July 20, 1988

Matty DiRenzo believes kids set the fire Wednesday that completed the ruin of his apartment house at 59 Seavey St., Westbrook. The fire broke out with explosive suddenness at 9:20 p.m., and police have labeled it arson. The five-apartment building had sat unoccupied since a $100,000 fire a month earlier. DiRenzo had $35,000 insurance on the bulding at the time of the first fire. He thought it was $65,000, but found out differently later, he said. He had refused $128,000 for the building before the first fire. Hours before the second fire, DiRenzo said, he canceled the insurance on the building. Fire Chief James Rulman said he doubts kids set the fire, based on “the intensity of the fire to begin with,” and the findings of two state investigators.

The action is not final, but the Westbrook City Council’s Finance Committee cut $100,000, or less than 1 percent, from the $12,800,802 school budget Wednesday. This brought the tax rate increase for city and schools in 1988-89 to $1.36. That means a tax of $33.48 on each $1,000 worth of property. When they started their work on the budget April 19, aldermen feared the increase would be much more. The council is to begin formal action to accept the budget with a first vote July 25, and a second reading and final vote Aug. 1.

The Westbrook School Committee voted increases of 9 and 10.3 percent, respectively, to Superintendent Edward Connolly and Assistant Superintendent Russell Fearon Monday, plus a 25 percent increase in Connolly’s travel money. The superintendent’s pay goes to $54,500, up from $50,000, and his travel stipend goes from $2,000 to $2,500. Fearon’s pay goes from $38,675 to $42,675.

A Westbrook man remained in critical condition at Maine Medical center after a serious industrial accident last week at a Shaw Brothers Construction Co. gravel pit off the Gambo Road in Gorham. William B. Bragg, 50, was pinned under the weight of a 63-foot-long portable gravel conveyor after it accidentally rolled forward on him while he and several other workers were trying to ready the conveyor for transport. Bragg, who has worked for the firm for 51?2 years, suffered severe internal injuries and broke his leg, arm, pelvis and back. Safety officials are investigated and will issue a report in about six weeks.

Paul and Janet Willis, David and Jennifer, of Gorham, recently returned from a week’s vacation at Callaway Gardens Family Resort, Pine Mountain, Ga. Her parents and other family joined them. They enjoyed water skiing, tennis, volleyball, golf and a daily circus performance – plus a chance to practice or take part in the “pro” circus skills. The circus is part of a Florida State University class for aspiring circus performers.

The Resident Council of Gorham Health Center, formerly Gorham Manor, held a dinner party July 7 to welcome the new administrator, Ward Hand. The meal was prepared entirely by the members.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. McKinney (Bertha), Westbrook, thoroughly enjoyed a recent three-week trip to Oslo, the capital of Norway. They were guests of her cousin and her husband, Kari and Runar Hoelsaether. The McKenneys went with Kari and Runar in their taxi, traveling 2,000 miles while there.

Carol Munroe, 39, of Sebago Lake, began work July 2 as the new executive director of the Animal Refuge League, 449 Stroudwater St., Westbook. She succeeds Majorie F. Stewart, who retired. Monroe holds a degree in animal and veterinary medicine, which she earned in 1971 from the University of Maine.

July 22, 1998

A Gorham woman, Mary Ellen Valentine, wants the state to declare that the area within 500 yards of her Morrill Avenue house must be pesticide free. It would be the first pesticide-free zone in a residential neighborhood in Maine. The Board of Pesticide Control tabled her petition Friday for more information, including any proof that pesticides have hurt her health. Gorham High School, Shaw Junior High School and at least eight other homes are believed to be within 500 yards of Valentine’s home.

American National Power intends to go ahead with its plans to build a gas-fired electric generating plant on the Ross Grant property in Gorham, despite Central Maine Power Co.’s warning that existing plans will get first access to limited transmission lines. “We still believe it’s worthwhile to keep going,” said ANP’s Guy Marchmont. “WE are talking to CMP in an effort to resolve the issue.” More than a dozen proposed gas-fired plans are in the planning stages throughout Maine.

Foreside Co., the 48th fastest-growing company is the nation, according to Inc. 500 Magazine, hopes to build at 105,300-squre-foot warehouse-distribution facility next to its office building in the Gorham Industrial Park. Foreside is a wholesale furniture and home accessory importing company begun by Mark and Claire Woodsum in Camden in 1990. Foreside moved to Gorham in 1994. The Gorham Board of appeals granted Foreside a parking exception for the proposed facility Thursday.

A developer’s plan to build 51 “cottage-style” houses off Stroudwater Street in Westbrook, next to the Animal Refuge League, suffered a major setback Monday when a zoning change needed for the project was denied by the City Council. Cottage Park Inc., Portland, wants to build the houses on 70 acres owned by Doris DeWolfe, 471 Stroudwater St. The plan was to cluster the houses on the font two-thirds of the property closes to the street, leaving the rear third as open space. The homes would be on 44 acres. The Planning Board had previously recommended a zoning change that would allow four units an acre, but that change required City Council approval. “I don’t think that is the best use for that land. We’ve got traffic problems down the street. I’m not going to add 400 cars a day,” said Alderman John O’Hara. The council voted 6-1 against the change.

School Street United Methodist Church completed last week its Vacation Bible School, attended by 45 children. Lori McCarty was director. Teachers included Amy Story, Katie D’Alessandro, Kyle Currier, JoAnn Morton, Cora Brown, Trease Mader, Misty Mader, Pam Damon, Jean Dolloff, Ellen Stanley, Carol Marshburn, Becky Gallant, Nancy Kenty and Shelly Wormwood.

The state is widening Route 302 to four lines at Prides Corner, Westbrook, and rebuilding Elmwood Avenue to enter Route 302 at a right angle instead of a slant. The work will include full reconstruction of the area where Pride Street (on the west) and Brook Street (on the right) meet at Route 302. New traffic signals will be installed. Elmwood Avenue at Route 302 will be moved northwest and the abandoned section will be dug up, loamed and seeded, and a monument and flagpole at the corner will be moved.

50 years ago

The Westbrook American reported on July 17, 1963, that James Durgin would be the DJ for a series of summer block dances in the parking lot at the Red and White Store on Main Street in Gorham.

Gertrude Elwell of West Buxton was home from her duties at summer school in Waterville.

On July 4, 1944 a fire swept through this building at 53 Seavey St., Occupied by A. Pinette & Son Auto & Furniture Storage Co.The building was originally constructed in the 1860s as the Benjamin A. Marshall Tool and Shovel Co. The building was repaired after the fire and still stands. Through the years it has been occupied by several companies, including Ames Shovel & Tool Co., Cook & Foster Inc., A. Pinette & Son, Cook Box Factory, Portland Stripping Co., Maine Tigue Stripping Co. and Thompson & Anderson Sheet Metal Co. To see more historical photos and artifacts, visit the Westbrook Historical Society at the Fred C. Wescott Building, 426 Bridge St. Inquiries can be emailed to [email protected] The website is www.westbrookhistoricalsociety.org.

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