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May 2021

MILO — A space behind the Penquis Valley School that previously had little to offer younger middle school students during recess now has a brand new playground. The Penquis Valley Community Playground was formally opened with a ribbon cutting at the end of the school day on May 27.

Penquis Valley Middle School grades 5-6 social studies teacher Debbie Page, standing on a playground platform with microphone in hand, thanked the students, staff and community for coming to see the grand opening of the playground featuring equipment all in red, white and blue school colors.

“We’re so thankful to so many of you. You have been with us every step of the way so that this day would finally come,” Page said. “What you see here is a culmination of much hard work and generosity. We have raised, to date, $138,000,” she said to the first of many rounds of applause.

Page said some people may wonder why fundraising is still going on, and the reason is there is more to come at the site. “Well this is our phase one. Our phase two goal is a zipline, a swingset, repaving the basketball court and then a picnic pavilion and we won’t stop there,” she said. “Phase three you are going to look out back here, that’s going to be your new soccer field.”

The grand opening was to thank everyone who played a role in making the Penquis Valley Community Playground a reality. Page asked Tony and Cheana Bavelaar — the parents of three daughters including two in grade school — to come forward.

“They came to me in September 2019.They heard that I really cared about doing this project and they asked if they could help make this happen,” Page said. She said the Bavelaars led the way on many fronts, and Tony has been a key supervisor for project planning and construction.

Previously, the younger students at Penquis Valley Middle School had little more than a decades-old basketball court and a small area with a pile of dirt and two roads going by it to use for recess. Page and others saw the need and work began to change this with a new age-suitable playground.

SAD 41 fifth-graders moved to Penquis Valley several years ago, a few years after grade 6 students moved over from the Milo and Brownville elementary schools.

“COVID struck just when we were gearing up for several major fundraisers. We did not believe that we would be able to achieve our goals at that point,” Page said. “We were very discouraged but then I received a telephone call from a very special grandmother in our community.”

Page said this resident was excited about the prospect of her grandchildren having a school playground. “She wrote me a check for $50,000, that was her life savings. Her only request was to keep her name anonymous,” Page said. “It was this donation that helped us realize our dream would become a reality.”

“We couldn’t have done a project like this without a good, solid committee,”  Page said next as she called committee members forward to be recognized.

Page also thanked administrators of the school and SAD 41. “Thank you truly for all of your support you have given us along the way and given us your approval and encouragement for this playground,” she said.

Earlier this year a $28,734 donation from the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation completed the first phase fundraising goal of the Penquis Valley Community Playground.

Page said Milo resident Paul Bradeen, who managed the Dexter Shoe Company factory in town, was instrumental in communicating the school’s needs to the Alfond Family. “He worked with me to tweak what our needs are and he presented it to the foundation and lo and behold we were able to finish up our phase one of this playground.”

She then recognized other businesses and organizations contributing to the playground. “Students notice all of the names I am calling, these are people who worked very hard either with their time or their money for you,” she said.

“This next group of people is the workers and boy did they work,” Page said, in calling more attendees forward to be acknowledged. “They dug the holes, they had to position the equipment and then cement had to be poured to secure everything.”

“We wish to thank all community members who donated by offering raffle items, large and small amounts of money, it’s all added up,” Page said. She then called the students who sold the most raffle tickets to come up and cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the Penquis Valley Community Playground.

Click the link to view the video!!

MILO– It’s been years in the making but the Penquis Valley Middle School now has a  playground.

Debbie Page, Social Studies Teacher at Penquis Valley Middle School said, “I knew how important it was for students to have a playground when I transferred here, all they had was a mound of dirt and an old basketball court.”

She said all of the funding from the playground came from donations.

“An elderly grand parent heard about what we were doing and she wanted to help, she wrote us a check for 50 thousand dollars,” she said.

Ava Harmon 5th grader at Penquis Valley Middle School, “my favorite thing is either the slides or all of it,” she said.

Caroline Snide, 4th Grader Penquis Valley Middle School said, “it’s welcome to everyone after school hours and I’m thankful that we raised enough money to have the playground.”

Kay Brenhurd, 5th grader Penquis Valley Middle School said, “all we had is a deflated ball to play with and that was about it.”

