Proposal for new beach park approved by zoning board

The Sprague Corp.’s plan for a new beach park next to Scarborough Beach State Park was approved by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals late Wednesday, but other reviews and permits must still be obtained.

After a five-hour public hearing, the board voted 5-0 to approve the proposal for an entry road, a 370-space grass-and-gravel parking lot, a small restroom and concession stand and a boardwalk to the beach.

The site is close to the state park, where the parking lot often fills on summer days. Seth Sprague, the head of the company, said the new park would ease crowding and ease traffic on Black Point Road by providing a long entrance drive where up to 23 cars could wait in line.

At Scarborough Beach State Park, drivers have to stop at a booth almost immediately after entering, backing up traffic into the street.

Opponents say the Sprague Corp. plan would change the neighborhood and add noise and air pollution.

The board voted that the proposal meets the rules for a special exception as a commercial outdoor recreation development under the town’s rural and farming zone.

The next step, barring a legal challenge to the ZBA decision, is to seek site plan approval from the Scarborough Planning Board. Approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department are also required.


Committee puts off decision on wind power study date

A legislative committee has postponed its decision on whether to speed up a study on the impacts of commercial wind power in Maine.

The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee was scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill, L.D. 1366, that grew out of efforts by critics to slow the pace of wind farm development and modify the state’s Wind Energy Act.

But the committee postponed the discussion and vote until Tuesday to avoid a conflict with a legislative session in the House on Thursday afternoon.

Opponents of commercial wind power want the Maine Legislature to address issues including noise, visual impacts and property values. The committee initially faced 14 bills drafted by activists on behalf of residents who live near operating and proposed wind farms.

The committee tabled 13 of the bills, including a proposed moratorium on new projects, and incorporated the most pressing issues into a single bill.

On Tuesday, committee members moved to amend a part of the wind act that requires a statewide assessment of wind power development starting in December 2013. Members suggested moving up the date to March 2012 and expanding the scope of the study, although it wasn’t clear how they would pay for the review. Wind-power critics said they would continue to push for restrictions.

Community colleges conferring degrees on a record 2,944 grads

Maine’s community colleges will award a record number of degrees this month as graduation ceremonies get under way at the state’s seven campuses.

Central Maine Community College in Auburn gave out 570 diplomas Thursday. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled at other community colleges today, Saturday and the following weekend.

In all, the community college system says 2,944 people will graduate from the schools this month, a 21 percent increase over last year.

Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons said community college enrollment has spiked 76 percent in eight years.


Owners of 84-year-old oil service in Brunswick file for bankruptcy

The owners of Thibeault’s Oil Service in Brunswick, which ran into trouble this winter when it was unable to meet customer demand, have filed for bankruptcy.

The family-owned oil dealer, in business for 84 years, lists debts of $1 million to $10 million and assets of $100,000 to $500,000. Owners Conrad and Vivian Thibeault list roughly 50 creditors, including the town of Brunswick and oil distributors.

The Thibeaults filed for bankruptcy Tuesday and were notified Wednesday that they must submit more information, including their monthly income and specific assets and liabilities.

The company shut its doors in January and held an auction two weeks ago to sell off assets, including delivery trucks.


Kayakers found safe after distress call to Coast Guard

The Coast Guard said four kayakers who phoned in a distress call have been located unharmed.

Lt. Nick Barrows says two of the kayakers called the Coast Guard station in Rockland on Thursday to report that they’d become separated from two others as they were paddling from Vinalhaven to Isle au Haut.

Barrows said the call at 1:38 p.m. was cut off abruptly, and the Coast Guard feared that at least some of the kayakers had overturned in 3- to 6-foot seas. He said that within about an hour a Coast Guard patrol boat located two of them; the others were found by a fishing boat. 

State biologists question report about bird deaths

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists are questioning a study that concluded that three wind turbines on Maine’s Vinalhaven Island kill fewer than 10 birds a year.

Ornithologist Richard Podolsky conducted a 28-month study to determine the turbines’ effects on local eagles and ospreys, as required by the island town. Podolsky told the Bangor Daily News that no dead eagles or ospreys were found. He estimated that each turbine results in only two or three bird deaths a year.

In response, the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote a letter saying the turbines pose a “substantial risk” to eagle populations. The letter says investigators should have searched more often and in a wider area for evidence of bird deaths.

Podolsky said the study exceeded the town’s requirements of at least monthly surveys.


State police charge man, 22, in shooting death of brother

State police have charged a Dover-Foxcroft man with killing his brother, who died in his parents’ yard after being shot in the head.

Steve McCausland of the Maine Department of Public Safety said 22-year-old Steven Mayo was arrested without incident at his home Thursday afternoon.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office said the victim, 20-year-old Ryan Mayo, died from a single gunshot wound to the head on May 1. The brothers lived next to each other on French Road.

McCausland said detectives consulted with the Attorney General’s and Medical Examiner’s offices about statements and evidence gathered over the past week. Mayo, who’s being held in the Piscataquis County Jail, is expected to make his initial court appearance Monday.


New president of Unity College known for ecological research

Unity College has hired an internationally recognized scientist to become the school’s new president, the college announced today.

Dr. Stephen Mulkey, director of the environmental science program at the University of Idaho, will become Unity College’s new president in July.

He replaces Mitchell Thomashow, who has been college president for five years.

