The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Local & State Wed, 25 May 2016 17:42:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lawmakers set June 1 hearing on Maine Warden Service undercover operations Wed, 25 May 2016 17:40:20 +0000 Lawmakers who oversee the Maine Warden Service have scheduled a hearing for June 1 to question government leaders about controversial undercover investigations and raids conducted by the wardens in York and Aroostook counties.

Sen. Paul Davis Sr., R-Sangerville, co-chairman of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, said three people will be called before the committee at the State House in Augusta starting at 9 a.m. to speak about the controversy – Col. Joel Wilkinson, the head of the Maine Warden Service; Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock; and Brenda Kielty, the public records ombudsman at the state Attorney General’s Office.

“It is a committee hearing, not a meeting at which the public will be speaking,” Davis said Wednesday, shortly after establishing the hearing agenda. “The committee will do the questioning.”

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram began reporting on the controversy in an article by Colin Woodard on May 8, “North Woods Lawless,” about a dramatic 2014 raid by the warden service in the northern town of Allagash that was documented by a television crew for the Animal Planet series, “North Woods Law.” The raid followed a two-year investigation by the warden service, which was code-named “Operation Red Meat,” to delve into reports of hunters violating state game laws.

“We plan to go over the news article line by line,” Davis said.

He said the committee does not plan to ask anyone from the newspaper or from the public to speak at the hearing, though they are welcome to attend.

After the initial newspaper report about the Allagash raid, which aired allegations that the warden service padded evidence and provided alcohol to suspects to entice them to commit crimes, numerous targets of another undercover operation in the southern town of Parsonsfield came forward with similar allegations.

The newspaper filed three complaints with Kielty, the ombudsman, after the warden service failed to release documents that were requested under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

At the center of the controversy is one undercover warden, William Livezey. He has been accused by the targets of both the Aroostook and York county investigations of drinking excessively in their presence, plying suspected scofflaw hunters with alcohol before urging them to commit crimes – such as driving deer, shooting deer out of season and carrying a loaded gun in a car – and committing some of the offenses himself for which the subjects of his investigations were later prosecuted. Most of the subjects pleaded guilty.

Livezey had also been accused of the same kind of behavior in an undercover operation in Oxford County in 2003 and 2004, prompting a decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that found his behavior may have been “repugnant” but did not rise to the level that the criminal charges stemming from his investigation needed to be dismissed.

This story will be updated.

]]> 0 Wed, 25 May 2016 13:40:20 +0000
Alfonds top Forbes list of Maine’s richest residents Wed, 25 May 2016 16:47:17 +0000 Two of Harold Alfond’s four children are the richest people in Maine, according to Forbes magazine.

The publication has released its annual list of the richest people in each state and Bill and Susan Alfond are listed as Maine’s wealthiest, with a net worth of $1.2 billion. The magazine doesn’t say why Alfond’s other children, Ted and Peter Alfond, are not listed and whether the $1.2 billion figure represents the inherited wealth of all four of Alfond’s children or just that of Bill and Susan Alfond.

The text accompanying the picture of the two siblings recounts how in 1958, Harold Alfond founded Dexter Shoe Co. in an old mill in Dexter after having previously started Norrwock Shoe Co. and selling it for $1 million in 1944.

Alfond pioneered the concept of a factory outlet store, selling seconds at the log cabins that he had built around the state. He eventually sold Dexter to Berkshire Hathaway in 1993 and gave much of his money and stock to the foundation that carries his name and is the wealthiest in the state.

In annual letters to shareholders, Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman Warren Buffett regularly called the purchase of Dexter one of his worst decisions ever, saying he overpaid for the company at $433 million, didn’t really understand where the shoe industry was going (specifically that it was moving away from American-based manufacturing to factories overseas where labor was cheaper) and paid for the purchase in stock, rather than cash.

The stock is now worth nearly 20 times what it was in 1993 and the Harold Alfond Foundation is the largest private foundation in the state, with nearly $745 million in assets as of the end of 2015, much of it in Berkshire Hathaway stock.

]]> 0, 25 May 2016 13:18:10 +0000
Nobel Prize medal of professor who died in Saco to be auctioned Wed, 25 May 2016 14:57:47 +0000 ITHACA, N.Y. — An 18-karat gold Nobel Prize medal awarded to former Cornell University physicist Kenneth Wilson in 1982 is being sold at auction by his estate.

Thursday’s sale will be handled by Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with a starting bid of $450,000. The 2.5-inch-diameter medal is in a red leather case gilt-stamped with Wilson’s name. Wilson died in 2013 in Saco, Maine, at age 77.

Wilson’s medal is just the 19th Nobel Prize to go to auction. Last May, Leon Lederman’s Nobel Prize in physics fetched $765,000.

Wilson was a pioneer of high-energy physics and supercomputing. He won the Nobel Prize for his work in condensed matter physics, a science that led to the founding of the National Science Foundation’s five national scientific supercomputing centers.

]]> 0, 25 May 2016 13:34:15 +0000
Lewiston elementary school students return to building after bomb threat Wed, 25 May 2016 14:46:09 +0000 Students returned to Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston about noon Wednesday, after being evacuated from the building in the morning when someone called in a bomb threat to the school.

Lewiston Police Lt. Michael McGonagle said police swept the building and found nothing following the 9:20 a.m. telephone threat. Parents were notified electronically, and some chose to pick up their children.

All other children will be dismissed at the usual time, the school department said.

McGonagle said he did not know whether the call, which was placed to the school office, was made by an individual or was computer-generated.

Robotic calls have been used recently to deliver bomb threats, including at the Cape Elizabeth Middle School on March 22. No threat was discovered in that case.

The call in Lewiston follows a wave of apparently coordinated threats made Monday, when schools across 17 states were evacuated after similar or identical threats, including in Maine, where the Hall-Dale Middle and High School in Farmingdale was cleared for about three hours.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said he deemed the threat credible, but could not recall the exact words used during the call.

Police have interviewed the school employee who answered the phone, Webster said.

This was the first threat in Lewiston this year that has triggered an evacuation, he said.

The wave of threats against schools nationwide have given Webster pause, as he and others will likely re-evaulate their response to such calls.

“This is a real difficult area,” Webster said. “Sometimes students may well be at more risk outside of the building than inside.”

But, he said, “given the nature of the call, it seemed prudent and I agreed with the decision to immediately evacuate the building.”

The school has about 800 students and staff.

]]> 0 Wed, 25 May 2016 13:42:48 +0000
Arizona researcher asks for help finding meteor in Maine Wed, 25 May 2016 11:26:59 +0000 RANGELY — A planetary science field researcher from Arizona is seeking help finding a fireball recorded last week streaking across the sky by police in Maine.

The bright flash was apparently left by a meteor burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The U.S. Naval Observatory says the object was probably a space rock somewhere between the size of a toaster and a refrigerator.

The Maine Mineral & Gem Museum suspects the meteor crashed into the woods in northwestern Maine. It’s offering a $20,000 reward for a piece of the meteorite weighing at least 2.2 pounds.

WCSH-TV reports people have flocked to Rangely, including researcher Robert Ward. He says the rock must be tested soon or risk having its chemistry changed.

Witnesses are asked to file a report with the American Meteor Society.

]]> 2, 25 May 2016 08:19:35 +0000
Stepehn King, Richard Russo among writers signing Trump protest letter Wed, 25 May 2016 10:28:29 +0000 NEW YORK — Some of the country’s top writers are protesting Donald Trump’s way with words.

Stephen King, Junot Diaz and Jennifer Egan are among more than 450 authors who added their names this week to an online letter that condemns the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for his “appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society.”

The petition “unequivocally” opposes Trump’s election. Others supporting it include Anita Shreve, Amy Tan, Cheryl Strayed, Michael Chabon, “Lemony Snicket” author Daniel Handler and Maine writers Richard Russo, Lily King and Kate Christensen.

The letter does not include an endorsement of either of the two Democratic candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

]]> 40, 25 May 2016 13:30:02 +0000
Amid Maine’s drug crisis, DHHS slow to expand treatment options Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As Maine providers struggle to meet an overwhelming demand for addiction treatment services, the state has yet to move forward on seeking proposals to initiate at least three programs, all funded and two of which lawmakers funded as long as a year ago.

In September, the Department of Health and Human Services declined to award a contract for an eight-bed treatment facility for women. More than eight months later, the department has not resubmitted a request for proposals.

The state also has not sought proposals for a new drug court program in Bangor, which was approved a year ago, or for a detoxification facility in eastern or northern Maine, part of an emergency drug bill passed in January.

DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards did not explain Tuesday what was causing the delays, but said requests for proposals for all three programs would be issued soon.

Meanwhile, treatment providers across the state privately expressed concerns about the lack of urgency, although they declined to comment on the record out of fear of retribution. If and when the money ever does get released, they said, they don’t want to jeopardize their chances of getting the state contract.

The delays could be an example of the gears of government moving slowly, but there is widespread agreement that the addiction crisis is dire and prompt action is needed. Just this week, the Bangor region suffered a blow with the sudden closure of Manna, a faith-based drug treatment facility that was forced to shut down because of mismanagement.

Another local provider, Wellspring, will take some of those clients but not all. More beds are a critical need.

Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, a co-chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said Tuesday that he is concerned about the lack of progress.

“(Lawmakers) treated this, appropriately, like it’s a public health crisis,” he said. “I’d like to see this money awarded so people can get help.”

The failure to award bids for drug treatment options comes at a time when Maine is dealing with a particularly deadly crisis, fueled in large part by the rise in the use of heroin and other opiates.

In 2015, 272 people died from drug overdoses, the highest number on record and a 31 percent increase over the previous year. Of that total, 107 died from heroin. In 2011, only seven of the state’s 155 drug overdose deaths were attributed to heroin.

The heroin crisis has spurred a debate among treatment experts and lawmakers about the most effective use of resources. The LePage administration has not been vocal about where it thinks treatment dollars should be spent.

“I honestly don’t know what is going on up there,” said one provider, who asked not to be identified. “The lack of communication from the administration to treatment providers is astounding.”

One major sticking point in the debate has been finding treatment options for Mainers who don’t qualify for MaineCare and don’t have the money to pay out of pocket.

State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, the other co-chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, said he was unaware of the delay in bid awards and did not want to comment until he researched the matter further.

Last summer, as part of a push to address the growing opiate addiction crisis, the DHHS published a request for proposals for a halfway house for pregnant women or women with young children who are seeking treatment.

Less than a month after the bids were due, the state sent a letter to applicants indicating the DHHS would not be awarding a contract for a new facility. Instead, the state withdrew its request for halfway house proposals and said it was “considering a stronger service model for the future,” but did not specify what it was seeking.

The state still has not republished the request for proposals or any other like it for a women’s treatment facility. Asked to explain the delay, Edwards said the state received only two bids for the eight-bed facility and neither was acceptable.

“One applicant was disqualified due to not providing the proper budget forms, and the other agency due to a budget exceedingly well beyond the available funding,” she said in an email.

Edwards said the department is rewriting the request and would release it in the next few weeks.

“Although this RFP has not been reissued yet, there are still substance abuse treatment services available for pregnant women and women with children,” she said.

Maine has one in-patient treatment facility for pregnant women and women with children – Crossroads in Portland – and a relative scarcity of treatment options for women overall.

According to data provided by the DHHS, there are twice as many in-patient and detox beds for men as there are for women. However, among those seeking treatment for abuse of heroin or other opiates in 2014 – the most recent period for which full-year data is available – 54 percent were men and 46 percent were women, according to the state Office of Substance Abuse.

Crossroads CEO Shannon Trainor said her organization was one of the two applicants for last year’s funding to create eight beds for pregnant women or women with children.

“They said the cost was too high, but this is what we do already and we thought our cost estimates were accurate,” she said. “In-patient treatment is expensive. We’ll apply again if the (request) goes out.”

In the continuum of substance abuse care, in-patient treatment – often a 30- or 60-day stay in a residential setting – is the most expensive option, but it is also among the most effective.

Patricia Kimball, who runs Wellspring in Bangor, said her organization was the other applicant for the eight-bed halfway house last year. She said the state told her its application was missing one page. She also said she would consider reapplying if there’s a new RFP, but that the process requires a lot of work for a small agency like hers.

Neither Trainor nor Kimball knew what the state meant when it withdrew the request so it could propose a “stronger service model,” and Edwards would not provide specifics.

The state also has yet to publish a request for proposals for an adult drug treatment court in Bangor, which was approved with $300,000 in funding by the Legislature nearly a year ago.

It also has not sought bids for a drug detox facility in eastern or northern Maine, which was authorized and funded through emergency legislation passed in January. Those funds must be distributed by the end of June.

Right now, there is only one dedicated detox facility in all of Maine – Milestone in Portland, which has 13 beds for men and three for women.

Edwards said the drug court request is “in the final drafting stage and will be released in the next few weeks.” She said the request for a detox center “should be released in mid- to late summer.”

The LePage administration has emphasized the need for accountability among providers who offer state-funded treatment services and questioned whether all dollars available are being spent.

Edwards said DHHS is committed to helping women and “the increasing number of children born drug-affected here in Maine.” She pointed to the recent launch of a 211 hotline specifically for pregnant women seeking treatment.

She said some of the services for women include the Next Generation medication-assisted treatment program at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick; the Women’s Project at Opportunity Alliance in Portland, which offers individual recovery planning in nine counties; and the Maine Mothers Network, run through TriCounty Mental Health Services, which provides targeted case management.

Crossroads, though, remains the only residential option for pregnant women or women with children.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 7:13 a.m. on May 25, 2016 to clarify the timing of the funding of three programs that have been delayed.


]]> 10, 25 May 2016 08:16:30 +0000
Sickly tree that hides controversial Jesus mural needs a miracle Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — The pine tree planted to hide what some call the googly-eyed Jesus may be dying.

The long, green needles of the Austrian pine, which obscures a controversial mural of Jesus Christ on the bell tower of Holy Cross Catholic Church on Cottage Road, have mysteriously turned brown in recent weeks.

But people familiar with the 25-foot-tall tree say it has looked dead in the past and been brought back to life, in keeping with the subject of the mural, which depicts the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ. At the base of the 36-year-old mural, largely hidden by the tree, is a giant face of Jesus with his eyes rolled back that has drawn public criticism.

The man responsible for the tree’s last resurrection, Broadway Gardens owner Phil Roberts, said he noticed the tree’s poor condition last week and is working with church leaders to figure out a course of action.

Photos from March 31, top, and May 23, bottom, show that the green needles of the Austrian pine that obscures the mural of Jesus Christ on Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland turned brown in less than eight weeks.

Photos from March 31, top, and May 23, bottom, show that the green needles of the Austrian pine that obscures the mural of Jesus Christ on Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland turned brown in less than eight weeks.

“I think pollution is doing a number on it,” Roberts said Tuesday. “It’s got something going on.”

Roberts, who is a church member, said the tree also appeared to be dead a couple of years ago, but it rebounded after he applied a fertilizer and insecticide. Now, road salt and other pollution may be taking a toll once again.

“This time it may be gone,” Roberts said. “It may have to come out.”

Monsignor Michael Henchal, who oversees the parish that includes Holy Cross, didn’t respond to calls about the tree’s current condition.

On April 17, the Maine Sunday Telegram published a story about the tree and its strategic placement in front of the mural. At that time, the needles on the tree were green. In that story, Henchal said parishioners didn’t talk much about the mural, though the hidden Jesus is something of a legend among children who attend the parochial school next door.

