The year in review 2019

By Staff | Jan 01, 2020

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 2019.

Carrillos found guilty in separate trials

Julio and Sharon Carrillo of Stockton Springs, charged with depraved indifference murder in the February 2018 death of Marissa Kennedy, 10, were found guilty in separate trials. The state medical examiner found that the child's death was caused by Battered Child Syndrome.

In July, Julio, 51, pleaded guilty to murdering Kennedy, his stepdaughter, and in August he was sentenced to 55 years in prison, effectively a life sentence. In December, Sharon Carrillo, 35, pleaded not guilty to the charges, with her attorneys arguing that confessions she made to police about participating in the beating and torture of her daughter over a period of months were made out of fear of her husband, who abused her, and under police duress. They further argued that because of her low intelligence, Sharon was vulnerable to making false confessions.

Nevertheless, the jury found her guilty, and sentencing is set for Feb. 7. Her defense attorneys have said that after sentencing, they plan to appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Nordic application process grinds on, opposition unabated

The Belfast Planning Board held public hearings about major topics in Nordic Aquafarms’ application for a land-based fish farm. It will finish up the public hearings and start its review in January. Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall did not give a date when the application review will be completed.

After the company failed to file a material change with the Bureau of Parks and Lands, opponents argued that Nordic’s application with the Bureau of Environmental Protection could not be evaluated until it submits the change to Parks and Lands. BEP spokesperson Cynthia Bertocci said the board is considering the opponents' request.

Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace’s right, title and interest civil claim against Janet and Richard Eckrote has not yet been considered in court. Mabee and Grace claim they own the intertidal zone in front of the Eckrotes’ property and cite previous deeds to back up their claim.

They argue that the Eckrotes cannot enter into a contract to allow pipes into the intertidal zone in front of their property because they do not own it.

In October, Mabee and Grace granted a permanent easement over the intertidal zone that extends north of their property to the Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area, a group that opposes Nordic's proposal.

Chaotic year for Thorndike ends on positive note

It was a year of big changes in Thorndike.The private volunteer fire department walked out Feb. 20 amid accusations of funds misuse, and at the town meeting in March all new selectmen were voted in after complaints that the previous selectmen were not addressing issues in town.

The newly elected selectmen worked fast to address the town salt shed, which had been in violation of Maine Department of Environmental Protection salt housing rules. Residents voted to buy a new property and build a salt shed in 2020 to state standards.

The selectmen incorporated the fire station into the town, and the department, under new Chief Ronald Stevenson, has been recruiting more volunteers. A new Parks and Rec Department was formed and helped plan the town’s bicentennial, Halloween celebration and a community Christmas dinner.

Solar power takes off in Waldo County

Belfast opened two new solar arrays, the largest of which was 5 acres, which brought the amount of municipal building energy from renewables to 90% among its three city arrays.

Islesboro Central School installed solar panels that allow 40% of its electricity to come from renewables, and students at Belfast Area High School also are looking at solar options.

ReVision Energy sent a solar power unit to the Bahamas in response to Hurricane Dorian, in February announced a merger with Energy Emporium of New Hampshire, began construction on a new facility in Montville, and was named Clean Energy Company of the Year by the Northeast Clean Energy Council.

Andy’s Agway of Unity received a $14,215 REAP grant to install solar arrays to power its store. Solar panels installed over the summer on top of Stockton Springs’ town garage allowed multiple municipal buildings to run on renewable energy.

Outside Waldo County, Searsport-based Sundog Solar during the summer installed 1,450 panels on the roof of MDI High School in Bar Harbor.

Ferry rate suit settled, leaves lasting impact

In response to a new, flat-rate fee structure for Maine State Ferry Service that surprised islanders in May 2018 (more than doubling ticket prices for Islesboro riders), the town sued the ferry service, which subsequently agreed to start the rate-setting process over. In August 2019, the state announced a new fee structure that returned to different rates for different islands, which reduced ticket prices and went to a seasonal pricing system. The new rate structure went into effect Oct. 1, and Islesboro's suit against the ferry service was settled Oct. 31.

During the time that the higher rate structure was in effect, Islesboro ridership dropped by around 20%, according to the state, leading islanders to set in motion plans to establish a quasi-municipal nonprofit to help ensure the tiny community's sustainability for the future, enabling residents to make fewer trips to the mainland. At a special town meeting Nov. 20, islanders voted to go ahead with setting up the nonprofit, to be called the Islesboro Economic Sustainability Corp. Fundraising for the new entity is well underway and continues.

