Waterville development, uncooperative weather and dogs in court were among the biggest stories in 2017.

He’s a look back at some of the important moments that made headlines this past year, signaling even more developments to come as these stories play out in 2018.

Construction crews continue with their work at the new Colby College dormitory on lower Main Street in downtown Waterville on Dec. 19, 2017. Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

 

WATERVILLE REVITALIZATION

Construction began on new Colby College dormitories on Main Street in downtown Waterville in 2017, as renovations at the Hains Building across the street were completed and Republican Mayor Nick Isgro was re-elected.

Waterville was on the move in 2017.

The $25.5 million residential complex off The Concourse is among multi-million-dollar projects spearheaded by the college to push forward the renewal of the city’s downtown core. The building is part of Colby’s plan to break down the “town and gown” divide and encourage civic engagement among students, officials said.

Construction of the 100,000-square-foot building, which will house 200 students and eight faculty and staff members, was ahead of schedule during a ceremony in September and the building is expected to open in August 2018.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s coming to life,” Colby President David Greene said at the time.

The complex also will feature retail and community spaces.

Greene also spoke about the importance of the Hains building, which is one of five vacant buildings the college bought in 2015 as part of its revitalization effort. The building at 173 Main St. started housing Colby College staff members in August. Colby and the Harold Alfond Foundation pledged $10 million each as Colby purchased five downtown properties, announced plans for a Main Street hotel and mixed-use development, including student apartments, and began renovations of a building that will house a regional center for CGI, a tech company planning to provide 200 jobs.

SAD 9 students, parents and residents including Julia Hennessy, right, turned out on Main Street in Farmington to urge voters to vote no on the school budget saying the proposed cuts will hurt students in a variety of programs on Sept. 11, 2017. Staff file photo by David Leaming

SCHOOL BUDGETS

Elsewhere in central Maine in 2017, school districts struggled with budgets for the coming year in Waterville, Regional School Unit 9 in Farmington and in the Bingham and Moscow school district, where the proposed spending package finally passed on the fourth try by just six votes and well into the new fiscal year.

School districts were contemplating mergers in Madison, Anson and Bingham, while the board representing Alternative Organizational Structure 92 voted unanimously to authorize the superintendent to create a plan to dissolve the AOS, which serves Winslow, Waterville and Vassalboro schools. With that vote, the question of whether to dissolve the district, which in turn would allow the communities to pursue restructuring their school governance as a regional service center, will go before voters in the spring.

Kole, left, and Bentley are two pit bulls owned by Danielle Jones that the state’s courts have ordered put to death. Jones said both dogs got loose while on a walk with her Tuesday, minutes after the Supreme Court upheld an euthanasia order against the pit bulls. Photos courtesy of Danielle Jones

MAINE CRIME

Also in 2017, Carroll Tuttle Jr., 51, was shot dead by police outside his home on Russell Road in Madison on July 5 after he murdered his live-in girlfriend, Lori Hayden, 53; their son, Dustin Tuttle, 26; neighbor Michael Spaulding, 57 — and wounded a fourth, Harvey Austin, 57, of Skowhegan.

Police called it an extreme case of domestic violence.

In Bangor, Robert Burton, of Abbot, a man with a history of domestic violence, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Stephanie Gebo, in Parkman, a small town north of Skowhegan, in June 2015. Gebo’s then-13-year-old daughter found her mother lying face down in a pool of her own blood and three gunshot wounds in her back.

Kayla Stewart, of Fairfield, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in January 2017 in the death of her newborn son a year earlier and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but nine years suspended.

Miranda Hopkins, of Troy, was sentenced in December to serve 13 years in prison in connection with the death of her 7-week-old son, Jaxson, in January.

Pit bull terriers, ordered euthanized by the state’s highest court, disappeared and their owners were arrested. Also, Dakota the husky dog, whose court-ordered death sentence was in legal limbo following a high-profile pardon from Maine’s governor, won a full reprieve in July from a euthanasia order stemming from deadly attacks in Waterville.

Maine golf legend Dickie Browne thought he was going to die in February after a burglar put a gun to his head, tied him up in the basement and ransacked his Vassalboro home, an incident that sparked a massive police response and shooting that ultimately left the burglar and another suspect dead.

The Rev. Larry Jensen of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Waterville was removed from the church in May amid a “substantiated” allegation of sexual abuse of a minor 15 years earlier in Connecticut. The alleged abuse victim, a male, “was close to 18 but not 18” when the alleged abuse occurred at the time Jensen was a priest at St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church in Danbury, Connecticut.

