AGRICULTURE

Meat processors get OK to sell beyond Maine

Maine agriculture officials say the state has signed an agreement that will allow slaughterhouses and processors to wholesale their products everywhere in the country. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry says the state inked the deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Before the agreement, Maine slaughterhouses and processors were only allowed to slaughter and process animals for wholesale or retail within the state. State officials say the deal is important for Maine’s livestock sector because producers who utilize state inspected plants will now be able to sell products out of state and over the internet. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

South Portland housing projects get state funding

Two apartment buildings that would create more than 100 units of subsidized and market-rate housing have been awarded a combined $14 million in critical funding through the Maine State Housing Authority. West End Apartments, a 64-unit building that’s being developed by Avesta Housing at 586 Westbrook St., will receive low-income housing tax credits valued at $8.6 million, the developers said. Thornton Heights Commons, a 42-unit building that’s being developed by the South Portland Housing Authority at 611 Main St., will receive federally backed tax credits valued at $5.4 million. Maine Housing’s funding approval, announced last week, was a major hurdle cleared by both projects, located on the rapidly changing west side of the city, near Interstate 295 and the Maine Turnpike. Both are expected to start construction as early as next summer and begin leasing apartments in 2020, addressing a need for affordable workforce housing that has plagued Greater Portland for years. Read the story.

More than 100 apartments sold in Sanford area

Longtime Sanford and Springvale landlord George Sleeper has sold 108 apartment units in one of the largest transfers of real estate in the city’s recent past. The units, which are located in about 20 properties, have been sold to a company registered in Maine with a New York connection, White Bark Properties LLC. The deal closed Nov. 5. Matthew Goldfine, manager of White Bark Properties, said the company intends to leave the Sanford and Springvale properties largely as they are while each is evaluated and a plan developed, as needed. Read the story.

Home sales strong through October

The fourth quarter started out on a positive note for Maine’s housing market, with both sales volume and median price increasing in October from a year earlier. According to the Maine Association of Realtors, sales of existing single-family homes in Maine increased by 3.4 percent in October compared with a year earlier, and the median sale price reached $215,000, up 4.9 percent from October 2017. The median indicates that half of the homes sold for more money and half sold for less. Statewide home sales for the three-month period ending Oct. 31 were up by 1.6 percent from the same period a year earlier, while the median sale price of $216,000 was up by 4.9 percent. Read the story.

Portland changes short-term rental rules

The Portland City Council on Monday night approved new short-term rental rules aimed at containing the trend of renting private homes and apartments through services like Airbnb. Councilors passed rules that will allow property owners to register up to five short-term rentals per year. Councilors also increased the cap on non-owner occupied short-term rental units to 400 from the present 300 units. Presently, the ordinance allows apartment building owners to rent units they don’t live in short term, as long as they live in the building. There are 346 rental units not in a primary residence. The updated ordinance clarifies that after the new rules take effect on Dec. 1 only homes or apartments that are a primary residence can be registered as owner-occupied. The non-owner occupied units that are registered, even those that exceed the cap, can be re-registered for the next year. Read the story.

Thirty acres of waterfront sold

A Portland development company has purchased 30 acres of prime waterfront property that the Cacoulidis family has been trying to redevelop for two decades. L+R Northpoint, a holding company of PK Realty Management, purchased the former shipyard land in South Portland where the late John Cacoulidis once proposed building a $900 million hotel and convention center that would have included a cable-car system across Portland Harbor. The family company has no firm plans for the property, which is located next to Bug Light Park and was part of a marine industrial complex where Liberty ships were built during World War II. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Court orders immediate expansion of Medicaid

Gov. Paul LePage plans to appeal a judge’s order that his administration immediately move forward with a voter-approved expansion of MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid system. Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy issued the order Wednesday, detailing seven steps the Maine Department of Health and Human Services must take to comply with the expansion law, which extends health care coverage to as many as 80,000 low-income Mainers. The law was approved by 59 percent of the state’s voters in November 2017, but LePage repeatedly has blocked implementation by vetoing legislation to fund the expansion and refusing to take administrative steps. Murphy’s order, retroactive to July 2, requires the DHHS to file an amendment to paperwork already submitted to the federal government. The amendment must state that there are no legal or constitutional grounds for delaying the expansion. Read the story.

Gorman family donates $4 million to Maine Med

The family of former L.L. Bean president and board chairman Leon Gorman has donated $4 million to Maine Medical Center to pay for the lobby of the hospital’s $525 million expansion in Portland. The lobby will be in the new 265,000-square-foot Congress Street building, which will also include a new main entranceway, 64 patient rooms and 19 cardiovascular care rooms. The lobby will be named after the late Leon Gorman, according to Maine Med officials. Gorman died in 2015 at age 80, and in addition to leading the company for 34 years, was known as a conservationist and philanthropist. The building will be part of the third phase of the five-year expansion project, which also includes a new helipad to receive patients with life-threatening conditions, an addition to the East Tower, a new employee parking garage, and an addition to the visitor’s parking garage. Read the story.

BIOMEDICAL

Jackson Lab expands facilities in China

A Maine biomedical science laboratory says it is growing its presence in China. The Jackson Laboratory is an independent research institution headquartered in Bar Harbor. The lab says its new initiatives in China include establishing a quarantine facility in the country for the importation of mice. The laboratory says it has also established a location in a research park in Pudong. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Cat ferry sees 20 percent increase in ridership as it prepares to relocate

The international ferry’s best year in Portland will likely be its last. Almost 50,200 people took the direct, high-speed Cat ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, this year, a 20 percent increase from 2017 and the highest passenger count since Canadian firm Bay Ferries Ltd. began operating the ferry three years ago. The city of Portland earned almost $153,000 in passenger and vehicle fees, about $34,000 more than the year before. The company intends to relocate its service to Bar Harbor, although a lease has not been signed as yet. Read the story.

EDUCATION

SMCC launches mobile welding program

The Brunswick arm of Southern Maine Community College is investing in a new welding program. The college purchased 10 new welding stations that will be used to train students, potentially for jobs with Bath Iron Works. Students who complete the training will be interviewed for positions at the shipyard, according to a news release from SMCC. The college and BIW last year signed an agreement for SMCC to provide welding and other skills training to up to 90 prospective employees through SMCC’s Workforce Development Department. The new welding equipment will be located in a building leased by BIW a couple of blocks from the SMCC campus. The equipment is portable and can be moved to other locations in the future, said the college. Read the story.

LEISURE

Early arrival of winter good news for ski resorts

Early-season snow and cold temperatures are helping New England ski resorts open early, carving out a blizzard of a start to the 2018-19 season. Many hitting the slopes are finding great November conditions across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The early-season snow bounty is being combined with tens of millions of dollars in improvements at resorts across the three states that include new chair lifts, snow-making upgrades and more off-slope activities. And the storms have hit southern New England and the New York area, generating interest in winter sports from people who live far from the mountains. Read the story.

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