Planetarium plans activities for NanoDays celebration

The University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium will celebrate NanoDays on Monday by offering free events for students in kindergarten through high school.

More than 200 science museums, research centers and universities are taking part in the nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale – atomic- and molecular-level – science and engineering.

Nanoscale activities for elementary and middle school students will be held at 4, 4:30, 5 and 5:30 p.m. at the planetarium on Bedford Street. For middle and high school students, electron microscope demonstrations will be held at 4 and 5 p.m.

NanoDays is funded by the National Center for Research Resources, a division of the National Institutes of Health, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Police hunt for armed man who held up Subway shop

Portland police are searching for a man who threatened two clerks with a gun and robbed a Subway sandwich shop Wednesday night.

Police say the man entered the shop at 296 St. John St. at about 9:20 p.m., demanded cash and ran off with an undisclosed amount.

Police say the man was wearing a black ski mask, a dark hooded sweatshirt and khaki pants. He is described as a white man, about 6 feet tall with a medium build.

Free Alzheimer’s workshops being offered for families

Hospice of Southern Maine and the Alzheimer’s Association are offering free workshops in southern Maine to help families cope with and support loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The 90-minute workshops will be presented by Carol Palmer, program director with the Maine chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and experienced trauma and hospice nurse. She has been providing training about dementia and related conditions and behaviors for nearly 10 years.

The workshops are free and open to the public. To register, or for more information, call 866-621-7600 or 207-289-3640.

Workshop dates and locations include:

April 4 at 2 p.m. at the Falmouth House, 32 Blueberry Lane, Falmouth

April 5 at 2 p.m. at Scarborough Terrace, 600 Commerce Drive, Scarborough

April 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Bay Square at Yarmouth, 27 Forest Falls Drive, Yarmouth

April 11 at 3 p.m. at the Monarch Center, 392 Main St., Saco

April 14 at 2:15 p.m. at The Cedars, 630 Ocean Ave., Portland


Report finds more Mainers have trouble affording food

A growing number of Mainers and other Americans are having trouble affording food, according to a new report released today.

The Brunswick-based Good Shepherd Food Bank and Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization, released a study Thursday titled “Map the Meal Gap.” It says nearly 200,000 Mainers – 15 percent – are insecure about having enough food and that Maine families need an estimated $91 million to eliminate food insecurity.

The study also says 43 percent of those experiencing food insecurity earn too much money to qualify for federal food supplements or food stamps. That is true partly because the cost of an average meal in Maine – $2.75 – is higher than the national average of $2.54, according to the study.

Rick Small, executive director of Good Shepherd Food Bank, said the study reflects what his organization has seen – a growing number of working families coming to food pantries for help.

“These are people you wouldn’t have expected would need food. Most of them wouldn’t have expected to be in need, either, and most of them have a great difficulty asking for help,” he said.

Good Shepherd helps provide 25,000 meals a day around the state, he said. “You’d think 25,000 meals in a day would cover a lot, but at the very best, it’s half of what’s needed. … It’s much larger than I think the average person realizes.”


Rooftop solar panels are part of university’s energy project

ReVision Energy installed solar panels last week on the roof of University of New England’s Campus Center as part of the university’s first renewable energy project.

The university’s Sustainability Office received a $50,000 grant in 2010 for a solar hot water system and performance monitoring display at the Campus Center.

The project, administered by Efficiency Maine, is expected to provide up to 50 percent of the Campus Center’s hot water energy supply. The real-time digital monitor also being installed will enable the university to determine cost and energy savings.

“Everyone is excited about it, “ said Alethea Cariddi, the university’s sustainability coordinator, adding that the project is part of a “multi-pronged strategy the university is taking to achieve our climate neutral goal.”

University of New England will host a public information session at 1 p.m. April 18 in the Simard Room of the Campus Center. For more information, visit www.une.edu/sustainability.


‘Worst Road’ contest offers $250 car repair as a prize

Drivers are being urged to provide photos and descriptions of the state’s worst roads as a transportation advocacy group launches its second annual “Worst Road in Maine” contest.

The Maine Better Transportation Association is sponsoring the contest to draw attention to the sinkholes, potholes, frost heaves and deteriorating roads that can be found around Maine.

Entries will be received through May 15, with the winner receiving a gift certificate for $250 in car repairs. Entry rules are available at the www.fixmaineroads.org website.

A central Maine woman won last year’s contest with her entry about Route 219 from Turner to Leeds, where she drove over a pothole that left her with a bent rim, a busted tire and a $1,000 car repair bill.

Panel looks at steps for policy to reduce risk of concussions

A Maine legislative committee is considering a proposal that would direct Education Commissioner Steve Bowen to create a policy to reduce the risk of concussions in student athletes.

The proposal by Rep. Edward Mazurek, a Rockland Democrat, would require a student suspected of sustaining a concussion to be removed from play immediately. The student would be allowed to return only after being evaluated and receiving permission from a neurologist or trainer.

Testifying in favor of the bill Thursday was Roxanne Dyer, whose daughter fell 20 feet during cheerleading practice in Poland. Practice continued, and only later did Dyer realize her daughter had a severe head injury.

Under the bill, Bowen would have to convene a working group before using the information to craft a policy on the management of concussions.

Special election set May 10 to replace resigning senator

Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers has called for a special election on May 10 to fill the spot that was vacated by state Sen. Larry Bliss of South Portland.

Bliss, who’s resigning to take an out-of-state job, says his last day will be April 15. District 7 includes Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, in addition to South Portland.

Democratic, Republican and Green Independent parties have until April 7 to nominate candidates.

That’s also the deadline for non-party candidates to file their petitions.

Bliss is in his second term in the Maine Senate after serving in the Maine House for eight years. He says he’s been unemployed and unable to find work in Maine, so he’s taking a job as an administrator at California State University-East Bay outside of San Francisco.


Mattress race changes time to allow more to register

The America’s Mattress Race, originally scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, has been pushed back to 1 p.m. to allow more time for mattress-racing teams to register, according to Melissa Rock, marketing director at Shawnee Peak.

Now it its fourth year, the race encourages competitors to drag out their old twin, full or king and race it down the mountain’s Main Slope. Speeds on the 150- to 200-yard course have been known to reach 30 to 35 mph. Helmets are required.

The fastest team will win a new mattress and box spring – and old mattresses will be disposed of by race organizers.

There’s a $5 “mattress fee” to register and participants need a season pass or a lift ticket for the day.


Plumber using toilet display to protest parking problems

A plumber is using a toilet display on his lawn to pooh-pooh a town decision that he feels led to more parking on the street where he lives.

David Linscott says the 17 toilets of various designs and colors outside his home are meant to show his disdain for the closing of the Frisbee Elementary School, which led to more parking near the now-expanded middle school, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat.


Couple loses suit claiming cement plant hurt home value

A Maine couple has lost its lawsuit against Dragon Cement claiming the company’s cement plant made their nearby home unsellable.

In their lawsuit, Stephen and Kathy Darney of Thomaston claimed Dragon caused a nuisance, was negligent and that the dust and vibrations from its blasting made their house unmarketable.

The suit said the problems began two years after the Darneys bought their home, when Dragon expanded its plant operations. Court documents say the Darneys were seeking $220,000 to buy a new home elsewhere.

The Bangor Daily News reports that U.S. District Court Judge George Singal ruled in Dragon’s favor Tuesday. In his ruling, Singal said the Darneys’ home is not downwind of the blasting and the property they bought for $80,500 is now worth $140,000.