Thursday, February 28, 2002

Cape teachers become students

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth students had an extra two days off this past week, and though the teachers had to work, they had a luxury too: professional development time.

The district has set aside five days from this school year for teacher development work. Two were in November, before Thanksgiving vacation, two were last week, extending February vacation, and one will follow spring break in April.

In the two-day sessions, the first day is filled with district-related work, primarily curriculum mapping and organization.

The second day is a “building day,” when teachers in the separate schools can work in small groups or independently on their own, on projects relating to professional development.

The district work this year is called “curriculum mapping,” drawing up a detailed picture of what material teachers cover, and when they do it. The idea is to get a full report of what students are learning, and when. It lays the groundwork for future plans, including curriculum changes\ and new standardized tests or other assessment methods.

This sort of planning is something many districts are without, but Cape Superintendent Tom Forcella sees it as a necessity. The schools did get some e-mail and telephone complaints from parents about the extra time off, though school officials said there were not many.

“This work needs to be done,” Forcella said. Making sure the teachers talk to each other about teaching, principles and educational continuity is basic, he said.

“That’s the foundation of the work that we do,” Forcella said. And the district is committed to not only asking teachers to take the time, but also to give teachers the time they need to do it.

“It’s a lot of work,” Forcella said.

This year, in particular, is a lot of detail work for the teachers, who have to enter all of the units they teach into a centralized database.

“We want to be able to see the scope and sequence K through 12,” said Sarah Simmonds, the district’s professional development coordinator. The position is a new one this year, and is part of the district’s efforts to help teachers grow and learn, as well as streamlining the schools’curricula.

The inventory teachers are building will help as the district goes through a state-mandated process of developing a “valid, reliable” local assessment method by the 2006-2007 school year.

As teachers enter the information into the database, they also are asked to select specific areas of the Maine Learning Results standards addressed by each unit. Next year’s project will be the next step, examining how well the teaching meets the state standards.

“We’re saying, ‘Here’s what we do. Here’s what the learning results say,’” Simmonds said.

It is a custom-designed database, in which teachers can see all the information pertaining to the grade levels they work with, though they can only change or update information relating to classes they teach.

They also can search on keywords, so a teacher could, for example, see what other teachers talk about Egypt or Native American tribes in their classes. This could be an excellent resource for new teachers as they are hired, Simmonds said.

In the process, teachers are having good conversations about their work, and about ideas affecting education.

“You see lots of light bulbs going off” in teachers’heads, Simmonds said.

In many districts, Simmonds said, a real curriculum analysis doesn’t happen until assessment is the topic at hand. Removing assessment from the inventory process, she said, makes things easier for the teachers and streamlines the process of developing assessment as well.

“You’re not learning two things at the same time,” Simmonds said. “Every time you take a step, you learn something new.”

On Tuesday, the “building day,” teachers did more work individually or in small groups.

Pond Cove teachers focused on reading and writing, lesson study, new organizational techniques for material to be taught, and also discussed the educational principles that might influence the addition to the building.

Middle school teachers worked on their individual professional development plans, reviewing and refining their teaching. Some designed new units to teach, and others worked with technology, improving their familiarity with digital video, PowerPoint or web site design.

Teachers at the high school continued their work from Monday, and did some work in their departments and in their own classrooms.

Cape prepares for budget fight

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth School Board is ready to fight the Town Council to keep its budget.

While an all-day workshop scheduled for this Saturday, March 2, could change the 2002-2003 budget total, at press time the proposed budget stood at $15,091,234 – a 5.7 percent increase over this year’s, or an addition of $815,583.

That equals an additional $1.27 per thousand on the tax rate, or an estimated $250 on a home valued at $200,000. The current town rate is $21.70.

At a budget workshop Tuesday night, board members characterized their request as “conservative” and “responsible,” and suggested that town spending be cut in other areas.

“If the Town Council is really serious about cutting the budget, maybe they would consider giving back their salaries,” said board member Jennifer DeSena.

Each councilor gets $350 a year, plus Social Security, according to Town Manager Michael McGovern, making the total annual cost to the town $2,637 for the seven councilors.

There are three major factors behind the budget increase: salary raises and increased expenditure for benefits for existing staff; increased staffing
to keep class sizes optimal and adequately serve students in special education programs; and a 24 percent cut in state funding to the district. “Eighty cents of the tax increase is due to the loss of state subsidy,” said business manager Pauline Aportria.

The district will add 2.5 full-time-equivalent positions among the regular staff, and 3.9 full-time-equivalents in special education.

Benefits for existing staff will not be expanded, but continue to become more expensive, said Superintendent Tom Forcella, and will cost 17 percent more next year than they do this year. This year’s budget included a 7 percent increase in benefits spending over last year.

The personnel expenses will cost $838,583 in combined salary and benefits, and services and portable classrooms, related to the planned construction projects at the high school and Pond Cove, will cost $80,000. The district also will spend $59,500 to purchase a bus – an expense budgeted for but not spent this year.

While the budget increases total $978,083, the overall increase is less than this amount, because of energy conservation and lower energy costs, reductions in debt service and smaller cutbacks throughout the district.

The district will get $589,598 less in state funding than it did this year, a decrease of 23.64 percent. Reserve money from this year’s planned bus purchase and additional state funds held over from this year will carry over to offset some expenses.

A proposal to charge student activity fees at the middle school and high school, projected to raise between $50,000 and $60,000, was tabled. Board members expressed “philosophical objections” to charging such a fee.

Spending has been reduced throughout the district, including in the professional development program, which had been slated to include additional resource staff in each building. Other additions also have been eliminated, including a computer lab technician for the high school, athletic support at the middle school and world language at Pond Cove.

“There are no new programs in this budget,” Forcella said.

Instead, 76 percent of the budget will be dedicated to salary and benefits. He said the district is remaining true to its plans for the future. “We are addressing our strategic goals with this budget,” Forcella said, but warned against continuing cutbacks and neglecting programs that already are planned or even begun.

“How much can we afford to put it off?” he asked.

The School Board began to prepare its defense of the budget Tuesday, anticipating questions from the Town Council and suggesting changes to PowerPoint presentations and other documents that would help clarify the issues when they are presented to the council.

One assumption in this budget proposal is that class sizes stay within the district’s limits, as set in 1987 and largely unchanged since then.

“It’s based on some pretty solid quality education principles,” said board Chairman George Entwistle.

