MILO — Three people have been charged with felony drug trafficking following a two-month investigation into the sale of fentanyl and crack cocaine from a home in Milo.

Jose Vasquez, 44, Denise Sibert, 42, and Caleb Emery, 26, all of Milo, were charged April 1 with Class B trafficking in schedule W drugs (fentanyl and crack cocaine). These arrests came as the result of a joint investigation conducted by the MDEA’s North Central Task Force in Bangor and the Milo Police Department. The investigation included a number of undercover purchases of fentanyl and crack cocaine from the Albert Street home where Vasquez and Sibert resided.

MDEA agents along with officers from the Milo Police Department and deputies from the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant at 3 Albert Street. Vasquez and Sibert were inside the house at the time. Following a search of the home, agents seized close to $12,000 in suspected drug trafficking proceeds and other evidence of illicit drug sales.

Vasquez and Sibert were transported to the Piscataquis County Jail in Dover-Foxcroft and charged with two counts each of Class B trafficking in cocaine. Bail was set at $10,000 cash on each.

Emery was charged with a single count of the same offense and was transported to the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor. His bail was set at $7500 cash. Vasquez was able to post his bail that night and was released from custody. It is likely that the charges on Vasquez and Sibert could be elevated to aggravated trafficking in schedule W drugs, a class A offense, because both have previous drug felony convictions.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency will continue to work closely with all local, county, state and federal law enforcement counterparts in an effort to investigate, arrest and prosecute those who traffic these dangerous drugs in Maine communities.

If you have information about this investigation or the illegal sale of drugs in your community, you are urged to contact the Maine Drug Enforcement office closest to you or by texting MDEA to TIP411 (847411) or by calling the MDEA tip-line at 1-800-452-6457.

MILO — Members of the Penquis Valley High School National Honor Society are selling raffle tickets for five Easter baskets to benefit Make-A-Wish, an organization working to help fulfill the wishes of children with critical illnesses.

“There’s five different baskets. They have a variety of items from spring items like flower pots and gardening tools and stuff like that to a couple of others that are Easter-themed like candy and something kids would get on Easter,” Penquis NHS President senior Zak Mills said.

Mills said tickets can be ordered from any NHS member or from adviser Michele Cabral. Chances to win are $1 each or six tickets for $5. He said the Easter basket drawing will be on Thursday, April 1, and  “there is going to be five different winners, one for each basket.”

The various items making up the baskets were brought in by NHS students and Cabral.

“We are taking down contact information from everybody when they purchase tickets so we will contact them either via phone or email to let them know they won a basket,” Mills said.

Mills benefited from Make-A-Wish himself a few years ago.

In late 2015 when he was in seventh grade Mills took a trip to Durham, North Carolina, arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to see the Duke University men’s basketball team in action. In addition to seeing the Blue Devils on the court only a couple of rows behind the scorer’s table at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Mills was given a front row seat at the postgame press conference and he had the opportunity to ask the first question of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski following the Duke victory over the University of Buffalo. Soon after, Mills got to meet the players and coaches for autographs and photos.

Nearly a year before his trip to Duke, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in the radius near Mills’ right wrist after he initially had a sore wrist following middle school basketball practice. A week later, the soreness persisted so Mills went to see the school nurse.

The nurse informed Mills’ father Jason Mills — physical education teacher and athletic director at Penquis and coach of the Patriot boys soccer and basketball teams — of a bump near his son’s right wrist. A subsequent X-ray found no break but a biopsy showed osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) on Mills’ right radius, the forearm bone that attaches to the thumb side of the wrist. His subsequent treatments in the ensuing months included chemotherapy and surgery.

“Make-A-Wish, when Mrs. Cabral brought up the idea it brought back some memories from when I went down to Duke and all that they did for me,” Mills said. “That was certainly a good distraction and that trip was something to look forward to when I was finishing up my treatments.”

Mills said Penquis NHS members were brainstorming fundraiser ideas that could be carried out amidst COVID-19 restrictions. “We had our statewide National Honor Society convention last Tuesday and they were talking about different service projects that we could do and some of the ideas were raising money for non-profits and Make-A-Wish is definitely in that category,” he said. “Mrs. Cabral must have remembered my story and suggested that we raise money for Make-A-Wish somehow.”

