MILO — Two flags flown over Baghdad and Afghanistan on anniversaries of Sept. 11 and had been on display at the Marion C. Cook School in LaGrange are now part of the Veterans Wall at the Penquis Valley School. Penquis Valley High School National Honor Society students installed the flags and accompanying certificates on Thursday, Nov. 5 to ensure everything was in place leading up to Veterans Day.

LaGrange resident Joe Baker, a 1990 Penquis Valley graduate who will reach 30 years serving with the Air National Guard next month, wrote letters back and forth as penpals with Cook School students in MaryLynn Kazyaka’s classes when the facility served as an elementary school. Pupils also sent Baker pictures they took with a “flat Joe” and standup image of him.

Baker has worked in HVAC and fire control and maintenance, currently is firefighter at Bangor International Airport and he will be deployed next year. He taught fire safety at the Cook School so the students knew him well.

“Joe has always given a lot to our community and has served our country for many years,” Kazyaka said.

Under Baker’s leadership, one flag flew over Baghdad International Airport on Sept. 11, 2009 and the other flag flew over Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2011. Since the Cook School closed as an elementary school in 2013 Kazyaka  — who now teaches at Penquis Valley Middle School — carefully stored the flags at her home.

She asked the National Honor Society to organize a display for the two flags. “I’m so glad you will take good care of the flags and certificates. They hung proudly in the Cook School until the very last day,” Kazyaka said.


Photo courtesy of Penquis Valley NHS
VETERANS WALL ADDITIONS — Present for a Nov. 5 hanging of flags at the Penquis Valley School Veterans Wall in Milo on Nov. 5 were, from left, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 41 of  Milo President Brenda Roberts; Joe Baker of the Air National Guard; middle school teacher MaryLynn Kazyaka and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 92 of Brownville President/5th District Department Vice President Marie McSwine.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3 Piscataquis County residents who are not voting absentee will be heading to the polls — please check with the town offices for specific times and locations — to vote in the Presidential and Maine U.S. Senate elections, make a choice for the Maine’s 2nd Congressional District representative and decide five state ballot questions. Residents will also vote for their respective Maine Statehouse representative, who will serve in the Maine Senate District 4 seat and Piscataquis County Commissioners District 2 for several communities in the southern part of the region.

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By Ernie Clark, Bangor Daily News Staff

Penobscot Valley of Howland has earned the top seed for the Penobscot Valley Conference’s Penquis-area COVID Cup girls soccer playoffs that begin Thursday.

PVHS (7-1) will host No. 4 Penquis Valley of Milo (2-6) at 4 p.m. in one semifinal while No. 2 Stearns/Schenck (5-2-1) will host No 3 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (5-2-1) in the other semifinal.

Stearns/Schenck edged MA for the No. 2 seed by virtue of a goal-differential tiebreaker.

Lee Academy (0-8) rounded out the five-school pod.

The COVID Cup championship game will be played Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the higher seed, with Oct. 28 as a rain date.

This is the only PVC pod that is conducting a postseason tournament. Schools in the other four pods opted to play the maximum 10-game regular season allowed this fall by the Maine Principals’ Association.

Final boys standings and playoff matchups will be announced after Wednesday’s final regular-season game.

MILO — For more than 40 years, the Milo Ecumenical Food Cupboard has provided for families in our community. One might wonder about the food cupboard’s continued existence, but the need now is greater than ever. We once served between 50 to 70 families a year, and this November we expect to provide 225 families with Thanksgiving boxes. We invite you to be a part of helping us to help our neighbors.

Specifically, the food cupboard needs a new location. For years, this all volunteer organization has been housed in the basement of the Park Street Methodist Church in Milo. This means that clients must enter and exit via a narrow staircase. Our volunteers must navigate this same staircase when they assist in carrying out the groceries for our clients as well as unloading the heavy boxes of food delivered from our wonderful partners: Good Shepherd, Tradewinds, Elaine’s Café & Bakery,  Penquis, Shaw’s, Ripley Farms and Sam’s Club. Eliminating stairs would ensure easier access for our clients as well as save the backs and shoulders of our faithful volunteers! Additionally, a new location potentially will provide a larger indoor waiting area for our clients, an important consideration as we anticipate the upcoming winter season.

Please consider volunteering a few hours of your time on Thursdays between 7 a.m.  and 1 p.m. to help us. As we are working to assist our families on a weekly basis, we are also working to secure the funds for our new location, and your donations are critical to our efforts. Any assistance at all is greatly appreciated; please make checks payable to the Milo Ecumenical Food Cupboard PO Box 116 Milo Me 04463.

