Local & State – Press Herald https://www.pressherald.com Fri, 23 Feb 2018 18:46:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Ice breaking up in Kennebec River ahead of new U.S. Coast Guard effort https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/ice-breaking-up-in-kennebec-river-ahead-of-new-u-s-coast-guard-effort/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/ice-breaking-up-in-kennebec-river-ahead-of-new-u-s-coast-guard-effort/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 18:38:25 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/ice-breaking-up-in-kennebec-river-ahead-of-new-u-s-coast-guard-effort/ AUGUSTA — Slabs of ice are starting to break free and flow down the Kennebec River ahead of a planned ice-breaking operation next week.

That’s a good sign, Kennebec County Emergency Management Director Sean Goodwin said Friday morning, following a conference call on conditions on the Kennbec and Penobscot rivers.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Shackle, deployed for assessment on the river, broke some ice on Thursday. Crew reported that south of Chops Point in Woolwich the water was clearing well.

The tug progressed as far as Abagadasset Point in Bowdoinham before it lost the tide and had to turn back, but the crew noted signs that the river ice starting to degrade and rot.

Before sending the 140-foot ice breaker north of Richmond, the Coast Guard has requested the U.S. Geological Survey to make ice measurements just north of the Maine Kennebec Bridge that connects Richmond and Dresden, and just south of Gardiner. The ice on that stretch of the river has been undisturbed this winter. That will help determine how long the ice-breaking operation may take.

An aerial survey by the Coast Guard show where its larger ice-breaking ship reached in January before the operation was suspended. But north of Richmond the ice appears more solid,

Goodwin said Friday he planned to visit Worthing’s Smelt Camp in Randolph and Baker’s Smelt Camps in Pittston to let them know about the pending ice breaking operation so they can pull in their shacks. He said he also plans to contact Foggy Bottom, the campground and marina Farmingdale. While it is closed and has nothing in the water now, it has equipment near the river bank, he said.

This story will be updated.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

jlowell@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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Maine’s pot legalization committee finds agreement on taxes, other regulations https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/maines-pot-legalization-committee-finds-agreement-on-taxes-other-regulations/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/maines-pot-legalization-committee-finds-agreement-on-taxes-other-regulations/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 18:31:10 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/maines-pot-legalization-committee-finds-agreement-on-taxes-other-regulations/ The legislative committee tasked with launching Maine’s recreational marijuana market approved a regulatory and licensing bill Friday that would set a 10 percent tax on retail sales and halve the number of plants that could be grown for personal use.

With a 16-1 vote, the committee adopted a bill that would set an effective tax rate of 20 percent between wholesale and retail sales, establish a three-year residency requirement for license applicants and set a three-plant limit on home grows for personal use. That’s half the current limit of six plants.

The bill would not cap the number of commercial licenses that could be awarded, share any tax revenues with local municipalities or permit the social use of marijuana in a public place, such as a club or cafe.

If adopted, the bill would replace the Marijuana Legalization Act, which Maine voters narrowly approved by referendum in November 2016.

“The spirit of the referendum is certainly represented in the bill, but it also honors how close the vote was,” said Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, the committee’s House chairman. “Government too often doesn’t get anything done because we are not able to come to the center. Our bill was all about compromise. People will hate some of it, and love other parts of it. But it protects our kids, our public safety and our communities while also giving adults the right and privilege of using marijuana.”

The proposed tax rate, which was unveiled Friday, includes a 21.5 percent excise tax levied on wholesale marijuana when a cultivator sells the unprocessed material to a processor or retailer, and a 10 percent retail tax. Because the value of unprocessed marijuana is so much lower than the retail product, state officials say the 21.5 percent excise tax is equivalent to the amount of money that would be raised from another 10 percent retail tax levied at the point of sale.

The state Department of Administration and Financial Services projects the state would collect $2.7 million in overall marijuana taxes in fiscal year 2020, the first year it expects to see any sales, and $16.3 million in fiscal year 2021, the first full year of market sales. That is based on a $335 excise tax levied on every pound of marijuana flower and mature plants sold by a cultivator.

Officials say an excise tax would discourage diversion to the black market because it establishes a record of the plant when it is first produced, making it harder for that product to disappear along the way. It also is intended to protect the state from any price fluctuations that might occur as the market matures and more cannabis ends up hitting the adult use market, which often drives down price. An excise tax is based on weight rather than product value.

While the adopted rate might sound big, it doesn’t really add up to a 31.5 percent tax rate because of the difference in marijuana’s wholesale and retail value, said David Heidrich, a spokesman for the financial services department.

Committee Senate Chairman Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said the effective 20 percent tax rate still keeps the overall tax paid by the Maine consumer lower than any other state that allows recreational sales except for Oregon, which has the same tax rate as the one Maine is proposing.

“It’s still low enough to encourage people who have been operating in the black market to come into the legal system,” Katz said. “That’s good for the consumer, too.”

The bill now undergoes a language review that is expected to take several weeks before it returns to the committee for a final look, but that isn’t expected to result in any substantial changes to the contents of the bill. A cleaned-up version go to the House and Senate in late March, at the earliest. If approved by the Legislature, Gov. Paul LePage has up to 10 days to take action on the bill.

The committee’s first bid to launch the market won legislative approval, but was vetoed by LePage. It fell 17 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override.

The lone “no” vote on the committee Friday was Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, an organic farmer who criticized the proposed tax rate, especially the excise portion, which he said would hurt small farmers trying to break into the industry. He also criticized the bill for its lack of a local revenue sharing option for municipalities, and for failing to do enough to promote social justice.

This story will be updated.

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Maine Medical Center, ambulance provider pay $1.425 million to settle Medicare fraud case https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/maine-medical-center-ambulance-provider-pay-1-425-million-in-medicare-fraud-settlement/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/maine-medical-center-ambulance-provider-pay-1-425-million-in-medicare-fraud-settlement/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 17:41:32 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/maine-medical-center-ambulance-provider-pay-1-425-million-in-medicare-fraud-settlement/ Maine Medical Center and the state’s largest ambulance provider have agreed to pay $1.425 million to the federal government to settle allegations that the two groups defrauded Medicare by submitting false and misleading reimbursement claims for hundreds of ambulance rides that were not medically necessary.

North East Mobile Health Services, of Scarborough, will pay $825,000 to resolve allegations that since 2007, it improperly billed Medicare for patients who it claimed were “bed-confined” or who were otherwise medically required to be transported by ambulance, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank.

Maine Medical Center, which has contracted with North East since 2007 as its favored provider of all medical transport services, has agreed to pay $600,000 in the settlement, Frank’s office said.

The hospital’s settlement resolves allegations that Maine Medical Center personnel provided North East with statements containing incomplete or inaccurate information about the medical necessity of transporting patients by ambulance, which North East thereafter used to bill Medicare, according to federal prosecutors.

Both groups cooperated with the investigation, and because of the settlement, neither group admits wrongdoing, according to court records.

This story will be updated.

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Backlash follows Cape Elizabeth decision not to retain special education director https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/backlash-follows-cape-elizabeth-decision-not-to-retain-special-education-director/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/backlash-follows-cape-elizabeth-decision-not-to-retain-special-education-director/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 15:53:08 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/backlash-follows-cape-elizabeth-decision-not-to-retain-special-education-director/ CAPE ELIZABETH — A decision not to renew the contract of the School Department special education director is being criticized by parents and school staff.

Jessica Clark was hired in July 2016 as the fourth special education director in the district since 2007. Clark replaced Jane Golding, who retired in 2015. Steve Floyd served as interim director from 2015-2016.

Clark signed a two-year probationary contract, which allows the School Department to evaluate whether an employee is a suitable fit before being granted permanent employment.

The School Board on Feb. 13 unanimously approved interim Superintendent Howard Colter’s recommendations for administrator probationary contract renewals for the 2018-2019 school year. Clark’s name was not on the list.

In a Feb. 16 email, Colter said he is responsible for making decisions about contract extensions for probationary employees and that, while the board can either approve or reject his nomination, it cannot select someone to hire independent of a nomination.

Colter said he could not discuss personnel matters and therefore could not say why Clark’s contract would not be renewed – a response that has people in the community puzzled and upset.

Clark’s husband, Richard, wrote an email to the School Board saying “recent events put into place by the leadership of Howard Colter” have not only come as a surprise to many in the district, but have also had a “very personal impact here at home.”

“My wife has not been given reason for her non-renewal status other than her not being the right fit,” Richard Clark wrote. “Jessica is the only one not being renewed. It appears as though she is being treated differently and she has no idea why.”

When asked if his wife would speak with a reporter, Richard Clark said she would not be speaking publicly on the matter.

Instead, parents and faculty spoke on her behalf at the Feb. 13 School Board meeting that drew what Colter called a “full house.”

Jon Delisle, a special education teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School who has worked in the district since 2009, asked the board to reconsider Clark’s contract.

“She is not only a good fit for Cape Elizabeth, but rather a perfect fit,” Delisle said.

He noted the district’s mission statement: “Open Minds and Open Doors.”

“Recently the one word that sticks out to me in that phrase is ‘doors,’ ” Delisle said. “When it comes to special education leadership over the years, it does not feel like an open door here in Cape. It feels like a revolving door.”

Before Clark joined the department, Delisle said, “staff morale plummeted and trust was broken on many levels” because of frequent turnover in leadership.

“I can whole-heartedly agree that if Jessica Clark is not offered a contract for next year, we will be doing a disservice to students, parents, and staff,” Delisle said. “I can think of no other person it this district who has put more effort in and done more over the past year than Jessica Clark.”

Delisle was one of six speakers who addressed the board in support of Clark. No one spoke to urge not renewing her contract.

Jennifer Brooking said she has three students attending Cape schools, two of whom receive special education services.

“Our children have attended Cape schools for the past nine years. In that time, we have worked with four different special education directors. Jessica Clark has been the best by far,” Brooking said, calling Clark “respectful,” “helpful,” and “educated.”

Clark has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut, a masters from Simmons College, a certificate of advanced studies degree from the University of New Hampshire, and is a board-certified behavior analyst.

Prior to joining the Cape Elizabeth schools she was a consulting specialist at the New England Center for Children, where she provided behavioral and educational consultation for 12 school districts throughout New Hampshire since 2014.

She also served as NECC coordinator for teacher training and professional development for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and as as a special education teacher, educational coordinator and education department specialist for the center from 2005-2009.

Before that, she was lead teacher, coordinator and behavioral consultant at Northwood Elementary School in Northwood, New Hampshire, and has two years of experience teaching special education in Maine at John F. Kennedy School in Biddeford.

“Jessica has been the intrinsic factor in productive, affirmative changes (in the special education department),” Brooking said. “Jessica has been understanding and responsive to our children’s needs, much more so than we have seen in other directors the district has employed over the years.”

The School Department’s clinical psychologist, Alina Perez, and occupational therapist, Maureen Cahill echoed Delisle’s and Brooking’s remarks.

“This decision (to not renew Clark’s contract) will negatively impact Cape Elizabeth schools as well as the view neighboring communities will have on us if this is not reconsidered,” Cahill said through tears.

Board Chairwoman Susana Measelle Hubbs did not respond to questions about whether the board is considering looking into the renewal of Clark’s contract.

According to Brooking, parents and faculty have asked for an explanation, but are being told it is a personnel issue.

“The decision was made very quietly,” Brooking said in a Feb. 16 email. “With Ms. Clark’s level of education and understanding of special ed law, policies and procedures I cannot imagine that anything has been done to warrant a non-renewal.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Read this story in The Forecaster.

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Massive indoor salmon farm planned at former paper mill in Bucksport https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/massive-indoor-salmon-farm-planned-at-former-paper-mill-in-bucksport/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/massive-indoor-salmon-farm-planned-at-former-paper-mill-in-bucksport/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 15:39:11 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/massive-indoor-salmon-farm-planned-at-former-paper-mill-in-bucksport/ A Portland company plans to start construction in August on a $250 million indoor salmon farm at the site of the former Verso mill in Bucksport.

Whole Oceans farm will have capacity to grow up to 50,000 metric tons of salmon per year and create hundreds of direct jobs in the area, according to a news release from the company. The facility will be based entirely on land and use a state of the art recirculating aquaculture system, called RAS, to create a clean, healthy environment for fish without having to use antibiotics, said Whole Oceans CEO Rob Piasio, in a written statement.

“The time for RAS has arrived and Whole Oceans will make Bucksport a global leader in sustainable Atlantic salmon production,” Piasio said. The company has already sold 10 years of its future production, it said. The company goal is to capture 10 percent of the U.S. Atlantic salmon market.

“Whole Oceans is entering a long term partnership with the community of Bucksport, a responsibility we accept with the greatest care, and together we will strive to make Whole Oceans of source of pride every single day,” Piasio said.

Whole Oceans, based in Portland, has spent six years researching and preparing for its launch, Piasio said.

