January 28, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

From staff and news services

PORTLAND

Man accused of biting off parts of friend's face in fight

Police have charged a man with aggravated assault, saying he bit off the tip of his drinking buddy's nose and a substantial part of his lower lip.

Officers were called to the Travel Lodge at 1200 Brighton Ave. at 1:40 a.m. Saturday and found Brian Oliver, 36, covered with blood.

Oliver told them that he and Michael Nickles, 35, both transient and longtime acquaintances, rented a room at the motel and were drinking when they got into a fight. Nickles, he said, climbed on top of him and started biting.

Officers looked in the window of the first-floor room and saw Nickles lying on the floor, also covered in blood. He was charged with felony assault and held in the Cumberland County Jail.

WESTBROOK

Voc-tech teacher charged with gross sexual assault

A teacher at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center was arrested Monday on charges of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact.

Westbrook police said that Derek Hanscom, 32, of Gorham was charged at 11:45 a.m. in connection with incidents over the past two weeks, according to a release from Capt. Tom Roth.

Roth said the victim was a juvenile, but would not say whether the victim is a student.

Hanscom is being held on $500 bail pending a court hearing.

Westbrook Regional Vocational Center offers career and technical education to students from Gorham, Bonny Eagle, Windham/Raymond, Scarborough and Westbrook high schools. Hanscom teaches automotive technology.

AUGUSTA

Right-to-work, fair share bills back before legislators

Two labor bills that have been rejected in past sessions, so-called right-to-work and fair share, are being introduced again this session.

Republican Rep. Lawrence Lockman of Amherst acknowledges that his bills will face an uphill battle in a Legislature with Democratic majorities in both chambers. But he also notes that other states -- notably Indiana and Michigan -- last year passed right-to-work laws.

In Maine, Lockman's bill would allow workers at unionized private businesses to opt not to join or financially support a union as a condition of employment. Lockman says it's good for jobs and good for business.

The second bill takes away a requirement that state employees pay fees to the Maine State Employees Association whether they join the union or not.

 

Democratic State Committee re-elects Ben Grant chairman

The Maine Democratic State Committee has re-elected Ben Grant as chair of the state party.

Grant, who ran unopposed, led the party in November when Democrats regained control of both chambers in the state Legislature. Elections for party officers were held Sunday.

Pam Fenrich of Falmouth was elected to replace Janet Mills as the party's vice chair. Mills resigned from her position after being elected state attorney general. Fenrich will focus on fundraising for the party as it gears up for the 2014 election.

Heidi Brooks of Lewiston was elected secretary, Betty Johnson of Lincolnville was elected treasurer, and Roy Gedat of Norway was elected vice treasurer.

 

New bill will seek to take BPA protections further

Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, plans to introduce a bill to create guidance and an expanded action plan for protecting children from the most dangerous chemicals in the marketplace. The bill will be announced Tuesday.

Goodall is trying to seal some of the cracks left from Thursday's unanimous vote of the Maine Board of Environmental Protection to replace bisphenol-A -- used in plastics for packaging of infant formula, baby food and toddler food -- with safer alternatives, said Steve Taylor, program manager at the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland.

The board indicated that legal definitions and loopholes prevented it from going further.

"The Kid Safe Products Act that was passed is very important ... and has been very successful," said Taylor. But without further legislative detail, "no more action is likely to be taken" to product toddlers, older children and pregnant women.

The proposal, which would require companies to inform the state's Department of Environmental Protection about which products contain the chemicals of highest concern under Maine law, is backed by a coalition of at least 50 grass-roots organizations. It would set priorities for action to get those chemicals out of the products Maine children are exposed to every day.

Initially, consumers would notice no change on store shelves, said Taylor. The legislation would make certain, however, that what's "on store shelves is safe."

MOOSE RIVER

N.H. man injured when snowmobile slides into tree

A snowmobiler from New Hampshire was injured Monday when his sled slid off Interconnected Trail System 89 near Jackman and hit a tree.

Andrew Raymond, 45, of Pelham, N.H., was taken to Jackman Region Health Center and later to Eastern Maine Medical Center by LifeFlight helicopter, said Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service.

Raymond was riding a rented 2011 Skidoo snowmobile, MacDonald said. He was the last in a line of four riders when the other three stopped in front of him about 9:20 a.m. Monday.

"Raymond tried to avoid a snowmobile in front of him, applied the brakes and attempted to stop, but slid off the trail into a tree," MacDonald said. "Speed and poor visibility due to snow dust appear to be contributing factors."

Raymond, who complained of back and chest pain, was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, said MacDonald. The incident remains under investigation.

PLEASANT RIDGE

Man pinned between truck, chipper flown to hospital

A man from Brighton Plantation was taken to a Bangor hospital by LifeFlight helicopter Monday after he was pinned against machinery in a logging accident.

Freeman Cromwell, 62, was working on a wood chipping operation about 9:15 a.m. when the equipment shifted on the icy road, said state police Sgt. Peter Michaud. The accident happened on land owned by the Plum Creek timber company.

Cromwell suffered injuries to his legs and internal injuries to his midsection, Michaud said.

A spokeswoman at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where Cromwell was taken, said she had no information on him.

Michaud said Cromwell was the driver of a tractor-trailer chip truck being fed by an industrial wood-chipping machine. Cromwell walked to the back of the tractor-trailer when the chipper slipped, pinning him between the chipper and the rear of the trailer.

No one else was injured, and no charges are expected.

Michaud said he and Trooper Reid Bond are assisting inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with the investigation.

BATH

Maritime Museum to erect sculpture's 'masts' in spring

The Maine Maritime Museum says six 120-foot-tall spires representing the masts of the schooner Wyoming, the largest wooden sailing ship built in the United States, will be erected this spring, joining bow and stern structures on the museum campus on Washington Street.

"This is an exciting moment for the museum, for the residents of Maine and for anyone interested in maritime history," Amy Lent, the museum's executive director, said in a press release Monday. The museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. A dedication ceremony will be held June 1.

The Wyoming sculpture is believed to be the largest outdoor sculpture in New England. It was conceived by Maine sculptors Andreas von Heune and Joe Hemes.

Completed in 2006, the life-size sculpture was built on the location where the original ship was built by the Percy & Small Shipyard.

BANGOR

Bachelor's degree in flying OK'd at UMaine Augusta

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees has approved a new bachelor of science degree in aviation.

The degree program, which was approved at Monday's meeting, will be offered through the university's Augusta campus to meet a growing need for commercial aviation professionals.

The program is geared toward students interested in becoming FAA-certified commercial pilots while earning a baccalaureate degree. University officials say the new aviation degree is the result of a nearly three-year collaboration between UMA and Maine Instrument Flight, an Augusta-based aviation company.

The trustees were also updated on Monday on an academic credit transfer plan within Maine's public colleges and universities, which is designed to make it easier for students to move among Maine's public universities and from the community colleges.

 

Snow causes slick roads, minor crashes at rush hour

Snowfall blanketed much of southern Maine on Monday evening, causing a few minor crashes during rush hour and slowing traffic.

The Maine Turnpike Authority lowered the speed limit to 45 mph from Kittery to Augusta, hoping to stave off more crashes.

The forecast called for 2 to 4 inches of snow throughout southern Maine, with precipitation tapering off around midnight, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather is supposed to warm up beginning Tuesday, with temperatures in the upper 30s in Portland. On Wednesday, temperatures could exceed 50 degrees in much of southern and central Maine, the weather service said.

 

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