It is time again to review the major stories from the year just past. No year in review story can include all the significant events in the life of a single community, much less the 26 municipalities that comprise Waldo County. It cannot help being subjective, including stories some think might have been left out and omitting stories others would have kept. For better or worse, here is our selection of the notable stories of 2020.

Easily the biggest story of the year, in Waldo County and around the globe, was the novel coronavirus pandemic, which really hit Maine in March, with Gov. Janet Mills issuing her first state of emergency proclamation March 15.

In short order, schools developed plans for remote instruction, public gatherings were curtailed or severely limited, many events were canceled and businesses that could, arranged for their employees to work from home. Of those that could not have employees work remotely, numerous businesses either laid off staff or closed entirely. The federal Paycheck Protection Program, part of the larger relief program known as the CARES Act, helped some businesses stay afloat through the spring and early summer, but then the funds dried up.

Schools played a big role in getting supplemental food to families in their districts, with school buses that were not transporting students delivering food in the spring and summer, and some school campuses, like the Mount View Complex, being used for food distribution events later in the year that included anyone who needed some groceries.

Unemployment, under-employment and a general decline in business for many enterprises was another major story this year. That said, it was also a year of business innovation, with restaurants and retail stores of all kinds offering curbside service, and farmers selling produce online or offering pre-orders to be picked up at farmers markets, and even donating some produce to anyone who needed it. Grocery stores in the county offered not only curbside service, but also delivery in some cases, to accommodate customers who did not want to expose themselves to the virus by entering the store.

A number of town meetings were delayed in the spring, and many towns decided to continue operating with last year's budget figures or passed spending measures at the ballot box, so as not to have to gather residents for a meeting. Some town meetings took place outdoors as the weather improved and the virus began to be better controlled.

Still, high school and college graduations, the celebration of Maine's 200th birthday, the 175th anniversary of Searsport's founding, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and other holidays into the fall took on a decidedly different character as people mostly avoided large gatherings and towns canceled events that would be likely to draw a crowd.

The new Maine Ocean School in Searsport celebrated its first graduation with an outside ceremony to accommodate social distancing.

April, "the cruelest month" (T. S. Eliot) saw an outbreak of the virus at Tall Pines' nursing facility in Belfast, The Commons, with 13 people eventually dying from the disease before Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah on May 12 declared the outbreak closed. As spring became summer, cases declined, and things looked encouraging through the warmer months, with the notable exception of an outbreak connected to a wedding and reception in Millinocket, which eventually grew to include 177 associated cases and seven deaths.

Even with the drop in transmission of COVID-19 during the summer, vacation rentals were down in July, but they rebounded a bit in August. Real estate in Maine caught fire, as people who had discovered they could work remotely fled more crowded areas to the south for the relative safety of the Pine Tree State.

School started again in September, with districts cautiously optimistic about their ability to hold classes in person. By October, there were reports of a few cases in the county's schools, some of which were tied to a large outbreak at the Brooks Pentecostal Church that eventually included at least 62 cases.

The fall saw what Maine CDC's Shah called "ferocious levels of transmission," with hundreds of new cases a day sometimes being reported, and a spike in the number of deaths as well. As the year closed, Maine received its first doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer, with frontline health care workers at the head of the line, followed closely by residents in nursing and long-term care facilities.

Despite Maine's terrible increase in illness and death from COVID-19 in the waning months of the year, overall the number of cases and the mortality rate here have been far lower than in many other places in the country. At year-end, the total number of cases identified in the state was 24,201 (20,637 confirmed), and deaths stood at 347. Total cases in Waldo County reached 380, and 17 people had died.

While there has been some resistance to Gov. Janet Mills' restrictions on indoor gatherings, requirements to wear masks in public and curfews on certain types of businesses, most people have complied with public health recommendations.


Buildings & property

A number of property sales made the news, along with renovations and related stories. Among them was the sale in January of the former Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. building and adjoining Three Tides restaurant and bar to Dann Waldron, co-owner of Whitecap Builders in Belfast, and Kathleen Dunckel. Early in July, they announced plans to open the beer garden by the end of the month, and said they hoped to have the restaurant in operation by spring 2021.

Summer saw the sale of the former Stockton Springs Elementary School by the town of Stockton Springs to Cornerstone Bible Baptist Church for $130,000. The congregation, led by Pastor Brandon Pelkey, did a substantial amount of cleanup work inside, as well as cleanup and planting outside, after the sale closed in August. The town had removed the mold that had developed inside the school before the church received the building, the pastor said, and church members did a thorough cleaning inside once they took possession of it.

