Gurney faces 25 years to life at murder sentencing today

A judge will decide today in Cumberland County Superior Court how long Chad Gurney will be sentenced to prison for murdering 18-year-old Zoe Sarnacki.

Gurney, 29, strangled Sarnacki on May 25, 2009, in his apartment in Portland before setting fire to her body. He was found guilty on Feb. 4 after his lawyers sought a finding of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Gurney faces a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison with no chance of early release.


City hires Massachusetts firm to boost building efficiency

Ameresco Inc., a renewable-energy company based in Massachusetts, said Tuesday that it has signed an agreement with the city to provide energy conservation measures in 30 municipal buildings and 15 schools.

The $9.4 million project will be funded with a bond, said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg. The project is expected to save the city nearly $17 million over the 15 years it will take to complete.

In October, the City Council agreed to borrow the money needed for the improvements. The Barron Center, the city’s nursing home, will receive the largest share – $2.4 million.

The project also calls for switching city buildings from fuel oil to natural gas and installing a 2,000-watt solar array at Portland Arts and Technology High School.

“The city of Portland is dedicated to sustainability, and these investments will help us achieve our goals by reducing carbon pollution,” said City Councilor Dave Marshall, chairman of the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee.


Conservation deal protects Clark Farm on Pleasant River

More than 200 acres of the Clark Farm along the Pleasant River have been protected from development.

The Trust for Public Land, the Maine Farmland Trust, the Windham Land Trust and the Clark family announced the conservation project, which includes the purchase of the 217-acre farm and an agricultural conservation easement to keep the land farmed in the future.

The Maine Farmland Trust plans to sell the land to a new farmer.

Funding for the $230,000 purchase included $145,000 from the Maine Farmland Trust and $85,000 in donations to The Trust for Public Land.

The $1.07 million for the agricultural conservation easement included $535,000 from the Land for Maine’s Future program and $535,000 from the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection program.


Council declines to regulate boat storage at residences

The City Council won’t issue rules to govern boat storage in neighborhoods.

A discussion of the issue Monday night was prompted by concerns raised by a resident about the number of boats stored at a neighbor’s home. The City Council was looking at ordinance possibilities that would have addressed setback requirements for boats at least 24 feet long and on-site maintenance work. 

Much of the public comment concerned South Portland’s identity as a working-class coastal city.

Mayor Rosemarie De Angelis said there was no interest on the City Council to pursue the restrictions. She said the city will track any complaints it receives and gather more information about their nature.

She also said although most boaters are responsible, there’s an opportunity for education about environmental hazards associated with boat maintenance work.


Drop in destroyer production blamed for 84 layoffs at BIW

Bath Iron Works is laying off 84 more workers.

Company spokesman Jim DeMartini said the layoffs include 10 supervisors and 74 other workers, including electricians, outside machinists, pipe coverers and insulators. The layoffs are effective March 25.

DeMartini said the cuts are in response to a decline in the production of DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. BIW laid off 130 workers earlier this month and 130 in January.

DeMartini said more work force adjustments may follow as the company’s “workflow ebbs and flows.”


Finance panel begins review of municipal budget tonight

The Town Council’s Finance Committee will begin its consideration of a proposed $8.9 million municipal budget tonight.

Spending in the 2011-12 budget proposed by Town Manager Michael McGovern would be up $356,938 – 4.1 percent – from the current budget. Taxes for municipal services would increase 1.2 percent. The property tax rate for municipal services would increase 5 cents, to $4.06 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

“I think we appear to be in a fortunate position,” said Town Council Chairman David Sherman. “We’re not facing any huge cuts in services or positions. We’re also not facing a huge tax increase.”

The proposal includes increased spending for maintenance of Fort Williams Park and other town property, funding for capital needs, and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for employees. It also calls for the elimination of a part-time position in the tax office and the addition of a seasonal parks and trails laborer.

McGovern presented his budget proposal to the Town Council on Monday. The council referred it to the Finance Committee, which comprises all of the town councilors. The committee will begin its review at 7:30 tonight at Town Hall.


Deputies arrest Bridgton man suspected in burglary spree

Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Bridgton man in connection with a series of burglaries at homes and businesses.

Deputies arrested William Peters, 25, on Thursday in Windham, charging him with violating probation. Authorities say he was charged after an investigation into daytime burglaries in Standish and Sebago in which thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics were stolen.

Much of the stolen merchandise has been recovered, deputies said.

Peters has an extensive criminal history, police said. He is being held at the Cumberland County Jail.


LePage names ex-legislator to lead energy security office

A former state lawmaker has been named to lead the Maine Office of Energy Independence and Security.