BOWERBANK — Officials for the town of Bowerbank are pleased to announce that they have been awarded a safety enhancement grant by the Maine Municipal Association Workers Compensation Fund in the amount of $2,000.

The Ed MacDonald Safety Enhancement Grants and Scholarship Grants provide financial  assistance to members of the MMA Workers Compensation Fund to purchase safety equipment or services to assist in reducing the frequency and severity of workplace  injuries. The grant programs are designed to prevent injuries and improve workplace  safety for Maine employees. The reduction in employee injuries also benefits the  taxpayers by lessening lost hours at work, cost of claims and potential overtime expenses  for employees who might have to fill in for injured co-workers.

The Maine Municipal Association has been awarding safety grants to members of the  Workers’ Compensation fund since 1999.The Ed MacDonald Safety Enhancement  Grants and Scholarships are an example of a successful partnership that has been  preventing workplace injuries by bestowing more than $5 million in the funding of 4,034 Safety Enhancement Grants and 491 Scholarship Grants. Together we are building safe  communities.

For more information about Maine Municipal Association Risk Management Service  programs, including Safety Enhancement Grant eligibility and applications, please visit  www.memun.org and click on the Risk Management Services link or call 1-800-590- 5583.

MILO — The season will look different than years past with rule adjustments and a reduced schedule, but the Penquis Valley High School boys and girls soccer teams will be playing in 2020. The SAD 41 school board passed a motion to formally allow the Patriots squads to compete this fall during a Sept. 15 meeting conducted over Zoom.

“If you have been paying attention to the news, this has been a big topic around the state the last three or four weeks,” Superintendent Michael Wright said. He said safety protocols have been developed for soccer, the only fall high school sport at Penquis Valley.

“Most superintendents I have talked to are looking to move forward with fall sports within the guidelines,” he said.

Wright said practices began the day before with parents/guardians signing waivers for their athletes. “It is not a risk-free situation playing soccer or any other sport,” the superintendent said.

Athletic Director and boys soccer coach Jason Mills explained some of the modifications for soccer amidst COVID-19. “There’s no slide tackling,” Mills said, saying on throw-ins and corner kicks there will only be five players from each team permitted in the box.

“There’s a lot of things that take away from the game a bit but as I told the kids, it’s a chance to play,” he said.

“There’s no walls this year,” Mills said. He explained that around the 20-minute mark of each half, once there is a stoppage in play each team will take a break for water and hand sanitizer.

He said the bench areas will be expanded to allow team personnel to spread out. “Players on the bench will have a mask on, players on the field will not have a mask on,” Mills said. He said coaches and officials will have the protective facewear on, and players will be doing likewise during warm-ups.

Mills said the day prior was “the first time our kids have done anything sports-wise with the school since Feb. 5.” He said he could see the excitement on players’ faces as they returned for the first time since the end of the 2019-20 basketball season.

“We will have a schedule if you give us the green light tonight,” Mills told the school board. He said the schedule will feature games, perhaps eight, against nearby teams from Penobscot and/or Piscataquis County with specific opponents to be determined. There will be no postseason soccer in 2020.

With outdoor gatherings capped at 100, the possibility of spectators at Harris Field is still to be determined. Mills said players and coaches count toward the figure, so an idea is for players to be given several tickets apiece to allow for their families to be among the 100 permitted on site.

“We are going to do our best to stream games on the athletics Facebook page,” Mills said.

Despite the challenges the season poses, Mills said the day before he told his players they have already had one more practice than all of the spring. “If you get to play eight games that’s eight games more than last year,” he said.

Wright said over the summer the athletic fields were able to be used safely with no outbreaks. “I think outside does matter so it’s worth giving it a shot,” he said.

In other business, district administrators all thanked employees for their efforts in preparing for the new school year.

“A big shout out to staff, they have been working extra hard with extra hours,” Brownvilel Elementary Principal Carol Smith said.

Penquis Valley High School Principal Michael Rollins said he wanted to echo comments and “I want to thank the students too.”

“Every little wrinkle we run into we are able to smooth out and fix, including remote issues,” Rollins added.

Assistant Superintendent/Director of Curriculum Darcie Fournier thanked the principals “for working hard all summer long so we could come back safe.”

“I just want to thank everybody for getting school started,” Wright said.


Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom
IN OR OUT? — Penquis Valley’s Cymeria Robshaw — with classmate Camryn Rolfe (6) looking on — and Penobscot Valley’s Brianna Moon (23) and Emma Buck (1) fight for position on a header near the Howler goal during a 2017 contest in Milo. The Patriot boys and girls soccer teams will both be playing in 2020 as the SAD 41 directors gave formal approval to fall sports during the Sept. 15 board meeting.

SEBEC — In ordinary times, the Maine Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year hosts Forestry Field Day, a highly anticipated, festival-like event sponsored by Maine Woodland Owners and Maine Tree Farm. This celebration draws a broad spectrum of the forest industry to tour the land and learn about the award recipients’ thoughtful forest management efforts.  This year’s winners are Drs. Jessica Leahy and Bob Seymour for their 130-acre tree farm, Wicopy Woods, in the village of Sebec. However, with gathering size restrictions in place in the state because of the pandemic, the traditional, high attendance Forestry Field Day event will have to wait until sometime in 2021.

Every year, Maine Tree Farm honors a woodlot owner who demonstrates a level of forest stewardship that is exceptional. The Outstanding Maine Tree Farmer of the Year is a highly coveted recognition that started in 1954 to reward good forestry practices on properties 10 to 10,000 acres, primarily family-owned. These small woodland owners maintain nearly a third of Maine’s 15.5 million acres of privately owned forests and produce 40 percent of the state’s wood supply. There are 87,000 woodlot owners in Maine and many of these forests are certified as Tree Farms — but only one award is given each year.

Despite the postponement, many felt that some public recognition should be given to Leahy and Seymour in 2020 for such a noteworthy achievement. So on Aug. 30,  a small group of masked forest enthusiasts and fellow woodland owners were welcomed by the couple and Maine Woodland Owners for a “sneak peak” tour of Wicopy Woods to learn what makes this parcel so exemplary.

When they acquired the land five years ago, the couple set forth to build on nearly a half century of exceptional management. Wicopy Woods Tree Farm was honored once before, in 1984, as the Maine Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year. The previous owner, Ron Locke, maintained voluminous notes, records and photos of the property, which Leahy and Seymour have used to develop and implement plans that ensure a healthy and vibrant forest for generations to come.

“Our aim from the beginning was to continue Ron’s work on this woodland. Our decisions about harvests and forest regeneration for Wicopy Woods are informed by a combination of Ron’s past management and the goals we have set for ourselves,” said Leahy.

Leahy and Seymour have a forestry background. For one, both are licensed foresters. Additionally, Dr. Leahy is  professor of human dimensions of natural resources at the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources and Dr. Seymour has recently retired from the University of Maine School of Forestry Resources faculty after over 30 years as Curtis Hutchins Professor of Silviculture.

The hosts kicked off the program by telling the story of Locke’s effort to turn a run-down farm and woodlot into an example of forest health and productivity. The attendees were then given a tour of the results of their irregular shelterwood silviculture where  growth and harvest targets were set and regeneration strategies were developed based on anticipated economic outcomes and ecological benefits.

“Wicopy Woods is forest management at its best, where other woodland owners can learn and be inspired by their efforts. We are thrilled that two very dedicated members of Maine Woodland Owners have received this well-deserved recognition. We look forward to properly honoring them in 2021,” said Tom Doak, Maine Woodland Owners executive director.

Wicopy Woods is named after the tree species Eastern leatherwood (Dirca palustris) which is also called wicopy. It is estimated that at least 300 individual wicopy plants reside in this forest – the largest plants may be over 100 years old.

To learn more about Wicopy Woods, Maine Woodland Owners, and Forestry Field Day visit www.mainewoodlandowners.org. More information about the 2021 Forestry Field Day at Wicopy Woods will be announced once the date is determined.


Photo courtesy of Maine Woodlot Owners
TREE FARM HONOR — Wicopy Woods in Sebec is the Maine Woodlot Owners’ Maine Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year. The traditional, high attendance Forestry Field Day event will be held next year.

Ernie Clark, Bangor Daily News Staff • August 30, 2020

MILO — Construction of a large solar farm is under way at the Eastern Piscataquis Business Park in Milo.

When it’s completed, the site will feature 67,000 solar panels on land located just north of downtown off Route 11.

The project has been in the works for several years, according to Peter Hamlin, chair of the Milo select board. He said the town will benefit through lease payments it receives for use of the land and a percentage of the money earned by the sale of electricity.

