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Verso Paper Corp. to close Bucksport mill

Verso Paper Corp. on Wednesday announced plans to close its paper mill in Bucksport, a move that will affect more than 500 employees.
The closure of the mill is expected to occur Dec. 1, according to state officials. The mill closure will reduce Verso’s coated groundwood paper production capacity by approximately 350,000 tons and its specialty paper production capacity by approximately 55,000 tons, the company reported.
“The Bucksport mill unfortunately has not been profitable for a number of years, in spite of our employees’ dedicated efforts to make it so. Our assessment indicates that it is impossible for the mill to achieve profitability in today’s marketplace,” said Verso President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Paterson in a company press release.
“This decision is especially difficult because of the significant impact that the closure of the
Bucksport mill will have on many people across the region, especially our long-serving and
hard-working employees and their families,” said Verso Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Energy Lyle Fellows.
Verso is headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., and owns three paper mills located in Maine and Michigan.
The company reported net sales of $320.9 million in the second quarter of 2014 compared to $330.4 million in the second quarter of 2013.
Earlier this year, Verso Paper Corp. and NewPage Holdings Inc. announced that they had entered into “a definitive agreement under which Verso will acquire NewPage in a transaction valued at $1.4 billion.”
Verso reported, “Upon closing of the transaction, the combined company will have sales of approximately $4.5 billion and 11 manufacturing facilities located in six states. The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, is expected to close in the second half of 2014, subject to regulatory approvals.”
“We still anticipate that to happen,” Robert Mundy, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Verso Paper Corp., said of the merger in an interview Thursday. The merger and the Buckston paper mill closing are “totally unrelated,” he said.
“There’s not one thing that gets you there,” Mundy said of factors behind the closure, “you look at all any cost implications and demand for the products the plant makes.”
Company leaders said the cost of natural gas and dependency on it played a role in the closure, according to multiple news reports.
The Maine Pulp & Paper Association reported that Maine and New England continue to have the highest electricity costs of any region in the country. The Maine Development Foundation Measures of Growth report for 2009 listed the cost of energy as a “red flag” issue, citing an index showing Maine’s retail cost of electricity as 32 percent higher than the nation as a whole, much higher than the 16 percent difference in 1990, the association reported.
Verso Paper Corp., on its website, described the Bucksport business as its “flagship industrial complex.”
The company also operates a mill in Jay, the Androscoggin Mill. “There’s no dots to connect between Bucksport and Andoscoggin,” Mundy said, responding to a question regarding the future of the Jay mill.
The Rapid Response team of the Maine Department of Labor has contacted the owners of Verso Paper Corp. in Bucksport. The WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) notification was issued Thursday.
This shutdown is anticipated to affect more than 400 union workers and an additional 100-plus salaried employees, the agency reported.
In January, Verso announced its purchase of a controlling interest in Bucksport Energy LLC power-generation plant. The power plant will stay open, according to state officials.
“This is a true loss for the region,” said Gov. Paul LePage. “We are putting all of our available resources into assisting these workers, this industry and this region and we are also going to assist in the search for a buyer for this operation.”
“Our CEO has had conversations with the governor,” Mundy said, confirming that the focus is how to proceed from here.
Established in 1930, the Bucksport Mill produces light weight coated groundwood papers for offset and rotogravure printing as well as specialty products, the company reported.
According to the Maine Pulp & Paper Association, Maine is the second leading papermaking state, with an average industry salary of $64,800 and statewide payroll of $470 million.
The Department of Labor’s Rapid Response team will be meeting with the union and company officials as soon as possible to set up a plan of action including filing for Trade assistance and working with all partners in that area, the agency reported. A regional transition team is already in place and has been addressing the needs of workers affected by the other recent mill layoffs in the region, the agency reported.
The most recent Trade certification for Verso Bucksport expired in January of 2014.
The Bangor CareerCenter will be the point of contact for those affected. The CareerCenter, located at 45 Oak St., Suite 3, Bangor is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. More information is available on the CareerCenter website, http://www.mainecareercenter.com.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 01:56

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SunRise Corner specializes in the unique, tasty delights

Anne Farrar, owner of Sunrise Corner in Standish, is going strong six years after her husband, Cecil, died. They bought the three-story house back in 1999. Four years later, they bought the old town hall (a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse) and moved a lot of products into that building.10-3-14-standish-1
"The year he died, we opened the fire barn where we sell penny candy, popcorn, bakery products, ice cream," said Farrar, whose store caters to people who are looking for specialty products, something they haven't seen somewhere else.
There are five or six lines exclusive to her shop, like Siena beeswax candles from Florida and cone candles handmade in Denmark (the country, not the Maine town). They also have fairies made by Mark Roberts and Nature's Creations jewelry, featuring electro-plated copper leaves that are then hand-painted.
"They are breath-taking," she said. "It's like holding a leaf that just fell from the tree."
On a typical business day, SunRise Corner is pretty busy.
In summer, they see a regular flow of customers seven days a week and hold on to a lot of them in the fall for leaf peeping.10-3-14-standish-3
"We see a lot of the same people year after year," Farrar said.
The shop has a designer layout. There are some 22 Christmas trees, some of them 10-footers — in the big house.
Farrar goes to big flower shows out of state, in places like Hartford and Cincinnati.
"When on site at these shows, I visit all individual crafters and look for special items to bring home," she said. "We are specializing in unique products that are not sold on an on-going basis up and down Route 1."
SunRise Corner is comprised of three buildings, each with about 2,000 square feet of display space, featuring a lot of Maine products like items from Stonewall Kitchen and Moxie Jelly.
"And I make the fudge here," Farrar said. "Candy and fudge are a big part of our business."

