The Year in Review 2018

Jan 03, 2019
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim speaks at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center Jan. 30, as the Norwegian company announced plans to build a $150 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast that will be among the largest of its kind in the world.

The weather early in 2018 could have portended a year of tumultuous happenings to come in Waldo County. The year started with sub-zero temperatures on First Night and a blizzard on day four that caused flooding along the coast.

Fish out of water

After a run of closed-door meetings with members of the Belfast Water District and previously unknown individuals, city officials and Norwegian aquaculturists, Nordic Aquafarms held a joint press conference in January that put the coastal city on an international stage and set the scene for a year of controversy. The event, attended by Gov. Paul LePage, was to announce plans for a land-based salmon farm that would be the world's second-largest.

Nordic promoted the facility as a cutting edge solution to a rising demand for Atlantic salmon in the Northeast U.S. that would eliminate many of the problems of ocean pen farming and reduce the carbon footprint by bringing the food closer to consumers. Local officials cheered the plan as source of property tax revenue, but many residents thought it smelled fishy.

Subsequent public meetings about the project were often tense, as residents of Belfast and neighboring towns criticized city officials for striking the deal behind closed doors and challenged Nordic's claims that the salmon farm would would not sap the local freshwater supply or pollute Penobscot Bay. At year's end, the project faced a lawsuit against the city for procedural errors and challenges to Nordic's applications for two state permits.

Another land-based salmon farm proposed by Whole Oceans for the former Verso Paper site in Bucksport has been mostly well-received in the community, which has struggled since the closure of the mill in 2014. Then, in late December, a Belfast resident appealed the wastewater discharge permit issued by Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

While fish farmers tried to establish themselves, seafood processors made big moves locally. In Belfast, Ducktrap River of Maine, part of Norway-based multinational Marine Harvest, expanded its business park operation into the 50,000-square-foot former Little River Apparel building and anticipated a 75-percent bump in production. Darmariscotta-based Pemaquid Mussel Farm and Stonington-based Greenhead Lobster both snapped up business park land in Bucksport.

A child murdered

A Stockton Springs couple was accused of an unthinkable crime after 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy was found beaten to death in their home. In interviews with police, the girl's stepfather and mother, Julio and Sharon Carrillo, allegedly claimed to have beaten the child with a belt, their fists and a metal mop over a period of months before she died in February from what the state medical examiner called Battered Child Syndrome. The couple pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled to stand trial in August 2019. Kennedy's death, along the 2017 death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick of Wiscasset, in which abuse was also believed to be a factor, sparked an investigation by lawmakers into the state Department of Health and Human Services' child welfare programs.

Conflict of styles

When Belfast's new mayor, two generations younger than her predecessor and eager to change the culture of City Hall, met a City Council populated by seasoned public officials, there were bound to be growing pains.

Mayor Samantha Paradis made small changes to the structure of meetings and asserted herself as an strong voice at the council's bi-monthly sessions. After a blow-up between councilors and salmon farm opponents, she called for a facilitated meeting. Councilors subsequently criticized the mayor for overstepping her authority.

Tension grew between the city's elected officials as Paradis hinted at injuries and councilors expressed frustration with her style. When Paradis wrote an op-ed saying she had experienced "sexism, ageism and bigotry" in her role as mayor, councilors took it as an accusation and barred Paradis from speaking on their behalf. In a dramatic reversal, both sides apologized at the next meeting and the council lifted the sanctions.

Despite the friction, the city's elected officials took major steps toward shared environmental goals, creating a Climate Change Committee, pledging to follow the Paris Agreement after the U.S. withdrew, installing an electric car charging station and following through on a ban of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene takeout containers.

Planning for the future

Several communities made quiet investments in basic infrastructure in 2018. Searsmont built a new state-of-the-art fire station on an access road to the former Sprowl's business park to replace the inadequate and antiquated Main Street structure. Belfast approved major upgrades to the city's wastewater treatment plant, and Lincolnville voters started a 10-year savings plan for a $3.3 million sewer system at Lincolnville Beach.

Conversely, Stockton Springs residents rejected a proposal to expand septic service along Route 1A, a move touted by selectmen as a way to boost economic development. The proposal was a scaled-down version of a similar plan that was rejected nearly a decade ago.

Fine dining, if you can find it

The Hichborn restaurant opened earlier this year, just off Main Street in Stockton Springs. The restaurant serves meals made of locally sourced ingredients and is named after the Nathan Hichborn house, out of which it operates. The Lost Kitchen, a celebrated destination dining establishment in Freedom, dealt with extreme demand for reservations — 10,000 calls in 24 hours in 2017 — by requiring would-be diners to send their reservation requests on a postcard. The call yielded 20,000 postcards.

