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Truck crashes into Dollar Tree, six injured
  • Updated

ELLSWORTH — A pickup truck crashed through the glass doors of the Dollar Tree store on Marden’s Way at 1:31 p.m. Monday, injuring four people inside the store and causing structural damage to the building, said Ellsworth Police Capt. Shawn Willey.

The Dollar Tree is temporarily closed. Efforts to reach the corporation before press time were unsuccessful.

“Numerous people appeared injured,” Willey said. “EMS began triaging the scene and officers secured the scene and witnesses for investigation.”

The pickup truck had been pulling into a parking spot when the truck accelerated, crashing into an unoccupied parked car then continuing on and crashing through the front doors of the store into the check-out registers before stopping, Willey said.

Joseph LaFrance, 80, of Ellsworth was driving the truck, the captain said. LaFrance was taken to an area hospital for treatment of minor injuries. A passenger, a 75-year-old Ellsworth woman, was also taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Four people — a mix of patrons and employees — were also injured, according to Willey.

The injured included:

• An Ellsworth woman, 74, head and left leg injury.

• An Ellsworth woman, 28, head injury and fractured left foot.

• A Sullivan woman, 67, possible broken leg and injured ribs.

• An Ellsworth man, 61, cut hand.

Willey said at the scene Monday that alcohol was not a factor. Also, there was no indication that the driver had experienced a medical emergency, he said.

“The cause of the accident remains under investigation,” the captain said. Police will review footage of the crash to determine if there might have been a mechanical or operator error involved.

Avian flu outbreak sends egg prices soaring

ELLSWORTH — Prices have more than doubled from $2.12 to $4.44 for a dozen large, white store-brand eggs amid another avian flu outbreak, the first since 2015.

So that batch of eggnog or cookies you’re planning to make for the holidays will cost more.

That’s one finding from The American’s intermittent survey of the cost of grocery staples, recorded since 2011. The newspaper records the price of grocery staples at the Ellsworth Hannaford, Shaw’s Supermarket and Walmart and averages the prices together.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 50.3 million birds had been affected by the latest outbreak. That’s just 200,000 shy of the total from 2015.

According to a report from CNBC, avian flu kills 90 to 100 percent of a flock, often within the first 48 hours.

Meat hens, from which we get boneless skinless chicken breasts, are not as affected by the flu as laying hens.

This has resulted in slightly lower chicken prices, a trend that Friends & Family Market General Manager Matt Welch confirmed Tuesday.

The Ellsworth market is part of Associated Grocers of New England, a food cooperative that helps individually owned stores compete with the larger grocery enterprises. “Meat prices for the next 30 days are going to go up,” Welch said. That’s due to “continued challenges with higher grade cattle.”

To that end, Friends and Family has seen many of its customers move toward bulk buying the store’s offerings of “freezer packs.”

“But you have to have the room to store it and the money to buy it all at once,” Welch said. “Those seem to be more popular the past couple months.”

In other grocery stores, butter is another product experiencing a price spike. A pound of store-brand butter has increased 15 percent since last March, going from $3.68 to $4.15.

A pound of 85 percent lean ground beef is up 15 percent from $5.44 to $5.90 a pound.

“It’s crazy to me just how quickly the cost of things have gone up,” Welch said.

The grocer attributes much of the increase to the labor shortage, particularly for truck drivers.

“The dairy farmers association has been crying for over a year that they have no drivers,” Welch said. “Everybody’s competing for the same pool of workers.”

“Right now, you can start at $80,000 a year and work four days a week and they still can’t fill the positions,” he said. Several companies are paying for the necessary CDL training for commercial truck drivers.

Back to the aisles, everything but bread has increased in price.

A pound of store-brand butter is up 15 percent from $3.68 to $4.25.

A gallon of store 2 percent milk is up slightly to $4.21 from $4.17.

A 16.3-ounce jar of Jif peanut butter has increased 11 percent from $2.86 to $3.19.

A 20-ounce loaf of store brand white bread is unchanged at $2.12.

Welch says he encourages families to shop weekly sales at area grocery stores.

