Fire destroys camp on Ebeeme Lake

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 30, 2020 - 8:23am
Linked from: WABI TV5

BROWNVILLE, Maine (WABI) - Authorities say the call to west pond road came in around 6:30 Wednesday night. A Bangor family reportedly owns the camp.

They weren't there at the time. The fire came dangerously close to other camps, but fire fighters contained the flames to one property.

A cause of the fire has not been released

Brownville Junction dugouts vandalized, those responsible have been found

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 27, 2020 - 8:51pm
Linked from: WABI TV5

BROWNVILLE , MAINE (WABI) - Brownville Junction's Davis Field dugouts were seriously damaged this weekend. Piscataquis County Sheriff's Department has found the juveniles responsible. The case is being referred to juvenile services. The dugouts had been redone in memory of Justin Gerrish who passed away a number of years ago played Little League baseball there. The fields host middle school games for Penquis Valley and rec games for the area.

Milo company building barriers for coronavirus protection

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 22, 2020 - 8:46pm

Ernie Clark, Bangor Daily News Staff • April 22, 2020

The lack of a vaccine to combat COVID-19 has left the battle against the pandemic to more direct human approaches — the most common of which is social distancing.

But one Piscataquis County company is helping to fight that battle in situations where the six-foot separation between people isn’t possible.

JSI Store Fixtures in Milo has been among the nation’s leaders in producing transparent hygiene barriers that perhaps are best recognized as those plexiglass shields that have popped up at local grocery stores to separate the customers from the cashier.

And when company president Mark Awalt does the math, he can’t help but believe those barriers have helped flatten the coronavirus curve around the United States since they were installed during the last month.

“If you put up a hygiene shield in a Hannaford store you’re protecting an employee and a consumer, and if somebody walks up to be served every three minutes, you’re providing 20 protections per hour for two people so that’s 40,” he said. “If the store is open for 12½ hours,  that’s 500 protections a day with just that one shield.”

JSI received its most recent large-scale order from The Dollar Tree chain of discount variety stores, and when those 2,200 barriers are delivered, the company will have shipped out more than 11,000 shields.

“If one shield can protect 500 people in a day and [with 11,000 total], you’re talking about more than 5 million [protections] a day and maybe upward of 30-plus million in a week,” Awalt said. “You have to believe hygiene shields are saving lives. You have to believe that.”

Before COVID-19 spread throughout the United States, JSI’s production centered on high-end, wood merchandising displays and wrapping store refrigeration displays in wood cases.

But when the pandemic arrived, company officials were quick to shift resources to hygiene barriers.

“When we heard some noise that this was happening, we actually went out and bought over a quarter-million dollars of plexiglass sheets so we would be prepared,” Awalt said.

“We’ve always used plexiglass because it will bend and it will come down over the fixtures. We’ve always been a provider of plexiglass shields, of sneeze guards and things like that, but not of hygiene barriers. That’s a brand new term that’s come up in the last month.”

Hannaford was the first major retailer to contact JSI about producing significant quantities of the hygiene barriers for their stores.

Since then JSI, which has 150 employees at its 85,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Milo  as well as other operations in Bangor, Payson, Utah, and Collingwood, Ontario, has supplied shields for such entities as the Hy-Vee grocery chain in the Midwest, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust Company, R.H. Foster and hometown retailers like Tradewinds Market and Reuben’s Country Store in Milo, Awalt said...

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Three Rivers Kiwanis Sebec River Race canceled

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 16, 2020 - 5:36pm

Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom
NO SEBEC RIVER RACE IN 2020 — As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Three Rivers Kiwanis has canceled this year’s Sebec River Canoe Race. The race, which is often held in May, has a canoe and kayak course from below the dam in Sebec Village down the Sebec River to near the boat landing in Milo. Race proceeds benefit Three Rivers Kiwanis community projects in the organization’s home in the Milo/Brownville-area.

Full Plates announces 2019 Summer Grant to Milo

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 16, 2020 - 5:35pm

Contributed, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • April 16, 2020

Full Plates Full Potential, Maine’s only statewide child hunger organization is proud to announce the Piscataquis County 2019 16 County Summer Grant Competition winner. The town of Milo will receive a $500 Summer Meals Program Grant to support the 2020 summer program. Full Plates’ 16 County Summer Grant Competition was launched to highlight the critical work summer food programs do reaching the over 80,000 children who rely on school meals for basic nutrition.

“We are so proud of the town of Milo summer meals program. This summer they served 3,306 meals which is an increase of 2,488 meals, or 304%, over 2018” said Anna Korsen, Full Plates Full Potential’s program director. “Summer is an extremely challenging time for children affected by hunger. Our 16 County Grant Program aims to showcase and reward the best of summer programs across our state.”

“We took the stigma out of ‘free lunch’ and made summer meals a fun and entertaining event for friends and family,” said the late Damien Pickel — who was town manager/police chief of Milo.

Maine has 122 Summer Food Service Programs with 467 meal sites across the state.  This summer, 727,612 meals were served statewide.