"For many it was not a pleasant sight," said Bob Morency, a longtime parishioner at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland.

“For many it was not a pleasant sight,” said Bob Morency, a longtime parishioner at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland. 2001 Press Herald file photo/John Ewing

At the high-traffic intersection of Broadway and Cottage Road, the enamel-on-steel mural was installed in 1980 to replace a deteriorating tile facade on the church, which was built in 1950. Titled “Spirit of the Matter: A Christian Triptych,” the mural was designed by Damariscotta artist John Janii Laberge at the direction of a church committee.

In the April story, Laberge admitted that he has often thought of cutting the tree down with a chainsaw to expose his artwork. On Monday, Laberge said he had noticed the tree’s failing condition last week when he was dog-sitting for a friend in South Portland, but he was quick to deflect any suspicion that he is responsible.

“I didn’t poison it,” Laberge volunteered. “It may not be dead. I’ve seen it that way before and it came back. It’s probably just going through its seasonal changes.”

The response to the mural has been mixed from the start, especially to the whites of the eyes, which stare woefully toward heaven in a pose suggesting medieval religious art. While some say it’s an apt representation of pain and suffering, others say it’s creepy or scary. Laberge says he delivered on the church committee’s request to depict a “powerful, working-class Christ.”

“I wanted a strong, drive-by presence,” Laberge said. “I made something bold and big that tells something about the crucifixion and what came after. I warned them that depictions of Christ are a touchy thing.”

When Laberge drives past the mural today, he questions the negative reaction.

“It’s not that bad,” Laberge said. “A person who died on the cross is not going to look pretty.”

The pine tree hides the lowest part of the controversial mural depicting a suffering Jesus at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland.

The pine tree hides the lowest part of the controversial mural depicting a suffering Jesus at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The mural became the subject of community controversy in 2001, when church officials considered making changes to the artwork as part of building renovations. The renovations ran over budget, however, so the idea of altering the mural was dropped, church members said. Soon after, someone suggested planting a tree in front of the mural as a way to take care of the problem.

The plan seemed to be working until the tree started showing signs of stress in recent years. Whether it can be brought back from the brink a second time is unclear.

“While it’s possible for a tree of that type to lose all of its needles and come back, it’s unlikely,” said John Bott, spokesman for the Maine Forest Service.

Bott said it would be impossible for a professional forester to provide any further assessment without examining the tree in person.

Roberts, from Broadway Gardens, remains hopeful, although he questions the public interest in both the mural and the tree. He said he plans to consult with a professional arborist and meet with Monsignor Henchal before he does anything more to the tree.

“It’s just a work in progress,” Roberts said. “I can probably resurrect it again.”

]]> 14, 25 May 2016 07:51:30 +0000
In Maine’s last open lobster zone, a feud over limiting newcomers Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In most of Maine, adults who want to make their living trapping lobster must wait until a licensed lobsterman dies or forgets to file a license renewal.

There is only one place in the state, in the waters of eastern Penobscot Bay off Stonington, Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut, where a resident who completes the necessary training and safety classes can get a license to lobster without waiting for at least a decade. But the lobstermen who oversee Maine’s last open lobster territory are now fighting over whether to cap the number of lobstermen who can fish those waters, effectively closing the last open door to the state’s largest commercial fishery.

The debate is pitting islanders who worry that a cap would eliminate an incentive for adult children to return home against mainland fishermen who want to protect this lucrative industry from outside exploitation. After years of debate, the local lobster council has tried to put the issue to a vote twice before, but the meetings have fallen through, with members missing meetings or walking out moments before a closure vote could be held.

The council was scheduled to try again this week, at a meeting where zone closure was the only topic on the agenda, but had to cancel because it lacked the quorum needed for a legal vote. One councilor had other plans. Another councilor had a family emergency. But two island-based councilors told the state Department of Marine Resources they wouldn’t be coming to a meeting as long as zone closure remained on the table.

“Feelings are running really high,” said Sarah Cotnair, the state liaison to the state’s seven lobster councils. “A lot of the lobstermen want to close the zone. They don’t want to share the bay with people from away, who come up from Scarborough or Boothbay just to lobster. Those who want to keep it open, they say an open zone is good for jobs, good for the local economy, especially for the islands. It’s a fight that’s been going on for years.”


The coastal waters of Maine are divided into seven fishing zones, lettered A through G, that stretch from the border with the Canadian Maritimes down to the New Hampshire state line. Lobstermen must complete 2,000 hours of training over 200 days, or two lobster seasons, as an apprentice to a licensed lobsterman from the zone where they live and will fish before they can apply for a state license. In all but eastern Penobscot Bay, or Zone C, apprentices wait for years for a spot to open up.

Maine has 7,280 licensed lobstermen, each assigned to a zone based on their home address, but not all of them are traditional commercial fishermen who set a full run of 800 traps and may employ a sternman or two. One out of four is a recreational fishermen. One in seven is an apprentice or a student. One in 14 is over the age of 70, holding on to the state license to keep a connection to lobstering or to enable an unlicensed relative to keep fishing.

State statistics show that about a thousand of those license holders don’t land a single lobster in a typical year.

Although the fishing community talks about this debate in terms of open or closed, the issue boils down to entrance limitations so strict that people on the waiting list often feel like the zone is simply closed. People can get licenses in a “closed” zone, but they must wait for a spot to open up. In most cases, a spot only becomes available when someone has moved, died or forgotten to renew their license, Cotnair said. Most zones require more than one license-holder to leave before someone new can come in.

And some zones cap the number of lobster traps allowed in the zone rather than the number of lobstermen, since not everyone fishes a full run of 800.

No lobster zone, regardless of how crowded, is closed to a student who has completed a 2,000-hour apprenticeship and gets a high school diploma, or its equivalent, by age 20. A state law adopted in April gave these students more time to put in their hours, giving them two extra years to complete their apprenticeships. Lawmakers and fishermen hailed it as helping to keep the lobstering tradition alive among the upcoming generation of fishermen.

Although it is open, the number of licensed lobstermen in Zone C fell from 904 in 2014 to 830 in 2015, the lowest level since before 1997, when the state’s marine resources zone data was first collected. The number of apprentices, students and those who lobster for fun also fell over the past year, statistics show, lower than only a few years in that same 19-year time span.


If the Zone C lobster council ever initiates the process to limit entry, it also would have to set a ratio of how many licenses or traps must become available before someone new can come in. Once that ratio is set, they would send out a survey to all licensed lobstermen in their zone to weigh in on closure and the proposed ratio. The council does not have to abide by the survey results, but most have done so, Cotnair said.

The council’s proposed change then goes to the Lobster Advisory Council and the state’s marine resources commissioner for review.

“If there is a vote (on closing Zone C), it will be very close,” said council member and state Rep. Walter Kumiega of Deer Isle, who chairs the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee. “My hope is if the zone closes, it will have a 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 exit ratio so there will still be reasonable entry. … It is a very big issue. It puts fishermen dealing with very crowded conditions on the water in conflict with a need to allow entry to maintain the population of their communities.”

The last lobster fishery to close in Maine was Zone A, the Bold Coast region that borders the Canadian Maritimes. John Drouin of Cutler, a licensed lobsterman for 37 years, was chairman of the council in 2004 when it voted to close, and still heads up the board today. The closure process there was difficult and slow, stretching out over a three-year period, Drouin said. He held public hearings in every district of the zone to help the council assess the community’s wishes.

“This issue isn’t on the shoulders of the council, it is up to the fishery participants,” he said. “So it was easy for me to vote in favor of closing since the vote in my district was like 72 percent in favor of closing. … You can’t please everyone, but as a representative, you can please the majority of who vote. And that is where you, as a council member, have to leave it. If they don’t have the stomach for it, then they shouldn’t be on the council.”


The Zone C council sent out an unofficial questionnaire to license holders in 2015 that showed a majority wanted to limit entry to the fishery. Some members, such as Chairman Michael Sherman of Brooklin, whose district voted 45-10 in favor of closing the fishery, pointed to those results to explain why they support closure. But members who represent the island communities of North Haven and Isle au Haut want to keep it open.

The council voted in March on whether to keep the fishery open, but it failed along mainland-island lines. Island members walked out before a second vote that would have effectively closed the fishery for at least a year could occur.

Cotnair said the council hasn’t been able to corral the number of members needed to even hold a legal vote on the matter since.


]]> 4, 25 May 2016 09:08:28 +0000
EPA awards Gardiner brownfield cleanup funds Wed, 25 May 2016 02:59:07 +0000 GARDINER — The city of Gardiner is one of 16 municipalities and organizations in Maine that has secured more than $7.3 million in federal funds to help clean up contaminated properties.

The money, which comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is to be used for assessing or cleaning up brownfield sites or related revolving loan funds.

Gardiner officials had applied for $200,000 each in assessment and cleanup funds for the former T.W. Dick properties on Summer Street before they knew they would be receiving funds from the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments and from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said City Manager Scott Morelli.

“Now we have $600,000 for what we think will be a $450,000 project,” he said.

Several years ago, the city was awarded $400,000 in assessment funds, $200,000 each for hazardous materials and petroleum products. The hazardous materials funds were spent on identifying the contaminants on the steel fabricator properties; some petroleum funds remain.

Last year, the city was awarded $100,000 specifically for the redevelopment of 1 Summer St., which is expected to be turned into a medical arts building. The state’s award of $305,000 is intended to be used to finish cleanup and is not restricted to a single parcel.

With this latest award, the city can assess added properties for hazardous materials, and it can apply the $200,000 cleanup funds to the Summer Street parcels.

The city will apply the assessment funds to additional properties, possibly one adjacent to 1 Summer St., Morelli said.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

]]> 0, 24 May 2016 22:59:07 +0000
Westbrook superintendent is top candidate for post in Bar Harbor Wed, 25 May 2016 02:24:37 +0000 The superintendent of Westbrook schools is the leading candidate to be head of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System.

Marc Gousse, who was the principal of Westbrook High School for 10 years and has been superintendent since 2011, will visit the Bar Harbor-based district to meet administrators, staff members and the community on Thursday.

Charles Wray, chairman of the district’s school board, said other candidates have not been eliminated but Gousse is the only one who has been invited to visit the district. “He’s the one that we think is a good match,” Wray said.

Gousse said he is happy in Westbrook and wasn’t looking for a job, but was approached by someone from the area a year ago and again about a month ago, after the Mount Desert Island district’s initial search for a replacement for retiring Superintendent Howard Colter didn’t yield the right candidate.

Gousse, 55, who is a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, said he and his wife spend a lot of time in Down East Maine and had planned to move there eventually. “It’s an opportunity,” he said.

Westbrook School Committee Chairman Jim Violette said that Gousse has turned the school district in the right direction since coming on as superintendent in a difficult financial situation, and that he would be disappointed to see him leave. Asked whether he’s made a decision about taking the job, Gousse said, “I wouldn’t foresee any hurdles if I were fortunate enough to be offered a position.”

Also known as Alternative Organizational Structure 91, the Mount Desert district has about 1,400 students in nine schools and an annual budget of about $30 million. The Westbrook School Department has more than 2,500 students in six schools and a budget around $35 million.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

Twitter: lesliebridgers

]]> 1 Tue, 24 May 2016 22:24:37 +0000
Board backs $70 million plan to upgrade Portland elementary schools Wed, 25 May 2016 02:05:10 +0000 Four of Portland’s elementary schools are in such bad shape that the school board agreed Tuesday to ask the City Council to propose a $70 million bond to voters in November to pay for improvements.

“Asking for $70 million, yes, it’s a lot to ask for,” said board member Sarah Thompson. “We owe it, I think, to our next generation of Portlanders to have state-of-the-art facilities.”

The board plans a first reading on the proposed recommendation June 7, then hold another public hearing and final vote on June 21. The City Council will decide whether to put the bond on the ballot.

All of the board members spoke in favor of the proposed bond.

“There’s been a lot of deliberation for far too long, and the urgency is great,” said board member John Eder.

“It is time for us as a community to give our children what they deserve,” said Pious Ali.

The most recent “Buildings for Our Future” report, from the Oak Point Associates architecture and engineering firm, spells out $70 million in possible upgrades at Presumpscot, Longfellow, Lyseth and Reiche elementary schools.

A group of Portland parents known as Protect Our Neighborhood Schools has been advocating for a borrowing package to pay for the renovations. The four schools have not had significant investments since they were built 40 to 60 years ago.

At a public hearing on Tuesday night, a string of parents got up to thank the board for supporting the full $70 million in recommended fixes.

“A lot of parents have been waiting a long time for this,” said Jess Marino, who has three children in the district. “I am so happy that this is happening. I am so proud of our city right now.”

Many noted that the money would be spent on practical fixes, like installing functional heating and windows that open, eliminating trailers for classrooms and easing severe overcrowding. At one school, the social worker is in a windowless closet.

“We have a gym-a-cafe-torium at Lyseth,” Principal Lenore Williams told the board, explaining that the gym is also used as a cafeteria and auditorium. “We can’t convene the students without being in violation of fire codes.”

“We’re not talking about theme parks and roller coasters,” parent Ben Allen said of the $70 million recommendation. “We’re talking about pretty basic stuff.”

Steven Scharf, a Portland resident who is a regular City Hall observer, said he opposes the borrowing.

“I think $70 million is far too much to be spending on schools and I think you’ll have difficulty getting this passed,” he said.

Generally speaking, municipal borrowing packages are paid off over decades. The exact terms would be decided before the vote.

After the parents’ group raised concerns in January, the city immediately initiated $800,000 in repairs at Reiche to address safety issues.

In April, Portland voters approved a plan to pay for a new Hall Elementary School. The state will pay for almost all of the $29.7 million project, with Portland taxpayers picking up $1.4 million for specific upgrades such as a larger gym that can serve as a community center.

Portland used state funding to build the East End Community School in 2006 and the Ocean Avenue Elementary School in 2011.


]]> 7 Tue, 24 May 2016 23:50:51 +0000
Board cites long-term commitment in hiring Xavier Botana as Portland superintendent Wed, 25 May 2016 01:31:09 +0000 Portland School Board members say the new superintendent they selected Tuesday won them over with his kindness and character, and his commitment to stay in Portland for the long haul.

Xavier Botana, a Cuban immigrant who has worked in Indiana, Illinois and Oregon, said he was “honored and excited” about the move.

“It’s an amazing district,” Botana said in a phone call after the vote. “I’m just thrilled to have the opportunity.”

Botana, 53, will begin a three-year term July 1 and be paid $148,000 a year, with a possible performance bonus of $7,400. He succeeds Jeanne Crocker, who served as interim superintendent after Emmanuel Caulk left last August.

“Not only does (Botana) have the skills and experience, he also has the sensibility and character to lead in a way that we want for our district,” board member Stephanie Hatzenbuehler said.

Botana is Portland’s sixth superintendent in nine years, and board members said his commitment to staying in the district was very important to them.

Before Caulk, the superintendents were James Morse, Jeanne Whynot-Vickers and Mary Jo O’Connor, who resigned in 2007 after a $2 million deficit sent the district into a financial and management tailspin that took years to stabilize.

School board member Sarah Thompson, who served during those years, alluded to wanting a superintendent who would provide stability.

“I genuinely believe that he’s here for the long haul,” Thompson said. “I’m very excited about that. We have had a lot of changes over the years and we need to stay stable for a while. We’re at a good spot right now.”