Entwistle, like Forcella, noted the danger of not funding programs begun in previous years. “We begin to not realize the full value of the investments that we’ve made earlier,” he said, making specific reference to slower-than-planned increases in technology support staff. The computers and other equipment are already in the schools.

One hidden bugaboo not addressed in the budget is disposal of old computer equipment, now stored in closets and spare space throughout the district. Computers are frequently classified as hazardous waste, because some components contain mercury or other heavy metals, according to Gary Lanoie, the district’s technology coordinator.

The athletics budget also includes $5,000 for a new pole-vault pit, needed to replace the current high school pit, “which may be illegal,” according to high school Principal Jeff Shedd.

Finding the road to health

Published in the Current

Fourteen years ago, Caryn Treister had a 1-year-old daughter and a son on the way. But her body was racked by headaches and nausea, and she knew something was wrong. The doctors told her she was having a rough pregnancy and sent her home.

“It really bothered me,” she said. The doctors weren’t helpful, and Treister, who had been a top model in Chicago for 12 years and was still living in Chicago with her family, didn’t know where to turn.

She gave the doctors one last chance to figure out her problem, and a stomach specialist asked her the key question: which was first, the headaches or the vomiting? It was the former, and she was in for a brain-scanning MRI two days later.

Before Treister was ready to go home after the scan, her husband had already been paged and had raced to the hospital. She had a massive brain tumor, and went into surgery that evening. Doctors doubted her fetus would survive, if Treister herself did.

But she was a health-conscious woman who had tried to stay fit, so she pulled through and so did her baby.

“It was really a wake-up call,” she said of her survival. The tumor was benign and hasn’t returned, but she still feels its effects in how she lives her daily life, she said.

She got even more into fitness, and started teaching swimming and water aerobics part time, spending the rest of her time at home with her children. She also began paying more attention to nutrition.

“I really really tried to eat well,” Treister said, reading labels, choosing whole grains, and doing research on dietary supplements.

“If I didn’t do it, nobody else would,” Treister said.

When she and her family moved to Cape Elizabeth in 1996, she was thrilled. She had grown up in Exeter, N.H., and her parents and four siblings live near there now.

“For me it was really coming home,” Treister said. “We can all get together.”

“I also wanted to give my kids the mountains and the ocean,” Treister said.

They had a few health problems, too. Her daughter, now 14, had chronic fatigue syndrome, and her son, now 13, had asthma.

As Treister set up a gym in her basement and began to study toward her fitness trainer’s certification at USM, she felt like she was missing something.

“I always felt there was something more,” Treister said.

She had begun taking in individual clients for fitness training. “I love motivating people, I love helping people,” Treister said.

Then her aunt told her about a line of nutritional supplements that fit her needs and those of her family, friends and clients.

“It was like the final piece,” she said.

Her daughter’s fatigue disappeared. So did her son’s asthma.

One of her clients suffered terribly from fibromyalgia, a disease of unknown cause that gives a patient near-constant pain throughout the body.

But after using the supplements, “she’s 100 percent now,” Treister said. “It’s almost like a fairy tale.”

Treister, who wanted to be a social worker when she was in high school, has now found her calling.

“I really wanted to make a difference,” Treister said.

She teaches water aerobics for adults three days a week at the Cape Elizabeth town pool, and has become a distributor for the supplement line. She also is the holder of three state records in corporate track competition, as a member of the USM corporate track team.

But the satisfaction she takes from her job is the wonder she has truly found. “I have changed a person’s life,” Treister said.

Verizon-ISP battle may be nearing conclusion

Published in Interface Tech News

CONCORD, N.H. ‹ Continuing a case opened in 1999, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has received closing briefs from all parties concerned in the increasingly contentious network congestion-dry copper broadband access dispute, but a timetable for further action remains unclear. There may also be broader repercussions, affecting Verizon New Hampshire's rates for all services in the state, and its ability to offer long-distance telephone service to New Hampshire customers.

In 1999, all parties agree, 911 access was unavailable in certain New Hampshire communities due to network congestion, which was blamed on the wide use of dial-up Internet service. In response, the PUC opened a case to figure out how to solve the problem.

One proposal, put forward by the New Hampshire Internet Service Providers Association (NHISPA), was to allow ISPs access to so-called "dry copper" (copper wire pairs with no equipment attached to them) so the ISPs could offer low-cost broadband Internet access, reducing the load on the telephone network.

Verizon New Hampshire now claims that the network congestion problem has been solved through the installation of additional equipment. Some PUC officials agree, adding that there have been no reports of this type of network congestion since June 2001.

"The network congestion issue has been solved," said Verizon New Hampshire spokesman Erle Pierce. As a result, he said, the discussion over whether his company should offer dry copper loops to ISPs is now moot, although he admits the ISPs could bring it up in a separate PUC case if they choose.

At least one ISP disagrees that the congestion is solved, and insists that dry copper is the way out.

"Lines are busy all the time," said Brian Susnock, president of the Nashua, N.H.-based Destek Group, which also has a federal suit pending against Verizon New Hampshire, alleging the company engaged in improper procedures regarding exceptions to standard tariffs.

Susnock said the PUC changed the reporting standards to allow more congestion, a charge PUC telecommunications director Kate Bailey denied.

Other allegations of PUC staff problems can be found in the filings.

From the NHISPA: "(The) staff's position is totally unsupportable and has no basis in fact, experience, or technology."

And from the Town of Northampton Cable TV-Broadband-Telecom Committee: "I suggest to you that your staff does not understand what is going on out in the real world of telecommunications, and that this lack of knowledge is problematic."

Bailey denied those charges, and protested their inclusion in official documents. "It was extremely rude to say the things that they did," she said. "I don't believe (our) staff said anything technically wrong."

She added that the ISPs could become CLECs ‹ regulated entities ‹ and gain access to dry copper loops that way. The ISPs would then have to offer some service that the FCC describes as "telecommunications," but not necessarily voice, Bailey said.

Susnock asserts that there would be high costs associated with becoming a CLEC, such as a sizable monthly fee charged by Verizon for access to its infrastructure database. However, Bailey claims the PUC disallowed that fee last year, and that no CLEC in New Hampshire is charged that fee or pays it.

Susnock describes Verizon's operating requirements as "anti-competitive," and vowed to continue his efforts to change them.