“Every store puts something different on sale each week,” Welch said. “If families work those sales, they can keep those costs down.”

Welch said Friends and Family recently had Hormel Black Label bacon on sale for $4.99.

“That’s a great price,” the general manager said. “Families that took advantage of it, that’s a big savings. Saving $4 or $5 on a pound of bacon, that adds up for a family. There are some great deals at all the stores. They have to keep those to keep people coming in and keep people happy.”

“We’ve been so used to getting what we want when we want it,” he said.

Mills proposes energy relief

ELLSWORTH — Governor Janet Mills on Tuesday announced a $474 million emergency winter energy relief plan that would provide Mainers with $450 to offset rising heating costs, contribute $50 million to fuel assistance programs and give a $21 million boost to a fund for short-term housing for those facing homelessness.

Mills urged the Legislature to pass the plan with the two-thirds support needed to enact an emergency measure when it convened for its first regular session Wednesday.

“Inflation and high energy prices are stretching the wallets of Maine people, in some cases forcing them to face the impossible choice of heating their homes, putting food on the table, or paying for other necessities,” Mills said. “With this plan, we hope to ease the burden on Maine people by putting money back into their pockets so they can better afford these costs and by ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens are able to stay warm this winter.”

The bulk of the money ($398 million) would be used for one-time, $450 payments to an estimated 880,000 eligible Mainers.

To be eligible, you must be a full-time resident and not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. Income eligibility is up to $100,000 for individuals or people who are married but file their taxes separately; $150,000 if filing as head of household; or $200,000 for couples filing jointly. If approved as an emergency measure, checks are expected to begin being distributed in mid-January.

The proposal would also use $40 million to supplement the Home Energy Assistance Program, $10 million to help Maine community action partnerships deliver emergency fuel assistance and $21 million to bolster the Emergency Housing Relief Fund.

The plan would be funded by $283 million in additional revenues recently projected by the state’s Revenue Forecasting Committee, $157 million in general funds that are available as the result of continued enhanced federal funding related to the pandemic and $34 million in fund balance, according to the Mills administration.

The Portland Press Herald reported that Maine political leaders worked Tuesday to negotiate a bipartisan deal before putting the plan to a vote Wednesday, but talks broke down when Republicans asked for time to hold a hearing on the proposal and get more information on how it would be funded.

“We want to do this, but we want to do it right,” said Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford). “That doesn’t mean we can’t do it quickly, can’t get it done before winter. I think we should have a public hearing. It is a lot of money and we should know where it’s coming from.”

The Governor’s Office also announced it will take executive action to distribute additional heating aid to low-income older residents. Next week, the Department of Health and Human Services will provide one-time payments of $500 to approximately 13,000 households that include low-income Maine people aged 65 or older to help them pay for home heating costs.

“Maine is distinctly vulnerable to impacts from volatile global fossil fuel markets, which are causing Maine people to face unprecedented energy costs this winter,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This relief plan will help Maine people and families stay warm this winter. Our office remains engaged with local, state, regional and national partners to continue to find ways to ensure energy supplies this winter and on strategies to help grow Maine’s energy independence.”

The average retail price of heating oil was $5.02 per gallon in Downeast Maine the week of Nov. 28, according to the Governor’s Energy Office.

Nearly 60 percent of Maine homes rely on oil, compared to just 4 percent nationwide. Consumers are expected to pay an average of $525 more to fill their tank this year compared to a year ago.

Electricity cost increases are expected to add an average of more than $500 to household expenses compared to a typical year.

Local group to resettle two Ukrainian families

BAR HARBOR — Representatives of several churches on MDI and one in Ellsworth have formed an organization for the purpose of bringing at least two Ukrainian refugee families to the area and helping them get settled in.

The Hancock County Neighborhood Support Team (NST) aims to relocate the families under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Humanitarian Parole program.

Families whose applications for resettlement are approved must have guaranteed financial support from a sponsor, such as an NST member, to get them on their feet. Their stay in this country is limited to two years, but there are several pathways through which they may become eligible for permanent resident status.

