January

The first baby to be born in 2019 at Stephens Memorial Hospital arrived on Jan. 1 at 3:22 p.m., to Cynthia and Luke Frye of Norway. They named their daughter named Makenna Nancy Frye. She came a few days ahead of her due date and weighed 8 pounds and 4 ounces.

A candlelight vigil was held Jan. 5 at Moore Park in Paris to remember Heather Bickford and Dana Hill, both 31, who were found dead in their apartment on Jan. 1. The couple left behind two young children. Bickford’s former boyfriend, Mark Penley, 49, of Peru, was charged with their murder on Jan. 4.

February
The Friends of the Gingerbread House announced plans for building renovation projects to be done in 2019, including a new entrance on the east end of the house, exterior work and rebuilding a new porch to replace the original, larger one that had been previously removed. Fundraising to rehabilitate the 1851 building began in 2011, after Norway Landmarks Preservation Society saved it from being demolished.

Eric Campbell, 33, of Norway was charged with aggravated driving to endanger and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. A passenger in Campbell’s pick-up truck, Richard Cole, 34, of Norway suffered injuries that left him in critical condition. Campbell hit a utility pole on Pleasant St. in Auburn at 11:15 p.m. on February 5 and fled from the accident on foot.

Streaked Mountaineers Snowmobile Club President Mark Fox said his club suffers from a lack of younger members to help with the time-consuming task of maintaining and helping the club run smoothly. Many clubs in Maine suffer from the same lack of young members.

Homeward bound. Kaiser,  a 5-year-old German shepherd-malamute mix went on a 200-mile long trip. Kaiser went missing in Ashby, Mass. and was found in Bethel. After eight months, Kaiser was picked up by his owner Tom Wollacott from Responsible Pet Care, an animal shelter in South Paris.

 

March

Dr. William Medd was given a “Legacy” Award from the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce at its Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on March 30 as he retired from practicing medicine in Norway. Medd was Instrumental in the growth of Western Maine Health and Stephen’s Memorial Hospital, serving thousands of patients and bringing accessible healthcare to the rural areas of western Maine.

A simple traffic stop March 28 led to Norway Police seizing 15.5 grams of what they identified as heroin and $12,075 in cash. K-9 Officer John Lewis pulled over John H. McAllister after seeing him turn onto Rt. 26 at a high rate of speed. McAllister was operating with a suspended license and had illegal license plates attached to his vehicle. Lewis discovered a canister in his pocket that contained heroin. McAllister was charged with Class B trafficking in Schedule W drugs, Class E operating with an expired license (or more than 90 days) and Class E attaching false plates.

Gary Sacco, former Oxford Fire Chief, died in Portland before Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes’ service on March 10. According to his colleagues, Oxford Fire Chief Gary Sacco was a professional dedicated to the safety of his crew and was a big-hearted, no-nonsense boss.

Norway Fire Chief Dennis Yates celebrated 45 years as a firefighter in March. . He started his career on March 5th of 1974, and said he doesn’t really think of his work as “job”.

“For me it’s not a job. I don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘ugh, I have to go to work today,” Yates said. “This isn’t work, this is a calling. If I can help somebody, I’d stay up 24/7,” Yates said.

April
Following separate incidents in April where one Guy E. Rowe Elementary student was taken to a hospital after ingesting gummy bears that possibly contained cannabinoid, an active chemical in medical marijuana, and four sixth-graders were identified by the school’s resource officer as inhaling vapor from e-cigarettes, Oxford Hills School District officials and police have started taking steps to combat increasing use by students of e-cigarettes and food products laced with marijuana.

Pastor Lloyd Waterhouse was honored on his 90th birthday at a packed Grace Fellowship Church on April 27. Despite being diagnosed with leukemia in 2017, Waterhouse, an avid outdoors enthusiast, continues fishing and trapping with his friends. He is also still an active pastor, preaching sermons at local nursing homes.

