BY JOSEPH CYR
HOULTON PIONEER TIMES
HOULTON, Maine — While last week’s heat wave kept summer thoughts in the forefront of people’s minds, a quick look at the calendar reveals autumn is a mere two weeks away.
What better way is there to celebrate the arrival of fall than picking your own pumpkin?
Nestled behind Houlton High School, is a bountiful patch of the favorite fall gourd, ripe for the picking. Todd Willard, an outdoor education teacher at Houlton High School, said he wanted to create a “pick-your-own pumpkin patch” for people in the Houlton area because the next closest locations are Caribou or Levant.
“There’s lots of places to buy pumpkins, but not too many where you can pick your own,” he said. “I’ve been trying to bring that experience to Houlton, and now we can.”
He spent many hours this summer tending to the pumpkin patch and those efforts are about to pay off, as nearly 200 pumpkins are ripe for the picking. Members of the public can come to the Bird Farm and select a pumpkin for 40 cents a pound.
“We’re not trying to take business away from other people,” Willard said. “Basically, it’s more of a fundraiser this year, with all of the proceeds going right back into the farm so we can do more next season.”
The Bird Farm, a 99-acre plot of land donated to the school by the Francis Bird family, has been used as an outdoor classroom for several years. Last spring, Willard’s outdoor class planted pumpkins.
“Pumpkins love hot weather, so this stretch we’ve had has been great for growing,” Willard said. “The pumpkins are early this year. We wanted to see if pumpkins would grow, and they did. Hopefully, this project will drive some other things I would like to do here.”
Individuals interested in selecting a pumpkin should contact Willard at Houlton High School, 532-6551, to schedule an appointment.
Presque Isle library plans new expansion
BY KATHY MCCARTY
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library has been the recipient of several grants and donations during the past few months — the most recent being a $2,500 donation from Katahdin Trust Co. “Katahdin Trust Company notified me in August that their board had unanimously donated $2,500 to the furnishings budget of the library project,” said Sonja Plummer-Morgan, library director. The check was presented to the library on Sept. 1.
A $1 million donation earlier this year from Mary Barton Akeley Smith set the project in motion. “We’d been discussing expanding the library for a number of years,” Plummer-Morgan said. “Ms. Smith’s generous donation earlier this year set everything in motion. We’re hoping to have the expansion completed by next year.”
The expansion project also will improve energy efficiency with better windows, lighting and heating systems, she said.
“Our benefactor wants to make sure the portico provides enough shelter from the wind as well,” said Plummer-Morgan. “We had to change the facade — build to the south.”
Plummer-Morgan said about 5,000 people use the library each month. In addition to regular library services, she said requests for passport services have increased as well.
“We had 470 passport applications last month,” said Plummer-Morgan. “We do quite a bit more than is typically thought of being done at a library.” Plans are moving forward quickly on the proposed addition.
“We have an aggressive schedule. [The expansion project] will go out to bid Sept. 15 and by Oct. 22 we expect to break ground,” she said.
When completed, the addition will be three stories tall and address a number of issues, including accessibility for disabled patrons.
“Many of the improvements will help us meet codes and laws that the current structure doesn’t. We’ll have an elevator, more room around stacks for wheelchair access. Our current stacks — you can’t get a wheelchair in and around,” said Plummer-Morgan.
The new section also will provide more room for specific areas, including a space for teens and additional computers.
Lead poisoning fund helps local prevention
BY SCOTT MITCHELL JOHNSON
PRESQUE ISLE — Healthy Aroostook and Power of Prevention officials have announced they will continue their efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning in Aroostook County, thanks to funding from Maine’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund.
The organizations’ outreach activities are focused on landlords who own old buildings, contractors who renovate old buildings and parents of young children who live in those older rental units or homes.
Goals for the new 2010 funding include educating the public at area health fairs and trade shows, partnering with local municipalities and pediatricians, and continuing efforts to provide lead renovation certification training in Aroostook County, according to Shannon Hill, lead consultant for Healthy Aroostook and Power of Prevention.
“Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated training for landlords and contractors performing renovations on pre-1978 buildings,” Hill said. “We felt it was important to make those affected in Aroostook County aware of the new rules and offer the required training locally.”
To date, Healthy Aroostook and Power of Prevention have trained 357 individuals, mostly contractors and landlords. According to a survey of these individuals, about 40 percent said they would not have traveled outside Aroostook County for this training.
Dust from lead paint that was commonly used in houses and buildings built before 1950, and in some houses built before 1978, is by far the leading cause of childhood lead poisoning in Maine. As leaded paint gets old and breaks down, lead dust can build up on windowsills and floors where children often put their hands, mouths and toys.
For young children, lead poisoning can cause serious, long-term health effects, such as behavior problems, learning disabilities, speech and language delays, and lower intelligence. Often, there are no signs or symptoms of illness that can alert a parent to a problem.
In 2005, the 122nd Legislature established the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund. Revenue for the fund comes from a 25-cents-a-gallon fee imposed on manufacturers or wholesalers of paint sold in Maine. The fund has been awarding contracts to community organizations for lead poisoning prevention activities since 2009, for a total of $893,250.
“Lots of parents and property owners in our community are unaware of the serious dangers of lead-based paint,” Hill said. “That’s why this lead poisoning prevention contract is so important, because it gives us at the local level the resources we need to help our community keep our kids safe.”
Anyone interested in lead poisoning prevention services provided by Healthy Aroostook and Power of Prevention can call the Presque Isle ACAP office at 768-3056 or log onto www.healthyaroostook.com.