There may be more than just 911 access at stake with these allegations. New Hampshire's Office of the Consumer Advocate has called for a full study of Verizon's services and costs statewide (called a "rate case").

Separately, Verizon has requested permission to offer long-distance telephone service in New Hampshire under the provisions of section 271 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

But a decision on the network congestion case is not on the PUC agenda yet, and officials did not disclose when it might be.

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Intellicare combines call center software, services

Published in Interface Tech News

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine ‹ Expanding its offerings to health care organizations, call-center specialist Intellicare is now offering a unified messaging service combining telephone, fax, e-mail, Internet chat, and voicemail in a single desk workstation.

The system, which the company calls a "blended media contact center" and sells under the product name Intelliview, can route incoming traffic to several destinations, based on several criteria. For example, a Spanish-language e-mail message would be routed to a Spanish-reading assistant, or a fax from a patient inquiring about cardiac care would go to a representative with special knowledge about cardiac issues.

It offers a solution to a problem hospitals, insurance companies, and large medical practices are having: How to prepare for providing Internet customer service at a time when most people still use the phone?

One criterion is real-time handling, according to Victor Otley, chairman, CEO, and president of Intellicare. "Live agent interaction is extremely important," Otley sai d.

But phone traffic is by far the most common means of seeking customer service, Otley said, and he doesn't see that changing quickly.

"We believe that (migration to e-mail and Internet chat service) will happen over a period of years, not months," he said.

Intellicare itself operates call centers, and can augment a client's own customer service or do it entirely, on an outsourced basis, while remaining in compliance with federal privacy laws governing medical records.

The privately held and venture-funded company has 75 full-time equivalents spread across between 100 and 200 people, Otley said.

The firm grew 45 percent last year and is expected to grow 80 percent this year, as the company steps up marketing and sales efforts to get the product out the door.

One buyer has already bitten and been pleased. Kara Goodnight, the call-center supervisor at Texas Health Resources in Arlington, Tex., said her company, which operates 13 hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and handles 200,000 customer calls per year, conducted a massive research effort before deciding to go with Intellicare's combination of software and outsourced service.

"We felt that their software was the best product to meet our needs," Goodnight said.

In addition to the advantage of sharing a support platform between Texas Health Resources' call center and Intellicare, which will handle some calls, she said that a particular hurdle was privacy.

"We were very concerned about having our data reside on somebody else's server," Goodnight said. But Intellicare was able to assuage that concern. "We feel very comfortable that they're housing our very important data," she said.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Jenny’s Chickens: No fowl, just spice

Published in the Current

It’s not quite hidden, but there’s no sign out front. The only giveaway is the noise of chickens clucking and the occasional rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-doo!” Jenny’s Chickens is a small, home-based business, one of many just below the surface of Cape Elizabeth’s business community.

But the product has nothing to do with chickens, despite the ones she keeps in the garage, and in fact the business isn’t named after poultry. Instead, Jenny Campbell has borrowed the name of a Celtic reel her husband plays on the bagpipes. And she makes sofrito, a green, salsa-like sauce that is the basis for many Caribbean dishes.

“In Puerto Rican food, it just goes in everything,” Campbell said. A native of Brooklyn with a Sicilian background—Italians have a version of the sauce they call soffritto—Campbell has been making sofrito for her own use for 15 years.

She and her family moved to Cape Elizabeth seven years ago, and she always had some in the fridge. Her new friends and neighbors were always asking about the green stuff, she said.

In 2000, when her youngest son went to kindergarten, she decided to make a business of it. She chopped and cooked and her husband, a graphic designer, made the labels. She took the first case to the Pond Cove IGA, where it did well, though not in the way she would have thought.

“Everybody eats it out of the jar,” Campbell said. She also sells at the Higgins Beach Market in the summer, the Whole Foods Market in Portland, and is on the tables at Gritty McDuff’s and the Great Lost Bear, both in Portland.

In 2001, she won a Scovie “Fiery Foods” award for the sofrito, and will have a table at the New England Products Trade Show in Portland March 10-12. It’s a big jump from one of her previous jobs, making and selling felafel from a street-vendor’s cart in New York City.

She makes “under 500 cases” a year, each of which contains twelve 12-ounce jars. Each batch of 12 jars takes just under five hours, starting with cleaning the kitchen before she begins work. The process involves industrial-size food-processing machines, washing the big stockpot out, while wearing gloves and a mask to protect her from the juice of the habanero peppers that are a key ingredient in the sauce, and ending with the labeling of the jars.

She can start when her kids head off to school—two are at Pond Cove and one is at the middle school—and be done before they get home, which suits her perfectly.

“I do this so I can spend time with my kids,” she said.

Cape may take school project to voters

Published in the Current

Some Cape Elizabeth town councilors are leaning toward sending a proposed $5-million-plus school renovation project out to referendum, although a recent state law removed the requirement for school building projects to be taken to a town-wide ballot.

But councilors are careful to say they will wait for a full proposal from the School Board before making a final decision.

“School projects have always been voted for by the public,” said Councilor Mary Ann Lynch. “I think there’s an expectation on the part of the public that they get to vote on a school project.”

Lynch said she has not yet made up her mind, but added “projects of that magnitude probably ought to go out to referendum.”

The project, expected to cost between $5 and $6 million, will include renovations to the high school and an addition to the Pond Cove School to house the kindergartners, who now use classrooms in the high school.

Lynch said she is now asking herself if all projects—school-related or not—above a certain dollar amount should go to referendum. “Put them all out or don’t,” she said.

It’s unlikely that the council would ignore the results of a referendum, Lynch said. “There would be no point in asking for a referendum if you weren’t going to follow the wishes of the voters,” she said.

Councilor Jack Roberts said he has spoken to town residents who think they should have the right to vote on the proposal. But Roberts supports either making a decision on the council or letting the voters have the final say.

“A non-binding referendum doesn’t make much sense to me,” Roberts said. But not all projects go out to the voters, he said. “Most of the municipal projects don’t go to referendum,” Roberts said. The two most recent examples are the police and fire stations and the community center.

But any of them could. “All spending projects approved by the Town Council over a certain level are subject to a voter veto,” Lynch said.

A part of the Town Charter permits any town council-approved capital expense over a certain amount to be appealed by the voters.

With the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters of the town, residents could force a binding referendum on any project above 0.5 percent of the state valuation of the property in town. That means any project over about $400,000 would be subject to possible recall.