Many of the buildings and their contents at Point Lookout, the former MBNA/Bank of America event center in Northport, were auctioned in August, with everything from bowling lanes to buildings to artwork to a pair of stuffed moose going under the gavel. The auction netted more than $500,000 for the owners. The guest cabins on the property were to be sold separately. One of the buildings, Hedges Hall, was sold to Michael Mullins of Rockland, who told the paper he planned to disassemble it and put it back together in another location, possibly in Camden.

Voters in Lincolnville agreed at the polls July 14 to let the town sell the longtime home of Lincolnville Improvement Association and the Lincolnville Historical Society museum by a vote of 683 to 165. Selectmen put the decision to voters after an engineering study found the 128-year-old building needed an estimated $700,000 in repairs and renovations, plus administrative costs and fees, to be brought up to safety and accessibility standards. The sale, to the Historical Society for $1, closed Dec. 3. The town also assigned the LIA lease to the Historical Society.

On the same ballot, townspeople also voted to acquire a park property from Coastal Mountains Land Trust through a land swap, and approved using $13,700 from the town's unassigned fund for maintenance and operation of the park through 2021. In exchange, the town gave the land trust approximately 68.8 acres on the Ducktrap River for conservation. The public will continue to have recreational access to that land. Neither of the parcels can be developed for other uses.

In September, Freedom Historical Society was awarded $16,796 by Belvedere Historic Preservation and Energy Efficiency Fund to complete the third phase of its renovation of Keen Hall: total flooring construction, refinishing; garage wall construction and clapboard replacement, and painting. Other work done during the year on the former home of Carter B. Keen, a member of President Grover Cleveland's administration, included the installation of a new retaining wall on the Main Street side of the property, and a huge number of new floor joists and subflooring.

Belvedere also awarded $19,500 to Carver Memorial Library in Searsport to replace its heating system and make other energy improvements.

Dana Philippi, Garry Owen House president, told The Republican Journal Oct. 28 that the group was in the process of securing a loan to purchase its building. And in December the group acquired the former Apple Squeeze building at 163 Belfast Augusta Road (Route 3) in Searsmont to be its permanent home.

In addition, the end of the year saw the announcement of the sale of venerable Lincolnville establishment The Whale's Tooth Pub to Chris and Martha Nickerson, with plans for a January 2021 transfer of ownership. Longtime owners Rob and Dorothee Newcombe will stay in town after the sale and continue to run The Beach Cottage Inn.



The state primary election, originally scheduled for June, was postponed to July because of the coronavirus. Both the primary and the November general election saw record numbers of absentee ballots, as voters sought to avoid crowds at polling places.

In November, Waldo County elected a new state senator, Glenn "Chip" Curry, D-Belfast, to replace Erin Herbig, who decided not to run again when she was hired as Belfast's city manager. Curry defeated Republican Duncan Milne, a retired Marine colonel who lives in Liberty.

In other contests for state office, all incumbents representing Waldo County towns were reelected, two by margins slim enough to warrant recounts. Incidents of vandalism to political signs, both for candidates and for causes such as Black Lives Matter, were higher than usual, as tensions ran high across the political spectrum.

In December, Jordan Barnett-Parker defeated Jason Trundy to fill the seat on the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen that fell vacant when former Selectman David Barrows died in a tractor accident in September. The term expires in June 2022.


The Ecology Learning Center in Unity opened its doors in the fall for its first school year in the former home of the Unity Foundation. The charter school shares resources and funding with Regional School Unit 3.

Regional School Unit 71 had to delay its school budget referendum because of an error by law firm Drummond Woodsum in drafting the ballot. The budget passed Aug. 18 after corrected ballots were issued.

Municipal business

Ambulance budgets were among the most disputed topics at annual town meetings around Waldo County. Belfast sent over $500,000 to collections this year for bills dating back nearly a decade.

The city started the year with fresh changes to administrative staff and a new mayor. Longtime City Manager Joe Slocum retired in March and the city replaced him with Erin Herbig.

Calligan Mooring and Dive Service of Searsmont discovered a hole at Stevens Pond Dam that could create a pull powerful enough to hold someone under water. At town meeting, $52,000 was reallocated to repair the dam.

