New school is needed, building committee decides

The Wentworth Intermediate Building Committee has reached consensus that a new school should be built.

The committee is scheduled to update the Town Council and the Board of Education on its work Wednesday, said Christopher Brownsey, the board chairman and a building committee member. The committee started meeting last month.

The building committee will likely make its formal recommendation to the board next month, Brownsey said.

In 2006, voters rejected a borrowing proposal that combined $38.3 million to replace Wentworth and $16.5 million to renovate Scarborough Middle School.


Driver is a no-show in court after record cash seizure

A man who was stopped by police while driving a tractor-trailer truck carrying $1.5 million stacked in buckets failed to show up for court Thursday on a charge of falsifying his logbook.

Jhon Rivera-Ramirez, 35, was driving the Texas-registered truck on the Maine Turnpike in York on Sept. 3 when state police stopped the truck for a routine safety inspection. Rivera-Ramirez offered no explanation for the money.

He was due in York District Court but failed to appear, which will probably prompt a judge to issue an arrest warrant and suspend Rivera-Ramirez’s license, a court official said.

It is unclear what effect it will have on the future of the cash. State police say the case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine whether it is related to large-scale money smuggling. A spokesman in Washington said the agency cannot confirm or deny whether it is investigating.

The bundles of 50-, 20- and 10-dollar bills were found in five-gallon orange plastic buckets. The incident was the largest cash seizure ever in the state’s history.

DNA leads to indictment in car fires

A DNA match has led to the indictment of a Westbrook man on charges that he set fire to 10 cars more than four years ago.

A Cumberland County grand jury indicted Joseph Wescott, 26, on Thursday. The indictment accuses him of setting 10 fires, burglarizing nine cars and committing two thefts.

Investigators gathered DNA from the scenes of the car fires — set from September 2005 to October 2006 — and sent it to the state police crime lab. Analysts recently matched Wescott’s DNA to the evidence from the case, police said.

Police also used security video taken at the time of the fires. Westbrook police and the state Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the case.

Ex-councilor charged with several driving violations

Former Portland City Councilor Dan Skolnik was charged with driving with a suspended license after being stopped Wednesday on Chestnut Street.

An officer responding to an unrelated call saw Skolnik driving past his cruiser in a silver Volkswagen Beetle and recalled that his license had been suspended. He confirmed that Skolnik’s license remained suspended and issued him a summons to appear in court June 13, police said.

The summons alleges a misdemeanor, rather than just a civil infraction, because of a previous charge of driving after license suspension. Skolnik also was issued tickets for driving an unregistered, uninspected and uninsured car, police said.

Skolnik’s council term ended this week with the swearing in of the new council. He is former chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee and a former member of the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee.

Facebook, Twitter will help issue alerts of parking bans

Leaving a car parked on a street in Portland during a snowstorm can be an expensive proposition.

The towing fee of $70, the impound fee of $35 and the $30 ticket total $135, and owners must retrieve their cars at the Ocean Gateway International Marine Terminal.

So the city is pushing its Twitter, Facebook and e-mail alerts so people will remember to move their cars when snowstorms force on-street parking bans.

Residents can sign up for e-mails at, receive tweets from PortlandCityline at, or go to the city’s Facebook page at Portland-Cityline.

When a parking ban is declared, all cars must be off the street by 10 p.m., usually until 6 a.m. the next day.


Maine, Vermont to get more funding for rail projects

Passenger rail projects in Maine and Vermont will get another financial boost from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has $1.2 billion in stimulus funding that had been intended for high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio. But those states don’t want to move forward with the projects.

The money will be redirected to projects that are under way in 13 other states.

Maine is expected to get $3.3 million to help fully fund the $38.3 million cost of extending Amtrak’s Downeaster service from Portland to Brunswick.

In Vermont, as much as $2.7 million will go to a $52.7 million project to upgrade the rail lines from Vernon to St. Albans, the route of Amtrak Vermont.


Winthrop wins taste test for water, to compete in D.C.

Winthrop has been judged to have Maine’s best-tasting drinking water.

The Winthrop Utilities District and the Red House Farm Village Condo Association in Newry were judged to have the best water in the Maine Rural Water Association’s 24th annual drinking water taste test, held Wednesday in Freeport.

The Winthrop utility won for best chlorinated water, while the condo association won for untreated water.

In a runoff between the two, Winthrop was named the winner. It will represent Maine in the Great American Water Taste Test in February in Washington, D.C.

For the contest, judges sampled water from more than 30 community water supplies for taste, clarity and aroma.


Gold, Silver Star awards given to veterans, families

Gov. John Baldacci has presented State of Maine Gold and Silver Star Honorable Service Medals to more than a dozen veterans and family members for their service and sacrifices dating to World War II.

During a ceremony Wednesday at the State House, Gold Star medals were presented to families of veterans who died in the line of duty. Silver Star medals were given to veterans who are former prisoners of war and Purple Heart recipients.

The medals were first awarded to Maine veterans in August 2006, and more than 1,000 have been presented since then.

All of the prisoners of war at the ceremony served during World War II. The Purple Heart recipients served in Vietnam, except one who served in World War II.


Budget, enrollment issues will close 20 schools in 2010

The number of Maine schools that are closing is on the rise.

Department of Education officials told the Sun Journal that 14 schools closed in Maine in 2009, with another 20 closing this year — mostly because of shrinking budgets and enrollments. Most were elementary schools with 40 to 80 students.

The small town of Wales north of Lewiston is the latest to consider closing its elementary school, which has kindergarten through second-grade classes. Residents will vote in a few months on whether to close the school and send students to another district to save money.

The school board has voted in favor of closing the school at the end of the school year, but a parents’ group opposes the move.