So rather than making a decision that could be unmade by voters, Lynch said, “have the vote first.”

One advantage of a referendum, Lynch said, would be more public awareness about the building project.

Council Chairwoman Anne Swift-Kayatta agreed with her fellow councilors that it is too early to make a decision, and said she doesn’t expect to hear a full formal proposal from the School Board until sometime in the fall.

“I trust the citizens,” Swift-Kayatta said. “A good, solid well-explained proposal has never had anything to fear” from the voters or council in Cape Elizabeth, Swift-Kayatta said.

And she said she would expect any proposal with strong community support would be approved by the Town Council.

“There’s a very strong tradition and expectation in Maine that school issues have gone before the people,” Swift-Kayatta said.

This is the first time in Cape Elizabeth that a school building project has not been subject to a state-required referendum. And according to Town Manager Michael McGovern, it is also the first time that a committee to draft a school building proposal has been appointed directly by the School Board, rather than by the Town Council in response to a request from the School Board.

So the procedure required is unclear at present, McGovern said, in terms of what the law requires or allows to be possible—binding or non-binding referenda, for example—and what role the School Board itself plays in the building proposal and funding process.

What is clear, McGovern said, is that the Town Council has the final word on whether the money gets spent, unless the council decides to ask the residents for a binding referendum.

In preparation for discussion about costs and budget constraints, the Cape School Board has examined ways to generate revenue to offset some of the expense. The board has decided that the only feasible way to do this would be through co-curricular activity fees.

A board subcommittee, led by board member Jim Rowe, is discussing the subject and will report to the board on what fee structure should be used, if the School Board decides to start charging activity fees.

A 2000-2001 study of activity fees indicated the district could bring in between $30,000 and $60,000 depending on the fee structure and whether the fees applied to middle school and high school students, or just to high school students.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Expert Server Group gears up for expansion

Published in Interface Tech News

BEDFORD, N.H. ‹ Responding to increasing customer demand and space constraints, Expert Server Group (ESG) plans to add staff to its enterprise services group ‹ expected to triple in revenue in 2002 ‹ and will begin a five-year building program to add 130,000 square feet to the company's present 20,000 square feet of space.

The company offers procurement, installation, and maintenance services for custom-designed IT systems, including hardware, software, and product support.

According to ESG president Doug Weisberg, the enterprise services part of ESG's business, which provided about ten percent of the total company revenue in 2001, is expected to reach one-third of company activity in 2002. "This year's business will basically triple what we did last year in that segment," Weisberg said.

While disclosing that hiring is already underway, Weisberg was not sure exactly how many employees the company would add. He noted that the bursting of the dot-com bubble has provided a large pool of available workers with good qualifications.

The staff additions have put additional pressure on the company's working space, now split between its main building in Bedford and a smaller space in Manchester, N.H. A few years ago, ESG bought 30 acres next to the Bedford property, and is now planning a progressive build-out of that property that will result in the closing of the Manchester office.

"We would like to consolidate the facilities," Weisberg said.

The initial phase, still in the permitting process, will be a 30,000 square-foot building. Two-thirds of it is planned for offices, with the remainder intended for staging, configuration, light assembly work, and warehousing to support the company's build-to-order services.

"We are out of space," Weisberg said, adding that, over the next five years, the company wants to build an additional 100,000 square feet of space.

This type of company is not common, according to Carl Howe, research director at Forrester Research, but ESG may be doing quite well. While Forrester does not track the small, privately held ESG specifically, Howe said there may be some challenges for such a company, including competition from local value-added resellers.

Laurie Orloff, also an analyst at Forrester, said procurement services is a very viable market, because contract negotiations are time-consuming. She explained that if a company can be an effective middleman ‹ getting better deals for its clients than they would get on their own ‹ while still making a profit, that's very good.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Cape council gives $250,000 to land trust

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council voted to give $250,000 to the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust as a contribution toward the trust’s acquisition of Robinson Woods.

Of that money, $100,000 was from the town treasury, while the remaining $150,000 will be from funds borrowed by the town. Borrowing for this purpose was authorized in November 2000, said Town Manager Mike McGovern. The actual vote to give the money was made at the council’s regular monthly meeting on Feb. 11.

As part of the arrangement, the council accepted a conservation easement for Robinson Woods from the land trust.

The town also accepted a small piece of land near Stephenson Street for possible use in the town’s greenbelt project.

In other business, the council:
Accepted an application to receive storm water runoff from the Hawthorne Woods subdivision in South Portland (also known as Kristina’s Woods).

Approved the scheduling of two events at Fort Williams: a Portland Symphony Orchestra concert July 2, and an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society Oct. 6.

Set a no-parking zone near St. Albans Church on Oakhurst Road.

Cape school technology expands

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth schools have more and better computer equipment than last year, and are on track to take technology even further in coming months, according to Gary Lanoie, technology coordinator for the town\ and the school district.

At the regular school board meeting Feb. 12, Lanoie presented the annual report on technology in the schools. He said teachers need time to learn how to use the new tools and to integrate them into the classroom.

He noted that the district is making progress in helping teachers feel comfortable using technology, by holding summer technology classes for staff and sending some teachers to classes and workshops outside the district.

In terms of equipment, this school year has seen the refitting of the Pond Cove School’s computer lab, the distribution of the old lab machines to classrooms around the building, the addition of a “mobile lab” of Internet-connected laptops for the middle school, the installation of a high-quality color printer in each building, and network and file-server upgrades to improve reliability and functionality of computers in the schools.

On the slate for the next school year, and under consideration during the budget process, Lanoie said, will be updating the middle school computer lab and moving the previous lab machines to classrooms in the middle school. Another consideration, Lanoie said, is a mobile lab for the high school, which he said “needs to be done at some point in time.”

One highlight is a new higher-speed Internet connection, which has enabled the addition of a distance-learning and video-conferencing lab in the high school’s underused lecture hall. The equipment needed for the lecture hall retro-fit cost $110,000 in state money, and requires about $6,000 annually for the district’s contribution toward the cost of Internet access.

That is slightly more than the district was paying for its previous, slower connection, and far less than the actual cost of the connection. About three-quarters of the total cost is covered by federal and state programs that subsidize Internet access fees for schools and libraries.

And, if it is successful, the governor’s laptop initiative will also affect the schools’technology infrastructure and teacher preparedness.

