Monday, March 10, 2014
From staff and wire reports
Drivers taken to hospitals after two-car crash on Route 1
A rear-end collision in front of the Lobster Barn Seafood & Grill in York forced police to shut down Route 1 for more than an hour and sent two people to local hospitals on Wednesday afternoon.
Sgt. Steven J. Spofford said 44-year-old Gina-Marie Ambrosino of York was turning left into the restaurant lot when a 2001 four-door Volvo operated by 33-year-old Brian Decato struck her from behind.
Ambrosino, who was driving a 2006 Mercury Mountaineer sport utility vehicle, was transported to York Hospital. Decato had to be extricated from his vehicle by firefighters. Decato's vehicle was completely destroyed. He was taken to Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire.
The seriousness of their injuries was not available. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The accident was reported at 4:23 p.m. Route 1 reopened to traffic around 5:40 p.m.
City official defends officers in controversial eviction
The city of Westbrook, facing a federal lawsuit accusing police of violating a Westbrook couple's constitutional rights, is defending actions taken by officers who issued no-trespassing orders against the couple to help evict them from their apartment.
Pine Tree Legal Assistance and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine filed the suit last week on behalf of Anne Blake and Kevin McBride, who are now homeless, saying the officers' actions to remove them from their apartment at 277 Main St. was illegal.
Westbrook Assistant City Manager William Baker said it's unfortunate Westbrook was "chosen as the target" of the two groups' opposition to the statewide use of no-trespass orders.
"This lawsuit has less to do with the facts of this case and more to do with the ACLU and Pine Tree Legal taking on what they see as a statewide problem with these orders," Baker said in a statement.
Baker said the case should be dismissed, groups should collaborate to help Blake and McBride and police should increase training in the future with improved protocols.
"People need to understand that this police action started, as most do, with a victim seeking police assistance," Baker said. "The Westbrook police were not on patrol hoping to find a poor tenant to displace."
Police were called to the apartment building by the landlords, who had obtained an eviction order against Blake but not against McBride, who lived together in the apartment for a year.
State's 'Business Answers' website provides resource
The state has created a website aimed at making it easier to get information on licensing and permitting procedures for new businesses.
The "Business Answers" portal, launched Wednesday, is hosted by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and developed by the state's content partner, InforME.
"This is a perfect example of how government can work in collaboration with and make it easier for the private sector to grow a business," said Gov. Paul LePage.
By selecting any one of the 104 different business types listed, a series of questions relevant to that business type will be asked. Based on the answers provided, users will be presented with a list detailing the specific forms, licenses, permits and information required for completion before that business can begin to operate.
The website will allow people to search for forms by agency name or keyword.
Winthrop man's crimes result in 2½ years in prison
A Winthrop man will serve 2½ years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court to charges of robbery, eluding an officer, passing a roadblock and theft by unauthorized taking stemming from two incidents on March 30.
Jed Ian St. Hilaire, 34, pushed an 86-year-old woman as she was getting into her car in the Walmart parking lot and took her purse, then bought cocaine with the $250 cash he found inside it, police said.
Hours later, about 5 p.m., he stole another woman's purse in the Hannaford Bros. supermarket on Cony Street.
Augusta police arrested St. Hilaire after a high-speed chase through northwest Augusta and along Interstate 95, where he eventually abandoned his vehicle and ran into the woods before being captured.
On Tuesday, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, with all but 30 months suspended, and four years of probation.
Conditions of probation ban him from being at the Market Place at Augusta, where Walmart is located, and from any Hannaford Bros. supermarket in Maine.
He was ordered to pay restitution of $320.
State employees union OKs contract through June 2015
Members of Maine's primary state employees union approved a new contract Wednesday, ending a more than two-year period of working without one.
Members of the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989 Service Employees International Union overwhelmingly supported ratifying the new contract for executive branch employees in the vote, said Tom Farkas, spokesman for the union.
Earlier this month, union representatives and officials from Gov. Paul LePage's administration agreed to the contract, which includes two wage increases in the next year, pending approval by members.
The contract is in effect from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2015, according to Farkas.
