SANFORD

Fire at concrete plant rages for three hours

A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion after battling a fire Thursday afternoon at a concrete plant in Sanford.

Capt. Paul Morrison said the fire at Genest Concrete, 36 Wilson St., started around 4:45 p.m. in a processing building where workers mix sand and gravel to make concrete.

It took more than 30 firefighters from Sanford about three hours to bring the fire under control. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but does not appear to be suspicious.

Morrison said the firefighter was transported to Goodall Hospital in Sanford where he was treated and released.

AUGUSTA

Ban on extra debit card fee awaits action by governor

A Democratic lawmaker says a bill she sponsored would be a win for Maine consumers.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Treat of Hallowell, would prohibit merchants from placing surcharges on debit card purchases. The Federal Reserve Board says debit cards are now used more often than credit cards.

Treat’s bill has received final House and Senate approval and has been sent to Gov. John Baldacci.

Supporters say Visa and MasterCard already prohibit merchants from adding surcharges to credit card purchases, but Discover and American Express do not.

 

Minimum wage proposal dead for this session

A bill that would have indexed Maine’s minimum hourly wage for inflation has been killed.

The House on Thursday voted to go along with the Senate and reject the bill for the year.

It would have adjusted Maine’s minimum wage based on changes in the federal Consumer Price Index for the Northeast. With passage, Maine would have joined the 10 other states that also index their minimums.

Maine’s $7.50 per hour minimum is now 25 cents higher than the federal standard.

Restaurant workers, low-income employee advocates and religious organizations supported the indexing bill, but business groups said it would discourage job growth and objected to automatic wage increases.

 

State parks launch raffle of 40 camping weekends

Forty Maine families will win free camping weekends this summer at a state park.

This year, the number of families winning the weekend raffle has been increased from 32 to 40, and all 12 Maine state parks will be included.

One lucky family among the 40 winners will win a complete set of camping gear donated by L.L. Bean.

Registration opens Thursday and information about the raffle is on the Web at www.parksandlands.com.

BETHEL

Dropout rate takes big dip at Telstar High School

Officials at a Maine high school that once had one of the highest dropout rates in the state say that rate has been cut by more than half through a joint effort by staff, parents, students and residents.

Telstar High School in Bethel has made more progress toward meeting state standards than nearly any other high school in the state, the Maine Department of Education said.

In 2000-01, the school’s dropout rate was 8.6 percent. Last year, the rate was 3.4 percent.

Officials said the first goal was to connect students to the school and find something that engaged them.

The Sun Journal newspaper of Lewiston says the school is mentoring about 50 students.

PORTLAND

Environmental group documents energy savings

A new report says Maine families could save an average of $2,200 a year on their energy bills through energy-efficiency improvements.

The report by Environment Maine, “Building Better: How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming,” says widespread use of the latest technologies would increase energy efficiency by up to 30 percent in existing buildings by 2030. It says vast amounts of energy are wasted due to poor construction, inadequate insulation and inefficient heating and cooling systems.

The report calls for improved building codes so new buildings are increasingly efficient, investment in energy retrofits and weatherization, and innovative financing to spur energy-efficiency investments.

 

Volunteer water testers sought for Casco Bay project

Friends of Casco Bay needs volunteers to help monitor water quality around the rim of the bay.

A training session will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 10 at the Southern Maine Community College Marine Science Center.

Volunteers must be 16 or older. Children may work with parents as a team.

New volunteers will partner with current volunteers to test the bay water between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on 10 Saturdays from April to October.

For more information, contact Peter Milholland, citizen stewards coordinator, at 799-8574 or at [email protected]

More information is also available at the organization’s Web site at www.cascobay.org.

SOUTH PORTLAND

Attic fire forces family to evacuate their home

A home on Evans Street suffered extensive damage from a fire that started in an attic Thursday night.

Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Fox said the family that lives in the home will have to stay with friends until the damage to the attic and second floor can be repaired. The family was not home when the fire broke out.

Firefighters rescued a cat and a dog from the home at 221 Evans St., which is near South Portland High School.

The cause of the fire, which was reported at 7:11 p.m., remains under investigation.

ORONO

University to examine needs of its work force

Educators, business leaders and other interested parties will converge on the University of Maine for a daylong summit next week.

The topic Tuesday is meeting the needs of the work force. All told, about 5,000 invitations were sent to education administrators, lawmakers and large employers.

Chancellor Richard Pattenaude told the Sun Journal that it’s an opportunity for “aggressive listening.”

Seven University of Maine System campuses and satellites are scheduled to be linked via video teleconferencing to the main site at Orono’s Wells Conference Center.