The initiative includes training time for teachers to get familiar with the laptops and the software they come with.

“This project is more about teaching and learning than about technology,” Lanoie said.

The district also has hired a new technology assistant, Ginger Raspiller, now working as an educational technician in the Westbrook schools. Raspiller will begin work in Cape Feb. 25.

Neighborhood carries on as Gorman is charged with murder

Published in the Current; co-written with Brendan Moran and Kate Irish Collins

A grand jury indicted Jeffrey Gorman, 22, of Scarborough, for the murder of Amy St. Laurent Feb. 8, nearly two months after searchers discovered her body less than a half of a mile from his house.

Even though a small corner of Scarborough has become the center of an investigation into a murder police have called “sadistic” and “vicious,” neighbors say it hasn’t changed the way they feel about their neighborhood along County Road.

“We’re not that far from Portland,” said David Knight, who lives a half mile west of where the body was discovered. “Nothing really surprises us anymore.”

Knight’s family owns Smiling Hill Farm, which borders the Westbrook town line on County Road. He used to fish down at the pond where police spent weeks searching for evidence.

A yellow strand of police tape is still strung across the narrow dirt road that leads back into the vacant, wooded lot. The road is now buried under a deep layer of snow.

When asked if he will still fish back at the pond, Knight doesn’t hesitate. “Oh, yeah,” said Knight, “actually, I’ve been back there since.”

Knight’s mother owns land adjacent to the wooded area. One day their curiosity got the best of them. Knight and his mother walked toward the pond to see how close it was to her land.

But for one neighbor, the woods are too close. Wanda Donovan lives right next to the woods where St. Laurent’s body was discovered.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much,” she told the Current in December.

Most of the neighbors were as surprised as anyone by the discovery. They saw the searchers and heard the helicopters flying low above their neighborhood. But the police hadn’t told them why they were searching the area.

The next thing they knew it was all over the news. Television news crews were stopping along County Road to get footage of the wooded\ lot and the house at 68 County Road, where Gorman lived with his mother.

His mother has refused all requests for interviews. The house has since been posted with “keep out” and “private property” signs.

“I haven’t really thought of it that much,” said Don Cook, the owner of the First Stop convenience store, a half of a mile east of 68 County Road. “The news is right full of it. It’s too bad it’s happened.”

Cook recognized Gorman when he saw him on the news. Cook gave Gorman a job a couple years ago. It didn’t last long. After a couple of weeks, Gorman either didn’t show up or was fired. Cook can’t remember which.

The murder hasn’t altered Cook’s perception of the neighborhood where he’s done business for years. “Pick up the morning paper. It’s everywhere. It could have just as easily happened here as in-town Portland.”

Gorman, who spent most of his life in Alabama until moving to Scarborough two years ago, appeared in court on murder charges Tuesday. He walked into the courtroom shackled and wearing a yellow jumpsuit, the color worn by maximum-security prisoners. He slouched low in his chair until he was called in front of Chief Justice Nancy Mills to enter his plea of “not guilty.”

Later this month, Gorman will return to court for a bail hearing. He is being held without bail until around March 3 for violating his probation on unrelated charges.

His lawyer, Clifford Strike, has yet to see any of the evidence against Gorman. On request from Strike, Mills granted Gorman permission to change his plea once he has seen the evidence against him, leaving open the possibility that Gorman could change his plea.

Police have withheld much of the evidence against Gorman. Questions remain: How was St. Laurent killed and where? Did Gorman act alone? What were police searching for in the pond?

“This was a horrible, sadistic, vicious murder of Amy St. Laurent,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood. When the cause of death is released, “the public will be outraged.”

“It’s not part of the process to make this information public and I want to keep it that way,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Stokes.

Chitwood told the Current in December that the police were looking for a murderer and others who may have helped conceal the crime. But Friday, he said the police now believe Gorman acted alone.

State Police Sgt. Matthew Stewart refused to comment on whether police had any other suspects Tuesday. “I’m not going to make any comment about the investigation,” said Stewart. “At this point, Mr. Gorman is the only one that’s being charged in the case.”

“I know the public is very interested in this case,” said Stokes. “But they have to be content to let the judicial process take its course. The process we have may not be as quick as people may want it to be.”

Stokes said that his team is trying hard to get murder cases to trial between nine and 12 months. “We should be bringing the case toward the end of this year, the first of next year,” Stokes said.

Cape reassessment to begin mid-March

Published in the Current

For the first time in eight years, Cape Elizabeth property owners will have their land and buildings assessed by the town for tax purposes.

Many homes will see higher assessments, though Town Assessor Matt Sturgis said he expects some property values to remain unchanged and others to decrease.

“We’ll try to bring properties in Cape Elizabeth up to full market value,” he said.

At the Town Council meeting Feb. 11, Sturgis outlined the plan for the reassessment. The project will begin in mid-March and continue through the spring, summer and fall. Data will be compiled by May or June 2003,
and adjustment hearings will be scheduled for property owners who want to correct errors on their assessments. In late July 2003, the assessments will be fixed and tax bills should go out in the first week of August 2003, Sturgis said.

Assessors will be knocking on doors around town asking to look through homes, to check for improvements like finished basements or other internal modifications that would affect value. If no one is home, assessors will be
inspecting land and building exteriors and attempting to schedule return visits to see inside homes.

Sturgis said homeowners are not required to permit assessors into their homes or onto their property, but if they don’t allow them in, the law says the owners give up their right to appeal the amount of an assessment.

“The hardest part of the whole project is determining the land values,” he said.

Some types of property may see bigger increases than others, Sturgis said. For example, the assessed value of most shorefront property in 1999 was about 65 percent of the market value for those properties.

But by 2001, Sturgis said, the market value had increased so that the assessment was about 44 percent of market value.

“It’s a pretty significant drop,” Sturgis said.

Lower-value homes may see less change than some of the higher-end homes in town, he said. And newly built homes are unlikely to change much either, Sturgis said, since those were assessed when they were built and have had little time to change.

Sturgis noted that there are two parts to property tax bills: the assessment value and the tax rate, which is set by the Town Council. He also said exemptions for homesteads or veteran status will continue and residents do not need to reapply for them.

He said any residents with questions or concerns should call his office at 799-1619, though he said he won’t be able to answer the question on every resident’s lips: “What will my assessment value be?”