The Whole Oceans project comes after Nordic Aquafarms, a Norwegian aquaculture company, announced plans to construct a $150 million onshore salmon farm on 40 acres outside Belfast, about 35 miles from Bucksport.

Almost all of the Atlantic salmon eaten in the U.S. is farmed in cages offshore, including more than 25 aquaculture leases in Downeast Maine.

This story will be updated.

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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Tugboat sinks after collision off coast of Kennebunk https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/tugboat-sinks-off-coast-of-kennebunkport-spills-fuel/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/tugboat-sinks-off-coast-of-kennebunkport-spills-fuel/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 15:04:21 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/tugboat-sinks-off-coast-of-kennebunkport-spills-fuel/ A tugboat sank off the coast of Kennebunk early Thursday after colliding with another tug that was towing it, Coast Guard officials said.

The Coast Guard said a crew member of the tugboat Helen Louise reported the collision about three miles south of Kennebunk late Wednesday night. The tug that sank, the Capt. Mackintire, had no crew on board and no one was injured, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard sent two vessels in response to the report from the Helen Louise’s crew member.

It’s not yet clear how much diesel fuel has spilled, and a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency is hoping to set up a dive in the next few days to assess the condition of the Capt. Mackintire and determine if the vessel and its remaining fuel can be recovered.

This photo of the 80-foot tugboat Capt. Mackintire under tow off Portland was taken Wednesday. On Thursday it sank about 3 miles south of Kennebunk in about 158 feet of water. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Late Friday morning, Coast Guard officials confirmed that the two retired tugs collided while fuel was being transferred from the Mackintire to the Helen Louise.

There were two crew members aboard the Helen Louise, according to the Coast Guard. That tug was escorted to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, early Thursday without incident.

Another Coast Guard vessel, the 87-foot Reef Shark, began towing the 74-year-old Capt. Mackintire to Portland, but the Capt. Mackintire started taking on water and the crew cut the towline. It sank around 2 a.m. Thursday in about about 158 feet of water, Coast Guard officials said.

At the time of the collision, Coast Guard Petty Officer Cynthia Oldham said, the vessels were traveling in 6-foot swells and winds of about 12 knots, with visibility of 10 miles.

Kevin Battle, Portland’s harbor master, said Coast Guard officials told him the crew was transferring fuel from the Mackintire to the Helen Louise when the collision occurred. The Mackintire, he said, had several 55-gallon drums of fuel and a fuel bladder aboard as cargo. Coast Guard officials later confirmed that account after initially saying the cause of the collision was under investigation.

The Mackintire had been moored off Portland before setting out on its fateful voyage toward Portsmouth, Battle said.

Both the Capt. Mackintire and the Helen Louise are owned by Tim Whitney of Annapolis, Maryland, and the vessels were being transferred to him from Bar Harbor, Battle said. Whitney buys boats and fixes them up for use in movies and television, Battle said.

A message left for Whitney at his boat repair yard in Annapolis was not immediately returned Friday.

Battle said he was told that the Mackintire’s engines had seized up at some point. As the Helen Louise was attempting to tow the Mackintire from Bar Harbor to Portsmouth, it developed fuel problems near Casco Bay and came into the harbor for repairs. The Mackintire was temporarily moored off Portland’s East End before the two vessels continued on their voyage toward Portsmouth in recent days.

There was no sign that the tug was taking on water while it was moored off the eastern waterfront in Portland, Battle said. He said it broke loose from its mooring once, but was corralled by another tug in the harbor and returned to where it had been tied up.

Battle said the two vessels had been reclassified as personal watercraft, making them subject to less restrictive safety requirements than those that apply to working tugboats.

Coast Guard officials said they are “evaluating pollution potential” where the tug sank and said there were reports of a fuel sheen on the water in the area. But Oldham said Coast Guard aircraft have not spotted any sheens and another flight is scheduled for today.

The Mackintire’s fuel capacity is 12,000 gallons, Coast Guard officials said, but their reports indicate it had about 4,400 gallons aboard at the time of the collision.

Ray Billings, the harbormaster for Kennebunkport, said he alerted fishermen and other boaters in his town about the sinking and told them to be alert to the possibility of fuel sheens or floating barrels. He said none had been reported to him by late Friday morning.

The tug that sank was built in 1944 and operated originally in Florida. In 1969, it was bought by a tug company in Rhode Island and then sold in 1977 to a tugboat company in New London, Connecticut. That same year, it was sold to Winslow Marine in Southport and renamed the Marjorie J. Winslow. It was sold to the Eastport Port Authority in 2012, when it was renamed the Capt. Mackintire.

The Easport Port Authority sold it in 2014 to a buyer from Queensland, Australia, the port’s executive director, Chris Gardner said. He said he had no information on the tugboat after that sale.

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Staff Photo of the Day: Friday, February 23, 2018 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/staff-photo-day-friday-february-23-2018/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/staff-photo-day-friday-february-23-2018/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 09:00:06 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1336298 ]]> https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/23/staff-photo-day-friday-february-23-2018/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/POD-girls-BB.jpgPORTLAND, ME - FEBRUARY 21: Portland's Amanda Kabantu passes off the ball as Edward Little's Piper Norcross moves in on defense Wednesday, February 21, 2018. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:14:51 +0000 Ellsworth student charged with threatening high school https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/ellsworth-student-charged-with-threatening-school/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/ellsworth-student-charged-with-threatening-school/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 02:40:20 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/ellsworth-student-charged-with-threatening-school/ A high school student in Maine accused of threatening a school shooting in posts on an online gaming site has been arrested.

Ellsworth schools Superintendent Daniel Higgins says the threat did not reference a specific school, but the website’s host provided the FBI with an IP address that led to an Ellsworth High School student.

Nineteen-year-old Michael Allen was arrested and charged with terrorizing.

Police Chief Glenn Moshier tells WCSH-TV the threat did not mention any specific time or date but was determined to be credible. He says the author of the messages estimated he could kill as many as 30 people and become “the most notorious person.”

Moshier says Allen was supposed to graduate from the school last year but has yet to meet a few non-academic requirements.

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Bail reduced for Gardiner teacher accused of sexually assaulting 16-year-old https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/bail-reduced-for-gardiner-teacher-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-16-year-old/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/bail-reduced-for-gardiner-teacher-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-16-year-old/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 02:19:20 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/bail-reduced-for-gardiner-teacher-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-16-year-old/ AUGUSTA — A judge on Thursday reduced the $50,000 cash bail set for a science teacher at Gardiner Area High School accused of plying a 16-year-old girl with alcohol and sexually assaulting her on a snow day last month.

The alleged victim’s mother fears retaliation by the teacher, John M. Glowa Jr., 43, of Mount Vernon, and her other children are having nightmares, prosecutor said. The alleged victim is not a student at the school where Glowa teaches.

Assistant District Attorney Kristin Murray-James said Glowa has access to “many weapons.” However, the defendant’s attorney said Glowa’s firearms have been locked away in her law office.

Bail for Glowa had been set previously on Jan. 31. Associate Supreme Court Justice Donald Alexander set new bail Thursday at $15,000 cash or $30,000 worth of property.

The hearing was held at the Capital Judicial Center. Glowa was expected to be freed on bail later Thursday.

Alexander refused to change any other bail conditions, leaving in place a prohibition on Glowa having contact with anyone under age 18, including his own three children.

Glowa said nothing in the courtroom. His mother watched the hearing and took notes.

Defense attorney Pamela Ames asked for the reduction, saying Glowa had no criminal record, had numerous ties to Maine and his community and had been “fully employed his entire adult life.”

Glowa is on paid administrative leave from his teaching post at School Administrative District 11 where he has taught for 10 years.

The state originally requested $25,000 cash bail and Judge Tom Nale had set it at $50,000.

Ames said Glowa is divorced and he and his ex-wife share custody of the children.

Ames said that while there are two class B felony charges against Glowa, they are alternate charges; one says alcohol was involved in the assault, and the other says Glowa was in a position where he was “responsible for the long-term care” of the victim.

Ames requested bail amounts of $20,000 worth of property or $10,000 cash.

“I represented him in the divorce action,” she said, adding that he always showed up for court hearings.

Murray-James asked that the $50,000 amount remain, citing the nature and circumstances of the charges.

“Mr. Glowa prepared for this,” she said. “He had in the previous months given the 16-year-old girl alcohol and encouraged her not to tell her mother.”

Murray-James said that Glowa picked up pizza and raspberry kiwi alcohol that day prior to the assault. “She became intoxicated and he proceeded to sexually assault her,” Murray-James said, adding, “The state has DNA evidence. The state’s case is very strong.”

Murray-James also said the state is concerned that Glowa might flee because the victim’s mother indicated Glowa is a “survivalist” with access to land in rural parts of Maine.

Glowa could face years in prison “for a very heinous offense,” Murray-James said, adding, “We know from monitoring his jail phone calls he’s liquidating many assets.”

Ames said Glowa was liquidating assets to pay her retainer as defense attorney.

Murray-James successfully sought bail conditions adding prohibitions against possession of alcohol and illegal drugs, dangerous weapons and firearms and requiring him to submit to random search and testing for those.

Ames said there was no risk of retaliation by her client. She also said, “There’s been death threats to my client.”

She said that along with his home in Mount Vernon, Glowa owns land elsewhere in Maine and likes to hunt. She added that she had locked Glowa’s firearms in her office and said they would remain there.

“I am aware of what the evidence is, but we leave that for a trial,” Ames said.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @betadams

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Madison farmer closes snowmobile trail after ‘shocking’ shooting of pregnant cow https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/madison-farmer-closes-snowmobile-trail-after-shocking-shooting-of-pregnant-cow/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/madison-farmer-closes-snowmobile-trail-after-shocking-shooting-of-pregnant-cow/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 02:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1336756 MADISON — A landowner who allowed the local snowmobile club to maintain a trail across part of his property has closed the trail after one of his pregnant cows was shot and killed last week.

“They shot her between the eyes,” landowner Clayton Tibbetts said Thursday from his River Road farm in Somerset County. “It had to have been at close range. We raise beef. We’re just farmers. Got draft horses, cows, do a little logging – agricultural people.”

The shooting and trail closure were met with shock and dismay among members of the Abnaki Sno Riders club, which maintained the trail for members and for the public to enjoy, said club secretary LeeAnne Newton.

“The fact that someone used the snowmobile trail to access Mr. Tibbetts’ property and then proceed to deliberately kill his pregnant cow is very disturbing,” Newton said. “We have been discussing having a spaghetti supper to raise money toward the loss of his cows.”

Newton said the club is small and relies on fundraisers to keep equipment maintained and the trails groomed.

“We work really hard to keep our landowners happy and have to get permission every year for access to the property,” she said. “We hold an annual landowners supper to thank them for the use of their property. Some help us maintain the trails on their property, and others let us do what we need to keep the trails in good condition.”

The snowmobile club announced on its Facebook page that the section of trail it calls Club Trail 27 would be closed for the remainder of the season. It runs from the intersection of ITS 87 on River Road from Conjockty Road to what it calls the Bunny Trail, off Adams Road.

Game wardens have been notified, as has the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call either agency.

“We are deeply saddened and outraged by the horrible act,” the club’s Facebook post says. “You are notified that if you go on this trail, you will be trespassing.”

Club President Penny Hay said the shooting happened late on Feb. 15 or early the next morning.

“We’re upset with the whole situation as far as someone utilizing the snowmobile trails to commit this horrendous crime, to take out an innocent animal who wasn’t doing any harm,” Hay said.

Game Warden Chad Robertson, who is investigating the shooting, said by phone that the Maine Warden Service is continuing to follow up on leads in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call Maine State Police headquarters in Augusta at 624-7076.

Tibbetts, the landowner, said a taxidermist who examined the cow told him it had not died giving birth, as Tibbetts initially thought, but had been shot.

Tibbetts said the snowmobile trail is 25 to 30 feet from the field where the cow was found. He said he has never had a similar problem before, and he does not know if it was someone on a snowmobile who shot the animal.

“I shut the trail off because I’d like to find out who did it. I just want people to know that I know that somebody shot the cow,” he said. “We haven’t found out if it was a snowmobiler yet, but it came from that direction. I couldn’t believe it myself. It was shocking.”

Tibbetts said the cow was an Angus, raised for beef to feed his family, but he didn’t dare to try to salvage the meat. He said the financial loss exceeds $2,000, not including the lost calf and the money he had spent feeding the cow, which children called Fluffy.

The cow was a few years old and had produced a couple of calves over the years. “This would have been her third baby,” he said.

The shooting happened not far from the farmhouse where Tibbetts and his fiancée, Christine Stevens, live with their combined seven children. Tibbetts said they didn’t hear the gunshot.

