MDOT to close several I-295 south exits in Portland as paving projects continue

The Maine Department of Transportation announced Monday that it plans to close several southbound exits along Interstate 295 in Portland this week for paving.

All of the closures will be between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. The schedule:
Tonight, Exit 6A (Forest Avenue South); Thursday, Exit 5B (Congress Street West); Friday, Exit 5A’s (Congress Street East) on and off ramps.

In addition, said spokesman Mark Latti, motorists traveling northbound on Interstate 295 starting at the Presumpscot River will be restricted to one lane of traffic as crews continue paving. The single travel lane will be maintained between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. through Wednesday.

Portland school leaders at team-building retreats will focus on ‘interdependence’

All principals and other administrators in the city’s public schools are attending a series of team-building retreats today through Thursday.

The retreats are being held at the Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth Island in Falmouth.

The retreats are being led by Rice & Associates, a Greensboro, N.C., consulting firm that specializes in management change in business and industry.

Superintendent Jim Morse said the retreats will help to create an environment of interdependence rather than independence.

The Baxter School offered its facilities for free, and the cost of food and facilitators will be covered by federal economic recovery funds, Morse said.

Food stolen from food pantry found behind vacant building; most has to be discarded

Portland police are investigating the theft of meat and candy bars from the Front Street Food Pantry over the weekend.

Workers at the food pantry, which is in a Portland Housing Authority building, arrived Sunday morning to find someone had forced their way into the building and into locked freezers, doing about $100 in damage and stealing about $400 in food.

Police said much of the food was found behind a vacant building across the street and had to be discarded.


Babine resigns from Scarborough council, cites demands of travel for job, education

Shawn Babine resigned from the Town Council last week, citing heavy travel required by a new job and his studies.
A special election will be held in November to fill the remainder of Babine’s three-year term, which expires in November 2011.

Babine, 43, took a job last month as CEO of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Inc. The job is based in Indianapolis, and Babine said he plans to spend Monday through Friday there and return to Maine for the weekends.

Babine also is continuing his pursuit of a doctorate in law and policy at Northeastern University. The program has a residency component that requires him to be in Boston several days a month.

Babine said he has not ruled out running for elected office again in the future.

“We’re always going to have a home in Scarborough. If time permits in the future, I would love to,” he said.


Wright Express expands international end, buys fuel-card company based in Australia

In a deal valued at $318 million, South Portland-based Wright Express has purchased Australian Retail Decisions to expand its international business of fleet and prepaid cards.

The acquisition includes two leading products: ReD Fuel, a fuel card accepted at about 90 percent of Australian fuel retailers, and ReD Prepaid, a prepaid card with approximately 60 percent market share in Australia.

These products generated $61.4 million (Australian currency) in revenue.

Wright Express is an information management and payment processing company for vehicle fleets. The company’s charge cards are used for the fueling and maintenance of about 4.6 million vehicles.


General Dynamics awarded contract by U.S. Army to build grenade launchers

The U.S. Army has awarded a contract to General Dynamics to build 130 lightweight grenade launchers at a plant in southern Maine.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said the $24.9 million contract calls for 130 launchers to be manufactured at General Dynamics’ facility in Saco.

The work is expected to be completed by August 2012.


Gasoline prices rise slightly; heating oilis stable but likely to rise for winter

Average retail gasoline prices in Maine are up slightly, but the price of home heating oil remains stable.

A price-monitoring website, MaineGasPrices.com, says average gasoline prices in Maine have risen 0.6 cent per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.74 per gallon Sunday. The national average has also increased 0.6 cent per gallon in the last week to $2.75 per gallon.

Meanwhile, state energy officials say the statewide average cash price for No. 2 heating oil is $2.58 per gallon, unchanged for the last three weeks.

Energy Director John Kerry said Monday that heating oil prices have remained high during the recession and crude oil is trending upward, which will likely lead to higher petroleum prices this winter.


Retiring judge sees his future as a minister, hopes to see renewal of family stability

A retiring Maine District Court judge plans to swap the law books for the Bible.

Bernard Staples, who served on the bench for 21 years in Belfast, Bar Harbor and Ellsworth, retired last Thursday. The Bangor Daily News says the 77-year-old Hulls Cove resident will begin studying this fall at Grace Evangelical Seminary in Bangor to be a minister.

Much of Staples’ work as a judge dealt with family issues including divorce, child custody and child protective services.

Staples says he’s seen firsthand the dissolution of the family during his time on the bench. The aspiring minister says he hopes to see a time when marriage again becomes a lifelong commitment for parents.


Two firefighters hurt battling garage fire; crews keep blaze from spreading to home

Two York firefighters were injured earlier today while battling a fire that broke out in a two-car garage at 107 Scotland Bridge Road.

Fire Chief Chris Balentine said crews encountered intense heat and smoke when they arrived at the home shortly after midnight on Monday.

One firefighter had to be treated for an arm injury resulting from breaking glass. Another firefighter experienced difficulty breathing and had to be treated for heat exhaustion. Both firefighters are expected to recover.

Balentine said the fire was prevented from spreading to the attached home, which is owned by Robert and Joanne Yorke. The couple along with a small dog and some chickens escaped injury.

The house sustained smoke damage and may not be habitable for a few days, Balentine said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


Fire burns five acres; Maine Forest Service using helicopter to dump water on blaze

Firefighters are battling a wildfire that broke out Monday afternoon in a remote section of Danforth, a town near the New Brunswick border.

Kent Nelson, a Fire Prevention Specialist with the Maine Forest Service, said a Maine Forest Service helicopter has been dumping water on the fire.

The fire, which was reported around 4 p.m., has destroyed five acres. Nelson said ground crews seemed to be getting the fire under control.

Nelson said the fire started after a skidder rolled over on a steep ridge. A spark from the skidder may have started the fire.

Nelson said the state typically handles about 400 wildfires each year.

He urged campers and others working in the woods to use extreme caution. The woods are very dry now and unless there is rain, the conditions will get worse, Nelson said.

Most areas of the state are listed as having a moderate to high fire danger.


Gov. Patrick says Legislature has one more chance to approve casinos in gambling bill

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says he is giving the Legislature one more chance to approve the three casinos at the center of an expanded gambling bill.

The Democrat said he would file amended legislation later Monday allowing the casinos but not the slot machine parlors that are included in a bill approved over the weekend by the House and Senate.

The governor says that bill would amount to a no-bid contract for the state’s racetrack owners because it sets aside the two slot machine licenses for them. While there are four racetracks, two have united to seek a casino, effectively leaving a slot machine license for the remaining two.

Patrick says he is not going to be a party to no-bid contracts.