A.J. Higgins

Statewide News Reporter

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, A.J. served for 13 years as political editor and State House bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News.

He began working for the BDN in 1972 while still a senior at Bangor High School, when his first job was casting the lead plates for the printing presses in the paper’s stereotype department. In the ensuing 34 years, A.J. moved up to the editorial department, where he quickly immersed himself in nearly every facet of news reporting, editing and photography.

In addition to his extensive coverage in the greater Bangor area, he also worked in the paper’s Presque Isle bureau and was named bureau chief of the paper’s Hancock County operations in Ellsworth in 1988. He was assigned to the State House in 1993.

While A.J.’s reporting on Maine Public Radio has largely centered around coverage of events in Augusta, he has turned his reporting chops to issues and topics taking place across the entire state.

A.J. resides in Manchester with his wife, Diane.

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A summerlong public relations battle between two competing trash-to-energy companies is heading to court.

Maryland-based Fiberight and its Ellsworth partner, the Municipal Review Committee, or MRC, want to build a biogas, organic trash disposal facility in Hampden. But on Friday, the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company, or PERC, filed an appeal in Kennebec County Superior Court, challenging the validity of the state permits issued for the project by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

Republican 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin lashed out at his Democratic opponent today during a tour of the General Electric Turbine plant in Bangor.

In a speech in which he promoted his job creation strategies and support of small businesses, Poliquin accused former state lawmaker Emily Cain of favoring big government and voting against Maine businesses. Cain says Poliquin needs to check his facts.

Candidates for the Maine Legislature in the Penobscot County area were invited today by the Christian Civic League of Maine for a meet and greet on social and political issues.

Democrats and Republicans used the event to explain why they were running for office, and members of the faith community advised them that religious freedom and pro-life positions continue to be paramount issues for their congregations.

BANGOR, Maine - The Bangor City Council has rejected an expansion request from the Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center, which had sought to increase its methadone addiction treatment  program from 300 to 500 patients.

With two other facilities in the city already treating close to 1,000 patients, Bangor City Councilor Joseph Baldacci said the applicants had not proven that the clinic's waiting list of nearly 175 individuals were legitimate candidates for the program.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

A Bangor methadone clinic’s plan to expand treatment is meeting resistance from some members of the city council and local residents.

Critics say Bangor is doing more than its fair share by offering treatment to 1,500 patients at three methadone clinics in the city, but substance abuse counselors say Bangor should be doing more to address addiction — not less.

Sappi North America is moving ahead with its plans for a $25 million capital project to update its Somerset Mill woodyard in Skowhegan.

The global paper and packing products manufacturer will be modernizing its wood debarking, chipping and chip distribution systems.

Tony Ouellette, managing director at the Skowhegan mill, says it will be the first upgrade in that aspect of the operation in 40 years.

Courtesy of the Balduf family

Criticism from Republicans, veterans and their families continues to mount against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump for his remarks about a Muslim Gold Star mother who appeared at the Democratic convention.

Looking more like the set of a science fiction movie than a north shore New Brunswick community, the Campbellton-Dalhousie area was invaded by millions of spruce budworm moths over the weekend.

Businesses in both towns were forced to hired vacuum trucks to to clear piles of moths from parking lots and streets after the insects fell to the ground and died.

Forestry officials are hoping the swarms stay out of Maine.

Maine’s unemployment rate has crept upward to 3.7 percent in June. That’s two-tenths of a percent higher than the previous month, but lower than the national average.

Still, some economic analysts say Maine’s job creation effort still has a long way to go.

The news of the slight uptick in unemployment was not a surprise to Mark Sullivan at the progressive Maine Center for Economic Policy, who said Maine was one of only six states where unemployment increased in a month of strong national job growth.

After a decade as a spectator, former Republican 1st District U.S. Rep. David Emery is back in the political spotlight as he seeks a seat in the Maine State Senate.

Emery was recruited to enter the race after another GOP candidate dropped out, but with a political resume that stretches back to the Reagan era, Emery is more than just a fill-in candidate.

fiberight.com

Emboldened by approved state licenses and support from the Hampden Planning Board, the chief executive of a trash-to-energy company now says the Bangor area isn’t big enough for two major waste disposal operations.

The developers of a proposed $69 million biofuel, trash-to-energy plant have been given the go-ahead for construction from the Hampden Planning Board and are now moving to secure financing for the facility.

After lengthy deliberations Tuesday night, the planning board granted site-plan and conditional-use approval for the plant to Fiberight LLC and its partner in the venture, the Municipal Review Committee, which represents nearly 200 communities concerned about waste disposal.

Recommendations for implementing a new unified budget system for all of the campuses of the University of Maine were presented Monday to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees.

The proposal places an emphasis on collaboration among the campuses to reduce costs by creating a systemwide budget to replace the system in which each campus proposed its own budget to the trustees.

Board Chairman Sam Collins said the so-called One University initiative is predicated on collaboration among the seven campuses.

Mainers are being asked to volunteer to become foster families for dozens of children who have been placed in state custody.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew says that while existing foster homes and families are expected to fill the needs of about 600 children in the coming year, there is still a need for 66 new foster families. She says children are the first-line causalities in Maine’s ongoing opioid crisis when the state is forced to place them into state custody after their drug-addicted parents are incapable of caring for them.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

A young restaurateur from Maine and a group of forward-thinking lobstermen have joined forces in Tenants Harbor to form an unusual partnership that is attracting attention in the fishing industry.

Luke Holden, of the Luke’s Lobster restaurant chain, is buying nearly every single lobster that the newly formed Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op can land. He has also built a wharf-side lobster shack at the co-op and has pledged to reinvest half of its profits back into the fisherman’s organization.

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