Bennett has wide support to lead state Republicans

The majority of voting members of Maine’s Republican State Committee is supporting former-Senate President Rick Bennett as the next state party chairman.

Thirty-nine committee members announced their support for Bennett in an email obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.

The 77-member committee is expected to vote in Augusta on Saturday.

The election follows the resignation of former chairman Richard Cebra earlier this month. The party said Cebra stepped down because of personal reasons.

Bennett is currently chairman at Portland-based research firm GMI Ratings.

The group said Bennett is a “successful job-creating businessman” who has “fought against out-of-control and wasteful government borrowing and spending.”

Maine’s libertarian-leaning Liberty Caucus also said in a statement Friday that it’s backing Bennett. 

Kennebunk awarded grant to fund water line project

Kennebunk will receive a $300,000 economic development award to help fund a water line project on Route 1.

Kennebunk and St. John Plantation were awarded a combined $375,000 in Community Development Block Grant Economic Development Program Awards from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The federal program provides gap funding for communities to assist businesses in the creation and retention of new jobs. The awards will result in the creation of 13 new jobs, according to a news release from the department.

St. John Plantation will use its $75,000 award to defray the purchase cost of concrete forms. The money also will allow for upgrades to a crane carrier and building operated by Charette Foundations, a concrete foundation business.

In Kennebunk, the $600,000 project, expected to be done later this year, will allow Northeast Coating Technologies to expand operations and hire 10 extra employees.


Town has 49 applications from men for police chief

A lot of people want to be police chief in Paris.

Officials in the town of about 5,000 say they have received 49 applications, including one from a current member of the department.

Interim Chief Jerry Hinton said all the applicants are men and come from as far away as California and Florida. He told the Sun Journal newspaper he’s disappointed no women applied, but not surprised.

A search panel hopes to whittle the applicants down to six to 10 for interviews.

The goal is to have the new chief on the job by October.


Teen charged with arson won’t be tried as an adult

Prosecutors have decided that a 13-year-old boy charged with setting a fire that burned down three downtown Lewiston buildings and left 75 people homeless won’t be tried as an adult.

District Attorney Norman Croteau said Thursday that he and Androscoggin County’s juvenile prosecutor reviewed the fire investigator’s report and a psychological evaluation before reaching the decision.

The boy faces arson charges in connection with the April 29 fire.

It was one of three large blazes in the city in a week. Another 13-year-old boy and two men face charges in the other fires.


Excavator accident closes stretch of I-295 for 5 hours

An excavator being used to work on Interstate 295 in Portland was headed south in the northbound breakdown lane when its boom snagged utility lines at Washburn Street, snapped a pole and shut down the state’s busiest stretch of highway for five hours early Friday morning.

The lines were fiber optic cables, not power lines, but Maine State Police determined that motorists’ safety required that the highway be shut down as the wires draped on the excavator. The incident occurred at 1 a.m. and the road did not fully reopen until 6:21 a.m., said Sgt. Robert Burke, a state police supervisor.

State police, Portland police and Maine Department of Transportation crews blocked the highway in both directions. A number of cars and trucks had to be backed up on I-295 northbound and then taken off the highway using on-ramps because there was no room to turn around, Burke said.

“We had probably 30 to 40 vehicles stuck in the northbound lanes,” he said. The tractor-trailer had to be backed up to the Exit 5 on-ramp where the interstate crosses Congress Street, he said.

Central Maine Power Co. was summoned to replace the pole and Time Warner and Oxford Networks worked to restore tension to the lines to get them off the road, he said.

Traffic was relatively light at 1 a.m. but the magnitude of the operation meant all the troopers working in the area had to help divert traffic, which detoured using the Congress Street and Forest Avenue ramps, Burke said. The incident slowed the early morning commute but the highway was opened before the bulk of the morning commuter traffic started flowing. 

Temporary traffic light installed after truck crash

A temporary traffic light was installed at the corner of Forest Avenue and Walton Street after a tractor-trailer cut the corner too closely and slammed into a pole there early Friday, temporarily blocking the road.

The crash happened at 2 a.m., police said. Nobody was injured.


Bonny Eagle gets principal from Gray-New Gloucester

The principal of Gray-New Gloucester High School for the past 10 years is moving over to Bonny Eagle.

Paul Penna will replace Beth Schultz as the Bonny Eagle High School principal.

The School Administrative District 6 board of directors voted Monday to hire Penna at a salary of $96,578.

The board voted in February not to renew Schultz’s contract at the recommendation of Superintendent Frank Sherburne, who said she lacked leadership skills.

Around the same time, principals at Scarborough, South Portland and Biddeford high schools resigned, leaving four large districts within a small geographic area looking for new leaders. All have hired replacements.

Penna, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern Maine, worked as a police officer in South Portland, a guidance counselor at Oxford Hills Junior High School and Portland High School and an assistant principal at Portland High School before becoming principal at Gray-New Gloucester in 2003. 

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