Downtown agency names interim executive director

A former travel agency owner and current vice president of AAA Northern New England has been appointed interim executive director of Portland’s Downtown District.

Steve Hewins will assume the post in August and remain until the agency can hire a permanent replacement for Jan Beitzer, who retired this summer.

Hewins founded Hewins Travel out of his Munjoy Hill home in 1982 before relocating the agency to Commercial Street. It grew to become Maine’s largest travel agency before he sold the agency to AAA in 2007.

“Steve Hewins is exceptionally qualified to lead Maine’s largest Downtown organization as we work through a nationwide search process for a new Executive Director,” Brad McCurtain, President of the district’s Board of Directors, said in a statement.

McCurtain said Hewins is a candidate for the full-time executive director position.

Portland’s Downtown District encompasses more than 600 properties and 400 businesses in an area that runs from Longfellow Square along Congress Street to Franklin Street and through the Old Port. 

Mentally ill offender accused in assault of hospital worker

A Maine man with a history of sex-related violations has been charged with assaulting a staff member at a Portland hospital where he was being treated.

Forty-nine-year-old Steven Ricci was charged Tuesday with unlawful sexual touching and violation of bail for an incident on Saturday.

Ricci has a history of mental illness and of exposing himself in public.

In February, a judge deemed him incompetent to be sentenced after pleading guilty to a public indecency charge and committed him for one year to a state-run psychiatric hospital.


Bowdoin ranks 20th, Colby 49th on Forbes’ annual list

Bowdoin College ranks 20th on Forbes’ annual list of America’s Top Colleges, based on factors such as student satisfaction, post-graduate success, amount of student debt, graduation rate and the number of awards won by students.

The list, which Forbes compiles with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, based in Washington, D.C., ranks Stanford University at the top of the list, followed by Pomona College in California, Princeton, Yale and Columbia. Bowdoin and Colby College were the only schools in Maine ranked in the top 100, with Colby ranked 49th. Bates College was ranked 107th.

Forbes rated Bowdoin’s financial health an A+, based on factors including its operational budget and endowment, and ranked the school 19th in private colleges and 14th in the Northeast. Colby’s financial health was also rated A+, with the school ranked 40th in private colleges and 30th in the Northeast. 

Technology institute awards $1.66 million in loans, grants

The Maine Technology Institute said Wednesday it awarded grants and loans totaling more than $1.66 million to 27 companies during the second quarter.

MTl said the awards include $1.4 million in development loans, $214,936 in seed grants and $46,741 in TechStart grants.

The companies receiving funds included Ecoshel Inc., a company relocating to Maine from Georgia that manufactures an innovative, patented cedar shingle panel; AboGen, a biotechnology company in Portland; and Wentworth Technology in Saco, which provides innovative wireless communications solutions for the restaurant industry.

“We congratulate these entrepreneurs and businesses who are using innovative technologies to develop their products or services,” said MTI President Bob Martin. “We look forward to helping them along the path to success to grow profitable enterprises.”

TechStart grants are awarded in amounts up to $5,000 to companies that are investigating new technologies. Seed Grants of up to $25,000 are given to companies for advanced product design and development. Development Loans of up to $500,000 are awarded to companies to help them commercialize their products and bring them to market.

All grants and loans are awarded on a competitive basis and require a one-to-one financial match.

MTI invests funds and provides resources to companies in seven technology sectors: biotechnology, advanced composites and materials, environmental technology, marine and aquaculture, forestry and agriculture, precision manufacturing and information technology.


LePage will attend service for victims of train disaster

Gov. Paul LePage plans to travel to Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Saturday to attend a memorial Mass for the victims of the this month’s train disaster there that involved a Maine railroad company.

LePage will also meet with Colette Roy-Laroche, the town’s mayor, and other dignitaries.

The town of about 6,000 people is located 10 miles from the Maine border.

“While a line divides our countries, it does not divide our people and it is important for Maine to support our northern neighbors during this time of need,” LePage said in a written statement.

