Special session will focus on congressional redistricting

The Maine Legislature will hold a special session on Sept. 27 to consider a plan to redraw congressional districts, Gov. Paul LePage announced Thursday.

States are required to update congressional redistricting every 10 years to reflect population shifts measured by the U.S. Census. A federal judge has ordered the Legislature to redraw the line between Maine’s 1st and 2nd Districts by Sept. 30. The new districts will be in effect by the 2012 election.

A bipartisan commission of seven Republicans, seven Democrats and one independent moderator has already begun the process.

Complainants seek ‘no cost’ option to ‘smart meters’

A group of Central Maine Power Co. ratepayers has filed a complaint with state regulators about the utility’s use of “smart meters.”

CMP is replacing 600,000 traditional electric meters with wireless digital devices.

Ed Friedman of Bowdoinham is the lead petitioner in the 19-person complaint filed with the Maine Public Utilities Commission. It seeks to have CMP stop installing the meters or at least make them optional at no cost.

After reviewing other complaints, the PUC in May voted to allow CMP customers to opt out of using the meters, but at a cost of $12 a month.

Friedman says the meters carry health risks and raise questions about privacy issues.

CMP says smart meters are safe.


Vehicle registrations at risk for drivers who don’t pay tolls

Drivers in three New England states who blow through tollbooths without paying may find they no longer have a vehicle they can legally drive.

A first-in-the-nation compact between Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts enables those states to punish toll scofflaws with loss of vehicle registrations.

Transportation officials say the enforcement program closes the loophole that has allowed out-of-state drivers to ignore payment demands from states where they failed to pay tolls.

The three states will share access to motor vehicle records. Twenty toll violations will trigger a warning letter. Unpaid tolls and penalties exceeding $500 could result in suspension of or failure to renew a vehicle’s registration.

The one-year pilot program is in effect now.

The program applies to all toll evaders, regardless of whether they have E-ZPass transponders.


Blaze at vacant house was accidental, officials say

A fire that badly damaged a Buxton house Wednesday night was accidental, fire officials said Thursday morning.

The fire at 11 Rocky Dundee Road was noticed by neighbors at about 10 p.m., said Fire Chief Bruce Mullen. Flames were coming from the back of the building, he said.

Firefighters were able to get inside and extinguish the blaze quickly, but there was still extensive damage to the interior and the roof is sagging, Mullen said.

Nobody was injured.

Nobody was living at the house while it was being renovated by owner Mike Carrier, and investigators believe the fire started as a result of some plumbing work that involved a torch, Mullen said.


Traffic patterns will change once again on Tukey’s Bridge

Drivers are being warned about an impending change in traffic patterns on Tukey’s Bridge.

The Maine Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it will reopen the closed northbound center lane on the bridge tonight and will close a lane along the side of the bridge.

Construction crews may have to reduce that stretch of Interstate 295 to a single lane of travel for a short period of time while barriers are moved around. The changes will be made sometime after 9 p.m. today.


Lewiston man, 20, indicted on charge of murder

A grand jury has indicted a Lewiston man on charges he killed a woman whose body was found buried in the basement of the building where he lived.

On Wednesday, an Androscoggin County grand jury indicted Bob Ryder, 20, with intentional or knowing murder in the death of Danita Brown, 38, of New Gloucester.

Brown had been missing for several weeks before police found her body after receiving a tip from Ryder’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.

Court documents say Ryder told police he had hit Brown in the head with a clock before hiding her body in the basement and partially covering it, according to the Sun Journal.


Newest police officer was once chief in town of Milo

A former police chief is taking a new job as a full-time officer in Newport.

Kenny Williams said he wanted to move to a department where he wasn’t the administrator.

Williams became chief in Milo two years ago. He gave no reason when he resigned this spring.

On Wednesday, Newport Police Chief Leonard Macdaid introduced Williams as one of two new, full-time officers in his community, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Newport now has 12 officers, seven full-time and five part-time.


Companion of man killed by law enforcers sues state

The longtime companion of a northern Maine man who was fatally shot by police has sued the state, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the officers involved in the shooting.

Neil Begin was shot by a state police officer and a border patrol agent on April 23, 2010, when he pointed a rifle at them outside his mobile home in Cyr Plantation while he was drunk. The Attorney General’s Office ruled the shooting was justified.

Sandra Parent, who was Begin’s live-in companion for 30 years, filed a complaint Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, according to the Bangor Daily News.

The suit alleges that the officers violated Begin’s state and federal constitutional rights. Parent is seeking damages and court and attorney fees.


Search continues for woman reported missing Wednesday

The Maine Warden Service is searching for a 65-year-old woman along the Penobscot River.

Officials say the search began shortly after Juliet Kellogg Markowsky was reported missing Wednesday night from the retirement community where she lives in Hampden.

Wardens say they’ve used dog teams, a search plane and boats to assist with the search. 


‘Huge’ drug bust in Knox County yields three arrests, $19,000 in heroin

One of the largest drug busts in Knox County history has resulted in the arrests of three people.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said agents for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency seized more than 950 bags of heroin from a home in the midcoast town of Warren on Wednesday night.

McCausland said the drugs have an estimated street value of $19,000. Agents seized scales, packaging materials and an assortment of needles from the home on Riverside Drive.

Shawn Leclerc, 26, and his 25-year-old girlfriend, Tonja Hallett, who live in the home, were arrested and charged with aggravated trafficking of heroin and importation of heroin.

Also arrested on the same charges was 25-year-old Angel Jones of Rockland. Jones allegedly drove a car carrying heroin from Rhode Island to Maine with Leclerc and Hallett as her passengers.

James Pease, supervisor of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, called the drug bust “huge” and one of the largest of its kind in Knox County.

Police suspect that Leclerc has sold hundreds of bags of heroin from his home over the past four to six months, Pease said.

Jones has been released on $500 cash bail, but Leclerc and Hallett remained in custody Thursday night at the Knox County Jail. They are scheduled to appear in Rockland District Court today.

— From staff and news services