LYMAN

Mother, baby, pets escape after fire starts in chimney

A mother and her baby escaped safely after a fire started in a chimney in their home at 82 Oscar Littlefield Road in Lyman.

Firefighters responded to the three-story home at 10 a.m. Wednesday and found heavy smoke and flames in the attic, said Acting Deputy Chief Robert Lang.

The Goodwins Mills Fire Department drew on crews from six communities for additional manpower and to help shuttle water because nearby ponds were frozen and inaccessible, he said.

The fire was under control by 11 a.m. The Red Cross is helping the family temporarily relocate until the building can be repaired.

Two dogs and two cats that were also in the building escaped without injury, Lang said.

The fire started in the chimney but Lang could not say for certain immediately whether the fire was caused by the house’s wood stove.

SOUTH PORTLAND

Maine DEP issues permit for planned DHHS building

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for a proposed office building in South Portland that would be leased by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The approval document, posted Wednesday on the DEP website, includes conditions for stormwater management, erosion control and additional soil testing.

ELC Management of Portland, led by Eric and Kenneth Cianchette, plans to construct a $9.8 million, two-story office building that would house the regional offices of DHHS and the state Department of Labor. Both offices are now located in Portland.

The project still needs a subdivision amendment from city officials in Portland and South Portland and a traffic movement permit from the Maine Department of Transportation.

AUGUSTA

Legislature rejects banning BB, replica guns at schools

Maine’s Democratic-controlled Legislature has rejected a bill that would have banned BB guns and non-firing replica firearms in schools.

The House accepted the majority recommendation of the Education Committee on Wednesday that the bill not pass. The Senate took the same action earlier this week.

Supporters say officers could easily mistake the realistic-looking guns for the real thing, which could lead to a tragedy.

But critics said creating a new crime isn’t the answer and would unnecessarily funnel young people from schools to jails.

The bill was introduced by Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill after an officer found a BB gun that looked like a real weapon in a student’s car outside a Kittery high school last year.

Bear-baiting opponents get enough signatures for vote

Maine election officials say supporters of a proposal to end bear baiting have surpassed the threshold necessary to put the initiative on the fall ballot.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Wednesday that 63,626 valid signatures were submitted, or 6,349 signatures more than required.

The initiative seeks to prohibit the use of bait, dogs or traps when hunting bears “except under certain circumstances.” The Maine Legislature now has the option of adopting the proposal as written. If not, then the measure will appear on the November ballot.

Maine voters rejected a similar measure 10 years ago. Opponents of the referendum drive say bear baiting is an essential tool in controlling Maine’s bear population and ensuring the safety of Maine residents.

MACHIAS

Former Calais man to serve 5-year term for sex crimes

A former Calais man has been sentenced to spend five years in prison for sex crimes against two teenage girls.

WABI-TV reported that Seth Larkin was also ordered Tuesday in Washington County Superior Court to serve four years’ probation.

The 28-year-old Larkin was convicted in January of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact involving victims ages 16 and 18 who had spent the night in the apartment he shared with his girlfriend last May.

He also pleaded guilty to violating probation by writing letters from jail to his girlfriend, a witness in the case.

Prosecutors asked for a 20-year-sentence based on Larkin’s violent criminal history, but a judge handed down a sentence of 10 years with five to serve.

BANGOR

Former volunteer charged with stealing from library

A Bangor Public Library volunteer has been charged with felony theft after allegedly trying to sell stolen Civil War photographs and World War II memorabilia.

Russell Graves, 27, of Bangor was charged with theft and violating bail conditions in connection with the theft of $31,000 in items from the library’s collection.

Police and the library first learned of the theft Feb. 26, when the owner of Maritime International, a shop that deals in coins, medals and historical memorabilia, reported that a man tried to sell a large number of photographs and memorabilia, but refused to show a photo ID.

The owner, Paul Zebiak, notified the library. Staff checked and found a large number of items missing from the collections.

The next day, a woman tried to sell the same items at the same store, police said. The owner stalled her until police arrived.

Police then were able to locate Graves and recover the collection intact.

OAKFIELD

First Wind gives town first payment, $600,000

A Maine town has received the first of payments that will amount to millions of dollars from an agreement with a renewable energy company.

First Wind said Tuesday that it has paid the town of Oakfield in Aroostook County $600,000 as part of an agreement to build its wind power project there. The payment is the first of many that will be used to provide tax relief to area residents.

Over the next 20 years, the project will generate $12 million in such payments and an additional $20 million in property taxes.

The 148 megawatt wind project is anticipated to produce enough energy for about 50,000 homes. Construction began in 2013 after the project received state approval in 2012. It is scheduled to be complete in 2015.

FARMINGTON

UMF eliminates 18 positions, cuts spending by 9 percent

The University of Maine at Farmington has cut 18 positions from its budget, three of which were layoffs, amounting to $1.65 million in savings.

Fifteen of the eliminated jobs were vacant, according to a university statement, and no university units or departments were eliminated.

UMF President Kathryn Foster made the announcement last week to the campus. She said the cuts are needed to balance the 2015 budget, according to UMF spokeswoman April Mulherin.

The budget shortfalls are “not one-time or unforeseen events,” according to the statement, but rather result from “intense fiscal pressures on the state Legislature and a declining statewide demographic of college students.”

The University of Maine System as a whole is facing a $36 million shortfall, and trustees said at the beginning of this school year that total enrollment was down 2 percent from last fall.

The three layoffs affected jobs in admissions, the library and in academic affairs, according to Mulherin.

UMF also will cut spending by $1.34 million in operations from its $31 million budget. Cuts will include services and supplies and postponing capital investments, according to the statement. In all, the cuts amount to 9 percent of UMF’s budget.

“For those people whose positions are eliminated, the university’s human resources department will offer assistance to help them in career transition and job search strategies,” according to the statement. “The university’s employee assistance program can also be utilized.”