Gov. Paul LePage announced Monday that Kenneth Fletcher will lead the office, which aims to increase the use of sustainable indigenous and renewable resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

LePage said Fletcher will look for opportunities to drive down energy prices in Maine “so our private sector can compete and attract investment.”

Fletcher, 65, served recently as a consultant to Huhtamaki food services and paper companies. He worked for 30 years in Maine’s pulp and paper industry, and represented House District 54 (Winslow) for eight years.


Caller’s bomb threat prompts evacuation of civic center

A caller to the Augusta Civic Center who said three bombs — two fake and one real — had been placed there cleared the building of more than 425 visitors and employees about noon Tuesday.

Police using bomb-sniffing dogs found no evidence of explosives. Two events — an Associated Grocers of Maine spring trade show that drew about 400 people, and a Fred Pryor seminar for about two dozen people — resumed about two hours after the building was cleared.

Dana Colwill, the civic center’s director, said the threatening call came in to the front desk. “A gentleman on the other end said, ‘I’ve warned you before. You have three bombs in the building; two are fake and one is real,”‘ Colwill said.

He said the voice was deep and angry, and there were no background noises.

Colwill said he called police and immediately had people evacuate the building.

He said it was the first bomb threat he could recall in his 15 years as director of the civic center.


Yarmouth woman to stay as financial regulation chief

Gov. Paul LePage is keeping Anne Head in his Cabinet as commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Head, a Yarmouth resident, was appointed by Gov. John Baldacci in August 2008.

LePage said Monday that Head has a profound knowledge of how the department works. The department regulates the banking and insurance industries, securities and consumer credit, and issues professional and occupational licenses.

Head served previously as general counsel of the Maine Health Care Finance Commission and legal counsel to the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.

LePage now has one Cabinet appointment to make, labor commissioner.


LePage visiting York County for second Capitol for a Day

Gov. Paul LePage’s second Capitol for a Day will be held Friday in York County.

LePage will visit four businesses during the day and attend a town hall-style meeting in the evening at Thornton Academy in Saco, where he will answer questions from the public.

LePage will start the day by unveiling a sign that reads “Maine is Open for Business” on the northbound side of Interstate 95 in Kittery. The governor will visit the Eliot Commons Shopping Center, Shipyard Brewery, Stonewall Kitchen and other businesses.

The first Capitol for a Day event was held Feb. 18 in Cumberland County.



Ex-barber gets 10-year term for molesting girls he hired

A former barber was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing two young girls he had hired to clean his shop.

Donald Denbow, 68, of Shirley was sentenced Monday in Piscataquis County Superior Court. He pleaded no contest in November to 13 counts of gross sexual assault and one count of sexual abuse of a minor. He was accused of having sex with the girls in his barbershop in Dover-Foxcroft.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Denbow expressed remorse and told the judge that he was accepting responsibility for his “sins.”

When police arrested Denbow in 2009, they discovered that he wasn’t on the state’s sex offender registry, as required by law, for a 1982 conviction of gross sexual assault involving his daughter.



Yankee readers name town favorite shopping getaway

Freeport has been selected by the readers of Yankee Magazine as their favorite weekend getaway for shopping.

It’s the second consecutive year that the town, which is home to L.L. Bean’s flagship store and numerous outlet stores and hotels, has been recognized by the magazine, which is based in Dublin, N.H.



Winthrop man sentenced for theft of guns from dealer

A Winthrop man has been sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for stealing dozens of handguns from a gun dealer.

John Woodley, 50, was sentenced Monday in federal court in Bangor. He also was ordered to pay restitution.

According to court records, Woodley stole 36 guns from Audette’s Hardware and Sporting Goods Store in Winthrop in August after getting in by prying back the roof. Prosecutors said Woodley had multiple felony convictions on his record and was prohibited from possessing firearms.



Mother who taped sex acts with 2-year-old gets 20 years

A Maine woman who acknowledged performing sex acts on her 2-year-old daughter while a man in the United Kingdom watched via a webcam has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Julie Carr, 33, of Mars Hill was sentenced Monday, a year after confessing that she sent videos to the man.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said he had dealt with many child pornography cases and Carr’s “is the worst case I’ve ever seen.”

The Bangor Daily News said Woodcock told Carr that “it is incumbent upon me to protect … the people who can’t protect themselves.”

Police in England discovered the videos, which were recorded by Nicholas Wilde, in June 2009 while investigating another child pornography case.

The videos were traced to Maine, and Carr was arrested two days later. She said Wilde “conned” her into doing it, according to court documents.

Carr’s four children – three daughters and a son – were removed from her custody, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell.