1. New state law eases restrictions on medical marijuana

    by Lura Jackson

    On Dec. 12, Maine patients’ ability to access medical marijuana became significantly easier as a new law, L.D. 1539, went into effect. The new law makes it easier for patients to receive medical certification by removing the list of qualifying conditions and leaving medical providers with more freedom to prescribe medical marijuana themselves.

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  2. Transaction fees add up for small businesses

    by Lura Jackson

    With the holiday shopping season well underway and a bounty of opportunities to shop local among the many fine small businesses of Washington County, it’s a prime time to consider one simple method of supporting those small businesses even more: by using cash. Every credit and debit card transaction comes with an additional fee that small businesses have to absorb – a fee that, while relatively small, still affects their bottom line.

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  3. In the year ahead, it’s time to pick up the pieces

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Everyone loves Will’s newsletter, and most could guess what he led off with recently. “2018 was a tough year for everyone associated with the Downeast Correctional Facility,” said the East Machias legislator. “2019 is our chance to pick up the pieces, start over again, and turn heartache into joy. Trials and challenges turn around with good people fighting to turn them around. Each of us is up to the task, our community is up for the task, and the rest of the state will see that again in 2019.”

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  4. Redeemed

    Editor’s note: During the long, dark months of winter we will feature the work of local artists and writers here in the Arts & Entertainment section. Snow, ice and chilly temps can make it harder to go out in a Downeast winter, so please enjoy a bit of our local arts scene here, from the warmth of your own home.

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    by Steve Parrott

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  5. 26 local homes receive free insulating window inserts, just in time for winter

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The carpeted floor of Machias Savings Bank’s training center was covered with protective plastic while busy volunteers moved around half a dozen tables set with tools. Working in shifts over three days, volunteers assembled 183 insulating window inserts last week. Those window inserts will go into 26 local homes for a collective savings of roughly 1,900 gallons of oil. 

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  6. Downeast Lobstah Drop offers full day of free New Year’s fun for families

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The Fourth Annual Downeast Lobstah Drop lineup is set and volunteers are ready to greet New Year’s revelers on Monday, Dec. 31 in Machias. Activities will run from 9 a.m. to midnight, and all are free of charge to attend.

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  7. A defining reality Downeast could be rural broadband

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Closing the digital service gap just became significantly more likely with Sen. Angus King’s latest move to make affordable broadband more accessible.

    King, a founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, has long touted the vital necessity of bringing high-speed, affordable broadband to Washington County. Many thousands of Internet users remain deprived of such a connection, viewed increasingly as an economic imperative.

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  8. Wild blueberry growers, processors prepare legislation remaking WBC

     

    by Nancy Beal

    A dozen small wild blueberry growers beat their way through a snowstorm to the Blueberry Hill Farm research station in Jonesboro December 18 to discuss legislation revamping the Wild Blueberry Commission (WBC). Also present were two members of that commission, two WBC staffers and half a dozen observers, including the area’s state representatives and individuals from Washington County Indivisible, a grassroots political action committee interested in local issues.

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  9. Meeting Mencken just wasn’t destined to happen

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Everyone has someone they wish they might’ve met -- but he died before they could get there. In my case it was H.L. Mencken who died in his sleep five years before I moved to the hometown he never left. Baltimore. 

    We would have almost certainly met otherwise, because we would’ve been working in the same newspaper circles. Bill Zorzi, a fellow reporter friend of mine, could recall him covering the police beat at the News American.

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  10. Life in Milbridge

    by Wayne Smith

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  11. 4th Annual Downeast Lobstah Drop

    Check out the digital version of the December 26 issue of the Machias Valley News Observer for the schedule of events for the 4th Annual Downeast Lobstah Drop happening on New Year's Eve!

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  12. Last holdout joins PVC

    by Phil Stuart

    Jonesport-Beals High School recently became the last Washington County School to be a dual conference member. The Royals were forced to give up their independent status when a couple of their opponents were unable to field either varsity boys' or girls' squads.

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  13. Ice: Is it safe?

    by V. Paul Reynolds

    Each year about this time, the Maine Warden Service urges us to use extreme caution before venturing out onto any ice that may be covering Maine’s waterways.