Botana said he already has Maine ties. He and his wife, Suzanne Botana, and their 13-year-old son David, have been coming to Maine for years to participate in a Sunday River program for skiers with special needs. David, who has been homeschooled since third grade and is now enrolled in the Stanford Online High School, has a limb difference, Botana said, without elaborating.

He said his wife, a contract school psychologist with a specialty in bilingual students, and son have many Maine friends.

“There’s a whole network of people there,” Botana said, including David’s ski instructor, whom his son considers a grandfather figure. “I feel very fortunate.”

In Michigan City, Indiana, Botana played a lead role in establishing a freshman academy for struggling students at the high school, an honors program and an early college program, according to the superintendent there, Barbara Eason-Watkins. He also helped launch magnet schools and alternative education programs, in addition to bolstering the district’s career and technical education programs.

“Xavier Botana is an exceptional leader who is intelligent, collaborative and visionary,” Eason-Watkins said in an email. “The district is fortunate to have hired such a dedicated and talented leader.”

Botana has been associate superintendent of the 6,000-student Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010. The Portland school district has about 7,000 students.

Before moving to Indiana, Botana served for about a year as chief academic officer for Portland, Oregon, public schools, then returned to the Chicago area for family reasons.

Before that, he was chief officer of instructional design and assessment for Chicago Public Schools and an administrator for the Illinois State Board of Education, and held other positions in schools in Illinois.

Botana has a master’s in educational administration and has completed some doctoral program course work.

“He said he doesn’t see Portland as a steppingstone, he sees it as his capstone project,” Portland School Board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione said. “I think he’s the whole package for us.”

He was one of two finalists for the Portland position, out of an initial pool of 41 candidates. His contract is available online at

Botana shared his own immigrant past during a forum with Portland parents, noting the city’s large number of immigrant students. One in four is an English language learner.

Botana said he was born in Cuba and as a young child was sent unaccompanied to Spain to live with his grandparents for two years before being reunited with his parents in the United States after they had obtained visas.

The exodus of unaccompanied Cuban minors in the early 1960s was driven by parents who feared that Fidel Castro’s government would decide how their children would be educated.


]]> 3, 24 May 2016 23:58:05 +0000
David Burnham, accident victim, stocked Hannaford with warmth and good cheer Wed, 25 May 2016 01:12:55 +0000 If you’ve shopped at the Hannaford supermarket on Riverside Street in Portland, chances are you knew David Burnham.

Burnham was a beloved employee at Hannaford who bagged groceries, collected carts and said hello to nearly everyone who crossed his path.

Burnham died Thursday from injuries he suffered when he was struck by a moped May 17 in Portland. He was 52.

The accident happened as Burnham was crossing Brighton Avenue and remains under investigation by Portland police.

“He was just amazing,” said Amey Lewin, manager of customer service at Hannaford. “He always had a smile on his face. He was always happy to see you. Customers always got hugs from him.”

Burnham lived in Portland and worked for Hannaford for 20 years. He began his career at the Forest Avenue location and spent the past 10 years or so at the Riverside store. When Burnham had a day off, customers noticed. When he took a vacation, customers missed him, Lewin said.

“People loved him,” she said. “He had a big impact. … He was just genuine and authentic and friendly. That sticks with people.”

Burnham grew up in Portland, the fifth of seven children. He attended the former Woodford School.

He lived with his sister Laura Burnham on Highland Street in Portland, along with two of his brothers.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Burnham’s sister spoke proudly about his passion for life and love for the Portland Sea Dogs.

“He loved life,” his sister said. “He loved going to the Sea Dogs and Portland Pirates games. He loved being with his friends and going to work. He was an all-around good guy.”

Burnham, who shared his positive attitude and well wishes with others, had developmental disabilities.

“He was a slow learner, but it didn’t hold him back,” his sister said.

Burnham lived independently for the most part. He didn’t drive, but was a frequent rider on Portland’s METRO buses.

His obituary, which is published in Wednesday’s paper, says he also worked at Hadlock Field and enjoyed watching Sea Dogs games.

Another hallmark of Burnham’s life was the friendships he had with members of the Portland Fire Department. He was a frequent visitor at Engine 309, the Riverton station.

Members of Ladder 304 met Burnham while shopping at Hannaford.

Lynne Klug-Jordan, a firefighter/paramedic for Ladder 304, said she got three hugs from Burnham on May 16, the day before the accident. A fire crew returned Wednesday for more groceries and was shocked to learn of Burnham’s passing.

“He was full of love. He was full of life. I don’t know. … He was a wonderful human being,” Klug-Jordan said. “It doesn’t make sense how someone so full of life can be taken from you with no warning.”

Laura Burnham said her brother will be cremated wearing his Hannaford shirt, a Sea Dogs sweatshirt, and a Portland Fire Department hat.

“We want pieces of what he loved to be cremated with him. David would really love that,” she said.

A memorial service will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St. in Portland. A celebration of life will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Woodfords Club.


]]> 1, 25 May 2016 11:44:03 +0000
Man who killed two nuns in Waterville 20 years ago seeks move to supervised apartment Wed, 25 May 2016 00:11:06 +0000 AUGUSTA — Mark Bechard, who was committed to a state psychiatric hospital after killing two nuns and severely injuring two others in Waterville in 1996, is doing well mentally, could benefit from more independence, and is ready to move from a group home to a supervised apartment in Augusta, experts testified in a court hearing Tuesday.

However a state prosecutor and the leader of the State Forensic Service said the turnover of staff on the state clinical team charged with overseeing his treatment is so high that leadership of the team is in “disarray,” and some of those workers might not know Bechard well enough to recognize a deterioration of his mental health status.

Justice Robert Mullen, presiding over a court hearing to consider Bechard’s petition seeking to be allowed to move from his currently approved residence in a group home on Glenridge Drive to a 10-unit apartment building on Commercial Street in downtown Augusta supervised by at least two people at all times, said he’ll rule on the request within two weeks.

Ann LeBlanc, director of the State Forensic Services, which evaluates the mental health status of people committed to the state, and who has known Bechard since 1996, said he is currently functioning better than she has ever seen him, has been reliable in taking his anti-psychosis medications, has done nothing that would cause any concern to community members, and would benefit from moving out of a group home and into a quieter, more independent apartment in a supervised building.

But she expressed concerns that turnover of staff, particularly in leadership positions, on his clinical treatment team is so frequent “the team appears to be in disarray.” She said Bechard has had at least three different psychiatric care providers since she last evaluated him in January, didn’t know who his case manager was at that time, doesn’t have a nurse practitioner assigned to his care team, and is going to get a new intensive case manager and new psychiatrist later this year because the men currently in those roles are leaving. She said the people coming into those roles may very well be highly talented, caring professionals but don’t know Bechard well and may not recognize it if his condition were to deteriorate. And due to the high turnover, those caregivers may not be able to provide the integration of services Bechard needs to be successful. She said he can be suspicious of new people, and it takes time for him to trust new mental health caregivers.

She noted her concern is not that Bechard would “become psychotic and injure someone,” but that his condition could deteriorate gradually and his clinical treatment team with Riverview Outpatient Services might not know him well enough to recognize it promptly and “he could lose ground, psychologically, and have to go back into the hospital.”

LeBlanc suggested waiting five months, as Bechard gets used to his current clinical team, before allowing him to move.

Harold Hainke, Bechard’s attorney, argued Bechard’s mental health is at a high-functioning level, his treatment team is well-informed, he would have contact with staff and service providers so regularly that a deterioration of his condition would be noticed, he does have regular interaction with support staff who have known him for many years, and he would benefit from the move.

Hainke said Bechard can be introverted and prefers peace and quite, something that can be hard to come by in the group home where he is living now.

“It may be more risky for Mr. Bechard to stay where he is now than move,” Hainke said.

Hainke said there is no way of guaranteeing in five months that there won’t be other changes to the staff involved in overseeing Bechard’s care. He said it would be unfair and a hindrance to his therapy to make him remain in the group home, waiting for staff to be stabilized.

Mullen said he couldn’t remember the last time he went through mental health evaluation reports where all the reports were so consistently positive about a patient as were the reports submitted about Bechard by LeBlanc and state mental health workers.

Bechard, 57, also requested as part of the petition that he be allowed a three-hour block of unsupervised time in the community per day. Bechard currently is allowed two, one-hour blocks of unsupervised time in the community per day.

Elizabeth Cravey, a registered nurse who will take over as Bechard’s intensive case manager soon after his current case manager retires, and who has worked with Bechard before, said he often spends his unsupervised time taking long walks. She said upping that allowed unsupervised time to three hours at a time would be beneficial to him and allow him to take part in activities such as going to a movie or taking in a local jazz brunch he enjoys attending, which take more than one hour.

Greg Kaczenski, Bechard’s current psychiatrist with Riverview Outpatient Services, said Bechard would still be required to check in every hour, and the risk involved in increasing his unsupervised time “would be quite low.”

Authorities said Bechard, 37 at the time, was suffering a psychotic episode when he entered through the chapel at the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament convent in Waterville on Jan. 27, 1996. He attacked four nuns, killing Mother Superior Edna Mary Cardozo and Sister Marie Julien Fortin.

Sister Patricia Ann Keane survived the attack but died later from her injuries. Sister Mary Anna DiGiacomo, who was paralyzed on her right side, died in 2006.


]]> 9, 24 May 2016 22:56:34 +0000
Sen. Angus King proposes fee on prescription opioids to fund treatment programs Wed, 25 May 2016 00:08:00 +0000 Sens. Angus King of Maine and Joe Manchin of West Virginia proposed a bill Tuesday that would impose a fee on prescription opioids as a way to pay for substance abuse treatment, housing, employment services and other programs that would alleviate the country’s opioid epidemic.

In Maine, 272 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, with most of the deaths caused by heroin, prescription opioids or fentanyl. About 25,000 to 30,000 Mainers want drug treatment but do not have access to therapy, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nationwide, the number of people dying from drug overdoses now surpasses deaths from motor vehicle accidents, with 47,055 overdose deaths in 2014 compared to 32,675 fatal vehicle accidents in the same year, according to federal data.

The fee would be one cent on each milligram of active opioid ingredients in prescription painkillers, and would generate an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year. Many patients would not directly pay the fee because of how their insurance coverage pays for prescriptions.

King, in a phone interview Tuesday with the Press Herald, said treatment programs must be funded, and tacking it on to the price of the drug is a fair way to do it.

“The obvious way to fund this is to build it into the price of the drug,” said King, comparing it to how the cost of seat belts and air bags are factored into the price of a vehicle. “The cost of the drug should reflect the danger of the drug.”

King said the fee would vary depending on dose and type of drug, but would roughly range between 75 cents to $3 per 30-day prescription.

King hasn’t heard yet whether drug companies will support the fees, but he said they bear responsibility for flooding the market with prescription opioids, starting in the late 1990s and 2000s. The drug companies touted the safety of opioids, when in fact the painkillers are dangerous and helped fuel the expansion of heroin addiction, he said.

Four out of five heroin addicts were first addicted to prescription opioids, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Dr. Mary Dowd, a physician who treats addicts at the Milestone Foundation and Catholic Charities in Portland, said more treatment and other supports to help people beat addictions – such as jobs and stable housing – would go a long way to helping.

“It would be a wonderful thing if it happens,” Dowd said.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Bill Nelson of Florida have signed on as co-sponsors, in addition to King, an independent, and Manchin, a Democrat.

The bill does not yet have any Republican co-sponsors, and it’s unclear whether it would attract bipartisan support.

Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, has not yet taken a position on the bill.

“This legislation was introduced (Tuesday). We have not yet had a chance to review it, but look forward to doing so,” said Annie Clark, Collins’ spokeswoman.

King plans to lobby for the bill and hopes it will gain bipartisan support. He hasn’t spoken yet with Collins, but he intends to discuss the concept with her. A bill to expand treatment for opioids was recently approved by Congress with Democratic and Republican support, but there was no funding attached to it.

King’s bill would carve out exceptions to the fee for opioids used to treat cancer pain, hospice care and for prescriptions used to treat addiction, such as Suboxone.

The proposal also would expand access to treatment by increasing reimbursement for mental health care providers who do substance abuse therapy. Public health experts have said that one barrier to treatment is that doctors are often unwilling to take on patients who are addicted to opioids.

It also would provide funding for neonatal services to help drug-affected babies, and housing and jobs programs to help addicts.

King said access to treatment is a key to reducing the opioid epidemic.

“The biggest tragedy is when people say they need help and they’re ready to beat their addictions, and we tell them they have to wait three months to get into a program,” King said.

]]> 20, 24 May 2016 21:56:47 +0000
Portland official says ‘midtown’ land deal on track to close this month Tue, 24 May 2016 21:31:56 +0000 The embattled “midtown” mixed-use development in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood is one step closer to becoming a reality.

A Portland official said the city is on track to sign over a 3.5-acre plot of city-owned land to midtown’s developer, Federated Cos., by the end of the month.

“We are working towards that goal of closing (the sale) on May 31,” said Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director.

On May 16, the Portland City Council approved three amendments to the purchase and sale agreement that the Florida-based developer said would allow it to move forward. The amendments:

 Eliminate the requirement that midtown participate in the city’s (now suspended) Park and Shop program.

 Eliminate the city’s right to buy back the property on which housing units will be built. Federated said it could not get financing for the project unless that requirement was eliminated. The city still would have the right to buy back the adjacent parking garage property.

 Require Federated Cos. to commit to building certain structures, including the parking garage.

As planned, midtown will include about 440 market-rate apartments, 90,000 square feet of retail space and an 840-space parking garage. Its estimated cost is $75 million, including nearly $12 million in subsidies, some of which will go toward street improvements.

If the deal closes this month, it will mark the end of a long process for Federated Cos. and the city that has been stalled multiple times by neighborhood opposition and disagreements over the details of the project.

It began back in June 2011, when the council voted unanimously to sell the land, on Somerset Street, to Federated Cos. for $2.3 million.

Since then, the project has been reduced in size from its original plans for up to 850 housing units that would have been built in phases over 10 years. In its current form, midtown is expected to take just three years to build.


]]> 22, 24 May 2016 23:06:09 +0000
Vandals damage 8 school buses in Skowhegan Tue, 24 May 2016 21:30:57 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — Police say they have found evidence that may lead them to whoever vandalized eight school buses sometime between Thursday and Sunday at the district bus garage.

Police Chief Don Bolduc said the police department was notified of the damage Sunday by a passer-by.

Bolduc said rocks were thrown through windows of several buses “and sticks were found jammed in the radiator area of the buses” at the School Administrative District 54 bus garage on East Maple Street near the Memorial Field sports complex and baseball field.

Bolduc said Tuesday that police “recovered physical evidence from the scene and are reviewing surveillance cameras in the area.” He said the department was not ready to publicly disclose what evidence was found.

There are security cameras trained on most of the parking lot, SAD 54 Support Services Manager Don Leavitt said. The area where the buses are parked is at the back of the lot. A fence separates it from the ballfields beyond.

Damage to the buses is estimated to be more than $2,000, Leavitt said. The windshields on seven buses were smashed with rocks, four sliding side windows were broken, and a window on one of the bus doors was broken in, leaving a large hole and the low-shatter glass on the ground and inside the bus.

Leavitt said the buses are insured.

Gary Stafford, SAD 54 transportation director, surveyed the damage Tuesday.