Monday, February 11, 2002

Fairchild responds to marketplace shift, moves to LVDS

Published in Interface Tech News

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine ‹ Reacting to the increased prevalence of low voltage differential signaling (LVDS) as a device-communication protocol, Fairchild Semiconductor is now manufacturing a high-speed crosspoint switch for use as a building block of more complex devices.

"Our role on this is low functionality, high performance," said Paul Kierstead, Fairchild's interface marketing director.

Fairchild spun out of Santa Clara, Calif.-based National Semiconductor five years ago and aimed for the niche of simple, high-performance components to be used as elements of a wide variety of electronic equipment.

Getting data moving at higher rates between devices in networking equipment is an important factor in expanding overall throughput.

With the older transistor-transistor logic (TTL) bus technology, in which data is broadcast to all devices on the bus, Kierstead said, "You've got to get wider to get faster."

LVDS, by contrast, operates over pairs of wires directly connecting components. The receiver looks at the difference between the two signals, allowing for noise to be eliminated from the transmission. While it does require two wires where before one would suffice, Kierstead said, it can reach speeds of 622 megabits per second, as compared with 64-bit bus speeds.

Fairchild's new switch converts between TTL and LVDS, Kierstead said, allowing manufacturers to choose the best mix of technologies for their purposes. "It really begins to tie the signaling level issues together," he said.

The crosspoint nature of the switch improves its versatility, he said. "It allows you to have multiple inputs that are switchable and routable to multiple outputs," Kierstead said.

With only two ports, it is small, but faster and easier to manage than some of its larger competitors, which get as big as 128 pairs in and out, Kierstead said.

"This is the building block of the crosspoint switch," he said. Fairchild will start from this base, he added, and move to larger arrays of switches with additional functionality. He noted that the company plans to move into packet-oriented switches, as well.

Fairchild is also working on optimizing power consumption, and sees that area as a major opportunity for growth.

Analyst Charles Mantel, vice president of Mountain View, Calif.-based Selantek, said Fairchild seems to be holding up well.

"Nobody's had a great time of it," Mantel said, but Fairchild is not doing as badly as some of its competitors. "They went less downhill than many companies," he said.

Thursday, February 7, 2002

YMCA asks: Is Scarborough a good home?

Published in the Current

It will be months before Scarborough knows if it is a good match for the Y, and if so, years before anything gets built, organizers and Y officials said.

But within two months, Y organizers could be asking town residents for as much as $300,000 to further develop the project.

According to Dave Thompson, executive director of the Greater Portland YMCA, it will be at least six weeks before a study of Scarborough’s feasibility as a host community for a YMCA will be complete, and another six weeks or so before the analysis of that information is completed by the national Yorganization.

If a Y is approved, supporters will be looking for between $250,000 and $300,000 to offer some Y services in town, and to begin planning a capital campaign that could take two years to kick off, and which could last as long as five years.

Two representatives from the national YMCA office were in Scarborough this week conducting interviews with community leaders, including Town Manager Ron Owens and members of the volunteer group that approached the Y to bring a facility to town.

Those being interviewed had been identified by members of the community as people who know the town, and who could potentially help gather support for a Y, if one were to be located here.

The study is examining the fund-raising prospects as well as projecting numbers of annual members. It also looks at the size of the community it would serve – beyond just the town limits of Scarborough – and need for the services a Y could provide, such as child care, elder programs and a pool.

Another key criterion is whether there would be additional contributions available each year, to keep the organization going. “A well-run YMCA typically generates about 20 percent of its income from contributions,” Thompson said.

The survey will be complete in another few weeks, after which the national Y organization will look at the information and issue a report on whether the project should go forward.

Thompson said that aside from saying just “yes” or “no,” the report could include analysis of specific risks, such as the high household turnover in Scarborough.

And then the preparation for a major fund-raising project would begin. “We wouldn’t be ready for a capital campaign for two or three years,” Thompson said. But the momentum is already building, according to Mike Harrison, a representative of the national Y organization who coordinates projects in Maine and New Hampshire.

YMCAs built in Maine tend to cost between the $9 million spent for a new Y in Camden and the smaller $4.5 million building in Bath, Harrison said. Both the Camden and Bath buildings have a small, therapeutic pool and a larger, eight-lane lap pool, he said.

In the meantime, Thompson said, the Cumberland County YMCA could start offering programs in borrowed or rented space, like church basements or school gymnasiums.

When it came to putting up a building, Thompson said, groundwork laid now with the town will prove useful. “There has to be a strong relationship with the town,” he said.

To that end, he and other Y professionals have spoken with Owens and Community Services Director Bruce Gullifer, with positive interaction.

“They’re very receptive to the idea,” Thompson said. “Having them support the idea just makes things work so much better.”

Thompson stressed that the process is designed to be objective and examine the realistic possibilities of success for a Y in Scarborough. “We want to take this very seriously, but not let emotions get carried away here,” he said.

Cape planning $5-million-plus school renovations

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth School Board and Town Council officially discussed for the first time this past week the construction and renovation projects slated for the town’s schools – a project estimated to cost between $5 and $6 million.

Councilors will be asked to approve a plan that would have working beginning at both Pond Cove and the high school in the summer of 2003.

And though funds have yet to be approved, and plans are not yet even in draft form, architect Bob Howe, of HKTA in Portland, has been visiting the Cape Elizabeth schools to explore the buildings and learn from school staff about issues that should be addressed during the renovation.

The school renovation has as its ultimate goal the grouping of grades together, with kindergarten through fourth grade at Pond Cove, fifth through eighth grades at the Middle School, and grades nine through 12 at the high school, Howe said.

Right now, the kindergarten is in the high school, occupying space that will be needed in coming years. To keep the grades together in the future, Howe said, the kindergarten needs a new home.

“That has a domino effect,” Howe said. More classroom space is needed at Pond Cove to accommodate the kindergarten, and additional renovations will
be done to the high school as well. At minimum, the classrooms now serving the kindergarten will need to be updated for teaching high school students.

Howe and Marie Prager, a member of the School Board and chair of its Building Committee, said it is about time for the 33-year-old school building to be renovated anyway, though it appears to be in good shape for its age.

Howe is talking to teachers and administrators at the high school to learn about their concerns and recommendations for the work.

During a recent walk-through at the high school, Howe said there are some basic issues, like making sure windows don’t leak.