    This is timely advice. Two winters ago, three night-time snow sledders all perished in one night on Rangeley Lake when they and their machines broke through thin ice.

    Many of Maine’s lakes and ponds may appear to be frozen, however safe ice conditions cannot be assumed. 

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  14. ‘Frostfish’ spawning season peaks in the dark days of winter

     

    by  Joseph Horn

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  15. ‘Helen’s Elves’ draw community into Christmas giving

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Walk into the Holy Name Parish Hall in early December and you might think you’ve walked into Santa’s workshop. Volunteers bustle between tables stacked with piles of baby dolls, books and snow boots filling orders that will be delivered around the county. This year the Community Christmas Giving Tree will create Christmas for more than 500 children, senior citizens and special-needs adults in towns from Lubec to Jonesboro and everywhere in between, and they’ll do it with the help of more than 50 volunteers.

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  16. Clamming on ‘Middle Ground’: Jonesport, Addison dispute town line

     

    by Nancy Beal

    For over a month, Jonesport selectmen have been talking about clamming in an area in Indian River between the northeast end of Addison’s Crowley Island and Jonesport’s Parker Point that has informally come to be called the “Middle Ground.” Six years ago, the two towns entered into an agreement on harvesting the muddy bottom that is exposed on low-drain tides and has been known to yield four to five bushels a tide during the winter when other flats are inaccessible.

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  17. Commissioners adopt 2019 budget, cooperative extension speaks against cuts

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Washington County Cooperative Extension (WCE) employees and supporters filled the seats of the probate court room at the county commissioners’ meeting held Thursday, Dec. 13. The meeting agenda included a vote on the proposed 2019 county budget, which contains a 50 percent cut to governmental third party funding. 

    The WCE, Soil and Water Conservation District and the Resource Conservation & Development Program are all affected by the cut. The WCE requested $40,000 from the county and was approved for $20,000.

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  18. Caregiving advocacy gears up for change in 2019 legislative session

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Many thousands of unpaid Maine caregivers save the state a staggering $2.2 billion annually yet remain financially uncompensated.

    Juggling multiple roles and a myriad of daily demands, as they grow in number they now have come to be known as the “sandwich generation.” The title refers to their unique occupation among generations so far that spans caring for their children while also caring for their elders, usually parents but not always. Past generations housed extended families and mobility and miles were not as relevant.

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  19. Machias warns of grandparent scam

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The Machias Police Department has received numerous complaints of a telephone scam where the caller says they are the grandson or granddaughter of the person they’re calling, then asks for money.

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  20. The Editor’s Desk

    “There's a lot of bad ‘isms’ floating around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism.”

    -Alfred, Miracle on 34th Street

     

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  21. Federal judge rules against Poliquin in anti-RCV suit

    by Lura Jackson

    After Maine’s historic adoption of the Ranked Choice Voting [RCV] system earlier this year, its constitutionality has been formally put to the test in the federal courts. A lawsuit by Republican Bruce Poliquin was issued following his loss in the race for Maine’s 2nd seat in the United States House of Representatives to Democrat Jared Golden. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker struck down Poliquin’s complaints and upheld RCV in Maine.

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  22. This Time Might Be Different: Stories of Maine by Elaine Ford, Islandport Press, 2017, Softcover $16.95

    Book Reviews by RJ Heller

    “When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you.” – George Saunders

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  23. Burke receives Boston Post Cane

     

    The Boston Post Cane tradition began in 1909 when Boston Post publisher Edwin A. Grozier sent ebony canes with 14-carat gold tops to 700 towns in New England, asking they be given to the oldest male resident in the town with his compliments, and then passed down in succession. In 1930 the tradition expanded to include women. Today, East Machias holds a ceremony presenting the cane, then stores it for safekeeping. Photos courtesy Rep. Will Tuell (R-E. Machias)

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  24. Bald eagles feeding below dams

    by Joseph Horn

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  25. Wesley’s Tree Festival draws thousands, raises thousands at weekend event

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The Lee Pellon Center was quiet on Monday morning, with sunlight streaming in on 55 empty tree boxes and dozens of undecorated Christmas trees waiting to be packed away by volunteers. But Friday, Saturday and Sunday were a different story altogether. 