Mulkey’s selection reflected a move by the college to reinforce its aspiration to be known as “America’s environmental college,” said Tim Glidden, chairman of the board of trustees.

The college said Mulkey’s scientific research spans more than three decades and has included research in ecosystems across the world. He has conducted research on the ecology of forests in Eastern Amazonia, tropical forest canopies in wet and dry forests of central Panama, and tropical alpine species in East Africa, according to the college.

According to the University of Idaho website, Mulkey has a bachelor’s degree in forestry, fisheries and wildlife and a master’s in ecology, both from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Ph.D in ecology from the University of Pennsylvania.


Stolen ‘Welcome to Portland’ sign back in original location

“Welcome” back.

A “Welcome to Portland” sign that was stolen in December and ditched in a wooded area of Gorham was reinstalled Thursday.

City crews put the sign back up at the intersection of the Fore River Parkway and West Commercial Street Thursday morning.

The 5-foot-by-8-foot sign was recovered after a Gorham resident told police it had been seen in the wooded area. The sign is valued at about $3,500.

Police said the theft remains unsolved.

Foundation bestows $2 million on Waynflete for scholarships

Portland’s Waynflete School has been awarded a $2 million grant by The Malone Family Foundation to fund scholarships for extraordinarily talented students.

The award establishes a permanent endowment to support scholarships for gifted and talented students enrolled in grades seven through 12.

Head of School Mark Segar said the award represents the first time that a school in Maine or anywhere in northern New England has been selected by The Malone Family Foundation.

The foundation was established in 1997 by Dr. John C. Malone and his family to improve access to quality education, particularly at the secondary school level, for gifted students.

Founded in 1898, Waynflete enrolls more than 550 students from early childhood through high school.

Bureau: Beware possible scam by mystery-shopper employer

Translucent Shoppers, a company that claims to be based in Portland, may be running a scam that targets “mystery shoppers” — those who are paid to secretly evaluate a company’s products, services or employees, according to the regional Better Business Bureau.

The Marlborough, Mass.-based business group said Translucent Shoppers has been sending fraudulent checks to people, and asking them in a letter to deposit them in their personal bank account. But before the checks clear, victims are instructed to evaluate a wire transfer business by wiring most of the money back to the company.

Within 10 days, however, the original checks bounce.

The Better Business Bureau said the company claims to be based in Portland, but that the address listed on the letter does not exist. Phone numbers on the letter are Canadian.

Paula Fleming, the Better Business Bureau’s vice president of communications and marketing, said mystery shopping scams are common.

“Many unscrupulous businesses are promising job hunters employment as a mystery shopper,” she said in a statement.

The Better Business Bureau said consumers should be “wary of businesses that send checks and ask for money to be wired back. Also keep in mind that legitimate mystery shopping businesses will not require an up-front fee.”

The business group suggests consumers contact the Mystery Shopping Providers Association for additional information.


Man charged with assault, terrorizing in bus incident

A Canadian national who allegedly threatened a bus in Maine with what turned out to be a video game controller with wires attached has been indicted on several charges in Aroostook County.

Daniel Thomas Maccabee, 50, faces charges of terrorizing and three counts of assault.

Police say he assaulted three women and claimed to have explosives aboard the bus before it pulled into a gas station in Houlton early on March 31. Police said he claimed he’d worked for the Israeli secret police, and that he wanted asylum in Canada. He was arrested nine hours later.

Maccabee was born in Quebec, and his last known address was Madison, Wis. He’s being held on $5,000 cash bail at the Aroostook County Jail, and he’s scheduled to stand trial this summer.


Passing boaters credited in rescue of two men from capsized vessel

Rescue workers are crediting passers-by with rescuing two men whose small boat capsized amid heavy wind and waves on Upper Cold Stream Pond in Lincoln.

The names of the two people rescued were not immediately available. They were treated for hypothermia at Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln late Wednesday.

Sue Blood, who lives near the pond, said she heard people yelling for help and then called 911 Wednesday evening. By the time she got outside, the two people in the pond were being helped to safety by two people in another boat, according to the Bangor Daily News.


Officials warn of E. coli risk in waters tainted by sewer leak

Environmental officials are urging people to avoid contact with water in and around a northern Maine stream after more than 1 million gallons of untreated wastewater discharged from a broken sewer pipe.

The Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday that a break in a 15-inch sewer line from the Loring Commerce Center to the Greater Limestone Utility District led to a discharge into Greenlaw Stream and surrounding wetlands.

Officials said the break likely occurred several weeks ago, but said the line is in a remote area and the leak was only discovered Monday.

The DEP said levels of E. coli in the stream are nearly as high as found in raw wastewater. The stream is popular this time of year for fishing and fiddlehead-picking.


200 years overdue, library book is returned to Camden

A 215-year-old book that was part of the first lending library in Camden has been returned.

Oliver Goldsmith’s 1790 “History of England, Vol. 1” was returned recently by a California man who found the book, and two other old books, among volumes collected by his grandfather, a former Portland police officer known to browse the city’s markets.

The three books date to 1796, when the Federal Society Library of “Cambden” was founded.

By 1826, the Federal Society Library had disbanded. It’s unclear how the Goldsmith book made its way to Portland, where it was found by the grandfather of Chuck Regan of Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Regan told the Bangor Daily News he hopes he doesn’t have to pay a fine for having books more than 200 years overdue. 

— From staff and news services