The following excerpts come from reporter Linda Hersey’s blog, “The South Portlander,” where readers can find photos, videos, daily updates and community comments on the stories Hersey reports.

Maine Military Museum launches Web site

(Posted March 13)

One of the world’s foremost collectors of POW-MIA artifacts has launched a Web site that explains his background and details plans for the Maine Military Museum and Learning Center.

Some of Lee Humiston’s memorabilia is on permanent display at the Smithsonian. He also is rehabbing a former engineering building in Mill Creek Park for the museum.

Humiston, who originally is from South Portland, says it has been his dream to find a permanent home here for the thousands of items in his possession.

Humiston has never bought or traded items from the Vietnam war-era. All the artifacts were personally donated by veterans and their families.

Vietnam War items will be the centerpiece. But Humiston also is encouraging Maine military veterans to contact him and donate their items. Artifacts can cover any military experience. He can be reached at 650-8651.

School Leaders trim jobs in budget

(Posted March 12)

If there is good news about next year’s school budget, it is that Superintendent Suzanne Godin and Business Manager Polly Ward were able to soften the blows and mitigate the cuts.

Here is a synopsis of the 2008-09 budget the School Board adopted this week. The City Council will be asked to endorse the budget. A tentative date has been set for April 7.

The spending package is expected to go before voters in a citywide ballot in mid-April; the tentative date is April 15.

The fiscal 2008-09 budget is just under $40 million. It is up less than $1 million from the current budget of $39.1 million.

The state is expected to cover $4 million; another $2 million will come from school revenues. Local taxpayers will pick up the rest.

The state funding is $683,000 less than this year, which forced the school department to trim jobs.

While an earlier version of the school budget called for eliminating 18 positions, only nine are cut under the adopted plan. The other nine were spared by moving funds from maintenance requests and balances from capital improvement accounts.

Seven of the nine jobs will be eliminated through attrition and retirement, meaning no one will lose a job. But two jobs are filled instructor posts at the high school. It is possible that the two staff members can move into job vacancies.

The Athletic Department will make $30,000 in cuts by eliminating seven assistant coaches at the middle school, a high school assistant cheering coach and a freshman field hockey coach.

Environmental chief silent on EPA petition

(Posted March 11)

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is not taking a position on a law group’s request for the feds to step in and regulate storm water discharge by Maine Mall-area businesses, according to David Littell, DEP commissioner.

The Conservation Law Foundation last week filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Boston, requesting that it require commercial businesses in the Long Creek Watershed to get permits to discharge storm water.

Storm water runoff is believed to be the leading cause of pollution in Long Creek, which can no longer support wildlife. The watershed flows into the Fore River and Casco Bay.

Although there has been a voluntary effort by mall businesses to filter their storm water, the law foundation argues there needs to be government regulation to ensure that everyone complies.

Littell said Tuesday that the DEP – which enforces EPA rules – will not take a position on the request at this point.

Littell also said he was not surprised by the law foundation’s petition. He said the law foundation has filed similar requests with the EPA in other New England states.

He said that the group has acted aggressively to apply standards of the Clean Water Act to restoring urban streams contaminated by storm water runoff.

Littell described pollution from storm water runoff as an emerging environmental concern in New England and nationwide.

Storm water that flows from driveways, rooftops and parking lots often contains grease, sediment, road salt, metals and other petroleum products.

Big changes under way at City Hall

(Posted March 10)

Here is a memo City Manager Jim Gailey sent out to employees last week that outlines major changes in the structure of city government.

The changes appear to be a very local effort at consolidation, something that Mainers are witnessing at the state level too. No word yet on projected cost savings or the response from city staffers.

Here is the memo:

Today I am announcing a new way of doing business in city government.

For many years we have done the same things the same way without looking at ways of creating efficiency and capacity through collaboration. A national trend is for federal, state, and local governments to look at how they conduct business and what changes can be implemented to reduce costs, while offering the same level of service. I believe the City of South Portland needs to modernize and overhaul our way of doing business.

This effort will not happen over night. I see the process being done over a number of phases over the next couple of years. We currently do a good job working between departments. However, we can do better in an attempt to improve the superior services that you all provide every day.

Since September I have undertaken a rigorous analysis of our government structure, while looking nationwide on how other communities structure their government. Today I am implementing a new organizational structure for the City of South Portland.

I have spent the last month talking with the 13 department heads of my plan for increased collaboration through the collapsing of the department organizational chart. We are very excited by the new opportunities and challenges and strongly feel by beginning to implement the plan we are moving the city in a forward and proactive direction.

The following changes will begin to be implemented:

1. Welfare and City Clerk’s will now be under Human Resources;

2. The Engineering Department will no longer be under Planning and Development. Will now be under Water Resource Protection;

3. City Administration will have oversight of Economic Development, Planning & Development and the Legal Department (secretary);

4. SPC-TV will be merged with Information Technology, which will remain under the Finance Department;

5. The Department of Libraries will be combined with Parks, Recreation and Public Works;

6. Upon the completion of the merger with the city of Portland – dispatch will be under the Fire Department and no longer under the Police Department;

7. Transportation (bus) will remain a single entity as a result of their on-going talks with Shuttlebus/Zoom out of Saco/Biddeford/Old Orchard.

I thank you all for accepting this plan and I look forward to working with you in moving our municipality forward in future initiatives.


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