“I think that’s what happens in a godless society,” he said. “That’s what happens when you don’t have any moral compass. It’s heartbreaking that the cow suffered. She really did. To think that the cow lay there dying with her young inside of her is heartbreaking, because we handled her every day for three years.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter: Doug_Harlow

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/madison-farmer-closes-snowmobile-trail-after-shocking-shooting-of-pregnant-cow/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1336756_96329-20180222-cow-1-e1519352174601.jpgClayton Tibbetts points to a section of fenced pasture on Thursday at his farm in Madison, where he discovered one of his Angus beef cows dead last week. He was told afterward that the 4-year-old pregnant cow named Fluffy had been shot and killed. He suspects the killer used a nearby snowmobile trail on his property and has closed the trail to snowmobiling.Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:37:34 +0000
Authorities warn of telephone scam by police impersonator https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/authorities-warn-of-telephone-scam-by-person-impersonating-a-police-captain/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/authorities-warn-of-telephone-scam-by-person-impersonating-a-police-captain/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 01:15:34 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/authorities-warn-of-telephone-scam-by-person-impersonating-a-police-captain/ The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is warning that an individual posing as a police captain has been threatening people with arrest unless they pay a “fine.”

The individual represents himself on the telephone as a sheriff’s office captain and accuses the person of missing federal jury duty. He then tells the person that a warrant has been issued for their arrest, said Sheriff Kevin J. Joyce in a release.

The scammer asks the person to obtain a gift card to pay a fine or contact the Cumberland County Jail. Joyce said if a person misses jury duty, the sheriff’s office will not be calling. The courts handle all jury duty matters.

Anyone who receives such a call should contact local police or the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center at 893-2810.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/authorities-warn-of-telephone-scam-by-person-impersonating-a-police-captain/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1133581_872995-20170104_police_0102-e1483711110877.jpgThe South Portland Police Department began using dashboard-mounted cameras in city cruisers in the 1990s; later this month or in early February, officers will be equipped with body cameras.Fri, 23 Feb 2018 08:42:53 +0000
Gray woman charged with animal cruelty asks court for return of her 80 dogs https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/gray-woman-charged-with-animal-cruelty-asks-court-for-return-of-her-80-dogs/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/gray-woman-charged-with-animal-cruelty-asks-court-for-return-of-her-80-dogs/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:36:20 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/gray-woman-charged-with-animal-cruelty-asks-court-for-return-of-her-80-dogs/ A Gray woman facing an animal cruelty charge is seeking to have the 80 dogs seized from her last month returned to the small home she shares with her 91-year-old mother.

Anita McBride’s lawyer asked for a show cause hearing, which gave her a chance to argue Thursday that McBride should get the dogs back. At one point, lawyers for the state went dog-by-dog, asking an assistant state veterinarian who examined the canines as they were removed from the house to describe each dog’s health.

The veterinarian said only a handful were judged to be ailment-free, and that dozens had worms and many had skin or dental problems.

McBride and her lawyer spent more than eight hours trying to convince a judge at Maine District Court in Portland that the dogs should be returned. They were taken from her Jan. 22 after state officials determined McBride had failed to care for them properly since she moved in with her mother in November. The judge said she will rule in the next few days.

McBride is expected to be prosecuted on the animal cruelty charge, a misdemeanor, in the spring.

She has admitted that her mother’s house was a mess when she traveled to Maine from Oklahoma in November, bringing roughly 55 dogs with her. She said the rooms were so filled with totes and bags of belongings, including her mother’s collection of Beanie Babies, that only a narrow corridor existed for walking between most rooms – primarily from the front door to her mother’s recliner, and from there to the bathroom.

But McBride insisted at the hearing that she has made progress in cleaning the small Cape-style house, showing pictures to the judge of several decluttered rooms.

Not enough, state officials said, countering with pictures of the mess that existed while the dogs were there.

State officials visited the Gray house twice in December after a local animal control officer reported that the animals weren’t being properly cared for. They said they found animal feces and urine on the floor, and dogs stored in crates stacked on top of each other. One dog crate held four dogs, state officials said, and there were signs that the animals weren’t given water regularly and that some didn’t go outside often into an 80-foot-by-60-foot enclosure.

Dogs that had recently given birth were housed in rooms that other dogs could access, in violation of a state law that requires mother dogs and their pups a place of solitude.

Once they determined that McBride wasn’t making sufficient progress in improving the situation, officials said, they seized the dogs and cats. The animals have been placed in shelters around the state at a total cost of $400 a day.

Dr. Rachael Fisk, the assistant state veterinarian, told the judge that the smell of ammonia from the dog urine in the house was so strong that she took a meter with her to record the concentration when officials seized the dogs. It read 22 parts per million, she said, just shy of the threshold that would have required workers to don gas masks.

Danielle Jersey, a humane agent for the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said the stairway to the second floor was so cluttered with trash that the dogs couldn’t go up there. The cats made that their domain, she said, leaving all 80 dogs in the small confines of the first floor. Even the cats seemed to lack proper care, she said, their litter boxes overflowing with feces.

The house’s well is contaminated, so McBride said she obtained water for the animals by filling jugs from a spigot near the town fire house.

State officials said the water bowls were either dry – or, if outside, frozen solid – when they checked.

Will Barry, an assistant district attorney for Cumberland County, said that whatever her intent, McBride doesn’t have the means to properly care for the animals.

She takes in about $950 a month in Social Security disability payments and gets financial help from her husband, who works as a trucking dispatcher in California. She also makes money selling puppies, but she isn’t licensed to run a breeding operation.

McBride said she filed a license application a couple of weeks ago, but she finds the state’s requirements confusing. She also argued that she was trained as a veterinary technician years ago and understands how to care for the dogs, which she called her “babies.”

But properly feeding the dogs and providing them with deworming medicine and regular vet checks would exceed McBride’s ability to pay, Barry said.

Asked Thursday if there were any animals she would part with to help make it easier for her to feed and care for the others, McBride said she would “reluctantly” let her mother’s two cats go and then listed about 11 dogs she would part with, primarily dachshunds.

She did not explain the reasoning behind her choices, but did reject an accusation that the older dogs were the ones she was willing to surrender.

State officials said they also offered to take some of the dogs off McBride’s hands before they were seized, but she repeatedly refused. Jersey, the state humane agent, suggested greed might have played a part.

As the puppies were taken out of the house, Jersey said, McBride sat on the steps and made comments about the lost opportunity to sell the dogs.

McBride said, “There’s $1,000 going out the door. That dog’s worth at least that much,” Jersey recounted.

But Fisk was reluctant to draw a totally negative conclusion from comments like that.

“I don’t think Ms. McBride intended to treat them cruelly,” she said. “But they were treated cruelly.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/gray-woman-charged-with-animal-cruelty-asks-court-for-return-of-her-80-dogs/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1325871_973529-20180201_Dog_02.jpgAnita McBride said she moved from Oklahoma to Gray in November, accompanied by roughly 55 animals, to help her ailing 91-year-old mother clear out her home. She said the accusations against her are false, misleading or contain incomplete information. "I have been cleaning since ... I got here," she said.Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:16:54 +0000
Police seek person who shot and killed Ava, a pregnant goat, at Smiling Hill Farm https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/someone-shot-and-killed-ava-a-pregnant-goat-at-smiling-hill-farm/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/someone-shot-and-killed-ava-a-pregnant-goat-at-smiling-hill-farm/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:01:28 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/someone-shot-and-killed-ava-a-pregnant-goat-at-smiling-hill-farm/ Scarborough police are investigating the shooting of a pregnant goat at a local family-owned dairy farm that has welcomed the public onto its property for decades.

In a message posted Thursday afternoon on its Facebook page, the police department said someone trespassed onto the property of Smiling Hill Farm and Hillside Lumber last weekend and killed a pregnant goat that was in a fenced-in pen.

“The killing of this goat was not an accident,” police said in the post.

Investigators said the goat, a 5-year-old Toggenburg doe named Ava, was last seen alive Saturday. Staff at Smiling Hill Farm found Ava dead during the Sunday morning feeding.

The shooting is believed to have taken place during the snowstorm that began Saturday and lasted through the night.

A member of the family that owns and operates Smiling Hill Farm issued a statement Thursday.

“Smiling Hill Farm is concerned about this type of brazen, abhorrent activity in the area,” Warren R. Knight said in the statement. “The disturbing circumstances surrounding this crime dictate that the perpetrator be identified for the safety of the greater community. The person or persons responsible may repeat or escalate similar behavior in another venue.”

Knight said the shooting occurred on the Scarborough side of the 500-acre property. He said Smiling Hill Farm is offering a $1,000 reward for tips leading to the identification and apprehension of the shooter.

Information regarding any suspicious sightings at the farm property during the early morning hours Sunday may be reported to Scarborough police Detective Sgt. Rick Rouse at 730-4310 or to animal control officer Chris Creps at 730-4318.

Smiling Hill Farm is located off Route 22, also known as County Road. It raises dairy cows and offers a wide selection of dairy products to consumers, including milk, ice cream, cheese and yogurt. During the winter, the farm offers more than 25 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails. It also operates a seasonal barnyard animal exhibit.

The farm is so large that parts of it lie in Scarborough, Westbrook and Gorham. It was founded in 1720 by the Knight family and was known for years as the Knight Farm before being renamed Smiling Hill Farm in 1974.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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Coast Guard icebreakers to return to Kennebec River next week https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/coast-guard-icebreakers-to-return-to-kennebec-river-next-week/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/coast-guard-icebreakers-to-return-to-kennebec-river-next-week/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 23:07:30 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/coast-guard-icebreakers-to-return-to-kennebec-river-next-week/ AUGUSTA — The U.S. Coast Guard is expected to return to the Kennebec River next week for a second early ice-breaking mission amid concerns over flooding in central Maine.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency on Thursday issued a request for ice breaking in the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers, following an unprecedented midwinter ice-breaking effort last month.

Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for MEMA, said Thursday the decision to send a second request is based on the weather. A warm front pushing through the region Wednesday brought record-breaking temperature to Maine, which resulted in melting snow and ice. But the cold front that followed brought more seasonal weather, which will slow the rate of melting and cause some water to refreeze.

“Since we had the melting, we want to break it before it gets too thick,” Faloon said.

Because of the warming trend, Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Goodwin said the ice in the Kennebec River is thinning. That assessment was confirmed Thursday by the Coast Guard.

Lt. Matthew Odom, chief of the Waterways Division for northern New England, said the river ice appears to be deteriorating, and the trend for warmer air temperature over the next week factors into the decision.

“We have also seen the trending warmer water temperatures in the river,” he said.

The South Portland-based USCGC Shackle has been deployed to the Kennebec, was assessing conditions Thursday and will continue its work Friday, Odom said.

Faloon said Wednesday’s melting didn’t pose an imminent threat of flooding. Rather, she said, this is an early request for a spring ice-breaking mission. In late January, the Coast Guard deployed ships up the Kennebec River at the request of MEMA after a sudden and destructive ice jam formed on the river.

Frigid temperature in December broke records when the daily highs hovered around zero across the region. The result on the Kennebec was a thick layer of ice. But a brief warm spell accompanied by rain in mid-January resulted river ice being broken and shifted downstream, creating the jam sent freezing water into low-lying areas in Augusta and Hallowell.

Augusta officials closed the Front Street parking lot as a precaution. In Hallowell, fast-rising water stranded a number of vehicles and flooded businesses on the river side of Water Street.

A series of flood watches and warnings issued in the days that followed kept riverfront communities in southern Kennebec County on edge.

In a bid to alleviate the jam, MEMA sent a request to the Coast Guard for ice breaking in January to open up the river below the ice jam.

Three 65-foot ice-breaking tugs and a 140-foot ice breaker tried for several days to break through the ice between Chops Point in Woolwich and Richmond; but the ice was too thick, and what they were breaking was not flowing downstream. After a week, the effort was suspended.


This second request comes closer to the Coast Guard’s usual ice-breaking operation which, depending on weather conditions, general takes place during March.

Odom said while tactics and logistics are still being worked out, he expects a response similar to January’s effort. The Coast Guard is considering sending up its larger cutter from the New York area, but how the boats will be deployed for the operations in the two rivers has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, Coast Guard officials are looking at weather and tide cycles to calculate when to start the break-out.

“The wheels are in motion,” he said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

jlowell@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/coast-guard-icebreakers-to-return-to-kennebec-river-next-week/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/808239_336591_20180124_icebreake_3.jpgThe U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bridle breaks ice Jan. 24 on the Kennebec River just south of Chop Point in Woolwich.Fri, 23 Feb 2018 09:28:16 +0000
Yurts and tents could sprout on historic House Island, as campground wins key approval https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/island-campground-in-casco-bay-gets-key-approval/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/island-campground-in-casco-bay-gets-key-approval/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:28:51 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/island-campground-in-casco-bay-gets-key-approval/ Portland’s Historic Preservation Board has given its blessing to a 21-site campground on the southern side of House Island, where Fort Scammell is located.

Built in 1808, the fort was the only one on Maine’s coast to see action during the War of 1812. In 2015, the Portland City Council unanimously granted historic status to the island, which limits the type of development allowed. The Historic Preservation Board first heard the campground proposal in July and finally voted in favor of the project Wednesday.