And there is definitely a need for improvements to the science classrooms, including adding another physics classroom, so the school will have two.

The existing science classrooms need to be reconfigured and have better access to sinks and other facilities for lab work, as well as being adaptable for use as lecture space.

But in other areas of the school, some teachers are fine with the space they have, while others want more space or a different configuration. The language teachers, for example, are happy with the amount of space they have, but would prefer it not be split across two floors of the school, Howe said.

There is also need for at least one additional computer room, Howe said, and some teachers have asked him for a space for students to congregate.

Other requests have included space for one-on-one work and small group activities, Howe said.

And some issues are related to changes in educational methods since the school was built. For example, the cafeteria was built to handle fewer students at one time than are currently using the room. To provide a nicer eating place without significant changes to the class schedule will require a larger cafeteria, Howe said.

“Students are eating in the halls,” he said.

The music stage and gym floor are also getting examined. The gym can only be sanded once more before the floor needs to be replaced. And the wood is laid directly on concrete.

“It’s hard on players’ legs,” Howe said. But a replacement floor would raise the floor level about three inches, causing problems at the gym doors. Locker rooms, too, need work, with better ventilation and aesthetic improvements that would make people more likely to use them, Howe said.

The front entry to the high school also needs attention. The slope from the parking lot up to the doors is steeper than the Maine Human Rights Act allows. That act adopts the standards of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act for buildings in Maine, Howe said.

Parking on the site is an issue as well, Howe and Prager said. One possible location for additional parking spaces is the flat grassy area behind the building, which is now used informally for extra parking, especially for sporting events.

The building’s infrastructure also needs attention, though fortunately not much of the major systems. “If we had to redo the entire mechanical systems in here, I don’t think the town could afford it,” Howe said.

But some updating of the air circulation system and additional plumbing may be needed, as well as telecommunications wiring, to put phones in each classroom, for example.

Prager stressed that this process is just beginning. After Howe has met with the groups at the high school, he will report to the Building Committee, which will work with him to figure out what work needs to be done and sort out priorities and costs for the projects.

Also in the early planning phase is the Pond Cove construction. The work at the two schools is expected to cost between $5 million and $6 million, Prager said. A final figure should be available by the end of the school year, she said.

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

ManageSoft finds reseller for government contracts offering

Published in Interface Tech News

NASHUA, N.H. ‹ In a deal that may bring in an extra $1 million in the first quarter of this year, ManageSoft has formed a partnership with San Antonio, Texas-based CRV to market ManageSoft's network-aware software inventory and license-monitoring products to U.S. government agencies.

"You've got to get on the GSA list to be able to sell to the government," said William Davenport, ManageSoft's marketing communications manager.

The process of getting on the General Services Administration's approved contracts list is time consuming, but can be avoided by selling products through a company already on the list. Although government agencies can buy items from companies not on a GSA contract, it requires extensive paperwork.

According to Davenport, CRV has a GSA contract and a strong presence in government and corporate sales environments, making a partnership attractive to ManageSoft. CRV plans to integrate ManageSoft products into the services it already offers governmental and corporate clients, Davenport said.

"Any company that is going to be successful needs to have partnerships," Davenport said.

The CRV deal is not ManageSoft's only such agreement, and sales have been climbing since the Oct. 1 release of ManageSoft's latest software package, ManageSoft 6.0. The company changed its name from Open Software Associates and the name of its product from NetDeploy Global at that time.

IDC senior research analyst Fred Broussard said that ManageSoft will be competing with well-entrenched vendors, but the technical superiority of the company's software should help them break in, along with deals like the one with CRV, offering "partners who can help deploy new software throughout the enterprise."

With companies demanding faster return on investment and speedier software deployment times, Broussard said, tools like ManageSoft 6.0 can be very helpful to consultants brought in from the outside to make new software installations work. With partnerships like CRV's, he said, ManageSoft should be able to make a strong showing.

Friday, February 1, 2002

Don't let the name fool you; MTI supports much more than just high-tech companies

Published in Interface Business News

GARDINER, Maine—Working to meet a need among Maine businesses for research and development funding, the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) issues grants to support creation and marketing of new products and services.

“MTI’s mandate is from the legislature to help the small inventor/entrepreneur do business development to bring a product to commercialization,” said MTI grant recipient Jim White of pest-repellent start-up Holy Terra in Cape Elizabeth.

MTI also helps more established companies explore new technologies to improve their businesses, and sees “technology” as broadly defined, according to MTI director Janet Yancey-Wrona.

“Maine Technology Institute doesn’t just mean high technology. It’s also a walk-behind blueberry harvester,” Yancey-Wrona said.

With $6.4 million annually in funds available to Maine businesses, MTI is fast becoming a major force in development of new products for production in Maine. This year things are a little tighter, Yancey-Wrona said: The state is asking for $1 million to help make up the budget shortfall.

But the agency is still granting money, hosting networking functions to get businesspeople together, and running grant-writing workshops.

Successful MTI grantees are at various stages of business and project development. White, a research biologist who came up with a pest-repellent formula, needed to form a company, protect his intellectual property and start federal approval processes for possible agricultural use.

“The first grant that we received allowed us to do all the legal end of this,” White said. “There’s so many of us that just need $10,000, $15,000 to get the ball rolling.”

MTI requires grantees to match funds, which can be done with cash, other grants, or “sweat equity,” like the work done by Joan Gordon at Maine Molecular Quality Controls in Scarborough.

“We’re two scientists. How do you run a business?” said Gordon, president of the two-person company. MMQC spun out of Maine Medical Center’s research department in 2001 with a goal of improving the reliability of genetic testing.

“There are no kits,” she said. “We needed to develop other types of technology.”

Federal grants under the Small Business Research Innovation program are hard to get, and Gordon would have been competing against companies as large as 500 employees, with whole departments dedicated to writing grants, she said.

With MTI, the pool of applicants is smaller, and assistance is more available. “They’re local. You can talk to them,” Gordon said.

MTI has helped Gordon with more than just writing grants, recommending a bookkeeper when Gordon decided to outsource that service. “It’s practical support as opposed to purely research support,” Gordon said.

Chris Sieracki, of Fluid Imaging Technologies in East Boothbay, was further along in his project than MMQC was in theirs. But after developing an instrument to constantly monitor water quality, he wanted to be able to put it into water, rather than siphoning fluid out for examination.