All the buses are Blue Bird models, about 16 years old – older than much of the fleet and used as backup and spares if some of the buses in the main fleet break down. They have been parked at the far end of the garage lot since last fall, Leavitt said.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

Twitter: Doug_Harlow

]]> 5, 24 May 2016 23:58:57 +0000
Person suffers gunshot wound in Augusta Tue, 24 May 2016 21:15:16 +0000 AUGUSTA — A person was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center with a gunshot wound Monday afternoon after an incident on Boothby Street that was originally reported to police as a shooting, according to Lt. Chris Read of the Augusta Police Department.

Local police are now investigating the circumstances surrounding the firing of the weapon, Read said, but have not yet determined whether the incident was a crime, a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a mistake involving a firearm or something else.

“No one has been charged with anything,” he said. “We don’t know if a crime occurred.”

Read was not able to confirm the identity or medical condition of the person who suffered the gunshot wound.

Police and first responders went to Boothby Street at 3 p.m. Monday after a caller reported that someone had been shot there, Read said.

Later, the unidentified victim was taken to the hospital with injuries.

Since then, investigators have been interviewing people who live in the area, Read said. He added that the investigation will likely continue until later this week.

]]> 0 Tue, 24 May 2016 20:11:07 +0000
Homeless veteran describes Augusta arrest in excessive force case Tue, 24 May 2016 21:03:18 +0000 BANGOR — A homeless veteran who alleges Augusta police used excessive force when they arrested him Aug. 4, 2012, at the Bread of Life Veterans Shelter told his story to eight jurors Tuesday on the opening day of a civil trial in U.S. District Court.

Michael J. Albert Sr., now 60 and living in Bangor, testified he did not resist when officers took him to the ground and handcuffed his hands behind his back after he allegedly refused several requests to leave. He said he suffered a torn left rotator cuff when they grabbed his outstretched left arm and “pulled it beyond the normal ability to extend it,” and he was in daily, throbbing pain until after it was repaired during surgery in July 2014.

The trial is expected to run for several days.

In previous rulings in the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison, who is also presiding at the trial, found in favor of the Augusta police on several counts, but the claim of excessive force remains against Sgt. Vicente Morris and Officer Benjamin Murtiff.

Nivison had granted summary judgment for both officers on claims of false arrest and conspiracy counts.

The initial lawsuit named several other defendants, including unnamed officers as well as Augusta Police Chief Robert C. Gregoire and the City of Augusta.

They were later dismissed.

Albert, wearing a blue plaid shirt and khaki pants, spent more than three hours on the witness stand, questioned first by his attorney, Stephen Packard, and then by attorney Edward Benjamin, representing Morris and Murtiff. Morris and Murtiff, both wearing dark suits and ties, watched the testimony.

Albert said he still can’t recall which officers did what, but that one officer grabbed his right arm, another knelt on his head, and two grabbed his left arm to tuck it behind his back.

“I never knew the names, and I don’t remember the faces,” Albert testified under Benjamin’s questioning. “I just know it was four police officers.”

Albert said he would have put his hands behind his back if the officers had told him they were going to arrest him.

He said he is seeking compensation for pain and suffering he endured.

“More important I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again to another disabled person,” Albert testified. “To me that’s as important as the pain and suffering.”

In his opening statement, Packard said Albert was sitting at the picnic table planning a barbecue for his daughter and for fellow veterans at the shelter prior to the incident.

Albert testified he felt threated by a fellow veteran who was pacing as he talked on a phone and who walked toward him with clenched fists.

“I had already been assaulted once and didn’t want to get hit again,” Albert testified, so Albert warned the man off, using an expletive.

A staff member told Albert to leave, and Albert objected.

“I said I’m just sitting here minding my own business,” he testified. “I’m not leaving. Give me a reason to leave and I’ll leave.”

The shelter staff member called police, apparently saying that Albert was intoxicated.

“I don’t drink,” he told jurors.

He said he got up from the picnic table to leave and that’s when the officers grabbed him, walked him off the grass to the pavement and took him down.

He said he sought treatment at the VA Maine Healthcare Systems – Togus, but left minutes prior to scheduled surgery after he was told some equipment had failed and he felt uncomfortable with it proceeding at that point. The surgery was later performed elsewhere.

Jurors were shown a booking photo taken at the Kennebec County jail shortly after Albert’s arrest, and Albert circled an area on his right cheek in that photo that he said showed an open wound caused by his head being pushed onto the pavement.

]]> 1, 24 May 2016 17:03:18 +0000
Maine police investigate thefts, find teens handcuffed together Tue, 24 May 2016 20:33:09 +0000 The discovery of two teenagers handcuffed together behind a convenience store helped Lisbon police solve a series of motor vehicle break-ins in a residential neighborhood this month.

Officer Ellen Stewart found the boys on May 10 after she was called to Miller’s Variety and Convenience Store in Lisbon Falls to investigate a report of a suspicious vehicle, according to news release from the police department.

Stewart discovered a pickup truck disabled at the fuel pumps and located the boys behind the store. They were handcuffed together.

During the department’s investigation, police determined the handcuffs had been stolen during the motor vehicle burglary spree, which took place overnight on May 9-10. Police said between 40 and 50 unlocked cars were broken into by the boys in the Plummer, Pleasant and Center streets neighborhood of Lisbon Falls. All of the cars had been parked in residents’ driveways.

“A reminder that keeping your vehicles locked with valuable items out of sight even while parked overnight in your own driveway can be for the most part the greatest deterrent to becoming a victim of this type of crime,” Lisbon police said in a news release posted Tuesday on their Facebook page.

Police found a number of stolen items in the boys’ possession at Miller’s Variety while other items had been discarded in an area near the store. Most of the stolen items were loose change, knives, flashlights and GPS units. The disabled pickup truck had been taken by the boys from a friend without permission, but charges are not expected to be filed in that case.

Lisbon police said there is no connection between the Lisbon Falls car break-ins and the Felony Lane Gang, a loosely organized gang that recruits local people to break into cars and steal personal information and valuables.

Sgt. Ryan McGee said police do not know why the boys had handcuffed themselves together other than they were just playing around with the stolen cuffs. McGee said the investigation is continuing.

Charges are pending against the teenagers, who have not yet made an appearance in Lewiston Unified Court.

Police would like to hear from anyone whose vehicle was broken into, as several stolen times have been recovered by officers. Victims should contact the Lisbon Police Department at 353-2500.

]]> 1 Tue, 24 May 2016 20:24:23 +0000
Cape Chiropractic to start building office/apartment complex in the fall Tue, 24 May 2016 16:57:38 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — The owners of the fast-growing Cape Chiropractic and Acupuncture practice plan to start building an office and apartment complex on Hill Way this fall after receiving Planning Board approval last week.

Zev and Amber Myerowitz sought permission to build two three-story buildings at 12 Hill Way, a short street that forms a land triangle at the intersection of Ocean House and Scott Dyer roads.

The complex, which would be built next to a former Cumberland Farms gas station and convenience store, would feature ground-level office space and a total of 10 townhouse-style apartments on the second and third floors.

The board unanimously approved the project, which is the town’s first proposal for multifamily rental housing in about a decade. The project comes as many Greater Portland communities wrestle with a housing shortage, especially of affordable rentals suitable for families. It also answers the call for small-scale, mixed-use development outlined in the Town Center Plan that was adopted in 2014.

The project is expected to be completed by next summer, said Zev Myerowitz, a third-generation chiropractor who grew up in Bangor and specializes in acupuncture, oriental medicine and sports performance. Amber Myerowitz is a New York native and a certified chiropractic assistant who also practices acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

Cape Chiropractic is now located at 2 Davis Point Lane, where the couple also live. The couple plan to move into one of the apartments at 12 Hill Way and be hands-on landlords, carefully screening tenants and making sure neither the commercial nor residential aspects of the complex have an adverse impact on the neighborhood.

The couple said they would preserve as many trees as possible on the 2-acre wooded lot and carefully design and landscape the project to minimize the appearance of the complex. They also agreed to coordinate sidewalk and storm drain construction with roadwork that the town plans to do on the rest of Hill Way.

]]> 1, 25 May 2016 09:35:33 +0000
Maine high court rejects appeal by Merrill Kimball in bee farm killing Tue, 24 May 2016 16:05:13 +0000 The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld on Tuesday the conviction of 73-year-old Merrill Kimball, who was found guilty by a jury last year of murder in the 2013 shooting of Leon Kelley at a bee farm in North Yarmouth.

The decision issued by the high court rejected several arguments that Kimball had made in his appeal, including his central claim that the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury that Kimball was driven to extreme anger or fear after being physically assaulted by Kelley and should have been convicted of manslaughter instead of murder.

“We conclude that Kelley, who was unarmed, did not act in a way that was objectively sufficient, as a matter of law, to provoke extreme anger or fear in Kimball and thereby justify Kimball’s deadly response in wielding a firearm and shooting Kelley multiple times,” Justice Andrew Mead wrote on behalf of the court in a unanimous 6-0 decision.

The decision means that Kimball, a Yarmouth lobsterman with no prior criminal convictions, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. He was sentenced last June 5 to the mandatory minimum penalty of 25 years for murder.

Since the shooting on Oct. 6, 2013, Kimball has maintained that he acted in self-defense when he shot the 63-year-old Kelley three times at Brown’s Bee Farm, after Kelley assaulted him and kept coming at him.

At the heart of the conflict was a rift between the two men’s families over the affections of Stan Brown, who was 95 when he died last year. Brown, a master bee farmer and Kelley’s father-in-law, had shown favor toward Kimball’s wife, Karen Thurlow-Kimball, who managed the bee business for him when he grew too old to tend it himself. The rift came to a head when Thurlow-Kimball and her family came to the bee farm to retrieve numerous pots of honey she had harvested. They were confronted by Brown’s daughter, Kathleen Kelley; Leon Kelley, her 63-year-old husband; and two of her adult children.

The fate of Brown’s estate is now pending in Cumberland County Probate Court, where Kathleen Kelley filed a petition to become representative for the estate last Nov. 18. Brown did not leave a will.

The Supreme Judicial Court also rejected that any hostilities between the two families over money could legally justify the shooting.

“Similarly, neither the threat of economic harm to Kimball’s wife posed by the potential loss of honey she had stored at the farm, nor any perceived threat resulting from the Brown family’s hostility to her inclusion in Stan Brown’s will, could constitute adequate provocation justifying Kimball’s shooting Leon Kelley,” Mead wrote in the 12-page decision.

Kimball’s attorneys, Daniel Lilley and Cheryl Richardson, also argued in the appeal that the trial judge erred in allowing the jury to hear testimony that Kimball had been drinking alcohol on the day of the shooting because no one said he seemed impaired.

Lilley said Tuesday he is reviewing the decision to determine whether to appeal to other courts.

The high court ruled that testimony that Kimball had drunk two rum and cokes over an hour during a visit at a friend’s house before the shooting was fairly admitted as evidence.

“Although there was no evidence that he was physically impaired, the fact that Kimball had been drinking on the afternoon of the shooting was relevant because the jury could consider the effect on Kimball’s state of mind, judgment, or impulsivity, as well as his credibility on other issues,” Mead wrote. The high court also rejected Kimball’s arguments in his appeal that the trial judge had improperly excluded evidence that Kathleen Kelley was upset with Karen Thurlow-Kimball over inheritance of the bee farm business.

“Contrary to Kimball’s contention, our review of the record reveals that the court admitted extensive evidence concerning the inter-familial dispute,” Mead wrote. “The court did not abuse its discretion in its very minor limitation of evidence concerning the issue in order to keep the trial focused on the central issue of whether Kimball was criminally culpable for killing Leon Kelley.”


]]> 6, 25 May 2016 00:33:08 +0000
Ammonia leak inside Portland building contained Tue, 24 May 2016 12:01:27 +0000 The Portland Fire Department stopped an ammonia leak at a cold storage facility in a Portland industrial park five hours after large quantities of the noxious gas began spewing into the building early Tuesday morning.

No one was inside the building at the AdvancePierre Foods cold storage warehouse at 56 Milliken St. when the leak was reported at 5 a.m. by an employee of another business next door who smelled the gas and called 911, said Deputy Fire Chief Keith Gautreau.

What remains unclear is why an AdvancePierre employee did not call the fire department after that person was notified of the leak by a private monitoring company that keeps tabs on the refrigeration system, much like a home security company.

“I have to look into why we weren’t notified immediately,” Gautreau said.

A spokeswoman for AdvancePierre did not answer questions about emergency procedures, and whether a plant manager should have called firefighters immediately.

The leak was stopped about 9:30 a.m. after firefighters from the hazardous materials team entered the plant five times to gather information before isolating the leak and stopping it. Gautreau said a faulty valve was the likely culprit in the leak.

The storage facility was previously owned by Barber Foods, which still operates a plant on St. John Street in Portland. AdvancePierre acquired Barber in 2011.

There is no record of violations on file with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the Milliken Street plant, according to the safety agency’s online database.

A spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor, which has oversight over public-sector workplace safety in the state, said that since the business is private, it would not be involved, however the federal workplace safety officials could investigate the leak.

Ammonia is used as a common industrial refrigerant. The AdvancePierre facility had 21,000 pounds of ammonia in its refrigeration system, but Gautreau said it is not yet clear how much leaked.

According to OSHA, an acceptable level of ammonia is 50 parts per million averaged over eight hours. During the leak, Portland hazmat teams were measuring between 3,000 parts per million and 5,000 parts per million, with readings peaking at about 9,000 parts per million, Gautrau said.

Ammonia is an extreme skin and eye irritant. At levels above about 12,000 parts per million, it becomes flammable. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations can be fatal because the gas displaces oxygen, causing asphyxiation and pulmonary edema, when fluid accumulates in the lungs.

After the leak, an emergency system automatically vented the gas out of the building. Although typical wind patterns would have brought the pungent smell toward a neighborhood about 250 yards from the plant, a weather system off the Maine coast pushed the odor in the opposite direction.

“The good news is once it’s in fresh air, it dissipates fairly quickly,” Fire Chief David Jackson said.

Jackson said he knows of no prior safety issues at the company’s Portland location.

He also said the alarm system that detects ammonia leaks appears to have functioned properly.

AdvancePierre Foods supplies proteins and sandwich products to schools, food service and retail outlets across the country. In 2011, the company purchased Portland-based Barber Foods. The company is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10:28 a.m. on May 25, 2016 to clarify that Maine Department of Labor would not be involved with investigating the leak for the private business.

]]> 1, 25 May 2016 10:30:48 +0000
Spruce-up needed before fans can see the light at Fort Williams Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — Portland Head Light, one of the most popular lighthouses in the world, has been wrapped in scaffolding for a maintenance project that will obscure the Casco Bay landmark for several weeks.

The project was scheduled to avoid foul weather and the height of the tourist season, but the scaffolding, erected late last week, has already proven to be a major letdown for some visitors to the historic site.

“It’s so disappointing,” said Rose Ouellette of Port Sanilac, Michigan, who visited the lighthouse Monday with her husband, Richard.

The beacon’s facelift is being done by CertaPro Painters of Scarborough, which submitted the lowest qualified bid on the $65,000 project, said Greg Marles, Cape Elizabeth’s director of facilities and transportation.

Workers are filling cracks in stone masonry, replacing rotted wood and repainting the 92-foot-tall tower, the former keeper’s quarters and the gift shop, Marles said. The project started April 23 and was expected to be finished by June 17, but inclement weather in recent weeks forced the town to extend the deadline to the end of June, he said.