Homeland Security has contracted with various organizations around the country to match the refugees with sponsors and coach the sponsors and help them with logistics. The contractor organization that Hancock County NST is working with is Massachusetts-based WelcomeNST.

“They have matched us up with two candidate families that we hope to have relocated early in 2023,” said Seal Cove resident Art Worster, who is president of Hancock County NST’s organizational committee. “These families are in desperate situations in Ukraine, both having escaped Kherson earlier and now are in areas threatened with bombardment and degraded civilian services.

“We need to move as quickly as we can because these families are under the gun, quite literally. But the local housing market is ultimately going to determine exactly how quickly we can move. Figuring out housing is the single most important thing we have on our plates right now.”

Hancock County NST includes the four Episcopal parishes on MDI and St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Ellsworth, where Worster is vice president and treasurer.

“We have interviewed both Ukrainian families by Zoom, and both they and we have agreed that it is a good match,” he said. “The first of the families is a mother, father, 17-year-old son, 15-year-old daughter and 5-year-old daughter. At the start of the invasion, they were in Kherson, hiding under mattresses and just trying to keep from getting bombarded out. They were eventually able to escape and are now in Kyiv, where conditions are also difficult.”

Worster said the second refugee family consists of a mother, a 21-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. The mother is a gynecologist.

“She was originally Georgian, and when the Russians invaded Georgia 30 years ago, she escaped to Ukraine and went to medical school in Crimea,” Worster said. “Then, about 15 years ago, she went back to Georgia to visit her grandmother, and the Russians invaded the area they were in, so they escaped again to Ukraine. The stories of so many families are just heart-rending.”

The government’s Humanitarian Parole program tells parole applicants, “You may be eligible for federal…benefits, such as cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), health insurance through Medicaid, and food assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You may also be eligible for cash assistance, medical assistance, employment preparation, job placement, English language training, and other services.”

Even with those possible government benefits, refugees are likely to need financial and other types of support from their sponsoring organization.

“That might include mental health services for kids who now have to walk out in the morning and, as one 17-year-old boy said, ‘When I need to go out and get food for the family, I look up at the sky to see where the missiles are going,’” Worster said.

He said Hancock County NST already has a good foundation of financial support, but more will be needed, both in the near term and to keep the program going into the future.

“We’ve got a fair amount of wealth here, particularly in the summer community,” he said. “We’ve got a number of people who are really conscientious, hard working, thoughtful and really support things that are well organized and well done. So, my job is to ensure that we meet the standards of well organized and well done.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Hancock County NST or providing support may email Worster at

Tessa Hudson of Gouldsboro was among the fun-loving Whos of Whoville who stole the hearts of young and old watching during Ellsworth’s 42nd Christmas Parade Sunday. Inspired by Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Legend Athletics supplied the Whos and Woodlawn Director Kathy Young made a great Grinch while her staff assumed other characters in the joint float.

Making spirits bright

Hancock man struck and killed by truck

HANCOCK — A man was struck and killed by a pickup truck while he was walking in the roadway of Route 1 in Hancock at 6:15 Wednesday morning, Maine State Police spokesperson Shannon Moss said.

Edwin Rowe, 67, of Hancock was pronounced dead at the scene, Moss said. “Rowe was wearing dark clothing at the time and the stretch of road where he was walking was dark and without streetlights.”

Rowe was struck by a 2001 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck traveling north and operated by Shawna Hardison, 57, of Lamoine, police said. Hardison was not injured.

“Weather and visibility appear to be factors in the crash,” Moss said. “A full investigation is being conducted and will be reviewed once completed.”

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office as well as fire departments from Hancock, Sullivan and Franklin assisted.

Route 1 was closed to all traffic from Sullivan just east of the Hancock-Sullivan Bridge all the way to the Tideway Market in Hancock until late Wednesday morning.

Westbound traffic had been rerouted along the paved and partially dirt Taunton Drive and via routes 200 and 182 to Hancock and Tideway Market.

Eastbound traffic was being rerouted along routes 182 and 200 through Franklin to Route 1 in Sullivan.