“We saw there being a good market for a submersible version of this instrument,” Sieracki said.

He got an MTI grant to develop it and has already sold three to major research institutions, at $70,000 each. He expects to hire a marketing director in the next few months, and is now working with Kady International of Scarborough to develop equipment for monitoring ballast water in ships.

“We need (MTI grantees) to be pulling in federal R&D money,” Janet Yancey-Wrona said. “We also want to see that Maine as a whole is coming up in terms of federal R&D funding.”

There is some risk, though, and Yancey-Wrona accepts that. “If everyone’s successful then we’re not doing what we say we’re doing,” she said. “There’s a lot that you learn from a failed project.”

And MTI even helps venerable businesses that are already successful, if they have new projects they want to work on. MTI is funding a partnership between the University of Maine and Sappi Limited, a multinational with a big presence in Maine, that is doing research on new methods of retaining fibers during the papermaking process.

MTI really makes a difference. Just ask Joan Gordon. “Without MTI we probably would be out of business by now,” she said.

Incubators growing throughout Maine

Published in Interface Business News

AUGUSTA—Responding to demand for support of small businesses, the state of Maine and private-sector businesspeople are establishing seven business incubators around the state.

Called Applied Technology Development Centers, the state-funded centers are targeted at specific sectors of the economy, including forestry, aquaculture, precision manufacturing, biotechnology and information technology. Start-up grants for each of the seven centers around the state are between $450,000 and $950,000, and the state will support each center’s overhead costs with $40,000 to $50,000 in annual funding.

The goal is “to support emerging small businesses that are commercializing new technology, products and services,” said Phil Helgerson, director of the state’s incubator program.
Incubators provide space, business advice, professional networking and access to state, federal and private business development grants and loans, helping businesses get going.

“They can be more than they otherwise would be, operating independently,” Helgerson said.

National data, cited by a number of incubator administrators, indicates that over 75 percent of incubator graduates remain in business, and over 80 percent of them stay near where they incubated.

However, the centers must come up with most of the money to keep themselves going, from rent paid by tenants, grant programs and community and business contributions. Down the road, royalties from the products developed at the centers may provide a significant revenue stream.

“They are essentially self-sustaining operations,” Helgerson said. The program started in 2000 and got its first installment of state funds in early 2001. All seven centers will be done with construction by mid-2002, and some have already reached that stage, he said.

One state incubator has been going for five years, and offers a picture of where its sister incubators could be in that time. The Center for Environmental Enterprise, housed at Southern Maine Technical College in South Portland, already has one graduate, TerraLink, now on Congress Street in Portland.

The center has several tenants, including New England Classic, a wood paneling and wainscoting manufacturer that specializes in using sustainable resources in its products.

There is a waiting list to get in, and a rigorous application process designed to pick out the most likely to succeed, though Ferland admits that not all incubating businesses will graduate.

The incubator also offers a degree of legitimacy to a small business. “A federal lab isn’t interested in working with someone in his garage,” Ferland said.

An entrepreneur does not have to look to the state for incubators.

A privately-funded incubator is in development on Ayers Island, in the Penobscot River in Orono. It will focus on developing university research into commercial products. “It’s fairly broad,” said project coordinator John Hackney. One such commercial product is a method to turn household trash into building materials.

Things have been a bit slow to get going at Ayers Island, though, because the site, a former textile mill, needs to be cleaned up, and a one-lane bridge needs to be replaced before the center can really start up.

In rural eastern Maine, where businesses are often far from each other, the incubator idea has broken the “building barrier” with the Incubator Without Walls (IWW).

Project manager Debbie Neuman said it was impossible to choose a location for a building that could actually serve the entire region. “We felt we could have a much greater impact if we did it without a building,” Neuman said.

So the IWW serves six counties over the phone and the Internet, and with small centers in Calais, Bangor and Belfast.

Rather than just serving start-ups, the IWW is open to all of the small businesses in the region. Since October 1999, the IWW has helped 300 businesses, Neuman said.

Like most incubators, the IWW is a partnership between several community and economic development organizations. “It’s not our program. It’s everybody’s. We’re in this together,” Neuman said.

Maine farmers facing crunch in federal subsidies

Published in Interface Business News

BANGOR—Farmers are having a tough time of it lately, and the federal government is helping, but Congressional limits on eligibility and available funds make it hard for Maine farmers to get the money they need to stay in business.

“It’s not enough,” said Kevin Maxwell of Maxwell Farms in Lee. “If you’re farming to (get paid) the government prices, you won’t make it.”

Maxwell Farms, which grows potatoes and grains, received more federal money than any other farm in Maine between 1996 and 2000, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based policy advocate firm. The farm got $314,328.59, mostly in disaster relief payments to help the farm recover from flooding and drought; but the farm still had trouble: “We have had to sell part of the farm, even with these programs,” Maxwell said.

Other farms received as little as $3.02, while others even had to repay money they had been given in previous years. A total of 2,731 farms or farm owners in Maine got at least a total of $1,000 from government programs between 1996 and 2000. The programs vary from wool and mohair subsidies to corn and soybean price supports, and even extend to conservation of land. Most of the money Maine got from the USDA programs was in disaster relief and conservation, but even then there are problems.

To get disaster relief aid, a farm has to lose at least 35 percent of its income due to a natural or weather disaster, like drought or the army worm invasion last summer, said David Lavway, the executive director of the Maine office of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Even then there are limits on the amount of money an individual can get in an emergency.

Far more difficult than emergency limits are Congressional priorities for farm assistance. Maine grows “the wrong crops,” according to EWG spokeswoman Sarah Steinberg, meaning many farms do not qualify for any subsidies or have a very small pool of money available to draw on.

Funding limits are a problem for Lavway, too. He said apple and potato support is capped at $38 million across the nation.

The conservation funds are targeted at farms that have big needs, which Lavway said leaves out those farmers who are doing a well at conservation. “The person doing a good job is not benefiting from the program,” Lavway said. But he said he has hope.

The release of the data by EWG and pressure from Maine’s Congressional delegation could, he hopes, put more money into conservation funds, meaning Maine could receive more than the $41 million it got from 1996 to 2000, an amount Lavway describes as “peanuts,” compared with what the Midwestern states get.

And with potatoes having the best year they’ve had in the past decade, Lavway said there might be an opportunity for those farmers to pay down some debt as well.