There were many solar gains in the county this year. Belfast and Lincolnville both saw large-scale commercial solar field proposals. Belfast also completed its third city-owned solar field, which helps power municipal buildings.

Brooks received a $22,600 grant to test the feasibility of a wastewater treatment system for residents in the downtown village area.

Housing was a hot topic among residents in Belfast this year after the city approved three affordable housing project developments. One of the most hotly disputed was a proposal, subsequently approved by the Planning Board, for subsidized housing at the old Public Works building site.

Searsport expanded access to broadband with new infrastructure along Route 1. Access provider Redzone expanded high-speed internet service into Morrill and Waldo.

Town meeting votes ushered in an all-new Board of Selectmen in Thorndike and a board with staggered terms and two new members in Searsmont, which also reduced its town budget by 9.8%.

A proposal for another Dunkin’ in Unity headed back to the Planning Board in November after strong opposition from some residents concerned about the board's process and that the development would not fit in with the town’s “rural character.” Neighbors complained they had received no notice of the proposal, which, they said, did not satisfy requirements of the town's land use ordinance.

Fiberight closed during the summer — only a couple of months after the waste-to-biofuel company opened — because it failed to obtain a $14.7 million loan from bondholders, straining many town budgets with increased transportation costs to other waste facilities and no way to exit their contracts with the facility. It is still unclear if the plant will reopen.

Belfast finally reached an easement agreement with Paul Naron, who owns two properties on Front Street. The agreement completes the Harbor Walk trail and ensures public access along the entire route of the path.

A court battle against the National Marine Fisheries Service resulted in the development of new fishing regulations, which the department is still fine-tuning, to protect the right whale. The whale species frequents waters in the southern Gulf of Maine and gets entangled in lobster fishing lines. Four conservation groups have petitioned the NMFS to close several areas to vertical line fishing off the coast of Massachusetts to protect the species.

Maine saw one of the driest summers on record this year, with northern and coastal parts of the state experiencing the driest conditions. By the end of October the state was down 8 inches below usual yearly conditions. November rain replenished much of the state.

Dutch Chevrolet owner Greg Dutch sold his dealership this summer after it had been in his family for 94 years. The buyer was Mark Politte, owner of Stanley Subaru in Trenton, and the Belfast dealership's new name is Stanley Chevrolet Buick.

Three-war veteran Carmine Pecorelli was celebrated on his 95th birthday this summer with a parade and party at Belfast Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3108.

Despite the pandemic, a new Tractor Supply store opened its doors in October on Route 3 in Belfast.

Nordic Aquafarms secured nearly all required permits for its land-based fish farm by year-end. The state Board of Environmental Protection issued permits to the organization and Belfast Planning Board issued its permits in December, three days before Christmas.

Nordic is still waiting for one permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Opposition groups have filed appeals against the BEP decision and have said they will appeal the Planning Board’s decision in 2021.

The biggest hurdle to Nordic's development now is the land dispute that is still wending its way through the courts. Justice Robert Murray has not issued a ruling yet on whether Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace own the disputed intertidal zone where Nordic intends to bury its pipes, or if Janet and Richard Eckrote own the area on which they granted Nordic an easement.

Local activism

2020 was a year embroiled in controversy across the nation. In Belfast, many local activists hit the streets, peacefully demonstrating and exercising their First Amendment rights.

On what they refer to as "Resistance Corner" at the intersection of Main and High streets, 40 people gathered Jan. 4, and 15 people rallied the following day, protesting the U.S. drone assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. More demonstrations followed Jan. 25, with about 50 people protesting the negative effects of war activities on climate change and people.

The Commons, a shared meeting space for climate, environmental and social justice work, opened with a ribbon-cutting event Jan. 20 at 158 High St., across the street from Nordic Aquafarms' administrative offices and diagonally opposite Resistance Corner.

Several demonstrations erupted after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police May 25. On May 31, about 30 demonstrators took to High and Main streets carrying signs protesting racial injustice, police brutality and violence across the country.

A much larger crowd of over 200 demonstrators, made up mostly of young people wearing black and holding signs, took over Post Office Square May 31, voicing their concerns and frustrations over Floyd's death.

Black Lives Matter supporters continued to demonstrate at Resistance Corner every Sunday at noon for the rest of the year. Opponents of Nordic Aquafarms also have demonstrated frequently downtown.

Since Dec. 13, a dozen or so people without masks have been gathering Sundays at Resistance Corner to protest Gov. Janet Mills’ mandates that limit business hours and customer occupancy, and also make not wearing a face covering inside a business a punishable offense.