A worker pressure-washes a section near the top of the lighthouse, which is due for masonry repairs and painting.

A worker pressure-washes a section near the top of the lighthouse, which is due for masonry repairs and painting.

The tourist season hasn’t really started yet, but Marles is still fielding questions about the project.

“I’ve had more people call to ask me what’s going on,” Marles said. “That’s what happens when you’re the most photographed lighthouse in the country.”

Jeanne Gross, director of a museum in the former keeper’s quarters, has heard many complaints, too.

“They say it’s their favorite lighthouse and they picked the wrong time to come,” Gross said. She suggests that they return in the near future, “when it will be in its pristine state once again.”

Built by the federal government in 1791, Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. The buildings and property are owned and maintained by the town, along with the surrounding Fort Williams Park, but the automated light and fog signal are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s a required stop on sightseeing tours, so it’s often photographed and captured in paintings.

A trolley arrives at scenic Portland Head Light. Work on the lighthouse and buildings is expected to take until late June.

A trolley arrives at scenic Portland Head Light. Work on the lighthouse and buildings is expected to take until late June.

Among the many people who enjoyed photographing and painting Portland Head Light was Rick Ouellette, the late son of Rose and Richard Ouellette, the Michigan couple who visited the lighthouse Monday.

Rick Ouellette was an automobile designer and artist who loved painting lighthouses, especially Portland Head Light, his mother said. He painted the iconic beacon several times before he died in 1997 at age 37, following a long and brave fight against AIDS and the discrimination that he and others experienced because of the disease, she said.

As Rick Ouellette waged his battle, Portland Head Light came to symbolize how he saw himself as an advocate and leader in the effort to win fair treatment of people who have AIDS, she said.

At their son’s request, the Ouellettes scattered his ashes over the rocks near the lighthouse on May 22, 1997, Rose Ouellette said. They return twice each year, spring and fall, to remember him and stand where he stood the last time he visited.

“I put my hand on the railing right where his hand had been,” said Rose Ouellette, 79, her voice shaking with emotion. “If it’s a cloudy day, it’s not so good. Today was perfect, except for the scaffolding hiding the lighthouse.”

Though Ouellette and her husband didn’t get to see the lighthouse Monday, she said she’s glad the town is taking care of a landmark that her son loved so much.

“That’s good,” she said. “It means a lot to us.”


]]> 12, 24 May 2016 12:59:26 +0000
Farmington affordable housing complex seeks to finish renovations Tue, 24 May 2016 02:19:54 +0000 FARMINGTON — An affordable housing complex in Farmington is searching for alternative modular building manufacturers to complete planned renovations after manufacturer Keiser Homes closed recently.

The developers of 82 High Street, a nonprofit affordable housing complex, had planned on buying three modular apartment buildings from Oxford-based Keiser Homes, but with the company’s abrupt closing this month, the complex’s board of directors will review proposals from three other companies in order to stay on track with the project.

The board of directors met Thursday with representatives from Cousineau Inc. of Wilton, the Keiser Homes dealer and construction company that was overseeing the construction of the 82 High Street development.

While 82 High Street had already put down a deposit on the three modular buildings, Cousineau, which has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get its deposit back, has promised to absorb the cost of the deposit if it’s not repaid, said Rachel Jackson Hodson, the manager of 82 High Street.

“We’re the ones taking the loss,” Randy Cousineau, president of Cousineau Inc., said Monday. “We’re going to honor the original contract.”

Jackson Hodson said the directors will meet again this Thursday with Cousineau representatives to review three proposals from other modular home companies.

Cousineau said the 82 High Street project is the only one the company is working on that was interrupted by Keiser Homes’ closing.

The company announced May 6 it was closing its manufacturing plant in Oxford because parent company Innovative Systems, based in Pennsylvania, is bankrupt and is being forced to liquidate by creditors.

The Farmington complex is still waiting to hear back on whether it has received a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant that is needed for the $1.5 million project to be completed.

82 High Street has already secured a $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank and a $540,000 loan from Franklin Savings Bank.

The complex consists of 18 mobile homes and three apartment buildings, each with four units.

The apartment buildings on the property “are tired,” Jackson Hodson said. With foundation issues and some of the roofs leaking, she said it would cost more to repair the buildings than to replace them.

Lauren Abbate can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

]]> 0, 24 May 2016 11:27:32 +0000
Portland man critically injured in head-on I-295 crash Tue, 24 May 2016 02:13:09 +0000 A Portland man was in critical condition Tuesday night after his SUV was struck head-on Monday night on Interstate 295 in South Portland.

Maine State Police said a 2002 Toyota 4Runner driven by Paul Regan, 37, of Dayton was traveling south around 9 p.m. when he lost control and crossed the median. His vehicle went airborne after striking the guardrail and collided head-on with a 2014 Jeep Cherokee on the northbound side of the highway.

The driver of the Jeep, 26-year-old Nicholas Dubose of Portland, suffered a serious head injury and was listed in critical condition Tuesday night at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Dubose’s passenger, 25-year-old Thomas Netting, and Regan had minor injuries.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

]]> 2 Tue, 24 May 2016 21:36:42 +0000
Madison mill produces last roll of paper Tue, 24 May 2016 01:08:50 +0000 MADISON — Some employees left their jobs for good at Madison Paper Industries after the mill’s last day of production Saturday, and others will leave within the next one to two months, according to the mill’s president and CEO.

“Everybody is somber but very professional,” Madison Paper President and CEO Russ Drechsel said Monday.

“Everybody knows what tasks they’re responsible for and have been moving forward and completing those tasks,” Drechsel said

On Saturday the mill, which is owned by UPM Kymmene and SC Paper Corp., produced its last roll of paper after announcing in March that it would close permanently, putting about 215 people out of work.

The mill, a producer of supercalendered paper used for magazine publishing, has been in Madison since 1978 and was producing about 195,000 tons of paper annually at the time the closure was announced.

UPM is continuing to seek a buyer for the mill as well as its hydropower assets.

However, Drechsel said Monday that “nothing has changed” in the company’s search for buyers.

While some employees have already left work, others will remain for up to two months to clean up and shut down the facility, Drechsel said.

Mike Croteau, president of the United Steelworkers Local 36, one of two unions at Madison Paper, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

In April, the U.S. Department of Labor announced federal funding through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to help Madison workers search for and secure new jobs.

“We have a lot of workers over the age of 50 who are probably going to end up taking jobs that will be a significant pay cut,” Croteau said at the time. “Part of the TAA program offsets those lost wages.”

In 2014, the tax valuation of Madison Paper – the town’s largest taxpayer – dropped by about $150 million to its current value of $80 million.

Drechsel said last month that the value of the mill has dropped even more since the announcement that it would close, and mill officials are currently in discussions with the town over a further reduction in valuation, something that Town Manager Tim Curtis said would likely not take place until July or August if it happens.

“Any impact moving forward will be pretty minimal,” Curtis said.

“We kind of have to wait and see just like anybody else as to who the new owners are, what they’re going to do with the property.”


]]> 1, 23 May 2016 22:07:26 +0000
Conference gives students a lesson in civil rights Tue, 24 May 2016 01:07:21 +0000 AUGUSTA — When groups of high school students gathered here for a conference on civil rights and were asked to name words that are stereotypically associated with the colors black and white – whether negatively or positively – the results were jarring.

For “white,” the kids suggested “Christian,” “can’t dance,” “rich,” “racist,” “pretty,” “white trash” and “Aryan race.”

In the “black” column, they offered “athletic,” “can dance,” “can rap,” “ghetto,” “Africa,” “illiterate,” “poor,” “violent” and “rapist.”

The idea was to get students thinking critically about the sensitive and in some cases harmful ways we think about race. In that, the event was a success.

That race is a sensitive subject was not a surprise to any of the more than 500 students who attended the conference Monday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Each of those students belongs to civil rights teams at high schools around the state.

Those teams began forming in Maine high schools in 1996 with the goal of preventing bias or discrimination toward people of particular identities.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office began promoting the teams as a way to build appreciation for the principles laid out in the Maine Civil Rights Act.

The attorney general hosted Monday’s conference with support from the Maine Humanities Council.

Upon arriving Monday in Augusta, the students were broken into three groups and rotated between different workshops.

One of those rotating sessions was a dialogue facilitated by the Lewiston High School civil rights team.

That is when participants were asked to come up with the stereotypes for each color.

The resulting discussions were inclusive, but they also embraced the discomfort that can spring from such conversations.

That openness has been a defining trait of the Lewiston team’s members.

In 2014, they made news when they raised a poster on school grounds that featured the words “#blacklivesmatter,” then were instructed by school officials to take the poster down.

The poster was a reference to the protest movement of the same name that has sprung up on the social media platform Twitter and around the country in reaction to the high-profile killings of unarmed black people by police officers in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

The movement has laid bare a long-standing rift in U.S. race relations that some Americans thought had passed with the election of the first African-American president in 2008.

The topic of race is pronounced in Lewiston, a city that has attracted a large population of Somali immigrants, making it considerably more diverse than other parts of the state.

After the Lewiston students were instructed to take their poster down in 2014, what resulted was a productive, community-wide dialogue about race and identity that hasn’t ended, according to Paula Gerencer, a teacher and an adviser to the Lewiston High School civil rights teams.


In some ways, the event Monday was a continuation of that dialogue.

Students from other schools and backgrounds were frank and open about the stereotyping they’ve seen in their communities.

One girl mentioned that female students who want to take classes in welding and other vocational subjects may be criticized.

Another student noted how her classmates have made fun of Asian students’ names.

A third described the way in which students make jokes about their classmates from war-torn Iraq that involve bombs.

Abdul Mohamed, a sophomore from Lewiston, led one of the breakout discussions.

He asked students to consider how they can be allies to peers who may face discrimination for their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

“For example, I’m black,” Mohamed told the group.

“If I’m picked on for the color of my skin, I can be an advocate for myself.”

But, he continued, it can also be helpful if people who are privileged and aren’t picked on because of their skin color come to his defense.

To that end, Mohamed also asked students to think about their own privileges and what effects they may have.

Another session at the conference Monday was led by Vishavjit Singh, a Sikh performance artist who wears a turban and challenges Americans’ understanding of ethnic identity by, among other things, approaching people while wearing a Captain America uniform.

In his breakout, he explained to students the role of comic book characters in shaping our understanding of identity and urged that comics feature more heroes from different backgrounds.

Olivia Turner, a senior on the civil rights team at Gardiner Area High School, took that message to heart.

Interviewed after a keynote address by Singh, she said she now wondered what superheroes might be like in other countries where pop culture doesn’t feature so many white people.

She also expressed her appreciation at the opportunity to speak with people from different racial backgrounds about issues that can be difficult to raise in Gardiner, a community that she described as not having many people of color.

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 21:07:21 +0000
Ayla Reynolds’ family plans to sue caretakers Tue, 24 May 2016 00:52:12 +0000 WATERVILLE — The family of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds plans to bring a lawsuit against the adults who were with her on the night she disappeared in December 2011, but one of those adults said in a TV interview Monday they believe the child is still alive “out there somewhere.”

Jeff Hanson, Reynolds’ stepgrandfather, said Monday the family wants to pursue civil charges that would possibly include child endangerment and wrongful death against Reynold’s father, Justin DiPietro; his girlfriend, Courtney Roberts; and his sister, Elisha DiPietro, whose care Ayla was in the night before she was reported missing, as well as Justin’s mother, Phoebe DiPietro, in whose house they all lived.

Ayla was 20 months old when she disappeared from the DiPietro home at 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville and there have never been any charges in the case.

Justin DiPietro told police he believes Ayla was abducted. Police have said they believe foul play was involved in her disappearance and that they no longer believe she is alive. Police declared it a criminal case weeks after she was reported missing.

Elisha DiPietro, who has made few statements to the media since the disappearance of her niece, said in an interview with the television show “Crime Watch Daily,” which aired Monday, that the family “believes she is out there somewhere.”

Reynolds’ blood was found at the Violette Avenue home, according to police, a fact that her maternal family has often pointed to as a reason why charges should be brought.

“We have seen pictures of what (police) found,” Elisha DiPietro told an interviewer on the television show when asked to explain the blood in the house. “She had been vomiting quite a lot. She had lactose issues, so she had been sick.

“Nothing happened. There was no foul play in the house that night,” DiPietro said. “My brother is a good father and he loved his daughter. He still loves her.”

When approached in the driveway of the Violette Avenue home Monday, Elisha DiPietro said she wasn’t aware her comments were going to be broadcast and declined to comment further.

Hanson said the family wants to bring civil charges “because we’ve been waiting for the attorney general to prosecute this case.”

“We’re hoping that maybe by filing a suit now it will open up a line of questioning that the attorney general’s office can use to further their case,” Hanson said.

Tim Feeley, a spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said Monday that state police continue to investigate Reynolds’ disappearance, and that if a lawsuit is filed, any information generated could be used in furthering the criminal investigation.

Hanson also said he hopes that the attention of the national television show, “Crime Watch Daily,” would bring renewed interest in the case in Maine.

A vigil for Ayla is tentatively being planned for June.


]]> 4, 23 May 2016 22:10:18 +0000
Police smile at ‘Cops Suck’ tattoo across man’s knuckles Tue, 24 May 2016 00:43:35 +0000 BANGOR — A Bangor police officer got a laugh out of a man’s tattoo that says, “Cops Suck.”

The Bangor Police Department on Monday posted a Facebook photo of the man holding out his fists with letters tattooed on his knuckles next to a smiling officer. The photo had more than 4,700 likes.

The police department has received attention for using humor in its social media presence.

Police note the man apparently had a problem with authority earlier in his life but cooperated when they asked him to move on over the weekend.

Officers Jimmy Burns and Keith Larby were so impressed by the tattoo that they reached for their camera, not the handcuffs. Larby smiled for the camera and gave a thumbs up.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 May 2016 20:43:35 +0000
Keiser Homes closing disrupts Farmington housing complex renovation Tue, 24 May 2016 00:37:03 +0000 FARMINGTON — An affordable housing complex in Farmington is searching for alternative modular building manufacturers to complete planned renovations after manufacturer Keiser Homes closed recently.

The developers of 82 High Street, a nonprofit affordable housing complex, had planned on buying three modular apartment buildings from Oxford-based Keiser Homes, but with the company’s abrupt closing earlier this month, the complex’s board of directors will review proposals from three other companies in order to stay on track with the project.

The board of directors met Thursday with representatives from Cousineau Inc. of Wilton, the Keiser Home dealer and construction company that was overseeing the construction of the 82 High Street development.

While 82 High Street had already put a deposit down on the three modular buildings, Cousineau, which has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get the deposit back, has promised to absorb the cost of the deposit if it’s not repaid, said Rachel Jackson Hodson, the manager of 82 High Street.

“We’re the ones taking the loss,” Randy Cousineau, president of Cousineau Inc., said Monday. “We’re going to honor the original contract.”

Jackson Hodson said the directors will meet again this Thursday with Cousineau representatives to review three proposals from other modular home companies.

Cousineau said that the 82 High Street project is the only project the company is working on that was interrupted by Keiser Homes closing.

The company announced May 6 it was closing its manufacturing plant in Oxford because parent company Innovative Systems, based in Pennsylvania, is bankrupt and is being forced to liquidate by creditors.

The Farmington complex is still waiting to hear back on whether it has received a $500,000 federal Community Block Development Grant that is needed for the $1.5 million project to be completed.

