A bill sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins would prevent cutting a day of mail delivery for at least two years.

Businesses oppose Obama move to end Saturday mail

A bill with sponsors including Susan Collins and Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, would prevent cutting a day of mail delivery for at least two years. Read more →

Published Feb. 15, 2012, at 5:01 a.m.     |    

Businesses oppose Obama move to end Saturday mail

Published Feb. 15, 2012, at 5:01 a.m.     |      Modified Feb. 15, 2012, at 5:19 a.m.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins would prevent cutting a day of mail delivery for at least two years.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins would prevent cutting a day of mail delivery for at least two years.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s call for the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery and raise rates will drive away customers while not addressing needed cost reductions, some business users and lawmakers said.

Obama, as part of his spending plan released yesterday, proposed to let the Postal Service reduce delivery from six to five days a week by January 2013 and to return $10.9 billion it overpaid into a federal retirement account. The proposal was made to and not acted upon by Congress’s deficit-reducing supercommittee last year.

“Eliminating Saturday delivery should be the last resort, not the first choice,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said through a spokeswoman. “It would force businesses ranging from newspapers to home-delivery of medicine to explore non-postal delivery options. Once these customers leave the mail system, they won’t be coming back, and the Postal Service’s revenues would suffer another blow.”

A bill with sponsors including Collins and Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, would prevent cutting a day of mail delivery for at least two years. Obama’s proposal is in a bill sponsored by Darrell Issa, a California Republican. Issa also wants to require a financial-control board if the service defaults on obligations to the U.S. government and create a commission to speed up post office closings.

Both bills have been passed by committees.

The Postal Service has said ending a day of delivery each week would save $3.1 billion annually. The service has said it expects to lose $14.1 billion in the year ending Sept. 30, and according to Obama’s budget, it may lose $13.6 billion in its 2013 fiscal year.

Ending Saturday delivery would harm customers mailing pharmaceuticals and time-sensitive newspapers and magazines, said Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce. The Alexandria, Va.-based group’s members include Medco Health Solutions, Time Warner and Conde Nast Publications.

“Businesses abhor uncertainty,” Del Polito said in a telephone interview. “So they will do what they can to try to create for themselves a predictable cocoon in which to operate. And in this case the predictable cocoon does not include mail. And that exacerbates Congress’s challenges.”

Rate increases will also push business customers away, said Art Sackler, coordinator for the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, whose members include FedEx Corp. and Bank of America Corp.

“Raising postal rates won’t save the Postal Service; it will only hasten its demise,” Sackler said in an email. “Higher rates will force companies away from using the mail, and push them into finding other ways to reach their customers.”

The Postal Service has proposed each of the changes Obama advanced as well as reducing its workforce by firing as many as 220,000 employees and closing post offices and mail-processing plants.

Obama’s budget didn’t address the facility closings or job cuts.

“It’s a political hot potato for them,” Del Polito said. “They don’t want to tick off a key Democratic constituency going into a national election.”

The Postal Service reported a $3.3 billion loss in the quarter ended Dec. 31, which is typically its strongest because of holiday-season mailing of packages and cards.

Most of the quarterly loss came from a U.S. law requiring the service to pay in advance for future retirees’ health-benefits costs. Obama proposed changing that payment schedule to account for fewer employees.

The package of postal changes would provide $25 billion of cash over the next two years and would result in $25 billion of savings over 11 years, Obama said in the budget plan.

The president’s proposal includes some provisions of the Senate proposal, Carper said in a statement. “We can’t let the Postal Service fail on our watch,” he said.

Issa, while praising the proposal to end Saturday delivery, said Obama’s package won’t make the service solvent. “Infusing the agency with cash and hiking postage rates without requiring USPS to reduce costs and realign itself to meet America’s changing use of mail is just buying a very small amount of time with a very big check,” he said in a statement through his spokesman, Ali Ahmad.

Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC Pres. and CEO Keith Van Scotter

Lincoln tissue mill to restart production on Monday after 10-day shutdown, owner says

LINCOLN, Maine — The Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC mill will resume production on Monday after what co-owner Keith Van Scotter described Friday as a 10-day maintenance and backlog-management shutdown, one of several this year. “We have sent people home,” said Van Scotter, who declined to say how many. The … Read more →

Updated 41 mins ago     |    

Lincoln tissue mill to restart production on Monday after 10-day shutdown, owner says

Published Sept. 19, 2014, at 11:23 a.m.
Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC Pres. and CEO Keith Van Scotter
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC Pres. and CEO Keith Van Scotter

LINCOLN, Maine — The Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC mill will resume production on Monday after what co-owner Keith Van Scotter described Friday as a 10-day maintenance and backlog-management shutdown, one of several this year.

“We have sent people home,” said Van Scotter, who declined to say how many.

The mill usually shuts down annually at about this time of year for a week or two of maintenance, but Town Council member Dede Trask told the council Thursday night that workers told her that the mill shutdown sent home more people than usual due to a lack of orders.

“We always have orders,” Van Scotter said, attributing the shutdown to a weak tissue market. “It is a question of how we want to run them most efficiently.”

The shutdown began on Sept. 12 and will end Monday, Van Scotter said.

“We are always working hard trying to do better. It’s been a challenging year,” Van Scotter said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that, but I feel good about our prospects.”

Lincoln Paper employs 200 people, according to its website, lpt.com. The site advertises the mill as the largest producer of deep-dyed tissue in the United States, manufacturing napkins, towels, table covers and other specialty tissue products.

It also produced paper until an explosion at the Katahdin Avenue mill’s recovery boiler in November 2013 forced the layoff of 200 workers in December.

 

A closeup of an electronic payment station is shown at a Home Depot store in Daly City, California, in this February 21, 2012 file photo.

Home Depot: 56 million cards possibly at risk from data breach

Home Depot announced Thursday that a breach at its U.S. and Canadian stores over a six-month period this year may have put an estimated 56 million payment cards at risk. That would make it the largest compromise of debit and credit cards in the string of cyberattacks that have hit … Read more →

Updated 50 mins ago     |    

Home Depot: 56 million cards possibly at risk from data breach

Published Sept. 19, 2014, at 11:20 a.m.
A closeup of an electronic payment station is shown at a Home Depot store in Daly City, California, in this February 21, 2012 file photo.
BECK DIEFENBACH | REUTERS
A closeup of an electronic payment station is shown at a Home Depot store in Daly City, California, in this February 21, 2012 file photo.

Home Depot announced Thursday that a breach at its U.S. and Canadian stores over a six-month period this year may have put an estimated 56 million payment cards at risk.

That would make it the largest compromise of debit and credit cards in the string of cyberattacks that have hit retailers over the past year.

The breach hit 11 Maine zip codes where the retailer has stores, including Bangor, South Portland, Portland, Auburn, Augusta, Ellsworth and Waterville, based on an analysis of data pulled from a black market website by the blog Krebsonsecurity. Nationwide, the blog’s analysis of the credit card information for sale found it affects customers in 1,822 zip codes.

The attack that hit Target stores during the 2013 holiday season may have gained access to 40 million credit and debit cards, Target has said, although it was later revealed that the personal information of an additional 70 million consumers was also accessed.

