University system winnows chancellor finalists to three

A search committee has named its three finalists to become the next head of Maine’s seven universities.

The three candidates in the running to become chancellor of the University of Maine System will make campus visits Jan. 17-20, officials said Wednesday.

The finalists are Meredith Hay, a special adviser to the chair of the Arizona Board of Regents for Strategic Initiatives; James Page, CEO of the James W. Sewall Co. in Old Town; and Rebecca Wyke, the vice chancellor for finance and administration at the University of Maine System.

The University of Maine System board of trustees expects to announce its selection at its March meeting. Chancellor Richard Pattenaude, who has served since 2007, is planning to retire by the end of June.

“Our universities are facing unprecedented economic and demographic challenges,” Gregory Johnson, co-chairman of the search committee and a member of the UMS Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “These candidates offer the right type of expertise and present innovative ideas on how we can reshape the future of higher education to best meet the needs of Maine.”

The University of Maine System’s seven universities have an enrollment of nearly 41,000 students.

For the selection process, the finalists will meet with faculty, staff and students at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Maine at Fort Kent, as well as the university system’s offices in Bangor.


Homeless teenager charged in assault at Occupy camp

Police arrested a teenager at the Occupy Maine encampment and charged her with domestic violence assault after she allegedly got into a fight with her boyfriend.

Brittney Newell, 18, was arrested late Tuesday night after police were called to the Lincoln Park encampment about the fight. They said Newell bit her boyfriend on his wrist.

Newell is a transient with no permanent address, police said. They also said the boyfriend’s injury was minor.

John Mutero, 34, also a transient, was summonsed on a charge of criminal threatening in the incident. According to police, Mutero said he would kill Newell’s boyfriend if police were called.

Police said they served Mutero with a criminal trespass notice, meaning he needs to gather his belongings and vacate the park by tonight.

The incident occurred in a tent in Lincoln Park, police said.

Report: College education still worth it for Mainers

A college education is more expensive than ever, but a new report by the Mitchell Institute indicates it can still pay off for Mainers.

The report says Maine workers with bachelor’s degrees earn 50 percent more than those with no postsecondary degree. It also says demand for workers with postsecondary education will grow by 15,000 through 2018, compared with only 2,000 jobs created for those with high school diplomas.

Executive Director Colleen Quint says the report offers compelling evidence of the value of education, but she notes that it also points out some serious barriers, including growing tuition rates.

The Mitchell Institute bears the name of George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader. It was created to increase access to higher education and awards 130 scholarships each year.

Farmers in 13 Maine counties eligible to get disaster aid

Farmers in 13 Maine counties are eligible for federal disaster assistance for damage from excessive rain, cold, high winds, flooding, extreme heat and other weather events this year.

Maine’s U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued two new disaster declarations for Maine.

One frees up disaster aid for farmers in Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Washington, Knox, Piscataquis, Somerset and Waldo counties who suffered damage from weather disasters from May through September.

The other disaster declaration frees up assistance for farmers in Oxford, Androscoggin, Cumberland, Franklin and York counties who suffered losses from flooding, excessive rain and high winds from the remnants of Hurricane Irene that passed through Maine in late August.


Police: Accuser in Syracuse case violated bail conditions

The Lewiston man who accused former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine of molesting him and is himself facing molestation charges has been arrested for violating bail conditions.

Lewiston police arrested Zach Tomaselli, 23, on Tuesday, saying he gave a ride to someone younger than 18. Police Sgt. David St. Pierre said the arrest was made a day after police received a tip. Tomaselli is being held without bail.

Tomaselli, who lives with his grandmother in Lewiston, has admitted that he sexually abused a boy when the victim was 13 and 14. He faces 11 charges including gross sexual assault and said he’s working on a plea deal.

Tomaselli has accused Fine of molesting him in 2002 in a hotel room Pittsburgh. Fine denies the allegations.


CMP, Bangor Hydro customers will see electric rates go down

Rates are going down for residential and small commercial electricity customers in Maine.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved new rates Tuesday that will push prices down more than 6 percent in the Central Maine Power and Bangor Hydro Electric service areas.

The PUC says the lower prices are a reflection of an effective auction process, in which companies offer competing bids to supply power. Commission Chairman Tom Welch says the lower rates will save customers about $50 million next year.