82 High Street has already secured a $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank and a $540,000 loan from Franklin Savings Bank for the project.

The complex consists of 18 mobile homes and three apartment buildings, each with four units. The apartment buildings on the property “are tired,” Jackson Hodson said. With foundation issues and some of the roofs leaking, she said it would cost more to repair the buildings than to replace them.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 20:37:03 +0000
UMaine team to track diseased lobsters caught off state’s coast Tue, 24 May 2016 00:32:00 +0000 Every year, the University of Maine fields phone calls from lobstermen who suspect that pockmarked, thin-shelled lobsters they have hauled aboard have epizootic shell disease.

Sometimes, the university can send a researcher out to see if a lobster has the disease, which has ripped through the southern New England fishery and is just beginning to show up in Maine waters.

The university has had no money, however, to hire the staff it would need to collect and study diseased lobsters in real time. Usually, a diseased lobster is long gone, tossed back in the sea, before the researcher can study the specimen or even confirm the diagnosis.

But this spring, thanks to a $127,000 state grant, the University of Maine will create a rapid response team to collect and evaluate sick lobsters harvested in state waters as part of a study on the impacts of rising water temperatures and ocean acidification on the lobster population, said Deborah Bouchard, who runs the university’s animal health lab and the research at its Aquaculture Research Institute.

“We want to get the word out to call us anytime that a lobsterman sees something in their traps that’s not right,” Bouchard said. “For years, all the dollars for this kind of thing went southward, where the highest incidence of shell disease was, but now we are seeing funding to study what’s happening right here. Even though it’s not prevalent in Maine waters now, we need to know what’s creeping up the shoreline.”

The Maine Department of Marine Resources conducts regular sea sampling programs that document shell disease, among many other factors, but the number is limited to about 21 survey runs a month across all state waters during lobster season, which runs from June through October, said Kathleen Reardon, the state’s chief lobster scientist. The new University of Maine study will be the only real-time study of shell disease in state waters, and will flesh out the state’s statistical research to date, she said.

In southern New England, as many as one in every three lobsters trapped has some degree of shell disease, Reardon said. In southern Maine waters, the peak incidence rate was in 2013, when it climbed as high as two lobsters for every 100 sampled, but it dropped last year to less than one in every 100 sampled, she said. In eastern Maine, the state has never found more than half a percent of lobsters surveyed to show evidence of shell disease.

Shell disease was first detected about two decades ago in the waters of Long Island Sound off Connecticut and New York, off Block Island in Rhode Island and Buzzards Bay, the water sound of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The bacterial disease causes the lobster shells to deteriorate, showing pits and eventually thinning out. The disease spreads rapidly, especially among the females, which carry their shells longer. Lobsters carrying the disease are not marketable.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources on Monday announced the shell study grant and three others funded by the sale of specialty lobster license plates, including $82,000 to Colby College to study the post-harvest economic impact of the state lobster industry and $37,500 each to the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance and Penobscot East Resource Center to beef up an industry leadership institute and develop a high school lobster curriculum, respectively.

At Colby, professor Michael Donihue and his six-student team will focus on the jobs created after the lobster is hauled ashore, and the money that those post-harvest employees pump back into the economy with their wages. Most economic impact studies of the state lobster industry focus on the money made, and jobs created, to catch the lobster, by the fishermen, trap makers, buoy makers and even bait suppliers, among others, Donihue said.

“Those are wonderful stories, but the impact of the fishery is felt way down the distribution chain,” Donihue said. “The distributor takes the lobster from pound to processor. That processor picks apart claw meat that will end up in lobster macaroni and cheese. The truck driver hauls the mac and cheese to the packaging plant and another driver hauls it to the cruise ship that will serve it up for dinner. That’s a lot of steps, and a lot of jobs, between the boat and the plate.”

The four awards, which total about $284,000, come out of an education, research and development fund bankrolled by the sale of specialty lobster license plates, a program started in 2003 to support the state’s biggest commercial fishery. This latest round of grants, which were awarded by an appointed board that reviewed 14 grant applications, will leave the fund with $882,262 in it. Although income varies from year to year, state officials say the fund usually grows by about $225,000 a year.

By 2014, Maine had issued about 26,000 lobster plates.

About half of the specialty plate fee, which is $20 for a first-time issuance and $15 for a renewal, goes to the fund.

]]> 2, 24 May 2016 10:31:02 +0000
Colby students to be charged with arson in campus fire Mon, 23 May 2016 23:02:46 +0000 WATERVILLE — At least two Colby College students will be charged with arson in connection with an on-campus dumpster fire Sunday morning that occurred a few hours after a bonfire at which a large crowd of students threw items at police and firefighters who arrived to put it out.

Student Jonathan Sdao, 24, of Niwot, Colorado, was charged with two counts of assault and refusing to submit to arrest after he allegedly threw a bottle that hit two police officers during the bonfire melee.

The bonfire occurred around 1 a.m. on a sidewalk at the senior dormitory off Washington Street and about 200 to 250 students were on the scene — a crowd so aggressive that firefighters didn’t want to get near the fire until police arrived, according to police Chief Joseph Massey on Monday.

Sdao is a member of the Class of 2016, but did not graduate Sunday, according to Ruth Jackson, vice president of communications at Colby.

The officers and a firefighter who were struck with thrown objects were not injured, but a student was struck in the head and taken by ambulance to the hospital, Massey said.

Colby will “conduct an investigation into the reported actions of the students,” Jackson said in an email Monday. She said the injured student was taken, evaluated and released from the hospital.

Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office said Monday that investigators have identified at least two students responsible for the dumpster fire, which was reported at 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

The students, who are from out of state, are expected to be charged in the next few days, after state fire officials confer with the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, Grimes said.

Arson is a Class A felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison — though a dumpster fire would not likely result in a sentence of that many years, he said.

Jackson said in her email, “We believe strongly in the need for everyone in our community to show respect for our first responders. Whenever necessary, we take appropriate disciplinary action.”


Firefighters early Sunday — just hours before Colby’s graduation — were called to the bonfire at the senior dorm, which has vehicle access off Washington Street rather than through campus, but is a short walk from other dormitories at the top of campus.

Massey said Colby College Security requested help at the scene, where students were burning mattresses at the bonfire, as well as furniture and other items.

The bonfire was large, Massey said, with flames estimated at 15 to 20 feet high.

He said many in the large crowd of students were drinking, and the fire department didn’t want to try to approach the fire without police presence “because they felt confronted.”

Mattresses and similar items are hazardous because of materials contained in them, he said.

Officers tried to get the students to leave the scene, but they became unruly and aggressive and did not want to back away, Massey said. They started throwing items, including beer bottles and cans and a bottle of wine.

“They also were shooting fireworks over the fire department and officers as they tried to put the fire out and at one point firefighters felt threatened enough that they actually sprayed water at students so they would back off so they could get to the fire and put it out.”

Massey said Sdao approached police officers Scott Dumas and Ryan Dinsmore, who became aggressive, got close to officers’ faces and was hollering at them, saying the officers were on private property. They determined Sdao was intoxicated, and at one point they moved him along, but Sdao shouted obscenities, turned around and threw a bottle that struck both officers, Massey said.

Sdao was arrested and taken to the police department, where he was released on $300 cash bail. Sdao is scheduled to appear July 19 in Waterville District Court.

Fire officials put the fire out after about an hour and a half, but returned at 4:30 a.m. for the dumpster fire.

Capt. John Gromek said Monday about 13 Waterville firefighters responded to the scene of the bonfire and another nine to the dumpster fire, where they cleared the scene sometime after 6 a.m. Gromek was not at the scene, but said reports from Sunday showed about $250 worth of furniture was burned in the bonfire and about $500 worth of pavement was destroyed, according to the report. Capt. Shawn Esler , who was at the scene, was not in the office on Monday to comment.


The fire department called in the state fire marshal’s office about the dumpster fire. The items burned in the dumpster also included discarded mattresses, chairs and other items, according to the fire department report. Colby places extra dumpsters out for seniors to place items in that they do not want at the end of the year.

“We’re investigating the dumpster fire as an arson,” Grimes said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “We have identified some individuals responsible for it, and we have not revealed their names yet because no one’s been charged. We’re going to be conferring with the (district attorney’s) office on how to proceed.”

Grimes said investigators are processing paperwork on the case, and he expects it will be submitted to the district attorney’s office by Thursday. He said that because those responsible have been identified, his office does not think the public safety is at risk of another fire.

He said a decision about whether to arrest those responsible, or summons them, had not yet been made.

Meanwhile, Massey said the fires tied up a lot of resources — both police and firefighters — and police had asked law enforcement officials from other agencies to be on standby for Waterville.

If there had been another structure fire or an accident while officials were at Colby, police and firefighters would have been hard-pressed to respond to everything, he said.

Police have worked with both Colby and Thomas colleges to help educate students and spread awareness about underage drinking and what happens when a lot of people congregate and drink.

“Each year we work with Colby to try to minimize any problems, and I think, really, this year was a pretty good year,” Massey said. “It’s unfortunate it ended with this particular incident, but when these things happen, we’re going to respond and hold those people who are responsible accountable for their actions.”


]]> 28, 24 May 2016 23:18:19 +0000
Crash in York shopping center’s parking lot sends driver to hospital Mon, 23 May 2016 22:13:06 +0000 Several vehicles were damaged or destroyed Monday morning when a driver who was trying to pull into a parking spot at the Meadow Brook Plaza, a busy shopping center on Route 1 in York, lost control of his sport utility vehicle.

York police said Vaughn M. Kailian, 71, of Kittery Point got trapped in his SUV after hitting a parked car. The impact caused his SUV to turn on its side and caused the parked car to “careen” through the parking lot before hitting another car, police said.

A group of witnesses pushed Kailian’s SUV back onto four wheels, but firefighters had to remove the roof to pull him out of the wreckage. He was taken to Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

York police Sgt. Brian Curtin said in a press release that the accident was reported around 9:55 a.m. He said it appears that Kailian’s SUV “quickly accelerated” just before the crash. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Firefighters and police “found a very chaotic scene with numerous people and crashed vehicles in the lot,” Curtin said. “The operator of the vehicle was injured and trapped in the car.”

]]> 1, 23 May 2016 18:18:03 +0000
Creative Portland director Jennifer Hutchins to lead Maine Association of Nonprofits Mon, 23 May 2016 21:37:22 +0000 The Maine Association of Nonprofits has chosen Creative Portland Executive Director Jennifer Hutchins to replace its outgoing executive director, Scott Schnapp, who is stepping down in July after 14 years as head of the organization.

Hutchins brings more than 20 years of experience serving the nonprofit community both in Maine and Washington, D.C., the association said in a news release. She will join the organization on July 18.

Hutchins said Monday that she sees the new position as an opportunity to help nonprofit organizations solve problems and capitalize on opportunities throughout the state. She said she plans to tackle issues by bringing together people from the philanthropic, entrepreneurial and government sectors to work collectively.

“The biggest opportunity for me is to broaden my impact by serving all of Maine,” Hutchins said. “I feel very passionately about all of the issues impacting communities in Maine.”

Hutchins has been executive director of Creative Portland, a nonprofit established by the city of Portland in 2008 to capitalize upon and grow Portland’s creative economy, since December 2010. Prior to that, she was director of communications and external affairs for the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service. Hutchins also has served as marketing director of Portland Stage Co. and worked for People For the American Way in Washington, D.C.

“We are thrilled to have Jennifer as our next executive director,” said Doug Woodbury, president of the association’s board of directors, in the release. “Jennifer has a unique blend of experience with the creative economy, workforce development and entrepreneurship, all of which will help (the association) expand its offerings and increase value for the sector. She’s a proven cross-sector leader, a disciplined manager and a champion for Maine.”

As executive director, Hutchins will oversee an organization that is dedicated to advancing, connecting and strengthening Maine’s nonprofits. Founded in 1994, the association is a membership organization that advocates on behalf of the nonprofit sector and provides guidance on best practices, management training, research and assessment tools, and cost-saving programs.

“It is an honor to join the team at the Maine Association of Nonprofits,” Hutchins said. “Maine’s nonprofit sector is not only a significant employer and economic stimulator, it supports all aspects of healthy, happy and prosperous communities. Maine’s future depends on nonprofits being active partners with business, philanthropic and government leaders to find innovative solutions to our most pressing issues.”

Hutchins’ community involvement has included serving as marketing chair of the Greater Portland Economic Development Corp., sitting on the board of the Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau and as a member of the steering committee of Maine Startup and Create Week. In 2015, on behalf of Creative Portland, she received the Creative Economy award from the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Hutchins received her undergraduate degree from Union College and earned her master’s in public policy and management from the Muskie School of Public Service at the USM. She lives in Portland with her husband and two children.

According to tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Schnapp received an annual salary of $91,860 plus $6,463 in other compensation in 2014, the most recent year available. Hutchins’ salary for that same year was $60,230 plus $15,058 in other compensation.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 May 2016 20:21:13 +0000
Boston man gets 30 years for sex trafficking in Portland Mon, 23 May 2016 21:08:58 +0000 A federal judge has sentenced a Boston man to 30 years in prison for operating a sex-trafficking ring in 14 states, including Maine, where he was ultimately arrested in 2014, according to the office of Carmen Ortiz, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

Raymond Jeffreys, 28, of Dorchester, who went by the street names “Skame,” “Skame Dollarz,” and “Frenchy,” pleaded guilty in January to charges of sex trafficking, tampering with a witness by attempting to kill him, and making false statements to a federal agent. He was sentenced Monday in Boston by U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper.

According to prosecutors, Jeffreys coerced women and underage girls into prostitution, using threats of force and manipulation. He and a co-defendant, Corey Norris, conspired to shuttle them across the country and throughout the Northeast.

A total of 20 women and girls were rescued following Jeffreys’ May 2014 arrest in Portland, including some who hail from Maine, and others who were brought here.

The criminal enterprise operated beginning as late as 2006, and continued until Jeffreys and Norris, who was sentenced to 15 years, were arrested.

“Raymond Jeffreys devastated the lives of his victims,” said Ortiz. “He feigned affection, instilled fear and used violence to control these young women. While no amount of jail time will undo the trauma he inflicted, his sentence demonstrates that those who violate the standards of human decency will face the force of justice.”

]]> 5 Tue, 24 May 2016 08:13:51 +0000
Portland chief says LePage mistaken in account of overdoses at Deering High Mon, 23 May 2016 21:08:42 +0000 Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Monday that Gov. Paul LePage was mistaken about an anecdote he shared this month when he said a Deering High School student had overdosed and was revived three times before returning to class.

Sauschuck said the story the governor was told by Deering’s school resource officer, Steve Black, was about an overdose in Deering Oaks park and did not involve a student.

“I talked to Officer Black. The story was never about students. It was never about schools,” the chief said Monday night.

Sauschuck’s explanation came hours after LePage, appearing on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, doubled down on his claim and then went further by suggesting that perhaps schools were not reporting overdoses.

“I’m thinking of calling (U.S.) Attorney General (Loretta) Lynch and asking for her investigative arm to come up and look at the school systems in Maine,” LePage said. “I think it’s serious enough. I believe it happened.”

The “it” in question is an anecdote that LePage shared May 4 during a town hall meeting in Lewiston while explaining his opposition to expanding access to the drug Narcan, also called naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.

“A junior at Deering High School had three Narcan shots in one week. And the third one, he got up and went to class. He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it he just came out of it and went to class,” LePage said.