Home Depot also said for the first time that the malware that facilitated the breach of its payment terminals “has been eliminated from the company’s systems.”

The home improvement retailer says its ongoing investigation has revealed that cybercriminals use a custom-built malware to evade detection once implanted on the company’s systems.

The string of breaches that have hit U.S. retail stores are thought by many experts to be the work of organized gangs of cybercriminals.

“Every indication is that it’s very much Eastern European,” says Johnson. “They’re incredibly organized. They may not necessarily use advanced technology, but they are very meticulous about their methods.”

“They do their due diligence in researching their targets and find a way into the network,” added Trey Ford, global security strategist at cybersecurity firm Rapid7. “Based on the information available, it’s a sophisticated, well-planned attack designed for a very significant pay day.”

And the 56 million payment cards potentially breached at Home Depot speaks to why big box retailers are great targets for cybercriminals, he says. Cybercrime is essentially a business: Hackers follow the money.

“You can be confident that the largest global retailers such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco and Metro AG are paying close attention as the investigation continues,” Ford says.

Home Depot said Thursday that it has completed a major security project that fully encrypts its payment data at its point-of-sales terminals in U.S. stores, an upgrade that was launched in January of 2014 — before the breach appears to have begun. Home Depot expects to complete the roll out of a similar system in its Canadian stores by early 2015.

Home Depot’s Canadian stores are already enabled with “Chip and PIN” — a more secure credit card technology that is used in much of the world, but has not yet been widely deployed in the United States. Major payment processors have set an October 2015 deadline for retailers to install such measures or be liable for fraud caused by using outdated methods. Home Depot says “Chip and PIN” will be deployed in all of its U.S. stores by the end of the year.

The company is offering free identity protection services — including credit monitoring — to customers who used a payment card at a Home Depot store after April of this year.

“We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and anxiety this has caused, and want to reassure them that they will not be liable for fraudulent charges,” said Home Depot chief executive Frank Blake in a statement.

Unfortunately, beyond regularly checking their bank or credit card statements, experts say there’s little individual consumers can do to protect themselves at this point. “There’s not a whole lot of power consumers have,” says Ben Johnson of cybersecurity firm Bit9+Carbon Black. Even if consumers start monitoring their accounts now, they are still susceptible to fraudulent activities that may have occurred during the months before the breach was discovered, he says.

Johnson also worries that the frequency of breaches and the fact that payment card processors often end up covering the losses may desensitize consumers. “If people are exposed to this every week and not feeling it in their wallet, they may not really care.”

 

More than 200 workers at Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC listen as state Department of Labor and union officials brief them on unemployment benefits during a meeting at Mattamawcook Academy of Lincoln on Dec. 19, 2013.

Maine’s jobless rate ticks up for first time in more than two years

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s unemployment rate rose slightly in August, the first month-over-month rise in that rate since May 2012. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the percentage of job seekers who can’t find work at 5.6 percent in August, up from 5.5 percent one month earlier and down … Read more →

Updated 1 hour ago     |    

Maine’s jobless rate ticks up for first time in more than two years

Published Sept. 19, 2014, at 11:01 a.m.
More than 200 workers at Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC listen as state Department of Labor and union officials brief them on unemployment benefits during a meeting at Mattamawcook Academy of Lincoln on Dec. 19, 2013.
More than 200 workers at Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC listen as state Department of Labor and union officials brief them on unemployment benefits during a meeting at Mattamawcook Academy of Lincoln on Dec. 19, 2013.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s unemployment rate rose slightly in August, the first month-over-month rise in that rate since May 2012.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the percentage of job seekers who can’t find work at 5.6 percent in August, up from 5.5 percent one month earlier and down from 6.6 percent, or 7,400 people, one year ago.

The change comes as the national unemployment rate fell slightly from 6.2 percent in July to 6.1 percent in August.

The average unemployment rate for New England was 5.9 percent, with Vermont (4.1 percent) and New Hampshire (4.4 percent) at lower rates of unemployment than Maine. The jobless rate for Massachusetts was at 5.8 percent, Connecticut at 6.6 percent and Rhode Island at 7.7 percent in August.

Estimates of payroll jobs rose slightly to 611,300, continuing a long-term trend of growth, up 8,100 jobs from last year. That change reflects an estimated gain of 9,400 private sector jobs and 1,300 government jobs, according to the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Information and Research. Government jobs make up their lowest share of the total job market in 30 years at 16.2 percent, according to CWRI.

 

Carl Flora, president of the Loring Development Authority, talks about the installation of hundreds of solar panels on the old air force base.

Loring Development Authority feeling the power of alternative energy

LIMESTONE, Maine — On an old concrete parking lot next to a deserted building on the former Loring Air Force Base, there is something very exciting and environmentally friendly going on. Every day, from sunrise to sundown, 720 state-of-the art solar panels mounted on 30 dual-axis tracking devices produce up … Read more →

Published Sept. 19, 2014, at 6:49 a.m.     |    

Loring Development Authority feeling the power of alternative energy

Published Sept. 19, 2014, at 6:49 a.m.
Carl Flora, president of the Loring Development Authority, talks about the installation of hundreds of solar panels on the old air force base.
Julia Bayly | BDN
Carl Flora, president of the Loring Development Authority, talks about the installation of hundreds of solar panels on the old air force base. Buy Photo
Two hundred sixteen fixed panels collect the sun's rays outside the Loring Development Authority's office.
Julia Bayly | BDN
Two hundred sixteen fixed panels collect the sun's rays outside the Loring Development Authority's office. Buy Photo
Hundreds of solar panels on the former Loring Air Force Base produce power for the Loring Development Authority.
Julia Bayly | BDN
Hundreds of solar panels on the former Loring Air Force Base produce power for the Loring Development Authority. Buy Photo

LIMESTONE, Maine — On an old concrete parking lot next to a deserted building on the former Loring Air Force Base, there is something very exciting and environmentally friendly going on.

Every day, from sunrise to sundown, 720 state-of-the art solar panels mounted on 30 dual-axis tracking devices produce up to 200 kilowatt-hours of power for the Loring Development Authority.

Combined with another 216 fixed-mount panels that went on line in the fall of 2012, the arrays generate enough electricity to power 55 Maine homes and offset 250 tons of carbon annually.

“We have all the ingredients we needed for a successful large-scale solar project,” LDA President Carl Flora said. “We have a well-developed power infrastructure in place and a lot of wide open spaces. Loring is a big place and is an excellent site for this.”

The power generated by the panels is purchased by Emera Maine through the existing power grid in a process known as “net metering,” which helps offset LDA’s overall energy bill.

The fixed-mount panels, known as Loring Solar I, are arranged in two rows on a lawn near LDA’s office building.

Loring Solar II, the tracking panels, were placed on a parking lot not far from the LDA building and went on line this past summer, according to Flora.

The newest dual-axel panels seem to operate with a mind of their own — they move in accordance with the seasons, daylight and even weather conditions.

“Each unit has GPS tracking installed on it,” Rich Simon, president of The Power Company, said. “When you install them, you get full-time feedback through the Internet on where they are on the planet and their relation to the track and arc of the sun.”