It includes two 1 percent wage increases for state workers taking effect in September and in July 2014.
The union had filed four complaints with the Maine Labor Relations Board against the LePage administration over the bargaining process, including allegations that it wasn't bargaining in good faith. The union agreed to drop the complaints after the contract was ratified, according to Tim Belcher, lead counsel for the Maine State Employees Association.
Ex-pastor pleads not guilty to child pornography charges
A former Maine pastor has pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges.
James Napier entered his plea Wednesday in a York County courtroom in Alfred.
Napier was charged last September after police said they found more than 100 child pornography images on his computer at his home in Alfred. Investigators said none of the children in the images were from Maine.
After his arrest, he resigned as pastor of the New Beginnings Christian Mission in Biddeford, which serves the city's poor and homeless.
The mission's board president tells WMTW-TV that Napier was a founding member.
Federal funds will be used to improve senior housing
Westbrook Housing will buy security cameras and improve outside lighting at two of its senior housing complexes with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD awarded the housing authority $38,000 on Wednesday for the security upgrades, according to the federal agency's regional office in Boston.
The improvements will be made at Riverview Terrace on Knight Street and Larrabee Woods on Liza Harmon Drive.
Westbrook Housing is one of 15 housing authorities throughout the country receiving a total of $2.9 million from HUD to address emergency, safety and security needs, the news release said.
State official who resisted shredding order resigns post
The Maine Center for Disease Control official who complained that she was ordered to shred public documents resigned Wednesday, saying her job had become intolerable since she refused to destroy the documents.
Sharon Leahy-Lind, director of the CDC's Division of Local Public Health, filed a discrimination complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in April, saying her bosses harassed and assaulted her after she refused to destroy the scoring results related to competitive awards of funding for 27 Healthy Maine Partnerships.
The Legislature's watchdog agency, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, is also looking into the allegations as well as the workplace atmosphere.
Leahy-Lind said in a statement that her job became intolerable.
"I can no longer work in an environment where experience and expertise is cast aside, people are discouraged from acting honorably and those who come forward with complaints are targeted for harassment and abuse," she said in a statement issued through her attorney, Cynthia Dill of Portland.
John Martins, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, said the agency does not comment on personnel matters.
Leahy-Lind's resignation Wednesday was first reported by the Sun Journal.
Group wants LePage to back disclosure of bisphenol-a use
A number of Maine mothers are urging Gov. Paul LePage to support the disclosure of bisphenol-a in food packaging.
On Wednesday, the group asked LePage to send letters to Maine's 10 largest food companies, asking them to disclose which products have packaging made with BPA. The group will drive the letters from Bangor to LePage's office in Augusta.
The Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have required companies with $1 billion or more in gross annual sales to report to the state if they use chemicals like BPA in food packaging.
Peter Steele, LePage's communications director, said the federal government, not the state, should be responsible for regulating the chemical and that the letters should be directed to the Obama administration.
Lobster lovers already assembling for annual party
Lobster lovers started getting out their bibs at noon Wednesday during the kickoff of the state's largest festival dedicated to Maine's signature seafood.
The 66th annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland features five full days of festivities in celebration of the lobster.
The festival each year draws about 100,000 visitors who put away more than 20,000 pounds of lobster.
Besides lobster, the festival features a sea goddess coronation, a parade, entertainment, tours of a U.S. Navy ship, cooking contests, carnival rides and a lobster crate race where contestants run across lobster crates floating in the water.
Wardens' search continues for missing Tennessee hiker
The Maine Warden Service is looking for help from searchers affiliated with the Maine Association of Search and Rescue as they continue their search for a hiker missing on a rugged section of the Appalachian Trail.
Geraldine Largay of Brentwood, Tenn., has been missing for more than a week.
The warden service had said the logistical and physical challenges involved in scouring the remote terrain restricted its ability to use untrained volunteers. So they're asking members of the MASAR to call the organization's duty officer.
Officials said they are planning for a more intensified search as more resources become available.
The 66-year-old Largay, an experienced hiker, contacted her husband from the top of Saddleback Mountain on July 21 but failed to meet him as planned the following day.