The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Local & State Sat, 25 Jun 2016 20:15:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Maine’s members of Congress voted Sat, 25 Jun 2016 18:10:37 +0000 WASHINGTON — In addition to roll call votes last week, the House also passed the Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act (S. 2133), to improve government measures to assess and mitigate fraud risks and improve the use of data analytics to prevent fraud; passed the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (H.R. 5170), to encourage and support partnerships between the public and private sectors to improve our nation’s social programs; passed the Small Business Health Care Relief Act (H.R. 5447), to provide an exception from certain group health plan requirements for qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements; and passed the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (S. 2487), to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to identify mental health care and suicide prevention programs for women veterans.


House Vote 1

MOBILE PHONE SUBSIDY: The House has rejected the End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act (H.R. 5525), sponsored by Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga. The bill would have ended universal service support payments to mobile phone carriers under the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program for providing phones to low-income consumers. Scott said after Lifeline was expanded in 2005 to include mobile phones, fraud and abuse have resulted in millions of phones being given to people who are not low income, and “Congress must act to impose fiscal discipline” on Lifeline to stop the wasteful phone subsidies. A bill opponent, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said Lifeline’s mobile phone expansion gave millions of low-income consumers a way to get jobs and emergency services, helping them emerge from poverty. The vote, on June 21, was 207 yeas to 143 nays, with a two-thirds majority required for passage.

NOT VOTING: Chellie Pingree, D-1st District

YEAS: Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

House Vote 2

FUNDING CYBERSECURITY TECHNOLOGIES: The House has passed the Support for Rapid Innovation Act (H.R. 5388), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate to increase its backing and funding of the research and development of cybersecurity technologies. Ratcliffe said that with cybersecurity threats growing, the increased backing was needed to “help spur innovation and break down bureaucratic barriers that are currently preventing government from leveraging the private sector’s emerging technologies” for improving the security of information technology. The vote, on June 21, was 351 yeas to 4 nays.


YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 3

HOMELAND SECURITY PARTNERSHIPS: The House has passed the Leveraging Emerging Technologies Act (H.R. 5389), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. The bill would direct the Homeland Security Department to work with technology developers to address homeland security needs and considering opening offices in areas with concentrations of technology developers to help Homeland Security partner with the developers. Ratcliffe said the bill sought to “move us toward further addressing homeland security needs by supporting technology innovation” by the private sector and Homeland Security working together. The vote, on June 21, was 347 yeas to 8 nays.


YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 4

RULE ON INVESTING FOR RETIREMENT: The House has sustained President Obama’s veto of a resolution (H.J. Res. 88), sponsored by Rep. David P. Roe, R-Tenn., disapproving of a proposed Labor Department rule defining the term “fiduciary” as it applies to financial advisers managing the retirement funds of their clients. Roe criticized the rule as too complex and misguided, and creating restrictions on the access working families and small businesses have to advice on the best ways to save for retirement and create employee retirement plans. A veto supporter, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the fiduciary rule will keep advisers from costing those saving for retirement up to $17 billion yearly by steering them into financial products that give the advisers large commissions but hurt investors. The vote to override the veto, on June 22, was 239 yeas to 180 nays, with a two-thirds majority needed to override.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 5

MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, VA, ZIKA FUNDING: The House has agreed to the conference report with the Senate for the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and Zika Response and Preparedness Act (H.R. 2577). The bill would provide $82.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department and military construction programs in fiscal 2017, and provide $1.1 billion to fund programs for responding to the Zika virus outbreak. A supporter, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said the Zika funding gave agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on ways to combat Zika. An opponent, Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., criticized the bill for inadequately funding the response to Zika, which he called a “potentially devastating crisis.” The vote, on June 23, was 239 yeas to 171 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin


Senate Vote 1

TERRORISTS AND GUN PURCHASES: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have authorized measures to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of attempts by people who have been on terrorist watch lists in the past five years to purchase a gun. Cornyn said the notifications would start an FBI process that could result in terrorists being arrested and stopped from carrying out planned attacks. An amendment opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the notifications would do nothing to stop gun violence. The vote to end debate on the amendment, on June 20, was 53 yeas to 47 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval.

NAYS: Susan Collins R-Maine, Angus King I-Maine

Senate Vote 2

SUSPECTED TERRORISTS AND GUN PURCHASES: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have authorized Justice Department measures to block individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from buying firearms. Feinstein said FBI data indicated that known or suspected terrorists are often able to buy firearms, and closing “this dangerous loophole” to stop such purchases would prevent potential attacks. An amendment opponent, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it would “deny American citizens their constitutional rights without due process of law based on a secret list that the government maintains.” The vote, on June 20, was 47 yeas to 53 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

Senate Vote 3

BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR GUN PURCHASES: The Senate has tabled an amendment sponsored by Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have required background checks for private gun sales and expanded the national instant criminal background check system for potential gun purchasers. Murphy said the checks were a needed way to protect against terrorists and others buying assault weapon firearms to carry out mass shootings. No amendment opponents spoke on the Senate floor. The vote to table, on June 20, was 56 yeas to 42 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

Senate Vote 4

FBI SEARCHES OF ONLINE DATA: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have made permanent a provision authorizing individual terrorists to be legally treated as agents of foreign powers, and authorize the FBI’s use of national security letters to request Internet customer data from telecommunications companies without a warrant. McCain said timely access to the data was an important tool for law enforcement to defend the country against terrorist threats without compromising the privacy of Americans. An amendment opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said giving the FBI warrantless access to data on online activities of Americans threatened judicial due process and citizens’ liberties. The vote to end debate, on June 22, was 58 yeas to 38 nays, with a three-fifths majority needed to end debate.

YEAS: Collins, King

Senate Vote 5

NO-FLY LIST AND FIREARMS PURCHASES: The Senate has rejected a motion to table an amendment sponsored by Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would block purchases of firearms by people who are on the federal government’s no-fly list, alert the FBI and local law enforcement agencies of firearms purchases by people who were recently on the federal government’s terrorist watch list, and authorized a judicial process for people denied firearms purchases to appeal the rejection. Collins said the amendment would cover only a small number of Americans on the no-fly list while protecting against terrorist acts such as the Orlando shootings, while preserving a robust appeals process for Americans wrongly blocked from buying firearms. The vote on the motion to table, on June 23, was 46 yeas to 52 nays.

NAYS: Collins, King

Senate Vote 6

FIREARMS SALES TO SUSPECTED TERRORISTS: The Senate has tabled an amendment sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have authorized the Justice Department to block firearms and explosives purchases by known or suspected terrorists, subject to a judicial burden of proof before the government can block the purchase. Johnson said it would “accomplish the goal of keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists, would-be terrorists, while not giving up our constitutional rights.” An amendment opponent, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said it would not enable Justice to block any potential terrorists from buying guns, and the Senate should instead pass more effective legislation against terrorist gun purchases. The vote to table the amendment, on June 23, was 67 yeas to 31 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

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Idexx founder donates $1 million for science initiative at Acadia National Park Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:37:28 +0000 The founder of Idexx Laboratories in Westbrook is giving $1 million to help explore the link between science and Acadia National Park.

The gift from David Shaw will help launch the “Second Century Stewardship” initiative, which will underwrite programs involving the National Park Service, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other institutions.

David Shaw

David Shaw

Shaw announced the gift and the initiative at Park Science Day on Saturday at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park.

“Modern science provides us with unprecedented ability to be wise stewards of these special places and cultural treasures, for the benefit of future generations,” Shaw said. “And parks offer exceptional opportunities for important scientific research and inspirational education.”

Shaw is a director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a trustee of The National Park Foundation. He also served as executive producer of the film “Second Century,” which is premiering at Acadia on Saturday.

Shaw said the science-based initiative will focus on science issues associated with Acadia National Park at the start and then spread to other national parks.

It will connect scientists and their research with educators, students, and the public to support science understanding, appreciation of the natural world, and park stewardship.

“Our National Parks have always been perceived as a place for recreation, but now we need to communicate to the public that parks are places for science, a place to inform science literacy in our nation,” said Kevin Schneider, the superintendent of Acadia National Park.

Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park is a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and helps advance a vision for Acadia as a destination for science and inspiration.

The National Park Service and Acadia National Park are celebrating their centennials this year.

In addition to founding Idexx, which makes veterinary diagnostic equipment, provides laboratory services and develops tests for dairies and water systems, Shaw is managing partner of Black Point Group, with investments in technology companies and public service. He has been involved in companies such as Ikaria, Curiosity Stream, Ironwood, Physion, Vets First Choice, and Modern Meadow. He also has worked with AAAS, the National Park Foundation, The Jackson Laboratory, the Sargasso Sea Alliance, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Maine Medical Center, Hurricane Island Outward Bound, the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, Service Nation and others.

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Firefighters saved 10 cottages on Sheep Island, Maine Forest Service says Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:47:20 +0000 HARPSWELL — Maine firefighters and forest rangers managed to save 10 cottages from a fire that burned about four acres on Sheep Island in Casco Bay.

They faced challenges in getting equipment to the island and working in dense underbrush.

No one was injured in the fire, which started Friday about 2 p.m.

Two people were on the 9.4-acre island while the fire spread quickly due to dry conditions and a large number of dead fir trees. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Dan Skillin, a Maine Forest Service firefighter, said extinguishing a fire on an island presents challenges. He said the dozen firefighters from the forest service and surrounding communities had to drag all of their equipment from vehicles to boats.

“Then there is the rockiness and trying to get your pumps in the water,” Skillin said Saturday.

He said it is difficult to fight a fire amid dense underbrush and the possibility of blazing branches blowing down on firefighters.

“Just trying to walk among all that stuff is pretty complicated,” Skillin said.

At one point, Skillin was called off the island after smoke was reported in Pittston and Whitefield, about an hour away. It turned out the smoke was from the Sheep Island fire.

Two Maine Forest Service helicopters poured 40 loads of water, or nearly 10,000 gallons, on the flames. Skillin said firefighters remained on the scene overnight and into late Saturday morning, putting out hot spots.

The island is visible from the shore in Harpswell, Skillin said.

Dry conditions triggered fires in other parts of the state.

Firefighters from the Maine Forest Service were flown in to fight a fire late Saturday morning near the top of Mount Abram near Kingfield.

A Franklin County dispatcher said the fire flared up from an earlier lightning strike.

The dispatcher said the fire is in a remote region away from buildings and development.

Check out the daily fire danger report from the Maine Forest Service online.

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Acadia park institutes no-car zone at Bubble Pond Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:00:20 +0000 AUGUSTA – From now until October, visitors to Acadia National Park will only be able to explore the picturesque Bubble Pond by riding free park buses and bicycles.

The park says the move temporarily banning private vehicles from the pond’s 11-space parking area is to improve safety and bus circulation in an area long known for congestion and illegal parking.

From June 23 to Oct. 10, visitors can ride the Island Explorer bus to Bubble Pond for free through the Loop Road and Jordan Pond routes.

Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider called Bubble Pond the park’s “most challenging bus stop.”

The park will be studying the change as it develops a transportation plan for Acadia National Park.

The Bubble Pond parking area will reopen to private vehicles Oct. 11.

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Bangor police stop car driven by 12-year-old boy Sat, 25 Jun 2016 12:54:18 +0000 BANGOR – Police in Bangor say an officer stopped a car driven by a 12-year-old boy after noticing it had front-end damage and was dragging a front bumper.

The Bangor Police Department said a patrol officer came across a damaged vehicle driving without headlights at around 4 a.m. Saturday.

The officer signaled for the vehicle to stop. Police say the driver didn’t stop and was driving erratically.

Police say a sergeant later stopped the vehicle by using the front end of his patrol car. The cruiser received minor damage, and the other vehicle had modest damage.

Police are investigating whether the car the 12-year-old was driving struck any other vehicles before encountering police.

The 12-year-old faces charges of driving to endanger, eluding a police officer and theft. Police say more charges might follow.

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Maine immigration advocates criticize Supreme Court decision Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Maine immigration advocates say they are disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 4-4 vote that kept President Obama’s immigration plan stalled in the courts, dealing a major blow to efforts to give some undocumented immigrants the ability to legally work in the U.S.

Mufalo Chitam, who legally immigrated to the United States in 2000 from Zambia and who helps women integrate into American society, said the lower court’s ruling, which will stand because of the Supreme Court deadlock, will make it harder to obtain work permits, which are key to becoming a part of society.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Chitam, of South Portland. “It is saddening to see how immigration issues continue … to divide us as a nation, when all we should be striving for as communities in a nation is unity.” Chitam works as a sales coordinator for the American Red Cross.

Nationally, about 4 million illegal immigrants were awaiting word from the Supreme Court that would have shielded them from deportation and allowed them to work legally if they met certain conditions, such as having been in the U.S. since 2010, having relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and having not committed any serious crimes. The Obama administration approved the changes by executive order and was ready to begin implementing them in 2014 when a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction halting the process.

The vote means the case will return to federal court for a possible trial that could take years to resolve.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, who has been working on connecting recent immigrants to work, said the decision stalls some efforts that would allow immigrants to legally work.

The city is looking into creating an Office of New Americans, which in part would help immigrants integrate into society and find work.

“It’s not good for our economy and not good for our society when they have to live in secret,” Strimling said. “It’s leaving people behind.”

Portland has the largest concentration of immigrants in Maine, with 10,000 foreign-born residents living here in 2013, according to Coastal Enterprises Inc., which provides business counseling services.

Susan Roche, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland, which provides affordable legal services for recent immigrants, said while the Supreme Court decision was discouraging, the court did not rule on the merits of the executive orders.

“We believe in the end, the program will go forward,” Roche said.

But she said it could take years to resolve and meanwhile, people are not receiving their work authorizations.

Obama criticized the Supreme Court decision on Thursday.

“Today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who’ve made their lives here, who’ve raised families here, who hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and more fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.”


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Brits in Maine call EU exit a ‘terrible, terrible mistake’ Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 British expats in Maine reacted with sadness and disbelief Friday to the stunning win by Brexit supporters at the polls in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

“It really is a terrible, terrible mistake of mind-boggling proportions,” said Philip Jones, a Yarmouth resident originally from London.

Earlier this week, some U.K. citizens living in Maine said they were watching the referendum to leave the European Union closely, but none planned to vote. The general sense was that voters would remain in the EU, although the vote would be close.

The results Thursday shattered those expectations.

“I think there was some naiveté. We thought surely people would come to their senses,” Jones said. “It was so clear that it was the right thing to stay, it is inconceivable that 52 percent of the population was in favor.”

Jones and others fear the result of the vote could spell economic and social catastrophe for the U.K., or even split the union entirely. In Scotland, where voters heavily favored remaining, nationalist politicians are already planning for a repeat of a 2014 independence referendum. Sinn Fein, the nationalist party in Northern Ireland, also called for a vote to unite with the Irish Republic.

“One of the ironies of the whole situation is the reason for leaving was to put Britain first, but it might lead to the break-up of the country,” Jones said.

Daniel Bookham, a U.K. citizen who has lived in Maine for the last two decades, also was saddened by the result, saying the vote is a reflection of people who are scared by a changing world around them.

“You can’t really say, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off.’ But that is what voters did,” Bookham said. He worries that British youth, who overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU, will be most affected by it.

