Investigators trying to find cause of fire in Occupy camp

State investigators were working Monday night to determine what started a fire that damaged a tent at the Occupy Augusta encampment in Capitol Park.

No injuries were reported, but the flame burned a hole in the roof of a small makeshift tent.

Battalion Chief David Groder of the Augusta Fire Department said an investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s Office was called to try to determine whether the fire had started accidentally or was set.

“It’s a human-element fire in some way,” Groder said Monday night. “There’s no obvious cause.”

Groder said the fire damaged only the tent structure, which was made of a wood frame, felt and straw.

“Nobody’s been in there for over a week,” Groder said.

The fire was reported shortly after 5 p.m.

LePage’s use of expletive draws condemnation

The Maine Democratic Party’s leader is chiding Republican Gov. Paul LePage for a barnyard epithet that LePage used to summarize his meeting with three unemployed workers.

Democratic Chairman Ben Grant’s criticism was triggered by a comment LePage made to Mal Leary of Capitol News Service after the meeting Saturday with the workers and Democratic Rep. Andy O’Brien of Lincolnville.

Asked for his thoughts, the governor used an expletive to describe the meeting, then repeated the word slowly. Others had described the meeting as a calm exchange.

Grant said LePage’s comment shows that he’s a “bully” and that he’s ignoring the 50,000 unemployed workers in Maine.

O’Brien requested Saturday’s meeting after LePage suggested about a month ago that some people don’t work because they can make more money on unemployment.

Governor due to unveil plan to cut health agency budget

Gov. Paul LePage is expected to introduce a plan this week to close a $120 million deficit in the budget for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

While details of the plan have yet to be revealed, LePage said during his weekly radio address Saturday that the state can no longer afford a Medicaid program that provides health insurance to 19,000 low-income adults who do not have children.

LePage says the program, which began in 2002, has cost the state nearly $40 million over the past two years. Supporters of the program say it would be wrong to take health coverage away from residents at this time.

Democratic leaders have urged LePage to consider balancing the department’s budget by looking for cuts in other agencies.


Occupy Maine accepts limit, insurance in bid for permit

Occupy Maine demonstrators, seeking to keep their encampment in Portland, have filed an amended petition offering to get liability insurance and limit the number of people sleeping overnight.

The original petition, filed last week by Occupy Maine, would have reduced the size of the encampment in Lincoln Park, but it included no restrictions on the number of people or tents. The group also said the city’s liability insurance requirement put an unfair burden on free speech.

The amended permit request would allow only 50 people to sleep overnight. It was delivered Monday, two days before the City Council takes up the matter.

Last week, the council’s Public Safety Committee recommended that the council reject Occupy Maine’s request. Committee members expressed concern about sanitation and public safety.

Camper in Lincoln Park charged with threatening

Police charged one of the Occupy Maine campers in Lincoln Park with criminal threatening on Sunday.

Police were called to the park at 1:15 p.m. and said they found a visibly intoxicated Kenneth Hubble, 47, who they said had threatened to punch another person at the camp.

Hubble was arrested and taken to the Cumberland County Jail.

Maine ranks 8th in nation for health of its residents

Maine is the eighth-healthiest state this year, according to a national report released today.

The state, which also was ranked eighth last year, had a drop in the cancer death rate and other improvements in the past year. Maine also had setbacks, including increases in smoking and obesity, according to the national report and a more detailed assessment by MaineHealth.

MaineHealth, owner of a health care network that includes Maine Medical Center in Portland, released the national ranking along with its own, more detailed assessment of Maine’s overall health.

The national report, America’s Health Rankings, is published each year by the United Health Foundation.

MaineHealth’s Health Index Report and America’s Health Rankings show that Maine’s cancer death rate, one of the nation’s highest for the last decade, dropped in the past year.

The reports also show a drop in deaths from heart disease, a reduction in infant mortality, and an increase in the ratio of primary care physicians to the population, according to MaineHealth.

On the other hand, cigarette smoking among adults ages 18-64 rose from 17 percent to 18 percent, and the rate of obesity climbed from 26 percent to 27 percent, according to MaineHealth. Both problems lead to chronic diseases are considered major factors in the growing cost of health care.

The 2011 Health Index Report is at, along with a link to the America’s Health Rankings report.


New mayors to seek ways to solve problems together

The political leaders of Saco and Biddeford have agreed to explore ways the cities can work together more closely.

Mark Johnston, mayor-elect of Saco, and Alan Casavant, mayor-elect of Biddeford, met Monday in Biddeford and decided to convene a meeting of department heads from both cities Dec. 12.

The mayors said the two cities are not maximizing the benefits of their proximity to each other. They also raised the possibility of holding bimonthly joint press sessions, at which reporters could meet with the mayors and city managers.

“The idea is all about breaking down barriers, creating openness and reminding ourselves we’re all in this together,” Johnston said in a prepared statement.

“These two cities face some steep challenges, but if we’re communicating with each other, Alan and I will dramatically increase the chances of finding appropriate solutions.”

Johnston and Casavant will be sworn into office this week. The meeting Dec. 12 will be held from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at the Saco Transportation Center.


Westbrook man arrested after chase inside Kmart

A Westbrook man accused of robbery was arrested after trying to elude police by running through a Kmart.

Bangor police got a tip that Sean Latham, 25, was at the Kmart on Hogan Road early Sunday evening. Several officers were called to the store around 5:30 p.m.

Police believe that Latham saw one of the officers through a window, according to a news release from Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards. He ran through the store, down several aisles and out an emergency exit, sounding alarms.

Officer Rob Angelo captured Latham in the parking lot, according to the release.

He was taken to the Penobscot County Jail on a charge of robbery. Westbrook police Capt. Tom Roth would not release details of the robbery because the investigation continues.

Latham was taken Monday morning to the Cumberland County Jail, where he was held on bail of $50,000 cash or $100,000 property.