Portland approves new condo complex

A second, six-story condominium building along Franklin Street in Portland has been given the green light by city planners. The Planning Board voted Tuesday to approve Verdante at Lincoln Park. First proposed in February, the $13 million project is expected to have as many as 30 market-rate condos, retail space and a parking garage for 60 vehicles. The project at 56 Hampshire St. will be located next to the Luminato Condos, a six-story, 24-unit development that was completed and sold out in 2017. Both projects are being developed by the NewHeight Group. Read the story.

Nonprofit purchases former Serenity House

A nonprofit organization that operates residential programs for mentally ill clients is likely purchasing the former Serenity House, a long-running recovery home in downtown Portland that closed its program in July. Shalom House Inc., a Portland nonprofit, has entered into a contract to purchase the former Serenity House, on Mellen Street, with a closing expected this fall. Serenity House was one of the first recovery homes in Portland, but reimbursement issues led to its closure this summer, officials have said. Serenity House was taking in $350,000 in annual revenues from Medicaid, but expenses to operate the program totaled more than $500,000, officials with York County Shelter Programs, which operated Serenity House, told the Press Herald in July. An inflexible reimbursement model through Medicaid made it too difficult to continue, officials said. The property fits into the mission of the nonprofit to serve those with a “major mental illness” who need housing, said a spokesman. Read the story.


UMaine intends to double enrollment in nursing programs

The state university system has a plan for easing Maine’s nursing shortage. With Maine’s overall workforce aging and retiring, the state is projected to have more than 3,000 nursing vacancies by 2025, according to one estimate. At the same time, Maine’s population leads the nation in median age, and its health needs are expected to multiply. To counter those trends, the university system is trying to double its enrollment in nursing programs, from about 1,900 students now to 3,800 in five years. Leaders of the University of Maine System on Wednesday announced a five-year initiative to meet the growing need for nurses across the state, a plan that would expand nursing programs to rural areas, help the neediest students pay for their education and take other steps to swell the ranks of graduating nurses. Read the story.

New law fastracks nursing exams for veterans

In a rare example of bipartisanship, a Democratic lawmaker teamed up with Gov. Paul LePage to pass a bill that allows returning military veterans with nursing experience to bypass state education requirements and immediately take the state exam to become licensed practical nurses. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, a former Marine, said he’s been working to get this passed for years – an earlier bill was watered down in committee and vetoed by the governor – and he’s glad it finally passed this session as a governor’s bill. Currently, applicants must take a year of course work before sitting for the state licensing exam. Under the new law, which went into effect Wednesday, anyone who was on active duty in the medical corps of any branch of the U.S. military, was honorably discharged, spent at least 12 months providing bedside patient care, and passed the military branch’s basic nursing course may sit immediately for the exam. Read the story.


Incomes increase, but still trail national median

Household income in Maine increased again last year, but it still lags behind national and regional levels, particularly in the state’s northern and western counties. The state’s median household income was $56,227 in 2017, an almost 4 percent increase from 2016, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimate has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. Maine’s rate of income growth outpaced the national average, but the median U.S. household income was $60,336, about $4,000 higher than in Maine. In New England, the median income was about $71,494. The new income estimates are part of the American Community Survey, an annual look at social and economic indicators at the state, county and city level. Read the story.

Mayor settles suit with owner of his former firm

Auburn’s mayor reached a settlement in the lawsuit he filed against the owners of his former company claiming they had broken their contract to keep him on as an employee.

In a statement released Wednesday, the law firm representing ITC Argo said the confidential agreement it reached with Jason Levesque “avoids future misunderstandings and fully resolves the matter with minimal expenses and disruption of operations” at its Lewiston and Georgia locations. No details of the settlement were made public. Levesque had agreed to stay on last year as an executive vice president at the call center, drawing a $125,000 annual salary. Read the story.


Utility hearings on CMP transmission line project delayed

One of two sets of hearings at which state utility regulators gather public input about Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission line project has been postponed. Hearings at the Public Utilities Commission’s offices in Hallowell, originally set for Sept. 18-21, have been put off until sometime in late October or early November. The PUC is one of the key agencies that must give approval for CMP to build a 145-mile high-voltage transmission line that would carry hydroelectric power from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts. Read the story.


State seeks cannabis consultant for new rules

Maine has set an April 30 deadline for a new consultant to come up with the rules needed to begin recreational marijuana sales. The state Department of Administrative and Financial Services issued a request for proposals Monday for a consultant to write the rules and regulations needed to license and regulate adult-use cannabis businesses and implement the new medical marijuana law that will add new dispensaries and allow caregivers to open retail stores. Proposals must be submitted by a Nov. 1 deadline. The applicants will be scored by a selection team based on qualifications and experience, proposed services, cost and impact on the Maine economy. Read the story.


Executive airport gets federal grant

The Brunswick Executive Airport will receive more than $6 million from the federal government for a new aircraft hangar, perimeter fence and other improvements. A $6.2 million grant award to the airport from the Federal Aviation Administration was announced Monday by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. More than half the award, about $3.6 million, will pay for a new general aviation hangar, said Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. The authority is responsible for Brunswick Landing, a business park, residential development and airport on the site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station that closed in 2011. The gigantic hangars the Navy used when it operated the airport and sheltered submarine-hunting P-3 Orions are unsuitable for the small aircraft there now, Levesque said. Read the story.


Lobster dealers start to feel tariff pinch

America’s live lobster sales to China hit a two-year low in July, the first month a new tariff on Maine’s signature export took effect. The United States shipped $4.2 million of live lobster to China in July, a 64 percent decline from May and June levels, according to WISERTrade, a trade analysis firm. The data shows that what had been shaping up to be a banner year for U.S. lobster sales to China collapsed after July 5, when that country levied a 25 percent import tariff on U.S. lobster. Before the tariff, the U.S. had sold $87 million worth of lobster to China, bringing 2018 year-to-date totals to more than double the $39.5 million worth of lobster the U.S. had sold to China during that same period in 2017, which, up until 2018, had been the best year on record for live U.S. lobster exports to China, data shows. Read the story.

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