Before Avesta Housing formally opened the former Fox School in Paris up as a senior complex, one of the first residents to move in was Carol Fanjoy, 56, who worked as head custodian at the Fox School for ten years. She said her time at the Fox School were some of the happiest in her life, and she remembered every nook and cranny of the senior complex when it was still a school.

“The first day I got in, when I started the application process, the plumber let me in. I saw the front staircase, and I sat down … I actually had tears in my eyes,” Fanjoy said in April.

Good fences make good neighbors. In March,  Neil Lanteigne of West Paris led police on a chase around his rural, wooded property. Officers from the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office with a warrant arrived on Lanteigne’s property to arrest him on charges of criminal trespassing and criminal threatening with a firearm. Lanteigne fled on a snowmobile, hauling snowshoes, and fired shots. After a four-hour chase, he was captured, arrested and later released on $5,000 bail. The incident was a boiling point in a years-long bitter property dispute between neighbors, over the right for Lanteigne to walk along a road he claims is public, but West Paris discontinued decades ago.

May
Paris Police Chief  Hartley “Skip” Mowatt Jr. announced that he was retiring after a 28-year career as an officer, sergeant, and chief. Mowatt took over the police department in 2016 after the previous chief resigned, citing a toxic atmosphere. Mowat made it a priority to have an open-door policy of leadership, be accessible and welcomed countless community members into his office to chat. He said his ability to ride out the tough times came in part from his ties to the community.

In May, the Town of Paris officially adopted a resolution declaring it a “second amendment sanctuary” town. The resolution was largely symbolic but aimed to meant to send a message to state lawmakers that Paris will uphold the Second Amendment in the face of what some residents view as anti-gun laws that were under consideration in Augusta.

Avesta housing formally opened the Fox School in May. Many attending the ceremony had spent time at the complex when it was a school, and many crowded the halls to see the space officially transform into a school.

June
Oxford Selectmen held a public informational Thursday, June 20 regarding repairs to the east gate of the Thompson Lake dam. The dam, more than 150 years old, has experienced significant deterioration and operational inadequacy. The cost to repair the dam is projected to be $260,000, compared to an estimated $1.5 to $2 million for new dam construction, said Town Manager Butch Asselin.

Oxford’s Deputy Fire Chief Paul Hewey was sworn in as Fire Chief during the Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday, June 6. Hewey had been serving in the role as interim since the death of former Chief Gary Sacco on March 10.

July
SAD 17 Board of Directors approved hiring Brian Desilets as Oxford Hills Middle School’s new principal at its July 15 meeting. Desilets replaced Paul Bickford, who had recently taken over as director of the Maine Region 11 Vocational program. Desilets previously served as assistant principal and athletic director at Mt. Abram High School in Salem Township.

Maine Game Wardens and Marine Patrol Officers began conducting concentrated patrols on bodies of water throughout the state for Operation Dry Water, starting the first week of July. The program is a national outreach and enforcement campaign, coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. It is held annually to raise awareness of the dangers of boating under the influence and removing impaired operators from lakes and ponds.

Ted and Doretta Colburn own Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch in Waterford where they keep a 35-member herd of bison. In July, we got to take a close look at the inner workings of the farm,  and tough lessons that come with keeping massive creatures.

Oxford’s application for a grant to study, evaluate and implement a plan to deal with the deteriorating Welchville Dam was not approved. Last December the town applied for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant, which would have provided funding over a two-year period to study and evaluate options for dealing with the dam on the Little Androscoggin River and execute a plan based on the evaluation.

Police arrested a 16-year-old West Paris boy on August 13 in connection with a shooting on Orchard Road that left another juvenile with minor injuries. Chief Deputy James Urquhart said the 16-year-old was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault, reckless conduct with a firearm and criminal mischief. The teen was arrested and taken to the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. The injured teen was struck by a bullet fragment while sitting in a car. That teen was treated and released at the scene. There were three to four males involved in the incident, all of them 16 and 17 years old. No names were released because of their age.