“The people who have to live with this decision the longest were the ones voting against it,” he said. “It is deeply unfortunate, deeply selfish.”

Bookham was opposed to Scottish independence in 2014, but said his view has changed overnight. Thursday’s referendum showed the English voting for their self-interest, he said, so he cannot oppose Scots voting for theirs, even if it would mean independence.

“I hate the idea of it, but it is perfectly in their right to do it,” Bookham said.

Henry Laurence, a political science professor at Bowdoin originally from England, had predicted the remain-in-the-EU side would win with a thin margin.

“I’m still in a state of bewilderment,” he said Friday.

Laurence said the vote will mean short-term financial problems, an expensive and difficult process to disentangle from the EU, and a probable vote on Scottish independence. But, at the same time, he dismissed more nightmarish predictions of financial collapse and possible violence in Europe.

“It is not going to lead to the destruction of western civilization,” Laurence said.

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Colby to present plans for 3 athletic fields Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:37:31 +0000 WATERVILLE — Colby College plans to start building three athletic fields this fall on about 19 acres behind the Harold Alfond Athletic Center, with a goal of having them completed and ready for use in the fall of 2017.

There will be an artificial turf field for soccer and lacrosse, a grass field for soccer and a third practice field to be used for soccer and other sports, according to Mina Amundsen, Colby’s assistant vice president for facilities and campus planning. The fields, which will be built in the area of the former softball field, will replace those to the west of the biomass plant, which is on Washington Street just west of the Alfond athletic center.

The athletic fields’ construction is part of a larger, multi-year athletic complex project Colby plans to undertake that would include building an athletic center, possibly on the west side of the biomass plant, and tearing down the current one. The building will not be razed until the new one is built, according to Amundsen.

“That’s a few years out,” Amundsen said Thursday.

Colby officials are scheduled to go before the Waterville Planning Board at 7 p.m. Monday with an informal pre-application for the plan to construct the three athletic fields. The board will review the plans under the city’s subdivision and site plan review ordinance, and Colby will return at a later date for further review.

Kate Carlisle, Colby’s director of communications, said Thursday that the larger athletic complex project is still in the planning stages and many things need to be finalized before applications and permits are sought.

Colby recently completed a baseball and softball complex on campus, just across Mayflower Hill Drive from the area where the three new fields will be developed.

Amundsen said grouping all the competition fields together will provide a more pedestrian-friendly and convenient environment.

“Visibly, you’ll see this sort of wonderful complex of fields,” she said. “I think it allows us to be far more efficient in our operations, but the important piece is encouraging much easier walking between fields and the ability to see everything that’s happening there.”

The new fields are designed to coincide with the natural terrain and the wooded areas will be kept intact, Amundsen said. The fields will be built around the trees, she said.

The Alfond athletic center, which is a little more than 200,000 square feet, includes the field house, gymnasium, ice rink, fitness center, offices for coaches and locker rooms. The building replacing it would be larger, according to Amundsen; but she, like Carlisle, emphasized that project is still in the planning stages.

The center, built from the 1950s to the 1980s, is not the right configuration, according to Amundsen.

“It no longer meets our needs,” she said.

When the building is torn down, the property it is on probably would become green space, she said.

Meanwhile, she noted that area school graduations that are now held in the Alfond center, including those of Waterville and Winslow high schools, would be held in the new building.

“We care about the graduations,” she said. “Our facilities are a community resource.”


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Teen who became honorary Portland police officer succumbs to cancer Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:29:00 +0000 Zachary Johnson, an honorary Portland police officer and a popular 2016 graduate of Edward Little High School, died Tuesday after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 18.

Johnson fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer in March. Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones swore him in as an honorary officer during a ceremony at police headquarters. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck took off his own badge and handed it to Johnson.

“It was one of those moments the family will never forget,” said an emotional Kevin Haley, Johnson’s uncle and a 21-year veteran of the Portland Police Department. “To see that kid smile from ear to ear, to see him take the oath, it was amazing.”

Johnson, of Auburn, was the son of Aaron and Stephanie Johnson. He also is survived by a brother and sister, Martin and Megan Johnson.

Johnson’s family spoke Friday about the unwavering strength and positivity he showed throughout his fight against Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer.

He was diagnosed in July 2013 at the age of 15. He underwent 10½ months of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment. By April and July of 2014, his scans were clean. A month later, doctors found two tumors in his head. He went through additional treatments before the cancer returned to his pelvis area and then his spine. About eight weeks ago, he became paralyzed from the waist down. Throughout his treatments and setbacks, Johnson maintained an optimistic outlook, his family said.

“He never once said, ‘Why me?’ ” his father said. “He never got down about it. He never got upset. As far as he was concerned, he was going to beat it.”

Johnson had much to live for. He had dreamed of walking in his uncle’s footsteps and becoming a Portland police officer. In March, his wish was granted. Sauschuck gave Johnson his police badge and the St. Christopher medal from around his neck.

“We wanted to step up and officially make him a member of the family,” Sauschuck said. “We really do lean on the core values of our department. When you start talking about leadership, integrity and service, Zach really embodied all of those things. He really brought out the best in people. We certainly saw that when he was here with us.”

Johnson had a ride-along with the department’s Special Reaction Team. Shortly thereafter, he went to the department’s firing range. He also spent time four-wheeling with Maine game wardens, who presented him with a badge and a jacket.

Johnson carried his police badge everywhere, especially to his chemotherapy appointments.

“I’ll tell you, the Portland police family treated Zach like gold,” Haley said. “He was really on top of the world, smiling from ear to ear. He was very blessed to be exposed to all the men and women” in law enforcement.

Johnson attended Auburn schools. On June 4, he graduated from Edward Little, where he was a member of the marching band.

He was escorted to the graduation ceremony by Auburn police. Two classmates pushed Johnson in his wheelchair in the procession line. One of his favorite teachers wheeled him across the stage to receive his diploma. When his name was called, the crowd erupted with cheers and gave Johnson a standing ovation. Many said there wasn’t a dry eye in the stands.

“It was a huge accomplishment,” said Mike Dunn, Johnson’s guidance counselor. “He made our high school community a brighter community because he was in it. Everyone loved Zach.”

John Guy, an ed-tech at Edward Little, said Johnson was the kind of person who thought of others before himself. Guy mentioned the day Johnson called him after the Odyssey of the Mind team Guy coached competed last month in the finals in Iowa.

“He called and asked how the team did,” Guy said. “I was dumbfounded. That’s the kind of young man he was. I will never forget him.”

To honor Johnson and recognize his courage, integrity and service to the community, the Portland Police Department will give him a full policeman’s funeral. Police officers, along with the Maine Warden Service and its honor guards, will pay tribute to Johnson during his wake, which will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St., Portland. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Pius X Catholic Church on Ocean Avenue in Portland.

Johnson and his family will then be escorted to Gracelawn Memorial Park in Auburn by Portland police, the warden service, Maine State Police, and vehicles from police departments including Auburn, Lewiston and Scarborough.

“It’s quite an honor,” Haley said. “Everyone is willing to do what is needed to show respect for this young man.”

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Three charged in Maine credit card skimming scam Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:09:10 +0000 Three men from Florida and New York have been arrested by investigators from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly skimming and cloning credit card information around southern and midcoast Maine.

Shortly before 1 a.m. June 18, sheriff’s deputies arrested Yaisder Herrera Gargallo, 23, and Juan Carlos Febles, 51, both of Miami, Florida; and Febles’ son, Jose Castillo Febles, 29, of Richmond Hill, New York.

The three men are accused of surreptitiously installing a special cable inside point-of-sale credit card machines that records a user’s credit information without the user knowing it. The card transaction goes through as normal, with the card never leaving the possession of its owner, said Lt. Donald Foss of the sheriff’s office.

Later the thieves return to collect a memory card from the device and copy the card information onto blank credit cards, Foss said.

“Gift cards are a frequent purchase for folks who engage in credit card cloning, and really to a large extent purchasing gift cards with an illegal transaction is quasi-money laundering,” Foss said.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said it was first alerted to the criminal activity this month when residents of Gray and New Gloucester reported fraudulent charges on their credit cards at local businesses.

After investigating the reports, deputies obtained surveillance footage of the suspects and a description of their vehicle, a rented Jeep Liberty with Massachusetts plates.

The arrests were made early last Saturday morning after Sheriff’s Deputy Todd McGee spotted the vehicle on Route 123 in Brunswick, and stopped it with the help of the local police department. A search of the SUV turned up electronics, jewelry and clothing, along with dozens of cloned credit cards and two credit card skimming devices.

Foss said investigators still do not know the monetary value of the thefts, and are working with local, federal and banking authorities to continue the investigation.

Gargallo was charged with aggravated forgery, misuse of identification and theft by deception, and has since posted $10,000 cash bail.

Both members of the Febles family were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated forgery and remain in custody at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland.

Foss said he recommends that to avoid such scams, consumers should choose to swipe their bank cards or credit cards at registers staffed by a person, which are far less frequently the target of such scams because the illicit hardware needed to collect the information is much more difficult to install undetected.


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Britain’s EU exit to shake up Maine’s imports, exports, tourism Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:07:36 +0000 Britain’s vote Thursday to exit the European Union probably will boost profits at British importer Lisa Bussey’s family-owned business in Freeport, but she said no one involved in Bridgham & Cook is happy about the decision.

“We’re not sitting here saying, ‘Oh wow, this is going to make imports cheaper,’ ” Bussey said. “I’m not an economist and I’m not a financial adviser, but I think this is a bad thing.”

Mainers who import goods and services from the United Kingdom and the European Union said that while the immediate impact on their businesses may be positive because of favorable currency exchange rates, they think the long-term effects will be mostly negative.

And Maine businesses that export goods to the U.K. and EU said the Brexit vote could hurt their operations right away. Maine tourism also is likely to take a hit from U.K. residents who may find a vacation in the U.S. too expensive for a weak pound sterling.

Tim Regan, a British national who lives in Falmouth and operates a semiconductor business in Portland and the U.K., said he is all for living in interesting times, but that the economic uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote cannot be good for anyone’s business.

“I think in the medium and long term, this is very bad news,” said Regan, CEO and chief technology officer of IN2FAB. “Nobody knows where it’s really going to go from here.”

Maine exported $416.7 million of goods to the 28 EU countries in 2015 and $2.7 billion of goods worldwide, according to data from the Maine International Trade Center. The U.K. is among Maine’s top-10 trade partners, with the state’s top exports being airplane parts, biotech products and candles, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, the trade center’s president and state director of international trade. Wood pulp and jewelry round out the top five, she said. In all, Maine exported goods valued at $54.8 million to the U.K. in 2015.

The U.K. is also Maine’s No. 1 source of overseas visitors, said Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. While only an estimated 21,000 Britons visited Maine in 2014, the most recent year available, their vacationing habits made them very a desirable group, she said.

“There are several important things about them: They stay a long time and they spend a lot of money,” Ouellette said.

The outcome of Thursday’s vote was immediately disastrous for global markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 610 points, or 3.4 percent, to end the day at 17,401, while the Nasdaq fell 202 points, or 4.1 percent, to close at 4,708.

Things were looking far worse overseas as of 5 p.m. Friday: Germany’s DAX index was down 700 points, or 6.8 percent, France’s CAC 40 index had dropped 359 points, or 8 percent, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was down by more than 1,286 points, or nearly 8 percent.

Interestingly, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index appeared to be taking the least amount of damage, as it was down only 199 points, or 3.2 percent. But where the country did take a major hit was in the value of its currency. The British pound sterling’s value fell by about 8.5 percent against the U.S. dollar before settling around $1.37 – a 30-year low.

That exchange rate is critical to both trade and tourism. A weaker pound means less buying power for Britons in the U.S., and more buying power for Americans in the U.K. It means U.S. exports will be more expensive, and British imports will be cheaper.

Still, it isn’t clear whether the pound’s decline is just a temporary reaction to the Brexit vote or a long-term trend, Bisaillon-Cary said.

“If the pound sterling does stay down … it will make Maine exports and U.S. exports more expensive,” she said. That would be bad news for exporters in Maine.

There are other issues related to the Brexit, Bisaillon-Cary said. When the U.K. becomes fully independent from the EU, it will have to negotiate new agreements with its trade partners, and trade with other European countries will no longer be seamless. That may create challenges for Maine’s international trade office in London, she said.

“There are going to be different duty and tariff rates – and it’s not going to be borderless,” she said.

The exchange rate is equally important when it comes to tourism, Ouellette said. While Britons are a fairly reliable group when it comes to Maine tourism, she said, they may opt for more affordable accommodations, shorten their stays, change travel dates to off-peak months and be more frugal while in Maine as a result of the weak pound.

“Exchange rates can have an impact on how they spend,” Ouellette said.

Despite those challenges, there are some potential upsides to the Brexit vote for Mainers.

Foremost among them: Travel to the U.K. will be more affordable for Mainers and other U.S. residents if the pound remains weak against the dollar. Similarly, British import goods will be cheaper.

Bussey, the importer in Freeport, said her customers are likely to see the effect of the dollar’s dominance over the pound when the holiday shopping season rolls around.

“It will certainly be a merrier Christmas here, because I think that’s when we’ll see the effects of the dollar versus the pound,” she said.

British investment in Maine also may increase because of the economic uncertainty caused by the country’s break from the EU, Bisaillon-Cary said.

“Investors look for stable markets,” she said. “It could be a couple years of uncertainty (in the U.K.)”

The fact that U.S. financial markets fell by less than their European and Asian counterparts is a sign that the U.S. economy remains stable despite Europe’s economic turmoil, said Jessamyn Norton, chief investment officer and senior vice president at Spinnaker Trust in Portland.

Still, she said investors’ larger concern is that the U.K. may be just the first of several nations to depart the EU. There has been speculation that countries like Spain or Italy may consider their own exits.

“We know there are other countries that have been itching to leave,” she said.

]]> 18, 25 Jun 2016 10:30:22 +0000
Disbarred attorney F. Lee Bailey files for bankruptcy in Maine federal court Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:57:59 +0000 F. Lee Bailey, the superstar lawyer who was part of O.J. Simpson’s defense team, has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Maine in an attempt to discharge a federal tax debt of nearly $5.2 million.

Debts to the Internal Revenue Service are not normally discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, but Bailey said Friday that they can be after a period of time and as long as he has complied with certain conditions, such as filing and paying his taxes on time since the original taxes and penalties were assessed. He owes the money from a dispute over his reportable income from 1993 to 2001.

“After trying very hard to settle the case, the IRS turned me down on the grounds that I am a celebrity and it would look bad for them to settle the case,” Bailey, who now lives in Yarmouth, said Friday. “There’s a good case to be made for bias, but I’m not the one to make that case.”

Bailey was disbarred in Florida in 2001 over his handling of shares of stock owned by a client who pleaded guilty to drug smuggling and money laundering. That stock also led to the dispute with the IRS, which said Bailey owed $1.9 million because of his failure to report some of the stock proceeds as income. With interest and penalties, the IRS filed liens against Bailey totaling $4.5 million, which has since grown to nearly $5.2 million.

The bankruptcy filing also lists $364,925 owed on Bailey’s Yarmouth condominium, but it also said Bailey will seek a “reaffirmation agreement,” meaning he won’t try to have that debt discharged. He also owes $40,000 on an unsecured loan from Alvin Malnik, a lawyer who owns a restaurant in Florida.

