1. Warm sendoff in the works for local music man Gene Nichols

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    When word spread that music professor Gene Nichols’ position was eliminated, a sharp cry rose up across Washington County. Through more than 35 years of teaching, Nichols has become a household name and a colorful Downeast advocate for the joy of music-making. Last month his position was cut through retrenchment, or reduction in staff, at the University of Maine at Machias.

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  2. Wild blueberry market captures specialty crop block grants

    by Ruth Leubecker

    As agricultural businesses flounder in today’s tenuous business climate, crops in Maine are getting a beneficial hand up in response to the damaging effects of the coronavirus.

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  3. State acknowledges local testing ‘gap in the map’’

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The state of Maine expanded access to COVID-19 testing in June, setting up free testing without a doctor’s order through a “swab and send” program that established easy testing within 30 minutes of most Mainers. Today, Machias area residents must drive 60 miles for asymptomatic testing, to either Calais or Ellsworth, a distance some locals say they cannot manage.

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  4. Virtual craft fair offers safe local shopping option

    by Natalie Boomer

    A local young lady has created the Facebook group “Washington County Virtual Holiday Craft Fair 2020” for those who wish to participate in craft fairs this holiday season, but are unable due to coronavirus concerns.

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  5. Moosabec Ambulance Service absorbs former filling station/eatery

    by Nancy Beal

    Jonesport’s old Pit Stop filling station, later the Lighthouse Café, has been purchased by its next door neighbor, Moosabec Ambulance Service (MAS) and is being remade as an adjunct to the garage that currently houses the ambulance on a tiny lot to the east on Main Street.

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  6. Georgia on my mind

    by Jonathan Reisman

     

    “Now we take Georgia, then we change America.” - Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

    I hope everybody moves to Georgia in the next month or two and registers to vote and votes for these two Democratic senators.” - New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman

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  7. EAC’s free kids’ workshops continue

    Eastport Arts Center’s KinderArts program, which launched a ‘craft-along’ video series last month, continues with ‘Finger Print Art’, set to be released on Nov. 13 (and viewable at any time ever after). Geared towards children 3-8 years of age, the project lets kids have a little messy fun using their fingerprints as the basis of some easy drawings. Free materials kits are available from EAC, or participants can easily assemble the necessary supplies at home.

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  8. Community Chorus presents first ‘virtual’ performance

    Quoddy Voices, which resumed its work together in September for a ‘virtual’ season, recently presented its first choral video. The community choir’s director, John Newell, guided the singers through each step of the new musical process, which centered around Monday evening rehearsals via Zoom. To aid singers in recording their voices, Newell made guide track videos in which they heard their part played against the other voice parts’ lines and watched Newell conduct the time and cutoffs.

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  9. The American dream is not lost, it is remembered

    by WAA Staff Sean Sullivan and Amber Caron

    Pierre Claeyssens, who was rescued by U.S. Forces in Belgium, said, “To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen…to be forgotten is the worst.”

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  10. The Nature of Phenology: Birch seeds

    by Joseph Horn

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  11. Federal stimulus money has blunted COVID’s local economic impact, so far

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    More than $90 million in federal stimulus funds came into Washington County between April and August of this year, according to data compiled and analyzed by the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC). That money has reduced the pandemic’s negative economic impact, at least for now.

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  12. COVID-19 cases climbing quickly in rural Washington County

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Like a child arriving late at the party, Washington County has struck an ominous numerical presence with its climbing cases of COVID-19.

    With the recent outbreak of 10 cases at Calais Regional Hospital following the outbreak at the Woodland Pulp mill, Washington County can no longer, with some amount of pride at the time, refer to its low numbers when compared with its more populated county peers.

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  13. UMM students design art gallery for museum class

    by Natalie Boomer

    Student-designed and named, “Works by Maine Artists from the University of Maine at Machias Permanent Collection: Celebrating 200 Years of Maine Statehood,” is the center for the visual arts in the Down East region of Maine.

    The John C. and Norma B. Marin Foundation donated the works of John Martin, Lyones Feininger, Reuben Tam, William Zorach, Paul Jenkins, Oscar Bleumner, and William Kienbusch to the art gallery’s permanent collection back in 1972.

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  14. Locals rally to assist veteran before winter closes in

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    A former Marine who survived a tour in Afghanistan and a battle with cancer recently moved to Cherryfield where she is living in a camper. Sarah Strout of Harrington met her through her work at Hammond Lumber in Cherryfield, where the veteran would come to refill small propane tanks.

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  15. Washington County goes for Republicans, mostly

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, only one other county (Somerset) supported President Trump more than Washington County, which tied with Aroostook, giving Trump 59.1 percent of its vote. Statewide, Vice President Joe Biden won 55.3 percent, or 428,232 votes to Trump’s 44.2 percent, or 356,673 votes.

    Congressional District 2 (CD2), Maine’s more rural district and where Washington County is located, supported Trump to the tune of 52.4 percent, delivering him one of the state’s four electoral college votes.