“A fort is a very important historic resource, and it had to be approached with care,” said Deb Andrews, the city’s historic preservation program manager. “I think the developers have done an extraordinary job in developing a thoughtful proposal. One of the real strengths of this proposal is that it’s a light touch on the land, and most of what is being introduced is reversible.”

The developers are Stefan Scarks, a member of the family that owns half of House Island, and Travis Bullard. They have not yet submitted a site plan application to the city, so it is still unclear whether the project will also require approval from the Planning Board.

Called “Fortland,” the campground will consist of 21 sites with temporary structures – yurts and canvas tents. The plans also include tents for staff, a seasonal dock and wharf, a solar array, a community building, a bathroom shed and two small wooden buildings for storage and a water pump. There will also be signage to share the history of the fort with guests.

“We propose to build a campground that celebrates the history of the site through an immersive, educational experience that is truly unique,” developer Stefan Scarks wrote in a July memo to the board. “We have designed a campground that we feel is very much in harmony with the island and its topographic and historical features.”

Fort Scammell was built on the western side of the island to defend Portland Harbor. It is the only Casco Bay fort to have been involved in battle. In 1813, soldiers at Fort Scammell shot at British privateers who were stealing a private sloop. After the war, two Portland fishing families used the island for much of the 1800s to process cod and other groundfish. In the early 1900s, three buildings on the northern half of House Island were known as “the Ellis Island of the North” because they served as a federal immigration quarantine station, according to Greater Portland Landmarks.

Later, the island was owned for more than 50 years by the Cushing family. It went on the market in 2012, and the two halves of the island have changed hands multiple times in the years since. Greater Portland Landmarks put the island on its “Places in Peril” list in 2012, citing its architectural, cultural and historical significance. The historic status granted in 2015 restricted the types of development allowed on the island and increased scrutiny during any planning and application process.

Today, the Scarks family owns the southern half of the island, which includes Fort Scammell and the proposed campground. The northeastern half of the island is owned by Christina and Vincent Mona of Florida. The Monas rent that property for solar-powered weddings and corporate retreats.

The campground proposal has been under review for more than six months. In that time, the developers tweaked their plans to make the campground less visible from the water and other islands. The board has heard concern from historians who would rather leave the fort untouched, but a representative of the Friends of Fort Gorges spoke in support at the final meeting Wednesday. The board also generally praised the proposal, and the vote to grant Fortland a certificate of appropriateness was unanimous, 6-0, with one member missing.

Board member Scott Benson noted the campground would allow guests to explore a unique landmark that has long been difficult for the public to access.

“They’re ruins,” Benson said. “We don’t really get to experience ruins very often in this country.”

The developers told the board they hope to have a “soft start” this summer and be fully operational by spring 2019.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

mdoyle@pressherald.com

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/island-campground-in-casco-bay-gets-key-approval/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/07/465995_848198-20120920_house-islan-e1420546481443.jpgGregory Rec/Staff Photographer House Island, just off the Portland waterfront in Casco Bay.Fri, 23 Feb 2018 11:33:25 +0000
Lawmakers oppose new fees on Maine hybrid and electric cars https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/lawmakers-oppose-new-fees-on-maine-hybrid-and-electric-cars/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/lawmakers-oppose-new-fees-on-maine-hybrid-and-electric-cars/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:52:27 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/lawmakers-oppose-new-fees-on-maine-hybrid-and-electric-cars/ Democratic lawmakers rejected a proposal from Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to make owning hybrid and electric cars more expensive in a committee-level vote Thursday.

The 6-5 vote of the transportation committee fell along party lines, with Republican lawmakers opposing the panel’s recommendation to the full Legislature that the bill should not pass.

The bill would have imposed annual surcharges of $150 for hybrid gas-electric cars and $250 for all-electric cars to offset the state’s loss of fuel tax from those vehicles and help overcome a chronic multimillion-dollar highway fund shortfall.

Angry owners of electric and hybrid cars who swarmed the transportation committee last week fumed against the bill as shortsighted and arbitrary.

Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, co-chairman of the committee, said he couldn’t support the measure because it focuses only on fees for select vehicles, not other ways to raise revenue such as raising the fuel tax and other fees.

“If people were really interested in doing something significant around transportation funding there would be some give-and-take,” McLean said. “Unfortunately, I feel we are not seeing that from the administration.”

McLean floated a bill last year that would raise highway funds by adding fees on hybrids and electric vehicles, increase the gas tax, reallocate some state sales tax and increase vehicle registration fees. The committee voted to table that bill Thursday.

Maine has an annual $159 million funding shortfall for roads and bridges, which the state has offset by borrowing hundreds of millions in recent years.

“A lot of good bills make almost everyone unhappy and I think that is going to be the measure of success for a funding package,” McLean said.

Without the recommendation of the transportation committee, the bill is unlikely to win passage in the House and Senate.

Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt told lawmakers that the administration tried a stand-alone vehicle fee bill after a package of changes failed in committee last year. A department proposal this session to devote 12 percent of vehicle and parts sales taxes to the highway fund was voted down in the taxation committee, he said.

A comprehensive highway funding bill could take years of groundwork to successfully pass, he said. LePage will not consider raising the gas tax, taking that option off the table.

“For one thing, you can’t have a comprehensive package unless you talk about gas tax, and we all know where the administration sits on that,” Bernhardt said. Maine’s 30 cent per-gallon gas tax hasn’t increased since 2011, after lawmakers stopped automatic annual increases pegged to the inflation rate.

If the tax had remained indexed to inflation, it would now be 33.6 cents per gallon and generate up to $25 million more a year, according to a committee analyst.

Proposed fees on electric and hybrid cars would raise roughly $2.95 million in 2020, according to the committee analyst. There are 19,000 hybrids and 450 electric cars registered in Maine, roughly 3 percent of passenger vehicles registered in the state, according to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

While potential fee revenue is tiny compared to the highway fund deficit, the state should do something now, since electric and hybrid cars will become more popular in the future, said Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, who sponsored the bill, L.D. 1806.

“We really need to try to put something in, even if it raises very little money,” Parry said. “We hear an awful lot in this building about people paying their fair share and we have a group of people paying none.”

Eighteen states have fees on electric or hybrid vehicles, but the fees proposed in the bill would be the most expensive in the country. Twenty-three states, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, provide financial incentives to lower the price of hybrid or electric cars, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Parry acknowledged the proposed fees in his bill were high. In a minority report, he recommended annual fees of $50 for hybrids and $150 for electric vehicles, equal to what the average Maine driver pays in gas tax every year.

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/lawmakers-oppose-new-fees-on-maine-hybrid-and-electric-cars/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1336423_973576_20141125_electric_ca.jpgThe rejected bill would have imposed annual surcharges of $150 for hybrid gas-electric cars and $250 for all-electric cars.Thu, 22 Feb 2018 21:23:22 +0000
Ethics panel declines to investigate Republican Party director’s anonymous website https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/maine-ethics-panel-rejects-request-to-investigate-ties-between-republican-party-anonymous-website/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/maine-ethics-panel-rejects-request-to-investigate-ties-between-republican-party-anonymous-website/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:20:18 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/maine-ethics-panel-rejects-request-to-investigate-ties-between-republican-party-anonymous-website/ AUGUSTA — The Maine ethics commission opted Thursday to drop a possible investigation into allegations that a top state Republican official behaved improperly when he created a conservative website without disclosing his role.

That site, the Maine Examiner, drew attention in December when it revealed internal campaign emails from Lewiston mayoral hopeful Ben Chin that were widely shared in the days leading up to a Dec. 12 runoff that saw Chin lose narrowly to Republican Shane Bouchard.

Kate Knox, a Democratic lawyer, told the commission the Examiner’s stories about Chin may have been “fundamental to the fact that Ben Chin lost” and certainly played “a big part” in the final days of the race.

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted 3-2 on Thursday to not pursue a complaint by the Maine Democratic Party that Jason Savage, executive director of the state Republicans, might have violated campaign finance rules by failing to report his involvement with the Examiner.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage delivering a “Fake News Alert” last year discussing a story his party thought failed to meet the standards of good journalism. Image from Maine Republican Party video

The swing vote belonged to the five-member panel’s chairwoman, Margaret Matheson of Augusta, who backed the decision not to pursue the complaint despite calling Savage’s lack of disclosure disturbing.

She said Savage’s decision to operate secretly in creating, overseeing and writing for the Examiner was “not a great thing to do,” but she was not convinced a probe would find anything more.

Demi Kouzounas, chairwoman of the state Republican party, said the commission “proved its integrity today, dismissing baseless accusations.”

From the beginning,” she said, “we told the people of Maine this charge was without merit, and today we were vindicated.”

Savage, who talked openly about his role for the first time at Thursday’s session, called it a victory for free speech.

Four of the five commission members expressed serious reservations about Savage failing to identify himself as the operator of the Examiner.

“There’s something unsavory about this,” said Bradford Pattershall, a commissioner from Freeport.

Pattershall added that the publicity surrounded Savage’s actions ought to help get the word out that others should not follow his lead.

The two dissenting commissioners said they wanted ethics staff to further investigate whether Savage acted independently and not with the Republican Party.

William Lee III, a Waterville lawyer who pushed hardest for a probe, said Savage’s secrecy about the Examiner raised questions. His connection to it was not known until a California expert found Savage’s name in the site’s metadata.

“If there’s nothing to hide, why hide?” Lee asked. “What’s the reason for keeping it secret?”

Savage said he created the Examiner in September because he enjoys writing and wanted a venue to pursue it. He said it was not all about politics, insisting his anonymous stories touched on “a lot of different things.”

Savage said he kept his name off the site because he hoped it would become “a larger, more robust entity” if he could avoid attacks that would inevitably follow if “certain people” knew about his role. The Examiner, he said, is a model for a “community-based news” site.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a prepared statement that despite the panel’s decision, “it is clear to us that they were universally disturbed by Savage’s behavior, skeptical of his explanations and disapproving of his anonymity.”

“As a result of this complaint,” Bartlett said, “the Maine Democratic Party was able to drive Savage out of the shadows, hold him accountable to the public for his disturbing actions, and shine a bright light on the underhanded tactics that he and the Maine Republican Party are willing to engage in.”

Savage insisted that whatever work he did for the Examiner was on his own time.

“I was very careful in every way” to “have a line between my activities and the party,” Savage said, pointing out that his work schedule varied widely from week to week. He said he does not have a clear schedule, just a requirement he gets the job done.

Savage is still publishing on the Examiner’s website. But he may go further still.

Savage said he wants to publish a book “on all sorts of ways to restore integrity in state government.”

scollins@sunjournal.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/maine-ethics-panel-rejects-request-to-investigate-ties-between-republican-party-anonymous-website/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1336408_106775_savage.jpgMaine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage delivering a "Fake News Alert" last year discussing a story his party thought failed to meet the standards of good journalism. (From a Maine GOP video)Fri, 23 Feb 2018 06:51:47 +0000
Company at heart of contentious UMaine power deal pulls out https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/utility-company-pulls-out-of-controversial-umaine-deal/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/utility-company-pulls-out-of-controversial-umaine-deal/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:23:42 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/utility-company-pulls-out-of-controversial-umaine-deal/ The company at the center of a controversy over a lucrative energy contract involving the University of Maine is withdrawing from negotiations.

ConEdison Solutions had won the right to negotiate a contract to power UMaine’s Orono campus with wood-fired steam and electricity from a nearby, abandoned paper mill. But in recent weeks, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram published stories revealing secret recordings that suggested a university official had provided inside information aimed at helping the ConEdison team win the bid.

In addition, a businessman signed a sworn affidavit saying that the UMaine official – vice president Jake Ward – had improperly advised the bidders. University officials have said that Ward did nothing wrong.

James Page, chancellor of the UMaine system, also has a personal financial tie to one of the companies that stood to benefit from a Con Edison contract.

But UMaine spokesman Dan Demeritt said Thursday that none of those issues had any bearing on ConEdison’s decision to withdraw.

“They proactively withdrew from negotiations based on conditions beyond their control,” Demeritt said.

ConEdison cited uncertainty about its ability to lease assets in the former Expera Mill in neighboring Old Town and said it would not be able to provide a firm pricing offer or an energy delivery plan by the university’s required deadline, according to a University of Maine System statement issued Thursday.

As a result, UMaine officials said they would engage with Honeywell International regarding its bid for the project. Honeywell was the first runner-up in a competitive bidding process for the right to negotiate a contract, the release said. The contract is likely worth more than $100 million.

After an 18-month bidding and review process, the university system decided last summer to negotiate with New York-based ConEdison on its plan to generate renewable energy at the vacant paper mill and send it via pipeline and wires to UMaine.

But soon thereafter, two runners-up formally protested the decision and filed appeals with the university, saying the deal could put taxpayers at risk.