Bailey said he wants to discharge what he owes to the IRS because “at 83, it’s a little late to raise that kind of money overnight. It’s been a long battle.”

In 2000, the Florida Bar found that Bailey misappropriated client assets, communicated with a judge improperly, had a conflict of interest, was guilty of self-dealing and testified falsely under oath and ordered him disbarred, a ruling that was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court. The Massachusetts Bar issued a reciprocal disbarment two years later, but Bailey applied for admission to practice law in Maine in 2012, three years after he moved to the state. The Maine Board of Bar Examiners voted 5-4 to deny him admission to the bar, saying he lacked “the requisite good character and fitness” to practice law in the state.

Justice Donald G. Alexander of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned that finding in April 2013 and ordered the bar to issue a certificate of qualification to practice law, saying Bailey seemed to be making a “genuine effort” to resolve the tax debt, which Alexander had said was the main stumbling block to allowing Bailey to practice law in the state. The bar board appealed to the full state supreme court, which voted 4-2 and issued a 59-page ruling in 2014 to deny Bailey’s admission to practice law regardless of resolving the debt, saying he “failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct that resulted in his disbarment.”

Bailey first rose to national prominence in the 1960s, successfully defending Dr. Sam Sheppard of Ohio, who was charged with murdering his pregnant wife.

Bailey appealed Sheppard’s initial conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court said a “carnival atmosphere” around the first trial denied Sheppard a fair hearing. Sheppard was acquitted in a retrial.

The case inspired “The Fugitive” television series and later movie.

Bailey also represented Albert DeSalvo, accused of being the “Boston Strangler,” and was part of Simpson’s legal team, on which he led the effort to paint one of the police detectives, Mark Fuhrman, as a racist.

]]> 11, 24 Jun 2016 21:51:50 +0000
Three Cumberland County restaurant owners indicted on sales tax theft charges Fri, 24 Jun 2016 21:18:25 +0000 The owners of three restaurants in Cumberland County have been indicted in recent months as part of a statewide sweep by Maine Revenue Services to crack down on eateries accused of withholding sales taxes from the state.

The owners of J’s Oyster Bar in Portland, Anjon’s Italian Restaurant in Scarborough and DiSanto’s Restaurant in Gray are the latest to be indicted on a slew of charges, including a Class B charge of felony theft by misapplication of sales tax against each of them.

Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein, who is prosecuting the cases brought by Maine Revenue Services, the state tax agency, wouldn’t say Friday how many other cases are being brought against restaurants around the state. He said he was bound by state law to confidentiality prior to any convictions that arise from the cases.

But Bernstein identified a restaurant owner in York County who has been convicted and sentenced to jail in the sweep. Christo Stratos of Wells, the owner of Christo’s restaurant in Sanford, was sentenced in January to serve eight months in jail for stealing $243,902 in sales taxes between 1999 and 2014. He began serving the sentence at the York County Jail in Alfred on Feb. 8.

In the Cumberland County cases, Cynthia Brown of J’s Oyster Bar and John DiSanto Sr. of Anjon’s Italian Restaurant have made court appearances and pleaded not guilty.

DiSanto’s sister, Anna DiSanto, who owns DiSanto’s Restaurant, was the most recent to be indicted on June 9. She has yet to enter a plea in her case. She is scheduled to be arraigned next Thursday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

Attorney Thomas Hallett represents both Brown and John DiSanto in their cases. It is not clear whether Anna DiSanto is represented by a lawyer.

“I’m disturbed how this is being handled,” Hallett said Friday. “These are largely civil matters that end up being blown into criminal cases, and it’s too bad.”

Hallett said he was aware of multiple other restaurant sales tax cases being investigated by Maine Revenue Services, but he declined to say how many because some may not lead to criminal charges.

Hallett also declined to say how much the state is claiming his clients owe in back taxes, but said fines and late fees compound the numbers.

Brown, 56, of Portland, was indicted in March on 21 tax-related counts: seven felony charges and 14 misdemeanors. The charges all relate to sales taxes in excess of $10,000 paid by customers of J’s Oyster Bar between March 2008 and March 2015 that she allegedly failed to pay to the Maine state tax assessor. The charges include theft by misapplication, tax evasion, failure to pay state sales tax and failure to file a state income tax return in 2011, according to the indictment in her case.

J’s is an iconic waterfront watering hole in Portland’s Old Port that is as popular with locals, from fishermen to lawyers, as it is with tourists.

Brown’s case is scheduled for trial on Sept. 26.

John DiSanto, 58, of Old Orchard Beach was indicted in April on 11 counts: six felonies and five misdemeanors. The charges against him relate to more than $10,000 in sales taxes paid by Anjon’s customers that he allegedly failed to pay to the state between February 2000 and November 2014. The charges against him include theft by misapplication, tax evasion and failure to collect, account for or pay over sales tax, according to the indictment in his case.

Anjon’s has been in DiSanto’s family for multiple generations and remains popular as a family destination for Italian food.

John DiSanto’s case is next scheduled for a dispositional conference on Aug. 24.

Anna DiSanto, 55, of Raymond was indicted on the same 11 counts as her brother, but those charges relate to her restaurant, DiSanto’s Restaurant in Gray, for more than $10,000 from her customers between July 2007 and September 2014 that she allegedly failed to pay to the state, according to the indictment in her case.

DiSanto’s Restaurant has many of the family recipes that made Anjon’s popular, but adds some new flair that made it a destination in the Lakes Region.

The most serious charge against Brown and the DiSantos is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In the York County case, Stratos faced charges similar to those lodged against Brown and the DiSantos. The judge sentenced Stratos to a total of four years, with all but eight months suspended. The remainder will hang over him during a three-year probation term to follow his release from jail. Maine authorities have already recovered $150,000 from Stratos. He was ordered to pay the remaining $93,902 as restitution.

]]> 38, 24 Jun 2016 18:32:41 +0000
Maine firefighters, rangers bring island fire under control Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:42:17 +0000 Forest rangers and local fire departments battled a large forest fire Friday afternoon on Sheep Island in Casco Bay.

Forest rangers said the fire threatened four structures while it was active, but it was contained shortly before 6 p.m., WCSH-TV reported.

Plumes of white smoke rose from the fire, and a ranger helicopter was sent to the island, according to a tweet from the Maine Forest Service.

As the fire was underway, photos and statements posted on Twitter from the forest rangers indicated that several homes were in danger and that the chopper was to begin dropping buckets of water onto the flames.

Sheep Island is located off Harpswell.

]]> 0, 24 Jun 2016 22:23:36 +0000
Portland man with history of lewd behavior to be released from jail Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:12:27 +0000 A 52-year-old man with a history of masturbating in public and assaultive and stalking behavior will be released from jail June 29, the police said.

Although Steven Ricci does not have to register as a sex offender, police said he is considered a high risk to re-offend, and is being closely monitored with a GPS device. He is expected to reside at 915 Brighton Ave., and has a curfew in effect between 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“Maine law does not require Ricci to register as a sex offender, however, the circumstances and patterns of his violations warrant a community notification for the safety of the public,” said Assistant Chief Vern Malloch.

Ricci, who was born with brain damage and has cerebral palsy, has a criminal history extending to the early 1990s, with more than a dozen convictions. His offenses include indecent conduct, assault and violation of conditions of release. His various lawyers, law enforcement officials and others have not been able to find him a suitable treatment program.

While the police notified the public, Malloch pointed out that use of this information to threaten, intimidate or harass Ricci may result in criminal prosecution.

]]> 11 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:12:00 +0000
Bugaboo Creek closure in South Portland leaves 60 jobless Fri, 24 Jun 2016 19:37:42 +0000 The Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse near the Maine Mall in South Portland closed suddenly this week, putting 60 people out of work and leaving only two locations open in a restaurant chain that started in the 1990s.

The Bugaboo Creek in Bangor closed last week, leaving 19 people jobless following Bugaboo Creek closures last month in Newington, New Hampshire, and Milford, Massachusetts.

The Maine Department of Labor has scheduled a Rapid Response session Tuesday afternoon to assist Bugaboo Creek workers in Greater Portland, who are eligible for unemployment benefits and other services.

“There is high demand in the restaurant sector right now for workers, so the focus of Rapid Response will be on connecting these workers with re-employment,” said Julie Rabinowitz, department spokeswoman.

The Rapid Response session will include information about job opportunities, health insurance options and unemployment benefits.

Since 2010, Bugaboo Creek has closed all but two of its restaurants in a protracted period of restructuring that included going through bankruptcy, securing new ownership and shuttering dozens of locations throughout the Northeast. The chain is known for its rustic decor recalling the Canadian Rockies.

The two remaining Bugaboo Creek restaurants are in Newark, Delaware, and Nashua, New Hampshire, where an employee reached Friday afternoon by phone said workers there have been told that its closure is imminent.

Tuesday’s Rapid Response session will be held at 1 p.m. at the Greater Portland CareerCenter, 151 Jetport Boulevard in Portland. Affected workers also may call the career center at 822-3300 or 877-594-5627.

Employees affected by the Bugaboo Creek closure in Bangor may call the Bangor CareerCenter for individual Rapid Response assistance at 561-4050 or 888-828-0568. TTY users may call Maine Relay 711.

Visit to learn more about the department’s services or to search for employment opportunities in Maine’s Job Bank.

]]> 23 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:55:41 +0000
Man charged in fatal Maine crash is declared a public safety hazard Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:46:49 +0000 WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation has declared a Tennessee man charged in connection with a Maine crash that killed two people to be an imminent hazard to public safety.

Investigators say 54-year-old Randall Weddle of Greenville, Tenn., was driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding at the time of the March crash. He faces two counts of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated criminal operating under the influence.

The DOT’s declaration comes with an order that Weddle not drive a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

Weddle’s attorney, David Paris, says he has received the order but hasn’t thoroughly reviewed it yet. Paris says it’ll take months to put a case together for his client, who has pleaded not guilty.

The crash in Washington killed 74-year-old Paul Fowles and 45-year-old Christina Torres-York.

]]> 1, 24 Jun 2016 20:17:58 +0000
Haiti orphanage founder wants defamation lawsuit reinstated Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:31:32 +0000 PORTLAND — A Haiti orphanage founder wants a court to reinstate his defamation suit against a Maine activist who publicized sexual abuse accusations against him.

A federal jury concluded last year that Paul Kendrick defamed orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld and awarded more than $14 million in damages. But an appellate court in Boston then questioned whether the case ever belonged in federal court in the first place.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. ruled earlier this month that Geilenfeld wasn’t living in the U.S. when he filed his claim and the case lacked grounds to be heard in a U.S. court.

Geilenfeld filed his appeal on Friday to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Geilenfeld is the founder of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince.

]]> 2, 24 Jun 2016 13:33:59 +0000
Sex assault charges being dismissed against former Sacopee Valley ed tech Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:20:39 +0000 Prosecutors in Oxford County are dropping two sexual assault charges against Zachariah Sherburne after determining that the 23-year-old former education technician at Sacopee Valley High School had left his job there and no longer had disciplinary authority over a teenage student at the school when they had a sexual encounter.

Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Winter said Friday that she planned to file the dismissal of the charges with the Oxford County court by the end of the day after reviewing information provided by Sherburne’s attorney that proved Sherburne had stopped working for the district the day before he and the girl had sex late on Feb. 12 or early on Feb. 13.

Winter said the information was included in a court motion filed this week by Sherburne’s attorney and was not available when Sherburne was indicted in April.

Sherburne had been facing one charge each of gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. Sherburne engaged in a sexual act with a female student who was 16 or 17 years old, according to an affidavit by the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department in February.

The age of consent is 16 in Maine, but Sherburne had been charged under Maine’s gross sexual assault law because one of the criteria listed in the statute is having “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over a student in a school setting.

Allan Lobozzo, Sherburne’s attorney, said his client’s family was relieved at the outcome after being put through a gantlet of media scrutiny after Sherburne’s indictment and the subsequent revelation that he had been hired as an ed tech by his father, School Administrative District 6 Superintendent Frank Sherburne, in violation of the district’s nepotism policy. The uproar over the hiring eventually led Frank Sherburne to resign as SAD 6 superintendent on May 16.

Lobozzo filed a motion to dismiss the sexual assault case Monday, including Zachariah Sherburne’s undated resignation email and a confirmation by the SAD 55 superintendent that Feb. 12 was Sherburne’s last day of work. Lobozzo said after the court appearance this week that Sherburne had in fact finished his work at the district a day earlier, on Feb. 11.

“Obviously Zach and the family are ecstatic,” Lobozzo said. “There’s been so much of a media feeding frenzy. At least from a legal standpoint this is good news. I was getting hate mail and hate phone calls.”

The teenage girl is now pregnant. Lobozzo said that if the child is Sherburne’s, he will “participate financially,” but confirmed that Sherburne and the girl are not in a relationship.

“Was it a smart decision? No,” Lobozzo said. “But was it consensual, and was she of the age of consent? Yes.”

After Sherburne left Sacopee Valley High School, he was hired as an ed tech in SAD 6 in Buxton. The hiring violated the district’s nepotism policy barring the hiring of family members of the superintendent or members of the school board.

The SAD 6 board, rather than enforce its policy, chose to take no action against Sherburne, drawing intense criticism from the public and scrutiny from the press, including the revelation that Zachariah Sherburne did not have state approval to work in a classroom environment.

After weeks of rancorous debate and confrontational board meetings where angry parents called for Frank Sherburne’s ouster, the elder Sherburne resigned with a $40,000 severance package – a move considered to be less costly than breaking Sherburne’s contract and dealing with the related litigation expenses later, the SAD 6 board president said.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

]]> 62, 24 Jun 2016 20:41:59 +0000
Analysis: Poliquin keeps low profile in gun control debate Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:58:13 +0000 Three members of Maine’s congressional delegation have been at the forefront of efforts to enact some kind of gun control legislation, but the fourth, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, has been keeping a low profile.

Poliquin’s office issued news releases this week on issues such as sea urchin harvesting and opiate addiction, but none regarding the debate over restricting some gun purchases that gripped the House and Senate. Poliquin’s office did provide a written comment on the issue in response to requests from the Portland Press Herald, but he would not answer questions and he did not take a firm position on any of the bills aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of potential terrorists.

“It’s a tricky issue for Poliquin,” said James Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine Farmington. Melcher cited Poliquin’s re-election bid and the political support for gun rights in Maine’s more rural 2nd Congressional District, which he represents.

The debate over gun control was thrust back into the national spotlight after a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, killing 49 people. The gunman, Omar Mateen, had previously been investigated by the FBI for suspected ties to terrorism. Mateen, 29, described himself as an “Islamic soldier” in a 911 call he made inside the Pulse nightclub. He was shot dead by police.

The incident highlighted what some describe as a loophole in gun laws that allows people who are on the FBI’s “no-fly” and “selectee” lists to legally purchase firearms. Being on the selectee list requires an individual to go through additional screening before a determination is made about whether that person can fly.


Three of Maine’s members of Congress have publicly pushed for legislation to keep guns away from people on those lists.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District, joined other Democrats for a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor to pressure Republican leaders to allow debate on several bills that would make it more difficult to purchase weapons.

