Category Archives: December 20

A renovation ‘to improve flow, to have it not be cramped, and to improve the standard of care’

Glenn Yovino stands by the new dental work station at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital.

The staff isn’t parking on the grass to make room for client vehicles in the parking lot and construction crews are no longer taking care to keep clear of four-legged patients and people with pet carriers awkwardly navigating their way to the entrance. Even the faux log-cabin siding is gone. It’s been a long seven months, but only the final landscaping—which will happen in the spring—is missing from the newly renovated Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital on Route 131 just north of the St. George town line in South Thomaston.

“This project has been a couple of years in the planning,” says Harbor Road owner/vet Glen Yovino, noting that actual construction began last June. “The hard part was that we had to keep working because it was the beginning of our busy season.” So St. George builder David Miller (of J.D. Miller Construction) and his crew had to stage their work so that Yovino’s staff were able to keep up with the practice’s work load through a busy summer, while the hospital’s staff had to make sure Miller’s crew had maneuvering room.

Yovino, who for the previous five years had been working in a Rockland veterinary practice, had bought the building in 1995. “The building was two years old at the time. It had been designed as a vet hospital for a staff of three vets, an office manager and five or six employees. It was the nicest vet hospital in the area when I bought it.”

Early on, Yovino worked alone. “It was just me. Then we had a part-time vet and she eventually became full time and then we hired another vet. We’ve got 15 employees now. We’re a much, much busier practice than anyone would have predicted based on our location [part way down a peninsula].”

But being on the St. George peninsula was exactly what Yovino hoped for from the first. Although he didn’t grow up in St. George, his mother was from Port Clyde. “My parents and my grandparents owned the Port Clyde store in the late 1960s and while my parents didn’t live here year round, my grandparents lived here and ran the store. So we were here a lot.”

A couple of years out of veterinary school, when Yovino took the veterinary job in Rockland, he and his wife Bethany moved to St. George. “I like my practice’s location. I’m on the peninsula but not too far from St. George. My kids went to school in St. George and at George’s Valley. I practice here because I like the people. We’ve got people’s kids who now bring their animals in. I like that side of it and I like that people know me and call me by my first name. Part of the appeal of being here was to be the vet in the local area.”

The decision to expand and renovate the facility, Yovino explains, was prompted by practicality. “I needed to remodel. The roof, the siding, the windows—they all needed to be fixed. When we started planning the project I was 55 and I figured I was going to be here for at least another 10 years. The idea was that I wanted a nice place to work, not to expand the business. We are still seasonal, although it’s less seasonal than it used to be. The idea was to improve flow, to have it not be cramped and to improve the standard of care. The idea is that pet owners aren’t going to be spoken to in the lobby, that we have the ability to spread out.”

Yovino ticks off just how cramped and difficult things had become: With only two exam rooms, all three vets couldn’t see appointments at the same time. With no other space available for treating dental and non-surgical patients, the hospital’s surgery was pressed into service for procedures beyond its intended purpose. A single small office served the needs of three full-time vets and an office manager. Lab equipment and pharmaceutical supplies were confined to a small space inhospitable to multiple users. The laundry was inconveniently in the basement.

“We now have five areas where we can work on animals, including a whole little wing just for dentistry, as opposed to one surgery and so we can now more easily keep the surgery clean and sterile,” Yovino says with clear satisfaction. A spacious corridor at the back of the building efficiently linking the hospital’s vets and staff to the three exam rooms also provides an ergonomic work space for laboratory equipment and for storing and dispensing pharmaceuticals.

Many of the details Yovino likes best about the renovation have been suggested by Michael Steitzer of MSA Architect in Topsham. Steitzer’s wife is a vet, which has led him to develop a specialty in designing veterinary facilities. “Mike gets so many of the little things,” Yovino says with evident appreciation. “We pointed out that in the old scheme we couldn’t use our microscope if the centrifuge was on and he came up with a simple way to separate the two so that the vibration of the centrifuge didn’t affect the microscope. There were lots of things like that.”