Once that information is programmed, the panels then follow the sun and position themselves to best capture its rays.

On days with strong winds, the panels will position themselves to be parallel to the ground to prevent any wind damage. They also can sense whether snow has piled up on their surface.

“If they get covered with snow, they will tilt until the snow slides off,” Flora said.

At night, they will lie flat, ready to “wake up” the next morning to track the sun as soon as it appears above the horizon, Simon said.

“I would love to place one of those in a field of sunflowers,” he said. “It would be so great to watch them move together.”

Sunflowers naturally follow the direction of the sun as it moves across the sky.

By following the movement of the sun, according to Simon, the efficiency of the panels is increased by 40 percent over fixed-mount arrays.

The panels are tied directly to the existing power grid, and Emera Maine purchases the solar-generated electricity, which offsets LDA’s power costs.

“The power goes directly into the grid,” Flora said. “Then it is netted against our use.”

LDA leases the panels from The Power Company, which is based in Washington, Maine, and installs solar arrays for third-party use.

In other words, Flora said, The Power Company paid for the $1.2 million project, owns the panels and benefits from any and all state or federal alternative energy tax credits or incentives.

At the end of six years — when those credits and incentives dry up — the LDA will have the option to purchase the panels or continue the lease agreement.

In the meantime, the LDA is making an annual lease payment of $54,689, or 95 percent of the panel’s electrical output.

So far, Flora said, the deal has resulted in only minor savings — about $3,000 a year — in LDA’s overall power bill. In fiscal year 2014, according to Donna Sturzl, LDA director of finance and accounting, the power bill totaled $125,700.

“It might not seem like a lot,” Flora said, referring to the savings generated by the solar project. “But it is a savings to us and does not cost us anything.”

Flora added that the solar power project comes down to more than dollars and cents.

“Why not do it?” he said. “It’s just kind of a neat project and it’s a great conversation starter that generates positive attention, and that’s important in attracting the kinds of businesses we want to draw here.”

Flora also spoke of possible educational opportunities.

“There also are a lot of intangible values here,” he said. “Job Corps is right nearby, and some of the students could learn to work on solar arrays. We would be happy to see local schools come for show-and-tell sessions.”

Should LDA decide to purchase the panels in six years, Flora said, preliminary estimates show the authority could see energy savings in the “tens of thousands of dollars” over the 20- to 25-year lifespan of the panels.

Loring Solar I and II combined is the largest solar project of its kind in the state, but Simon said a larger project — a 4,500-panel array being installed at Bowdoin College by the company Solar City — is expected to go on line later this year.

Simon started The Power Company in 2010 as an energy consultant and development company specializing in solar photovoltaic systems for commercial and industrial properties.

In addition to the lease payments, the company’s return on investments comes from federal tax incentives tied to alternative power installation.

In addition to the Loring projects, Simon is working with the Deer Ridge Farm apartments in Wiscasset, where six solar arrays are supplying 30 percent of the low-income units’ electricity needs.

“We are working toward having them at ‘net zero,’” Simons said. “At that point they will have enough panels to produce the amount of energy to equal what they would take from the grid.”

Simon plans on installing two additional arrays to get Deer Ridge Farm to that point.

He also is working with Matinicus Island officials on a grant application for a solar array to provide long-term, sustainable power to island residents who pay five times the energy rates as people on the mainland.

“We have designed a system for them that has solar energy production capabilities plus battery storage for that power,” Simon said. “This is the kind of project that fits our mission really well.”

Simon said his company does have plans for other projects in Maine but declined to discuss them yet.

He did say, however, he is pleased with how things are going at Loring.

“I enjoyed working up there,” Simon said. “The people have a real ‘let’s get it done’ attitude, and Carl [Flora] is a smart and receptive man who is trying to do more with energy development.”

To date Simon’s company has invested around $1.4 million in solar projects in Maine and he admits, in the big scheme of things, it is not a huge amount of money, but he is optimistic his company will continue to grow with the state’s energy needs.

“We are looking at the best path for solar development working with communities and nonprofits,” he said. “We are not a big company, but we are moving through what are kind of uncharted waters and we are proving it is doable: That is how business grows.”

 

South Portland, GWI team up for new high-speed Internet system in city

PORTLAND, Maine — The city of South Portland is scheduled to announce early next week a partnership with Great Works Internet to build out high-speed fiber-optic Internet for residential and business customers in the city. Mark Robinson, who handles publicity for the Portland-based Great Works Internet, wrote in a news … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:49 p.m.     |    

South Portland, GWI team up for new high-speed Internet system in city

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:49 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The city of South Portland is scheduled to announce early next week a partnership with Great Works Internet to build out high-speed fiber-optic Internet for residential and business customers in the city.

Mark Robinson, who handles publicity for the Portland-based Great Works Internet, wrote in a news release that the city has scheduled an event Monday to announce the partnership.

GWI recently announced a similar project in Rockport. The South Portland project would be several times larger. Rockport has a population of about 3,330; South Portland is home to about 25,000 people.

Robinson wrote in a separate email that GWI Chief Executive Officer Fletcher Kittredge, an advocate for municipal partnerships to build out “last-mile” connections to the state’s Three Ring Binder fiber-optic network, is scheduled to attend the event Monday.

The South Portland network would offer gigabit-per-second speeds, comparable to those in Rockport. In more common units of computer memory storage, that means the ability to transfer about 125 megabytes of information per second, both for uploads and downloads.

A news conference about the new fiber-optic network plan is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.

Maine regulators asked to decide whether to charge electricity ratepayers for natural gas expansion

PORTLAND, Maine — The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has asked Maine regulators to make up their minds by the end of November about charging electricity ratepayers a new fee to pay for new natural gas capacity. The company, owned by Houston-based energy company Kinder Morgan, on Thursday submitted to the … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:42 p.m.     |    

Maine regulators asked to decide whether to charge electricity ratepayers for natural gas expansion

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:42 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has asked Maine regulators to make up their minds by the end of November about charging electricity ratepayers a new fee to pay for new natural gas capacity.

The company, owned by Houston-based energy company Kinder Morgan, on Thursday submitted to the Maine Public Utilities Commission a proposal outlining an offer for the state to buy capacity on its planned pipeline expansion through Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

The PUC is considering whether and to what extent it should use authority granted by the Legislature to purchase up to $1.5 billion in pipeline capacity over 20 years. The sweeping omnibus energy bill passed last year allows the state to commit to buy up to 200 million cubic feet of natural gas capacity per day, spending up to $75 million annually to do so.

The proposal to state regulators comes after another Houston-based firm, Spectra Energy, announced an investment partnership on a $3 billion pipeline expansion project with Northeast Utilities, the region’s largest electric utility.

Kinder Morgan and Spectra are seeking to sign up a mix of local gas distribution companies and both likely will seek to have the state commit to capacity to support pipeline expansion plans. Tennessee said in a statement Thursday that it has early agreements with local distribution companies to provide 500 million cubic feet per day through its Northeast Energy Direct project. Spectra is now seeking agreements with local distribution companies.