Pingree held a news conference Friday in Portland to say she planned to continue the fight.

Sen. Susan Collins has been working with fellow Republicans and with Democrats in the Senate to build support for a bipartisan bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.

While Collins’ bill appears to lack the votes needed to win Senate approval, her office issued a news release Friday saying it has the support of former military and intelligence leaders, including retired Gen. David Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and directed the CIA.

The bipartisan Senate effort is being backed by Sen. Angus King of Maine. An independent who caucuses with Democrats, he joined Collins at a Capitol Hill news conference and made a speech on the Senate floor calling the bill “about as simple and common sense as it gets.”

Poliquin, a Republican, has kept a low profile on the gun issue that stands in stark contrast to the other Maine lawmakers.

The Portland Press Herald requested an interview with Poliquin to discuss his position, but his press secretary would only provide a written statement from the congressman and did not respond to follow-up questions.

“There have been proposals to limit the immediate purchase of firearms by anyone that has been the subject of a terrorist investigation. Some proposals immediately notify the FBI that a person who has been the subject of a terrorist investigation is attempting to purchase a firearm,” he said. “Properly implemented, these may have stopped the killer in Orlando. Taken with meaningful due process protections, these proposals could be a step in the right direction as long as constitutional provisions remain intact.”

His statement also emphasized the right of Americans to buy guns.

“What separates our nation from others, including totalitarian regimes and regions that have been ruled by groups like the Taliban, is that we have a Constitution which protects liberties and our way of life,” he said. “I want to make sure that any proposed law does not do anything to harm citizens’ rights and the principles that make our country what it is. The 2nd Amendment is one of those rights.”


Poliquin is running for re-election against Democrat Emily Cain, and has staked out a reputation for protecting gun ownership rights.

In 2014, Poliquin had a 79 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, according to Vote Smart, and received a $4,950 donation from the powerful gun-rights group, according to the Center for Responsible Politics.

By comparison, the NRA last ranked Collins in 2008 and gave her a 50 percent rating, according to Vote Smart.

While Maine’s 1st District, covering southern and coastal Maine, is pro-gun control, the 2nd District is more difficult to read on the issue, Melcher said.

“This isn’t an issue he made particularly visible and maybe that’s because he doesn’t want to supply Emily Cain with quotes that she can use in her national fundraising,” Melcher said.

Cain issued a statement Tuesday saying she supports the so-called “no fly, no buy” bill being advanced by Collins, while the Maine Democratic Party issued a statement Wednesday criticizing Poliquin for not stating his position.

Meanwhile, Pingree said Friday that she hopes to keep up the pressure on the Republican leadership in the House to debate gun-control legislation when Congress reconvenes after the July Fourth break.

“It’s kind of nutty to think that members of the House of Representatives have to sit down on the floor of the House and say, ‘We’re not going away until you do something,’ ” Pingree said at a news conference outside her office on the Portland waterfront. “But the rules of the House are very constraining. We can’t bring a bill to the floor. We can’t take it up in committee. And we feel like the Republicans aren’t even listening to their own members.”

Although Democrats, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, vowed to occupy the House floor until Republicans moved a bill, they ended their demonstration after Republican leadership adjourned the House for the July Fourth break.

Republicans shut off the cameras in the House gallery throughout most of the protest, but Democrats used their cellphones to capture the action. In an unprecedented move, C-SPAN carried the feeds live via Periscope and Facebook.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, dismissed the sit-in as a “political stunt,” noting that the Democratic National Committee was attempting to raise money off the protest.

Pingree said Friday that she is open to any bill that would make purchasing firearms more difficult, especially for suspected terrorists.

Collins’ bill passed a procedural vote in the Senate by a 52-46 vote, but may not have enough support to go further, since 60 votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

]]> 108, 25 Jun 2016 12:48:29 +0000 Ann LePage, wife of governor, takes summer waitressing job Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:22:06 +0000 OOTHBAY HARBOR — The waitress hustled across the room with a cup of chowder and a plate of fish and broccoli.

It was Ann LePage’s first double shift at McSeagull’s, a bustling restaurant touting double-wrapped bacon scallops and views of Boothbay Harbor.

The wife of Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage had kept a low profile for the first few weeks of her summer job. But then her husband told a crowd at a recent town hall that his wife took a job to “supplement” his $70,000 salary, the lowest of any U.S. governor.

The LePages live with their dog, a Jack Russell terrier mix named Veto, in the Augusta governor’s mansion and bought a $215,000 Boothbay home two years ago. The governor recently tried but failed to increase his successor’s salary to $150,000, above the nearly $135,000 average for all 50 state governors in 2015.

Ann LePage said being a waitress is “something I’ve always, always wanted to do.”

Her daughter Lauren made $28 an hour last summer at McSeagull’s. LePage said she spent years taking care of her mother, who long suffered from scleroderma and died in October 2015.

Now it’s time to follow through on her interest, LePage said, adding: “I know she’d be proud of me.”

Wearing a black McSeagull’s T-shirt and sneakers with pink shoelaces, LePage greeted customers with an easy: “Hey, how are you?”

LePage, who’s saving up for a Toyota RAV4, works three days a week, and is asking for more shifts.

“Because of who I am and who I’m married to, I want to work extra hard just so I can show them I can do the job,” she said.

She doesn’t tell customers, or co-workers, who she is unless they ask.

But when a reporter revealed her identity Thursday, the news confirmed a customer’s inklings.

“I knew, that’s why I kept staring!” exclaimed Nina Stoddard of Bridgton, a Republican.

She later wondered: “I mean, is she really here just making money?”

Her friend Laurie Green of Casco said she loved it.

“I really hate a lot of our politicians nowadays that have the wealth, the money,” said Green, an unaffiliated voter. “They have no clue what the average person out in the world is doing.”

Stoddard agreed and suggested Ann LePage should run for office: “It’s the best of Maine, the best of who we are. Two feet on the ground.”

]]> 144, 24 Jun 2016 22:23:36 +0000
Maine Marine Patrol on the lookout for drunken boaters Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:18:52 +0000 PORTLAND — The Maine Marine Patrol will be cracking down on boaters who violate the state’s laws on boating under the influence in the coming days.

Officials with the state say patrol officers will be looking for boaters who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs from Kittery to the Canadian border. The heightened alert for drunken boaters will last from Friday to Sunday.

The crackdown on drunken boating is part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign. Last year’s campaign resulted in 278 arrests and nearly 18,000 citations around the country.

]]> 2, 24 Jun 2016 10:26:10 +0000
Forecast calls for slow growth in Maine’s 3 metro areas Fri, 24 Jun 2016 09:46:24 +0000 Maine’s three metro areas are expected to grow slowly this year and next, a forecast prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors said.

The report, released Thursday, said metropolitan areas contribute the lion’s share of economic growth, jobs and wages in the U.S.

That’s true in Maine as well: The report said the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford metro area accounts for 50.5 percent of the statewide economy and Bangor contributes another 10.3 percent, followed by Lewiston-Auburn, with 7.5 percent of the state’s economy.

Portland’s economy will grow by 1.2 percent this year and 2.1 percent next year, from $28.6 billion to $29.8 billion, the report projected. That compares to average growth in all metro areas of 1.9 percent in 2016 and 2.7 percent next year, the report said.

Bangor’s economy is expected to grow by 0.6 percent this year and 1.6 percent next year, the forecast said, while Lewiston-Auburn’s output of goods and services is expected to grow by 1.8 percent this year and 2.0 percent in 2017.

The economies in all three metro areas contracted in 2012-14, the report said, with Portland-South Portland’s shrinking by 0.6 percent and Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn’s economies both contracting by 1.3 percent. Portland’s economy grew by just 0.4 percent last year, the report said, while Bangor’s contracted another 0.3 percent and Lewiston-Auburn’s grew 0.2 percent in 2015.

Amanda Rector, the state economist, said the projections are “not surprising,” because of the state’s aging population and recent slow growth statewide.

She also said comparisons of Maine’s small metro areas to larger metro areas are difficult.

“Given that many of the large metro areas around the country have been seeing tremendous growth, it’s hard to compare to the national average,” she said. Rector said the state needs to develop policies that foster economic growth and encourage younger workers to move to the state to create more sustainable growth.

Charles Lawton – who writes a weekly column for the Portland Press Herald – an economist with Planning Decisions, a research and planning firm, agreed that the forecast falls in line with what most economists would expect to see.

He said without some massive shift in the national economy, there’s not much expectation that Maine metro areas will suddenly shoot up in output compared with larger, more robust economies in areas such as New York City or Silicon Valley.

Lawton also said the fact that metro economies account for two-thirds of Maine’s output is also not shocking, especially since the manufacturing base in rural areas has been in decline for years.

“Every time a paper mill in Lincoln or Baileyville shuts down, the remaining economy shifts to more of a consumer economy,” he said. And the consumer economy in Maine, where the population is the oldest in the country, isn’t very robust, with much of the spending by people on fixed incomes with high health care costs.

“This simply reinforces the need to attract more, younger workers” to the state, Lawton said.


]]> 9, 24 Jun 2016 05:47:15 +0000
Browntail moth invasion: They came, they ate, they made many itch Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 An intense infestation of browntail moth caterpillars has hit midcoast Maine this year, triggering rashes or respiratory problems for hundreds of people who have come in contact with them or breathed in their microscopic poisonous hair fibers.

Brunswick, Freeport, Bath, Topsham and Bowdoinham are among the towns where state foresters have seen the most damage to trees, primarily the oaks and apples that the caterpillars favor.

The Kennebec Pharmacy in Brunswick has sold more than 500 of its own browntail moth spray, which is available by prescription, within the past two weeks.

“I can mix the compounds in my sleep. There has been a tremendous demand,” said Patrice Carter, the business’ pharmacist. “It’s very, very intense this year.”

Carter said 40 to 50 people per day have been coming into the pharmacy seeking relief from the rash caused by the invasive species.

By contrast, Carter said the pharmacy last year sold fewer than 500 prescriptions of the spray over the entire spring and summer.

The caterpillars have blanketed Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport to the point where park rangers have posted signs warning people to beware of the caterpillars, as well as the rashes and respiratory problems they can cause. Every visitor who arrived at the Wolfe’s Neck gate this year was told of the conditions, said park ranger Michael Frey.

“This is the worst we’ve ever seen it at the park,” he said. “The population has just exploded.”

Frey said the entire staff at Wolfe’s Neck has been affected by the caterpillars, although like any allergic reaction, it varies from person to person. Some people can get an itchy rash or have trouble breathing just by walking in the woods, while others exhibit no symptoms.


Frey said park visitors are advised that if they touch one of the caterpillars they should immediately wash the skin area with cold water and soap.

Frey said the caterpillars have started to die off, and rangers expect the problem to dissipate over the next few weeks.

But the caterpillars have been so numerous that the hair fibers they shed get everywhere and can float in the air for a while, causing respiratory problems, said Charlene Donahue, a Maine Forest Service entomologist. Treatments are similar to those for poison ivy.

“This is the most intense infestation I’ve seen since at least 2004. There was a lot of defoliation this year,” Donahue said. The caterpillars eat the leaves primarily on oak and apple trees, although they can infest other trees. “There were lots of trees with no leaves on them,” she said.

Donahue said there’s some good news: Many of the caterpillars died from a fungus, Entomophaga aulicae, which means that next year the population may be knocked back and the infestation may be smaller. It’s unclear what caused the browntail moth population to expand this year, but weather conditions must have been ideal for the moths in spring 2015, she said.

Visual surveys of winter webs in the past two years suggest the current infestation is the worst in more than a decade, but the reason for population surges is poorly understood because little scientific research has been done on the moths.


Browntail moths were accidentally introduced to the U.S. in 1897 and are usually located only in coastal southern Maine and on Cape Cod. The moth has no natural predators that can reduce its population.

“Birds for the most part don’t eat them,” Donahue said.

But the fungus may be a key to controlling the moth population, she said, and if the fungus’ range and prevalence can be expanded, that should help kill more moths.

Donahue said she will be seeking grant funding to research how the fungus might be used in the fight against the browntail moth, but she cautioned that much work still needs to be done. “That is just a dream right now,” she said.

Donahue said she surveyed 10,000 acres along the midcoast to gauge the extent of the damage, which she is currently mapping.

Even though the problem will be much less severe by mid-July because the caterpillars are dying off, Donahue said the fibers can persist and still cause a rash. She said people should be careful when doing yard work, and wear gloves when cleaning out areas that could have been infested by the moths. Also, any cocoons that are spotted should be wet down before being removed, she said.


]]> 3, 24 Jun 2016 14:59:29 +0000
Thanks to ‘Dr. Shark,’ researchers can learn and let live Fri, 24 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A UNE researcher known as ‘Dr. Shark’ develops a method that allows fish data collection without killing the specimens.

A decade ago, when James Sulikowski first came to the University of New England, scientists who studied shark reproduction had to kill and gut their specimens to unlock the secrets of how these elusive fish gave birth.

Sulikowski wanted to learn more about the reproductive process in hopes of bolstering shark numbers, and didn’t like the idea of having to kill pregnant sharks and their unborn young to do it. That study method also made it impossible to study the reproductive habits of endangered sharks, such as the basking, hammerhead or tiger shark, even though information about how these threatened groups lived and loved would have helped policymakers protect their mating or pupping grounds and possibly help stabilize their populations.

Scientists had begun using blood samples to supplement their shark necropsies, measuring hormone levels to establish the stage of pregnancy, but Sulikowski, a father of three, thought researchers could go further. About five years ago, he turned to the same kind of sonogram technology that doctors use to monitor pregnant women – complete with a transducer, an image screen and conductive jelly – and adapted it for use on pregnant sharks, as well as other elusive or endangered fish species, such as sturgeon.

“There is so much that we still don’t know, like where different species of sharks go to give birth,” Sulikowski said, “and so much that we think we do know, like the length of gestation for our local spiny dogfish that we are just now learning through the use of this technology and tagging that is just plain wrong. I love that. I love challenging accepted science. For me, it’s always about being inquisitive, testing what we think we know, asking what we don’t and figuring out new ways to come up with answers to questions we didn’t even know to ask just a few years ago.”


Sulikowski, 47, is something of a rock star on the UNE campus, and his prominent role on the opening night of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2016 will add to the mystique of the professor who students call Dr. Shark. After enduring some criticism in recent years for sensationalism, Discovery has decided to open this year’s shark extravaganza with some science. It will focus its Sunday episode on research that Sulikowski did on pregnant tiger sharks in the warm, shallow waters off Tiger Beach in the Bahamas with University of Miami professor Neil Hammerschlag.

The researchers employed a portable sonogram, this one equipped with goggles to see the intrauterine ducts, to study tiger sharks hooked, lassoed and hauled aboard their 66-foot research boat from 2011 to 2014. They were trying to figure out why the waters off what has come to be known as Tiger Beach were drawing such a high number of large tiger sharks. When Hammerschlag noticed that many of the tigers were females, he guessed it might be a pupping ground, but he couldn’t know for sure without confirmation. That’s when he called Sulikowski.