Anne Renner, trail-name Cheshire, had her attempt to traverse the Appalachian Trail cut short when she broke her leg at the Mahoosuc Notch, known as one of the hardest miles on the AP. Her rescue involved near-strangers helping her cut backward down dangerous terrain before she could be picked up by a rescue helicopter. Renner plans to make a comeback on the trail once she’s fully healed.

On July 1, Town Manager Dawn Waisanen, Fire Chief Mark Blaquiere, and Police Chief Mike Dailey simultaneously took over leadership positions in Paris.

September
Brandon Frye, 33, of Oxford completed his trek of the Appalachian Trail, reaching the summit of Mount Katahdin 168 days after setting out from Springer Mountain, Georgia. According to Frye, his most memorable moments were encountering wild ponies at the Roan Highlands in Virginia and the pristine ponds along Maine’s 100 mile wilderness trail section.

After receiving several complaints from residents about dropping water levels in Whitney Pond, the town of Oxford installed five data loggers to measure water levels directly upstream of the Welchville dam spillway, at the outlets of Hogan and Whitney ponds, at the confluence of the Little Androscoggin River and near the Route 121 bridge. Results of the water study will analyzed later in the year.

Robert Trundy, 40, of Hebron killed Karen Wrentzel on her property in Hebron on Oct. 28, 2017 and was sentenced to nine months in prison after taking a plea deal on September 3. Wrentzel was digging for gemstones along Greenwood Mountain Road in Hebron when she was shot by Trundy on opening day of deer hunting season for Maine residents.  Trundy also faced a charge of failing to render aid and failure to report a hunting accident, but under the conditions of the plea deal, that charge was dropped and Trundy pleaded guilty to a single count of manslaughter.

October
Oxford Hills Middle School student Andrew Malo was warming up with his team before an Oct. 8 soccer game when he was stung by a bee and went into an anaphylactic shock. With quick action from Coach Darryl Rugg, fellow player Paavo Johnson and Athletic Director Michelle Wood, Malo received immediate care before being transported to Stephens Memorial Hospital. Malo was released later that evening.

Harrison town officials discussed two possible town-owned locations for a new public works garage at its October 10 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. The more feasible location is located on the Norway Road, with ample acreage allowing a garage to be set far away from the playing fields and nearest neighbors. Selectmen then approved a motion to look at specs for a new 100′ by 150′ facility and building costs.

Joe the emu escaped his home in Harrison and was found along the Crooked River the next day. While he was missing, his owner, Hillary Groves, checked the roads while he scoured the woods, and neighbors began to spot the 5 foot, 3-inch tall bird. Joe was found safely and moved into a new enclosure, where he’s still munching on his favorite food, kale.

Haunting in the Hills

November
Special education policies, costs and community health dominated SAD 17’s Board meeting Nov. 4, as several issues were presented to the region’s elected state officials. Senators James Hamper (Dist. 19) and Lisa Keim (Dist. 18) and Representatives John Andrews (Dist. 73), Sawin Millett (Dist. 71) and Walter Riseman (Dist. 69) attended to hear the BOD’s concerns as they look towards the next legislative session.

Vice Chairman Ernest “Ed” Knightly resigned from the Oxford Board of Selectmen Nov. 8, citing increased responsibilities with his position at the town’s Transfer Station. Knightly was elected in June of 2017. A replacement will be chosen at a special election to take place Mar. 3, 2020 during the Maine’s state primaries will be held.

According to Oxford County Commissioners, the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office mishandled the resignation of former Deputy Chris Davis. As a result, Davis was not paid out for accumulated sick leave. Commissioners agreed to pay Davis $3,701 in owed leave time.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Oxford County announced that it is bringing its Master Gardener Volunteer Certification training back to Oxford Hills. The nationwide program has not been held in Oxford county for several years. Volunteer training starts on Jan. 27, 2020 and continues over 17 weekly sessions.

The Oxford Police Department welcomed Officer Justin Cummings back to the force following his Nov. 27 graduation from the Maine State Police Academy. Cummings grew up in Oxford and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. before returning home to Maine to start his career in law enforcement.


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