June 26, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

From staff and news services

AUGUSTA

LePage vetoes two gun bills aimed at identifying owners

Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Tuesday aimed at increasing background checks before private gun sales, virtually ensuring it won't become law.

The governor also vetoed a bill to require those who carry guns in the open to give police identifying information if police deem them a threat.

The background-check bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, would create a civil violation for selling a gun to a person prohibited from owning a gun, such as a convicted felon. A seller would get partial or complete defense from prosecution by having a background check done on the buyer.

In his veto message, LePage called the bill "well-meaning," but focused "on those who would choose to obey the law, and for that reason I believe it misses the target."

The second veto was aimed at L.D. 380, sponsored by Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. It would prohibit anyone who carries a gun openly from withholding identifying information from police if police deem "protection of the public requires identification."

Gattine's bill was motivated by an incident in Portland in which a man prompted calls to police when he carried an assault rifle through the city.

His action was legal, but police didn't know his name because he wasn't obligated to give it.

In his veto message, LePage said lawmakers must "be careful when we take rights away from law-abiding individuals."

LePage also signed a bill aimed at promoting awareness of Lyme disease.

The bill requires the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to include certain information on its website about Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment.

Among other things, the website must say that a negative result for a Lyme disease test doesn't necessarily mean Lyme disease isn't present. The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society Physicians says false-negatives for Lyme disease occur 54 percent of the time.

The bill also mandates that patients get full results when tested.

NEW PORTLAND

Kingfield man dies in crash of all-terrain vehicle

A 29-year-old Kingfield man was killed in an all-terrain vehicle crash early Tuesday in the Somerset County town of New Portland.

Raymond Gerrish, formerly of Springvale, took the 2009 Honda Rubicon 550 without the owner's permission, according to Dale Lancaster, chief deputy of the Somerset County Sheriff's Department.

Gerrish, who was riding alone at the time of the crash, was not wearing a helmet and was not a licensed driver, Lancaster said.

He said it appeared the accident happened early Tuesday morning. A motorist driving to work reported the crash just before 6 a.m. on Middle Road.

Lancaster said Gerrish was traveling at a high rate of speed when he lost control of the four-wheeler and struck a tree. He suffered head and shoulder injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lancaster said Gerrish lived on Kingsridge Road in Kingfield and the ATV was taken from a neighbor's residence, about 10 miles from the accident scene.

The vehicle was properly registered, but Lancaster would not say to whom.

The ATV was destroyed.

New Portland Fire Department and North Star Rescue aided at the scene.

Lancaster said the investigation into the accident will include standard testing for the presence of alcohol.

BOOTHBAY HARBOR

Windjammer Festival celebrates the fleet

Maine's historic windjammer fleet and rich maritime heritage are being celebrated in the 51st annual Windjammer Days festival.

The two-day festival got under way Tuesday in Boothbay Harbor. It will end Wednesday night with a fireworks show over the harbor.

A total of 11 windjammers will be under sail in the harbor for the windjammer parade on Wednesday.

Besides the windjammers, the festival features an antique boat parade, a street parade, concerts, arts and crafts, boat excursions, food and more.

AUGUSTA

Wildlife officials seek help studying lethal bat fungus

Wildlife officials are seeking volunteers to help determine the effect of a lethal fungus on Maine's bat population.

White nose syndrome has wiped out entire bat-hibernating colonies in the Northeast and in Maine.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Audubon are asking volunteers to identify bat colonies across Maine to establish a baseline for breeding bats. Colonies are typically found in attics, barns, abandoned buildings, garages and other structures. Peak bat activity takes place through the end of July.

Because of white nose, many bat colonies in Maine didn't even have roosting bats last year. Maine Audubon says of the 45 colonies identified by volunteers last year, only 12 had bats that were roosting -- and none of them raised any pups.

Learn more at: www.maineaudubon.org/bats

Police targeting trespassers at former mental hospital

Capitol Police are seeking a couple spotted on security cameras in tunnels under the old Augusta Mental Health Institute main building.

The two young adults triggered an alarm Saturday afternoon in the vacant former state mental health hospital on Hospital Street but were gone before police arrived.

An investigation is being conducted and the two – a man and a woman – may face trespassing charges and more, according to Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin.

Gauvin said police take people entering the historic Stone Building and the tunnels below it seriously.
“People are not welcome in there. It’s not safe,” he said.

A system of tunnels runs under the old AMHI buildings at what is now a state office complex, next to Riverview Psychiatric Center, on the east side of the Kennebec River.

Gauvin said the tunnels are maintained to provide access to underground utilities and contain asbestos and other hazards and are not safe for the public to enter.

He said the former AMHI buildings are popular targets for “ghost hunters” and the state occasionally gets requests – which it rejects – from people who want to enter the buildings.

He said the couple had a tripod and camera with them, and it did not appear they had entered the tunnel with the intent of stealing anything.

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