Getting those capacity commitments is a necessary step for either project to move on to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would review and have the final word on a proposal from either company. Both plans have been proposed as a way to reduce the difference in natural gas prices between the Northeast and parts of the country that have greater pipeline capacity or more direct access to relatively new deposits of natural gas in Pennsylvania, New York and North Dakota.

The proposal from Tennessee Gas is the first to be laid at the feet of the Maine PUC. It offers to the state to purchase or cause to be purchased up to 200 million cubic feet of natural gas capacity per year, on undisclosed terms (the public overview of the specific proposal is entirely redacted).

Tony Buxton, a Portland attorney representing Kinder Morgan and the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, said that the Maine regulators are further along in considering a tariff on ratepayers to support natural gas expansion than other states.

“I called [Maine House Minority Leader Ken] Fredette and [Rep. Barry] Hobbins and [Sen. John] Cleveland and congratulated them, because Maine is driving this whole thing and influencing it dramatically because of the statute that they passed,” Buxton said of the regional effort.

Massachusetts last month backed out of a regional group considering a tariff organized through the regional power grid operator to support pipeline expansion. Buxton said that Massachusetts’ decision to halt its participation in the New England States Committee on Electricity delays the regional effort, but he thinks that it will move forward.

The Conservation Law Foundation, a leading critic of the NESCOE process, has raised concerns about Maine making early commitments to buy natural gas capacity before other states in the region determine if they will take a similar approach. The organization also has raised concerns about public access to details of talks at NESCOE and urged that the states give greater consideration to alternatives for addressing the region’s power needs, as Massachusetts is doing.

Shortages of natural gas during the cold snap last winter prompted concern from the region’s electric grid operator, ISO New England, because natural gas powers more than half of New England’s power plants. As home heating users get first dibs on natural gas coming to the region, high heating demand last winter pinched the amount of gas available for electricity generation, causing wholesale power prices to spike.

The day-ahead market for wholesale power in the region is set by the price of the most expensive fuel to fill out the projected power need for the next day.

The Tennessee Gas proposal would involve building out about 418 miles of new pipeline and expanding its existing pipeline that runs from New England to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Spectra proposal would expand its existing Algonquin and Maritimes and Northeast pipelines. Both companies have identified 2018 as a possible date by which gas could start flowing from those pipelines to customers.

Spectra has a separate proposal to allow two-way flow on its Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline that a company official said also could begin providing additional capacity if purchased by the Maine PUC as early as 2017.

PUC staff is scheduled to report Oct. 1 on whether and to what extent the three-member commission should use its authority to assess a tariff on electricity ratepayers to pay for new pipeline capacity.

Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone (center), 57, formerly of Bangor, attends her sentencing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday.

Former bookkeeper to serve 4 years for embezzling $400,000 from Bangor nursery

BANGOR, Maine — A former part-time bookkeeper at a local nursery and garden center was sentenced Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to nine years in prison with all but four years suspended for embezzling more than $400,000 from the firm. Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone, 57, formerly of Bangor, pleaded … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:22 p.m.     |    

Former bookkeeper to serve 4 years for embezzling $400,000 from Bangor nursery

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:22 p.m.
Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone (center), 57, formerly of Bangor, attends her sentencing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone (center), 57, formerly of Bangor, attends her sentencing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday.
Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone (center), 57, formerly of Bangor, and defense attorney Randy Day (right) listen as  Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, speaks during Wilson Gunstone's sentencing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone (center), 57, formerly of Bangor, and defense attorney Randy Day (right) listen as Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, speaks during Wilson Gunstone's sentencing at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday.

BANGOR, Maine — A former part-time bookkeeper at a local nursery and garden center was sentenced Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to nine years in prison with all but four years suspended for embezzling more than $400,000 from the firm.

Ellen F. Wilson Gunstone, 57, formerly of Bangor, pleaded no contest to one count of theft by unauthorized taking, a Class B crime, shortly before being sentenced.

No-contest pleas result in convictions.

In addition to prison time, District Court Judge John Lucy sentenced Wilson Gunstone to four years of probation and ordered her to pay $5,000 per year, or a total of $15,000, in restitution to Sprague’s Nursery and Garden Center in Bangor.

Wilson Gunstone stole the money over a five-year period, between 2007 and August 2012.

The sentence was agreed to by Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, and defense attorney Randy Day of Garland.

Wilson Gunstone did not address the court but a co-owner of the firm did.

Daniel Sprague objected to the low restitution amount.

“This has caused a lot of stress for myself, my business and my partner,” he told Lucy. “She ought to be paying us back. Fifteen thousand is not a lot of money for us. I’d rather see her in jail for nine years.”

The judge said that the law requires him to consider the defendant’s financial capacity to be able to pay restitution when imposing a restitution order.

“I’d like to make Sprague’s whole but I don’t think the defendant has the ability to do that,” the prosecutor told Lucy.

Roberts said after the sentencing that Wilson Gunstone is expected to go on disability when she completes her sentence.

In addition to paying restitution, Wilson Gunstone must undergo substance abuse counseling, not use illegal drugs and submit to testing while on probation.

The prosecutor said outside the courthouse that information was provided to his office that indicated Wilson Gunstone spent the money she embezzled from the nursery on illegal drugs.

“She was not living a flamboyant lifestyle,” he said.

It was the second time in a decade that Wilson Gunstone was convicted of stealing from a former employer, according to the Bangor Daily News archives. She was sentenced in December 2003 to five years in prison with all but nine months suspended and four years of probation for that crime.

She also was ordered to to pay $200,000 in restitution to Maine Energy, which she paid before getting the job at Sprague’s, according to Roberts. The nursery was not aware of her conviction when she was hired, the prosecutor said.

Efforts to reach Sprague after the sentencing were unsuccessful.

Wilson Gunstone has been held at the Penobscot County Jail unable to post $50,000 cash bail since December, when she was arrested in Pennsylvania. That time will count toward her sentence.

She was indicted on the theft charge in January 2013 by the Penobscot County grand jury. Roberts said in December when Wilson Gunstone was arraigned on the charge that she fled Maine for Pennsylvania after learning of the indictment and refused to tell investigators where she was living.

She faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

 

Foundation work is expected to begin no later than Monday for a five-story hotel at 250 Main St. in Rockland.

Rockland issues permit for city’s tallest building

ROCKLAND, Maine — Construction on a five-story hotel here is expected to begin no later than Monday. The city’s code enforcement officer issued a permit on Thursday for work to be done on the foundation for the project at 250 Main St., at its intersection with Pleasant Street. Ron Dafoe … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:10 p.m.     |    

Rockland issues permit for city’s tallest building

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:10 p.m.
Foundation work is expected to begin no later than Monday for a five-story hotel at 250 Main St. in Rockland.
Stephen Betts
Foundation work is expected to begin no later than Monday for a five-story hotel at 250 Main St. in Rockland.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Construction on a five-story hotel here is expected to begin no later than Monday.

The city’s code enforcement officer issued a permit on Thursday for work to be done on the foundation for the project at 250 Main St., at its intersection with Pleasant Street.

Ron Dafoe from developer ADZ Properties LLC said he expects that the foundation work will begin Friday afternoon or Monday at the latest. The foundation will be enlarged to fit the building footprint, and added support will be placed in the existing foundation.