Yovino also took care to include the staff in decisions that might affect them. “I told the staff, ‘I’d love your opinion,’ and there were a lot of opinions. I just didn’t want to hear about things they didn’t like after the fact. I also told them, ‘We’re probably going to lose one of you during this project’ because of the stress of trying to work during the construction process, but we didn’t lose anyone.”

Asked if he believes the renovations at Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital are “state of the art,” he gives a positive nod, adding, “The only thing we’ve spared is architectural extravagance. We were working with an existing structure and I didn’t want to blow it all up. The fact that everything has to be ADA [Americans with Disability Act] compliant added a lot of expense. So we’ve tried to make things look nice and I like it, but we’ve been conservative in our extras.”

The chief one of these, he says with a laugh, is that he now has his very own own 8’ x 9’ office. “I just couldn’t be here for another 10 years and have everybody working around me and dealing with every [random] question coming in.” The relief he feels of being able to occasionally shut the door and work quietly at his desk is evident. “It was a long process of getting to this point,” he admits, “but I’m drained.” Luckily, he adds, “At this time of year things get quiet and I like that.” ­—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Pardon the irruption

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Common Redpoll

As if winter weren’t “cool” enough, there’ a sweet migration pattern that can supply any winter season with a unique make-up of avian species and associated population dynamics. Instead of a regular, yearly movement that many species follow (spring-and-fall songbird migration for example), the key to this flavor of migration is that it’s not repeated annually. Instead of decreasing day length and hormones inspiring an exodus, the motivating factor in these non-annual cases is a crash in food availability. A substantial drop in resources to the north can result in a southern invasion of huge numbers of any affected bird species. When occurring, this pattern is (lovingly) referred to as an “irruption,” and irruptive species in these cases can be either predators or seed-eaters.

Snowy Owl

Raptor species such as Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls irrupt on somewhat regular cycles that are connected to population cycles of grassland/field rodents (four-to-five-year cycles) and snowshoe hares (10-year cycles). These are the irruptions you can count on, and are much appreciated accordingly.

On the other hand (or wing), seed-eating songbirds that feast all winter on conifer cones, catkins and fruit will all irrupt on an irregular and unpredictable basis depending on seed crop failures. “Winter finches” (Common and Hoary Redpoll, Evening and Pine Grosbeak, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin and White-winged and Red Crossbills) are a group that irrupts under these circumstances and may show up in big numbers that light up forests and feeder stations with energy and color.

Evening Grosbeaks

The McConochie feeder system off the Turkey Cove Road in Tenants Harbor recently played host to about 50-plus Evening Grosbeaks! About the size of a robin, Evening Grosbeaks bring a striking pattern of bold yellows and black-with-white wing patches with a honkin’ seed crackin’ bill to boot! The McConochies report that they’d never seen Evening Grosbeaks on their property before and that after a week of gradually diminishing numbers the birds finally cleared out, taking their irruptive ways to new grounds.

And Evenings were not the only grosbeaks that found their way to St. George after the cold stretches and snows in the last third of autumn. Small numbers of Pine Grosbeak have been sprinkled throughout peninsula forests as well, and their calls add an alternative to the sound of a cold breeze! American Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, Red Crossbill and Pine Siskin have also been observed on the peninsula as of late, providing views of some seriously hardcore song birds (ones that regularly overwinter well north of mid-coast Maine). It’s also a glimpse into what can be assumed is a winter food shortage further north. Minor giddypation for the rest of our finchy winter and whatever else may work their way down the peninsula. But with the irregularity of it all, technically this could be it already for the winter finches. Only time will tell, and winter’s only starting today!

Pine Siskin

Another winter-fruit-reliant species with irruptive tendencies observed recently on the peninsula is the Bohemian Waxwing. While Cedar Waxwings are a common species and sight in St. George during the summer months, their northerly cousins tend to stay at upper latitudes unless encouraged (prodded) south by a lack of food. Keep an eye on local plants that hold berries and fruit into the winter, or may even be leaking tree sap for these medium-sized songbirds to feast on. Bohemians will even join Cedar Waxwing flocks that may be overwintering in neighborhoods. Picking apart a flock of Waxwings often turns up a Bohemian treasure or two this season!

