PORTLAND

Vassalboro man killed when car slams into pile of gravel

A Vassalboro man died early Sunday morning when the car he was driving crashed into a gravel pile off Commercial Street in Portland.

Portland police said Robert J. Hubbard, 23, of Vassalboro was killed in the crash at 1:26 a.m.

A passenger, 24-year-old James Ronco, was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was listed in serious condition, police said. Ronco’s address was not immediately available from police.

Hubbard was operating a 2008 Honda Civic westbound near Beach Street. Police are investigating why Hubbard lost control of the car. They asked anyone with information about the accident to call 874-8532.

Organizers seek participants for Maine Restaurant Week

Organizers of the annual Maine Restaurant Week are encouraging restaurants to register for the event so they can take part in an upcoming monthlong restaurant promotion in November.

The fifth annual Maine Restaurant Week is scheduled for March 1-10. The event serves as a celebration of Maine’s restaurant scene, with restaurants offering specially priced three-course meals to showcase the talents of Maine chefs. Nearly 100 restaurants participated last year.

This year, Restaurant Week organizers are launching a promotion throughout November as part of the event. Restaurants must be registered by Nov. 1 to take part.

BAR HARBOR

Grant to turn Acadia visitors into roaming bio-researchers

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $250,000 grant aimed at turning Acadia National Park visitors into citizen scientists.

The grant was awarded to the Mount Desert Biological Laboratory, the National Park Service and the Schoodic Education and Research Center. It will be used to launch a project called “Pathway to BioTrails.”

For the project, members of the public will verify the identities of animals and plants using DNA barcoding. Ultimately, a range of citizen science projects will be offered revolving around the park’s hiking, bicycling and ocean kayaking trails.

Scientist Karen James of the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory hopes that once the concept is tested at Acadia, it can be expanded to other national parks and long-distance trails, such as the Appalachian Trail.

BRUNSWICK

Merchants group recognizes bakery as Retailer of the Year

The Maine Merchants Association has named a Brunswick bakery and cafe as its 2012 Retailer of the Year.

Wild Oats Bakery and Cafe will receive the award at the association’s 79th annual meeting Thursday in Portland.

The award winner is chosen on the basis of continued growth, community commitment and having a positive work environment. Maine Merchants Association Executive Director Curtis Picard said Wild Oats continues to expand, hire loyal workers and be an anchor of downtown Brunswick.

Wild Oats was founded in 1991 by David and Becky Shepherd.

The Maine Merchants Association is a nonprofit trade group representing over 400 businesses in the state.

SALEM, N.H.

N. Hampshire 1st, Maine 18th in college graduate total debt

A new report says New Hampshire is again the top state for college student debt, and Maine is ranked 18th.

The Institute for College Access & Success says students who graduated from New Hampshire colleges owed an average of $32,450 in loans. The California-based organization released its 2011 list late last week.

Among northern New England states, the report says Vermont students had the eighth-highest debt load, at more than $28,000. Maine ranked 18th with an average student debt of just over $26,000. The national average was $26,600.

Matthew Reed, program director for the institute, told the Eagle Tribune that New Hampshire has been at the top of the list for the seven years the study has been done.

DURHAM, N.H.

High lead levels shut down artificial turf athletic field

The University of New Hampshire has shut down an athletic field with artificial turf because of high lead levels.

University officials say Memorial Field, which is used for field hockey, lacrosse and graduation ceremonies, was shut down immediately Saturday after the school was advised that the turf had degraded to the point where measurable lead levels has been detected in dust samples.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said the lead levels don’t present a high risk to adults, but that children 6 and under shouldn’t be allowed on the field.

The turf was installed in 2002 and was scheduled to be replaced in the upcoming fiscal year. School officials say they are now developing an earlier timeline to replace the turf.

MANCHESTER, N.H.

Political statement reduces gas price to pre-Obama $1.84

Motorists got a deal on gas after a conservative political action group paid a New Hampshire station to offer cheap gas as a criticism of President Obama’s energy policies.

Americans for Prosperity was offering up to 15 gallons of gas at $1.84 a gallon to the first 150 motorists who showed up at a station in Manchester between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday. The group said $1.84 a gallon reflects the price of gas four years ago before Obama took office.

Corey Lewandowski, the group’s New Hampshire director, says it’s time to boost domestic energy production and stop spending money on Obama’s green-energy programs.

Police say someone stole nuns’ purses, raffle items

Police are looking for whoever stole purses and raffle items from some nuns while they were setting up for their annual charity fair.

Manchester police say somebody stole two purses on Friday belonging to nuns from the Sisters of the Holy Cross, as well as an X-Box 360 console and other items that were being used as raffle items for the fair. Police have released a photo of a man they say went shopping at a Walmart using one of the stolen credit cards.

WMUR-TV said the annual fundraiser went on as scheduled Saturday. Sister Jackie Brodeur told the station the fair seemed busier than usual, with people showing up in support after hearing about the theft.