The foundation work is expected to take two to three weeks to complete, he said, and by that time, he hopes that the permit for the entire building will be issued.

John Root, the city’s code enforcement officer, said he has requested some information related to the permit for the building that he is reviewing for approval.

Dafoe said the plan is for the hotel to be open by July 4, 2015.

The hotel was approved by the Rockland Planning Board in June.

The ADZ project — its principal owner being Cabot Lyman of Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston — will stand 57 feet high with an elevator shaft reaching 61 feet and solar panels that will increase the height to 70 feet.

The project is estimated to cost $2.9 million, with the hotel to feature 26 suites.

ADZ had received approval in October 2010 for a mixed retail, office and residential complex on the lot. The foundation was constructed in October 2011, but then the project — estimated to cost $2.4 million — encountered delays and the developer decided to pursue a hotel instead.

 

Microsoft lays off 2,100 employees

Microsoft is notifying approximately 2,100 employees Thursday that they’re being laid off in the second round of layoffs since the company announced in July that it would be cutting 18,000 jobs. The cuts are spread across multiple business units and countries, a Microsoft spokeswoman said. The company declined to provide … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 2:12 p.m.     |    

Microsoft lays off 2,100 employees

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 2:12 p.m.

Microsoft is notifying approximately 2,100 employees Thursday that they’re being laid off in the second round of layoffs since the company announced in July that it would be cutting 18,000 jobs.

The cuts are spread across multiple business units and countries, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

The company declined to provide more details of the cuts.

The jobs being cut Thursday are part of the 18,000 jobs that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in July that he would be eliminating over the next year.

The cuts are partly related to Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business, which brought in some 25,000 Nokia employees to Microsoft, and partly a reflection of Nadella’s vision of a Microsoft that’s more agile.

Most of the cuts — about 12,500 professional and factory positions — are former Nokia positions, with some Microsoft positions also being eliminated because of job duplication related to the Nokia acquisition. The remaining 5,500 jobs cut across multiple functions, including marketing and engineering.

Of the 18,000 jobs, Microsoft had started in July to eliminate 13,000 of them. The majority of the remaining 5,000 would be notified over the next six months, the company said then.

 

Cape Elizabeth's Zoning Board of Appeals decided in May to uphold the code enforcement officer's denial of building permits to Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility to erect cell service antennas and related infrastructure on and around the Avon Road water tower.

Cape Elizabeth asks federal judge to pull plug on Verizon Wireless cell tower lawsuit

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Cape Elizabeth officials are asking a federal judge to dismiss part of a lawsuit brought by Verizon Wireless after the company was denied permission to construct a cellular tower on an existing water tower. Verizon wanted to build the cell tower on the tower in Shore … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 2 p.m.     |    

Cape Elizabeth asks federal judge to pull plug on Verizon Wireless cell tower lawsuit

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 2 p.m.
Cape Elizabeth's Zoning Board of Appeals decided in May to uphold the code enforcement officer's denial of building permits to Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility to erect cell service antennas and related infrastructure on and around the Avon Road water tower.
Brendan Twist | The Forecaster
Cape Elizabeth's Zoning Board of Appeals decided in May to uphold the code enforcement officer's denial of building permits to Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility to erect cell service antennas and related infrastructure on and around the Avon Road water tower.

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Cape Elizabeth officials are asking a federal judge to dismiss part of a lawsuit brought by Verizon Wireless after the company was denied permission to construct a cellular tower on an existing water tower.

Verizon wanted to build the cell tower on the tower in Shore Acres but was opposed by some residents and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Verizon in July sued the town in U.S. District Court in Portland.

In its response, filed Sept. 9, the town claims Verizon should have filed part of its claim in federal court and the other part in state court.

Cape Elizabeth, represented by John J. Wall III of Monaghan Leahy in Portland, has requested a motion for partial dismissal of Verizon’s case on the grounds that the cell company didn’t appeal in Maine Superior Court, as required by state law.

At issue is Verizon’s claim that the water tower at 11 Avon Road meets the town zoning ordinance’s definition of an “Alternate Tower Structure,” and should be permitted. Cape Elizabeth argues the company has now run out of time to make that argument in state court, so it should be dismissed.

The town doesn’t deny Verizon’s claim that it violated the federal Spectrum Act, which says a municipality “may not deny, and shall approve, any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.”

Verizon’s lawyer, Scott Anderson of the Portland firm Verrill Dana, said the company will file an objection to the town’s response.

“There’s no reason to split it between state and federal courts,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing really state specific in this case.”

Anderson said the town “is simply wrong” in thinking the whole case can’t be handled in federal court. He said he has a few weeks to file the objection.

In May, Verizon said federal law allows it to place an antenna on top of the 69-year-old water tower, regardless of the local zoning ordinances or site plan requirements. The tower has been dry since 2007, but has an antenna to monitor water pressure and sewer pump stations for the Portland Water District.

Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal denied Verizon’s application. In June, Verizon requested reconsideration, but was denied by the ZBA. Under the town zoning ordinance, the board had 45 days to reconsider its decisions, but only if a mistake was recognized. Otherwise, an appeal could not be heard by the board for one year.

Joanna Tourangeau, secretary of the Zoning Board of Appeals, in June said Verizon’s request only raised “new twists on arguments that were made.” She said this “doesn’t constitute prior mistakes of law on the part of the board.”

In its lawsuit, Verizon said it wants to construct the tower because “service coverage in the southeastern portion of Cape Elizabeth is inadequate” and the tower would provide better service to residents of the town.

Anderson on Thursday said this is still Verizon’s overall goal and that to achieve it, and to save time, the case must be dealt with only in federal court.

 

A driverless car is on display at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.

Google, Mercedes, Audi get California permits for self-driving cars

California issued its first 29 permits this week to three companies to test self-driving cars on public roads, state officials said on Thursday. Google Inc got permits for testing 25 adapted Toyota Motor Corp Lexus SUVs, and two permits each went to Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s Audi, said … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 1:51 p.m.     |    

Google, Mercedes, Audi get California permits for self-driving cars

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 1:51 p.m.
A driverless car is on display at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
Gary Reyes | MCT
A driverless car is on display at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.

California issued its first 29 permits this week to three companies to test self-driving cars on public roads, state officials said on Thursday.

Google Inc got permits for testing 25 adapted Toyota Motor Corp Lexus SUVs, and two permits each went to Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s Audi, said Bernard Soriano of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are all luxury-brand vehicles.

Soriano said Audi was the first to apply for the permits, followed by Daimler and then Google. All the permits were issued on Tuesday, the first day they were required by California, which has the largest population of any U.S. state.

A few other automakers and first-tier automotive suppliers are in the process of filing for the permits, said Soriano on Thursday.

Autonomous car testing has been under way in California for several years without the permits, but the state’s legislature has made permits a requirement for them to run on public roads.

Among the California requirements to get a permit is the ability of test drivers to be able to take command of an autonomous vehicle at any time.