Animal breeders have been using portable sonograms for years, adapting the large, stationary units developed for human medicine more than half a century ago into portable, high-resolution machines that can be used in the field. Sulikowski needed to develop a method to keep the sharks calm and alive, so researchers could study the dual uterine tracts and count and measure the young without injuring the sharks or the scientists. For large sharks, that meant hauling them aboard, holding them down on a submerged platform and pumping oxygenated saltwater over the shark’s gills to keep them calm for the 20-minute examination.


Sulikowski had been practicing on spiny dogfish and other smaller shark species in the Gulf of Maine to perfect his method. These fish were harvestable, so for the first year of his sonogram studies he compared the results of what he learned from the sonogram with the hormone levels documented in blood samples and the results of traditional necropsies, or animal autopsies. But by year two, with the necropsies repeatedly confirming what he saw in his sonograms, the UNE team started to rely almost exclusively on sonogram images to provide immediate, accurate, non-lethal results.

The sonogram images are crisp and clear, just like the ones performed in doctor’s offices across the developed world. On a trip out Thursday to Tantas Ledge, about 10 miles off the coast of Biddeford, Sulikowski caught two small spiny dogfish, both of which were pregnant. While his 8-year-old daughter, Kendall, and a UNE neuroscientist, David Johnson, held them down on the top of a wet cooler, Sulikowski pointed out the young that lined the mothers’ two tracts, and found their hearts and the outlines of their small gaping mouths, before tossing them back into the sparkling sea.

James Sulikowski, left, uses an ultrasound to examine a pregnant spiny dogfish off the coast of Biddeford Pool, aided by his daughter, Kendall, 8, and fellow UNE professor Dave Johnson.

James Sulikowski, left, uses an ultrasound to examine a pregnant spiny dogfish off the coast of Biddeford Pool, aided by his daughter, Kendall, 8, and fellow UNE professor Dave Johnson. Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photograper

“You can see, they really are quite beautiful,” Sulikowski said. “We learn so much from each look, but without hurting the mother or babies.”


This was the technique that Sulikowski employed for the Bahamian study to be featured this Sunday on Shark Week, much to the delight of his research team and UNE officials eager for the widespread exposure.

They caught 65 sharks over the span of the three-year study. Of those, 59 were female. They and a team of graduate students used the sonogram to check for pregnancies and to document what they found. Some were pregnant, but the team also found young females, even though there was very little for the sharks to eat in those calm, warm waters, Sulikowski said.

There were no babies and very few males, most likely because of the lack of food, he said. The data suggests female tiger sharks prefer the relatively male-free waters, and pregnant tiger sharks may experience increased fetal growth in warmer waters.

But Sulikowski said the data also suggests that habitat protection can help threatened sharks grow their numbers. Tiger Beach is located in a protected zone in the Bahamas, he said. Their numbers are declining globally, but are rising in the Atlantic, he said, and it may be because of what’s happening at Tiger Beach. That gives Sulikowski reason to believe that a combination of sonograms and satellite tagging could help scientists and policymakers mount successful conservation campaigns for other endangered shark species.


However, his dogfish sonogram practice has ended up being more than simply a warmup for the Tiger Beach work. Sulikowski said the research has led him to believe that dogfish gestation, or the period of time between conception and birth, is shorter than the previously accepted 18 to 20 months, although there is still work to do before he can say exactly how much shorter. His team also has located the species’ first identified pupping area off the coast of Rhode Island. Both of these are big discoveries, but it was the dogfish’s prolific breeding habits that first came to Sulikowski’s attention.

In 2011, Sulikowski used two grants totaling about $500,000 to study the dogfish life cycle in reaction to conservationists’ claims that dogfish were in need of protection. His results, which echoed what Maine fishermen had been saying for years, led the Marine Stewardship Council to declare the spiny dogfish fishery a sustainable one in 2012, which allowed the species to be shipped overseas and federal authorities to raise the harvest quotas on the species.

“We challenged the accepted thinking and got to the truth,” Sulikowski said. “That’s what everybody wants, really, scientists and fishermen alike.”


]]> 1, 24 Jun 2016 10:25:54 +0000
Augusta makes changes to bedbug ordinance Fri, 24 Jun 2016 02:53:49 +0000 AUGUSTA — A revised bedbug ordinance would allow the city to take action when rental properties become so infested they risk spreading the pests to neighboring properties, city officials said Thursday.

City councilors discussed the revised bedbug ordinance, which, unlike an emergency ordinance passed previously, would apply to all rental buildings in the city, not just multi-units, and would allow tenants who don’t cooperate with efforts to get rid of bedbugs to be held responsible for the cost of treating an infestation.

Councilors expressed support for the ordinance Thursday, and the proposal is expected to go to them for a first of two required readings at their next business meeting.

Changes were made to the emergency ordinance adopted May 5 after a bedbug infestation was discovered at two Water Street boarding homes. City officials said they couldn’t do much about it because no existing state and city rules covered bedbug remediation.

“There is no state enforcement mechanism” to require landlords to take action against a bedbug infestation, said Matt Nazar, city development director. “This provides the municipality the opportunity to deal with problems that come to our attention, that aren’t being properly addressed.”

Nazar said the city will likely apply the ordinance only rarely. He said if a tenant reports a bedbug problem to a landlord, and the landlord brings in pest control experts to treat the building to get rid of them, the city wouldn’t get involved.

The proposed new permanent bedbug ordinance was modified after city officials met with landlords, property managers, tenant advocates, pest control workers and state health officials to discuss it.

Changes were made after the meetings, including that its rules would apply to all rental buildings in the city.

The ordinance also includes new language that states tenants can be held responsible for treatment costs if they don’t cooperate with remediation efforts by landlords and pest control agents. That includes not following instructions for cleaning and other preparations, or not allowing pest control workers access.

At-Large Councilor Cecil Munson asked what happens when tenants don’t comply with reasonable remediation measures, but doesn’t have any money to cover the costs themselves. Nazar said the landlord probably would have to take the tenant to court to recover the costs.

The ordinance specifies that tenants should notify their landlords if they know or suspect there is an infestation of bedbugs in their rental unit, and they shall not try to treat the infestation themselves.

Bridgeo said Tuesday all those changes were recommendations by the stakeholders group.

The ordinance gives landlords responsibility for having a pest control agent treat bedbug infestations.


]]> 0, 23 Jun 2016 22:59:01 +0000
Colby forum: Maine needs law boosting solar energy Fri, 24 Jun 2016 01:30:19 +0000 WATERVILLE — Maine trails behind its New England neighbors when it comes to renewable solar energy, according to panelists at a solar energy forum Thursday night, and legislative action is needed if the state wants to make any great strides in the area.

The forum, held in the Diamond Building at Colby College, was attended by about 60 people.

Steve Kahl, an associate professor of science at Thomas College, moderated the panel, which discussed net metering and what Mainers might see for solar development in the years to come.

When it comes to per capita installations of solar energy, Connecticut has three times as much as Maine; Massachusetts, eight times; and Vermont, nine times. All five of the other New England states combined have twice as many per capita jobs in solar energy as Maine, and one has 10 times as many, according to Dylan Voorhees, the clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council for Maine, who was a panelist at the event.

Voorhees said he is afraid that solar isn’t going to grow at the pace that it could, and that Maine is going to lose opportunities because of that.

“The fundamentals of solar power are strong and they are getting better,” he said. “These fundamentals are completely free of any ideology of anybody in Augusta.”

The Legislature had passed a bill to provide a change to “net metering” that ultimately was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Under this state rule, utility companies provide credit to customers with solar power they generate that goes back into the grid, so solar customers pay the net cost of their bills. The legislation would have also added more solar energy to the state’s portfolio.

Voorhees said he was pleased to see bipartisan agreement on the bill and a growing movement of people in Maine who want to see a change in solar energy.

A spokeswoman from LePage’s office did not reply to a phone call or email earlier Thursday seeking comment about the upcoming event.

Now the group that fought for the bill to pass has to hope for minimal changes until the next legislative session.

“Net metering is only barely a law in Maine,” said Tim Schneider, a public advocate in Maine who runs the office that represents utility customers.

The language says that the Public Utilities Commission “may” have a net metering policy, Schneider said, and it was waiting until the population of those who use solar energy hit 1 percent.

This year, Central Maine Power reported that 1 percent of its customers use solar energy, Schneider said, so the PUC has issued a notice of inquiry and will be looking for feedback from his office as well as the public. It’s possible the PUC could issue a new rule as early as next January.

The panel generally agreed that problems with solar energy policy would be best fixed at the legislative level, rather than with the PUC.

Not all panelists agreed on net metering, though. Solar customers still use the transmission distribution system to get their energy sent to them, so when their net bill comes back at zero, they’re not paying their fair share of the transmission cost, Schneider said. Right now, the scale of solar is small enough for that cost-shift not to have a huge effect on other ratepayers, he said; but if solar were to scale up, it could pose a problem.

Schneider would prefer an alternative to the net metering system, because dissecting cost shifts could get complicated.

“There’s a lot of embedded cost shifts in how we pay for electricity,” he said. Ratepayers who live in more remote areas technically cause cost shifts as well. Schneider also would rather use a method that would allow more people to use solar energy.

The vetoed bill proposed what the panelists called “next metering,” which was better for ratepayers who weren’t using solar power.

Nationally, solar companies opposed the bill because they had seen investments left stranded in Nevada, said Vaughan Woodruff, chairman of the committee for renewable energy and owner of Insource Renewables in Pittsfield. Nevada decided to not grandfather in solar customers when it stopped using the net metering method. Other states saw the outcome of that, and they feared what a change in Maine could mean for net metering nationally.

The panelists plan to head to Augusta again to propose a bill that will help the state of solar in Maine, but Voorhees is nervous about what will happen if they don’t see any progress again. They all compromised with their “enemies,” he said, and did what they were supposed to do, so they might have to go back to “pitchforks” if that still doesn’t work.

“There’s an energy revolution out there, and I’m worried that we’re still going to be talking about it when it’s already happened,” Woodruff said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

Twitter: @madelinestamour


]]> 2, 24 Jun 2016 11:44:16 +0000
Fayette group raising funds to restore former Grange hall Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:37:59 +0000 FAYETTE — The late-1870s building is too close to busy Route 17, and the corner boards show numerous holes made by woodpeckers. The back of the two-story hall houses a two-story outhouse, with a two-holer on each floor, long since replaced by flush toilets in bathrooms.

But the second floor of Starling Hall, formerly Starling Grange 156 in North Fayette, is a gem, and the Friends of Starling Hall are raising money to restore the rest of the building.

The second floor features dark wooden, tongue-and-groove beadboard on the walls and ceiling, polished wooden floors and a stage with a restored screen featuring numerous businesses in Livermore Falls and one in Wilton.

The restoration would allow the building to function better as a community center and gathering place. The Friends group began its efforts in earnest in August 2014, shortly after residents voted at Town Meeting to keep the hall rather than sell it.

“It’s a meaningful building to the people in this town,” Chadwick said. “Many people young and old have very fond memories of events here.”

She said certain things in particular keep her interested in restoring the building.

“It never fails that several people come up to me and say, ‘I had my acting debut here when I was 5,’ or ‘My parents had their wedding reception here,’ ” she said.

Donna Barrett, vice president of the Friends board, said people recall the contradances, the plays, the eighth-grade graduations.

“It’s a building that’s full of memories for this town,” she said.

Maggie Chadwick gives a tour Thursday of the backstage area in the former Grange hall on second floor of Starling Hall in Fayette.

Maggie Chadwick gives a tour Thursday of the backstage area in the former Grange hall on second floor of Starling Hall in Fayette.

Over the past two years, the group succeeded in getting the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places and, with assistance from attorney Jed Davis of Fayette, adopted bylaws and became certified as a nonprofit organization.

Now the group is trying to raise funds for about $600,000 worth of work, which would include moving the entire 65-foot-by-35-foot structure about 20 feet farther from the road. That would mean extending the cellar hole and likely filling in some of the horse stalls contained there.

The building now stands in the right of way for Route 17, and snow and salt splashed up against the building have rotted the bottom of the front door.

Relocating the building, which requires a permit from the town, also would allow room for a well to be drilled in front of the building. The building has running water, but it is not potable, so drinking water is carried in.

BaselineES LLC, an engineering firm owned by a Fayette resident, is paying for the engineering work required for the move.

“Sometimes it just takes one person like that to give you a jump-start,” Barrett said.

A membership campaign is underway as well.

In the meantime, the building continues to be used for such things as community suppers, a Fayette Historical Society museum and society meetings, the town’s polling site and summer selectmen meetings. About 100 people attended the last public supper held two weeks ago.

“It’s what this building is for, the community,” Barrett said. But it still retains the feel of yesteryear – a hole in the wall of one of the second floor anterooms allowed Grange members to give the password that allowed entrance.

“The secretaries’ records are here from the 1800s,” Chadwick said.

In 1987, the town of Fayette acquired the building; and in June 2014, townspeople voted at Town Meeting to keep it.

The Friends’ next fundraiser, a 7-9 p.m. “Meet the Authors” (John Ford Sr. and Mark Nickerson, on tour in support of “Blue Lights and Funny Cider”) event is part of a daylong Fayette Friends & Family & Neighbors Day scheduled for July 16, also including a “Fireman’s BBQ,” a bake sale, a silent auction and a yard sale.

According to a 2015 annual report, the Friends group noted it had raised $6,000, half of that from various community events, and also supported other community organizations.

“While we do not know how much funding will be needed to complete renovations to the Hall it could easily exceed $500,000,” the report says. “We are already over 1 percent of the way towards that goal.”


]]> 0, 23 Jun 2016 21:11:12 +0000
New exhibit highlights histories of downtown Brunswick and Topsham Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:02:47 +0000 The Brunswick-based Pejepscot Historical Society opens a new exhibit Friday about the history of downtown Brunswick and Topsham.

“Maine to Main: Downtown in Brunswick and Topsham” covers 150 years of history in the two communities, with photos, maps, documents and other objects. The exhibit follows the recent recognition of Brunswick’s commercial district by the National Register of Historic Places.

The exhibit is located at the historical society at 159 Park Row and runs through late December. It is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.

Walking tours will be offered through the summer in connection to the exhibit.

The Topsham Historical Society also has exhibits in the town office and public safety building lobbies.

More information can be found at

]]> 0, 23 Jun 2016 20:47:59 +0000
Two-vehicle crash slowed rush hour traffic on I-95 in Saco Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:18:00 +0000 A two-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 delayed traffic during rush hour Thursday afternoon.

The crash occurred in the northbound lanes between exits 36 in Saco and 42 in Scarborough at approximately 4:37 p.m., according to the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Emergency vehicles responded to the scene, but there were no reports of injuries.

The Maine Turnpike Authority tweeted at about 5:30 p.m. that the crash site had been cleared.

]]> 0 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:49:56 +0000
Police searching Hermon property in 1980 cold case Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:06:40 +0000 Officers from Bangor police and Maine State Police are looking for human remains related to a 1980 cold case, WCSH6 reported Thursday.

Police say Sharon Smith had been working at the Paramount Lounge in Bangor when she was reported missing on Sept. 4, 1980.

See the WCSH report here.

]]> 0, 23 Jun 2016 17:09:12 +0000
One of 3 men accused in Portland beating death pleads guilty to manslaughter Thu, 23 Jun 2016 20:32:25 +0000 One of three men accused of beating and kicking a Portland man to death in his Cumberland Avenue apartment pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter as part of a plea deal to have the more serious charge of murder dismissed.

