Firefighters help digger escape that sinking feeling

Firefighters rescued a 60-year-old woman from the mud flats off Drake’s Island after she sank into mud up to her waist.

Firefighters were called to help the woman, who was about 20 feet from shore near the rock jetty, at 12:40 p.m. Monday, said Capt. Jeff Cullen. The firefighters walked out to the woman and used a 20-foot roof ladder to disperse weight and get her to safety, he said.

The woman, who is visiting the area, was checked out by Wells rescue workers but did not need medical attention. Cullen did not release her name.

The woman was digging clams when she got stuck, he said. Low tide was at 1:09 p.m.


Police charge local man, 18, with gross sexual assault

A Westbrook man faces charges of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact in connection with an incident involving a young child, said Westbrook police.

Police said a woman told police that she believed her young child had been touched inappropriately by someone she knew.

That prompted a police investigation that resulted in the arrest of Joseph G. Pooler, 18, on the two felony charges.

Pooler is being held in Cumberland County Jail on $10,000 bail pending a court appearance.


Man faces driving charge following airborne crash

Police charged a driver with refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test and driving to endanger after his sport utility vehicle hit a snowbank and went airborne Sunday night.

Police said 49-year-old Richard Martel — whose address was unavailable — was speeding on Warren Avenue when his Jeep Grand Cherokee hit a snowbank, went airborne and hit a tree about 10 feet off the ground.

The Grand Cherokee slid across the parking lot of a medical office building near the intersection of Warren and Forest avenues before landing on its roof.

Police Lt. Scott Pellietier said Martel was extricated from his vehicle by Portland firefighters. He appeared to have minor injuries and was taken to Maine Medical Center to be checked.

Pelletier said Martel was alone in his vehicle at the time. The crash occurred around 9 p.m. Pelletier said witnesses told police Martel was going at least 60 mph.


Electrical failure to disrupt Peaks Island car ferry

The car ferry to Peaks Island will be out of service Tuesday morning because of a mechanical failure.

Casco Bay Lines said in a Facebook post Monday that Lionel Plante Associates will provide supplemental barge service while the Machigonne is being repaired.

Casco Bay Lines said trips may be affected into Tuesday afternoon.

Nicholas Mavodones, the district’s operations manager, said an electrical switch malfunctioned on the Machigonne. That part had be ordered and was expected to be delivered by 10 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

Mavodones said the barge is roughly the same size as the car ferry, which holds 12 vehicles. Passenger service to Peaks Island will still run through the Commercial Street terminal.

The departure times and locations for car-ferry passengers are: 7:15 a.m. from Peaks Island and 7:45 a.m. from East End Beach.


Shortened shrimp season gets under way Wednesday

New England’s shrimp-fishing season gets under way this week.

The season begins Wednesday, but isn’t expected to last long with a quota of only 1.4 million pounds. That’s about one-fourth last year’s catch of 5.3 million pounds.

Net fishermen have a quota of about 1.2 million pounds and can fish only two days a week.

Trap fishermen have a quota of about 200,000 pounds. Their season begins Feb. 5.

Regulators last month set a short season with a low quota after scientists warned that the Gulf of Maine shrimp population is in poor shape due to environmental conditions.

Shrimp fishing provides a small but important winter fishery. Maine fishermen catch about 90 percent of the harvest, with New Hampshire and Massachusetts fishermen accounting for the rest.


Mercy housing program to serve more mothers

A Mercy Hospital housing program for mothers who need substance-abuse treatment and their children is expanding and moving to a new location in the city.

McAuley Residence, now seven apartments on State Street, is moving to the former home of the Children’s Hospital of Portland on High Street, where there will be 15 apartments, from studios to two-bedrooms.

The building at 68 High St. is owned by Community Housing of Maine and was renovated recently, according to a press release from Mercy.

Women who are admitted to the program, after a screening, struggle with addiction and other problems, including homelessness and domestic violence, Mercy said.

They have access to the Mercy Recovery Center, Mercy Primary Care Centers and Mercy partners for parenting and financial counseling.

The program, begun 25 years ago, has helped more than 200 women restart their lives, according to the release.


Committee hearings set for supplemental budget

Several days of hearings on Gov. Paul LePage’s budget to address shortfalls in this year’s budget are scheduled this week.

The Appropriations Committee will take up the supplemental budget on Wednesday. The budget seeks to make up for nearly $90 million in cost overruns in the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare. Those costs are due mostly to increased utilization of the program by people already enrolled.

In addition, the budget addresses a $35.5 million revenue shortfall.

The Appropriations Committee hearings are scheduled to end Jan. 28.

The panel will then take up the governor’s $6.3 billion budget for the two years that start July 1.


Northern New England sharing snowmobile trails

Snowmobilers from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont who are looking for some fresh scenery have a big opportunity coming up.

Reciprocal Snowmobile Weekend this coming Friday to Sunday allows all legally registered Maine snowmobiles to be operated in New Hampshire and Vermont without being registered in those states.

At the same time, snowmobiles legally registered in New Hampshire and Vermont can be operated in Maine without a current Maine registration. In Maine alone, snowmobilers can explore more than 13,000 miles of interconnected, groomed and marked trails.

Maine Warden Col. Joel Wilkinson advised riders to pay close attention to ice conditions on all waterways, especially at night.


Fire damages mobile home, displacing family of three

A family of three is homeless after a fire destroyed part of their mobile home Monday morning.

Jon Roby said he was out buying bait to go ice-fishing when a neighbor called him to say his home at 534 Hallowell Road was on fire.

Roby’s wife, Mireya, was at work at Lakeside Orchard; and his 14-year-old daughter was at a friend’s home.

“I had just installed a new smoke detector two or three weeks ago,” said Roby, who had lived there for about 16 years.

Roby said he already had received some offers of help from friends and family.

Chelsea Assistant Fire Chief Jim Gagnon said the fire was reported about 9 a.m. and was under control in about a half-hour.

The blaze also destroyed a porch, but a nearby garage and what appeared to be a deck surrounding a pool were spared.

Gagnon said the origin of the fire had yet to be determined.


Flames fanned by wind destroy home, vehicle

Firefighters say investigators are searching for the cause of a wind-driven fire that destroyed a home and vehicle Sunday.

The fire on Maple Street was reported late Sunday afternoon. There were no injuries.

West Paris Fire Chief Norm St. Pierre said the home became fully engulfed in flames as crews arrived.

The Sun Journal reported that the wind showered nearby buildings with embers and even ignited a fire on St. Pierre’s truck, parked a block away. He said he put it out with snow.

Firefighters focused on keeping the fire from to spreading to other buildings. About 45 firefighters helped extinguish the blaze.


Bean sets aside $1.5 million for 200 nonprofit groups

L.L. Bean is distributing $1.5 million in community grants that were approved by the company’s board for distribution before the company’s fiscal year ends next month.

The catalog retailer says gifts ranging from $500 to $25,000 are being disbursed to more than 200 nonprofit organizations. That’s above and beyond a $2.5 million donation to get kids interested in the outdoors and another $1 million given to the National Parks Foundation this year.

Over the past 10 years, the Freeport-based company has donated nearly $30 million to nonprofit organizations.

This year’s recipients include the Appalachian Mountain Club, Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, Maine Island Trails Association, Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited. The company is also supporting the Island Explorer propane bus system in Acadia National Park.