Legislative panel will work to improve business climate

A special legislative committee will work on easing Maine’s business regulatory climate.

The House speaker and Senate president on Monday announced appointments to the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform.

The 15-member committee’s been created to work on the first bill of the new session: An Act to Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform. It’ll work with Gov.-Elect Paul LePage to bring its proposals before the Legislature in hopes of fulfilling campaign promises by LePage.

Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney of Sanford and Rep. Jonathan McKane of Newcastle, both Republicans, will be co-chairs of the bipartisan committee.


Mainer appointed regional advocate for the SBA

A former Maine legislator has been appointed New England regional advocate for the Small Business Administration.

In her new role, Lynn Bromley of South Portland will be the SBA chief counsel’s direct link to small business owners, state and local governments and organizations that support the interests of small businesses.

Bromley is a former Democratic state senator who chaired the Legislature’s Committee on Business, Research and Economic Development.

Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe recommended Bromley for the SBA post.


Shipyard worker dies after fall while working in Hawaii

A shipyard worker on loan to Pearl Harbor from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard died from injuries suffered when he fell from an electric cart.

Andrew McPherson was temporarily assigned to Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. The 25-year-old apprentice electrician died Monday, eight days after suffering serious head injuries in the Dec. 12 incident.

The Pearl Harbor shipyard said in a statement today that the Navy is investigating the incident.


Two teens charged with breaking into high school

Police have charged two Biddeford teens with burglary after they allegedly broke into Biddeford High School and caused an estimated $4,000 in damage.

Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk said it’s likely that Domenick Colantonio, 19, and a 14-year-old male accomplice will be charged with criminal mischief as well.

Biddeford High School staff reported the burglary to police early Monday morning after they found a photocopier destroyed and soft drinks sprayed around the main office, books and papers strewn about classrooms, student lockers opened and contents dumped and two cash registers and a microwave in the cafeteria damaged.

Fisk said there was no indication anything had been taken, and it appears the two suspects entered through an unlocked door.

Police turned their attention to Colantonio and the 14-year-old based on information that other students gave guidance personnel during the school day. The two were later arrested at a Pike Street apartment in Biddeford.

Colantonio was charged and released on bail and the juvenile was transported to Long Creek Detention center in South Portland.

While officials were attempting to arrest Colantonio and the 14-year-old, Colantonio’s mother Stacey Lancaster, 41, interfered by assaulting officers, according to Fisk. Lancaster was arrested for obstructing governmental administration and assault, Fisk said. She was later released on bail.


Woman pleads guilty to overcharging MaineCare

A 42-year-old Harrison woman who ran a company that provided services for children with mental disabilities has pleaded guilty to allegations she overcharged the state of Maine’s MaineCare program $4 million.

The attorney general’s Healthcare Crimes Unit says Dawn Cummings Solomon admitted to charges she overbilled the state for hours and expenses through her Living Independence Network.

Healthcare Crimes Director Michael Miller tells the Sun Journal of Lewiston the fraud began in 2006.

Miller says the state intends to bring charges against “more than seven” additional people.

On Friday Solomon pleaded guilty to theft by deception. A plea deal calls for 40 to 60 months in jail, plus restitution.

Sentencing is set for February.


Chimney fire displaces seven; no one injured

Fire crews from Standish, Windham and Gorham responded to a chimney fire at 1080 Chadbourne Road in Standish Monday night.

Officials arrived on scene shortly after 9 p.m. and found smoke coming from the eves of the Cape-style home with an attached apartment, Fire Chief Brent Libby said.

The fire was contained to the attic space above the kitchen, burning through the roof over the kitchen. Crews were able to get the fire under control within an hour and were cleared from the scene by 1 a.m. Tuesday, Libby said. There were no injuries, and the rest of the house sustained smoke, heat and water damage.

The initial investigation shows the fire may have started around a wood stove and chimney in the kitchen, Libby said. The state Fire Marshal’s Office is expected to continue its investigation today.

A family of seven was at home at the time of the fire. The family, along with a tenant in the attached apartment, have been displaced and are receiving aid from Red Cross, Libby said.


Man killed in botched robbery was armed

Court documents say a man shot to death in a botched robbery in Eastbrook was armed with pepper spray, a crowbar, a stun gun, rope and a handgun.

Brian Denoncourt of Eastbrook told investigators he was suspicious when a woman showed up on his doorstep early on Dec. 13, saying she’d been in a car crash. Denoncourt went to help, but he also grabbed his own handgun.

He told police he was hit with pepper spray and that a man began beating him. He told police he fired his gun several times at a silhouette.

Killed was 23-year-old Nicholas Richards of Machias. His girlfriend, 23-year-old Ashley Crowley of Beals, is charged with burglary and robbery. Police say they’d robbed an 80-year-old woman before going to Denoncourt’s home.


College of the Atlantic dean to serve as interim president

The College of the Atlantic says Administrative Dean Andrew Griffiths will serve as interim president effective Jan. 1.

David Hales, who came to the college in 2006, plans to go on extended leave at the beginning of the new year. He announced in October that he’d be stepping down at the end of the academic year.

Hales says the college “couldn’t possibly be in better hands.”

The school has about 300 students and focuses on the relationship between humans and their environment. The college has begun the search for a new president.

College officials say they expect to have a new president on board by the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year.


Pilot program to reopen closed clam fishing areas

Clam fishing areas off New England that have been closed for more than 20 years will be reopened as part of a new pilot program.

The areas of Georges Banks where Atlantic surf clams are found had been closed because of a lack of testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning, which is associated with red tide.

But as part of the one-year, $175,000 pilot program — beginning in January — the New Bedford based-Sea Watch International can fish the areas. The clams will be tested at sea, then again by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

The company is expected to make up to two trips weekly, and bring in about 600,000 pounds of clams per trip. State officials say that will mean a one-year boost of $15 million to Massachusetts and 60 full- and part-time jobs.