Abil Teshome, 24, of Portland, accepted the plea deal which caps his maximum prison sentence at 20 years, just two weeks before he was scheduled to stand trial in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland for the death of 49-year-old Freddy Akoa on Aug. 9, 2015.

Teshome and one other defendant, Mohamud Mohamed, were to be tried together, with jury selection set for July 8 and the trial to follow on July 11.

With Teshome’s plea before Justice Thomas Warren on Thursday, it appears unlikely that Mohamed, 37, of Portland, will stand trial alone on those dates. Mohamed’s lead attorney, Peter Cyr, was not available for comment Thursday.

The third defendant, Osman Sheikh, 32, of Portland, who police say played a lesser role in Akoa’s death, will be tried separately, according to court records.

Teshome stood in court flanked by his attorneys, Alison Thompson and Jon Gale, during a brief hearing before the judge accepted his plea. Teshome, dressed in an orange jail uniform, mostly stared at the desk in front of him between the judge’s questions, but looked up each time as he answered Warren.

Teshome was born in Ethiopia and came to the U.S. as a teenager, but speaks fluent English. He is not a U.S. citizen.

“It is certainly possible that Mr. Teshome will face adverse immigration consequences as a result of this plea,” Gale explained to the judge. Consequences could range from deportation to being denied U.S. citizenship. Gale said the immigration consequences for a manslaughter conviction are typically less than for a murder conviction.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop outlined the case the state would have made against Teshome, including his confession to police days after Akoa’s death and the fact that Akoa’s blood was found on Teshome’s shirt.

Alsop said the plea deal sets Teshome’s base sentence at 30 years. The state will argue that Teshome should serve 20 years of that sentence in prison with the remaining 10 years suspended as leverage during a four-year probation term. Under terms of the plea deal, Teshome’s attorneys may argue that more than 10 years should be suspended.

The murder charge against Teshome will be dismissed when he is sentenced. Murder is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.

Warren did not immediately set a sentencing date, but said that it would likely be at the end of August or beginning of September.

Mohamed’s case was also on a court docket list Thursday for a settlement conference before a different judge, Justice Paul Fritzsche, behind closed doors. Alsop declined to comment on what happened at that hearing.

The three suspects are accused of beating, kicking and bashing Akoa in the head with furniture on the night of Aug. 9 in an assault that involved alcohol and lasted for hours in his apartment, according to an affidavit filed by Portland police Detective Christopher Giesecke.

Akoa had 39 rib fractures from the attack, cuts and bruises all over his head and torso, and a lacerated liver when his accused killers left him on his living room floor in Apartment 18 at 457 Cumberland Ave. the next morning.

The men were seen in surveillance footage entering the apartment building with Akoa and a woman at 4:40 p.m. on Aug. 9. Police learned of Akoa’s death two days later when his mother became concerned that she couldn’t reach her son and asked the building management to check on him, according to the affidavit.

Police found Teshome, Mohamed and Sheikh in Deering Oaks park on the morning of Aug. 13, 2015, and arrested Teshome on a charge of criminal trespassing.

“Teshome said he lost control of himself and started hitting Akoa several times in the head. Teshome admitted to punching and kicking Akoa multiple times and knocking him to the ground. Teshome also stated that he also struck Akoa with his hands and feet while Akoa was lying on the ground,” Giesecke wrote.

Teshome also allegedly confessed that he used a board from a makeshift coffee table to beat Akoa over the head and to strike his foot, the affidavit says.

“(Teshome) said that he and Sheikh left Akoa’s apartment around the same time and that he believed Akoa was alive when he left,” Giesecke wrote.

Video surveillance footage from the apartment building shows the woman and Mohamed leaving the building at 5:38 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2015, but Teshome and Sheikh cannot be seen in the footage, the affidavit says.


]]> 23, 23 Jun 2016 22:48:15 +0000
Judge confirms Verso’s bankruptcy reorganization plan Thu, 23 Jun 2016 19:45:56 +0000 A judge has confirmed Verso Corp.’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, clearing the way for the beleaguered papermaker to emerge from bankruptcy.

Judge Kevin Gross of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware signed the confirmation order Thursday, less than five months after Verso and its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection in late January under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. If Verso follows the reorganization plan as written, all of its pre-bankruptcy debts will be erased.

While complex, the plan’s centerpiece is to issue shares of stock to creditors in lieu of cash repayment. New common stock will be issued to creditors that were owed money by Verso and its NewPage subsidiary before the bankruptcy. When that happens, Verso also must take the necessary steps to have its shares once again listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Verso’s stock was delisted in September because its share price fell below the required $1 minimum.

The company said in a news release Thursday that it expects to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of July.

“Verso is extremely pleased with this speedy and successful outcome,” President and CEO David Paterson said in the release. “Our smooth path through this critical step in the restructuring process would not have been possible without the strong support of our funded debt holders and the Official Unsecured Creditors Committee and the affirmative vote on our plan of reorganization by our creditors.”

Verso, which employs roughly 500 people at its Androscoggin mill in Jay, filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on Jan. 26 to eliminate $2.4 billion of debt. Verso is headquartered in Tennessee but incorporated in Delaware.

In the bankruptcy filing, two Maine companies were listed among Verso’s 30 largest creditors. Catalyst Paper Operations Inc. of Rumford was owed $2.2 million and Hartt Transportation Systems Inc. of Bangor was owed $1.2 million. The master list of creditors filed by Verso included the names of 30,785 businesses and individuals to whom the company owed money.

Verso had struggled financially in the years leading up to the bankruptcy. It sold off its unprofitable Bucksport mill in 2014, eliminating 500 jobs. The move was part of a complicated $1.4 billion deal that involved the acquisition and then sale of the former NewPage mill in Rumford in January of last year. That mill is now owned by Canada-based Catalyst Paper.

At the conclusion of the NewPage deal, Verso had about $3.5 billion in annual sales and about 5,800 employees in eight mills across six states. In its bankruptcy filing, the company reported gross revenues of about $2.4 billion for the first three quarters of 2015.

On June 6, Verso announced that Paterson would be stepping down after the conclusion of the bankruptcy. That same day the company said it was raising another $575 million to help it pay transaction costs associated with the bankruptcy. As a result of the reorganization, the company said it expects to have a stronger credit profile and increased financial flexibility.

The company also said in its SEC filing that it will seek a product mix of more profitable grades of paper, such as specialty grades, post-bankruptcy. Verso, the largest North American coated paper producer, did not specify in the filing which mills would be reconfigured, if any, to boost capacity of specialty paper.

The Androscoggin mill in Jay produced about 71,800 tons of specialty paper in 2015, roughly 12 percent of the mill’s total production volume of 598,000 tons, according to the filing. By comparison, the mill produced about 293,000 tons of coated groundwood paper, or 49 percent of total production volume. Coated paper is the glossy paper used in catalogs and magazines.

One of the Androscoggin mill’s three coated paper machines and a pulp dryer were taken offline in late 2015, resulting in the loss of about 300 jobs, or roughly one-third of its workforce at the time.


]]> 1, 23 Jun 2016 20:05:52 +0000
Ex-Belgrade volunteer firefighter sentenced for high-speed chase Thu, 23 Jun 2016 19:40:45 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — A former volunteer Belgrade firefighter began serving a four-month jail sentence Wednesday on eight criminal charges in connection with to a high-speed chase in February with police in Somerset County.

Ryan Bruce Galouch, 20, pleaded guilty to the charges Wednesday in a Somerset County courtroom and was sentenced to three years in prison, with all but 120 days suspended, and two years of probation once he gets out, according to court records.

He entered guilty pleas to eluding an officer, passing a police roadblock, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, refusing to submit in a situation that created a substantial risk of bodily injury to the law enforcement officer, failure to stop for an officer, motor vehicle speeding 30-plus mph over the speed limit, and driving to endanger.

Contacted Thursday afternoon by phone at the fire station, Scott Damren, assistant fire chief for the North Belgrade station, said he was not authorized to discuss personnel matters or town issues. Belgrade Fire Chief Daniel MacKenzie could not be reached for comment and Belgrade Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said she was unfamiliar with the Galouch case.

Multiple law enforcement agencies were taken on a high-speed chase through several Somerset County towns Feb. 28 after Galouch’s Nissan Sentra nearly collided with a Skowhegan police cruiser.

The chase reportedly started on Route 201 in Skowhegan when Skowhegan police Officer Katelyn Treylino, now a detective, attempted to stop Galouch for speeding more than 30 mph over the speed limit. According to a news release in February from the Skowhegan Police Department, Galouch almost crashed into Treylino’s cruiser before speeding away.

Galouch then reached speeds of 100-110 mph during the chase through Skowhegan, Canaan and Pittsfield before being stopped at a roadblock on Interstate 95 in Newport. The chase involved Somerset County Sheriff’s deputies and Maine State Police. According to police, Galouch evaded spike mats set up to puncture his tires at two roadblocks during the chase.

When he was stopped, Galouch identified himself as a Belgrade firefighter and told Treylino he sped off because he had marijuana in the car, according to the news release. Galouch was a firefighter in Belgrade at the time but is no longer is a member of the department.

Galouch will serve his jail time at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.


]]> 2, 23 Jun 2016 21:15:13 +0000
City councilor doesn’t want Gardiner to profit from seized guns Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:50:19 +0000 GARDINER — A Gardiner city councilor said Wednesday that given recent violent incidents around the nation, the city should not profit from guns and other assets forfeited by criminals following their arrests on drug or other charges.

District 1 City Councilor Terry Berry stated his position as the council considered whether to accept nearly $13,000 in drug proceeds and three guns taken into evidence when two men were arrested in Gardiner in 2015 on drug offenses including heroin trafficking charges.

Because of the Gardiner Police Department’s role in the investigation, the city is eligible to receive forfeited assets. Under the state’s asset forfeiture law, municipalities must publicly vote to accept forfeited items if the court orders the forfeiture.

Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said at Wednesday’s meeting that the firearms could be used for training purposes, could be sold or could be used as a trade-in when the department replaces weapons for its officers.

“Given recent events, I don’t think I could live with us receiving these firearms that we could sell or give as a trade-in,” Berry said. “I can see them being used for training. But I would let the Attorney General’s Office keep the ($13,000), that’s how strongly I feel about this.”

Berry asked that the guns be used only for training or to be destroyed, and the council agreed. The council also voted to accept the forfeited cash.

On Thursday, Berry said his position was not entirely based on the mass shooting this month at an Orlando nightclub. Last month, a gun broker had auctioned the gun used by George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

“Orlando made another layer in the process,” he said. “I would have asked for this if Orlando had not happened.”

If the council is asked to vote on accepting any other forfeited guns, Berry said, he will make the same request.

Following the vote Wednesday, Toman said that if the city receives the firearms, they would be disabled and used in department training scenarios.

]]> 2, 23 Jun 2016 20:03:18 +0000
Cod fishermen may be reimbursed for cost of at-sea monitors Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:42:43 +0000 Federal fishery regulators say they are working on a program that will help pay for the cost of at-sea fishing monitors for New England cod fishermen.

At-sea monitors are workers who collect data that help inform fishing regulations. The government shifted the cost of paying for monitors from itself to fishermen this year in a decision that was very unpopular with industry.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that fishing trips on or after July 1 may be eligible for reimbursement of monitoring costs. The reimbursement will be available to fishermen who seek groundfish such as cod, haddock and flounder.

The government in April said it is scaling back monitor coverage from 24 percent of trips to 14 percent this year. Monitors can cost $700 per day.

]]> 0 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:00:31 +0000
Sea kayaking guide and one of his clients die during Down East excursion Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:58:36 +0000 A licensed Maine kayaking guide and one of his two clients died Wednesday during an ocean excursion off the coast of a Down East fishing village that turned deadly when the paddlers were caught in a squall.

The kayaking guide had been leading tours for 14 years, and had a waterproof marine radio with him when he capsized, but apparently wasn’t able to use it, his wife said. Cheryl Brackett said her husband, Ed Brackett, 63, was an experienced guide and had rescued several people from the water before.

But the tour he was leading off Corea Harbor was hit by a powerful squall that spawned 5-foot waves Wednesday afternoon, sending him and his two clients into the 52 degree water, she said. Corea Harbor is located south of Gouldsboro near the mouth of Gouldsboro Bay, and is about 10 miles east of Mount Desert Island.

Each kayaker was paddling a single-seat kayak with a rudder and spray skirt that seals around the paddler and the boat’s cockpit. They were wearing life jackets and dressed in shorts and T-shirts, the Coast Guard said.

“It was just a beautiful day, and then the squall hit, and then it was a beautiful day again,” said Cheryl Brackett, also 63. “I figured they holed up somewhere and were going to paddle back.”

Also killed in the incident was Michael Popper, 54, of Plainfield, New Jersey. His wife, Jennifer Popper, 48, was rescued by a local lobsterman, Bruce Crawley, according to Michael Hunt, a lobsterman and the assistant harbor master in Gouldsboro.

Hunt, who also helped with the search effort, said Popper had a core body temperature of 82 degrees.

“She didn’t have many minutes left,” Hunt, 41, said by phone Thursday night. “Bruce definitely saved her life.”

As of 9 p.m. Thursday, Popper’s condition had been upgraded from critical to good, according to Donna Stanely-Kelley, a nursing supervisor at Eastern Maine Medical Center. Stanley-Kelley then read a written statement on Popper’s behalf.

“I appreciate the good wishes, prayers and thoughts of the community and feel I am in good hands with my team of caregivers. While I have no other information to share at this time, I may have more to share when I am feeling better.”

Ed Brackett held a current guide license and has been registered since 2002, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Cheryl Brackett did not know whether her husband had access to his waterproof radio, which was protected in a dry bag, she said.

The Bracketts, who live in Birch Harbor, have run SeaScape Kayak and Bike out of Winter Harbor for 14 years.

The float plan was to tour the leeward side of the Sally Islands, where the seas are typically calmer, but when the group of three did not return to Corea Harbor by 4:30 p.m. as expected, Cheryl Brackett said she contacted authorities.

The water was roughly 52 degrees when the trio capsized, the Coast Guard and the Maine Marine Patrol said. There is no standard to how long someone can survive in cold water, said Lt. Dave Bourbeau, a Coast Guard spokesman. Everyone reacts differently depending on their body composition and how they’re dressed, he said.

“There is no indication of any wrongdoing on part of the kayak business,” Bourbeau said, adding that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

The rare death of a Maine guide and a client in his care highlights the precautions that paddlers need to take when heading into the open waters off Maine’s coast.

Common safety themes emerged in interviews with three registered kayaking guides, including two master guides with more than a decade experience each. They include wearing life jackets and appropriate attire (including a wet or dry suit especially in open ocean, or when the water is below 60 degrees), knowing the latest weather forecast and having a VHF radio easily accessible. The guides also emphasized the importance of leaving a float plan with the planned route and an estimated return time.

“I always stress: dress for the water not the air,” said Mary McCauley, a registered guide since 2007 who owns Cross Current Maine Guided Adventures in Bath. “I wear dry suits right now because the water is so cold. If something happens, I want to be able to get back into my boat quickly and help my clients.”

McCauley, 57, said she postponed a tour Wednesday afternoon because the weather forecast called for high winds and a storm.