Honeywell and Ameresco Inc. charged, among other things, that ConEdison failed to spell out the cost of its proposal and document any achievable savings, downplayed the regulatory obstacles of sending power from the mill to the campus and, overall, failed to show that the project was feasible.

The university subsequently denied the appeals of both companies. On Thursday a Honeywell representative referred all questions about its newfound role in the energy project to UMaine officials.

In a letter dated Wednesday, ConEdison General Manager Jack Bosch informed the university system of the company’s intent to withdraw from negotiations.

Bosch noted that UMaine had set a deadline of this past Wednesday for ConEdison to provide “firm pricing” and “a plan for gaining control of the power-generating assets of the former Expera Mill.”

He said a key component of ConEdison Solutions’ proposal included making use of the power-generating assets of the former Expera Mill. However, the mill property was purchased recently by OTM Holdings, an affiliate of CVG Inc., one of the members of ConEdison’s proposal team.

“The new owner of the Expera Mill has advised ConEdison Solutions that they are in the early stage of their planning process for the redevelopment of the Expera Mill site, and it has yet to be determined whether the owner’s plans for the Expera Mill site will accommodate ConEdison Solutions’ proposed lease of the power-generating assets to serve the university,” Bosch said in the letter.

ConEdison issued a statement to the Press Herald on Thursday repeating the reasons cited in the letter and said the company would not respond to questions.

Bosch’s letter, however, ignores the fact that ConEdison had been working with CVG for more than a year on plans to use the mill to produce energy for UMaine.

Representatives of OTM Holdings did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

A Connecticut liquidation firm, MFGR LLC, had been trying since January 2016 to sell the mill property. Last July, Samuel Eakin, managing director of Relentless Capital Co. in Cape Elizabeth, filed a lawsuit claiming he was illegally pushed out of a $10 million deal to buy the mill in favor of a competitor.

Eakin’s company had sought to buy the Old Town mill in 2016, and he filed a lawsuit last July alleging that his former partners subsequently worked with ConEdison and CVG to gain control of the complex. Last week, he gave the Press Herald a sworn statement in which he alleged that Ward, the UMaine vice president, had provided insider information to help ConEdison and its team win the energy project bid.

On Thursday, Eakin expressed skepticism about ConEdison’s stated reasons for pulling out of the UMaine energy project.

“The university, (ConEdison) and CVG are distancing themselves from a corrupt $150 million contract as gracefully as they can, in order to stifle growing public outrage,” he said.

Eakin said UMaine was responding to the same news reports it has dismissed as not being credible. He also cast doubt on the future development potential of the mill, saying it has become tainted by a corrupt process.

Staff Writer Tux Turkel contributed to this report.

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Drug overdoses killed a record 418 people in Maine last year https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/drug-overdoses-killed-418-people-in-maine-last-year-up-11-percent/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/drug-overdoses-killed-418-people-in-maine-last-year-up-11-percent/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:29:26 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/drug-overdoses-killed-418-people-in-maine-last-year-up-11-percent/ Maine set another record for drug overdose deaths last year, a sobering sign that the state has yet to climb out of a prolonged crisis that has ravaged communities and torn apart families.

The latest data underscores the collective failure of policymakers and the shortage of political will to address with any meaningful action the worst public health crisis since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office reported Thursday that 418 people died from overdoses in 2017. That’s an 11 percent increase over the 376 overdose deaths in 2016, but the number has been climbing sharply for the past five years.

Opioids, including prescription and illicit drugs, were responsible for 354 of the deaths, although fentanyl, a powerful synthetic, has now supplanted heroin as the deadliest substance. Unlike heroin, which is manufactured from poppy plants, fentanyl can be made in a laboratory and is easier to smuggle because it’s sold in tiny doses.

“Fentanyl has invaded our state, killing 247 people last year alone,” Attorney General Janet Mills said in a prepared statement. “When people ingest this powerful powder, they often believe it is heroin, and have been told it’s heroin. But no one should take a chance with these substances. Even as dangerous as heroin is, fentanyl is hundreds (of) times more likely to kill you. The equivalent of a few grains of fentanyl can take your life.”

Last year, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram published a 10-part series called “Lost” that examined the impact of the opioid crisis on the state. The series found that although many other states have been dealing with the same issue, the problem here has been made worse by a lack of resources and a lack of consensus on how best to combat the problem.

Under Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Maine has been slow to expand access to medication-assisted treatment such as suboxone, and slow to improve access to naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Kenney Miller, executive director of Health Equity Alliance, said Maine still places too much emphasis on treating addiction as criminal behavior.

“After nearly 100 years of trying to address drug use by punishing people who use drugs, we must admit that tough love just doesn’t work,” he said. “Although we continue to arrest people, there continues to be no impact on rates of drug use. Study after study has shown that you can’t force people into treatment, but you can support them until they reach recovery. Today, letting people hit rock-bottom is equivalent to a death sentence.”

LEPAGE SILENT ON LATEST OVERDOSE NUMBERS

LePage, who made no mention of the opioid crisis during his State of the State speech this month, did not issue a public statement about the new data Thursday, and his office did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, the Democratic chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, called the latest statistics “horrifying and sad.”

“We have many ways in front of us to help the state move forward,” she said. “The most important one to me is the hub-and-spoke treatment model. I’ll support that forever.”

Hymanson was referring to a bill sponsored by Rep. Karen Vachon, R-Scarborough, that would create a series of hubs around the state that exist to direct people seeking treatment into a program, or spoke, that best suits them. The state of Vermont has had success with a similar plan.

Vachon’s bill was introduced last year, but carried over to the current legislative session because of concerns over how to fund it. Estimates suggest that it could cost the state at least $6 million annually.

Vachon said Thursday that she’s hopeful her bill will pass and be funded this year. She said the numbers released Thursday should be added motivation.

“There is a lot of education that still needs to be done on this,” she said. “Addiction is still looked at as a moral failure and we need to change minds about that.”

MEDICAID EXPANSION ON HOLD

A successful citizen-led initiative to expand Medicaid in Maine last year could also provide treatment services to a number of low-income Mainers, but expansion is on hold until lawmakers can figure out a way to pay for it.

One initiative pushed by the LePage administration – and former Department of Health and Human Services commissioner Mary Mayhew, now a candidate for governor – was the creation of an Opioid Health Home program, but so far that effort has largely failed.

After pledging to spend $4.8 million to treat up to 400 Mainers affected by the crisis, a memo released this month by DHHS showed that less than $60,000 had been spent on the program in the year or so since it launched. Only five uninsured people and about 50 MaineCare recipients have received treatment.

Malory Shaughnessy, executive director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services of Maine, said the LePage administration has been weighed down by bureaucracy and is not willing or able to work with the providers who are experts in delivering care to those needing substance abuse treatment.

None of the two dozen candidates vying to be Maine’s next governor issued public statements Thursday about the overdose numbers. Mills, a Democratic candidate, did include her 10-point plan for addressing the crisis as part of the statement she released as attorney general.

BILLS FILED, BUT FUNDING UNCERTAIN

Reaction to the report among state political figures was confined to Democrats.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett called the 2017 numbers “sad and tragic,” and placed blame on the LePage administration.

“Not only has the governor failed to act in any meaningful way to address the opioid crisis, but he’s exacerbated it by actively working to restrict access to lifesaving treatment and anti-overdose medication,” Bartlett said. “Abating this crisis needs to be one of the first priorities for Maine’s next governor.”

Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon called the latest report “devastating.”

“We can no longer ignore the impact of this epidemic, disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment,” she said in a prepared statement. “This data represents more than numbers – it represents our family, our friends, our neighbors. In every instance, at every age, we should be doing everything in our power to save every life possible. And the sad fact is, we are not.”

The latest statistics were released on a day when the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee was discussing a trio of bills that would provide additional housing resources both for Mainers in addiction recovery and for those living with mental illness. The fate of each likely hinges on whether lawmakers can find funding.

PORTLAND ALONE SAW 57 DEATHS

Data released last fall for the first six months of 2017 suggested that the number of deaths in Maine might be plateauing. From January through June, there were 185 deaths, slightly below the pace of 2016.

But the death count escalated in the second half of 2017.

During that same time period, LePage stalled a measure that would have allowed people to purchase naloxone over the counter without a prescription. Although the Maine Board of Pharmacy voted to approve the rules, they sat on the governor’s desk for five months.

The pharmacy board finally approved the rules this month, but only after raising the minimum age to purchase naloxone from 18 to 21 at the governor’s insistence.

The new overdose report, prepared for the AG’s Office by Marcella Sorg, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Maine, shows that the problem has hit urban areas hardest. One in four deaths last year occurred in Cumberland County, and 57 were in Portland alone. York County saw 82 deaths, or 20 percent of the statewide total, with 23 in Biddeford.

The average age of those who died from a drug overdose was 42, which is close to the average age of the population of the state.

The state also saw increases in the number of deaths attributed to cocaine and methamphetamine.

DEATHS DECLINE IN 14 OTHER STATES

The continued increase in Maine overdose deaths comes at a time when several other states are reporting decreases.

Data released this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that deaths had declined in 14 states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, during the 12-month period that ended in July 2017.

Even with those declines, though, overdose deaths have reached a peak in the United States. Comprehensive numbers have not been released for 2017, but in 2016 there were 63,632 overdose deaths. The number has been steadily increasing for the past two decades, but the 20 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 was the largest on record.

Drug overdose deaths in Maine used to be exceedingly rare. In 1997, there were just 34 – less than the monthly average for 2017.

The spike in drug deaths started in 2000, with 60 deaths. The next year, it was 90. The year after that, 165 people died. A majority of those deaths were linked to prescription opiates such as OxyContin, which was increasingly being diverted and abused.

From 2002 through 2011, the number of overdose deaths was more or less steady – never eclipsing 179 or dropping below 153.

Since 2011, though, deaths have increased every year. In 2014, a then-record 208 people died. Just three years later, that number had doubled.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/drug-overdoses-killed-418-people-in-maine-last-year-up-11-percent/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/01/1316414_651943__201508012_medcu_2a.jpgParamedics in Portland respond to a call of a heroin overdose on Congress Street in the summer of 2015. They found an unconscious 29-year-old woman whom they had seen before, under strikingly similar circumstances. Once again, the EMTs administered Narcan, an opiate antidote, and persuaded the addict to go to the hospital.Fri, 23 Feb 2018 06:02:21 +0000
Bomb scare causes evacuation of Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/bomb-scare-causes-evacuation-of-maine-childrens-home-for-little-wanderers/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/bomb-scare-causes-evacuation-of-maine-childrens-home-for-little-wanderers/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:27:53 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/bomb-scare-causes-evacuation-of-maine-childrens-home-for-little-wanderers/ WATERVILLE — Buildings at the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers were evacuated Thursday morning after the word “bomb” was found written on a plastic bucket in the entryway to one of the buildings there.

Waterville police around 10 a.m. were searching buildings on the 93 Silver St. campus as children and their parents were following a safety protocol and heading into the administration building.

Waterville’s police Chief Joe Massey said if police identify the person who wrote the word on a bucket that turned out to contain salt, they will consider charges. It is a serious situation, he said.

“Unfortunately, someone thought they would be funny, and as a result, it created quite an emergency response from fire and police, and it evacuated buildings,” Massey said at the scene. “It’s very concerning because there are children here. If I can find out who wrote ‘bomb,’ we’re going to prosecute them.”

Police got a call at 9:35 a.m. reporting that an employee found the bucket with the word scrawled on it. Emergency officials rushed to the scene, where several police cruisers, fire and rescue trucks and an ambulance were parked on Silver Street and officials headed onto the campus.

Children, parents and employees were walking or carrying children and babies to the administration building, where Richard Dorian, executive director of the Children’s Home, said the campus was being secured according to a safety protocol.

“The campus is on temporary lockdown so that folks can’t come onto campus,” Dorian said.

He said the bucket with the word “bomb” written on it was at the Parks Building, where adoption offices are located on the terrace or first level; the child care center, “The Children’s Place,” is on the main floor; and upper floors are vacant for storage purposes. Typically 53 children are in that building, but on Thursday there were about 40 because public schools are on vacation. There are six buildings on the campus.

“We are pleased that our professional staff followed our safety protocols and that this safety exercise had a safest outcome,” Dorian said later Thursday morning. He said people at the Children’s Home have talked a lot about school safety and want to be prepared. They are fortunate, he said, that a Waterville police school resource officer at the alternative school on campus has been a great help to staff in thinking about precautions and being alert to such situations. That alternative school, which is part of the Waterville school system, is on school break this week.

The Children’s Home serves more than 3,000 Maine children and families a year at the Dorothy “Bibby” Alfond Campus and provides parent education and adoption services statewide.

Massey said the emergency response caused great apprehension for employees and parents arriving at the campus and seeing all the emergency vehicles.

“These things are never funny,” he said. “They’re never a joke.”