RSU 71 buses fail surprise inspection

A half-dozen Regional School Unit 71 buses were taken off the road March 13 after a surprise inspection by Maine State Police troopers, who deemed the vehicles unsafe to drive.

The buses had been inspected by the district mechanic and received passing inspection stickers a week before, according to published reports.

At a May 7 City Council meeting, Regional School Unit 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean said two new mechanics were hired to work on district buses, one of whom was training to be able to perform inspections. "...We expect by June 2020 he will be fully trained and able to take over as sole mechanic with his inspection license," McLean said.

Jake Gurney was also hired as the new director of maintenance and transportation.

Pot is hot; CBD is cool

Recreational marijuana in Maine was a hot topic this past year, with several towns deciding either to opt in or out of allowing pot-related businesses and social clubs.

At their March town meeting, Jackson residents originally voted down a pot ordinance in order to draft one uniquely theirs. In October the town opted into state provisions allowing residents to grow, dispense, sell and test marijuana and products associated with its use. Residents will be able to acquire state and municipal licenses in 2020.

In December, Northport residents approved an ordinance allowing retail sales and cultivation of pot in the town.

Troy rejected opting in to allowing marijuana-related uses at its spring town meeting and Winterport municipal officers chose not to opt in to state cannabis laws as well at an Oct. 27 council meeting.

In Belfast, there is a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses as city officials wait for the Legislature to approve state rules.

The city's Planning Board approved its first medical marijuana manufacturing facility Jan. 9. Paul McCarrier of Monroe already operates a store at 1 Mill Lane with marijuana-themed merchandise and a separate caregiver office.

The city last month designated areas where medical marijuana manufacturing can take place, and McCarrier’s business falls within the allowed zone.

In addition, the county saw an increase in the number of hemp growers. In December, the state was negotiating with federal officials over new hemp regulations the Mills administration feels are too restrictive.

City still in negotiations with Naron over easement

The city almost reached an agreement with Paul Naron over a permanent easement crossing his two Front Street properties to complete the Harbor Walk. Primary negotiations included an extended wharf, reduced parking requirements, applying waterfront mixed-use district zoning to the properties, and the view easement, which has since been revoked by the council.

Councilors voted on a first reading for the negotiations, but during a discussion on the second reading communication broke down again, with Naron accusing Director of Codes and Planning Wayne Marshall of being against the deal and storming out of the meeting, saying it was his birthday and he had a party to attend. Councilors voted to put off the October second reading vote to a future meeting.

City Manager Joe Slocum said the city is still in negotiations with Naron and will address the agreement at a City Council meeting early in the new year.

Man charged in shooting death of girlfriend's ex

A Morrill man was charged with murder in connection with an early morning shooting March 15 in Swanville that left a Belfast man dead.

Austin McDevitt, 22, was arrested, and according to an affidavit filed by Maine State Police at Belfast District Court, McDevitt emptied a fully loaded handgun at his romantic rival, hitting him seven times.

The shooting occurred at a cabin at 568 Oak Hill Road in Swanville. Shane Sauer, 26, of Belfast, was pronounced dead at the scene. McDevitt pleaded not guilty on June 6 to the charge of intentional or knowing murder. He is being held without bail until his trial.

In another case, Victoria Scott’s appeal of her manslaughter conviction was denied. She was convicted in April 2018 after stabbing a 43-year-old man to death at a Waldo home in 2017.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court determined in July that Scott, who was 24 years old at the time of the crime, had a fair trial, and the guilty verdict would not be overturned in the death of Edwin Littlefield Jr.

Brown succeeds Austin as RSU 3 superintendent

Regional School Unit 3 said goodbye to Superintendent Paul Austin and hello to his replacement Charles Brown. In December, the board voted to enter into negotiations with Brown on a permanent contract.

Austin left to become superintendent of the Hingham, Massachusetts, public schools.

Fire destroys McCrum offices

Penobscot McCrum lost its administrative office building in a May fire. Two people cleaning the building got out when they realized it was burning and called 911. Nobody was hurt and fire crews contained the blaze so it did not spread to the potato processing plant on the waterfront, where chemicals, including ammonia, are stored.

