Maine legislative recounts scheduled for 3 tight races

State elections officials have scheduled several recounts in tight legislative races, including one in which the leading candidate is unofficially two votes ahead.

The recounts start Wednesday with House District 80 where Republican incumbent Melvin Newendyke holds a five-vote lead over Democratic challenger Rachel Sukeforth. The seat represents the towns of Wales, Monmouth and Litchfield.

The Sun Journal reports that a recount for House District 70 is scheduled for Thursday. Democratic challenger Wayne Werts holds a two-vote advantage over incumbent Republican Bruce Bickford. The seat represents parts of Auburn and Lewiston.

A recount for Senate District 17 is expected Friday. Republican incumbent Mason Garrett has a 33-vote lead over Democratic challenger Colleen Quint. The seat represents 10 communities including Lisbon, Livermore and Turner.

Recounts are open to the public.

Ex-head of Maine marijuana program plans appeal

The former chief of Maine’s medical marijuana program says he is appealing his dismissal.

John Thiele says he received a letter from the state Department of Health and Human Services human resources office last month saying he was fired as of Oct. 19.

Thiele was head of the department’s Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services.

While confirming his dismissal, Thiele refused to disclose to the Bangor Daily News the reason, citing the pending appeal.

Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, says he fears the program would not function as well in Thiele’s absence.

Department officials have not commented.

Mainer voters legalized marijuana for medical uses in 1999. In 2009, they approved a law creating a statewide network of marijuana dispensaries.


Maine college grant program hits milestone

A baby from Lisbon has become the 15,000th Maine newborn to receive a $500 Harold Alfond College Challenge Grant.

Officials say Irie Mastrella received a head start on college costs when her parents recently enrolled her in the program, which was formed through the estate of the late Harold Alfond, founder of Dexter Shoe Co.

Irie is the daughter of Nick and Angela Mastrella and was born in April at Mercy Hospital in Portland.

Since going into effect in 2008, the program has contributed more than $7.5 million to NextGen college savings accounts to help families prepare early for the costs of higher education. Any baby born in Maine can receive a grant if they are signed up before their first birthday.


Cross-country ski area seeks snowmaking aid

Cross-country skiers who use the Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville are being asked to donate money to help cover the cost of snowmaking.

As part of the program, skiers would receive stickers for their vehicles based on three donation levels: $100, $50 or $20. A daily voluntary fee for ski trail use is $5.

Last week, city councilors voted 6-0 to approve the voluntary fee schedule, which was recommended by The Friends of Quarry Road.

The group’s secretary, Caroline Mathes, said the goal is to raise $30,000 annually to support the snowmaking budget, part of an effort to avoid a mandatory fee schedule.

Quarry Road is a city-owned, 200-acre, four-season recreation area for hiking, bicycling, walking, snowshoeing and skiing.


Fire badly damages home while owner’s out hunting

A fire at a home in Fairfield caused extensive damage to the kitchen area, and possibly destroyed the house, on Monday morning.

The homeowner, John Holt, of Fairfield, had been out hunting since about 5 a.m. Monday morning when he received a phone call that his house, located at 161 Martin Stream Road, was on fire, he said.

The fire was reported around 10:30 a.m. by David Grant of Grant’s Home Improvements, who was installing a door on the house across the street and saw the fire rising from the roof.

“I thought, ‘That doesn’t look normal,’ and I was worried someone might be inside,” he said.

Fairfield Fire Department Capt. Mike Murphy said no one was inside and no one was injured by the fire.