Cops & courts

Several high-profile court cases were heard this year, in Waldo County and statewide.

Jerry Ireland, a Swanville pig farmer accused of inhumanely killing 12 pigs, was acquitted on all charges Feb. 28 at Waldo County Judicial Center.

Sharon Kennedy, formerly known as Sharon Carrillo, was sentenced Feb. 21 to 48 years in prison for her role in the 2018 death of her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy. Her estranged husband, Julio Carrillo, was sentenced in August 2019 to 55 years after pleading guilty to murdering Marissa, who was his stepdaughter.

Kennedy appealed her sentence to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and asked Nov. 13 for a new trial. At her appeal Nov. 17, Kennedy's attorney said it was "outrageous" that the trial court did not consider her domestic abuse as a mitigating factor in her sentencing. The court has not yet issued a decision in this case.

In April, Maine Supreme Court affirmed the convictions in the elder financial exploitation case involving ex-Frankfort lawyer Robert Kenneth Lindell. At trial, the state proved that Lindell defrauded an elderly Belfast widow and her disabled Vietnam veteran son, as well as another elderly widow, of more than $3 million.

Austin McDevitt was sentenced to 29 years in prison Dec. 4 for murdering his romantic rival outside a Swanville residence March 15, 2019. McDevitt, 24, had pleaded guilty Nov. 25 to the intentional or knowing murder of 26-year-old Shane Sauer.

In July, Savannah Smith, 22, was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but 10 years suspended after pleading guilty to one count of manslaughter for the death of of a toddler in her care. Smith and the toddler’s father, Tyler Hawksley of Bucksport, had been living together at the time of the girl’s death, which occurred Oct. 18, 2017. The medical examiner determined the 2-year-old died of repeated physical abuse and suffered from chronic stress.

In a Waldo County cold case, Kirt Damon Sr., 57, of Stockton Springs was arrested Sept. 23 and charged with the 1984 murder of 63-year-old Dorothea Burke of Stockton Springs. At the time of the murder, police said, Damon was 20 years old.

Two of the 20 homicides reported by State Police in 2020 occurred in the rural town of Waldo. Glenn Brown, 66, of Benton, pleaded not guilty Dec. 8 to killing his sister and brother-in-law. He was charged Oct. 5 with two counts of intentional or knowing murder for the shooting deaths of Waldo couple Tina Bowden and her husband, Richard Bowden, both 64. The police affidavit said Brown and three of his siblings were involved in an ongoing civil battle with their sister, Tina, over their late stepfather's estate. A hearing was set for June 10, 2021.

Beth Bing, 49, of Waterville pleaded guilty Oct. 30 in federal court to embezzling over $515,000 from her employer, Unity College, and now faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud. Bing worked in the college’s business office and used her corporate credit card to purchase goods and make cash advances.


Several fires made headlines in 2020, including a large blaze that destroyed Fair Haven Camps' gymnasium in Brooks Jan. 22. The community rallied to help raise funds to rebuild the gym with several fundraisers in February.

A fire that started in an outside debris pile demolished the former Hideaway Diner on Route 1 in Northport June 15, leaving occupants of an upstairs apartment homeless. No one was injured in the blaze, but occupants lost two pets, a chihuahua and a cockatiel.

Fire destroyed a Lincolnville home on Beach Road May 10. The couple who lived at the home escaped injuries, but their puppy, who woke them up, did not survive the blaze. An outpouring of support from the community followed the fire and the couple's loss of their home, belongings and dog.

A single-vehicle crash late on the evening of Oct. 6 in Swanville claimed the life of a New York man and caused extensive fire, water and smoke damage to the Swan Lake Grocery Store. Andrew McHugh, 23, of South Bethlehem, New York, died as a result of his injuries sustained in the crash. All tenants in an apartment above the store got out safely. The store received an outpouring of community support to help the owners rebuild.

A judge set bail Thursday, Dec. 31, at $50,000 cash for a Unity man accused of trying to kill the resident of a mobile home in the town by setting it on fire — twice — Dec. 22 and 26. Derek Creasy, 38, was arrested Dec. 30, and charged with attempted murder and two counts of arson. He is being held at the Knox County Jail in Rockland.

The second fire destroyed the mobile home at 30 Turner Court. A third fire that occurred at the United Methodist Church in Unity Dec. 28 is still under investigation.