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  16. Election codas

    by Jonathan Reisman

     

    After three restless nights, it is past time to conclude this election, but the blue wave faux narrative prelude and the red mirage “there’s no corruption” here counting performance suggest that this reality show finale will leave the country in gridlock. That might not be a bad thing, but it will certainly not result in a unified nation or any reduction in civil unrest.

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  17. EAC video profiles local COVID mask maker

    The latest from Eastport Arts Center’s Studio Visit series is a chat with Sally DeCicco, a sewing enthusiast, upcycle, and maker of 800 face masks (and counting!), which she has provided, by donation, to the communities of her two hometowns, Montpelier, Vermont and Eastport, Maine. Sally reflects in the video on finding meaningful action during the pandemic time, and about her lifelong passion for sewing (with a lot of laughs along the way). A longtime EAC volunteer, Sally has been active with the center’s annual Moose Island Follies shows and as a costume-maker for Stage East productions.

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  18. My life with Carlton Willey

    by Wayne Smith  

    Fred Kneeland and Carlton Willey are both from Cherryfield. They also both pitched in professional baseball. Kneeland was influenced by Willey. Kneeland was like a second son to Willey. Kneeland talked about his professional baseball career. He talked about Willey often in the interview. They had a bond together right until the end of Willey's life. This is a story of friendship and a story about baseball from Kneeland’s Pony League to his professional career. Kneeland gets candid and upfront with his answers.

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  19. November canoeing

    by Joseph Horn

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  20. In wake of COVID increase, families juggle as schools move online

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Washington County last Friday, Oct. 30, moved from green to yellow on the Maine Department of Education’s Health Advisory System, indicating the county has moved from low to elevated risk for COVID-19 transmission. Per the DOE, the color system applies only to schools.

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  21. DA decision flounders amidst COVID, Election Day chaos

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Washington and Hancock counties continue to share a district attorney, while efforts to separate the two by hiring a second one have fallen by the wayside, priorities deciding the matter.

    “It’s fallen victim to everything else in the world,” said Chris Gardner, Washington County commissioner, admittedly a cynic on the subject. “The Maine legislature left and never came back. And we don’t do anything unless it’s tied to COVID. It’s embarrassing. Everything’s about coronavirus. All the time. It’s terrible.”

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  22. Jonesport positive sends Moosabec schools remote

    by Nancy Beal

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  23. CCC gears up for safe harvest meal to go

    by Natalie Boomer

    Community Caring Collaborative will be serving a family harvest meal to go on Friday, Nov. 13.

    “We're excited to offer it again this year, with careful consideration for health and safety,” said Charley Martin-Berry, Community Caring Collaborative Director.

    This meal will serve as a celebration of nature's plentiful summer and fall harvests.

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  24. Machias selectboard talks solar power, Christmas parade

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Finalizing a process stalled by the pandemic, the Machias Board of Selectmen last week voted to move forward with a community solar contract, which will bring town-paid meters 15 percent savings off their annual electricity bill.

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  25. Second Baptist Church pastor responds to outbreak

    by Jayna Smith

    Last week, the Second Baptist Church of Calais made headlines across the state as 27 area people connected to the church tested positive for coronavirus. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shaw, 18 of those cases were considered primary, or directly related to individuals involved at the church. The remaining nine were considered secondary, or resulting from close contact of a primary case.  

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  26. Vietnam veteran lives life of service to his nation and his hometown

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Not long after celebrating his 18th birthday, Milan Jamieson enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Born in Edmunds and raised in Pembroke, Jamieson recalls that he joined against his father’s advice.

    “I thought I knew more than my father did and he said, ‘No, you can’t go,” remembers Jamieson. “I think I needed discipline, and I got it.”

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  27. Election predictions

    by Jonathan Reisman

     

    This is a problematic effort because hopes and fears are swamping fact-based analysis, and the incredible media bias and malfeasant efforts to suppress Republican turnout with misinformation, misdirection and outright lies make determining what the facts actually are very difficult if not impossible. Nevertheless, here are my predictions, written less than a week before the election. I have never wished harder to be wrong.

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  28. Respected faculty members retire from Washington Academy

    The impressive careers of four recently retired WA faculty members, James and Joanne Ausprey, Donald Sprangers and Cathy Johnson collectively represent 124 years of education; years that represent more than half of the impressive 228 years that Washington Academy has been in existence.

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  29. The Nature of Phenology: Daddy longlegs

    by Hazel Stark

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  30. Schools prepare for hybrid instruction as county moves from green to yellow

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Washington County has gone from green to yellow on the Maine Department of Education’s Health Advisory System. Superintendent Scott Porter says he expects to notify district families of the resulting changes this afternoon, Friday, Oct. 30. Those changes will take effect Monday, Nov. 2.

