High Street lanes reopen after sewer pipe collapse

Both lanes of High Street have reopened to traffic.

High Street between Congress and Spring streets had to be reduced to one lane of traffic for most of the day Thursday after a sewer pipe collapsed, causing a depression in the two-lane road.

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said High Street — traffic in that stretch of road is one-way — reopened to two lanes of traffic around 4:30 p.m. Repairs continued into the evening hours, but Clegg said the work should not interfere with traffic. Motorists had been advised earlier in the day to avoid the area after traffic backed up.

The sewer pipe, which dates back to the 1870s, collapsed Thursday morning. Sewer service was not disrupted and no raw sewage was observed at street level, Clegg said.

Officials are still trying to determine the cause, which could be attributed to the pipe’s age. However, Clegg noted that Unitil crews were working on gas lines in the same area.

“That could be coincidental,” Clegg said of Unitil’s work in the area. “It could have been the age and the weather.”

The city is negotiating a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency for previous sewer pipe failures. It has allocated $700,000 to study and develop a plan to upgrade its sewer system.


Woman in critical condition with most of body burned

A Portland woman who was badly burned in a fire over the weekend is in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Julia Ball, 56, of 250 Burnside Ave. was flown by LifeFlight helicopter from Maine Medical Center to the Boston hospital after suffering burns over 70-80 percent of her body.

The fire started in the living room and investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office said it may have started when smoking materials fell into the couch. They did not know whether Ball had fallen asleep or left the room, giving the smoldering fire a chance to grow.

When Ball discovered the fire she called her sister then tried to put it out herself, investigators said. When her sister arrived, Ball was outside and on fire and she put Ball out.

The fire broke out just before noon and firefighters were able to save the building but the living room was extensively damaged.


Two studies tied to Quimby back case for national park

Two studies commissioned by a foundation set up by millionaire Roxanne Quimby suggest communities near national parks outpace the national average for economic development.

Elliotsville Plantation, which is considering donating more than 70,000 acres to create a national park, commissioned the studies to explore the potential economic impact.

Lucas St. Clair, president of the board and Quimby’s son, said the reports provide evidence that a national park or a combined national park and recreation area “can help the economy to grow faster.”

The reports compare 16 similar communities in the U.S. with a national park, a recreation area or a combined national park and recreation area.

Quimby’s proposal for a northern Maine park has drawn mixed opinions. The National Park Service remains enthusiastic but has taken no formal stance.


Second of three suspects is sentenced in burglaries

The second of three men charged in connection with a series of home burglaries in Augusta last year has pleaded guilty to 16 charges.

Richard Anthony Hernandez of Augusta was sentenced this week to six years in jail, with all but nine months suspended, and three years of probation for the eight counts each of burglary and theft.

The Kennebec Journal reported that Hernandez, 20, also was ordered to pay restitution of almost $15,000 for the items stolen from various homes.

Among the items reported stolen were jewelry, tools and a large number of rolled coins from one home.

Police said the three suspects stole to support their heroin habits.

One co-defendant has already pleaded guilty, while the third man’s case is pending.


Man sentenced for robbery, striking woman with gun

A Farmingdale man will spend four years in prison for robbing a woman at gunpoint and striking her in the face with a handgun.

Thomas J. Rodriguez, 31, of Farmingdale pleaded guilty in Kennebec County Superior Court this week to robbery, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, and assault, all on Nov. 3 in Augusta.

According to a police affidavit, Rodriguez arrived at the victim’s apartment and demanded money at gunpoint. When she laughed at him and told him she had none because her check went directly to the bank, he struck her with the handgun, according to the affidavit.

The sentence is concurrent to a probation revocation from convictions in Machias.


Fourteen are in the running for 2014 Teacher of the Year

Fourteen teachers are in the running to be Maine’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen announced Thursday.

The winner will be announced in September at a surprise event at the teacher’s school. The 2013 Teacher of the Year is Shannon Shanning, a special education teacher at Bruce M. Whittier Middle School in Poland.