As police searched buildings, Tyler Mogan, 21, of Belgrade, was standing in the parking lot of the Apollo Salon & Spa next to the Children’s Home campus, looking worried. He asked what was happening, saying that he had his 11-month-old son, Jaxon, in his vehicle and had planned to take him into the child care center.

“I work nights and just woke up and wanted to bring him here,” Mogan said. “I asked what was happening and did not get a response. I figured it was a shooting or a bomb or something.”

He said he lived for four years in Florida, where things were bad, but one does not expect to see such incidents occur in Maine. With recent school shootings and other violence occurring across the country, one never knows, he said.

“I’m just glad everyone’s all right and it wasn’t a shooting or anything,” he said.

Besides The Children’s Place early education center, which serves toddlers and preschoolers, the buildings on campus include The Turner Family Counseling Center, which serves up to 175 children, youth and adults each month, according to Dorian. Also on campus are The Sharon Abrams Teen Parent School Program, which serves up to 15 high school teenage parents and their children during the school year; The Adoption Program, which works with more than 175 families statewide; and The Development Program, which coordinates the Summer Camp Scholarship Program and The Christmas Program.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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Guilty verdict reached in 38-year-old murder of teenage girl in Maine mill town https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/verdict-expected-thursday-in-38-year-old-maine-murder/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/verdict-expected-thursday-in-38-year-old-maine-murder/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 14:17:43 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/verdict-expected-thursday-in-38-year-old-maine-murder/ BANGOR — A judge has convicted a longtime suspect in the murder of 16-year-old Joyce McLain, a high school student who disappeared while jogging near her East Millinocket home in 1980.

Philip Scott Fournier, 57, now faces 25 years to life in prison for killing McLain and leaving her body in the woods in the small mill town in northern Maine.

Fournier sat silently in a crowded courtroom Thursday morning as Superior Court Justice Ann Murray recounted the facts of the case and then announced the guilty verdict. Friends and family of both McLain and Fournier sat in rapt attention.

Fournier was led out of the Penobscot Judicial Center courtroom and returned to the Penobscot County jail, where he has been held since his arrest in 2016. The court will set a sentencing date in the coming months.

Pam McLain, Joyce’s mother, sat in the front row behind prosecutors during the hearing and smiled after the judge read the guilty finding. McLain, flanked by family, said outside the courthouse that after waiting decades for justice, she was the happiest a mother could be. McLain said she felt a variety of emotions as Murray read the extensive findings for more than an hour before announcing her verdict.

“I had a couple of iffy moments,” McLain said, before her trepidation turned to relief. “I was very satisfied” with the verdict.

McLain said she does not hate Fournier, and she empathizes with his relatives.

“I feel real bad for his parents and his siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles,” McLain said. “And, if given a chance, I will visit with them if they will have me there.”

McLain also delivered a message to the family members of Mainers whose murders remain unsolved.

“Keep on keepin’ on,” McLain said. “I’ll be with you, because I’m not gonna end here.”

McLain declined to criticize police for their handling of the case or the delay in bringing Fournier to trial.

“I’m happy, I’m here today,” McLain said. “We got a guilty verdict. I’m not going to go into the past 37½ years.”

Daniel Hale, Pam McLain’s brother, said the family is grateful to the community for its support, and to the media for keeping Joyce’s murder in the public eye long after her death. He also said the guilty finding was bittersweet.

“We kept hearing ‘justice for Joyce,’ and ‘closure.’ For me, and I may be alone in the family, closure isn’t for us. It’s closure for Mr. Fournier. He’s going where he should have been, 37, 37½ years ago. He’s got justice now. Justice has come about and I have a lot more emotions than I ever thought I’d have.”

Hale added: “She was the love of all our lives.”

Outside the Bangor courthouse, Pam McLain hugs one of her late daughter’s best friends, Laura Shea Merrill, moments after a judge found 57-year-old Philip Scott Fournier guilty of the 1980 murder of 16-year-old Joyce McLain. Pam McLain also had a message to other families of Mainers whose killings languish in cold-case files: “Keep on keepin’ on.” Photo by Linda Coan O'Kresik

DEFENSE CONSIDERING AN APPEAL

Jeffrey M. Silverstein, Fournier’s attorney, said his client is disappointed and upset with the finding of guilt and they are exploring options for appealing, which will first require a close reading of Murray’s decision. The written decision was not immediately released after the 9:30 a.m. hearing.

Silverstein said the decision to charge Fournier, and now to find him guilty of the murder, stood in stark contrast to 35 years of police work when at no time was Fournier arrested or charged with the crime.

“We need to take a close look at her decision, because while it seemed to be well-reasoned and conceived, there also seemed to be points in conflict with one another, and so we want to take a close look at that and analyze that in the context of a new trial,” Silverstein said.

The jury-waived trial brings to a close a nearly 38-year ordeal for McLain’s family and the small East Millinocket community where the murder took place.

Joyce McLain disappeared while jogging about 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1980. Her mostly unclothed body was found two days later behind the Schenck High School soccer fields in a wooded area near a row of power lines. The back of her skull had been struck with a blunt object.

At the time of her death, McLain was a 16-year-old sophomore at Schenck. She was an honor student, a cheerleader, a musician and an athlete.

Her disappearance and the attempts by police to solve her murder were complicated by powerful thunderstorms that may have washed away evidence at the crime scene. After the discovery of her body, police gleaned no forensic evidence that connected Fournier to the scene. His conviction was based solely on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony, including from four people who said Fournier had confessed to the crime over the years.

LONGTIME SUSPECT, PRIOR ADMISSIONS

Fournier had been treated as a suspect from the start.

Hours after McLain was killed, Fournier, then 19 and drunk from consuming whiskey the night before, stole an oil truck and crashed it. He suffered a serious brain injury that left him in a coma and also damaged his memory – a fact that Fournier’s defense came to rely on in the trial, casting doubt on whether his memories and confessions were true accounts or fabrications of an injured brain.

Fournier was interviewed by police 22 times before his arrest, and despite his reported confessions to at least three people, including his parents and his pastor, he cast enough doubt on the circumstances of his involvement to avoid being charged.

Over the years, he told people at various times that he had struck McLain with a glass or ceramic power cable insulator, and that he stumbled upon her body in the darkness but did not murder her. But he still avoided prosecution, even after describing details to others that only the murderer could have known.

Maine State Police have said that the original evidence, combined with additional forensic testing, witness interviews and crime scene searches, provided the grounds for finally arresting Fournier in March 2016.

In making her decision Thursday, Justice Murray said she placed great credibility in the witness testimony of John DeRoche, who was a janitorial supervisor at Husson University in Bangor when Fournier was hired as one of DeRoche’s employees in 1989, nine years after the killing.

DeRoche met Fournier and heard he was from East Millinocket. DeRoche asked if he knew anything about McLain, Murray said.

Within minutes of the two men meeting, Fournier told DeRoche he knew all about the murder, that he was the one who killed her, and that he had not been arrested because he “beat” the 20-plus police interviews.

DeRoche came forward after state police arrested Fournier, providing another example of when Fournier’s bragging about the murder did not lead to prosecution.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/verdict-expected-thursday-in-38-year-old-maine-murder/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1336272_427830-20180222_FournierVer.jpgPhilip Scott Fournier, right, of East Millinocket awaits the verdict in his jury-waived trial Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Superior Court Justice Ann Murray found him guilty of the 1980 murder of Joyce McLain.Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:29:01 +0000
South Portland Hannaford distribution center workers return to jobs after strike https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/hannaford-distribution-center-workers-return-to-jobs-after-strike/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/hannaford-distribution-center-workers-return-to-jobs-after-strike/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 13:38:31 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/hannaford-distribution-center-workers-return-to-jobs-after-strike/ Union members Thursday morning began returning to work at a Hannaford distribution center in South Portland after a 24-hour strike.

The short strike by more than 200 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 was launched early Wednesday morning, two days after Delhaize America Distribution, the company that operates the distribution center, said it had understood there would be no strike before a scheduled mediation next Monday. The company is a subsidiary of Ahold Delhaize, an international supermarket conglomerate that also owns Hannaford.

Union officials denied there had been any agreement to wait until Monday to strike.

Union workers in South Portland are tired of being disrespected by company owners and have become a “militant” unit, union president Jeff Bollen said Wednesday. On Saturday, they voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s final contract offer and authorize a strike. Union negotiators said the proposed contract would have slashed wages for new workers and did not address soaring health insurance costs.

In an email Wednesday morning, Delhaize America Distributors spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said the company was “disappointed” that the union decided to strike after agreeing to a mediation date.

The strike didn’t seem to have an immediate effect on Hannaford stores. The distribution center services 103 Hannaford stores in New England, including 63 in Maine.

UFCW Local 1445, based in Dedham, Massachusetts, represents 15,000 workers in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including 246 employees at the Hannaford warehouse.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

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Staff Photo of the Day: Thursday, February 22, 2018 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/staff-photo-day-thursday-february-22-2018/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/staff-photo-day-thursday-february-22-2018/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:00:09 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1335741 ]]> https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/22/staff-photo-day-thursday-february-22-2018/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/POD-swim.jpgBRUNSWICK, ME - FEBRUARY 19: Cape teammates Olivia Tighe, Maddie McCormick, Corinne Wight and Hope Campbell burn off some excitement early in the Maine HIgh School Girls Class B State Swimming and Diving Championships at Bowdoin College. (Staff photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer)Wed, 21 Feb 2018 11:34:45 +0000 Panel’s marijuana regulation bill omits licensing of social clubs https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/committees-marijuana-regulation-bill-omits-licensing-of-social-clubs-in-maine/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/committees-marijuana-regulation-bill-omits-licensing-of-social-clubs-in-maine/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 03:52:09 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/committees-marijuana-regulation-bill-omits-licensing-of-social-clubs-in-maine/ AUGUSTA — State lawmakers who are working to launch Maine’s adult-use cannabis industry have eliminated all references to social clubs from a proposed overhaul of the Marijuana Legalization Act.

Voters approved social clubs as part of the legalization referendum in 2016, but lawmakers have repeatedly voted for delays in an effort to keep Maine from being the first state to license gathering places for marijuana users.

“No other state has licensed social clubs,” said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, co-chairman of the implementation committee. “This is clearly the law, but it passed by the narrowest of margins. We ought to go slow and be conservative.”

On Wednesday, the committee voted 10-4 to eliminate references to social club licensing in one of a series of straw votes on its adult-use implementation bill. A final committee vote is planned for Friday.

The committee also voted down a plan to share the state’s marijuana tax revenues with communities that agree to host a licensed cultivation, processing or retail sales business.

It had initially proposed giving towns a cut of the state taxes, but the bill failed to survive a veto by Gov. Paul LePage.

In justifying his veto, LePage did not refer to the revenue-sharing proposal, but House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said the plan didn’t sit well with Republicans, who believe sales tax authority belongs with the state.

In its second attempt at passing legislation, the committee opted to replace local revenue-sharing with giving host towns the right to assess municipal impact fees to cover any potential cost increases, such as added police protection.

But the committee also voted that down Wednesday, in hopes of getting a bill past LePage, either by winning his signature or at least pacifying the Republican House caucus that stymied the veto override efforts last fall.

Rep. Erik Jorgensen, D-Portland, voted against the impact-fees concession, although he and Portland city officials had expected it, knowing that Republicans would kill the bill if it called for expanding local revenue options.

“We are pushing the cost off on our local taxpayers, and that’s not right,” Jorgensen said. “We will definitely see higher costs.”

But other lawmakers, including Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, and Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, said host towns will see their property tax revenues rise as marijuana businesses set up shop.

“In some cases, we could be talking millions of dollars of assets,” Ackley said.

The committee is moving quickly to reach compromises on hot-button topics such as revenue sharing, personal-grow limitations, consolidation of the administration of adult-use and medical marijuana rules, and social clubs.

On Wednesday, the committee voted to place both the recreational and medical marijuana programs under the state Department of Administration and Financial Services. Each program would have its own rules, enforced by the department.

Medical marijuana supporters have opposed efforts to blend the two programs, saying consolidation in other states has led to the erosion of medical marijuana protections. Proponents of both programs say they don’t want that in Maine.

On Wednesday, lawmakers on the committee that oversees Maine’s medical marijuana programs agreed to the departmental transfer and some consolidation, as long as oversight didn’t end up in the bureau that regulates alcohol and lottery sales.

Medical marijuana is medicine, not an intoxicant, they said. The implementation committee had initially refused to rule out the alcohol bureau as a future home for blended programs, but changed course after hearing from fellow lawmakers.

Out of all of its compromises, the implementation committee has been willing to give up the most political ground on social clubs, making it a symbol of how far, and how quickly, it was willing to compromise with marijuana critics.

The first bill to overhaul the voter-approved legalization law proposed delaying social club licenses until a year after all other licenses were issued, but LePage vetoed it. The second attempt called for delaying social club licenses until 2023.