“It seems like this is a marriage made in heaven, a large-scale operation where we don’t have to be landlords chasing people in business parks,” Hamlin said. “Manufacturing’s a real tough sell up here, but there are a lot of good things to look at with this from the town’s point of view.”

When the solar array becomes operational early next year, it will produce enough energy for 5,430 homes, according to developers.

“At the time we were awarded the contract, the size of this project would have just about surpassed the amount of solar in the state of Maine at the time,” said Nick Mazuroski, director of BNRG Maine.

BNRG Maine is an offshoot of BNRG Renewables, a Dublin, Ireland-based solar developer and co-development partner on the Milo project with Dirigo Solar of Portland. BNRG purchased the Milo project last December.

“Now alongside us there are larger developments in Farmington, Sanford and the Benton area, but we will be one of the largest in the state, for sure,” Mazuroski said.

Within six months after Dirigo Solar was founded in 2015, it was awarded a long-term contract from the Public Utilities Commission to develop and sell solar power at 3.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

That compares with the cost of approximately 7 cents per kilowatt hour paid by residential customers in Maine to power distributors like Versant and Central Maine Power.

“We started the company when it became evident to us that the economics of solar finally made sense for the state of Maine,” said Mazuroski, a Portland native and Bates College graduate. “The decline in technology costs, a federal tax credit and the energy market conditions of New England finally made solar look compelling in the state.”

BNRG Renewables and Dirigo Solar have 10 projects under way or scheduled for construction in eight Maine communities. Auburn and Hancock will have two sites each, with Augusta, Fairfield, Milo, Oxford, Palmyra and Winslow as the other host communities.

“The PUC when they awarded us the contract said the entire portfolio should save Maine ratepayers more than $25 million over a 20-year term,” Mazuroski said. “I think we’ll do that a lot sooner.”

A $26 million investment is planned in the Milo solar farm, which is expected to produce 26.4 megawatts of direct current that ultimately will be transformed into 20 megawatts of alternating current to be sold to consumers.

Approximately 170 workers are expected to be involved in the construction process.

“Milo was one of the first projects that came to us,” Mazuroski said. “We had learned about the opportunity with the land at the business park early in our development process, engaged really closely with the town, shared with them the contract we had been awarded and the economics of solar and what that looked like to a landowner.

“The town was incredibly supportive.”

The developers soon entered an option to lease a little more than 60 acres of town land and approximately 50 acres from an abutting landowner, Mazuroski said.

Subsequent preliminary work involved acquiring required permits and applying to ISO-New England for the right to connect the project to the electrical grid, which was approved late last year.

Since then the developers and the town have entered into a formal lease for the industrial park land, and installation work is under way on a racking system to hold the solar panels.

“We’re happy to see it started,” Hamlin said. “They’ve got a lot of money tied up so they’re not going to waste any time getting it online, that’s for sure.”

Of considerable importance to the company is the ability to site its solar arrays near the electrical grid — and that distance from Milo’s industrial park is less than one mile.

“What made this really attractive was the grid infrastructure — the three-phase line that goes by the site and a substation being in close proximity and it being a substation that could take 20 megawatts of solar,” Mazuroski said.

The power produced from the farm is then sold to Versant and that lowers the amount of electricity that Versant has to go to market for each year.

“It’s going to directly benefit Maine homeowners, ratepayers, anyone that uses the standard-offer program in the state,” Mazuroski said.

The flat, open field where the solar farm will be located provides clear access to the available sunlight at its location, which is 45.23 degrees north latitude, or near the midpoint between the Equator and North Pole.

“To be up here with a clear blue sky from January through April is pretty good for them,” Hamlin said. “We can generate a significant amount of power, more than you would think for this northern latitude.”

That’s because the use of fixed-tilt, bifacial solar panels will enable the solar farm to generate electricity from both the front and back of each panel — even during the winter.

Mazuroski said the bifacial panels result in a boost of 10 to 30 percent of solar energy because the sun reflects off the snow and generates electricity from the back side of the panel.

The tops of the solar panels will be no more than 8 feet off the ground.

“Solar is low to the ground so you can’t see it, and there’s no moving parts,” Mazuroski said. “You put up a vegetative buffer and then you really can’t see it because a basketball hoop is taller [than the panels].

“And it doesn’t make any noise or emit anything, so it’s really a win-win.”


UNDER CONSTRUCTION — Approximately 67,000 fixed-tilt, bifacial panels will comprise a solar farm under construction at the Eastern Piscataquis Business Park in Milo.