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.

Ways to Connect

A new poll released by the Critical Insights marketing group of Portland concludes that nearly half of all Mainers surveyed believe the forest products industry remains vital to the state's economy.

"We just wanted to culminate all those stories into the findings of our research question that we put out there, just to show people that we indeed are a big part of the economic engine of Maine," said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.

University of Maine Orono campus

Students enrolled in programs at the University of Maine System’s seven campuses will face an average financial increase of 2.3 percent next fall to cover the costs of tuition, fees and room and board.

The increases are tied to the annual rate of inflation, and nearly half of the fees will fund a 9.5 percent increase in student aid during the 2018-2019 academic year.

UMS board member and Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody voted against the increase, saying it was overly burdensome on students and their families.

University of Maine

Maine’s public universities are anticipating a record number of nursing applicants for the 2018-2019 school year, even as the state continues to struggle with nursing shortages. One source of relief could be a proposed $75 million bond that would include funding to expand nursing education.

Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House are expected to vote Thursday or Friday on the merits of this year's farm bill. The bill makes numerous changes to ongoing programs, including strengthening work requirements for people who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

Republican Second District Representative Bruce Poliquin says the bill will also offer some exemptions for Maine families who currently receive those SNAP benefits.

Courtesy Milbridge Police Department

Milbridge police and the Maine State Police are investigating the theft of more than a dozen firearms and 45,000 rounds of ammunition from a Milbridge homeowner. 

Milbridge Police Chief Lewis Pinkham said the homeowner believes the items were taken between November and April while the home was vacant. He said a $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the crime.

Nick Woodward / Maine Public

An online fundraising effort to cover some unanticipated costs related to the staging of this week's funeral for Cpl. Eugene Cole of the Somerset County Sheriff's Department has exceeded its $20,000 goal.

Maine State Police

Updated 4:40 p.m.

A 22-year-old man has been transported to a Bangor hospital after he stole a Dexter police cruiser Friday afternoon.

Tibbets was arrested Friday morning on outstanding warrants.

At approximately 11:29 a.m., police say that Tyler Tibbets, 22, stole a fully-marked White Ford Explorer Cruiser while he was still in handcuffs. The cruiser was found abandoned in Garland, east of Dexter, around 1:15 p.m., but Tibbets remained at large.

Mainers participating in a newly released big game management plan say that they are largely happy with the state's current hunting regulations as long as animal populations remain healthy and robust.

Judy Camuso, wildlife director for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said opinions from hunters and non-hunters were surveyed over the past three years to produce the report intended to guide department policy to manage the state's bear, moose, deer and turkeys.

Nearly 18,000 acres of forested land in Hancock and Washington counties have been acquired by the Virginia-based Conservation Fund.

Tom Duffus, vice-president and northeast representative of the group, said Wednesday that the land will be conveyed to several Maine conservation groups once they have raised the money to purchase the parcels. The spokesperson said the acquisition will protect wildlife habitat, ensure future recreational access, and support the economies of nearby coastal communities.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

A new fare structure from the Maine Department of Transportation is being challenged by Islesboro residents, who have been informed that their tickets to the mainland will more than double on May 21.

Some disgruntled islanders allegedly responded with threats of retaliation against DOT workers assigned to the state ferry service. That has prompted DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt to make some threats of his own.

Members of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) said Wednesday that it will work with communities that are uncomfortable with an interim plan to temporarily send their municipal solid waste to a landfill until the new Hampden Fiberight plant is operational.

Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz said his town, and several others that use Blue Hill's transfer station, are sending their trash to the waste-incinerating Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. because they didn't sign up for a landfill when they joined the MRC.

Maine communities are preparing for their annual town meetings, in which important decisions will be made about local tax rates. But that process could be difficult if the Maine Legislature fails to act on a $1 billion-plus school funding bill that lets school districts know what their share of local education costs will be.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

First it was April, then July, now the partners in the Fiberight biofuel solid waste processing plant in Hampden say the facility may not be ready to open until late September. The delay is forcing more than 100 communities in central and eastern Maine to temporarily send their waste to two landfills. Some critics are now questioning whether that approach is even legal.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

A regular Tuesday night city council meeting in Waterville turned into a heated show of political and personal tensions, centered around the city’s embattled Republican Mayor Nick Isgro.

Isgro has faced public scrutiny after tweeting “Eat it Hogg,” referring to David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting. The tweet came in response to a story that Fox News had decided to support conservative host Laura Ingraham, who had also disparaged Hogg.

Nate Hegyi / NPR

The organizers of a pro-Second Amendment rally in Augusta Saturday are urging supporters to attend, but to leave their guns at home. The afternoon rally will be held on the plaza between the State House and the Cross State Office Building, an area designated as a gun-free zone. Organizers are concerned that promotion of similar events being held at state capitols in other states may have confused the issue.