But Wednesday, the implementation committee voted 10-4 to eliminate the social club license altogether. Katz said he believed that most people who voted “yes” in the narrow referendum victory didn’t factor social clubs into their decision.

Most referendum supporters wanted a law that would allow adults to safely and legally buy, grow or use a reasonable amount of recreational marijuana, Katz said. The social club license was buried in the backup literature, he said.

The committee vote doesn’t prevent a future state legislature from allowing social club licenses, Katz said. Eighty-five years after the end of prohibition, Maine still uses legislation to try to perfect its alcohol laws, he said. The latest implementation legislation is undoubtedly the first of many marijuana bills, he said.

Like many other states, Maine has had its share of underground marijuana-friendly clubs, and certain parks and beaches are popular spots to use marijuana with different degrees of discretion.

Current law bans public cultivation or consumption, which doesn’t give the 36 million people who visit Maine each year a place to use any cannabis that they might buy when here, because most hotels ban smoking inside rooms.

Club advocates have said pot lounges would give tourists a legal place to use the pot they buy here and keep them out of public parks and beaches. But opponents say club patrons must eventually leave, increasing the risk of impaired driving.

A review of other states’ marijuana laws and regulations revealed that marijuana clubs remain uncharted territory nationally. Some state laws are silent on the matter and leave it up to towns, but no state has issued a social club license.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at:

poverton@pressherald.com

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Bill would lower bottle deposit for liquor and wine by 10 cents https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bill-would-lower-bottle-deposit-for-liquor-and-wine-by-10-cents/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bill-would-lower-bottle-deposit-for-liquor-and-wine-by-10-cents/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 02:31:16 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bill-would-lower-bottle-deposit-for-liquor-and-wine-by-10-cents/ Advocates of a proposal to lower the deposit on wine and liquor bottles by 10 cents say the measure would equalize returnables and simplify the process.

State Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, the bill’s sponsor, wrote in a statement that she “seeks to implement a uniform refund value” by reducing the deposit put on spirits and wine containers by 10 cents, from 15 cents to five cents. All other returnable containers in Maine carry a five-cent deposit.

The proposal “would have minimal/no costs to the state and would create a level playing field with other states and keep more money in the hands of the consumer,” Espling wrote in remarks filed with the Legislature’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, which has voted out a divided report. A full vote on the bill on the House floor may happen as soon as next week.

Making all deposits on returnables uniform would help eliminate confusion on the part of retailers who mark containers and collect deposits as well as on the part of workers at redemption centers, Espling wrote. The measure would help make Maine more competitive with neighboring New Hampshire, where spirits are neither taxed nor carry a bottle deposit, she wrote.

In testimony submitted to the committee, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council lent his support for Espling’s bill, noting that only 10 states have bottle deposit systems and of those, six include containers of spirits.

“There appears to be no rhyme or reason for having this dual deposit system,” spokesman Jay Hibbard wrote. Wine and spirit bottles of 50 milliliters or more carry a 15-cent deposit; those under 50 milliliters, five cents.

The bill was endorsed by the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, but Director Gregory Mineo wrote in his testimony that a changeover could create problems. Agency warehouses and stores have significant inventories already stickered at 15 cents, he wrote.

Opposing the bill were largely environmental groups who expressed fears that tinkering with the deposits could lead to greater pollution and municipal solid waste costs while handicapping redemption centers and charities.

Maine’s bottle bill, enacted in 1978, is one of the most successful in the country, Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, wrote in her testimony to the committee.

If the proposal were to pass, it would weaken Maine’s law, likely making it less effective, she wrote.

“The programs in Maine and Vermont are practically identical, and arguably the country’s most successful, because of our inclusion of so many containers and the higher deposit on wine and spirits. Further, nine out of ten Canadian provinces have a bottle redemption program, most with split redemption structures and larger containers being redeemed for as high as 35 cents,” Lakeman wrote.

If Espling’s bill were enacted, Maine towns would have to handle an additional 8,000 tons of glass waste or more that would no longer be managed through redemption centers, which could cost taxpayers anywhere from $800,000 to $1.65 million per year, Lakeman estimated. She added that “the fiscal note attached to the bill is estimated at $150,000 for implementation. In addition, the state General Fund would lose its annual $350,000 share of unclaimed bottle deposits.”

Eliza Donoghue, senior policy and advocacy specialist at Maine Audubon, wrote that lowering the redemption rate would only serve to lessen the incentive for returning those bottles. In similar programs in other states, participation rates have risen along with the cost of the deposits, she wrote.

“The bottle bill in its current form keeps bottles (litter) off our beaches, out of our waterways, and otherwise away from wildlife and wildlife habitat,” she wrote.

Alison Vanderhoof, president of CLYNK, a Maine-headquartered technology company that helps charities raise money through bottle returns, hailed Maine’s 90 percent redemption rate as enviable.

“This proposed change to the bottle bill was a head-scratcher for us,” she wrote. “We see no logic that says the state should be looking to give up income at this time, or be willing to enact a change that short-changes nonprofits and their donors. And none of us should be in support of a change that at its core is hoping to lower our recycling rates, even if doing so makes money for some big distributors. lt seems perhaps the right level of homework has not been done.”

Last year, the Legislature voted to add to Maine’s bottle redemption program a five-cent deposit on so-called “nips,” tiny bottles of spirits, despite a veto threat by Gov. Paul LePage.

Chris Williams can be contacted at:

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bill-would-lower-bottle-deposit-for-liquor-and-wine-by-10-cents/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/CITbottles02221833-534x462.jpgNicholas Johnson tosses beer cans into a giant bag Wednesday afternoon at Roopers Beverage & Redemption on Sabattus Street in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)Wed, 21 Feb 2018 21:56:30 +0000
Portland to let Maine Mariners keep parking fees collected during games https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-council-agrees-to-let-maine-mariners-keep-city-garage-parking-revenue-generated-during-games/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-council-agrees-to-let-maine-mariners-keep-city-garage-parking-revenue-generated-during-games/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 02:12:19 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-council-agrees-to-let-maine-mariners-keep-city-garage-parking-revenue-generated-during-games/ The Portland City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Maine Mariners that would allow the minor league hockey team to keep revenue generated at the city-owned parking garage during games.

The deal, which the city hopes will help Cumberland County keep an anchor tenant for the newly renovated Cross Insurance Arena, also includes four season tickets for the city.

Resident Steven Scharf called the lease rate and the parking arrangement a “sweetheart deal,” but City Councilor Justin Costa said it was a win-win for the city because it would help re-establish an anchor tenant at the civic center that was lost when the Portland Pirates left.

“There’s no downside risk to the city,” Costa said. “There’s a tremendous possibility the city could make out in the long term from this.”

The city had similar agreements with the Pirates, providing more than $45,000 a year to the minor league hockey franchise. Portland also received season tickets from that hockey franchise.

The Mariners, who are not yet affiliated with an NHL franchise, also will lease 2,145 square feet of city-owned office space at 94 Free St. for up to 15 years. The rent would begin at $4,830 a year and increase over time until 2030, when it reach $19,320.

A separate agreement would allow the team to keep all of the parking revenue generated at the city-owned parking garage on Spring Street during home games after security and city staff expenses are paid. That arrangement would last for seven years, and then the team’s share would be recalculated.

The cost of maintaining the garage’s infrastructure still falls on the city, which has allocated nearly $1.6 million through its Capital Improvement Plan since 2016 for structural repairs. Another $350,000 in repairs is being planned in the coming years.

In exchange for parking revenues, the city would receive four season tickets “for promotional use.”

The city has similar agreements with the Maine Red Claws, a minor league basketball team that plays at the Portland Expo, and the Portland Sea Dogs, a minor league baseball team that plays at Hadlock Field.

City officials said that the Sea Dogs received $36,000 and the Red Claws received $4,300 through their respective parking agreements last year.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: randybillings

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-council-agrees-to-let-maine-mariners-keep-city-garage-parking-revenue-generated-during-games/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/11/43848-20171129_mariners065.jpgPORTLAND, ME - NOVEMBER 29: The Maine Mariners reveal their new logo on the scoreboard at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland Wednesday, November 29, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:28:11 +0000
Lawmakers offer no clarity on Maine’s new graduation guidelines https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/lawmakers-offer-no-clarity-on-maines-new-graduation-guidelines/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/lawmakers-offer-no-clarity-on-maines-new-graduation-guidelines/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 01:53:52 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/lawmakers-offer-no-clarity-on-maines-new-graduation-guidelines/ AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are requiring high school students, starting with this year’s freshmen class, to prove they truly understand the subjects they study before they can graduate, but the Legislature still hasn’t worked out many details that teachers need to prepare students.

And legislators offered no clarity Wednesday, taking no action on a bill to delay implementation of so-called proficiency-based diplomas during a committee meeting.

A 2012 Maine law says all graduating students, starting with the class of 2021, must show they are proficient in eight content areas, such as U.S. history. Maine is one of a growing number of states – including Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire – that have moved toward awarding high school diplomas based on students’ mastery of subjects rather than time spent in classrooms.

But Maine never passed any regulations to clarify what’s expected of schools, including exactly what proficiency means. Some districts are moving ahead on their own, without guidance from lawmakers, to get students ready.

Lawmakers may meet again next week to consider delaying the law for a year.

The state’s education department has been working on regulations since late last summer and plans to release a proposal in the coming months. Several education groups support a delay so that school districts will have more time to make changes and inform students and the public once the state finalizes new regulations.

“We simply can’t ask our teachers to adjust on the fly as we muck around with this bill every year,” said Daniel Allen, an instruction and professional development director for the Maine Education Association, in written testimony. The union represents more than 23,000 Maine teachers and education support professionals.

The state will need to spend a lot of money to implement the requirements and educate the public about what exactly proficiency-based diplomas are, said some members of the Maine Curriculum Leaders’ Association, which hasn’t taken a position on a delay.

But the association has said some of its members worry that a delay could undermine the program or create confusion with some parents, students and teachers who already have been told that the freshman class will graduate with diplomas.

The delay also got support from The Maine Heritage Policy Center, whose analyst Jacob Posik said the proficiency model does little to make sure all Maine graduates are “proficient” learners.

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Portland lawyer sues Syria over torture, killing of 2 U.S. soldiers https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-lawyer-sues-syrian-government-over-torture-and-killing-of-two-u-s-soldiers/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-lawyer-sues-syrian-government-over-torture-and-killing-of-two-u-s-soldiers/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:34:51 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-lawyer-sues-syrian-government-over-torture-and-killing-of-two-u-s-soldiers/ A Portland lawyer is suing the government of Syria over the kidnapping, torture and deaths of two American soldiers in Iraq.

The suit, filed Tuesday by F.R. Jenkins in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges that the government of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian intelligence agencies provided aid to the Islamic State of Iraq, a terrorist organization that kidnapped the two soldiers in June 2007.

The suit says Army Staff Sgt. Alex R. Jimenez and Specialist Byron W. Fouty were taken from an observation post near Mahmudiyah, Iraq, and tortured, and that their bodies were found more than a year later. Jimenez’s parents live in New York and Massachusetts and Fouty’s mother lives in Texas.

F.R. Jenkins

The suit seeks hundreds of millions of dollars from Syria – $18 million on each of seven counts, including conspiracy and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, plus $425 million in punitive and other damages on two additional counts.

Jenkins has won other major lawsuits against Syria, including a $25 billion judgment in 2013. That suit said the Syrian government sponsored attacks in 1985 at airports in Rome and Vienna that killed 19 and injured 107. In a 2016 case, his clients were awarded nearly $350 million on behalf of two Americans killed in hotel bombings in Jordan in 2005.

Jenkins, who heads the Meridian 361 law firm, has lived in Portland for more than 10 years. His suits have to be filed in federal court in Washington because of a federal law that gives that court jurisdiction in cases involving foreign governments.

Jenkins said his interest in suing state sponsors of terrorism followed the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which was blown up over Scotland, killing 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground in the town of Lockerbie. Jenkins was spending a semester abroad in London at the time and knew some of the American students who were killed.

“That impacted me, and this is the work I’ve ended up doing,” he said. “It’s an important way to achieve some level of accountability for these victims. It’s important they have their day in court … to hold the states accountable is an important exercise.”

Jenkins said pursuing the cases presents varying degrees of difficulty, primarily based on how vigorously the foreign governments defend themselves.

In some cases the governments have presented a full defense, and “in some cases they haven’t shown up at all, and in some cases only after the judgment,” he said.

Jenkins said collecting on judgments can be the most difficult task. Judgment payouts are often settled as part of the overall diplomatic process between the U.S. and the countries he sues. In one case, the foreign government set up a claims fund for victims.

The U.S. also operates a claims fund financed by the proceeds of sanctions against foreign governments. No U.S. funds are used to compensate victims, he said.