NHS members have a $1,000 goal for the Easter basket raffle. “I think having a variety of baskets, not just having one set in stone in theme, we could get more people to buy tickets and give them a chance to win more than one basket,” Mills said.

“We think it’s important especially with all the things Make-A-Wish has done for kids, not just in Maine but across the county,” he said. “It’s good to raise money for them and allow them to continue what they have been doing.”

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Northern Light Health’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Piscataquis County Ice Arena on West Main Street, operated through a partnership with Foxcroft Academy and the Libra Foundation, is up and running following the first day on Friday, March 19. The opening went smoothly and plans are to double the number of doses given per day from 500 to 1,000 in several weeks.

“That launch at the ice arena in Dover went very, very well,” Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive of Northern Light Health’s COVID-19 response, said during a media conference call from the vaccination clinic at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on March 24. “Very quickly they realized that yes indeed they could handle a much larger number of individuals than what had originally been signed up for. We purposely did not overwhelm the system on their very first day, but they certainly can reach their goal of being able to vaccinate 1,000 people per week at that particular site.”

Dr. Jarvis said a few small changes have been made after the first day to make operations slightly more convenient for staff and patients, but there are no major adjustments needed.

He praised the Northern Light Health team that designed the organization of the vaccination site setup. “It didn’t matter if we were going big or small, we could replicate the system that we put in place here first at the Cross Insurance Center and across all of our sites,” Dr. Jarvis said.

In Dover-Foxcroft, the Pfizer vaccine is being used, which requires patients to receive first and second doses three weeks apart.

“If they did 500 this past Friday, three Fridays from now they will have to do 1,000 with 500 first doses and 500 second doses,” Dr. Jarvis said.

He said after Day One, Northern Light Health officials could see there was the capacity to increase and “clearly we will up to 1,000 doses when we get to those three weeks out.” Dr. Jarvis said another clinic day could be held on Wednesdays if staffing can be in place and/or there is a need.

Appointments are available at sites across the Northern Light Health system, with those ages 50 and older now eligible.

“We strongly encourage anyone who is 50 and older or a school employee or licensed childcare worker to get vaccinated,” Dr. Jarvis said. “These vaccines are safe and effective and provide us the best opportunity to stop the spread of coronavirus.”

Dr. Jarvis reminded those with appointments at the Piscataquis County Ice Arena or any site to not arrive too early but to wait in their vehicles if they do. “We do want to remind people that you should not arrive more than 10 minutes before your appointment time,” he said. “We have appointments scheduled and spaced out to minimize long lines and unnecessary wait times.”

“Whether you’re the first person in line or the last person in line, we have vaccine for you,” he added, saying no one will be turned away from their appointment if they arrive late.

“We want to make it clear that Northern Light Health will not bill anyone for a vaccine that does not have health insurance,” Dr. Jarvis said. He said those in need of a ride to their scheduled appointment can call 1-800-608-5172 to arrange for transportation, needing to call at least 48 hours in advance.

He acknowledged there is hesitancy for some about getting vaccinated and those with concerns are encouraged to  talk with their primary care practitioner. “There are now tens of millions of individuals who have received both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine around the world.,” Dr. Jarvis said. “We know that these vaccines are safe because we have seen the number of people who have gotten the vaccines. We have had very few issues at any of our sites and all of them were readily handled at the site itself.”

“It is only through us all getting vaccinated that we can protect one another,” Dr. Jarvis said.

Ice at the Dover-Foxcroft facility has been removed and the plan is for the frozen surface to return in August in time for fall Piscataquis County Ice Arena programming.

MILO — A winter sports season played under many adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing an end, and in several weeks a modified spring sports season will start. SAD 41 officials learned more during a school board meeting conducted over Zoom on March 2.

“The winter season is gradually wrapping up,” Penquis Valley School Athletic Director/boys high school basketball coach Jason Mills said, a short time after his Patriots fell 44-38 to Central High School of Corinth in a regional pod semifinal.

Mills said the middle school cheering team recently won its division, with the routine taped to be judged at a later date. He said the middle school basketball teams each appeared in the postseason, the high school girls were set to play at Dexter Regional High School in a semifinal and the high school cheering team is also recording its performance for the Penobscot Valley Conference competition and will do likewise for the upcoming state championship.