When these irruptive songbirds invade an area in numbers, it’s not surprising that predator species may irrupt as well and follow the songbirds south. The Northern Shrike is a predatory songbird that makes occasional irruptions depending on both songbird and small-mammal population abundance to the north. These killers–nicknamed “butcher birds” for their habit of impaling prey on thorns and barbed wire–can send winter finches darting for their lives with fast chases and aerial pursuits. It’s a predator/prey relationship that migrates, part of a northern ecosystem that sometime visits us for the winter!

It’s good not to take things in life for granted. With the size of some winter irruptions and the associated unpredictable timing pattern they follow, it’s almost impossible to “ho-hum” these species when they arrive at your feeding station or in your neighborhood.
The season is starting off somewhat irruptive already. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open and enjoy it while we’ve got it, because with these species—who knows when we’ll see them again?

PHOTOS: Common Redpoll, Kristen Lindquist; Evening Grosbeaks, John McConochie; Snowy Owl & Pine Siskin, Kirk Gentalen

St. George second graders do ‘school swap’ with West Bath

Isabelle (right) is my friend from West Bath school. She loves her teacher. She said not to use plastic. Isabelle is a great student.
—Madison Staples (left)

The St. George School’s second grade crew spent the fall learning about schools and communities. To foster new relationships and expand our views, we participated in a school swap with the second grade crew at West Bath School, where they were also completing the same unit of study. The entire second grade crew from West Bath School came to St. George School and each student spent the day shadowing a St. George peer. Students interviewed one another to find similarities that connect them and differences that inspire them. Our students then used the information gained in peer interviews to begin exploring paragraph structure and practice a new domain of writing. Below are samples of their work.
—Alison Babb, Grade 2 teacher

Zaden (left) is my best friend at West Bath School. Zaden is eight years old. He takes the bus like me. Zaden is silly. Zaden is a great friend.
—Phoebe Salo (right)

Maggie (center) is a lovely person at West Bath School. She is eight years old. Maggie is nice to me and she loves to learn. Maggie is a great friend.
—Brynn Viles (right)     Baya Healey is pictured at left.


To the editor:
Over this past fall, the 200-year-old Tenants Harbor Baptist Church has undergone renovations to the church’s steeple. The major repairs have been needed for over a decade and we are pleased to announce that the work, done exceptionally well by J. Richardi Construction Inc., is now complete. The project was made possible by a grant fund of the Maine Community Foundation.

On December 16, we marked the completion of the project with a ceremonial ringing of the church’s bell, located atop the steeple in the belfry. Prior to the renovations, we were unable to ring the bell.

The church, founded in 1842, has been a central figure in Tenants Harbor and the larger St. George Community. With the church sitting high on the hill on Main Street, the steeple has been referred to as the “Lighthouse on the Hill.”

Now that the renovations are complete, we’re excited to have our “Lighthouse on the Hill” back in working order.

—Walter W. Desruisseaux, Sr., Tenants Harbor Baptist Church

A service project aimed at providing some Christmas joy

The 5th grade crew is doing a community service project for the Portland Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. What we are doing is donating books to kids with cancer and other diseases. We wanted to do it around the holiday to give the books to them on Christmas.
We did a Read-A-Thon, which is where you could donate money to the kids in the 5th grade crew for reading books. We got sponsors and got certain amounts of money for how many pages or chapters or minutes or books we read.
We want to make all the kids at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital filled with joy this Christmas. Our class made a goal of how much money we wanted to earn which was $200. We have over $800 now! On December 20, we will go to the hospital and deliver our books and a check. Thank you all for sponsoring us and I really think that the kids at the hospital will love it!
—Karly Putansu, Grade 5

PHOTO: Christine Miller