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  31. In wake of COVID spike, area schools prepared to go hybrid or remote

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    With a 72 percent increase in COVID-19 cases across Washington County this month, most in the last 10 days, Machias area schools are watching for an update to the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) color-coded Health Advisory System, which could come as soon as Friday. 

    Using data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, DOE codes each county green, yellow or red, and school districts — which retain local control — then decide how they will proceed.

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  32. Wreath makers take steps to ensure migrant workers are COVID-free

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The three local businesses that employ out-of-state laborers during the wreathing season have implemented protocols to ensure no worker enters the county with COVID-19.

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  33. Hike in property taxes fans escalating pandemic burden

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Property taxpayers this year are facing various changes in their bills which should point to a lesser total than last year’s bill, but that’s not generally happening.

    “It’s supposed to be based only on the town’s evaluation, total expenditures and revenue — unless your budget is going up and down dramatically,” explains Lewis Pinkham, for 16 years Milbridge’s town manager, whose mill rate is 15.125, down from a rate of 16.379 last year.

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  34. Blueberry commission nixes joining federal import probe

    by Nancy Beal

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  35. School plans, Whalen’s vacancy top Machias board agenda

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Machias schools this year have received $1.18 million through the CARES Act and two rounds of coronavirus relief funding. At the Machias Board of Selectmen meeting held Oct. 14, school officials updated the town on how that money is being used.

    A.O.S. 96 Superintendent Scott Porter said $191,000 in CARES Act funding can be held longer and can be used to defray taxation, unlike the coronavirus funds which must be spent on approved purchases by the end of the year,

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  36. Election fears

    by Jonathan Reisman

     

    The emotion governing this election, for both the left and the right, is not hope but fear. There is some talk of hoping to unite the nation and end the divisiveness, but that is nonsense. The goals of the left (socialism, color-conscious “anti-racism”, and an ever-expanding nanny state) are directly in conflict with the goals of conservatives (capitalism, colorblind equal protection, freedom of speech and religion and limited government).

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  37. Machias Valley News Observer recognized at Maine press awards

    The Machias Valley News Observer last weekend took home 13 press awards — the most the paper has ever won — at the Maine Press Association’s annual conference, held virtually this year on Saturday, Oct. 24. Its sister paper, The Calais Advertiser, won 17 awards including General Excellence in advertising, for a combined total of 30 awards between the two Washington County publications.  

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  38. Virtual concert series continues with ‘Ghost’ Rag

    In the latest from EAC Video, Gregory Biss presents a seasonally-appropriate tune — William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost (Rag) and accompanies the piece with a little discussion of the ragtime form. From Scott Joplin’s claim to have invented ragtime and his ‘viral’ hit Maple Leaf Rag in 1898, ragtime has become a popular and pervasive form, stretching into our contemporary tastes, as evidenced by Bolcom’s composition, penned in 1970.

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  39. First town playground opens at Machias rec area

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    A brand new cedar playset is getting rave reviews from dozens of small citizens who stress-tested the installation last weekend, including this young man, right, who can attest to the strength of its climbing rope.

    The playset stands on the grounds of the Machias Recreation Area at the base of Salem Street where it meets Harwood near the Machias River.

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  40. WAA’s Karen Worcester reflects on veteran burial at Acadia National Cemetery

    Wreaths Across America’s Executive Director Karen Worcester last week reflected on a special funeral service held at Acadian National Cemetery in Jonesboro.

    This is what happened, in Karen’s words:

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  41. Spawning brook trout

    by Joseph Horn

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  42. Patriotism takes local Airman around the world and back again

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Editor’s note: In this seasonal feature leading up to Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, we’re proud to bring you the unique service stories of some of our local veterans.

    Tommy Johnson started thinking about the draft when he was just 14 years old. He was in eighth grade that year, and the Vietnam War was nightly news. But Johnson was never drafted himself, because four years later he enlisted with the U.S. Air Force, and at the ripe old age of 19, he was off to basic training in Texas.

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  43. Machias jail shines compared to others often in crisis

    by Ruth Leubecker

    From the outbreak crisis in York County Jail to a hunger strike protesting safety conditions in the Androscoggin County Jail, Washington County’s facility has emerged as a model for Maine.

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  44. Route 1 rebuild on schedule, Machias dike project delayed

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Work on the area’s most dreaded stretch of frost heaves should begin next spring, according to Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) Senior Project Manager Randall Barrows.

    A call for bids to widen and rebuild an East Machias length of Route 1 running from Pope Memorial Bridge and north 1.8 miles will be advertised on Dec. 23. Barrows says DOT anticipates clearing and utility work could begin in Feb. 2021, and road construction could begin in April, weather permitting.

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  45. Students early visitors to new preserve on Beals Island

    by Nancy Beal

    The Nature Conservancy’s 1,500-acre preserve on Beals’ Great Wass Island was established decades ago and is well known to hikers and nature lovers throughout the country. Recently, a second preserve was carved out of the other island that makes up the town of Beals — named, appropriately, Beals Island — and donated to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT).

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