“I would like to thank all my coaches for the work they have done this winter and the student athletes — they have had a lot asked of them,” Mills said. He said the players needed to wear masks while playing and practicing, took to the court without any fans and followed a number of health and safety guidelines.

“I feel like the winter season has been a success,” Mills said.

“I feel like the spring season is going to look a lot like the winter and fall seasons,” he said, such as athletes needing to wear masks and limits on numbers at the playing fields. The athletic director said the state has not yet released specific guidelines for the spring sports season, which was canceled entirely last year.

Mills said in the past the baseball and softball teams have traveled together but in 2021 one team would likely be playing at home while the other is on the road. “I would say baseball and softball will stay in their pods,” he said, as the schedule is made up of a small number of opponents from the region as was done for soccer and basketball.

Mills said he is unsure of how track would compete as typically meets have more than 100 present between male and female athletes, coaches and officials without the presence of spectators.

In other business, Superintendent Michael Wright brought up several items in his report.

He said the next meeting on the proposed regional high school is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16, on Zoom.

“I would anticipate this spring a series of meetings to be held to inform the public about this project,” Wright said.

“This region has been given the opportunity from the state to have a comprehensive high school,” the superintendent said. He said about $100 million is earmarked  for a school offering a variety of academic programs from high school to college — through the University of Maine and Maine Community College systems — and training and certifications in various industries via a number of business partnerships. Similar education models are used in other states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The project participants currently are SAD 41, SAD 46 of Dexter and the Guilford-based SAD 4 and in part with the Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter and the Greenville and Jackman schools via distance learning agreements.

“We’ve talked about one of the key components and that is where this project would go,” Wright said. He said the location of a proposed regional high school is one reason why a project in the Fort Kent/Madawaska area, that was ranked ahead of the local institution on the state scoring list, fell apart.

The state will work with local officials to help determine a site best suited for the project, which would be subject to future votes at the local level to see if individual districts would like to continue participating.

“We’ve started budget talks. March is usually a big month for that so I would expect by the April meeting you will hear a lot more about that,” Wright told the school board.

Later in the meeting Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative Carolyn Haskell said that the proposed 2021-22 budget for the organization would be flat-funded from the current academic year.

“There are no changes to the cooperative assessments,” she said.

In 2020-21 SAD 41’s share of the approximate $412,000 PVAEC budget is just under $42,000.

Haskell said in the last year 46 students from the SAD 41 communities have completed high school through the PVAEC, with 22 being in the 16-20 age group.

The school board has been meeting over Zoom for nearly a year but the decision was made to meet in person for the next session — set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6, at Penquis Valley. Wright said board members who would prefer can still attend remotely.

DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Libra Foundation, Northern Light Health, Foxcroft Academy and Piscataquis County Ice Arena would like to announce that the PCIA will be the site of a clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations starting later this month. The facility was determined to be big enough to accommodate large numbers of people from Piscataquis County and surrounding areas who want to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Libra Foundation and Foxcroft Academy are pleased to be able to offer the building to Northern Light to aid in its efforts to keep the vaccination efforts in Piscataquis County moving forward as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, this measure will require the removal of the ice surface for the coming months.

Accessibility, parking, location and ample floor space are reasons why the PCIA is the desired location to support the significant vaccination program.

“We do appreciate that we have an opportunity to play a role in assisting in bringing the pandemic to an end as soon as possible,” said Arnold Shorey, Foxcroft Academy head of school and PCIA curler. “It is not missed that this initiative will result in PCIA programming, which is very important to the community, ending earlier than planned.”

Arena staff are working closely with staff from Northern Light Health to prepare the building to open as a vaccination site as soon as possible. Accordingly, current PCIA programming will end on Sunday, March 7 to start preparing for ice to be taken out of the facility.

“Northern Light Mayo and CA Dean Hospitals are grateful for the partnership with Foxcroft Academy and the Libra Foundation that has made it possible for us to use this space,” said Marie Vienneau, senior vice president of Northern Light Health. “Using this location as a vaccination site will significantly enhance our ability to efficiently vaccinate more residents of Piscataquis County and the surrounding region. It’s another step in the battle against COVID-19!”

The building opened its doors for programming in September of 2019 and has been busy with activities, even amid the global pandemic. As of publication, the plan is for ice to return to the PCIA in August in order to support efforts for fall programming.

