Restoration planned for historic train depot

A railway depot that brought in so many French-Canadian immigrants it became known as a local Ellis Island began undergoing renovations Wednesday after nearly four decades of deterioration.

The brick and granite Grand Trunk Depot on Lincoln Street will receive a $400,000 restoration funded by government grants and private money, said Gerry Berube, president of the Lewiston and Auburn Railroad Co., which owns the structure. Plans call for a restaurant to open in the depot once it is restored, said Berube.

First built in 1874, the Victorian-style depot became a busy stop for passengers, especially Canadian immigrants who eventually settled in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

More than 80 percent of the French-Canadians who became citizens of the two cities between 1920 and 1939 arrived through the depot, according to local records.

“A lot of our ancestors came through there,” said Berube, noting that his mother was among them.

But as passenger railroads faded from use, traffic diminished at the depot, and it was abandoned 36 years ago. Four years later in 1979, the depot, located near the sprawling Lewiston textile mills that once employed thousands of Franco-Americans, was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. 

Three charged with robbing medical marijuana patient

Lewiston police say they’ve charged three young men with robbery for allegedly kicking in the door of an apartment and robbing a man of his medical marijuana at gunpoint.

Police say Scott Breton of Lewiston reported that three men — one with a shotgun and another with a handgun — burst into his Pierce Street apartment around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and stole marijuana he used legally to treat a medical condition. The men also took an iPod, a cellphone and a laptop computer.

Police say they found the guns and some of the stolen property in the laundry room of a nearby apartment house. The three suspects were found in a third-floor apartment.

Police charged 22-year-old Kevin Stichel, 19-year-old Richardo Hairston and 21-year-old Derrick McDuffy.


Fire damages duplex, but residents manage to escape

Fire damaged a Raymond duplex Wednesday morning, but everyone got out safely after one of the residents woke his neighbor.

Raymond firefighters found the front of the house at 73 Shaw Road on fire when they arrived at 6:39 a.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Tupper. They were able to bring the fire under control by 7 a.m. and saved most of the contents of the downstairs apartment.

However, the residents of both units will need new housing while repairs are made, Tupper said.

The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.


Road work under way on Fore Street, Forest Avenue

Road work began Wednesday on Fore Street and Forest Avenue, and city officials said drivers should expect traffic disruptions for the rest of the month.

The Maine Department of Transportation is working on a section of Fore Street between Atlantic Street and Franklin Street. The work on Forest Avenue is between its intersections with Congress Street and Park Avenue.

On Forest Avenue, the section where work is being done will be open to inbound traffic, but outbound traffic will be detoured onto Casco Street.

At both locations, crews will primarily be milling the roadway and putting down an overlay of asphalt to improve drainage.

City officials suggest that drivers seek alternate routes.


Appeals court upholds ruling in disclosure case

A federal appeals court is denying a request for a new hearing in a public-disclosure case stemming from Maine’s 2009 same-sex marriage campaign.

The appeal came after the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston a month ago rejected the National Organization for Marriage’s challenge to Maine’s political action committee laws and upheld Maine’s law requiring disclosure of independent expenditures in candidate elections.

In a decision today, the court denied NOM’s request for a rehearing.

NOM was the primary donor in 2009 to Stand for Marriage Maine, a political action committee that helped repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law.

Other legal issues between NOM and the state of Maine, including one dealing with disclosure of donors, remain unsettled. 

Lawyer: DNA doesn’t match coffee shop fire suspect’s

The attorney for a man charged with setting fire to a Maine cafe that employed topless servers says DNA evidence on a gasoline can used in setting the fire does not match that of the suspect.

The Kennebec Journal in Augusta said Wednesday that Andrews Campbell made the claim in a pretrial hearing in the arson case against Raymond Bellavance, who’s accused of setting the fire that burned down the Grandview Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro in 2009.

