PORTLAND

Woman with MS has cart stolen on Congress Street

The theft of an electric cart has left its owner, and her dog, in the lurch.

Betsy Smith, who lives at the North School apartments on Congress Street and has multiple sclerosis, relies on the four-wheel vehicle to get around, and in the case of her 2-year-old pet, to take him for walks several times a day.

Smith was coming home from an outing at 1 p.m. Sunday when her cart, a souped-up affair she calls her “monster truck,” got stuck in a snowbank in the courtyard of her apartment building.

She was able to walk to her apartment and called a friend to help her retrieve the vehicle. But by the time the friend made it over around 7 p.m., the cart was gone. Neighbors said they had seen it as recently as 5 p.m., she said.

Smith estimated the value of the cart at $2,000, but she said it’s more of a custom-made vehicle than something you would buy from a distributor, and she doubts someone would steal it to sell.

“It’s hardly a commercial product. It’s handmade by this guy in Massachusetts, with piping and stuff. It’s not a good-looking scooter,” she said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Portland police at 874-8555.

One-woman play will tell story of civil rights leader

The University of Southern Maine will present a one-woman play, “I Question America,” at 6 p.m. Wednesday in honor of Black History Month.

The free, public performance will be at the Hannaford Lecture Hall, Abromson Center, Bedford Street.

The play, performed by actress E.P. McKnight, tells the story of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. The university’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs is hosting the event.

A public reception begins at 5 p.m.

Five students reach finals in regional poetry contest

Five high school students were named finalists in the Southern Regional Poetry Out Loud Competition held Thursday at the City Theater in Biddeford, according to the Maine Arts Commission.

They are Lulu Hawkes, Catherine McAuley High School in Portland; Ian Hawkes, Gorham High School; Munye Mohamed, Portland High School; Morgan Wiggan, Thornton Academy in Saco, and Crystal Farrington, Lake Region High School in Naples.

The northern regional competition will be held Thursday in Ellsworth. The regional finalists will advance to the State Final Poetry Out Loud Competition on March 11 at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

The state champion will win a trip to Washington, D.C., for the National Poetry Out Loud Championship.

Waynflete students to host dinner, film benefit for Haiti

Students at Waynflete School will host a dinner-and-film fundraiser for Haiti on Thursday.

The Haitian festival, including ethnic foods, performances and crafts, will be held from 5 to 6:45 p.m. in Sills Hall at the Arts Center, 360 Spring St.

Dinner costs $7 per person or $20 for a family of four. Reservations are required for dinner. Please call 774-5721.

At 7 p.m., the school will screen the award-winning documentary, “Climate Refugees,” by Michael Nash, in the Franklin Theater.

The film shows how climate change, overpopulation and demand for resources are affecting people around the world. The screening is free and open to the public.

CAMDEN

Maine chef will vie for title of ‘People’s Best New Chef’

Maine chef Geoffroy Deconinck will compete for the title of “People’s Best New Chef,” a new national award from Food & Wine magazine and CNN’s popular food blog Eatocracy.

Deconinck, a native of Belgium, became executive chef of Natalie’s, the restaurant at the Camden Harbour Inn, last fall. He will be one of 100 chefs from 10 regions of the country vying for the new award.

The winner will be determined by the public through online voting.

It’s unclear whether there will be other Maine chefs in the running. The complete list of chefs up for the award won’t be released until this morning, when online voting begins.

Deconinck, known for his innovative approach to traditional French cuisine, has worked at Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris and at Cafe Boulud, Restaurant Daneil and Bouley Restaurant in New York City.

The “People’s Best New Chef” award is an extension of Food & Wine’s prestigious Best New Chef award, which is given to 10 chefs from around the country who have run their own kitchen for no more than five years. Portland chef Rob Evans of Hugo’s took home that honor in 2004, and Steve Corry of Five Fifty-Five won in 2007.

The Best New Chef award is chosen by the editors of Food & Wine magazine.

Voting for the “People’s Best New Chef” award begins today and runs through March 1 at www.foodandwine.com/peoples-bnc.

BRUNSWICK

Land trust adds 6 acres to Crystal Spring Farm

Crystal Spring Farm, the 320-acre property off Pleasant Hill Road, has gotten a little bigger.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, which owns the farm, said Monday it has acquired 6 acres of mostly blueberry fields on the southern border of the farm from Maurice and Jennifer Favreau of Brunswick.

Land trust officials said they used a portion of the $450,000 they received last year from selling seven acres of farmland zoned for medical use to pay for the land purchase.

“It was our hope and expectation that we would be able to leverage this money creatively and effectively,” said Angela Twitchell, the land trust’s executive director.

Crystal Spring Farm, which was purchased in 2008, is now home to one of the largest farmer’s markets in the state. The farm also supports a community agriculture program, and its six miles of trails are used by hikers and cross-country skiers.

MILLINOCKET

LePage hopeful that group will restart two paper mills

Gov. Paul LePage says he’s encouraged by a tentative agreement by an investment group to buy the Katahdin Paper Co. mills in East Millinocket and Millinocket.

LePage said Monday that he hopes the Millinocket Mill can be restarted under the ownership of Meriturn Partners LLC, and that both mills can be profitable.

Lee Hansen from Meritun Partners told the Bangor Daily News that the group will visit the mills Wednesday. Meriturn specializes in turning around troubled businesses.

At their peak, the two mills employed more than 1,000 people. Now only the East Millinocket mill is in operation with about 450 workers. The Millinocket mill closed in 2008 because of the high cost of heating oil. Officials say the new owners want to install biomass boilers.

AUGUSTA

Maine’s average gas price rises to $3.21 in past week

A price-watching website reports average retail gasoline price in Maine has risen eight-tenths of a cent per gallon in the past week to $3.21.

MaineGasPrices.com reports Sunday’s price compares with the national average, which has also increased 0.8 cent per gallon in the last week, but to $3.12 per gallon.

Including the change in gas prices in Maine during the past week, prices Sunday were 51.5 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago, and 2.8 cents per gallon higher than a month ago.

Heating oil prices in Maine were averaging $3.36, according to the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security.