Mercedes-Benz engineers will “teach” the autonomous cars how to operate safely on U.S. roads using different methods than are used in the testing and development of the cars in Germany, according to officials at Daimler and Mercedes-Benz.

Daimler and Volkswagen are both based in Germany, and Google is based in Silicon Valley in California.

Audi said it was the first automaker to obtain a license for an autonomous car in Nevada, in 2012. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit; editing by Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)

 

Census estimates show drop in Maine poverty rate

PORTLAND, Maine — The percentage of Mainers living in poverty dropped slightly since one year ago, according to rough estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey estimated that 14 percent of about 1.3 million Mainers were living below the poverty line in 2013 compared with 14.7 percent … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 10:42 a.m.     |    

Census estimates show drop in Maine poverty rate

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 10:42 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The percentage of Mainers living in poverty dropped slightly since one year ago, according to rough estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The survey estimated that 14 percent of about 1.3 million Mainers were living below the poverty line in 2013 compared with 14.7 percent in 2012. If those estimates were dead-on, that means a drop of 9,147 people living in poverty in the state, to 180,639 from 189,786 one year earlier, but the measured decline falls within the survey’s margin of error, meaning the drop could be less dramatic or basically flat.

For 2013, the poverty level was set at $23,624 for a household with two adults and two children. The latest survey did reflect a drop in the number of Maine children living in poverty, with a drop from 20.9 percent to 17.7 percent, a statistically significant decline.

Nationally, the poverty rate was shown to decline half a percent, the most significant drop since 2006.

The data released Thursday comes from one-year estimates by the American Community Survey, which are based on surveys done in communities with populations of 65,000 or more.

Mike Mattison separates sheet metal parts at Jotul North America's wood and gas stove manufacturing facility in Gorham on Feb. 21, 2014.

‘The product is going to get even better’: Jotul to shift wood stove manufacturing from Scandinavia to Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — The Norwegian home heating company Jotul plans to expand its Maine-based manufacturing, moving production of its wood stoves to the company’s North American headquarters in Gorham. Bret Watson, president and CEO of Jotul North America, said he expects the company will start manufacturing its first batches of … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 9:19 a.m.     |    

‘The product is going to get even better’: Jotul to shift wood stove manufacturing from Scandinavia to Maine

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 9:19 a.m.     |      Modified Sept. 18, 2014, at 5:39 p.m.
Mike Mattison separates sheet metal parts at Jotul North America's wood and gas stove manufacturing facility in Gorham on Feb. 21, 2014.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Mike Mattison separates sheet metal parts at Jotul North America's wood and gas stove manufacturing facility in Gorham on Feb. 21, 2014. Buy Photo
Bret Watson, president of Jotul North America.
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Bret Watson, president of Jotul North America. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — The Norwegian home heating company Jotul plans to expand its Maine-based manufacturing, moving production of its wood stoves to the company’s North American headquarters in Gorham.

Bret Watson, president and CEO of Jotul North America, said he expects the company will start manufacturing its first batches of wood stoves in Gorham early next year, hiring about seven new workers to handle a new assembly line for the stoves.

“The product is going to get even better and the labor rate differential is significant,” Watson said. “We’re about 45 percent of the labor rate in Norway.”

The company now imports those stoves from Norway at a rate of about 9,000 a year.

Watson said much of the engineering for the stoves has been done in Maine and that the manufacturing shift will help the company adapt more nimbly to new regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding wood stoves. The latest version of the new environmental standards are due to be released in February.

“We can more easily adapt to the new EPA standards because we’re building them here,” Watson said.

He said wood stoves make up about 70 percent of the 75-employee company’s business, with gas stoves making up the remainder.

Watson said the decision to move wood stove manufacturing to Maine followed an agreement between the company’s Stockholm, Sweden-based private equity owners Ratos AB and the Norwegian trade union representing workers there.

The Maine section of the company will eventually take on manufacturing for nine different wood-burning stove models, which Watson said will be phased in incrementally at the company’s 130,000-square-foot warehouse, where the company has two shifts in sheet metal production and one shift in stove assembly.

Watson said the company will likely begin the manufacturing transition by adding another assembly line to its assembly shift.

 

Cianbro lands $13.8 million bridge repair deal in Kittery

PORTLAND, Maine — The Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp. has won a $13.8 million contract to make repairs to a bridge at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The company beat out two other project bidders, who were not identified in the department’s announcement. The contract calls for … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 9:01 a.m.     |    

Cianbro lands $13.8 million bridge repair deal in Kittery

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 9:01 a.m.     |      Modified Sept. 18, 2014, at 4:31 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp. has won a $13.8 million contract to make repairs to a bridge at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The company beat out two other project bidders, who were not identified in the department’s announcement.

The contract calls for the company to make structural repairs to Bridge No. 1 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, a project set for completion by April 2016. The full contract award is $13,842,000.

Damariscotta voters approve an adult business moratorium during a special town meeting at the Damariscotta town office Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Damariscotta voters OK six-month moratorium on adult businesses in town

DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — A roomful of Damariscotta voters approved a six-month ban on adult entertainment establishments during a special town meeting at the town office Wednesday, Sept. 17. There was no debate during the special town meeting or a public hearing prior to the meeting, and there were no votes … Read more →

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 8:59 a.m.     |    

Damariscotta voters OK six-month moratorium on adult businesses in town

Published Sept. 18, 2014, at 8:59 a.m.
Damariscotta voters approve an adult business moratorium during a special town meeting at the Damariscotta town office Wednesday, Sept. 17.
J.W. Oliver | Lincoln County News
Damariscotta voters approve an adult business moratorium during a special town meeting at the Damariscotta town office Wednesday, Sept. 17.

DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — A roomful of Damariscotta voters approved a six-month ban on adult entertainment establishments during a special town meeting at the town office Wednesday, Sept. 17.

There was no debate during the special town meeting or a public hearing prior to the meeting, and there were no votes against the ban, also known as a moratorium ordinance.

The town now plans to develop permanent adult entertainment regulations while the ban remains in effect. The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen will begin to discuss the permanent ordinance during a work session after its regular meeting Oct. 15.

The selectmen will consider whether to impose certain restrictions on adult businesses, such as buffer zones between adult businesses and schools, and whether to allow adult businesses in the downtown district. Towns cannot ban adult businesses outright.

The board has the option to extend the ban for another six months if the town needs more time to complete a proposal.

In the meantime, the moratorium prohibits adult book stores, novelty stores, theaters and video stores, as well as escort agencies, strip clubs and other businesses.

The establishment of such businesses “could pose serious threats to the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of Damariscotta” without regulation, according to the moratorium ordinance.

The ordinance cites evidence that such establishments can have negative effects on crime rates and property values in surrounding areas.

The vote follows inquiries by Waldoboro businessman and alleged drug dealer Herman “Rusty” Hoffman into moving his business, Hoffman Collectables, to Damariscotta. The business sells adult toys and pipes, among other items.

Hoffman now plans to keep his business in Waldoboro, according to Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus.

The decision, “in my personal opinion, is good news, however, it does not, in my view, preclude the need to take further steps to establish an ordinance here in Damariscotta,” Lutkus said before the vote.

The voters also approved minor adjustments to the 2014-2015 municipal budget and the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance during the brief special town meeting.