Portland’s acting superintendent, Jeanne Crocker, and Deering High School Principal Ira Waltz immediately came out strongly against the claim.

“Unequivocally no. This did not happen at Deering High School,” Crocker said.

Waltz said the school doesn’t even have Narcan on campus.

On Monday, Democratic lawmakers from Portland ratcheted up pressure on LePage to apologize.

“Deering doesn’t deserve to have its reputation maligned by the highest elected leader in our state,” said Senate Democratic leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “The governor owes it to our community to set the record straight. Donald Trump may double down on his lies when confronted with the truth, but we can’t sit by while Gov. LePage makes up hurtful stories about our community.”

Portland-area lawmakers had sent a letter to LePage on May 11 asking him to apologize privately. They said he has remained silent, which prompted them to go public.

“It’s another example of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim.’ I can’t imagine how the governor came up with this story about our students and our high school,” said Rep. Erik Jorgensen, D-Portland, whose district includes Deering High. “This didn’t happen, plain and simple. He should check his facts. But more than that, he owes the hardworking students and faculty of Deering an apology.”

But LePage appeared to dig in even more during his radio remarks Monday.

“It was not fabricated,” he said. “This is an actual conversation I had.”

Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokeswoman, declined to comment Monday or elaborate on what the governor said on the radio. She said LePage was told the anecdote by a school resource officer and that the police chief was in the room. She declined to identify either officer, although Portland has only one police chief, Sauschuck.

The chief said the governor and Officer Black spoke during an event last fall at the police department. Sauschuck said he wasn’t there for the entire conversation, but Black told him about the exchange.

“They were talking about heroin and (Black) shared the story of a very public overdose in Deering Oaks park,” Sauschuck said. He said LePage may have been confused because Black is a school resource officer during the school year, but was in the patrol unit when the park overdose happened during the summer.


A Deering High student, Hanna Amergian, predicted the Deering Oaks connection in a letter to the editor last week.

“The cold hard truth is that LePage apparently needed reasons for why he vetoed the bill (for naloxone to be sold without a prescription), and he did not have a solid reason. Therefore, he constructed some elaborate story about a Deering High School student who does not exist,” she wrote. “What I believe happened is that he was either confused or changed what happened last year in Deering Oaks, where someone had overdosed. What I do not understand is why he would change what actually happened.”

Rather than provide additional details about exactly where LePage heard the false anecdote, Bennett provided data compiled by the state’s emergency medical services agency on use of naloxone. It showed that nine people under the age of 18 were administered the drug statewide in 2015, but it did not say where those cases were or whether they were in schools. Another 107 people aged 18-24 were given the drug, Bennett pointed out, suggesting some “may be high school students.”

“It is very concerning to our governor that our youth are being administered Narcan shots,” she wrote in an email. “This is the story.”

Asked in a follow-up email why the governor didn’t share that data rather than the Deering High anecdote, Bennett did not respond.


During his time as governor, LePage often has used anecdotes to make his points, but he has been proven wrong on several occasions.

In 2012, he was speaking about the problems in Maine’s public schools and how that affected college applications when he said this: “If you go to William & Mary, apply to William & Mary, before they’ll look at your application, if you’re from a Maine school, you have to take a placement exam to see if you qualify.”

A spokeswoman for the college quickly corrected the governor, whose staff later said that LePage was working off information he received in 2005 from an unidentified employee at the school.

In April 2013, the governor used an anecdote to bolster his opposition to wind power. He claimed that a wind turbine on the campus of the University of Maine at Presque Isle was run by a “little electric motor that turns the blades.”

A university spokesperson laughed when asked about the claim and then said it was not true.

Last year, LePage insinuated that Maine author Stephen King spent more time in Florida to avoid paying full property taxes on his Bangor home.

King took to Twitter to fire back.

“Governor Paul LePage implied that I don’t pay my taxes. I do. Every cent. I think he needs to man up and apologize,” King wrote.

The governor did not.


]]> 233, 24 May 2016 11:46:37 +0000
Maine hospitality leader Greg Dugal stepping down Mon, 23 May 2016 20:25:18 +0000 Greg Dugal, one of the most recognizable faces in Maine’s hospitality industry, has submitted his resignation as president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association and Maine Innkeepers Association.

Dugal said he has been working with both boards since November, when he notified them that he intended to step back from the job. The groups, which in 2013 formed Hospitality Association Management Services to facilitate their management under a single operating structure and chief executive, have begun advertising for a replacement.

“I’ve been working 70 to 80 hours a week since I was in my early 20s, and at a certain point you step back and look at life and decide you’d like to enjoy more of it,” Dugal said.

The feeling was exacerbated last fall when the person holding Hospitality Association Management Services’ chief operating officer position left, leaving Dugal alone to manage the two groups and lobby for the associations’ positions on numerous minimum wage initiatives that were wending their way through the Legislature.

“I have offered to stay on and help with government affairs,” Dugal said. “My hope is I wouldn’t be working as many hours, but still would serve the restaurant and innkeeping community.”

The two association boards have voted to create a position for a director of government affairs, but have not yet filled the position.

Hospitality Association Management Services says the hospitality industry employs 77,000 people and generates more than $3.6 billion annually.

Dugal notified the boards of his intention to step down months ago, according to Bruce Woodard, a CPA who is treasurer of the restaurant association.

“It was his decision for sure, and the board regretfully accepted his resignation,” Woodard said. “We hope that he will be able to continue in some capacity with us at some point in the future.”

Dugal had been chief executive of the innkeepers’ association since 2003, and of the restaurant association since 2013, following the retirement of Dick Grotton.

The president and CEO reports to the executive board (six board members from the two associations) and oversees a staff of five. The CEO manages the operations of the two associations, which together have almost 1,200 members and combined budgets of $850,000.

]]> 1, 23 May 2016 22:39:47 +0000
Wilton gets $200,000 EPA grant for Forster Mill cleanup Mon, 23 May 2016 20:24:50 +0000 WILTON — The town has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help with the former Forster Mill cleanup.

The 235,000-square-foot building on Depot Street has been vacant since 2004. Since acquiring the property through foreclosure in March, the site cleanup and ultimate demolition of the building have been a key issue debated among town officials.

The grant, announced Friday in a news release from the Office of U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is for environmental cleanup and demolition of one section of the dilapidated building.

A representative from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection told Wilton residents at a public hearing on the mill in December, that the full remediation and demolition of the mill could cost $900,000 to $1.2 million.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish has applied for three $200,000 Brownfields grants in December, though the one awarded last week is the only grant the town will be receiving this year.

The site has been divided into five parcels for the cleanup and demolition. The $200,000 grant will focus on Parcel 1, located along Depot Street, which is the largest section of the property.

“I think it’s great that we got this funding because it’s going to go to the first main section,” Irish said.

Included in the grant is a $40,000 match requirement for the town. At Town Meeting last year, Wilton residents approved setting aside $25,000 for the building cleanup. At Town Meeting next month, residents will be asked to allocate another $50,000 to the Forster Mill Fund.

Irish said, if passed, this $75,000 will go toward the match and possibly the demolition of a free-standing wall outside of the Parcel 1 section.

Two phases of Brownfields funded environmental assessments of the property conducted last year found asbestos and containers of hazardous materials throughout the site as well as hazardous PCBs and metals.

The grant for Parcel 1 will be used first to conduct asbestos abatements in several bathrooms within that area of the building, Irish said. Then some hazardous materials, such as barrels and scrap metal, will be removed from the area in order for the section to be demolished. Once the section is demolished, environmental testing that couldn’t be conducted with the building standing will be completed on the roof for asbestos and screening of the soil underneath the foundation for traces of hazardous materials.

As the funding schedule stands now, work cannot begin on the clean-up until Oct. 1. However, Irish said she will put in a request to receive the funds early when she signs all the paperwork for the grant on June 16. If they are given the go ahead for the “preaward option,” work could begin on putting project bids together by the end of June.

The grant is for up to three years, but Irish said that does not mean the project will take three years to complete.

In October, Irish will again apply for the two $200,000 EPA grants that they did not receive in this round of funding. She was not discouraged by not receiving the full amount, rather she was grateful that the project at least will finally get a visible start.

State Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, a former Wilton selectman, was elated to hear the news that the mill had finally received federal funding to begin the clean-up. As selectman, Saviello told his fellow board members at a meeting last June that the mill was “his biggest disappointment” in his four terms on the board.

Saviello cited the struggle the town had with the building’s previous owner, Adam Mack, to clean up and demolish the building under his ownership. A lawsuit that the town of Wilton brought against Mack in an effort to force him to finish a demolition attempt that began in 2011, was dropped when the town gain ownership through foreclosure in March 2015.

Saviello applauded Irish and the select board for pressing forward with the clean-up.

“This is fantastic,” Saviello said. “I give all the credit to Rhonda Irish and to our selectmen because they’ve continued to pursue it.”

Located on Depot Street, the dilapidated mill sits as an eyesore and a liability for the town of Wilton, according to Saviello. But with the town being able to get work started on the Forster Mill and worked slated to start on a $400,000 downtown revitalization project in late summer, the town is headed in the right direction.

“We’re trying to move this town forward,” Saviello said. “It’s great.”

This is the second Wilton project to receive Brownfields funding within recent years. A cleanup of the former Wilton Tannery Co. was completed last summer and has since been purchased by Wilton selectman and businessman John Black., who is presently working to turn the former tannery building into Wilson Stream Business Park.

Wilton received $200,000 in Brownfields funding for the tannery clean-up, with a $40,000 town match. A $150,000 grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development was also used for the project.

]]> 0, 23 May 2016 16:42:39 +0000
Veteran charged in Shapleigh standoff ordered held without bail Mon, 23 May 2016 19:10:39 +0000 SPRINGVALE –– A former Army Ranger who allegedly fired an assault rifle numerous times and was arrested after a standoff was ordered held without bail Monday at the York County Jail.

Judge Richard Mulhern ruled that Robert W. Ferrera III should be held without bail because he violated conditions from previous charges, including criminal mischief and violating probation from July 2014 and carrying a concealed weapon from February 2013.

Ferrera, who was arraigned by videoconference in District Court in Springvale, was charged Monday with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon as a result of the incident at the family farm in Shapleigh on Sunday.

Court documents filed Monday also indicated that Ferrera “did recklessly create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to Robert W. Ferrera Jr. with the use of a firearm against the person of Robert W. Ferrera Jr.”

Robert W. Ferrera Jr. is Ferrera’s father.

No one was hurt in the incident, but the York County Sheriff’s Office reported that at Ferrera’s home on Oak Hill Road in Shapleigh, Ferrera, 26, had shot an AK-47 assault rifle at least 18 times. Sheriff William King Jr. said that Ferrera is a veteran who served with the Army Rangers – an elite fighting force – in Afghanistan a few years ago.

Ferrera lives on the family farm, which was once used to raise alpacas, according to the sheriff’s office. Ferrera was apparently upset over his living conditions, King said Sunday.

When the shooting started, a family member fled and called police. Deputies arrived about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, set up a perimeter and monitored Ferrera’s movements.

Ferrera left the home about an hour later and started walking toward a tree line, when he was confronted by deputies and arrested. Ferrera was unarmed at the time.

King said authorities are looking into whether post-traumatic stress disorder from Ferrera’s service in the military was a factor in the incident.

Ferrera did not enter a plea Monday, as the case is being transferred to York County Superior Court.


]]> 13, 24 May 2016 08:12:43 +0000
Electrical spark cited as cause of fatal fire at Oxford apartment complex Mon, 23 May 2016 18:23:38 +0000 The fire that killed an 85-year-old woman in Oxford, injured another woman and displaced dozens of elderly residents Saturday was accidentally caused by a faulty electrical connection inside a wall outlet, the state Fire Marshal’s Office said.

Fire investigators worked with a state electrical inspector to determine that a wire connected to an outlet in a first-floor common area caused the spark that ignited the blaze. The fire spread quickly to a lamp that was connected to the outlet. The flames accelerated when they reached a wicker basket full of newspapers, the fire marshal’s office said Monday.

Meanwhile, 15 displaced tenants were to spend Monday night at the Inn Town Motel in Norway, up from 10 residents Saturday night, said Ann Marie Westberry, manager at the hotel. She said the owners of the apartment complex, Speedway Inc. Madison Avenue Associates, have agreed to pay the hotel bill.

“For the most part of it, they’ll be here until the building is ready to move back in,” she said. “The Red Cross has done a tremendous job.”

Westberry said a few residents whose apartments were not close to the most damaged areas of the building were allowed to return to their units to retrieve some belongings Monday afternoon, but for those who lived near the common area where the fire began, there has been no access so far.

Killed in the blaze was Theresa Heino, 85.

Another woman, Virginia Brown, 65, who suffered smoke inhalation, was transported to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway in critical condition. On Monday, she was in stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Brown declined to be interviewed, and her family requested privacy as she recovers.

The complex, Oxford Meadow Apartments at 1633 Main St., which is also Route 26, houses about 40 older residents. Many are low-income tenants, have disabilities or use wheelchairs.

Extensive rescue operations were required to evacuate the other people in the building, authorities said. Rescuers had to rouse some residents from their beds and carried others out of their apartments via ladders from the ground, from aerial ladders and through windows.

Oxford Fire Chief Wayne Jones said about half of the units, on the right half of the building, were more damaged than the other side. The building’s owners have indicated plans to rebuild and reoccupy, but how long that will take is unknown, he said.

“We’re just starting down the road to trying to get that building reoccupied,” Jones said.

A spokesman for the American Red Cross of Maine said the relief organization had made contact with at least one person from each of the complex’s 38 units, and was providing various levels of support, including refilling prescriptions lost in the fire, helping residents obtain new clothes, and helping them find shelter.

The complex is owned by Robert P. Bahre, former owner of the Oxford Plains Speedway and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a major investor in the Oxford Casino, which was sold to Churchill Downs for $160 million in 2013. The casino and speedway are a short drive away on Route 26.

The company operates more than a dozen apartment complexes for elderly and disabled people around the state. Red Cross officials said that although the apartments are for the elderly, it’s not an assisted living facility with around-the-clock care for residents.

The building was last inspected in March 2009, according to town tax records. It was built in 1984, and is listed in “average” condition. It did not have a sprinkler system, but the facility was equipped with fire alarms, which worked properly during the fire.

When all residents will be allowed back into their units has not been determined, said Westberry, the hotel manager.

“Right now, it’s day by day,” she said.


]]> 3, 24 May 2016 08:13:08 +0000
Verso Paper’s first-quarter loss declines from a year ago Mon, 23 May 2016 18:15:47 +0000 The papermaker with a mill in Jay lost $88 million in the quarter, down from $122 million a year ago.

Verso Paper Holdings LLC, the bankrupt owner of Verso Paper and NewPage, on Monday reported a net loss of $88 million for the first quarter, an improvement from the $122 million loss it reported for the first quarter of 2015.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based company reported $144 million in restructuring charges in the first quarter as its bankruptcy proceeding advanced toward a resolution in which $2.3 billion in unpaid debt would be converted to equity and distributed as shares to creditors.

Once the primary supplier of glossy magazine paper, Verso Paper filed for bankruptcy reorganization in late January, seeking protection from creditors for a business that has been devastated by market shifts and changing consumer habits.

The company, which operates a mill in Jay that employs about 550 people, filed the reorganization papers in Delaware bankruptcy court. Verso is headquartered in Tennessee but incorporated in Delaware.