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  26. Machias votes in favor of medical marijuana storefronts

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Unusually long lines of voters delayed the start of a town meeting held in Machias on Wednesday, Dec. 5. More than 100 Machias residents and 30 non-residents attended the meeting, held to discuss and vote on the town’s proposed medical marijuana ordinance. As is customary, the non-residents lined the bleachers of the Machias Memorial High School gymnasium, leaving a clear view to the Machias voters seated in rows of chairs down the middle of the room.

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  27. Tackling infrastructure gap a tough and growing challenge

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Many millions have been allotted to bring Maine’s transportation infrastructure up to par, but most of those voter-approved bonds have yet to be sold.

    Meanwhile, although Maine may have a debt obligation that’s low compared to other states, it can no longer ignore infrastructure goal lists that have barely moved over the last six years. As of 2017, the state was 70 percent toward its goal of making 1,400 miles of priority highway miles serviceable by 2022. 

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  28. EPA makes progress with Meddybemps Superfund site

     

    by Lura Jackson

    The EPA has issued an update on N’tolonapemk, also known as the Eastern Surplus Superfund site in Meddybemps. The site was used for a storage and salvage yard for decades before being declared an environmental Superfund site, meaning it had high levels of toxicity and was thus a high priority for the governmental organization to remediate. The process of environmental remediation has been successful and its end is in sight, depending on how well the most recent efforts are received by the land.

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  29. County committee approves budget with three deputies, cuts to governmental third parties

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The final meeting of the Washington County Budget Committee took place in Machias on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and the 10-member committee spent two hours in negotiations. Led by committee chairman Lewis Pinkham of Milbridge, the committee ultimately passed a budget that includes a near-zero increase of .1306 percent, but still includes the addition of three sheriff’s deputies. The budget will now return to the three county commissioners for their approval.

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  30. ‘Deck the Falls’ contest, telebusiness center dominate selectboard discussion

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Local businessman Bill Burke presented to the Machias Board of Selectmen at their bi-weekly meeting held Wednesday, Nov. 28. Burke is the owner of Pat’s Pizza and the founder of the Downeast Lobstah Drop, which will take place on New Year’s Eve for the fourth time.

    Burke said that this year the indoor kids’ activities will be held in the gymnasium of the Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School. Burke is also talking to law enforcement and hopes to bring a demonstration of drug dogs to the event.  

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  31. Jonesport has interim CEO, talks marijuana, allots charitable donations

    by Nancy Beal

    In addition to having been a founder and president of the Jonesport Historical Society, past-president of the Greenwood Cemetery Society, retired merchant mariner and local historian, Donald Woodward was Jonesport’s code enforcement officer before his tragic passing last month after a battle with cancer. Last week, Jonesport selectmen struck a deal with a long term fill-in for the code officer position.

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  32. Collaborative book launch leads to new Washington County publishing enterprise

     

    by Lura Jackson

    Local author and life coach Lanette Pottle is making new strides in putting Washington County on the map of personal empowerment with the publication of her newest book, Small Steps Big Impact. In the creation of the book, Pottle collaborated with two other Washington County women, Laurel Robinson and Ashley Hinson Dahkal, and simultaneously developed her own publishing enterprise: Positivity Lady Press.

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  33. Machias Planning Board approves MSB’s Main Street office building construction project in 4-1 vote

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The Machias Planning Board approved a $4M construction project request from Machias Savings Bank at their regular meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 5.

    The bank’s construction will create a two-story office building with five parking spaces on the vacant Ford Garage lot located across from the Thirsty Moose and next to the Machias Hardware Co. building.  [See “MSB brings $4M expansion to Machias Planning Board,” MVNO Nov. 14, 2018.]

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  34. Blueberry commission gives tentative OK for subcommittee of small growers sought by Addison’s Marie Emerson; bill to enlarge commission in the works

     

    by Nancy Beal

    Marie and Dell Emerson have been involved with wild blueberries for decades. For nearly 50 years before his retirement, Dell ran the experimental farm on Blueberry Hill in Jonesboro. The couple owns a 40-acre farm of their own at Wescogus Corner in Addison and manages other growers’ fields and buys berries from still others. They furnish berries for the fresh pack market and, after the harvest in August, sell fresh-frozen berries in bulk from their home.