There were fatal motor vehicle accidents, bad fires and drug arrests all over the place.

Trista Reynolds, mother of Ayla Reynolds. Ayla was 20 months old when she disappeared from her father’s home in Waterville. Reynolds successfully petitioned the court to have Ayla declared dead so she can pursue civil charges against father Justin DiPietro. No one has been charged for her disappearance. Portland Press Herald file photo by Ben McCanna

THE MISSING

Toddler Ayla Reynolds, who disappeared from her father’s Waterville home in December 2011, was declared dead by a probate judge in September 2017, setting up what the little girl’s mother hopes will be a lawsuit against Justin DiPietro, the child’s father and one of the last people to see the girl alive.

State police detectives and game wardens with tracking dogs fanned out into the woods and hay fields along Route 150 in Skowhegan in early December, searching for clues in the 6-month-old disappearance of Tina Stadig of Skowhegan.

COMMUNITY AND INDUSTRY

The long-running Winslow 4th of July celebration found a new home at the Clinton Lions Club fairgrounds in 2017, while Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who lost his four limbs after surviving an explosion in Afghanistan, opened his lakeside retreat for combat-injured veterans in Rome in July.

Madison Paper Industries sold off its assets in Madison in 2017 and requested $1 million abatement in taxes, while in neighboring Anson, voters at a special town meeting in December agreed to take over the former paper mill’s sludge landfill and to accept $2.4 million to maintain it.

IGS Solar spent close to $10M to open the state’s largest solar field on property owned by Madison Electric Works this past year, being one of many solar projects getting under way in central Maine.

Madison residents, along with voters just about everywhere else in Maine, continued to be split over the future of retail marijuana.

Audrey Hewett, looks over at her son Eric Hewett, as they tell the story of how he saved her from a home invasion, during an interview on March 17, 2017, in Audrey Hewett’s Sidney home. Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

BREAK-INS

In other news from 2017, an intruder was shot in the chest in Sidney in March by a man who came to the rescue of his elderly mother and was in turn seriously injured himself. The alleged intruder, Dreaquan Foster, 21, of Providence, Rhode Island, reportedly forced his way into the Lyons Road home of Audrey Hewett, 84, of Sidney. Hewett took cover in her bedroom and called her son, Eric Hewett, 47, who lives next door. Eric Hewett said Foster struck him in the head with a carpentry hammer, knocking him to the ground. Eric Hewett then managed to fire one shot at Foster with his semiautomatic handgun.

A 72-year-old Burnham woman died of a coronary artery disease-induced attack in April after a naked woman broke into her home and “jumped in bed” with her. On April 2, police responded to a call from Joyce Wood, who reported the intruder in her house at 261 South Horseback Road. State Police later charged Tara Shibles, 37, with manslaughter in connection to the case. A Waldo County Grand Jury in May indicted Shibles on charges of manslaughter, aggravated criminal trespassing and assault. Shibles will serve 10-months in jail, pay restitution and be on probation.

Roseanna Caret was not about to let the man with a 9 mm handgun kill her daughter after he kicked in the door of their house in April and shot the daughter, Jasmine Caret, 33, in the shoulder.

“I beat the crap out of him with a bat,” Roseanna Caret said of Jeremy Clement, 36, of Fairfield, the ex-boyfriend of Jasmine Caret. Clement was arrested and charged with elevated aggravated assault and burglary and later taken to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta.

ALBION EVICTION, LEPAGE

Gov. Paul LePage was so angry in January 2017 that an elderly, disabled couple was evicted from their Albion home that he planed to change the law so it never happens again. The town of Albion foreclosed on the property of Richard and Leonette Sukeforth, both 80 years old, in December 2015 because of nonpayment of taxes. The rundown camp at 180 Marden Shore Road on Lovejoy Pond was sold by the town for $6,500 and the new owner evicted the couple.

A woman walks near down utility lines on Summer Street in Hallowell on Oct. 30 as a storm with gale-force wind passed through Maine knocking out power across the state. Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

WEATHER

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were left in the dark in November following a wind storm that knocked down trees and power lines, initially affecting more than half of Central Maine Power Co.’s customer base. More than 484,000 lost power immediately during that storm.

Everybody celebrated a White Christmas, heralding the end of 2017 and beginning 2018 with a wicked cold snap that has lasted days, with temperatures dipping into the teens and 20s below zero.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow