LePage cites energy costs for poor business climate

Gov. Paul LePage says he agrees with an assessment by Forbes Magazine that Maine has the worst business climate in the nation.

LePage told the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that while he’s been trying for the past two years to turn Maine into a more business-friendly state, a lot more work needs to be done.

The Republican governor cited several reasons for Maine’s poor ranking — it was the third year in a row that Forbes put the state at the bottom of its list — but he singled out energy costs.

He said residents pay 24 percent above the national average for power, and energy costs for businesses are 14 percent higher than the U.S. as a whole.

LePage said hydroelectric power and natural gas are keys in reducing energy costs.


Police investigating death of off-duty worker at plant

Authorities are investigating the death of a man who fell about 80 feet from a lift at Dayton Sand and Gravel.

Shawn Hutchins, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene Wednesday night.

Maj. William King of the York County Sheriff’s Office said in a prepared statement that Hutchins, a Dayton resident, was an employee at the facility but the plant was not operating at time and it’s not known why Hutchins was in the lift.

King said one witness has been interviewed but no details were available. Maine state police are assisting in the investigation.


Knox man drove erratically while naked, deputy says

A Maine man is facing charges after allegedly leading police on a low-speed chase and ramming a police cruiser while driving without any clothes on.

The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department said Cary Furrow, 63, of Knox refused to stop for police Tuesday afternoon for driving erratically in Phippsburg.

Chief Deputy Brett Strout told The Times Record of Brunswick that Furrow drove as much as 20 mph under the speed limit and didn’t stop even after running over a spike mat. When officers eventually took Furrow into custody, Strout said he “wasn’t wearing any clothes, whatsoever.”

Furrow faces charges of refusing to stop for police, driving to endanger and passing a road block. Strout said alcohol and drugs are not considered a factor in the case.


Six Maine college presidents join call for stricter gun laws

The heads of six Maine colleges are among more than 160 college presidents nationwide calling for stricter gun control in the wake of the Connecticut shooting that killed 20 elementary school students.

A group called “College Presidents for Gun Safety” launched a website Wednesday with an open letter urging lawmakers to oppose legislation allowing guns on college campuses; to reinstate the ban on military-style, semi-automatic weapons; and to end a loophole allowing people to buy guns from unlicensed sellers at gun shows without criminal background checks.

The letter says it’s time for Americans to live free from the threat of gun violence.

Signing the letter from Maine were the presidents of the University of New England, College of the Atlantic and Bates, Bowdoin, Colby and St. Joseph’s colleges.


Brennan signs letter calling for ‘sensible’ gun legislation

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan added his voice to the calls for tighter gun laws in response to the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last Friday.

Brennan, a former Democratic legislator and Portland’s first popularly elected mayor in decades, announced Thursday that he has signed an open letter from dozens of American mayors “calling on President Obama and members of the U.S. Congress to pursue sensible gun laws.”

Other signers include the mayors of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, he said. The letter calls for regulations such as a ban on assault weapons and other high-capacity magazines and a stronger national background check system.

“My heart goes out to the community of Newtown,” Brennan said in a written statement. “The burden of grief may seem impossible to bear for the families of Sandy Hook and I hope that as we as a nation come together to share in their grief of this unfathomable loss, we are able to lift some small piece of the load off their shoulders. … I am encouraged by President Obama’s commitment to addressing gun violence and hope that Maine’s Congressional Delegation joins him in this effort. The simple fact of the matter is that reasonable laws and regulations can make a difference in our effort to reduce gun violence.”


Gym Dandies unicycle group will ride in inaugural parade

The Gym Dandies will bring their unicycle skills to President Obama’s inaugural parade next month.

Forty-one members of the Scarborough-based circus arts group will ride 6-foot-tall unicycles in formation during the parade in Washington on Jan. 21.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Jon Cahill, director of the Gym Dandies, said in a statement. “We’ve been in some big parades before but this is really an historic event.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said she is proud that the young Mainers will be part of the parade.

“The president and the nation will get a chance to see their talent and dedication. They’ve worked hard and certainly deserve this honor,” Pingree said in a news release announcing the group’s participation.