Searsmont fire chief, service chief resign

Searsmont Fire Chief James Ames and his wife, Service Chief Joanne Ames, both resigned Jan. 22 amid accusations and complaints. Both Ameses wrote resignation letters complaining that townspeople were telling lies about them.

Dawn Bryant was appointed by Searsmont selectmen as the new service chief Jan. 22, the same day the official resignation letters from the Ameses were received.

Fire destroys Searsmont selectman's house

A fire destroyed the Brierley Farm on Route 3 in Searsmont early on July 29. The property had been operated as a dairy farm for more than 100 years, according to a press release, and most recently had been operated by Bruce and Harriet Brierley. Bruce Brierley has been a selectman for three decades in Searsmont.

The press release said Brierley had turned the farm over to his daughter, Kandace Niles, and her fiancé, who planned to continue farming on the property.

Changes in Belfast city government

Belfast elected Brenda Bonneville Ward 3 city councilor after previous Councilor Eric Sanders decided to run for mayor. Sanders won in an undisputed race. Bonneville’s opponent, Sophia Ridgely Fuller, ran on a platform of increasing social programs for housing and transportation, and wanted to consider cutting back the number of city employees to free up funds.

City Councilor Mike Hurley, who ran unopposed in Ward 4, argued against many of Fuller’s positions and was adamant that the city was understaffed already.

Bonneville vowed to be a moderate voice, stating multiple times that she wanted to be the one to “swing the pendulum back to the middle” after a turbulent two years of disputes between previous Mayor Samantha Paradis, who left to take a job in Fort Fairfield, and the City Council. Bonneville won 961 of the 1,582 total votes cast.

New town manager hits the ground running

In June, Stockton Springs Town Manager Courtney O'Donnell resigned to take a job with the town of Casco. She had come to the Stockton position in February 2017 after working for the city of Bangor. Her successor, Jennifer King, also a former Bangor employee, was hired June 15.

Among the first issues facing King was what to do with the mold-infested former Stockton Springs Elementary School. Regional School Unit 20 had offered the school, built in 1975, to the towns of Searsport and Stockton Springs at no charge. Searsport declined the offer, but in June Stockton Springs residents accepted the building.

In October, residents voted at a special town meeting to spend up to $40,000 to maintain the building until they decide its fate. King said maintenance funds would come from the general fund and would cover heat, utilities, snowplowing and mowing until the end of fiscal year 2020 in June. A ballot question in March will ask residents to vote on options for what to do with the property.

Point Lookout owners weigh closure

After announcing plans in June to close Point Lookout at the end of the year, David and Tami Hirshfeld, principals of Deep Creek Grazing Association Inc., which owns the venue, said in September they would keep it open if they could lease the property. By the end of November, however, a press release from the company announced that no lessee had been found. According to the release, the Hirschfelds plan to keep the fitness center open and will offer 30 cabins as vacation rentals. In addition, they intend to advertise the lease of the Copper Pine Cafe and the bowling alley in a last-ditch effort to keep some parts of the facility open.

Notable deaths in 2019

Clayton L. Larrabee Sr., 73, died March 26 at Maine General Medical Center. Larrabee was known for his draft horses, his dedication to the Knox Boosters and Mount View athletes, and his generosity, including the donation of Larrabee Field in Knox, used by RSU 3 sports teams.

Bea Bryant, 89, died in August. Together with her husband, Joe Bryant, who died in November 2018, she owned and operated Bryant Stove Works in Thorndike. Joe was also an inventor, a custom steel fabricator, and held a patent for Bryant Sanders. In his later years, he created the Bryant Doll Circus.

Richard LaHaye, 66, chief of Searsport Police Department for nearly 12 years, died Nov. 22, and Allen A. Weaver Sr., 66, former chief of Belfast Police Department, died Nov. 26.

Sallyann Hadyniak, 82, a pillar of the town of Freedom, died Nov. 5. Born in Carteret, N.J., she lived her first 60 years in that town. In 1997, when her son and daughter-in-law decided to raise their sons in Freedom, grandparents Sallyann and Wassey followed. She dove into Freedom life — and served as the Journal's Freedom columnist for over 20 years. 

Norman Tinker, 86, died June 25 at Waldo County General Hospital hospice care. He was a local artist, craftsman and family man who found beauty in the discarded, and who welded metals into large-scale sculptures that adorned his Miller Street home and yard.