Full Plates Full Potential is on a mission to end child hunger in Maine by partnering with nonprofit advocates, local businesses and restaurants, advocating for policy changes at the state level, granting funds and providing technical assistance to schools and hosting year-around events and fundraisers. Learn more at

Home Delivered Meals for Seniors

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 16, 2020 - 5:34pm

Area students to remain with remote learning for rest of school year

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 14, 2020 - 3:44pm

Stuart Hedstrom, Piscataquis Observer • April 14, 2020

Following last week’s recommendation by Maine Department of Education (MDOE) Commissioner of Education Pender Makin, with the support of Gov. Janet Mills, regional school districts are extending remote learning plans until the end of the academic year.

In an April 9 email Makin acknowledged closing school buildings was a difficult decision made only after consultation with the experts, including guidance from the national and Maine CDC. “We are looking forward to the eventual development of a process for determining when it might be safe to resume in-person classroom instruction,” she said. Because we continue to see double-digit increases each day in the number of new cases in our state, the metrics for determining this have not yet been developed.”

Makin said the timing of her recommendation was made to give families and school officials time to plan and provide alternative ways to celebrate and conduct end-of-year events. “School administrators, staff, students and communities deserve as accurate a picture as we can provide with respect to this evolving situation, and it will require a longer term continuation of remote instruction,” she said.

The commissioner said Maine has joined other states in mandating or recommending schools not return to in-class instruction this spring. “This is difficult on everyone, but necessary to protect the health and safety of students, school staff, and community members,” she said.

“With the commissioner of education recommending to Gov. Mills that Maine schools should continue remote learning for the rest of the school year, and in coordination with RSU 68, I want to make it official that Foxcroft Academy will finish the school year with remote learning,” Head of School Arnold Shorey wrote in an April 9 letter to parents/guardians. “Though this is a decision I do not want to make, we live in extraordinary times that require extraordinary steps.”

“With this information, we are now able to plan for the close of the year and will share that information in the very near future,” Shorey said.

He said April break will still take place April 20-24, professional development days will be April 27-28 and the last day of school will be Friday, June. 5. 

The head of school explained coordination will take place to have student lockers cleaned out, the contents placed in a bag with the student’s name on it and delivered to their home.

“Work is being planned to ensure that many of our traditional activities will continue in a different form and we will announce the dates, times and type of forum in the near future (Undergrad Awards Night, Senior Awards Night, etc.),” Shorey said. He said it is impossible to plan for the prom at this time.

“I am determined that graduation will take place but it will be later in the summer,” Shorey...

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Katahdin Country Club closes after 90-year run

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 5, 2020 - 1:46pm

Ernie Clark, Bangor Daily News Staff • April 2, 2020

MILO — When Milo lawyer Judson Gerrish purchased the 10-year-old golf course now known as the Katahdin Country Club back in 1940, there was some consternation within the family about the price tag.

“With the buildings that were there he paid $2,500,” recalled Gerrish’s son, Judson Gerrish Jr. “His father was a lawyer, too, and he felt my father was crazy to spend that kind of money.”

That investment proved wise for the Gerrish family, who operated the nine-hole, par-36 layout during challenging times for the sport during and immediately after World War II, and then through a subsequent boom in golf course construction that began later in the last century.

Recent times have proven less profitable for the 2,968-yard layout located on Park Street in Milo, so the Gerrishes have opted to close the 90-year-old course.

“Business just dried up over the last 10 years,” said Rick Gerrish, the third generation of his family to own the golf club. “It goes in cycles, I guess. It was good for a lot of years and then it dried up.”

Rick Gerrish said he had been considering closing the facility for the last two or three years, and agreed that the potential negative impact of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic on this year’s prospects for the course may have been the last straw.

“Probably,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about it anyways and just decided it was time.”

Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order related to the COVID-19 crisis on April 1 that, in part, added golf courses to the list of non-essential businesses that now must close until May 1.

The Katahdin Country Club, designed by Larry Striley of Bangor, was constructed in 1930 with local labor and originally had 50 members, who each paid annual dues of $50. Greens fees were $1 per day.

Judson Gerrish purchased the course a decade later and the business survived through World War II and its aftermath thanks in part to greens fees as low as 50 cents per day.

Judson Gerrish Jr., began working at the course in 1950 and eventually took over operations in 1970. His four children — Jane, Val, J.C. and Rick — all worked at the course, with Rick Gerrish taking ownership in 1999.

Rick Gerrish eventually became a one-person operation, attending to the pro shop as well as to the mowing, mechanical maintenance, blade sharpening and golf cart operations, despite struggling with allergies to grass, trees and mold he developed approximately eight years ago.

The Katahdin Country Club’s best years came during a boom time for the game during the late 1900s and into the early 2000s.

The number of golf courses nationwide increased by 44 percent from 1986 to 2006, according to the National Golf Foundation.

Maine was a significant participant in that growth. The Pine Tree State ranked eighth in the country with one golf course per 8,856 residents, ...

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