In its first-quarter earnings statement, Verso Paper reported quarterly revenue of $690 million, down 14.4 percent from $806 million in the first quarter of 2015. However, the cost to produce its products decreased by 15.1 percent, to $618 million from $728 million in the first quarter a year ago.

Verso Paper said it filed a reorganization plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on March 26, which, if approved by the court, would allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy. The plan would wipe out nearly all of the company’s outstanding debt by issuing shares of stock to creditors in lieu of debt repayment. Verso Paper said it plans to continue operating as usual during the remainder of the bankruptcy process.

The master list of creditors filed by Verso includes the names of 30,785 businesses and individuals. Two Maine companies are listed among its 30 largest creditors: Catalyst Paper Operations Inc. of Rumford is owed $2.2 million, and Hartt Transportation Systems Inc. of Bangor is owed $1.2 million.

Like many paper companies, Verso Paper faces formidable challenges, both within its own corporate structure and in the global industry as a whole. To stem the loss of revenue, it sold off its unprofitable Bucksport mill in late 2014, eliminating more than 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 2015. That mill is now owned by Canada-based Catalyst Paper.

At the conclusion of the deal, Verso Paper 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.

The acquisition of NewPage was financed primarily through borrowing. In the days leading up to its bankruptcy filing, the company notified federal securities regulators that it was exercising a five-day grace period on a payment due on a $731 million loan, and a 30-day grace period on interest payments due on $1.3 billion in secured notes.

Verso Paper is an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm based in New York City that purchased the papermaker from Memphis-based International Paper in 2006 for $1.4 billion.

]]> 4, 23 May 2016 23:39:33 +0000
Saco gives preliminary approval to moratorium on medical marijuana facilities Mon, 23 May 2016 17:38:30 +0000 The Saco City Council took the first step Monday night toward enacting a six-month moratorium on new permits for medical marijuana facilities that will give officials time to determine where in the city such businesses should be allowed.

City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said the council voted 6-1 to move to a second and final reading on the moratorium June 6.

Over the past few months, Saco has seen greater interest from small-scale medical marijuana suppliers, known as caregivers, who want to grow cannabis plants in commercial facilities rather than their homes, city officials said. Saco now has several facilities where caregivers grow medical marijuana, primarily in business and industrial zones.

Saco is joining a growing number of communities across southern and central Maine that are seeking ways to zone medical marijuana growing facilities. Last month, Biddeford enacted a six-month moratorium on new permits.

State-licensed caregivers are allowed to grow as many as six mature plants to supply five patients. However, some caregivers supply larger numbers of patients by rotating their customers and keeping only five active customers at a time. Caregiver applications and patient records are confidential under state law, so municipal employees often don’t know how many caregivers are operating in their communities. There are about 2,225 caregivers in Maine.

Towns and cities are free to adopt zoning rules for where caregivers can grow and sell marijuana, but they have to be careful not to conflict with state law.

In a memo to Saco city councilors, Sutherland said a legal opinion from a city attorney said state statutes do not explicitly forbid regulation of caregivers through zoning.

“The city cannot regulate a caregiver’s business or licensure more than the state can, but the city does have the power, from statute, to regulate where these facilities are located in the municipality,” he said. “The location of these facilities is a pressing issue for the city, due to a lack of regulation for the previous three years.”

Caregivers are different from larger-scale medical marijuana dispensaries, eight of which have been licensed by the state to serve various regions of the state.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: grahamgillian

]]> 5 Mon, 23 May 2016 22:41:03 +0000
Lawmakers criticize LePage for overdose remark Mon, 23 May 2016 17:07:13 +0000 PORTLAND — Portland legislators are asking Gov. Paul LePage to apologize for falsely claiming that a high school student repeatedly overdosed and went to class after being revived with the drug naloxone a third time.

LePage told the story while speaking against a bill to allow access to naloxone without a prescription. The Republican says such legislation should require people who receive naloxone to enter rehab after being revived. The Legislature last month overrode LePage’s veto of the bill.

Deering High School leaders deny the story, and Portland legislators say LePage still hasn’t set the record straight. In a press release, Democratic Rep. Erik Jorgensen said: “It’s another example of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim.’

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jorgensen said: “This didn’t happen, plain and simple.”

]]> 38, 23 May 2016 14:09:46 +0000
Judge stops Portland police from using noise law to quiet anti-abortion protests Mon, 23 May 2016 16:15:03 +0000 A federal judge ordered police on Monday to stop using a noise provision in the Maine Civil Rights Act to keep anti-abortion protesters from shouting so loudly that they can be heard inside the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Portland.

U.S. District Chief Judge Nancy Torresen issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by Andrew March in December. He argued that police who told him to quiet down outside Planned Parenthood’s office in Monument Square last year targeted him because of his anti-abortion message and violated his constitutional rights to free speech.

March, pastor of the Lewiston church Cell 53, filed his lawsuit as a counterclaim after the Maine Attorney General’s Office brought a suit in state court against Brian Ingalls, a member of the Cell 53 congregation.

The attorney general’s suit accuses Ingalls of yelling so loudly about murdering babies, aborted babies’ blood and Jesus on Oct. 23 that his voice could be heard in the second-floor counseling and examination rooms of the health clinic at 443 Congress St. The shouting, according to the lawsuit, violated a provision in the Maine Civil Rights Act that protects people getting medical care from noisy disturbances.

The judge in the state court case, Justice Lance Walker, has yet to rule in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Attorney General Janet Mills’ request for an injunction that seeks to keep Ingalls from coming within 50 feet of Planned Parenthood facilities anywhere in the state. It was unclear Monday how or whether the federal court ruling would affect the state case.

“The case presents the difficult question of whether a state law providing protection to women seeking access to constitutionally protected health care violates the First Amendment rights of an individual who wishes to voice his opposition to abortion on a public sidewalk,” Torresen wrote in the ruling. “I conclude that it does.”


Torresen ruled Monday in the federal suit against Mills and several individual Portland police officers after hearing oral arguments on the issue April 4 and after asking many pointed questions about prior case law to the attorneys on both sides.

March’s attorney, Kate Oliveri, said that although Torresen’s ruling was not a final decision in the case, it indicates that the judge believes March will ultimately be victorious.

“The ruling is important in two immediately significant ways,” said Oliveri, of the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan. “First, it means that Pastor March is likely to succeed on the merits when the case goes to summary judgment or trial. In other words, the court found, based on the evidence and legal arguments presented in the briefing and at oral argument, that the noise portion of the Maine Civil Rights Act is an unconstitutional restriction on free-speech rights. Second, it means that Pastor March and other peaceful pro-life speakers can preach and pray on the public sidewalk without fear of prosecution under the noise portion of the Maine Civil Rights Act.”

Timothy Feeley, a spokesman for Mills, said the Attorney General’s Office defended the noise statute by saying it was carefully crafted and is a reasonable accommodation of free speech.

“We will review the (federal) court’s decision and decide on an appeal. It is the attorney general’s responsibility to defend the constitutionality of state statutes whenever reasonably appropriate,” Feeley said.

In the most recent ruling in the state case, the judge denied Ingalls’ motion to dismiss the case without hearing evidence on grounds that his free-speech rights outweigh the rights of women under state law to safe and effective health care. That ruling cleared the case to proceed.


In the federal case, Oliveri, March’s attorney, argued that police let parades, sirens and other loud noise outside Planned Parenthood go unchecked, but used the statute against anti-abortion protesters solely because of their anti-abortion message.

Torresen said in her 35-page ruling Monday that the preliminary injunction was specific to the circumstances in March’s lawsuit and left the door open for further legislation that could prevent loud protests as long as it doesn’t target specific speech.

“If I were balancing a woman’s right to receive safe and effective medical treatment against  (March’s) right to speak at his chosen volume outside the windows of the health center, I would conclude that the former is considerably more important than the latter. However, I must also consider the realities of the situation,” Torresen wrote. “The defendants (Mills and the police) are free to pass content-neutral legislation that can achieve the goal of a peaceful environment for people receiving health care. While I understand the defendants’ frustration with the shifting sands of First Amendment jurisprudence, avenues are still open to protect the interests of both sides of this debate.”

Nicole Clegg, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Maine, said the judge acknowledged in her ruling how disruptive the yelling protesters are to women trying to speak to health care providers.

“It’s loud. It’s sustained. The impact it has had on our patients is undeniable,” Clegg said. “Our first priority is to the safety of our patients and our staff and to make sure people have access to the health care that they need.”

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Portland man struck by moped on Brighton Avenue dies Mon, 23 May 2016 15:23:09 +0000 The 52-year-old Portland man who was struck May 17 by a moped on Brighton Avenue has died, a spokesman for the city said Monday.

David Burnham died Saturday at Maine Medical Center.

The accident is still under investigation by the Portland police. Kelly McGovern, 36, of Portland, the driver of the 2007 Honda moped that struck him, has not been charged, but police are still investigating, said Portland police Lt. Clifford Strout.

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Portland set to hire next superintendent, hoping for long-term leader Mon, 23 May 2016 15:18:02 +0000 A Cuban immigrant who has worked in school systems in Indiana, Illinois and Oregon is poised to become the next school superintendent in Maine’s largest city.

Portland school board members will vote Tuesday on their top choice for superintendent, 53-year-old Xavier Botana, now an associate superintendent in the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana.

“Based on Mr. Botana’s experience, credentials and the transformative work he has accomplished in a district similar to our own, we believe there is much he can bring to our school system that can make it even better,” board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione said in a written statement Monday.

The board will vote on a contract to hire Botana at its regular meeting Tuesday, which begins at 7 p.m. at Presumpscot Elementary School.

He would begin July 1 and succeed acting superintendent Jeanne Crocker. She stepped into the role last August, after then-Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk took a new job as superintendent of schools in Lexington, Kentucky. Caulk was paid $137,500 a year when he left the district last June.


Botana is being offered a three-year contract that would pay him an annual base salary of $148,000. He also would receive up to $10,000 for relocation expenses.

Terms of Botana’s employment agreement, which are attached to the School Board’s May 24 agenda package, state that his employment would begin July 1, 2016, and end June 30, 2019.

Unless his contract is renewed, it would automatically terminate on June 30, 2019.

If Botana leaves Portland before his contract expires, he will be required to reimburse the school department for moving expenses, pro-rated based on the number of years served.

Botana has been associate superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010. About 6,000 students are enrolled in the district.

Portland has about 7,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Nearly one-third of its students do not speak English as their first language. More than 50 languages are spoken in Portland schools. The district operates 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and four high schools.

Before moving to Indiana, Botana served for about a year as chief academic officer for the Portland, Oregon, public schools, then returned to the Chicago area for family reasons.

Before that, he was chief officer of instructional design and assessment for the Chicago Public Schools, an administrator for the Illinois State Board of Education, and held various other positions in schools in Illinois.

Botana holds a master’s degree in educational administration and has completed some doctoral program course work.

He was one of two finalists for the Portland position, out of an initial pool of 41 candidates. The other finalist, Teresa A. Lance, is assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Morrione and fellow board member Jenna Vendil visited the Michigan City Area Schools recently to talk to school community members, including union leaders, principals, parents and board members.

“They came away greatly impressed with his accomplishments,” a district statement said. “Mr. Botana was a critical part in transforming a school district that grappled with a significant budget deficit and declining enrollment to an innovative district that offers unique educational options to meet all student needs.”

Morrione and Vendil said Botana’s “engagement with parents and the community led to collaborative partnerships to renew local pride in the schools.”

For instance, Botana played a role in repurposing a former middle school into a youth center that now includes a Boys & Girls Club, a community theater program and a juvenile detention alternative program for at-risk youth. A former elementary school that had to be closed has been converted into a site for Head Start’s early childhood program.

Morrione said Botana has all the characteristics that families, district employees, the school board and the Portland community have said they wanted in a superintendent.

“We are most fortunate to have found such a leader who meets and exceeds our needs,” Morrione said in the statement.

During a community forum held this month, Botana addressed one of the community’s greatest concerns – reassuring the audience that if he were to become Portland’s superintendent, he did not plan to move again, and would like to be superintendent for “10 to 15 years.”

Botana would be the sixth superintendent for the system within nine years. The Portland school district has had a string of superintendents since 2007, when a $2 million deficit crisis led to the resignation of then-Superintendent Mary Jo Connor. She was succeeded by Jeanne Whynot-Vickers until 2009, James Morse from 2009 to 2012, Caulk from 2012 to 2015, and Crocker for the past year.


Botana has an interesting family history. At the forum he talked about his own immigrant past, noting Portland’s large number of immigrant students. One in four Portland students, or 25 percent, is an English language learner.

Botana said he was born in Cuba and as a young child was put on a flight to Spain with instructions for a stewardess to make sure he made it safely. Botana said he lived in Spain with his grandparents for two years before being reunited with his parents in the United States after they’d obtained visas.

The mass exodus of unaccompanied Cuban minors during the early 1960s became known as Operation Pedro Pan. It was driven by parents who feared the Cuban government, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, would decide how their children would be educated.

At the forum, Botana also talked about his yearly visits to a special camp in Maine, something that Morrione mentions in the school board’s statement.

Morrione said that each winter Botana travels to Sunday River ski resort in Newry, where he is involved in a ski program for youngsters with special needs.

The program, called “Camp No Limits,” is the only camp in the country for young people with limb loss and their families. There are 10 Camp No Limits programs nationwide.

Botana could not be reached for comment Monday evening, but in a March 2015 story by the Portland Press Herald, Botana said he liked the camp because it allowed him to attend support groups where family members share stories and advice. His son, David, has attended the camp for several years.

“It gives people an opportunity to meet other parents that are facing the same kind of challenges,” Botana said. “There’s a lot of tips around how do you do school, how do you do bullying?”

Earlier this month, Portland voters approved a $103.6 million education budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.


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Maine man severely burned in house fire Mon, 23 May 2016 14:08:08 +0000 A 50-year-old Atkinson man suffered severe burns Saturday night when his house and an adjacent camper caught fire in the Piscataquis County town, state fire marshals said Monday.

James Wellington was flown by Life Flight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to a statement from the Maine Department of Public Safety. He was listed in critical condition Monday night.

The blaze at 405 Maple Rd. was reported about 10 p.m. Saturday. Another man, Craig Young, 64, who was living in the camper, escaped uninjured.

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Death of St. Albans boy ruled accidental drowning Mon, 23 May 2016 13:53:36 +0000 The boy found dead in a man-made pond on his uncle’s property in St. Albans Sunday has been identified as 4-year-old Maxwell Brawn.

The cause of death has been ruled as accidental drowning by the state medical examiner’s office, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service.

The boy’s body was found in seven feet of water in the pond shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, MacDonald said. The pond is 15 feet deep at its deepest, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said. It’s about 100 yards from the boy’s home on Ballard Road, on property owned by the boy’s uncle.

The boy was reported missing around 4:30 p.m. The initial call went to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office and the department requested assistance from the Maine Warden Service, the release said.

“A ground search was initiated in the immediate area of the boy’s residence,” MacDonald said in the release. He said Maine State Police used a dog tracking team, while other searchers looked in woods surrounding the house.

MacDonald said that “clues led to a farm pond next door on property owned by the boy’s uncle.”

He said the Warden Service dive team found the body at 6:50 p.m. in about seven feet of water.

The Warden Service was assisted by the Maine State Police, Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, Dexter Fire, St. Albans Fire, Hartland Fire and Sebasticook Valley Ambulance.

No charges are expected in the case.

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