Ferry rate leveling hits Isleboro hard

Islesboro residents were shocked in May when Maine Department of Transportation implemented a new fee structure for Maine State Ferry Service. The flat-rate structure made ferry tickets the same price for all of the islands in Penobscot Bay. It brought a more than 100-percent increase to Islesboro riders, while most other islands saw decreased costs.

Island officials filed a lawsuit to reverse the action known as Tariff No. 8. The lawsuit remains active and the rate structure in place until a ruling is made.

Businesses on the move in Belfast

After several years of delays, Front Street Shipyard erected what is probably the largest building in downtown Belfast. The 22,500-square-foot, 60-foot-high Building 6 was designed to be tall enough for the shipyard's 285-metric-ton marine travel lift to be able to drive a large ship into the building through the front door.

One of the other largest downtown buildings, the former Masonic Temple, came out from under wraps early last year, capping a major renovation that included a new corner entrance overlooking the city's central intersection.

Mathews Brothers announced plans to open a facility in Hermon. Belfast Bay Inn founders Ed and Judy Hemmingsen sold the luxury hotel to a Boston couple. Bell the Cat moved into the former Pizza Hut building, Belfast Center changed hands and the Soup Kitchen moved out and took up residence in Renys Plaza. Walgreens acquired Rite Aid and closed the duplicate store a few doors down.

More changes coming

Developer Paul Naron bought a waterfront workshop from French & Webb and put forward plans for a restaurant and market complex.

Tractor Supply has proposed a retail and housing development on an 80-acre Route 3 parcel that was once set aside for a big-box store. It proposes a new 20,000-square-foot store along with other development that could include a hotel, other retail, a restaurant and several types of housing. The City Council and Planning Board are expected to review the plan at a joint meeting Jan. 8.

A Stockton Springs couple has proposed turning Peirce School into apartments.

The Army National Guard vacated its post at the Belfast Armory in June, inviting questions about what will happen to the prime highway property.

The city is preparing to vacate its Congress Street Public Works facility for a new one, under construction on Crocker Road, that will include the city's third solar electric farm.

Schools making headlines

The fate of the shuttered Stockton Springs Elementary School remains uncertain as mold was discovered in the building earlier this summer. Regional School Unit 20 Superintendent Chris Downing said he will offer the building for sale to the towns of Searsport and Stockton Springs initially, then might sell the school on the open market if the towns decide not to purchase the building.

Maine Ocean School welcomed its first class of 12 students in grades nine through 11 on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Three years in the making, the school is a type of specialized public school known as a magnet school, financed by both private donations and state funds. The program is the first of its kind in the state and offers specialized tracks in marine science, transportation, engineering and management.