Gym Dandies members also perform other circus arts, including stilt walking and juggling. It believes it is the largest continuously operating children’s circus in the nation, with more than 3,500 participants since 1981.


Four cranes lift deckhouse onto largest destroyer’s hull

Bath Iron Works has lifted a 900-ton deckhouse onto the 610-foot hull of the Zumwalt, the largest destroyer to be built at the shipyard.

Officials said Thursday that it took four cranes to lift the deckhouse — the heaviest item ever lifted at the shipyard — on Dec. 13 and 14. Afterward, the entire assembly, weighing 13,000 tons, was moved back into position for shipbuilders to continue assembly.

The composite deckhouse was built in Gulfport, Miss., and shipped to Maine by barge.

The stealthy destroyer, the Zumwalt, features a wave-piercing hull, electric drive propulsion, and powerful guns and missiles. It’ll be christened in 2013 and delivered to the Navy late in the following year.



Federal grant will facilitate upgrade of power system

Monhegan Island is getting a $420,000 federal grant to upgrade its power system.

The Department of Agriculture grant will fund a 13-kilowatt solar power system, a new 40-kilowatt generator and a new switching system that will allow the Monhegan Plantation Power District to switch between different power sources and incorporate renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said Monhegan residents pay about 70 cents per kilowatt hour, more than four times the average rate on the mainland and among the 20 highest rates in the country. She said the grant will improve the reliability and efficiency of the island’s power grid.

Monhegan is about 10 miles off the coast and is a summer haven for artists. It has a year-round population of about 70.


Owner of Maine head shops admits having illegal drugs

Federal prosecutors say the owner of head shops in Maine and New York has pleaded guilty to five charges for possessing and intending to sell illegal synthetic drugs.

They said John Tebbetts, 33, of Floyd, N.Y., acknowledged having synthetic marijuana, marketed as “Legal Phunk,” and “bath salts,” stimulants that were banned recently by federal law.

Tebbetts owns Tebbs Smokeshops in Portland, Biddeford and Auburn, and in several locations in New York.

Prosecutors said he also pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge for buying a motor home with $157,000 in cash from illegal sales.

He agreed to forfeit $314,000, the motor home, two cars, two pickup trucks, a snowmobile and a trailer.

Sentencing is scheduled for April 29. He could face up to 20 years in prison on drug counts.



CMP energizes substation as part of five-year project

Central Maine Power Co’s $1.4 billion transmission system upgrade reached a milestone Thursday as CMP energized a substation on Larrabee Road.

The $57 million substation is the first major component of the upgrade program to come online and is among the utility’s largest facilities. Its role is to take power from the New England regional grid and move it for use in Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Sagadahoc counties.

“With this substation coming online, we’ve turned a corner, and we truly have the first piece of a stronger, smarter grid for Maine’s future,” Sara Burns, president and CEO of the utility, a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, said in a statement.

The substation equipment includes a 345,000-volt autotransformer, the first of four for the system upgrade. The five-year project also involves the building or upgrading of 440 miles of transmission lines from Orrington to Eliot.



Maine CDC issues warning about carbon monoxide

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about carbon monoxide poisoning Thursday, saying seven Mainers have been sent to hospitals with carbon monoxide poisoning since November. No fatalities have been reported.

The state CDC urged Mainers to heat their homes safely and be extremely cautious while working on engines in garages.

Malfunctioning home heating sources were the cause of five of the recent poisonings. Two people were poisoned while working in their garages, one from exhaust that built up and the other from space heaters.

In Maine, about 75 percent of all reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur in the period from November to March, the agency said.

Anything that burns fuel, such as an oil or propane boiler or wood stove, produces carbon monoxide. When the appliances are not properly maintained or vented, carbon monoxide can build up in a home without anyone noticing.

In another recent event, a carbon monoxide detector alerted a family to the presence of the poisonous gas coming from a wood stove. The family got out safely. In the overwhelming majority of poisonings reported to the state agency, there were no carbon monoxide detectors present.