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Central Maine News: Feds Scold Maine over Food Stamp Photo Policy

Scott Olson, Getty Images

These are some of the stories central Maine is talking about today.

Maine lawmakers are getting honored for their work to restore the Statehouse dome. The bipartisan Legislative Council received the Honor Award for Restoration from Maine Preservation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving historic places. The $1.3 million restoration project included replacing the 100-year-old green copper sheath on the Statehouse dome and replacing it with new, shiny metal. The Lady of Wisdom statue on top of the dome was also re-gilded and the light she holds was given a new light. Officials expect the shiny copper on the dome will soon fade to brown and stay that way for roughly 30 years before exposure to air and rain turn it green again. (AP)

Time is running out on some of the charges the mother of missing Maine toddler Ayla Reynolds wants brought in her case. The statute of limitations on lesser charges like child endangerment expires in a matter of weeks, on the third anniversary of Ayla’s disappearance. Ayla was 20 months old when she was reported missing by her father on Dec. 17, 2011, in Waterville.  Police say the father and others know more than what they’re telling investigators. Ayla’s mother says homicide charges should be filed. (AP)

Nationally, only about a third of American voters cast their ballots in this year’s midterm elections — the worst showing in at least five decades. Turnout is historically low for nonpresidential elections, and in November it was even lower than usual. But each year there are some states that are overachievers. This year, Maine along with Wisconsin, Colorado, Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon all had voter turnouts of more than 50 %. Experts say there are many reasons for relatively high voter turnouts. Especially controversial races and ballot measures drive voters to weigh in. (AP)

Federal officials say Maine risks losing funding to administer its food stamp program unless it makes clear to recipients that having their photos placed on electronic benefit transfer cards is optional. In a letter sent to Maine DHHS, officials say that information given to recipients makes it seem like they’re required to have their photos placed on the cards, even though it’s voluntary. In fiscal year 2013, the federal government paid about $8.9 million to partially cover Maine’s administrative costs. A Maine DHHS spokesman says that 21,000 people have had their photos put on the cards, while 100 declined. Maine officials say that the federal government’s claims are misleading and that it’s trying to “prevent accountability and reform in the nation’s welfare system.” (AP)

Sales of existing single-family homes in Maine surged more than 26 % in October when compared to the year-ago month as people looked to move into hew homes before winter set in. The Maine Association of Realtors reports that 1,573 homes were sold last month, compared to 1,246 homes in October 2013. The median sales price remained stable, dropping by less than 1 percent to $175,000.Sales in Maine far outpaced the national and regional numbers. In the past three months, Piscataquis, Hancock, and Somerset counties saw surges of more than 30 percent in sales compared to the same period last year. (AP)

AAA projects roughly 2 million New Englanders will travel at least 50 miles during Thanksgiving weekend, up about 4 percent from last year. The increased travel, nationally at its highest level since 2007, corresponds with the nation’s lowest gas prices since that same time. This is the first time since 2010 that national gas prices average lower than $3 per gallon. Although gas prices are lower, travel expenses such as hotels and rental cars are slightly higher than last year. (AP)
Part of Mount Vernon Avenue in Augusta will be one-way only for about three months starting around Memorial Day. According to the KJ, it’s for more reconstructed. That has businesses owners worried they will see a devastating drop in customers that could last beyond construction. Next summer’s disruption to business comes after last summer’s construction on the road, when previous utility project that tore up the area to install new underground pipes and years of the road surface being so rough some motorists avoid the area. (

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