 

Burnham-based company to make iconic Lincoln Logs

BANGOR, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage announced Wednesday that Burnham-based Pride Manufacturing Co. will produce the iconic American Lincoln Logs in Maine. LePage said the move to produce Lincoln Logs in Maine will create jobs for Mainers. “I commend Pride Manufacturing for representing the best of Maine,” LePage said in … Read more →

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 7:42 p.m.     |    

Burnham-based company to make iconic Lincoln Logs

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 7:42 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage announced Wednesday that Burnham-based Pride Manufacturing Co. will produce the iconic American Lincoln Logs in Maine. LePage said the move to produce Lincoln Logs in Maine will create jobs for Mainers.

“I commend Pride Manufacturing for representing the best of Maine,” LePage said in a news release. “It shows that not only can our businesses compete on the world stage for internationally recognized brands, but also that Maine should be considered as a top choice when looking to bring back manufacturing. I look forward to seeing children across Maine and all over the world playing with this toy, knowing it was made in our state.”

Lincoln Logs currently are made in China by K’NEX Industries, which licenses the rights to sell Lincoln Logs from Hasbro Inc. While the wood pieces will be produced in Maine, some plastic pieces will continue to be made in China.

Larry Fannelle, senior vice president of operations for K’NEX, also praised Pride Manufacturing and said “we [K’NEX] couldn’t be happier to bring these jobs back to the United States and specifically to Maine.”

Randy Dicker, senior director of manufacturing at Pride’s Burnham facility, said that “the addition of Lincoln Logs is an exciting opportunity for us, and we’re proud to be able to say that this iconic toy is made right here in Maine.”

The Burnham facility has 130 full-time employees and may add up to 10 more positions to meet the production needs of Lincoln Logs. The company also produces golf tees.

Lincoln Logs were invented in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, son of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He based the interlocking design on that used by the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

A mill in East Millinocket. Some of the lost jobs there have contributed to disability claims in the region. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955

GNP creditor schedules auction of East Millinocket mill to recover $242,000 debt

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Glenburn construction company owed more than $242,000 by Great Northern Paper Co. has received a court judgment against the struggling mill owner and has scheduled an auction of the mill to recoup the debt. Acting on behalf of Northern Construction Services of Glenburn, attorney Curtis … Read more →

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 7:29 p.m.     |    

GNP creditor schedules auction of East Millinocket mill to recover $242,000 debt

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 7:29 p.m.     |      Modified Sept. 17, 2014, at 9:18 p.m.
A mill in East Millinocket. Some of the lost jobs there have contributed to disability claims in the region. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955
John Clarke Russ | BDN
A mill in East Millinocket. Some of the lost jobs there have contributed to disability claims in the region. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 Buy Photo

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Glenburn construction company owed more than $242,000 by Great Northern Paper Co. has received a court judgment against the struggling mill owner and has scheduled an auction of the mill to recoup the debt.

Acting on behalf of Northern Construction Services of Glenburn, attorney Curtis Kimball of Bangor said he posted a public notice of an auction of the real estate and buildings owned by GNP on Friday because the paper company’s court-afforded 90-day redemption period ended without Northern Construction getting paid.

The auction enforces a mechanic’s lien placed on real estate and buildings at 50 Main St., the paper mill’s address, which was recorded on Jan. 28, said attorney Edmond Bearor, who is also handling the case. Maine Superior Court Ju stice Ann Murray ruled on May 20 that Northern Construction Services could sell the land and buildings encumbered by the lien in 90 days, according to documents filed with the court and the Penobscot County Registry of Deeds.

Kimball, who will handle the auction himself, compared the legal process to the foreclosure on a house. He called GNP’s nonpayment of the debt “truly unfortunate.”

“We all grew up with Great Northern Paper Co. and at one point it was a premier mill and employer [in the region] and we would like to see those days come back. But today is a different day,” Kimball said Wednesday.

Attempts to reach Great Northern officials, including Great Northern’s attorney, Gregg R. Frame of Portland, and GNP spokeswoman Alexandra Ritchie were unsuccessful on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The auction will be held on Oct. 15 at the offices of Kimball’s firm, Rudman Winchell of Bangor. All bidders will be required to submit a deposit of $10,000 in cash or certified funds before their bid will be accepted on any parcel, according to the public notice filed in the Bangor Daily News.

The mill’s land is valued at $1.5 million; its buildings at $15 million, according to East Millinocket tax collector Erica Ingalls. The personal property there, or equipment, is valued at $16.8 million, she said.

If Great Northern does lose the mill, the cause would be one of a string of nonpayments that have dogged the company since it was several months late with its personal property tax payments to East Millinocket in summer 2013. The company also owes back taxes to neighboring Millinocket, where it owns an industrial park.

In April, GNP was at least $6.81 million in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, East Millinocket and Millinocket, and several vendors who have sued or filed liens since February 2013. The IRS filed liens totaling $2.49 million against GNP West Inc., which manages the company’s Millinocket interests, and GNP East Inc., the corporate entity overseeing its East Millinocket holdings.

Before the IRS filings in April, vendors supplying the companies had gone to civil court or filed liens for unpaid bills totaling $1.32 million and been paid $117,587. Since April, one company dropped a $16,000 lien and Great Northern has made partial payments on its 2013-14 tax debts to East Millinocket and Millinocket, according to officials and documents filed with the Registry of Deeds.

East Millinocket selectman Mark Marston said he was “very surprised” to hear of the looming auction.

“I hope if they do sell it that this will bring forward a couple of potential partners interested in the mill,” Marston said, “and as far as I know, they [potential partners] have still been visiting the mill. I was hopeful of a start soon and I know the mill people met with some of their wood contractors this past week.”

Selectman Clint Linscott said he hoped the auction would be forestalled by a settlement. Linscott said he has been to many auctions of real estate and equipment and seen settlements pre-empting auctions at the last minute.

“I didn’t really expect much of it,” Linscott said of the auction’s legal notice. “Any buyer would assume the burden of operating the secondary wastewater treatment plant for the town, and real estate taxes. It’s a very, very expensive operation.”

The Board of Selectmen was due to meet with mill management for an update last week, but the meeting was postponed because of scheduling conflicts, Marston said. Gov. Paul LePage met with millworkers at the town office on Aug. 21 and told them that several investors are interested in buying the mill, but not with GNP management company Cate Street Capital as a partner. He also said he doubted the mill would restart before November.

“I was anticipating a startup this fall. I know if they don’t get started they have a financing plan to keep the mill heated over the winter,” Marston added.

The mill stopped producing paper in January and laid off 212 of 256 workers on Feb. 6. It issued federally mandated layoff notices to workers on Aug. 8. The Federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification to workers 60 calendar days before plant closings and mass layoffs expected to last six months or more.

According to Murray’s order, Northern Construction is entitled also to attorney’s fees and interest. Surplus funds created by the auction will be held by the court for GNP, the order states.

