Council committee rejects restrictions on sex offenders

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee killed a proposal Tuesday to prohibit convicted sex offenders from living near schools and city parks.

Councilors Dan Skolnik and Kevin Donoghue voted not to send the proposal to the City Council. Only Councilor John Coyne voted in favor of the measure.

Opponents said there is no evidence that the new restriction would improve public safety.

Police Chief James Craig began pushing for the measure in December, after announcing that 17 sex offenders were living in apartment buildings across Cumberland Avenue from Portland High School, near the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine.

Ship that arrives Thursday is offering eight-day cruises

Two cruise ships will make the Ocean Gateway terminal their home port this summer for cruises on the Maine coast.

The American Glory, operated by American Cruise Line, will arrive Thursday. It holds about 50 passengers and will take eight-day cruises from Portland to coastal communities, including Boothbay Harbor, Bar Harbor, Camden, Belfast, Castine and Rockland.

The ship will be joined by the Independence, also operated by American Cruise Line, beginning July 2. The Independence carries 104 passengers and will have a similar itinerary.

Portland officials say they expect 70 ships, carrying 75,370 passengers, to call in Portland this summer. The number of ships and the number of passengers would be records for the city.

Pot dispensary moratorium to be topic of public hearing

The City Council will hold a public hearing June 21 on a proposal to ban medical marijuana dispensaries for as long as six months.
City councilors took up the proposed moratorium Monday night and voted to hold the hearing rather than move it forward as an emergency matter.

The proposal would prohibit dispensaries while the city sets up new rules and zoning to regulate such an operation. Biddeford, South Portland and several other Maine communities have passed similar moratoriums.

No dispensaries have been proposed for Portland or any other Maine community. The state is accepting applications from prospective operators until June 25, then will select eight to open the state’s first licensed dispensaries, one in each region of the state.

Cumberland and York counties each will get one dispensary, and some potential operators hope to set up in Portland.

Robber brandishes weapon, steals drugs from pharmacy

A robber stole an undisclosed amount of drugs Tuesday morning from the Rite-Aid pharmacy on Alfred Street.

Biddeford police said a man – described as white, 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighing 160 to 180 pounds and last seen wearing a green hoodie – entered the store about 11:45 a.m.

He went to the pharmacy area, where he showed clerks a weapon. Police are not disclosing the type of weapon, other than to say it was not a gun. He demanded drugs and then ran from the store.

Police asked anyone with information about the crime to call them at 282-5127.

Four face charges in robbery of man in hotel room Monday

Police said they have arrested four men who threatened and robbed a man at the Econo Lodge on John Roberts Road late Monday, then burglarized his room.

Police said the victim told them he knew one of the men and had picked up all four in Portland to hang out at his hotel room.

Once they were in the room, one of the men began choking the victim and another threatened the victim with a knife, according to police. The four allegedly took a small amount of cash and left. The victim had minor injuries, but did not need treatment.

While the victim was talking to the hotel clerk about the incident, police said, the suspects returned to the man’s room and entered with a key they had taken during the robbery. A laptop computer and video games were stolen, police said.

Police used a tracking dog and found four men in a nearby parking lot. A subsequent search led to the laptop and other items.

Arrested and charged with robbery, burglary and theft were Mataka Luka, 19; Abdirizak Farah, 19; Augustine Anthony, 19; and a 17-year-old juvenile whose name was not released because of his age. All four are from Portland.

Police said the adults were held in the Cumberland County Jail, with bail set at $100,000 each. The 17-year-old was held in the Long Creek Youth Development Center. The adults are expected to be arraigned today.

Boston pro sports figures join Bush charity golf event

Some big names in New England sports turned out Tuesday for the George H.W. Bush Cape Arundel Celebrity Golf Classic.

Former Red Sox players Curt Schilling, Luis Tiant and Jim Lonborg, former New England Patriots Troy Brown and Garin Veris and the Celtics’ Dave Cowens participated in the charity event.

A spokesman said Bush dropped in at the club to say hello, but did not play. He will turn 86 this weekend.

Schilling said the former president is a “special friend,” and the celebrity participants wanted to do something to help the community.

Proceeds will go to Gary’s House, which provides a home away from home for people with family members being treated at Portland’s Mercy Hospital.

Farnsworth Art Museum cuts staff, wages amid slow times

The Farnsworth Art Museum has laid off four employees and is requiring full-time, salaried staff members to take a week of unpaid days off later this year to bring down costs.

The museum is also postponing some new programming until its economic situation looks brighter.

Spokesman David Troup said the museum has not been immune from the financial difficulties that have hit museums around the country.

The Farnsworth, one of Maine’s most prominent art museums, includes a gallery and study center devoted to the Maine-related work of N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.

Ohio hiker won’t get a bill to pay for rescue in Baxter

A hiker who spent three days lost near Maine’s highest peak after leaving a hiking trail won’t have to pay for his rescue.

Michael Hays, 41, of Stow, Ohio, could have been charged with the cost of the search, said Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell. Searchers found Hays on May 31, three days after he left a trail thinking it would be a shortcut. He was unable to walk because of an injured knee.

Bissell told the Bangor Daily News that officials decided not to charge Hays because he seemed to be an experienced hiker, was properly equipped and made several smart choices to save himself.

The cost of the rescue hasn’t been determined yet.

PUC: Phone carriers can keep systems closed to competitors

The Public Utilities Commission voted Tuesday to maintain exemptions that allow five rural telephone carriers to keep their systems closed to competitors.

The three-member commission voted unanimously to uphold the exemption for the Unitel, Oxford and Oxford West telephone companies, while a majority voted to maintain the exemption for the Lincolnville and Tidewater telephone companies.

The exemptions allow small telephone companies to avoid the cost of opening their systems to competitors. In this case, Time Warner, through County Roads Communications, wanted to negotiate with the carriers for access to provide digital phone service.

PUC Chairwoman Sharon Reishus said the decision came down to an analysis of the financial ability of the rural companies to withstand market competition.

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