Grade eight, high honors: Lucas Chai, Lydia Gauvin, Tristan Goodwin, Rylee Heal, Wyatt Ladd and McKenzie McMahon; honors: Naima Ali, Meadow Brennan, Lily Coons, Abigail Davis, Mackenzie Fernald, Caiden Fowles and Samantha Lane.

Grade seven, high honors: Amara Driscoll and Gage Yenchochic; honors: Liam Atkinson, Vegas Carey, Natalie Cummins, Keagan Ellison, Gavin Lapointe, Kaitlynn McMahon, Aidan Murano, Wyatt Romero, Byron Severance and Connor Smith.

Grade six, high honors: Violet Chai, Ava Shoopman and Anna Smith; honors: Connor Badger, Dylan Belanger, Darelyn Brasslett, Kaydence Doore, Shyanna Gauvin, Jaylynn Horne and Caleb Johnson.

Grade five, high honors: Sierra Bolstridge, Sage Colson, Jake Haffenreffer, Kaybren Hurd, Jacoby Landry, Nathalie LeVesque, Adalai Perkins and Griffin Romero; honors: Emma Baxter, Carter Bender, Makayla Cook, Kiptyn Dehaan, Michael Drake, Stephen Drost, Ava Harmon, Caroline Snider and Brik Yenchochic.

MILO — On Friday, Feb. 12 Penquis Valley High School held its annual National Honor Society induction in the school library with a virtual ceremony for its two new members, Abigail Conlogue and Aileen Strout who are both members of the Class of 2023.

The National Honor Society adviser is Michele Cabral, Spanish teacher.

Standing members are President Zak Mills (a member of the Class of 2021), Secretary Destiny Golden (Class of 2021), Salena Goodine (Class of 2021), Joslyn Black (Class of 2021), Courtney Rouleau (Class of 2021), Savannah Boislard (Class of 2021), Grady Atkinson (Class of 2022) and Alvin Robshaw (Class of 2022).

Photo courtesy of Penquis Valley High School PENQUIS NHS — Members of the Penquis Valley High School National Honor Society are, from left, Courtney Rouleau (Class of 2021), inductee Aileen Strout (2023), Joslyn Black (2021), inductee Abigail Conlogue (2023), Secretary Destiny Golden (2021), Salena Goodine (2021), President Zak Mills (2021), Savannah Boislard (2021), Grady Atkinson (2022) and Alvin Robshaw (2022).

 

Photo courtesy of Penquis Valley High School
NHS INDUCTION — Penquis Valley National Honor Society students held an induction ceremony on Feb. 12 in the library, with the audience watching virtually. From left are Courtney Rouleau, Savannah Boislard, Salena Goodine, Joslyn Black, Secretary Destiny Golden, President Zak Mills and inductees Abigail Conlogue and Aileen Strout.
Photo courtesy of Penquis Valley High School
NEW MEMBERS — Penquis Valley National Honor Society President Zak Mills speaks during the induction ceremony for sophomores Abigail Conlogue, left, and Aileen Strout.
Photo courtesy of Penquis Valley High School
NHS ADVISER — Michele Cabral, Penquis Valley National Honor Society adviser and Spanish teacher.

Concerned Piscataquis residents have formed the non-partisan group PROACT (Piscataquis Regional Organization for ACTion) in response to recent statements and actions of the Piscataquis County Commissioners which limits safe citizen participation in their meetings.

PROACT members have joined from throughout Piscataquis County and  are meeting regularly over Zoom. The structure is designed to encourage active, safe and respectful citizen participation in our county government.

The stated goals of PROACT are 1) to compel the County Commissioners to hold safe and accessible meetings in compliance with Maine’s Freedom of Access Act 2) to ask the County Commissioners to rescind their ‘Resolution of Protest’ that is factually incorrect and harmful to the health, economy, and reputation of Piscataquis County in favor of a new resolution that supports Piscataquis and has broad-based, bi-partisan support, and 3) to create a Piscataquis County Charter that will not only better define the responsibilities and expectations for the County Commissioners and other county employees, but will provide legal recourse should they not meet those expectations.

PROACT members are committed to supporting a strong, respectful and safe Piscataquis County.  If you would like to support PROACT email [email protected] or follow on Facebook at PROACT Piscataquis Regional Organization for Action.