PORTLAND

Former call firefighter given 24-year prison sentence

A former call firefighter for the Westbrook Fire Department is going to prison for 24 years for arson, burglary and violating probation.

Philip Caron, 25, was sentenced by Justice Jeffrey Moskowitz on Wednesday in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Caron was on probation for a prior arson when he was arrested outside a vacant commercial building at 745 Forest Ave. in Portland on Aug. 20 last year. Caron had broken into the building and set a fire that ultimately destroyed it.

Caron was charged in December 2004 with setting three fires causing $1.5 million while he was a call firefighter. He was released from prison in March 2008 following his earlier conviction.

Missing woman’s boyfriend wanted on unrelated charge

The boyfriend of a missing Scarborough woman who advertised as an escort on Craigslist is now wanted on charges unrelated to her disappearance.

WMTW-TV said the warrant for Akeem Cruz was issued Thursday after he failed to appear in court to answer to a charge of driving without a license.

Megan Waterman, 22, of Scarborough and Cruz went to New York on Memorial Day weekend. She was reported missing on June 5. She was last seen in Hauppauge, N.Y.

Police said Waterman advertised as an escort on Craigslist and went to New York regularly. Police have said they consider Cruz to be a witness to Waterman’s disappearance.

AUGUSTA

Baldacci orders hiring freeze in view of $100 million gap

As the 2010-11 fiscal year began Thursday with a $100 million shortfall possible, Gov. John Baldacci ordered a state government hiring freeze.

The order signed by Baldacci freezes vacant positions and limits overtime, travel and other expenses. It allows for emergency exceptions.

The governor has signed similar orders since 2003 to address revenue shortfalls. The administration is also considering program curtailments to address the shortfall.

The shortfall is due to less-than-expected Medicaid funding from the federal government.

Acting finance commissioner to be nominated for position

Maine has a new acting finance commissioner to succeed Ryan Low, who left the job Wednesday to take an administrative post at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Ellen Schneiter was sworn in Thursday as acting commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Schneiter has been the state budget officer since 2006.

Schneiter will have a key advisory role as the state faces a budget shortfall of as much as $100 million in the fiscal year that started Thursday. The Baldacci administration will look for places to curtail programs to close up the gap.

Baldacci says he will nominate Schneiter for confirmation by the Senate as finance commissioner.

Maine ninth-healthiest state, up from 16th spot in 2003

A newly released State Health Plan calls Maine the ninth-healthiest state, up from 16th in 2003.

The 2010-12 State Health Plan, released Wednesday by Gov. John Baldacci, also ranks Maine sixth best in covering the uninsured, up from 19th in 2002. It says that health care costs remain too high, but growth in premium costs is lower than the national average.

The document proposes reducing health care costs by strengthening public health and prevention of health problems, finding ways to avoid unneeded hospitalizations and emergency room use, and finding ways to reward efficiency and prevention.

CAPE ELIZABETH

Route 77 paving project expected to cause delays

The town plans to begin a paving project Tuesday on Route 77.

The work will be done between Wentworth Road and the Inn by the Sea. Drivers should expect slight delays during the work, which is expected to take four or five days, said Public Works Director Robert Malley.

Malley advised drivers heading south toward Scarborough to use Fowler Road.

Workers will remove a layer of pavement and replace it with a new layer. The contractor is Dayton Sand & Gravel.

WINTER HARBOR

Recovered lobsterman dies when lobster boats collide

A lobsterman who suffered health problems but recovered in time to set his traps this season died Wednesday when two lobster boats slammed into each other off Schoodic Point, officials said.

Frank Jordan owned the 34-foot Linda Diane, which sank in 85 feet of water off after a collision with the 43-foot Master Simon, said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wheeler.

The Coast Guard was alerted at 1:53 p.m. by the crew of the Master Simon, which recovered Jordan’s body and his injured crewman from the water and brought them ashore. The crewman was taken to Ellsworth Memorial Hospital with a head injury, the Coast Guard said.

The two lobster boats were alongside each other — close enough for crew members to talk to each other — before the boats went in different directions, said Harbor Master Wesley Shaw. It’s unclear why they later collided.

The Coast Guard is taking the lead in the investigation. But there’s nothing to indicate it was anything other than a tragic accident, Wheeler and Shaw said.

Jordan, a longtime lobstermen, suffered a heart attack last fall and put his boat up for sale.

But he felt good enough after receiving a pacemaker to fish for another season, Shaw said.

NEW GLOUCESTER

Wolfe’s Neck beef brand changes name after move

The Wolfe’s Neck beef brand has changed its name to Pineland Farms Natural Meats.

Alicia Depatsy, spokeswoman for Pineland Farms Natural Meats, said the name change became necessary after Wolfe’s Neck began moving its operations from its small farm in Freeport to a larger one at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

Pineland Farms Natural Meats is made up of more than 250 family farms in the eastern United States that supply meats to hundreds of stores and restaurants.