The business website, http://www.sunrisecorner.com/about, adds, "SunRise Corner was originally located in Jefferson, Maine. Situated high on a hill overlooking Damariscotta Lake, in 1992 SunRise Corner was born. An old Indian tale denoted this location as SunRise Corner (known for its abundance of deer and other wildlife) to be the first place in Jefferson that the sun would shine. Anne Farrar, owner of SunRise Corner, adopted the stores name from this story. SunRise Corner relocated to Standish Village Corner in 1998, to the historic Marean House, Circa 1810. This charming building was earlier saved from being torched by the town of Standish, by Sally Rand of Freeport, an architectural historian. This complex of buildings has been lovingly restored, enhancing the features of days gone by."

For more information on SunRise Corner and the Oktoberfest celebration this Saturday and Sunday in Standish, also visit https://www.facebook.com/sunrisecorner.


Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 01:57

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Stone Dog Café sinks new roots in Standish

Sarah Plummer closed the Stone Dog Café in May after three years on Route 302 in Windham.
"I had lots of issues with the building," she said. "It stopped working for me."
She took a couple of months off before connecting with Dan Roberts at Maine Street Grill, whom she'd known for a while.
"He had a breakfast there, but it wasn't doing as good as he wanted," Plummer said. "I had something to offer."
She started working in kitchens when she was 15, "and it just kind of went from there," she said. "I've always loved it."
Her mother, Jean Shorey, was an art teacher in Westbrook, and Plummer said she got her artistic flair for cuisine from her.
"I love being in the kitchen; it's my way to be creative," she said. "I love putting beautiful things on a plate. That hasn't changed for me. A lot of people get tired of it, but it still gives me a great deal of happiness."
Her move to Maine Street Grill is "the perfect scenario for both of us," she said. "On Thursdays, I do all my baking — muffins and homemade quiche."
Stone Dog Café serves two different muffins every weekend, and has made 27 different types in her short stint there.
They serve breakfast at the Maine Street Grill Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and open for holiday Mondays.
"This past weekend, we did breakfast nachos with fresh corn salsa and avocado. I've done a seared salmon benedict, a Boston Crème French toast," she said. "We really have a good time with it."
Plummer spends a lot of time trying to be inventive and "not doing the same old same old," she said. "I know people love pumpkin and apple this time of year, but there's only so much you can do. When we do specials, they're specials, not because we want to get rid of product. We bring in new foods for the specials."
She likes the Maine Street Grill location, with seating for close to 200, contrasted with 85 at the former spot.
"The outpouring of support from customers in Windham has been truly overwhelming," she said. "For them to take that extra 10 minutes down route 35 — it's exceeded my expectations."

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 01:57

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Veteran restaurant owner runs Maine Street Grill

Dan Roberts, owner of Maine Street Grill, is in his fifth year there, but he's not new to the business.
He opened 28 bars and restaurants in the greater Portland area (for other owners), and used to own the Penguin nightclub and the Double Diamond restaurant in the 1990's.
Now the Maine Street Grill is the only place he owns.10-3-14-standish-main
"I was asked to come in because of my experience," he said. "I was one of those TGIF's — Tom Cruise bartender guys."
He also built a loyal customer following as a carpenter, and can appreciate the hard work his employees put in.
"Right now, the energy level of the people working here is the best I've ever had," he said.
The Maine Street Grill is an American-style pub where everybody knows your name.
"We do more food than liquor, but have a very active bar as well," Roberts said.
Each night there showcases a different scene, "a melting pot for the community," he said. "I don't see my neighbor a lot of the time, but I come here and see him."
Half the people in town meet here, including baseball coaches and business partners, he said.
They offer Taco Tuesday ($2 tacos and beer specials), Country Night Wednesday, and Thirsty Thursday drink specials. Frisky Fridays feature vodka drink specials, and Saturday is Ladies' Night with $5 drinks for the women. All New England Patriots' games have $2 Bud Light bottles.
The Maine Street Grill recently merged with Stone Dog Café (which closed in Windham). Roberts hired the chef/owner Sarah Plummer. Now they offer Stone Dog breakfasts every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Breakfast is served on Monday holidays as well.
The new union is sitting well with both sets of customers, and Roberts is pleased to be offering an authentic home-style breakfast.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 01:57

