last time such a bomb threat was made against the institution looks to have been in the 1970s.
“The impact is huge,” Parent said. “This is not students rejoicing because they have a snow day with a day off; many are nontraditional students who are here to learn, and for them missing a day of school is not looked on favorably.”
Parent added that campus officials are cooperating closely with members of the Presque Isle Police Department in the investigation.
“At this point it does look like a hoax,” Selfridge said, adding that there is no indication at this time that the threats were related or were made by the same person.
Hoax or not, Selfridge said, bomb threats are no laughing matter.
“It’s a disruptive event,” the detective said. “It affects hundreds of students and the staff up there.”
At the same time, responding to the threats tied up several law enforcement departments for the morning.
“There are thousands of dollars lost when this happens,” Selfridge said. “A lot of students are affected who are there to learn, [and] one person can ruin it for everyone.”
The person or people responsible could face charges of terrorizing, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.