Notable deaths

Beverly Ludden, former columnist for The Republican Journal, chicken farmer, school bus driver, certified nursing assistant, community volunteer, photographer, knitter, crocheter, chronicler of goings-on in her hometown, and "Gram" to all the youngsters in her life, died July 29 at the age of 85.

David Barrows, 64, died the evening of Sept. 13, when the tractor he was using to harvest firewood rolled over onto him. Barrows was serving his third three-year term on the Board of Selectmen in Lincolnville. He had also been a past member of the Budget Committee, the Conservation Commission, the Lakes and Ponds Committee, as well as a longtime member of the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corp. board of directors.

Ann Stark (Mundy) Mullen, gardener extraordinaire, died of a chronic heart condition Nov. 24. Mullen volunteered with the Belfast Garden Club, was a board member of the Belfast Cemetery and the Belfast Free Library, and lent a hand at the Belfast Farmer's Market, where she was among the first volunteers to help with the low-income food assistance program. Her great joy was creation and maintenance of extensive gardens at Grove Cemetery and in downtown Belfast near the post office and police department. A metal moose standing among the flowers at town center is one of Ann's lasting flourishes.

Thomas William Flacke, 77, husband, father, and longtime resident and selectman of Morrill, died in Bangor Nov. 1, of complications from the COVID-19 virus.

Charles "Charlie" James Heslam III, longtime Brooks resident, died at his home in Northfield, N.H., Aug. 15, at age 82. A renowned storyteller and community supporter with a commanding voice, he spent 18 years as a pastor in Brooks, Freedom, Monroe, Frankfort and Jackson.

Lt. Harold "Eddie" Moore II, 42, of the Jackson Fire Department, died April 28 of an apparent heart attack at his home after returning from a fire call.


In 2020, school sports were not immune to the emotional and event-canceling toll of the pandemic.

In fact, Midcoast student-athletes were hit as hard as any by the unpredictability of the COVID-19 era, as high school sports were canceled in the spring, while some schools participated in limited play in the fall and there were plans for adjusted winter play in 2021.

Middle school athletes had it worse as their spring, fall and winter seasons were, for the most part, canceled or greatly altered. Youth sports also were adversely affected over the past 10 months as few children of all ages found solace in their usual fun and games.

The following are a few of the top local sports stories for 2020:

In February, Belfast Area High School’s Jon Duso, Junne Robertson-McIntire, Cole Martin and Lia Frazee earned individual state Class B indoor track titles.

Also in February, Mount View High School’s Mark Ward and Belfast Area High School’s Cam Watts won individual state Class B wrestling crowns.

Northport brothers Caleb Joshua Hayes, 15, and Christian Hayes, 13, proved their mettle in the grueling, and mighty cold, 30-mile Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race in Fort Kent in February.

Belfast Area High School graduates Drew Nealey of the University of Rhode Island and Cassidy Hill of the University of Maine won individual New England college indoor track titles, also in February.

In June, July and August, the Independent Baseball League, created to fill the void of sidelined American Legion and Babe Ruth diamond programs, proved a big hit.

In August, Unity College put its sports programs on hold for 2020-21.

In October, COVID-19 spikes in Waldo County put a stop to high school sports, which saw a handful of events for soccer, field hockey, soccer, cross country and football (which was modified from tackle to flag).

At year-end

Shreds of plastic washed ashore on Sears Island after a bale of imported waste broke apart while being unloaded Dec. 2 at Sprague Energy Co. on Mack Point. Scores of volunteers and professionals engaged in a massive cleanup effort while Sprague, with help from Maine Maritime Academy, searched for a second dropped bale, found intact Dec. 21.

Even the last week of 2020 was not without incident, as waterfront residents from Penobscot Shores to Battery Road in Belfast can attest.

On Dec. 29, a leashed male goat, apparently determined to avoid a visit to the vet, broke out of the parking lot at Belfast Veterinary Hospital, crossed Northport Avenue (Route 1) and made his way to the shore of Belfast Bay. Neither neighbors nor police could corral the animal, which decided to go for a swim and headed toward Islesboro.

Quick-thinking Jerri Holmes, making chili in her Battery Road kitchen, saw the commotion, grabbed her gear and kayak, and headed out. Eventually she was able to steer the goat to shore, where police covered him with blankets furnished by neighbors. Tempting him with bananas, rescuers were able to lure the goat up three flights of aluminum stairs to high ground — and, presumably, back to the vet.