The new rates will be in effect for one year beginning March 1.


Operator of pot dispensaries planning its fourth location

Brewer is one step closer to getting a medical marijuana dispensary.

City Planner Linda Johns told city councilors Tuesday that Northeast Patients Group, a nonprofit formed to operate half of the state’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries, has secured a lease for a dispensary and submitted a site plan application.

Clarification about exactly what Northeast wants to do with the site will be made before the proposal is presented to the planning board, which may occur at its January meeting.

The Bangor Daily News reports that no growing would take place at the site.

Northeast has launched its marijuana growing operation in Thomaston and plans to supply all four of its clinics from that facility.

Maine already has three open licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Ellsworth, Biddeford and Auburn.


Case of jail guard who sued county is settled out of court

A federal lawsuit brought against the county by a guard at the Hancock County jail who was injured during a scuffle with an inmate has been settled out of court.

John Wall, at attorney for the county government and the sheriff’s department, said Tuesday that the sides had reached an agreement but that exact terms still needed to be finalized.

Wall tells the Bangor Daily News that the deal will be kept confidential.

Brad Ewing said he suffered a back injury during an incident with an inmate in early March 2009. He was placed on medical leave a day later and underwent back surgery in mid-April.

The complaint alleges that Sheriff William Clark and jail administrators violated Maine’s laws by refusing to make “reasonable accommodations” for Ewing’s return to work.


Authorities say they’ll find those responsible for threats

Authorities say they are closing in on the culprits of a series of bomb threats at Mount Blue High School that have disrupted classes and wasted the town’s money.

Police and school officials are following leads into the three threats made since last month, which have triggered mandatory emergency measures.

Superintendent Michael Cormier told the Morning Sentinel on Tuesday that officials expect to identify and punish the students with ties to the threats.

He says they could face criminal prosecution.

After the latest threat Friday morning, the 737 students at the high school had to be evacuated and bused to alternate sites for the remainder of the school day.


Senator calls for new study of Gulf of Maine cod’s health

Massachusetts’ U.S. Sen. John Kerry has asked the U.S. Commerce Secretary to immediately do a new assessment of the health of cod in the Gulf of Maine after recent data signaled drastic fishing cuts could be coming to protect the fish.

The letter sent Wednesday to John Bryson and federal fishery regulators also asked for help preparing an economic assistance package for fishermen, in case the cuts come.

Kerry wrote it was crucial for regulators to develop a fair, sound response that fishermen trust.

The new data indicating the cod is badly overfished have drawn skepticism from fishermen because it’s a reversal from a study just three years earlier that said the stock was getting stronger.

If the numbers are verified, it could mean severe cuts or a total shutdown on codfishing, which would devastate the industry.


Extent of water tank damage won’t be known for days

Inspectors have spotted some damage inside the city’s leaking 1 million-gallon water storage tank, but they likely won’t know what happened for at least a few days, the city engineer said Wednesday.

Homes and businesses within a quarter-mile of the 70-foot-high tank in Rochester were evacuated for about eight hours Tuesday after water began spraying out from a leak near the tank’s base. Emergency crews began draining the water into a nearby ravine, and by Wednesday afternoon, all but about 1,000 gallons had been drained.

“It’s 2,000 feet across the ravine to the nearest house. There is a swamp at the base of the ravine,” City Engineer Peter Nourse said. “We’re very fortunate that was the geography.”

Nourse said there didn’t appear to be any immediate threat of the tank collapsing, and the ground appeared stable. Officials used a camera scope to look inside, and Nourse and others climbed in. They found some damage, but don’t know the full extent, Nourse said.

N.H. woman gets back urn containing mother’s ashes

A stolen urn containing the ashes of her mother has been returned to a New Hampshire woman, who had been taking the container to bingo games for good luck.

WMUR-TV reports police said the urn was returned to Diane Bozzi sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. They have no suspects.

Police said the urn was stolen from Bozzi’s van last week in Rochester by someone targeting unlocked cars. She said the urn was in a bag she was planning to take to a bingo game.

Bozzi pleaded for the urn’s return. She and her mother loved playing bingo together. Before her mother died in 2002, Bozzi promised her she would take some of her ashes with her to play. Her mother agreed, saying she would bring Bozzi luck.

— From staff and news services