Turnpike officials expect decline in holiday traffic

The Maine Turnpike Authority is predicting a 6 percent drop in north- and southbound traffic at its gateway plaza during the Labor Day weekend.

Still, more than 228,000 vehicles are expected to pass through the York toll plaza from Friday through Monday.

The turnpike cites figures from the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine, which projects that overall traffic will total 228,700 vehicles from Friday through Monday. That’s a 6 percent decline from 243,300 vehicles in 2010.

The center’s researchers said a weak economy this quarter, continued high gas prices and disruptions caused by Tropical Storm Irene are among the causes for the projected traffic decline.

Also, with Labor Day falling later than usual on the calendar, many schools have already opened.

Power company applies to test new tidal project

A tidal power company has asked federal regulators for permission to test its power generation system in Maine.

Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. said it has submitted a pilot license application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project.

If it’s approved, the company would launch a pilot project aimed at showing that its system can generate zero-emission energy without harming the environment. The project would be in Cobscook Bay near the boundary between Eastport and Lubec.

Center leads firms on tour of Chinese seafood markets

Maine seafood companies are on a trade mission to China.

Four Maine companies are taking part in the trip, which began Friday and will run through Sept. 8. The Maine International Trade Center is leading the trip in conjunction with Food Export USA, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Company representatives are first heading to Shanghai and Hangzhou, where they will meet with importers and distributors, tour seafood markets and show off their products through product showcases and chef demonstrations.

They will then go to Hong Kong for the Asian Seafood Exposition, where they will exhibit their products and be able to meet with seafood buyers from across Southeast Asia.


Biddeford slots proposal will lead ballot questions

The proposal to allow slot machines at a harness racing track in Biddeford will be the first referendum question on the state ballot Nov. 8. The order of questions was determined Friday by a drawing by Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

The first question will ask voters whether they want to allow slot machines at a harness racing track in Biddeford or another community within 25 miles of Scarborough Downs, subject to local approval, and at a harness racing track in Washington County.

The second question will ask whether to allow a casino with table games and slot machines in Lewiston.

A proposed constitutional amendment would change the years of redistricting for the Maine Legislature, congressional districts and county commissioner districts after 2013.

No data was compromised in clerk’s office, state says

The State Police Computer Crimes Unit is investigating a computer virus found in Millinocket, but Secretary of State Charlie Summers said no data was compromised.

On Aug. 24, the state discovered the malware on a computer in the Millinocket town clerk’s office that had access to the state Central Voter Registration system.

The computer infected with the virus was running an older version of anti-virus software that has since been updated, Summers said in a prepared statement.

The work station is now in Vassalboro, where state police will continue to investigate.


Officer suspects dogs’ theft connected to fighting ring

An animal control officer said he believes a dog-fighting ring might be responsible for a series of dog thefts over the last several months.

West Paris animal control officer Ozzie Hart said eight dogs have been reported missing or stolen this year in Woodstock, Sumner, West Paris and Hartford. Seven of the eight missing dogs have been pit bulls.

Hart said people have reported the sounds of dogs barking and gunshots at night off Old County Road in Woodstock. He said the sounds are consistent with dog fighting.

Hart told the Sun Journal that he believes the stolen dogs have been used as “bait dogs,” nonaggressive dogs that are used to train fighting dogs. Bait dogs are often mauled or killed.


Man charged after pot sickens two baby-sitters

An Acton man was charged with furnishing marijuana Saturday after two teenage baby-sitters got sick smoking it.

State police seized two rifles, a bag of marijuana, marijuana growing equipment and an assortment of swords and knives from Sean Johnson’s home, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for Maine State Police.

Johnson, 23, had the girls caring for his two children. Trooper Kyle Wells said the girls left Johnson’s children, ages 1 and 3, inside watching television when they went outside to smoke.

The girls were taken to Goodall Hospital by ambulance after feeling sick.


Guard soldiers from Maine will help Vermont recover

Almost 200 National Guard soldiers from Maine and 50 from West Virginia are on their way to Vermont to help the state recover from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

The Maine soldiers belong to the 262nd Engineers and the West Virginia guard members will bring 20 dump trucks.

Vermont National Guard spokesman Lloyd Goodrow said they will work in the Killington and Mendon areas to help improve road access to communities that were cut off by flooding from Irene.

Hundreds of Vermont roads and bridges are closed or damaged and dozens of communities were devastated by flooding from Irene.

— From staff and news services