February 15, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

From staff and news services


High Street lanes reopen after sewer pipe collapse

Both lanes of High Street have reopened to traffic.

High Street between Congress and Spring streets had to be reduced to one lane of traffic for most of the day Thursday after a sewer pipe collapsed, causing a depression in the two-lane road.

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said High Street -- traffic in that stretch of road is one-way -- reopened to two lanes of traffic around 4:30 p.m. Repairs continued into the evening hours, but Clegg said the work should not interfere with traffic. Motorists had been advised earlier in the day to avoid the area after traffic backed up.

The sewer pipe, which dates back to the 1870s, collapsed Thursday morning. Sewer service was not disrupted and no raw sewage was observed at street level, Clegg said.

Officials are still trying to determine the cause, which could be attributed to the pipe's age. However, Clegg noted that Unitil crews were working on gas lines in the same area.

"That could be coincidental," Clegg said of Unitil's work in the area. "It could have been the age and the weather."

The city is negotiating a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency for previous sewer pipe failures. It has allocated $700,000 to study and develop a plan to upgrade its sewer system.


Woman in critical condition with most of body burned

A Portland woman who was badly burned in a fire over the weekend is in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Julia Ball, 56, of 250 Burnside Ave. was flown by LifeFlight helicopter from Maine Medical Center to the Boston hospital after suffering burns over 70-80 percent of her body.

The fire started in the living room and investigators with the state Fire Marshal's Office said it may have started when smoking materials fell into the couch. They did not know whether Ball had fallen asleep or left the room, giving the smoldering fire a chance to grow.

When Ball discovered the fire she called her sister then tried to put it out herself, investigators said. When her sister arrived, Ball was outside and on fire and she put Ball out.

The fire broke out just before noon and firefighters were able to save the building but the living room was extensively damaged.


Two studies tied to Quimby back case for national park

Two studies commissioned by a foundation set up by millionaire Roxanne Quimby suggest communities near national parks outpace the national average for economic development.

Elliotsville Plantation, which is considering donating more than 70,000 acres to create a national park, commissioned the studies to explore the potential economic impact.

Lucas St. Clair, president of the board and Quimby's son, said the reports provide evidence that a national park or a combined national park and recreation area "can help the economy to grow faster."

The reports compare 16 similar communities in the U.S. with a national park, a recreation area or a combined national park and recreation area.

Quimby's proposal for a northern Maine park has drawn mixed opinions. The National Park Service remains enthusiastic but has taken no formal stance.


Second of three suspects is sentenced in burglaries

The second of three men charged in connection with a series of home burglaries in Augusta last year has pleaded guilty to 16 charges.

Richard Anthony Hernandez of Augusta was sentenced this week to six years in jail, with all but nine months suspended, and three years of probation for the eight counts each of burglary and theft.

The Kennebec Journal reported that Hernandez, 20, also was ordered to pay restitution of almost $15,000 for the items stolen from various homes.

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