Jack Merrithew, Searsport selectman, volunteer firefighter and longtime town supporter, died at his home May 3, at the age of 73. Merrithew's family was originally from Searsport and some of his ancestors were ship captains. Merrithew House on the Penobscot Marine Museum campus is named for his seafaring great-grandfather.

Julio Carrillo is led into court in February 2018. In August of this year he was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the depraved indifference murder of his stepdaughter, Marissa Kennedy, 10. (Source: Portland Press Herald file photo)
Sharon Carrillo is led out of the courtroom after being found guilty of the depraved indifference murder of her daughter, 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy, in December. (Photo by: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald)
Maine Department of Environmental Protection staff emerge from woods Oct. 24 on Nordic Aquafarms' proposed site after leading Board of Environmental Protection members to a wooded stream. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Families enjoy a free community Christmas dinner at Thorndike's Town Hall Dec. 14. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Belfast's new solar field sits next to the recently constructed Public Works building off Crocker Road Oct. 15. Use of solar power expanded in Waldo County during 2019. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
The Margaret Chase Smith approaches the Lincolnville ferry terminal in April 2019. The year saw the state ferry service scrap flat-rate tickets and return to different prices for different islands, and the settling of a lawsuit by the town of Islesboro against the ferry service. (Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Bill Horton, owner of Montville Hemp Products, is shown at his home. His family operation makes salve, oil and soap and has a display at the Green Store in Belfast. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Austin McDevitt enters the courtroom at Waldo Judicial Center March 18 in his first court appearance after he was accused in the shooting death of a Belfast man. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Flames appear at the peak of the Penobscot McCrum office building at 28 Pierce St., Belfast, May 9, shortly after 8 p.m. Firefighters from Belfast, Morrill and Searsport battled the blaze, which consumed the structure. (Photo by: Carolyn Zachary)
City Councilor Mike Hurley and Mayor-elect Eric Sanders, from left, talk to Republican Journal staff member about election results in the Journal office after the polls closed Nov. 5. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Larrabee Field on Abbott Road in Knox, donated by community supporters Noni and Clayton Larrabee for Mount View athletic contests. Clayton died in 2019. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
VFW Teacher of the Year: Sarah Nelson is surrounded by her pupils at the Ames Elementary School assembly Jan. 14 at which she was recognized as Maine's Elementary Teacher of the Year. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
New home for soup kitchen: Mary Brand, president of the Belfast Soup Kitchen board of directors, stands in front of an architect's rendering of the new facility on Route 3 at its groundbreaking event June 5. Behind her is the building's new foundation. The new space, now nearing completion, will enable collaboration with other outreach agencies for health screenings, adult literacy and nutrition education programs. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Protesters hold signs in Belfast Sept. 20 during the Global Climate Strike. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Welcoming a presidential yacht: A crowd converges at the Belfast boat launch to see  the USS Sequoia arrive by barge in Belfast Oct. 21. French & Webb will do a complete restoration, anticipated to take four years. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Judicial Center opens: Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, center, holds giant sheers after cutting a ribbon to open the Waldo Judicial Center April 5. She is flanked by Democratic Sen. Erin Herbig, left, and Republican former Senate President Mike Thibodeau. Saufley acknowledged local dignitaries who made the $13.5 million courthouse possible. The new courthouse replaced the existing District and Superior courts. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Down it goes: Pieces of the No. 8 stack lie in rubble after a detonated collapse at the former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport Oct. 29. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Michelle Lozuaway and Josh Lanahan's dog, Zuzu, stands in front of the Peirce School building at the corner of Church and Elm streets, Belfast. The New Hampshire couple paid $275,000 for the school and said they would like to make the 104-year-old building their home.They closed on the building Oct. 31. (Courtesy of: Michelle Lozuaway)
Maxmilian Johnston, 4, of Liberty, waits patiently for any sign of a nibble Jan. 26 at the Lake St. George fishing derby. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Whale of a ruckus: Mike Hutchings of Lincolnville, pictured Aug. 13 in his garage, where he sells lobster, has been a lobsterman for nearly 50 years and has never seen an endangered right whale while fishing in Maine waters. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Good Samaritan: Priscilla Sovis, left, who rescued Dave Hills June 22 when he was overcome by a heart attack during a walk and fell into the edge of the ocean, pose for a photo at the Searsport Police Station July 2. Sovis holds the leash of her boyfriend's service dog, Eze, (pronounced "eyes"), which she was walking when she found Hills. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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