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ACLU of Maine challenges Topsham's removal of political signs

A court ruling may be required to clear up the limits of government in Maine when it comes to removing campaign signs from the public right-of-way, a civil liberties group reported.
Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine, wrote a letter to the town of Topsham this week after public works employees removed political signs – possibly upwards of 85 – from properties along roads.10-3-14-political-sign-topsham
Heiden this week spoke with Town Manager Rich Roedner, and on Thursday Heiden said, "I'm satisfied that they're not going to go on private property and take people's signs."
What's still unclear, Heiden said, is how governments view the public right-of-way, a stretch of property that often extends beyond a sidewalk into a resident's yard.
And the issue isn't limited to Topsham, Heiden said.
"It's unfortunate that it comes up so often," he said, noting that close to elections (this year, the midterm elections are Tuesday, Nov. 4) political sign placement and efforts to regulate it seem to come up as legal issues with greater frequency.
The ACLU of Maine may pursue a court ruling on the matter, Heiden said, because the question of regulating political signs in public right-of-ways remains unsettled.
In his letter to the town of Topsham, Heiden wrote, "We were recently contacted by a number of Topsham residents, whose political signs were removed from their front yard on the afternoon of Monday, September 29. The order to remove the signs was based on Topsham Zoning Ordinance § 225-33(D)(7), which purports to permit such signs to be displayed only during specific periods of time before and after an election. This law, and the town's arbitrary application of it, violates the fundamental right for free speech."
Heiden concluded, "This unconstitutional censorship and chilling of protected, fundamental free speech must be stopped. We therefore respectfully request that, by midnight October 2, 2014, the Town of Topsham agree to return all political signs that were unlawfully removed from residents' lawns; agree to cease enforcement of any town ordinance that purports to regulate such sign placements; and agree to begin steps to repeal any such ordinances."
The ACLU of Maine said Topsham Public Works Department employees were directed to remove the signs by town manager Roedner, who cited the town ordinance that prohibits the display of political signs in public right-of-ways except during the 30 days leading up to an election and the 48 hours immediately following. A public right-of-way is defined as any area within 25 feet of the center line of a road and 13 feet from the edge of pavement – which includes land in private yards, the ACLU of Maine noted.10-3-14-political-sign-free
On Wednesday, Roedner said the town may have made a mistake by straying onto private property.
"I agree with everything in their letter, we as a town as a government have no right, no responsibility, no desire, no inclination to affect anyone's free speech rights," Roedner said in an interview.
Where the rub may come is that the code says public property is off limits for these signs.
"What we did is take signs off the public realm, not off of private property, which is within the realm of government regulation to do that," Roedner said.
"Our crews deal with right-of-way issues all day every day," Roedner said, but added, " ... It's possible there was a mistake, and I've apologized to some people."
In modern road construction, a 50-foot right-of-way is typical for road right-of-ways, so a 24-foot-wide road leaves 13 feet outside the paved surface, and often these public spaces are used by private residents, he said.
"If we did stray over a line, it was not our intent, it was not our desire," Roedner said. "We have no desire to infringe on anyone's rights."
Roedner said the original location of the signs cannot be verified at this point.
"I've been fielding calls since Monday afternoon. ... And in reality, in most cases there's no way to figure out if they were on public property or not," he said.
The signs were taken to the public works garage, and at least one candidate called to retrieve his, Roedner said. To the town's credit, that candidate found the signs separated by candidate for convenience and ease of recovery, he said.
"We've taken utmost care with the signs," Roedner said.
The town counted fewer than 25 signs left on Wednesday from those originally taken, Roedner estimated.
Roedner argued that clarification of right-of-way law would help clear up the issue.
"We all need to be talking the same thing, and once we're all talking the same language and understand what the town did, the concerns seem to evaporate," he said.
The goal of the voter-approved ordinance is to preserve space for public purposes, Roedner said.
The ACLU of Maine warned of possible uneven enforcement of the law in Topsham, meaning the signs that were left behind could represent more of an issue than those taken down.
"Town ordinances that single out political signs for restriction violate the First Amendment," Heiden said in a press release. "We would never ban people from telling their neighbors who they're going to vote for, and we can't ban them from putting it on a sign in their yard."
The letter requests that the town of Topsham not only return all political signs that were removed from residents' lawns but also agree to cease enforcement of any town ordinance "that purports to regulate such sign placement; and begin steps to repeal any such ordinances."
The town's sign ordinance (D7) is available at http://www.topshammaine.com/vertical/sites/%7B95A28B10-4485-4BEC-B8FC-5E8BF056A147%7D/uploads/Sign_Ordinance_225-33_with_commentary_6.4.14(1).pdf.

A copy of the letter is available at http://www.aclumaine.org/media/979.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 01:56

Hits: 448


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