Justice Michaela Murphy has refused to dismiss an indictment against the 50-year-old Bellavance. Murphy says she considers it a priority case and expects it to be ready to go to trial in December.


LePage enlists businesses to help fight domestic violence

Gov. Paul LePage has helped to launch a business-based effort to fight domestic violence.

The governor on Wednesday spoke at a news conference in Fairfield to announce the program, which is getting $10,000 in state Labor Department funding.

“Toolkits” to be distributed to employers include domestic violence facts, a sample policy for businesses and a video to help businesses of all sizes recognize and respond to domestic violence abusers in the workplace.

The news conference was held at Hammond Tractor, which lost an employee to a domestic violence killing.

LePage called domestic violence a pattern of destructive behavior that has an impact on individuals, communities and the entire state.

Hammond Tractor owner Gary Hammond said Maine companies need to take affirmative action to discourage and reduce acts of domestic violence. 

After search, police seize ‘bath salts’ from business

Police reportedly seized 165 packages of ‘bath salts’ from a downtown business Tuesday morning and charged a Fairfield businessman with unlawful trafficking in the drug.

The illegal synthetic hallucinogen was found inside a seat compartment of a scooter at Bargains ‘R’ Us, according to Police Chief John Emery.

Emery said John Linscott, 59, was charged with unlawful trafficking in bath salts after search warrants were simultaneously executed at 9:30 a.m. at Bargains ‘R’ Us, a 71 Main St. shop operated by Linscott and Sharon Butler, 63, as well as at Butler’s residence at 163 Ohio Hill Road.

Emery said about 10 officers from the Fairfield Police Department and Somerset County Sheriff’s Office took part in the four-hour searches, which came after a two-month joint department investigation. A detective with the Skowhegan Police Department also assisted.

In addition to the drugs, Emery said officers found a large quantity of cash, firearms, stolen electronics and jewelry that had been pawned or traded at the business. He estimated the drug’s street value as $12,000.

In 2004, Linscott was sentenced by a federal judge to two months in prison for selling baseball caps bearing counterfeit Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees logos, as well as knock-off sunglasses and watches.


Foundation buys 965 acres of forestland for preservation

A foundation established by Maine philanthropist Roxanne Quimby has purchased 965 acres of forestland east of the Appalachian Trail in Elliotsville Township.

The land is along the Little and Big Wilson streams. It includes cliffs, gorges, waterfalls and other habitat.

The foundation, called Elliotsville Plantation Inc., will maintain the land for low-impact recreational uses.

Quimby made hundreds of millions of dollars through the sale of Burt’s Bees, the personal care company she co-founded in the 1980s.

The foundation acquires and preserves open space for the benefit of the public. It now owns and manages more than 100,000 acres of land in Maine.


Council votes to disband ‘watchdog’ committee

After review by the policy committee, Biddeford City Councilors voted Tuesday in favor of disbanding the Coastal Area Committee.

The committee, created 13 years ago as a “watchdog” to a then-derelict code enforcement office, came under scrutiny earlier this year with some saying it had outlived its usefulness and a new $200 fee for applicants to go before the committee is unfair. To date, the committee has reviewed all building permits, Planning Board requests and variances requested of the Zoning Board of Appeals for land within the coastal area.

The council voted 5-4 to disband the committee, with Councilors David Bourque, Clement Fleurent, Bob Mills and Rick Laverriere in opposition. There will be a second reading and final vote on disbanding the committee at the council’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 20.


Man accused of stealing 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel

A 29-year-old Maine man has been charged with theft for allegedly stealing diesel fuel from his employer in Millinocket.

Millinocket Police Chief Kevin Bolduc said Kevin Langlais is accused of filling 55-gallon drums with fuel from the fuel pump at W.T. Gardner & Sons’ hardwood chipping mill.

Bolduc told the Bangor Daily News that investigators believe the thefts took place over the past three weeks and totaled about 1,000 gallons of fuel.

Bolduc says Langlais was fired after his arrest. 

— From staff and news services