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Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 10, 2021 and Island Ad-Vantages, June 10, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, June 10, 2021
Vexing shortages continue as pandemic wanes
From big-ticket items to cat food

by Leslie Landrigan

The days when you can’t find disinfectants and hand sanitizer on store shelves may be over, but shortages persist in a range of items, from shingles to plow trucks.

The problem is especially acute with building materials and products that need semiconductors. A global semiconductor shortage has trickled down and now affects local inventories of trucks and computers.

A recent trip to Walmart in Ellsworth revealed that more than half of the laptops on display were out of stock.

Deer Isle selectmen are finding that winning approval for a $200,000 reserve fund was the easy part of replacing its aging plow fleet.

At their May 27 select board meeting, they discussed their difficulty in finding a plow truck. Town Manager Jim Fisher had called four dealers. “Most of them are sold out until the winter of 2022,” he said. One dealer might be able to come up with something in March, he said.

Road foreman A.J. Battles said he found a pickup truck, but someone else snapped it up overnight.

“I guess we’ve just got to hunt and wait,” said Selectman Ronnie Eaton.

Building

The Town of Castine, which contracts out much of its work, is running into a different kind of shortage—time. “Scheduling is a very tough thing,” said Town Manager Shawn Blodgett in a phone interview. “Is it the building boom?”

Blodgett said the price of asphalt is going up because of the jump in oil prices. “We got in early enough that we haven’t seen a sharp rise [in asphalt],” he said.

Stonington didn’t finish striping its roads because it couldn’t get enough reflective paint, Town Manager Kathleen Billings told the select board in May. The town may also have to wait more than a year for Consolidated Communications to build out its planned fiber-optic network because of a shortage of fiber-optic cable, according to a company spokesperson.

Mike Hardy, who owns Old White Masonry in Deer Isle, said he’s facing shortages of building materials.

“You can’t get black shingles,” he said.

He’s also paying high prices for lumber. Hardy said he just bought a piece of pine, 16 feet long, 14 inches wide and two inches thick. It cost him $320. Ordinarily, he said, he might pay $100 for such a stick of wood.

Sporadic shortages

Retail store managers say things are better than they were at the height of the pandemic, with only sporadic shortages, if any.

At Island Fishing Gear in Stonington, co-owner Jenni Steele said they had an issue with filters the first week in June. Occasionally, they’ve had a problem getting some items, she said.

In Blue Hill, TradeWinds Market Place co-owner Belinda Lawrence said there have been some cat food shortages.

Patrick Harris, assistant grocery manager at the Blue Hill Co-op, said once in a while they can’t get something. The Co-op benefits from a shorter supply chain, as its products are almost entirely domestic, he said.

“We’re definitely not in toilet paper hoarding territory,” Harris said.