On July 6, a runaway train operated by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway rolled down a hill and crashed in the center of Lac-Megantic, setting off explosions that killed 47 people.

The railroad, based in Hermon, Maine, has been transporting crude oil through Quebec and Maine for delivery to an oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Last week, a five-person delegation from Franklin County visited Lac-Megantic to offer support and find out how Mainers could help.

The delegation included Danny Devoe, a French-speaking state employee who works in the governor’s office on trade issues between Maine and Canada.


Probation system veteran will lead correctional center

A veteran of the state’s probation system has been tapped to lead the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, an appointment the department’s commissioner says will benefit the public by helping prepare prisoners for when they are released.

Commissioner Joseph Ponte appointed Scott Landry, currently the department’s regional administrator for central Maine, as superintendent of the medium-security prison.

Landry has served with Maine Pretrial Services, federal probation and was a supervisor in the Portland office of MDOC’s probation department.

Landry takes over for Scott Burnheimer, who retired after several years with the department.

Prisoners typically are assigned to probation once they are released from confinement, a period of supervision while they adjust to society and a mechanism to reduce the chance the prisoner will reoffend.

“The selection of Scott sends a strong message of our department’s commitment to public safety by improving an offender’s opportunity to be successful upon their return to the community,” Ponte said in a statement.

Landry has served as a regional correctional manager and administrator since 2005.

Landry has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of Southern Maine and a master’s in public policy and management from the Muskie School of Public Service. 


Maine prices of heating oil, kerosene rise; propane falls

Gov. Paul LePage’s office says heating fuel prices are on the rise in Maine.

The Republican governor’s Energy Office said Wednesday that the current average price statewide for certain heating oil is $3.42 per gallon. That’s up three cents from last week and up six cents from two weeks ago.

Kerosene prices have also risen to a statewide average of $3.48 per gallon. That’s up three cents from two weeks ago.

At the same time, propane prices dropped. The statewide average for propane has dropped eight cents in the past week to $2.63 per gallon. 

LePage to sign proclamation to honor Korea War veterans

Gov. Paul LePage is encouraging Maine residents to join him in honoring the state’s Korean War veterans this weekend.

The Republican governor will sign a proclamation on Thursday that makes Saturday Maine Korean War Veteran Recognition Day. LePage will be joined by a group of veterans at the Capitol.

The proclamation was sponsored by Republican Sen. James Hamper of Oxford.

It also recognizes the 38 Maine military personnel who became prisoners of war or missing in action and the 245 who were killed during the war.

More than 36,000 U.S. military members were killed and more than 100,000 were wounded in the Korean War.


Wells man arrested in sting for intent to distribute pot

A Maine man is accused of possessing 22 pounds of marijuana in New Hampshire.

Thirty-year-old James Barnes of Wells, Maine, was arrested Tuesday in Dover after police said they conducted a controlled delivery of the drug to him.

The delivery was conducted by the New Hampshire State Police Narcotics and Investigations Unit in conjunction with the Dover Police Department.

Barnes was charged with one felony count of possession with intent to distribute the drug. He is being held on $25,000 cash bail following his arraignment Wednesday morning.

The sting was a result of the state police narcotics unit learning about an incoming delivery from California, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat. Police intercepted the shipment and delivered it to Barnes and when Barnes collected it and drove off, he was arrested, the newspaper said.


Coalition urges lawmakers to increase minimum wage

Supporters of a higher minimum wage for Massachusetts workers say they’ll go directly to the voters next year if lawmakers don’t act first.

The state’s current minimum wage is $8 an hour and hasn’t been increased since 2008.

A coalition of groups called Raise Up Massachusetts also wants to enact a statewide earned sick time policy.

Senate President Therese Murray has signaled her desire to bring up a minimum wage bill, though she has not yet backed any specific proposal.

Business groups that oppose a higher minimum wage say the added costs could ultimately hurt workers by making Massachusetts less competitive.

Minimum wage supporters say if lawmakers don’t act by the ballot question filing deadline of Aug. 7, they’ll try to put both issues before voters on next year’s state ballot.


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