Northern Construction did electrical, plumbing and mechanical installation and repair before filing the lien, according to a list Kimball provided. Northern Construction principal Richard Doiron did not return telephone messages left Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

PepsiCo to close warehouses in Portland, Augusta

PORTLAND, Maine — PepsiCo on Wednesday announced plans to close its Augusta and Portland beverage warehouses. Management said the majority of employees will be offered other positions within the company. PepsiCo said the change will allow the company to “improve efficiency, fund future investments and be more competitive.” PepsiCo confirmed … Read more →

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 5:28 p.m.     |    

PepsiCo to close warehouses in Portland, Augusta

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 5:28 p.m.     |      Modified Sept. 17, 2014, at 8:48 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — PepsiCo on Wednesday announced plans to close its Augusta and Portland beverage warehouses.

Management said the majority of employees will be offered other positions within the company.

PepsiCo said the change will allow the company to “improve efficiency, fund future investments and be more competitive.”

PepsiCo confirmed there are approximately 50 employees at each facility and that the closures will take place in the next several months.

Oxford Networks President Craig Gunderson (left) shows Gov. Paul LePage around the company's expanded facility on Wednesday in Brunswick.

Oxford Networks unveils $6 million data center expansion in Brunswick

BRUNSWICK, Maine — There’s one nice thing about putting a data center in Maine: come winter, the harsh cold is an easy way to keep servers cool. That’s a key part of the $6 million expansion unveiled Wednesday in a 52,000-square-foot former Navy communications center at Brunswick Landing, the civilian … Read more →

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 4:56 p.m.     |    

Oxford Networks unveils $6 million data center expansion in Brunswick

Published Sept. 17, 2014, at 4:56 p.m.     |      Modified Sept. 17, 2014, at 9:18 p.m.
Oxford Networks President Craig Gunderson (left) shows Gov. Paul LePage around the company's expanded facility on Wednesday in Brunswick.
Oxford Networks President Craig Gunderson (left) shows Gov. Paul LePage around the company's expanded facility on Wednesday in Brunswick. Buy Photo
Ron Shink, Oxford Networks chief technology officer, speaks Wednesday about the company's expanded cloud computing facility in Brunswick.
Ron Shink, Oxford Networks chief technology officer, speaks Wednesday about the company's expanded cloud computing facility in Brunswick. Buy Photo
Oxford Networks President Craig Gunderson (left) speaks to Gov. Paul LePage (center) and Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Steve Levesque on Wednesday at the grand opening of his company's expanded data center in Brunswick.
Oxford Networks President Craig Gunderson (left) speaks to Gov. Paul LePage (center) and Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Steve Levesque on Wednesday at the grand opening of his company's expanded data center in Brunswick. Buy Photo
Assembled dignitaries and the press were given a tour of Oxford Network's expanded data center in Brunswick on Wednesday. The center is a high-security data storage facility located at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Assembled dignitaries and the press were given a tour of Oxford Network's expanded data center in Brunswick on Wednesday. The center is a high-security data storage facility located at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. Buy Photo
Gov. Paul LePage smiles while on a tour of Oxford Networks' expanded data center on Wednesday in Brunswick.
Gov. Paul LePage smiles while on a tour of Oxford Networks' expanded data center on Wednesday in Brunswick. Buy Photo

BRUNSWICK, Maine — There’s one nice thing about putting a data center in Maine: come winter, the harsh cold is an easy way to keep servers cool.

That’s a key part of the $6 million expansion unveiled Wednesday in a 52,000-square-foot former Navy communications center at Brunswick Landing, the civilian redevelopment effort underway at the former site of Brunswick Naval Air Station, which was decommissioned in 2011.

The official opening of the 7,000-square-foot data center expansion represents part of a long transition for the Lewiston-based Oxford Networks, which was founded as a telephone provider in 1900.

“My predecessor said that if we don’t change, we’re going to be in trouble because traditional telecoms aren’t doing well,” said Oxford Networks CEO Craig Gunderson, who started with the company in 2003.

The transition has been difficult at times, particularly through the Great Recession, which Gunderson said “really impacted the company financially where we really needed capital to grow.” The company first ventured into the data center business in 2012, with its acquisition of startup Resilient Tier-V Corp. and Norton Lamb & Co.

The Canadian private equity firm Novacap, which manages about $1.2 billion and has investments in similar data centers and telecommunications companies with fiber-optic networks, reached a deal to buy Oxford Networks for about $50 million in January and closed on the purchase in June.

“We’re excited about utilizing this data center, our fiber networks and their capital,” Gunderson said. “We see great opportunities in front of us to really do wonderful things for the state of Maine.”

Gunderson played host Wednesday to a group of local and state political officials, including Gov. Paul LePage, who hailed the new data center as an “economic engine” and praised the foreign investment that moved it forward. Joe Picoraro, a construction project executive with PC Construction, said the project employed 37 subcontractors, 34 of whom are based in the state.

For the data center, the 120-employee Oxford Networks is targeting a market for small- and medium-sized businesses looking to rid themselves of some of their on-site computer hardware, either by moving their own equipment to Oxford Networks’ data center or moving fully to “the cloud.”

Making that move changes the concept of computing from owning a batch of hardware called a computer to thinking of computing power as a service that you buy depending on how much computing power you use.

“IT as a service is the future,” said Oxford Networks Chief Technology Officer Ron Shink. “If you buy a server, you buy finite resources you might not fully consume. And in our case, you buy the resource that you’re consuming, and you can scale that up or scale that down.”

Shink said the data center has more than 60 customers of various sizes, a base that it built on about 1,200 square feet of computing space. The expansion adds 7,000 square feet with additional potential for expansions on site.

Mitch Davis, chief technology officer for Bowdoin College, said the college decided to shift some of its computing needs to the nearby Oxford Networks data center after deciding against building its own data center at the former Navy base because of the cost. Davis said the college is operating in a “private cloud,” meaning that it’s located its own hardware on-site at Oxford Networks’ facility rather than sharing physical resources with other clients on the same servers, or the public cloud.

Davis said the company’s partnership with Novacap also gives Bowdoin access to the investment firm’s other data centers, such as one it owns in Florida.

That’s a move Shink said he expects other companies to make as a baby step to a full move onto shared computing resources.

“We now have the ability to bring customers’ equipment here, manage it, take care of it for them and take it to a safe place and get that worry off their shoulders,” Shink said. “As that ages out, we can help them transition to the cloud.”

The building itself also presented a unique opportunity, as it was originally built as a highly secure communications center for the Brunswick Naval Air Station, a location that allows the data center to build in levels of redundancy for systems including its power supply. The former base has its own power grid, providing a second connection for the data center that also is connected to Central Maine Power’s distribution system and backup generation units.

“We built the most redundant power system that we could build,” Shink said. “So we’re very confident in it.”

Francois Laflamme, a senior partner with Novacap, said that the expansion project was a part of his company’s “investment thesis” for Oxford Networks. He expects the company to target a mix of local, regional and national businesses, depending on customer needs.

“It will take a couple years to build it up and then think about expansion,” Laflamme said. “Having said this, everything has been planned and built around expansion as well. We can double the power and double the air cooling that we have, and we can build out more of the space.”

Gunderson said the company has eight IT positions open and may seek more employees as it builds a broader customer base for the expanded data center.