March 8, 2013

Dispatches

From staff and news services

CHAPMAN

Police find man, 81, dead; wife critically hurt at home

State police are investigating the deaths of an elderly couple found in a northern Maine home.

Police say Marcus Sykora, 81, and his wife, Sheila Sykora, 77, moved recently from Missouri to Chapman, near Presque Isle, to stay with their daughter.

When officials responded to a 911 call at 11:20 a.m. Thursday, they found Marcus Sykora dead in the basement and his wife seriously injured. She later died at a Presque Isle hospital.

Police spokesman Steve McCausland said detectives don't suspect anyone outside of the home is involved in the deaths. He said more information would be released Friday after the medical examiner's office examines the bodies.

He wouldn't say who made the 911 call or who was at the home at the time police arrived.

ALFRED

Strong's sentencing date pushed back to March 21

The sentencing date for Mark Strong Sr., who was convicted Wednesday on charges of promotion of prostitution and conspiracy, has been pushed back by two days at the request of his attorney.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is now scheduled to appear before Justice Nancy Mills in York County Superior Court on March 21 for sentencing.

A jury found Strong guilty of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution, each punishable by up to a year in prison, and a single count of conspiracy, punishable by up to six months in prison.

Prosecutors said Strong and Alexis Wright worked together to operate a one-woman prostitution business from Wright's Zumba studio in Kennebunk.

Wright is scheduled to stand trial in May on 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, violation of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.

SCARBOROUGH

Town council approves up to $270,000 to preserve farm

The Town Council has voted to spend as much as $270,000 for a conservation easement to preserve a small cattle farm off Beech Ridge Road.

The money will come from a voter-approved land conservation fund, which has well over $1 million set aside for such projects, according to Town Manager Thomas Hall. Councilors voted unanimously Wednesday to support the project.

Comstock Farm, at 22 Berry Road, covers more than 90 acres, with about half of the land wooded and the other half fields. The Comstock family has owned the property since 1965 and uses the fields to raise a small number of cattle for beef.

Now that the Scarborough council has approved the funding, the final easement deal is expected to be completed this summer, Hall said. The town's money will cover the entire cost of the easement, which will be held by the Maine Farmland Trust.

Scarborough's $270,000 will essentially buy most of the development rights to the property. The Comstock family will reserve the right for a couple of homestead lots, but will give up the right to turn the property into a residential subdivision -- a use that could bring an estimated $600,000.

The deal also includes enhanced public access to the land, such as trail links to adjacent open space.

In exchange, the Comstock family will have capital to maintain and expand the family beef farm.

WINDHAM

Summerfest event canceled for this year, official says

The town's on-again off-again summer festival is a no-go this year. After about six years running, Windham Summerfest is once again on hiatus, Town Manager Tony Plante told town councilors in an email Thursday.

"We are having an increasingly hard time finding new volunteers to step up and help organize and run Windham's summer community event," Plante wrote.

Although town officials and volunteers felt they could have put on an event, it would have been a scaled-back version, Plante said.

"(We) would rather not put on an event that doesn't reflect well on the town -- or worse, is unsafe -- and have decided to call off Summerfest for this year," Plante said.

Over the years, Plante said, there have been several iterations of the summer festival, called Old Home Days, Julyfest, Summerfest I and Summerfest II.

The festival, he said, "has a history of running for a few years, burning people out, going away for a couple of years and coming back."

Held in June, the daylong event has included a pancake breakfast, a parade, carnival rides, musical performances and fireworks.

"Taking a year or two off may be beneficial, allowing some new ideas to bubble up, and maybe Summerfest III will be the charm," Plante said.

ORONO

Police officer fired after arrest for drunken driving

Orono police say an officer has been fired after being arrested on a drunken driving charge.

A Hancock County sheriff's deputy arrested Officer Joshua Gunn late Friday night in Dedham, where his car had gone off Route 1A.

WZON radio in Bangor says Gunn, 30, has lost his job as an Orono police officer as a result.

Police Chief Gary Douket said Gunn was hired in November and previously was a Hampden officer.

He is to be arraigned on the drunken driving charge April 2.

NEWCASTLE

Neighbors hope to save 1730-era house from razing

Some residents of Newcastle are fighting plans to tear down what they say may be the oldest house in Lincoln County.

The house is said to date to 1730, but has been vacant for two years.

The new owner wants to tear it down and start over.

Neighbor Mic Lebel tells WCSH-TV the house is an important part of their local history and should be saved. Lebel says some neighbors are talking about raising money to move the house and restore it.

Real estate agent Bob Whear says the house is rotted underneath and in bad shape. Whear says the new owner wants to use the old beams and boards to make the new house.

There is also concern construction will disturb a nearby eagle's nest.

STATEWIDE

Fishermen may be cheating on quotas, news report says

Regulators say they're worried that fishermen are cheating by fishing in one area, then claiming the catch is from another.

New England fisheries are divided into different management areas, with different catch allocations for each area. For instance, there are separate catch quotas for cod in Georges Bank and for cod in the adjacent Gulf of Maine.

The Cape Cod Times reports some regulators believe fishermen are catching fish in areas where they have small allocations, but reporting they were caught in areas where their allocations are larger.

They say catch reports on some boats aren't matching satellite tracking of their location.

Regulators say misreporting undermines efforts to protect fish that swim and spawn in specific areas.

Industry advocates don't believe the practice is widespread but are working to eliminate it.

FAIRFIELD

Woman with criminal record of church thefts is arrested

Police say a Belgrade woman with a history of stealing from churches has been charged with stealing from yet another one.

Investigators say Sarah Runnion-Bareford, 36, was charged Wednesday with felony theft for allegedly stealing a bank bag containing $2,100 from United Methodist Church in Fairfield.

Police say she snatched the bag after going into the office area Monday and asking to speak to the pastor. She was later identified in a photo lineup.

Runnion-Bareford has previously been convicted of stealing $10,000 worth of paintings from a church in Boothbay Harbor and $100 from a member of a Richmond church. She was also once accused of stealing $900 worth of holiday gift cards from a Gorham church.

Police say she's also suspected of stealing money from other central Maine churches.

AUGUSTA

Governor receives five more bills amid veto standoff

Bills are starting to stack up on the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, who has threatened to veto any bills passed by the Legislature before his proposal to pay a $484 million hospital debt is passed.

The Senate on Thursday sent the Republican governor five bills, which address such issues as fishing season dates, vaccines given by pharmacists, and the Maine College Savings Program.

The governor must sign or veto bills sent to him within 10 days, except Sundays, or they become law without his signature.

LePage wants the state to pay its Medicaid debt to hospitals with money raised from restructuring the state's liquor contract.

Democrats say the issues of the hospital debt and liquor contract should be separate, and that they want to address the hospital debt.

Construction of pipelines for natural gas ready to start

Construction of a natural gas distribution system in Augusta is about to begin.

Maine Natural Gas says it's signed a contract with three Maine companies to start the immediate construction of the 12-inch steel pipeline.

The 10.5-mile pipeline will serve residential, commercial and institutional customers in the Augusta area.

It will tap the Maritimes and Northeast transmission pipeline in Windsor, travel west along Route 17, cross the Kennebec River, and then on to the new MaineGeneral hospital.

Maine Natural Gas signed a 10-year contract last fall to deliver natural gas to the new medical facility by November 2013, and has been laying pipe in the area continuously since.

Maine Natural Gas is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA.

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