Alice Bavelaar, 3rd grader at Brownville Elementary said, “today’s my birthday and it’s kind of like the playgrounds birthday so I would like to say happy birthday to the playground.”

The playground will be built in 3 phases. Organizers said the second part will likely be built sometime late summer or early fall.

Hannah Bavelaar, 4th grader at Brownville Elementary said, “I’m excited for the playground because it looks so cool and i cant wait to play on the zip line and the dome looks so cool to go on.”

Other donations came from Joan and Bill Alfond.

A LaGrange man whose passenger was killed July 7 when the SUV he was driving went off the road and rolled onto its roof was indicted Wednesday by the Penobscot County grand jury on charges of manslaughter and aggravated operating under the influence of intoxicants.

Randall Hamm, 40, was allegedly speeding that evening when his 2003 Dodge Durango went off Medford Road in LaGrange.

Desarae Bourgoine, 35, also of LaGrange and an acquaintance of Hamm’s, was ejected from the car and killed, according to the Maine State Police.

Hamm’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit when the crash occurred, according to state police.

He was arrested and charged in December. Bail was set at $2,000 cash or $10,000 in real estate.

Hamm was released on bail but details about what he posted for bail were not immediately available Wednesday.

Bail conditions include no use of alcohol or drugs and no contact with the victim’s family.

If convicted, Hamm faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the manslaughter charge alone.

Randall Hamm appears virtually for his first court appearance at the Penobscot Judicial Center on Dec. 28, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) – A LaGrange man has been indicted for manslaughter in connection with a crash that killed his passenger last year.

Randall Hamm was arrested in December.

He’s also charged with aggravated drunken driving.

State Police say Hamm was driving an SUV on the Medford Road in LaGrange in July of last year with he lost control of the vehicle and it rolled over.

His passenger, 35-year-old Desarae Bourgoine of LaGrange, was thrown out and killed.

MILO — LSI Industries Inc., a leading U.S. based manufacturer of commercial lighting and graphics solutions, on Monday announced the acquisition of privately held JSI Store Fixtures (“JSI”) from RFE Investment Partners for a cash purchase price of $90 million.

Milo-based JSI is a market-leading provider of retail commercial display solutions throughout North America.  For more than 30 years, JSI has supplied major supermarket, convenience and specialty store chains with branded display solutions focused on enhancing the customer experience and driving store revenue. Multi-year growth in demand for fresh foods, prepared “grab-and-go” meals and evolving consumer purchasing habits have led to increased demand for JSI’s display fixtures across a deep base of established national accounts. JSI’s solutions are designed, engineered, manufactured and marketed from four facilities located throughout the United States and Canada.

“JSI is an established market leader within the retail display solutions industry, one whose history of growth and innovation, attractive margin profile and loyal customer following within the supermarket, convenience and specialty store verticals are highly complementary to LSI’s existing portfolio of lighting and graphics solutions,” stated James A. Clark, president and chief executive officer.

“This acquisition will significantly increase LSI’s total addressable markets within the grocery and convenience store verticals, while driving meaningful revenue synergies across our combined product portfolio, consistent with our long-term strategic focus,” continued Clark.  “At a commercial level, the combination of LSI’s graphics signage and JSI’s display fixtures businesses, together with our deep portfolio of lighting and program management solutions, will provide a compelling, one-stop value proposition for both new and existing customers.”

“Just as the combination of our lighting and graphics businesses led to the creation of a commercially successful, complementary product offering, the addition of JSI follows a similar template, one that positions us to further diversify our revenue and customer mix within higher-margin product markets,” continued Clark.  “Pro-forma for the transaction, we remain on track to achieve $500 million in annual sales and $50 million in annual Adjusted EBITDA by year-end fiscal 2025.”

“We are excited to join the LSI family,” stated Terry Awalt, CEO of JSI.  “Our shared commitment to product innovation, customer-centric relationships, performance excellence and profitable growth position LSI as an ideal partner to scale the JSI brand in the years ahead. Our established presence within the supermarket vertical, when combined with LSI’s leading position within the c-store vertical, create a compelling opportunity that we believe will result in significant, long-term revenue synergies for the combined businesses.”