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  35. Machias votes in favor of medical marijuana

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Unusually long lines of voters delayed the start of a town meeting held in Machias on Wednesday. Dec. 5. More than 120 Machias residents and 30 non-residents attended the meeting, held to discuss and vote on the town’s proposed medical marijuana ordinance. As is customary the non-residents lined the bleachers of the Machias Memorial High School gymnasium, leaving a clear view to the Machias voters seated in rows of chairs down the middle of the room.

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  36. County committee approves budget to include three sheriff's deputies

     

     

    The final meeting of the Washington County Budget Committee took place in Machias on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and the 10-member committee spent two hours negotiating. Led by committee chairman Lewis Pinkham of Milbridge, the committee ultimately passed a budget that includes a near-zero increase of .1306 percent, but still includes the addition of three sheriff’s deputies.

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  37. ‘Royal Bulldogs’ turn Jonesport, Machias schools into one winning team

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    When students approached Cindy Moore-Rossi and asked her to coach their cross country running team, she wasn’t even a runner herself.

    “There were four kids that wanted to run and they were told the program would fold if they couldn’t come up with a coach,” she said. At the time Moore-Rossi was working at Machias Memorial High School as a special education ed tech.

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  38. Josh Kelley, Philip Kilton survive the sinking of their lobster boat 11 miles offshore

     

    by Nancy Beal

    The boat that sank out from under Beals lobsterman Josh Kelley and his sternman last month seven miles outside of Moosepeak Light was a 42-foot Novi-style boat that Kelley purchased in Lower Woods Hole, Nova Scotia in 2014. She was built by Stanley Greenwood, or “Chainsaw” Greenwood as he is familiarly known because he uses that tool for finish work.

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  39. Local talent fires up UMM women’s basketball

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    On their way to last week’s game, the University of Maine at Machias women’s basketball team anxiously awaited the latest USCAA power rankings. Coach Troy Alley had predicted their strong 6-2 record would land them in the national top 10, but when the rankings came out he heard they were actually number three. 

    Five minutes later he realized his mistake. “Ladies, we’re not third,” said Alley. They were crestfallen. “We’re first.” 

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  40. County committee on verge of completing controversial budget

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    After a hiatus due to weather events, the Washington County Budget Committee convened on Thursday, Nov. 29 for what could be its next-to-last meeting this year. The 2019 budget process has taken longer than usual owing to a debate over the proposed addition of three deputies to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. 

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  41. Moosabec teachers seek pay scale changes, negotiations ongoing since last winter

     

    by Nancy Beal

    Teachers in Union 103, the school unit that includes both elementary schools and the joint high school in Beals and Jonesport, are seeking a change in the 25-step pay scale under which the district has operated for years. Negotiations started last winter and, instead of lasting the usual couple of months and centering on the increase in pay and benefits, are snagged on a different issue which, teachers say, affect not just money, but their professionalism and the ability of the schools to attract and retain good teachers.

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  42. Firefighters save home in Pembroke after vehicle engulfed in flames

     

    by Lura Jackson

    A Pembroke family escaped major catastrophe this past week following a fire that began in a vehicle parked between their home and their shed with only a few feet on either side as a buffer. A seemingly spontaneous fire ignited the Lingleys’ 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac in the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 28, but firefighters contained the blaze before it could spread.

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  43. Medicaid expansion struggles amid sea of suits, strife

    By Ruth Leubecker 

    Health insurance for 70,000-plus Mainers may be the law of the land, but lawsuits and excessive legal postponements have prevented it from happening for over two years.

    The latest date for possible positive action is December 5.

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  44. School officials tell parents to throw away the yardsticks, they’re toxic

    by Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman

    Is it really “poisonous” for parents to compare student test scores in their local school district to test results in other districts across the state?

    I don’t think so. But then, I’m not a credentialed education professional with advanced degrees, earning $80K or $90K toiling in the government school monopoly swamp.

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  45. The Nature of Phenology: Muskrats

     

    by Hazel Stark 

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