DOC offers foliage events

Augusta, Maine (NEWS CENTER)--The fall foliage season is beginning in Maine and the state is offering a number of events to encourage people to get outside and enjoy the season.

Old woodsmen say the color "moves ten miles a day" and the state is following this pattern with events that move north to south over the three week period.

This Buereau of Public Lands and the Maine Forest Service are coordinating the events which include eight paddles and one hike.

"It's a great time of year to encourage people to get out and experience the beauty of the changing seasons in Maine," said Gary Best in a statement.  He is the assistant regional manager with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

If you would like more information about the events including meeting places and degree of difficulty, click on the link to the right.

Special Report on Longterm Unemployed

(NEWS CENTER) -- It is about as stressful a situation as you could ever find yourself in: thousands of Mainers have exhausted their unemployment benefits ... but have been unable to find work.

The Maine Department of Labor calls them "Exhaustees", and has set up a series of programs aimed at putting these Mainers back to work. Others refer to them as "The Invisible Unemployed" because they are not counted in Unemployment reports or as part of the workforce.

Intense fire forces evacuations, road closures

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A fire in Downtown Portland forced the evacuation of two buildings and the closure of part of a busy artery.

Shortly after 12:30 AM, firefighters were called to 201 Congress Street for a report of smoke.  The blaze quickly escalated to a 3 alarm fire, and spread to the home next door at 203 Congress Street.

The 16 people who live in the 3 story building at 201 Congress Street were evacuated safely and crews went to work at knocking down the flames.

The building is a recovery residence called "The Atlantic House," for people recovering from alcohol or drug addictions.

Several blocks of Congress Street, near the intersection with Washington Avenue, were closed down as firefighters tried to corral the flames. At least one person was arrested for walking past the police barricade toward the burning building.

Board defends Civic Center renovation plan

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Plans to renovate the Cumberland County Civic Center are being criticized for being underwhelming, considering the four years it took to come up with them and for the $28 million dollar price tag.

But the Civic Center's Board of Trustees and the Portland Pirates are both standing behind the recommendations. Portland Pirates Manager and CEO Brian Petrovek says fans are going to like what they see if the Civic Center gets the $28 million upgrade its trustees have recommended.

"I think they're going to be ecstatic," Petrovek said. "It's all about improving the fan experience. The ammenities that the facility has been lacking for a few years will be addressed: restrooms, concessions, technology, ticketing systems."

Contest celebrates 25 years of Habitat for Humanity

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland is ringing in its 25th anniversary with a contest.

The organization is dedicated to building affordable housing for people who may otherwise have a hard time achieving home ownership.

Since the founding of the local chapter, Habitat has built 52 homes in the Portland area.  A 53rd house is near completion and six more are slated for construction in Freeport and Westbrook.

News Center's Lee Nelson recently spoke with Habitat's Stefanie Millette about plans to celebrate those accomplishments.

Millette said Habitat is holding a 25th Anniversary Creativity Contest.  Children between the ages of 5 and 18 are asked to express what home means to them through either writing or art. 

All participants will receive a certificate of achievement.  The winners will get the chance to publicly display their submissions at Habitat events.

Specialty popcorn packs surprising range of flavors

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A company specializing in popcorn is challenging its customers to expand their palates beyond the usual flavorings of salt and butter.

News Center's Lee Nelson recently spoke to Paul Roberts from Coastal Maine Popcorn Co.

The company is just over two years old with stores in Boothbay Harbor and Portland. 

The stores offer more than 60 varieties of flavored popcorn.  Some of the more unusual flavors include Buffalo Wing, Tuscan Herb and Wasabi Soy.  Click here for an extended list of flavors.

Roberts said he air pops his corn rather than cooking it in oil to keep it more fresh and healthy.

Casino supporters and opposition square off in debate

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- With less than three weeks till election day, those in favor and against a proposed resort casino in Oxford presented their cases to business leaders in Southern Maine.

"One thing that no one is going to dispute is that there will be job creation as part of this proposal," said Rob Lally, speaking in favor of Question One on november's ballot.    "You look at the economy.  You look at unemployment.  We compete for that disposable income.  As a tourism industry, which is so critical to Maine, we have to compete for those dollars and a four season resort will definitely bring people to Maine."