Route 1 in Lincolnville Beach is flooded during a Jan. 4 blizzard. (Courtesy of: Mike Ames)
A barn at 1060 Belfast Road in Knox collapsed Sept. 13 as workers attempted to demolish it, killing a man and injuring three other people. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Charlie Zorich, left, and Kirk Linder, owners of The Hichborn restaurant in Stockton Springs. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Belfast Armory has been vacant since June when Maine Army National Guard moved the local company of engineers to Southern Maine. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Beverly and David Worthington, pictured at a Regional School Unit 71 board meeting in August, expanded a major Knox County scholarship program to school districts in Waldo County. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
The state built a new Waldo County courthouse in Belfast, right, while across town Waldo County General Hospital, left, expanded and reconfigured its emergency room. (Photos by: Ethan Andrews)
Julio and Sharon Carrillo are ushered into Waldo County Superior Court Feb. 28 for arraignment. The couple are charged with depraved indifference murder in connection with the death of their 10-year-old daughter. (Photos by: Ethan Andrews)
Route 1 in Bucksport bustles with police activity at the scene of a standoff that lasted over six hours Oct. 31. The State Police Special Crisis Negotiation team was called in and after a lengthy negotiation by Bucksport Police and Maine State Police, William Benjamin was taken into protective custody and taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
A court document indicates a pig carcass hanging from a backhoe. State animal welfare agents in March raided the Swanville farm of veterans' advocate Jerry Ireland and charged him with shooting 12 of his Mangalitsa pigs on the day before a scheduled inspection. The principal agent alleges the animals were malnourished, while Ireland contends that the agent isn't qualified to judge the rare, heritage breed. At year's end, a Waldo County Superior Court judge was reviewing a motion by Ireland to suppress evidence from a search of the farm. (Source: Waldo County District Court)
Erin Herbig, newly elected to the state Senate, speaks Nov. 11 in Belfast at a Veterans' Day observance on the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Mayor Samantha Paradis glances at City Councilor Mike Hurley, second from right, during a Nov. 27 meeting called by the council over an opinion column by Paradis, in which the mayor wrote that she had experienced "sexism, ageism and bigotry." (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
A bulldozer breaks ground for Front Street Shipyard's Building 6 on May 9. The 22,500-square-foot workshop was given a ceremonial opening in November. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and JB Turner, right, cut ribbon Nov. 7 in the ceremonial opening of new Building 6. At left is Paul Andersen, CEO of Androscoggin Savings Bank.
Members of the inaugural class of Maine Ocean School, pictured on Nov. 3. The marine-focused magnet school in Searsport opened this fall with 12 students. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Montville resident Arne Smith holds up a target from the 800-yard shooting range he built this year that became the subject of a town debate on noise and property rights. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
"Belfast Baron" David Crabiel, reads a seasonal prediction from lobster Passy Pete at the annual Groundhog Day-style event. The lobster in his third year surprisingly ― and presciently ― declared that winter would come early. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
City Councilor Neal Harkness talks to a reporter outside the Belfast Boathouse polling place on Election Day. He was re-elected in a close race with Joanne Moesswilde, who ran alongside two write-in candidates in opposition to the proposed salmon farm. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Waldo County residents Lyndsey Lewis, left, and Concepta Jones became U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony Sept. 12 at Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. (Photos by: Fran Gonzalez, (right) Courtesy of Concepta Jones)
A pilot sits in his plane at the fourth annual Belfast Municipal Airport open house Sept. 15. Despite early fog, the fly-in drew 43 planes and gave rides to 65 youth explorers. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Fire destroyed the main section of the house at 234 Hunter Road in Unity Sept. 8, leaving 13 people homeless. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Firefighters from Thorndike, Troy and Unity pull hoses toward flames shooting up from a home off Depot Street in Thorndike on May 22. (Photo by: staff, David Leaming)
Margaret Cunningham, who turned 100 on April 21, pictured at her home in Belfast a week before her birthday. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Protesters in Belfast on Sept. 27 hold signs and chant, "Believe survivors, cancel Kavanaugh" during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Students holding signs marched to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Belfast on March 24, as part of the national March for Our Lives, a protest for greater school safety and stricter gun laws. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Capt. Albert Stevens School students celebrate World Oceans Day with a parade at their school June 8. Staff at CASS in Belfast have been busy working to reduce plastics use in the cafeteria, and promoting the idea of "refuse" (to use plastics), reduce, reuse and recycle in the community. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
A Border Protection plane crashed in Burnham after its engine failed Aug. 22 during a routine flight. Two people were injured. (Courtesy of: Maine State Police)
The skeleton of new unified courthouse in Belfast pokes through the fog Feb. 21. By year's end, the exterior of the $17 million building was largely finished. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Victoria Scott is helped down a hill April 23 during a jury tour of the Waldo residence where she stabbed Edwin Littlefield Jr. to death in 2017. Scott was convicted in April. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
A sign outside Rite Aid at 254 Main St. in Belfast announces the recent acquisition by Walgreens. The Rite Aid store was later closed and remains vacant. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Executives from Ducktrap River of Maine's Norwegian parent company, Marine Harvest, join local and state officials in Belfast Sept. 7 to cut the ribbon on Ducktrap's new smokehouse, in the former Little River Apparel building.
The city settled a multi-year dispute with the owner of the other half of the MBNA complex now occupied by Bank of America and OnProcess Technology. Citing low occupancy, Assessor Brent Martin gave STAG IV Belfast a $348,000 tax abatement and took more than $6 million off the assessed value of the 141-acre property and 319,000-square-foot building complex, reducing it to $22.7 million. (Source: File photo)
After growing to fill one of two massive building complexes left behind by MBNA, athenahealth ended the year in a holding pattern. The Watertown Mass.-based company was sold to an investment partnership bent on making it more profitable. The sale is scheduled to be finalized in 2019 and it is not known what effect it will have on the Belfast offices. (Source: File photo)
Troy residents rallied around the family of Hussam Alrawi and Kathryn Piper after shots were fired at the sign of their butchery in what some believe was an act of aggression aimed at their Muslim faith. (Source: Morning Sentinel contributed photo)
John Ford Jr. and Judy Ford, son and wife of the late John Ford Sr., laugh with others at one of the many offbeat stories shared Nov.  24 during a memorial celebration for the beloved Waldo County law officer. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Secretary of State of Maine Matthew Dunlap presents the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award to Freedom ballot clerk Joanne Knowlton, center, and moderator and election warden Thressa Abbott at Knowlton's home in Freedom June 12. Both were nominated for recognition by Freedom Town Clerk Cynthia Abbott for 29 years of service to the town. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Islesboro residents were shocked in May when Maine Department of Transportation implemented a new fee structure that doubled the cost of a ferry trip to the mainland. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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