JSI has a long-term track record of consistent financial execution, one characterized by sustained growth in revenue, operating income, adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow.  In the full year calendar 2020, JSI reported total revenue and Adjusted EBITDA of approximately $70 million and $10 million, respectively, resulting in an Adjusted EBITDA margin in excess of LSI’s trailing 12-month corporate average. Upon closing, the transaction will be immediately accretive to LSI on an adjusted earnings per share basis.

LSI funded the all-cash acquisition of JSI utilizing its existing cash balance and availability under its $100 million credit facility.  At closing, LSI anticipates that its pro-forma ratio of net debt outstanding to trailing twelve month adjusted EBITDA will be approximately 2.6 times. LSI intends to significantly reduce net leverage within the business during the first 24 months post-close, supported by anticipated growth in pro-forma free cash flow from the combined entities.

As part of the transaction, LSI will welcome JSI’s more than 300 employees to LSI, while retaining JSI’s experienced leadership, including Awalt, together with each of its four facilities.  Following the close of the transaction, JSI will remain an independent brand, given its established presence in the market. LSI anticipates JSI will become part of LSI’s graphics segment on a reporting basis, moving forward.

Transaction rationale includes:

Creates a diversified business of scale with meaningful cross-selling opportunities in growing vertical markets. The combination of LSI and JSI will create a leading, integrated provider of lighting and display solutions to the North American supermarket, convenience and specialty store channels. JSI’s established presence within the grocery channel, together with LSI’s market leadership position within the petroleum convenience store and QSR channels, are highly complementary, creating the potential for significant, multi-year revenue synergies.

Provides compelling growth platform with established product portfolio and customer base. LSI estimates the North American remote refrigeration and fixtures market to be approximately $1.7 billion annually and growing. JSI is one of the largest food equipment companies in North America, with a diverse base of recurring, long-term customers, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Target, Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize and Sprouts, among others.

Capitalizes on significant, multi-year investment cycle within the grocery vertical.  The North American grocery industry is engaged in a multi-year investment cycle intended to drive incremental in-store traffic growth 38,000-plus grocery stores in the U.S. representing $700 billion in annual sales.  Increased investment in store remodels, evolving formats, cost-efficient energy-saving solutions and fresh grab-and-go options have driven increased customer appetite for aesthetically appealing, compliant refrigeration solutions and fixtures.  LSI believes its time-on-site and share-of-wallet for its lighting and graphics solutions in the grocery vertical will be significantly enhanced by the acquisition of JSI.

Transaction is immediately accretive to LSI’s adjusted earnings per share. JSI is expected to deliver meaningful adjusted earnings per share accretion to LSI in the first year after the close of the transaction, excluding acquisition-related revenue synergies. LSI anticipates a combination of continued, above-market revenue growth, together with significant opportunities for additional margin expansion, have the potential to support incremental accretion, over time.

Headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio (greater Cincinnati), LSI Industries is a leading producer of high-performance, American-made lighting solutions. The Company’s strength in outdoor lighting applications creates opportunities for it to introduce additional solutions to its valued customers. LSI’s indoor and outdoor products and services, including its digital and print graphics capabilities, are valued by architects, engineers, distributors and contractors for their quality, reliability and innovation. The Company’s products are used extensively in automotive dealerships, petroleum stations, quick service restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies, retail establishments, sports complexes, parking lots and garages, and commercial and industrial buildings. LSI has approximately 1,100 employees at seven manufacturing plants in the United States, including its corporate headquarters. Additional information about LSI is available at

JSI is a Milo-based designer and manufacturer of high-quality refrigerated and non-refrigerated merchandising displays for the grocery and convenience store industry. JSI’s merchandising displays are used by many of North America’s top retail food chains. JSI has established itself as an innovator and leader within its niche, with commanding market shares in its primary product categories.

RFE Investment Partners is a private equity firm focused on making control investments in established small market companies located in North America. RFE is a long-standing Connecticut-based firm founded in 1980 with over 40 years of experience investing in the lower middle market. RFE’s investment strategy is to acquire well-managed and growing small market companies and prepare them for exit to middle market strategic and private equity acquirers. RFE is currently investing out of Fund IX. For more information, please visit

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