Zach Anchors, owner and co-founder of Portland Paddle, said kayakers need to be prepared for all kinds of weather, especially in Maine. Inexperienced kayakers, who cannot re-enter their boats after rolling over, should stay close to the shoreline, while experienced kayakers heading into the open ocean should wear a wet or dry suit in addition to a life jacket. At a minimum, paddlers should wear non-cotton clothing, such as polypropylene or wool, and carry a change of clothes in a dry bag.

“On the Maine coast, the conditions are so dynamic,” said Anchors, a 36-year-old master guide with 16 years experience. “The currents and the wind and fog and other factors can change quickly and create conditions that aren’t expected.”

A person must have a license to accept payment for guided sea kayaking tours and Maine has one of the most rigorous testing process to earn that license, according to Travis Journagan, a 39-year-old master guide with 15 years experience. That process includes both a written and oral exam, with an additional requirement to be CPR and First Aid certified, he said.

The state requires different tests and licenses for guides working in tidal waters, rivers/lakes and whitewater, said Journagan, who owns Tidal Transit in Boothbay and offers three-day classes for people preparing for the exam.

Journagan said paddlers should always have their VHF radio within reach and preprogrammed to the emergency channel so the U.S. Coast Guard can be notified of an emergency and easily locate those in distress.

“It’s basically a personal location beacon,” he said. “All you have to say is ‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday’ and the Coast Guard is coming right at you.”

Journagan said the Corea Harbor incident is the only one that he can recall where a licensed guide had died as a result of an accident during a tour, and possibly the first time someone had died because of an accident while under a guide’s care. That information could not be verified Thursday night.

The bodies of those who died in Corea Harbor have been transported to the state Medical Examiner’s office, which will examine them to determine the cause and manner of death.

Jennifer Popper was pulled from the water about 8 p.m. Wednesday by a local lobsterman, more than three hours after she was scheduled to return to the mainland, the Coast Guard’s Bourbeau said.

The bodies of the two men were found about 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., authorities said.

Hunt, the assistant harbor master, said he was about a mile away when Crawley discovered Jennifer Popper. Soon after, Crawley found Popper’s husband, said Hunt, who was called over to pull Michael Popper aboard his boat.

The three were pulled from the water about halfway between Cranberry Point and Petit Manan Island, about 2.25 miles from the islands the group was touring, and about 3 miles from Corea Harbor.

In 2015, 71 people across the United States died in kayak-related boating incidents, with 80 percent from drowning, according to Coast Guard statistics released in May.


]]> 26, 23 Jun 2016 22:29:02 +0000
Eight teachers named semifinalists for Maine Teacher of the Year Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:08:42 +0000 A Yarmouth middle school teacher is one of eight semifinalists for the Maine 2017 Teacher of the Year, state education officials announced Thursday.

The eight were selected from among the 2016 County Teachers of the Year.

They will now go through a portfolio review and oral presentation before three finalists are selected. The winner will be announced at a surprise assembly at their school in October.

The semifinalists are:

Morgan Cuthbert, a seventh-grade math and science teacher at Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth.

Michael McCartney, Maine School of Science and Mathematics, Limestone. He teaches English, fitness, history and first-year seminar.

Selina Warren, a second-grade teacher at Kingfield Elementary School, Kingfield.

Rebecca Tapley, who teaches all subjects for grades four through eight at Brooklin Elementary School, Brooklin.

Andrew Forster, Messalonskee High School, Oakland. He teaches band, music production, independent study and jazz band.

Beth Heidemann, a kindergarten teacher at Cushing Community School, Cushing.

Cherrie MacInnes, a third-grade teacher at Brewer Community School, Brewer.

Tamara Ranger, who teaches English in grades seven and eight at Skowhegan Area Middle School, Skowhegan.

The 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year was Talya Edlund, a third-grade teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth.

]]> 10 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 22:22:32 +0000
Norway home destroyed in fire Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:35:24 +0000 A home in Norway was destroyed by fire, authorities there have said.

The home on Frost Hill Road was leveled by a blaze reported about 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

No one was hurt, a dispatcher for Norway’s department said about 10:30 a.m.


]]> 0 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:01:52 +0000
Two kayakers dead, 1 hospitalized after capsizing off Mount Desert Island Thu, 23 Jun 2016 09:42:56 +0000 MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — The Coast Guard says two kayakers are dead and a third is being treated for hypothermia after a capsize incident in waters west of Mount Desert Island.

The Coast Guard received a report from a woman at around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday saying her husband and two others went kayaking and did not return at their planned time of 4:30 p.m.

At about 8 p.m., one of the searchers found a kayaker clinging to an overturned kayak around 8 p.m. Authorities say she was hypothermic and unable to speak. She was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center. Her condition wasn’t immediately known.

A second kayaker was found unresponsive about 30 minutes later. He was taken to Prospect Harbor and pronounced dead. The third was later found unresponsive and declared dead.

The Coast Guard, Maine Marine Patrol, and several volunteers took part in the search.

The Coast Guard is investigating.

This story will be updated.

]]> 29, 23 Jun 2016 12:10:33 +0000
Couple’s 7-year voyage around the world comes to an end in Portland Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In their dinghy, Jack and Zdenka Griswold pull up to the dock at Portland Yacht Services on Wednesday morning, coming to the end of a seven-year adventure sailing around the world.

In their dinghy, Jack and Zdenka Griswold pull up to the dock at Portland Yacht Services on Wednesday morning, coming to the end of a seven-year adventure sailing around the world.

Jack and Zdenka Griswold had a bit of a conundrum on their hands Wednesday morning as they tied their dinghy to a dock at Portland Yacht Services. What’s next?

“We’ll spend the summer and enjoy Portland, I guess,” Zdenka, 59, said.

In 2009, the husband-and-wife team left Portland in search of “blue-sea voyages.” What followed was a lengthy journey around much of the globe. “Once we were through the Panama Canal there was no looking back,” said 63-year old Jack.

Following an urge to have an adventure before life wouldn’t allow them to, the Griswolds quit their comfy jobs – Jack as a nonprofit worker for refugees and Zdenka as a lawyer on Wall Street – and set off on the adventure of their lives. With a few exceptions for flights home to see family around the holidays, the couple lived on their 42-foot Valiant sailboat, “Kite.” Some of the highlights included visits to Indonesia, French Polynesia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“It was a very old-fashioned way to travel,” Zdenka said. “Four months here, three months there. It was wonderful.”

In 2009, Jack and Zdenka Griswold of Portland quit their jobs to see the world aboard their 42-foot sailboat "Kite," motoring here toward its mooring in Portland Harbor. "It was a very old-fashioned way to travel," Zdenka Griswold said. "It was wonderful."

In 2009, Jack and Zdenka Griswold of Portland quit their jobs to see the world aboard their 42-foot sailboat “Kite,” motoring here toward its mooring in Portland Harbor. “It was a very old-fashioned way to travel,” Zdenka Griswold said. “It was wonderful.”


]]> 0, 23 Jun 2016 07:46:59 +0000
As sundial enthusiasts convene in Portland, hunt is on for a notable specimen Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Librarians, historians, gardeners, the city arborist and a host of others around Portland have been involved in a nearly year-long search for a sundial, that ancient timepiece supplanted by the clock several hundred years ago.

They were not looking for just any sundial, but a new and improved version patented by scientist and inventor Albert Cushing Crehore in 1905. Unlike a traditional sundial, with a flat dial and an upright triangular blade to cast shadows, Crehore’s featured a partial cylinder supported by four pillars. The design would make it “an accurate timepiece at all times when the sun is shining,” the patent application said.

In his 1944 autobiography, Crehore listed only a few of his sundials that were built, but said one was installed somewhere in Portland. He didn’t say where.

The search for the sundial’s possible Portland location is time-sensitive, since the people who care most deeply about gnomonics (the science of sundials) will arrive here Thursday for the annual conference of the North American Sundial Society. The conference runs through Sunday.

Society members reached out to Portlanders last August, hoping that if they put the word out early, the vaunted Crehore sundial might be found before the clock metaphorically struck midnight. So far, emails, record searches and phone calls have not cast any light on the sundial mystery. No one seems to know where it was, or is, in Portland.

The Crehore sundial may yet turn up. The presence of 40 or so sundial enthusiasts may jog someone’s memory, or a picture of one of Crehore’s sundials in other locations may prompt someone to say, “Oh, that sundial.” But either way, the convention attendees plan to have a good time talking about timekeeping in Portland and touring some of the city’s easier-to-find sundials, including ones on Baxter Boulevard and in Evergreen Cemetery.

“It would have been nice if somebody found it, but we didn’t really think it would turn up,” said Jack Aubert, 73, of Falls Church, Virginia, one of the conference organizers. “I suggested Portland as (the conference location) because I’ve been there and thought it was a great city. And we’ve already been to Portland, Oregon. We found out from one of our members that one of Crehore’s sundials might be there, by coincidence, and we thought it would be great to find it.”


When Aubert wanted to get people in Portland looking for the Crehore sundial, he began last August by reaching out to the Portland Public Library. He was connected with Samantha Duckworth, a reference librarian who specializes in science and technology questions.

She researched the library’s collection and books on sundials and found nothing on Crehore. She read his autobiography online, where he named the locations of his sundials, including Yonkers, New York, Ohio State University in Columbus, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Portland, Maine.

Since no location in Portland was specified, some in the society felt that meant it was made for a private residence. So Duckworth put out an email, through the state’s Cooperative Extension, to dozens of gardeners and people interested in gardens. She also contacted local historical societies, antiques dealers and local media.

She also talked to Portland’s city arborist, Jeff Tarling. In America, sundials weren’t used for telling time that much, since clocks were already invented when the nation was formed.

A sundial occupies a small park on the corner of Baxter Boulevard and Vannah Avenue in Portland.

A sundial occupies a small park on the corner of Baxter Boulevard and Vannah Avenue in Portland. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

American sundials are often memorials in public spaces. The one on Baxter Boulevard was placed there in 1925 in honor of the late Mayor James Phinney Baxter, who promoted creating the pleasant boulevard along Back Cove that is named for him. A sundial was placed in Portland’s evergreen cemetery around 1970 to “mark the transience of the world,” according to the Friends of Evergreen website.

On Friday, society members will visit those two sundials and several others in the area, including vertical sundials on Hubbard Hall’s tower at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

Tarling sent pictures of known Crehore sundials to city employees, including people who work in the parks or on public art projects. But the photos did not jog anyone’s memory.

“It’s a pretty intricate-looking structure,” Tarling said. “I think someone would remember if they saw it.”


Records indicate Crehore sundials were designed to be only about a foot-and-a-half in height, width and depth. So it could be hidden by a fence or a bush.

Crehore’s autobiography offered few clues. He was born in 1868 in Cleveland, Ohio, the home of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil, which was just beginning to become a center of industry. As a boy he dabbled in sundials, then went to Yale University and spent time teaching science at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He published several books and papers on various scientific theories, including one on determining the speed of projectiles (before radar guns) and one on a better method of sending telegrams.

He briefly mentions spending time one summer on Pine Point Beach, near Old Orchard Beach, but Maine makes no other appearances in his book.

“A lot of people asked their grandparents about it, but we’ve hit a lot of dead ends,” said Duckworth. “It’s a little disappointing, but not surprising.”

The conference will include two days of presentations by members from around the country. They mostly involve topics that only someone with a deep appreciation for sundials could find riveting. There’ll be a talk about sundials in Catalonia, Spain, and one on how the “detection of gravity waves improves sundial accuracy.” There will be a demonstration of how to build a wooden sundial and an exploration of a pinhole sundial.

This distinctive sundial is on Commercial Street near the entrance to the Maine State Pier in Portland.

This distinctive sundial is on Commercial Street near the entrance to the Maine State Pier in Portland. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


Though most us think of sundials as garden decorations, society members see them as a fascinating way to tell time using the most basic materials, along with a strong understanding and appreciation of how the solar system works.

Before there were digital clocks on a computer screen, or iPhones or even wind-up clocks, people could look at the sun and the shadows and figure out when to eat lunch.

“It’s always fascinated me to think, here’s a device that lets us mark our existence, hour by hour, with no moving parts,” said Frederick Sawyer, 66, of Manchester, Connecticut, president of the 300-member sundial society. “It uses the relationship between the sun and the Earth, yet it can be something so small you can hold in your hand.”

Yes, there were pocket sundials at some point. In fact, Sawyer said, The Marquis de Lafayette, famous French friend to the American Revolution, presented one to George Washington.

Sundials date to ancient Egypt, and were a primary way for people to tell seasons and time of day until around the 17th century. The concept is simple: As the sun appears to move across the sky, the gnomon (or pointer) casts a shadow across hour lines on the dial. But the gnomon and dial can take many forms. Sometimes rods are used instead of the traditional fin-shaped gnomons, and sometimes the dials are vertical instead of horizontal.

In Europe, you can still find public sundials set up to tell time, not as memorials to a civic hero, Aubert said. Even when clocks became common, lots of people felt the only way to accurately set their clock was to check it against a sundial. That practice continued into the 1800s, he said.

Today the world runs on clock time, with exactly 24 hours in each day. But solar time is based on an average of 24 hours in each day, said Sawyer. Clocks were “too dumb” to keep up with the sun’s time-keeping skill, Sawyer said.

You might say sundials were the original smart devices.

]]> 1, 23 Jun 2016 07:50:59 +0000
In adopting a dog, it’s choosing and being chosen Thu, 23 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WESTBROOK — Jon Lawpaugh and Jen King knew they wanted an adult dog, one that was medium-sized and good with kids, happy to go camping but calm on a car ride.

They didn’t care what breed or color, just that it fit in with their family.

“It’s the personality,” King said.

The couple had wanted a dog ever since they got together but also wanted to wait until they had their own house and enough land. That happened last year, when they bought a place in Limerick on more than 3 acres, but their son, Emrys, wasn’t quite 2 at the time and they thought he should be potty-trained before taking on more bathroom duties.


Around the same time, Lawpaugh, a multimedia specialist at Idexx Laboratories, had to take photos for an event held by the veterinary products and services company, which invited animal rescue organizations to come to its Westbrook offices and offered to cover the fee of around $300 for any employee who found a pet to adopt.

When the time came for the annual event this year, their family was ready to take on a new member.

Lawpaugh and King didn’t tell his three older kids beforehand, because there was always the chance it wouldn’t work out. They sat through their second-to-last day in Waterboro schools, not knowing their household was about to grow.

With Emrys in tow, King and Lawpaugh showed up early to Idexx’s Experience Center on Thomas Drive, where tents were set up outside in anticipation of the furry guests.

The first to arrive were smaller and younger than what Lawpaugh and King had wanted to bring home.

There was a 16-week-old black lab-shepherd mix named Sampson, and Hazel Grace, a year-old miniature pinscher that wouldn’t get much bigger. Both were rescued from kill shelters in the South.

While Hazel Grace yipped and bounced beside them, pulling her pink leash taut, Sampson plodded in circles, letting himself be pet. From behind his father’s leg, Emrys peered at the puppy, whose eyes were on the same level as the squatting boy.

As other dogs arrived, Emrys’ attention turned toward them. He knelt in front of a female pitbull who nudged his face, knocking him to the ground. She had too much energy for their family, King concluded.