The 2014 nominees are:

Anne Carney, St. Albans Consolidated School

Susan Carpenter O’Brien, George B. Weatherbee School, Hampden

Christiane Cullens, Mount Desert Island High School

Mary Graziano, Hartland Consolidated School

Kerri LeSieur, Biddeford Primary School

Karen MacDonald, King Middle School, Portland

Joshua Pietras, Penquis Valley High School, Milo

Suzen Polk-Hoffses, Milbridge Elementary School

Susan Ray, Sacopee Valley Middle School, Hiram

Cynthia Raymond, Hall-Dale Middle School, Farmingdale

Laurie Rodrigue, Cony High School, Augusta

Nancy Sargent, Cumberland and Oxford Canal School, Westbrook

Marsha Snyder, Thornton Academy, Saco

Tracie Wagenfeld-Hallissey, Willard School, Sanford

A teacher can be nominated by anyone. The nomination is sent to the school principal, who submits the nomination.

During the selection process, a panel visits the semifinalists’ schools and talks to parents, colleagues and students. Semifinalists create portfolios and give oral presentations. The final three are interviewed by a group of past winners, who select the Teacher of the Year.


Motorist flees scene of crash that caused power outage

A car crash on Upper Cross Road on Thursday knocked out power to a significant portion of the town and police were looking for the car responsible.

The crash was reported at 1:13 a.m. and snapped the utility pole near the corner of Center Road, according to Assistant Rescue Chief Jason Cole.

The car left before emergency crews arrived to find the pole snapped in multiple places, Cole said.

A witness saw a pickup truck with front-end damage and part of the telephone pole in the grille, he said. The truck was seen heading toward the fire station on Upper Cross Road, he said.

Power was knocked out to about 300 homes and businesses in central Lebanon.

Maine State Police are investigating the crash and ask that anyone with information call 657-3030.


Father of murder suspect indicted over pound of pot

The father of a Maine man who is charged with murder in the shooting death of a Florida firefighter has been indicted on drug trafficking and possession charges.

WABI-TV reported that prosecutors said Gary Porter, 56, of Jackson had more than a pound of marijuana that he planned to sell.

Porter’s son, Daniel Porter, 25, is charged in the fatal shooting of Jerry Perdomo, 31, of Orange City, Fla., last February.

Police said the killing occurred at Gary Porter’s home in Jackson and stemmed from a dispute over a drug debt that Daniel Porter owed Perdomo.


Woman arrested after raid by MDEA uncovers meth lab

Maine drug agents have arrested an Aroostook County woman on drug charges after a raid on her home uncovered evidence of a methamphetamine lab.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said it executed a search warrant at 32-year-old Felisha Suitter’s mobile home in Smyrna about 2 p.m. Wednesday. Suitter tried to flee out the back door but was apprehended.

Police said agents in chemical and fire-resistant suits and breathing apparatus scoured the trailer and another building on the property for several hours, seized equipment, chemicals and other items used in the making of methamphetamine, as well as an unspecified amount of the finished product.

The agency requested the search warrant after investigating reports of drug activity on the property for several months.


Experts blame phosphorus for fish-killing algae bloom

Experts say that unusually high phosphorous levels in Lake Auburn caused a fish-killing algae bloom last year, but what caused phosphorous levels to spike remains under investigation.

A team of water quality experts and engineers hired by the Lake Auburn Water Protection Commission to investigate the fish kill gave an initial report Wednesday night at Lewiston City Hall.

The Sun Journal reported that engineers said the high phosphorus levels could have been caused by runoff from the lake’s feeder streams and ponds or by a new species of algae or a combination of the two.

They also are trying to determine whether the bloom was an isolated event or a troubling trend and how to stop it happening again.

The bloom in September killed an estimated 200 trout.


Colorado fugitive arrested for sexually exploiting child

Police have arrested a man wanted by authorities in Colorado on charges of sexual exploitation of a child.

Police in Lisbon acting on information from the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force arrested Scott Helms, 48, on a fugitive from justice charge this week.

Police said Helms is wanted by the Gilpin, Colo., County Sheriff’s Office on three felony counts of Internet sexual exploitation of a child and two felony counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child.

Helms appeared Wednesday in district court in Lewiston and was held on $10,000 cash bail.

Police said Helms has lived in Lisbon for several years. They did not disclose the exact nature of the alleged offenses.