“Do you want to look at the black dog again?” she asked her son.

He ran back to Sampson and sat down in the grass beside him. The puppy nuzzled the boy’s face, then licked his ear, prompting Emrys to pop up and run away, squealing.

Two more puppies had showed up in a pen, the brown and black versions of the same scrunched face. Emrys stuck his nose up to the holes in the plastic fencing to get a better look.

Sampson, too, hopped up to the pen, sniffing his competition. He was social but not aggressive, Lawpaugh and King observed, as they passed his leash between them. They never even heard him bark.

Meanwhile, more employees had arrived, and they took their turns reaching down to stroke Sampson’s back.

King and Lawpaugh hadn’t wanted a puppy because they thought it would be too hyper, but Sampson’s demeanor was naturally calm. They looked at his paws and could tell he’d grow to be just the size they wanted.

When Sampson wasn’t getting attention from other prospective owners, King squatted down beside him and smiled into his eyes as she rubbed his face between her hands. She would spend the most time with the dog, so it was up to her, Lawpaugh said.

But when Sampson rested his muzzle on King’s knee, he made the decision for her.

]]> 5, 23 Jun 2016 07:49:41 +0000
LePage: Action on shootings should take mental illness into consideration Thu, 23 Jun 2016 01:13:22 +0000 RICHMOND — Gov. Paul LePage touched on the June 12 Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting that left 50 people dead, including the shooter, as he spoke Wednesday evening at a town hall -style meeting.

LePage’s meeting attracted more than 150 people to Richmond High School.

“Terrorism isn’t going to change,” he said. “You’re not going to change someone’s heart from hatred.”

LePage was responding to a question from Howard Solomon, of Bowdoinham, about what governors can do to stop such mass shootings that Solomon called “an insult to our country” and “an insult to our way of life.”

LePage said he favors comprehensive action that looks at links between guns and mental illness.

“I don’t believe that it’s the guns that do the harm; it’s the people that have the guns in their hands,” LePage said. “If you go after guns without going after mental illness, you cannot accomplish anything.”

He said he bought a home in Waterville where a woman had been killed, shot by a robber who used a gun he had stolen in the town of China. “He was a bad guy; 95 percent of Americans who own guns are not bad people,” LePage said, sparking a round of applause.

He said he owned a gun and kept it in a bedside table in his Florida home and told his wife how to protect herself and her mother, who also was living there at the time.

“I said, ‘Honey, there’s two things you do. Take it, cock it and shoot. You don’t give them a warning; if they’re not supposed to be there, they’re not supposed to be there.'”

He said he was not in favor of “everyone running around with a gun” but added, “I will protect my family with a gun if I have to.”

LePage said the Orlando killings were heart-wrenching. Then he referred the 2-year-old killed last week by an alligator at a Disney World resort.

“Do we eradicate all alligators?” he asked.

The governor covered a wide range of subjects at his meeting, saying he’s working to reduce taxes, energy costs and an anti-business culture, all themes he regularly addresses at the town halls he holds on an almost weekly basis at various municipalities in Maine, including the one he had two weeks ago in Augusta.

However, in addition to the gun control response, LePage also talked about his effort to limit the kinds of food people can purchase with the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as SNAP.

“I’m not against the program,” he said, adding that he wants the money going to nutritional food, “not to drugs, not to cigarettes, not to alcohol.”.

He said a focus on nutrition will combat Maine’s problems with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and hunger.

LePage also gave a primer on five referendum questions the voters will see on the November ballot and providing reasons for his opposition to all, and calling a proposal to move to “ranked choice” voting as “simply bad.”

He took a dig at the news media as well, paraphrasing one of President Lyndon Johnson’s famous remarks:

“I could walk across the Kennebec River tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., and the headlines on Friday would say, ‘Governor can’t swim,” LePage said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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Numerous bear sightings reported in Scarborough, South Portland Thu, 23 Jun 2016 01:12:16 +0000 Scarborough and South Portland police departments said they received numerous reports of bear sightings on Wednesday.

In Scarborough, bear sightings were reported near Maple Avenue, Route 1 and Pleasant Hill Road on Wednesday, and Broadturn Road on Tuesday. In South Portland, bears were seen in the Thornton Heights neighborhood on Wednesday, including Sunset Avenue by the railroad tracks, police reported.

Angela Fauth of South Portland told the Press Herald that a bear got into her bird feeder and had ventured into their yard at least twice in one day.

The Scarborough Police Department posted on its Facebook page Wednesday this photo and video of the bear raiding a bird feeder.

The Scarborough Police Department posted on its Facebook page Wednesday this photo and video of the bear raiding a bird feeder.

The Scarborough Police Department posted a video on its Facebook page of a bear getting into a bird feeder. The Facebook page said that “dry weather and lack of vegetation in bear habitats” was leading to bears venturing into yards. Tips to keep safe from bears include:

• securing trash;

• bringing bird feeders indoors;

• cleaning grills;

• making loud noises when leaving the house at night;

• keeping pets indoors or on leashes.

The South Portland police website said that bear sightings “happen from time to time, and with just a bit of awareness, it’s most likely our visitor will move on from the city shortly.”

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Federal official says LePage’s threat puts food stamps at risk Wed, 22 Jun 2016 23:58:43 +0000 A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned Wednesday that if Maine Gov. Paul LePage follows through with his threat to halt the state’s administration of the food stamp program, nearly 200,000 Mainers could go without benefits.

Matt Herrick said in an interview Wednesday that LePage’s recent suggestion that he could either ban food stamp recipients from purchasing sugary drinks and candy without federal approval or end the state’s oversight of the program could be catastrophic.

“If the state goes through with this, more than 190,000 individuals in Maine who need assistance are at risk of losing access to what is a life-saving benefit,” Herrick said.

LePage has been frustrated over the government’s unwillingness to allow Maine to institute a ban on purchasing certain so-called junk food with food stamps. In a letter sent June 17 in response to USDA’s request for more information about how the state might carry out such a ban, the governor lashed out and suggested he may move forward without permission or stop administering the program. Although the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, is funded with federal dollars, each state is tasked with handling applications and disbursing benefits.

“It’s time for the federal government to wake up and smell the energy drinks,” LePage wrote. “Doubtful that it will, I will be pursuing options to implement reform unilaterally, or cease Maine’s administration of the food stamp program altogether. You maintain such a broken program that I do not want my name attached to it.”

Herrick said no state has ever refused to administer the federal assistance program known as food stamps and said the government has neither infrastructure nor the resources to take over that responsibility. He said the USDA has tried to work with the state to make changes but has not been convinced that a ban on sugary drinks and candy would be practical. The USDA also has said in response to various calls for restrictions that “no clear standards exist for defining foods as good or bad, or healthy or not healthy.”

“We didn’t reject the state’s proposal. We just asked for more information,” Herrick said. “In this particular case, it seems that the state is moving away from a partnership. And the governor essentially threatening to withhold benefits from people is troubling.”

Other states have sought similar bans but the USDA has yet to grant any request.

Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland said LePage is wrong to put needy Mainers in the middle of an idealogical fight he’s having with the federal government.

“Food is a basic necessity of life, and Gov. LePage is threatening to take it away from more than 195,000 food-insecure Mainers because of yet another fight he’s picked with the federal government,” Alfond said in a statement Wednesday. “This latest temper tantrum threatens to punish the very people it purports to help. I’d ask the governor this: How does taking food off the tables of hungry Maine families support healthy eating habits?”

LePage and his Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew have been at odds for years with the USDA over the state’s handling of the program. The LePage administration has accused the USDA of trying to thwart reform while the federal government has criticized the state for, among other things, implementing a voluntary photo ID system without making it clear to food stamp recipients that it was voluntary, and for not responded to applications in a timely fashion.

Herrick said the state still has not addressed a backlog of about 2,000 cases. The state had been paying employees overtime to address the backlog but stopped doing so in February, Herrick said.

The USDA has tried to encourage states to improve their programs by offering incentives to recipients who use benefits to buy healthful foods. Over the last five years, purchases at Maine farmers markets using food stamps increased by 860 percent, according to new data provided by the USDA.

Additionally, Herrick said, the USDA has a program to allow food stamp recipients to double their buying power on fresh fruits and vegetables. If a recipient buys $8 worth of broccoli, for instance, it would cost them only $4 in food stamps.

Maine has not applied for that program, Herrick said.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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Cutback mulled for herring catch Wed, 22 Jun 2016 23:37:32 +0000 PORTLAND — Federal regulators are considering a slight cut to commercial fishermen’s catch limit for Atlantic herring, a fish that is important both to the industry and the ocean’s food web.

The small fish gather in schools that can number in the millions, and are a critical food source for bigger fish, seals and whales. They also are important to humans as food and bait.

The National Marine Fisheries Service might reduce the herring catch limit by about 3 percent to slightly less than 105,000 metric tons. The limit was a little less than 108,000 metric tons for the 2013 to 2015 period; any new limit would apply to the years 2016 to 2018.

The proposal is up for public comment until July 21.

The herring fishery takes place off of New England and the mid-Atlantic, but is principally based in Maine and Massachusetts, with a substantial amount of herring also coming ashore in Rhode Island and New Jersey. It was worth a little less than $30 million in 2014, when fishermen caught about 92,000 metric tons.

Herring is especially important to the fishing industry as lobster bait, and it is sometimes sold as canned fish for human consumption. Fishermen of other species, such as cod and tuna, have said in recent years that the large trawlers that fish for herring have the ability to adversely affect other species.

Herring fishermen are allowed a certain amount of accidental catch of haddock every year, another important commercial species. The New England Fishery Management Council agreed Wednesday to consider reviewing the bycatch cap. Much of the discussion centered on raising the cap, but some members of the cod fishing industry said that would be unwise.

“The groundfishery relies on haddock for a big chunk of our revenue,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

The council is also working on an amendment to better address the role Atlantic herring plays in the ecosystem. It discussed the amendment Wednesday and staff said it is likely to be implemented in 2018.

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Cascades to close Auburn pulp mill, laying off 45 Wed, 22 Jun 2016 22:39:34 +0000 Cascades Inc. is closing its Auburn mill that produces de-inked pulp from recycled paper, laying off 45 employees, according to a release the company posted on its website Wednesday.

The plant will end production July 8 and close its doors on July 15.

“The rapid erosion of the printing and writing paper market, the overall deterioration of market conditions for de-inked pulp and the low potential for integration with other Cascades activities are all factors that have had significant negative consequences for our Auburn plant,” said Luc Langevin, president and chief operating officer of Cascades Specialty Products Group. “Despite major efforts to optimize in the past year, the situation at the plant remained extremely difficult. Therefore, we are unfortunately forced to cease operations.”

De-inking is the process of removing ink from paper fibers and recycled paper.

Madison Paper Industries in Madison closed in May, becoming the fifth Maine mill to shut down in slightly more than two years in the wake of declining demand and changing consumer habits in global markets.

The state’s paper industry has lost roughly 2,300 jobs since 2011. There now are about 6,000 paper workers in Maine, roughly one-third of the workforce during the industry’s peak in the 1960s.

Cascades, a Canadian manufacturer of recycled packaging and tissue paper products, will look into relocating staff to other plants and will help workers find new employment, the release said.

Cascades produces packaging and tissue products made from recycled fibers. The company employs 11,000, who work at nearly 90 plants in North America and Europe, according to the news release.

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Public-records panel will take up Maine Warden Service’s handling of requests Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:48:57 +0000 AUGUSTA — A public records advisory panel plans to discuss the Maine Warden Service’s handling of requests for public documents by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram at its next meeting July 20.

The newspaper has requested copies of the warden service’s communications with the producers of the television show “North Woods Law,” which filmed a warden service raid in the northern Maine town of Allagash, among other documents.

The Right to Know Advisory Committee met Wednesday for its regular meeting and was not scheduled to address the issue. But board member A.J. Higgins, a Maine Public Broadcasting radio reporter, made a motion to take it up when the committee next meets. The motion passed unanimously.

The two legislative leaders of the committee – Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, and Rep. Kimberly Monaghan, D-Cape Elizabeth – told its members that they would meet later Wednesday with leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate regarding the warden service issue and would report back. Burns said afterward that he and Monaghan would be sending a letter to the newspaper, but he declined to specify what it would say.

The Press Herald submitted Freedom of Access Act requests with the warden service in November 2015 for public records related to a game warden’s two-year undercover operation in Allagash. The investigation culminated in a major raid that was captured on film for “North Woods Law.”

During its six-month investigation of the undercover operation, the newspaper repeatedly sought copies of warden service records, including communications between the agency and television producers. But when the results of the newspaper investigation were published in the Maine Sunday Telegram last month, the warden service still had not released many of the requested public records.

Some additional records were released after publication of the story, but the newspaper continues to negotiate with the warden service for access to all of the public records related to the operation and the television series.

The initial story, titled “North Woods Lawless,” detailed allegations that wardens padded evidence, provided alcohol to people who were being investigated and invented events that did not occur during the investigation in Allagash, which resulted in fines for wildlife law and other violations and short jail terms for several individuals. The undercover agent provided guns, ammunition, transportation and a searchlight to one target of the probe, and shot a deer to encourage the subject to poach, the story found.

Publication of the story prompted a flurry of calls to the newspaper from other suspects in game warden investigations, and subsequent stories detailed that similar undercover operations were carried out in five Maine counties. The warden service has disputed the accuracy of the stories.

At the request of several lawmakers, the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee questioned the chief warden, Col. Joel Wilkinson, IFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and state Ombudsman Brenda Kielty about the misconduct allegations and public records concerns raised in the stories. But that committee, which has oversight responsibility for the warden service, took no action.

]]> 5 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 01:25:17 +0000
Four arrested on drug charges in Oxford County Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:48:10 +0000 Three Mainers and one man from Massachusetts were arrested on drug-related charges following an investigation that began last September after the overdose death of a teenager from Harrison.

Jacolby Morrison, 18, of Norway, and Jonathan Keefe, 27, of Wakefield, Massachusetts, were charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin, a Class A felony.

Laurie Jones, 52, and Jared Jones, 22, both of Norway, were charged with unlawful possession of heroin, a Class C felony.

Morrison and Keefe are suspected of regularly traveling to Massachusetts to purchase heroin, which was then distributed in Maine, according to a news release from Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland. Undercover officers purchased drugs from Morrison.

Laurie Jones allegedly rented an apartment in Paris that was used to distribute the drugs. Jared Jones is her son.

During their search, police seized about 80 grams – about 800 individual doses – of heroin, along with scales, packaging materials and $1,600 in suspected drug proceeds.

Drug agents began investigating a supply of heroin in Oxford County after a young woman apparently overdosed in September 2015. Cassidy Patten was dropped off at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston but the person who dropped her off left without talking to hospital staff.

Patten, 18, died of an apparent drug overdose. She was a recent graduate of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris.

Police did not say explicitly that the four people arrested this week supplied the drugs that killed Patten, only that the investigation into her death led to the arrests.

Morrison and Keefe were arrested and taken to Oxford County Jail in South Paris. Keefe’s bail was set at $25,000. Morrison, who violated a previous administrative release, was held without bail.

The Joneses also were taken to jail, where bail was set at $500 each.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

]]> 2 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 07:53:07 +0000