Because the latest suit was just filed, Syria hasn’t responded yet. Jenkins said he’s unsure how vigorously Syria’s government will defend itself in court.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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Draft policy for Portland police body cameras raises privacy concerns https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-councilors-generally-support-policy-for-police-use-of-body-cameras/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-councilors-generally-support-policy-for-police-use-of-body-cameras/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:13:01 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-councilors-generally-support-policy-for-police-use-of-body-cameras/ City councilors on Wednesday expressed support for proposed rules governing police use of body cameras in Maine’s largest city, but some advocates want more information about how the technology would be used at schools, hospitals and public assemblies.

Councilors received an overview of the Portland Police Department’s eight-page policy laying out when officers must record their encounters, when they can stop recording and activities they are prohibited from recording.

The Portland Police Department’s 8-page policy on body cameras states that officers must record all enforcement actions, but turn off cameras in limited circumstances. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

“I just want to extend my appreciation for the work that has been done,” Councilor Nicholas Mavodones said. “It’s far more complicated than I thought it would have been.”

Body cameras are designed to increase transparency in policing, but concerns have been raised over privacy.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said he is receiving feedback from outside groups, including advocates for domestic violence prevention, school officials and free speech advocates.

Sauschuck predicted the policy would evolve, especially after a pilot program with eight cameras is rolled out by April 1 and prior to full implementation in the fall, which calls for 100 additional cameras.

No public comment was taken at the meeting. But representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the Maine NAACP attended the workshop.

Afterward, both groups were pleased with the policy direction and Sauschuck’s willingness to discuss their concerns about policies governing use in schools, hospitals and legal public assemblies.

Rachel Talbot Ross, a state representative who was speaking on behalf of the NAACP of Maine, said she would like more details about use in those arenas.

“There is still some work to do in refining those areas,” Talbot Ross said.

Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director for the ACLU of Maine, said she wanted to ensure that constitutional assemblies did not become opportunities for police to gather information that could later be mined using facial recognition and other technologies.

“I’m looking more closely at that,” Amarasingham said.

The policy would require officers to record all enforcement actions, but allow them to turn off the device in limited cases, such as protecting the privacy of victims and confidential informants.

The policy also would prohibit officers from using the cameras to “gather intelligence” during legal assemblies and political protests. But Sauschuck said the cameras would be on if officers were conducting crowd control or responding to a call.

The policy is a key remaining step toward Portland’s long-planned use of body cameras by the police force.

City officials secured $26,000 in grant funds from the Department of Justice last April to purchase eight cameras for the pilot program. That initial funding was expected to be followed by a $400,000 investment in the technology in the next budget.

Body cameras have been debated nationally since several high-profile instances in which police officers shot and killed people of color. The debate became a hot button issue in Portland last year, after police shot and killed 22-year-old Chance David Baker at a St. John Street shopping center.

However, City Manager Jon Jennings said he and Sauschuck had been discussing body cameras for the past year and half, and that the rollout had nothing to do with any “external event.”

Portland’s policy would require the department to retain recordings for 210 days, unless a recording is flagged for extended retention for a potential civil claim, lawsuit or personnel complaint.

The public can gain access to those recordings under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and “other applicable laws.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: randybillings

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Maine home prices jumped 5.3% in January https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/maine-home-prices-up-5-percent-in-january/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/maine-home-prices-up-5-percent-in-january/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 21:02:46 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/maine-home-prices-up-5-percent-in-january/ Home prices jumped more than 5 percent in January compared with a year earlier, while the volume of sales in Maine was relatively flat.

A report issued Wednesday by Maine Listings said the median sale price of detached single-family homes rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier, to $200,000. The median indicates half of the homes sold for more than that and half sold for less.

The number of single-family homes sold in Maine rose 0.2 percent in January compared with a year earlier, the report said.

“Buyers are anxiously awaiting the increased for-sale inventory that spring traditionally brings,” said Kim Gleason, president of the Maine Association of Realtors and broker/owner of McAllister Real Estate in Hallowell. “The January 2018 for-sale inventory (was) 17 percent below January 2017 due to a strong winter selling season.”

January was not the first time that the statewide median home price has reached $200,000, according to Maine Listings. That milestone was first reached in May, and the median hasn’t dropped below $200,000 since then, it said.

Maine home sales for the three-month period ending Jan. 31 were up 5.1 percent from a year earlier at 3,951, and the median sale price of $200,000 was up 5.8 percent, Maine Listings reported.

The biggest increase in home sales occurred in Franklin County, where sales for the three-month period jumped 58.3 percent from a year earlier, it said. The biggest decrease was in Waldo County, where sales activity fell 15.8 percent.

Piscataquis County saw the biggest increase in median price, which rose 25 percent from a year earlier to $118,750. The biggest decrease was in Hancock County, where the median price fell 6.9 percent to $209,500.

Nationally, home sales dipped 4.8 percent in January compared with a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national median sale price in January was $241,700, up 5.7 percent from January 2017.

Regionally, sales in the Northeast declined by 7.6 percent, and the regional median price of $269,100 represented a climb of 6.8 percent from a year earlier, it said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/maine-home-prices-up-5-percent-in-january/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1335891_20130821_forsale01.jpgsale pending sign is set outside a house in Bath, Maine. The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose for a second month in June. But the gain was not enough to signal a rebound in the weak housing market.Wed, 21 Feb 2018 19:19:23 +0000
Blast of warmth pushes temperature to all-time record for February https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/it-could-be-no-sweat-today-for-portland-to-set-record-warmth-for-february/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/it-could-be-no-sweat-today-for-portland-to-set-record-warmth-for-february/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 19:21:24 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/it-could-be-no-sweat-today-for-portland-to-set-record-warmth-for-february/ Boots and parkas came off Wednesday as a freakishly warm February day broke records and lured winter-weary Mainers to beaches, restaurant patios and ice cream shops.

Portland reached 68 degrees at 2:39 p.m. That crushed the 65-year-old record for Feb. 21 – 59 degrees, recorded in 1953.

But it also set a new all-time record high for the entire month of February. The previous record was 64 degrees, set on Feb. 26, 1957.

High temperatures climbed past 70 degrees Wednesday afternoon in southern interior Maine. It was 74 degrees in Sanford at 4:30 p.m.

For many Mainers, that’s beach weather, no matter what the calendar says. People came out to play and sit on the sand at Pine Point and Higgins beaches in Scarborough, where children stuck their toes in the water and teenagers on winter break from school took off their shoes and shirts and tossed a Frisbee.

As the sun came out, restaurants and breweries opened their patios for an unexpected taste of al fresco dining.

“It’s definitely busier than your average Wednesday day in February,” said Kit Paschal, general manager of The Shop, an oyster bar and store on Washington Avenue in Portland.

A group of four came into The Shop just as it opened at noon. By 3 p.m., the warmest part of the day, more than a dozen people had stopped by the patio.

“Warm weather, oysters and cold beer and wine – it’s like people are preprogrammed to enjoy that,” Paschal said. “As soon as the warm weather hits, they gravitate here.”

Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland shared a photo on its Facebook page of a family from Windham enjoying a beer at a picnic table.

“The warm weather is here today and gone tomorrow, so leave the office and come now!” the post reads.

It certainly felt like summer at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook. The cross country ski trails were closed because of the weather, but the farm was promoting its ice cream shop on social media.

“Time to fill up those empty cones,” a post on the Smiling Hill Farm Facebook page read.

In the farm office, Warren Knight said activities with llamas and other animals have been a hit during school vacation week. Those events draw visitors to the farm even when they can’t ski or showshoe, he said. Many guests are also buying lunch – and on Wednesday, ice cream.

“Normally, we wouldn’t be selling much ice cream on a February day,” he said. “But today is different.”

Many gravitated to the Portland waterfront, or even got out on the water.

Alison Goodwin of Peaks Island enjoyed the warm breeze aboard the Machigonne II ferry in Casco Bay. But she also had mixed feelings about the heat.

“Scary. Bizarre,” she said. “But you know what? We’ll take it right now. But I do worry.”

According to statistics compiled by the Associated Press, unseasonably warm weather smashed temperature records across southern New England on Wednesday. The National Weather Service said the temperature in Hartford, Connecticut, climbed to 74 degrees. That broke the city’s record for highest temperature recorded in the month of February. The previous all-time high was 73, recorded on Feb. 24, 1985.

The temperature in Boston climbed to 64 degrees late Wednesday morning, breaking the previous record for Feb. 21 of 63 set in 1906. Providence, Rhode Island, also hit 64, breaking the record for the day of 63. Both previous records were set in 1930. Worcester, Massachusetts’ former record of 59 set in 1930 also was smashed, meteorologists said.

Wednesday’s warmth will be a memory by Thursday, when temperatures will be about 30 degrees lower.

Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, said a weak cold front will come through Wednesday night bringing Maine back to normal temperatures for this time of year. The highs in Portland on Thursday are expected to be in the upper 30s.

“It’s only February,” he said.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

mdoyle@pressherald.com

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/it-could-be-no-sweat-today-for-portland-to-set-record-warmth-for-february/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/886490-20180221_WeatherD2.jpgSCARBOROUGH, ME - FEBRUARY 21: Temperatures soared with increasing sunshine in Southern Maine. Jaden Borden, 14, of Taunton, MA, who is visiting Maine during his school break, reaches for a frisbee at Higgins Beach on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:06:29 +0000
Brunswick adopts resolution welcoming new residents https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/brunswick-adopts-resolution-welcoming-new-residents/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/brunswick-adopts-resolution-welcoming-new-residents/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 19:05:29 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/brunswick-adopts-resolution-welcoming-new-residents/ The Brunswick Town Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to adopt a resolution expressing the town’s desire to welcome new residents – particularly immigrants, but the move has encountered opposition from those who say it’s a step toward potentially pitting the town against federal law.

Titled “Resolution welcoming new residents,” the idea was put forward by Sanctuary Brunswick, an organization dedicated to the acceptance of immigrants. With the resolution, the council said the town would “welcome and support the successful integration of immigrants into our community as it also seeks to deepen the sensitivity of our citizens to the challenges faced by our newest neighbors.”

The decision comes after the council approved a new banner in the town office that depicts a variety of ethnicities and the phrase “Welcome New Mainers.” Supporters of the resolution said it follows the same sentiment as the banner.

The resolution also mentions a number of other minorities and includes acceptance of all sexual orientations, gender identities and races.

However some residents came out against the resolution, saying they fear that it, coupled with the banner, is a step toward the town putting itself against state and federal law.

“I find the banner and the resolution a means towards an end to a sanctuary town that can eventually oppose federal laws,” said Jim Sanoski. Sanctuary cities limit cooperation with federal efforts to enforce immigration law.

Sanoski said he had problems with the potential legal pitfalls and the possibility the town might run afoul of federal law. He added that Brunswick has always been a welcoming community and that a resolution stating such was unnecessary. He also criticized the banner, saying he didn’t see depictions of Caucasians.

Councilor David Watson was the lone dissenting vote, and said the lack of any language stating that the resolution is aimed only at legal immigrants, not illegal immigrants, prevented him from voting for it.

“As a police officer I can’t condone criminal conduct,” he said.

The resolution does not distinguish between legal and undocumented immigrants, although it does specify supporting civil liberties and human rights “without regard to … citizenship or immigration status.”

Watson made a motion to add the word “legal” to the mention of immigration, but it failed to gain any support.

By contrast, other councilors commented wholeheartedly in support of the resolution. Councilor Steve Walker said he’d approve the town going even further.

“I certainly would support the next step of Brunswick becoming a sanctuary city if that’s what it came to,” he said.

Councilor Kathy Wilson, who also supported the resolution, said that her own experiences in Brunswick indicate the town isn’t always welcoming.

“Coming from a community of people who are often discriminated against and not welcomed, as a gay person, this does cover that in here,” she said.

Wilson was the target of an anti-LGBT flier that was distributed to some residents in September. She received anti-gay hate mail after articles in multiple publications appeared about the flier.

“This isn’t going to change laws,” she said. “What this does is just extend a hand that says you’re welcome here.”

Brunswick formed a human rights task force in 2015 after Bowdoin students said they were accosted by people yelling racial slurs and other insults at them on multiple occasions.

“Students were being verbally assaulted passing through our town,” said Councilor Jane Millett. She added that adopting a simple welcoming message does not make Brunswick a sanctuary city.

“If we get to that step, you can certainly have your say,” she said. “But this is not what this is.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/brunswick-adopts-resolution-welcoming-new-residents/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/12/1301096_942064-20171212_snow_3a.jpgSam Halpert, of Washington, D.C., a student at Bowdoin College, wheels his bicycle across Maine Street in Brunswick as a snowstorm made for a messy day of travel across much of Maine on Tuesday.Wed, 21 Feb 2018 15:23:20 +0000
Bangor considers how to undo contracts in event of criminal convictions https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bangor-considers-how-to-undo-contracts-in-event-of-criminal-convictions/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bangor-considers-how-to-undo-contracts-in-event-of-criminal-convictions/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:44:51 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/bangor-considers-how-to-undo-contracts-in-event-of-criminal-convictions/ BANGOR – A Bangor city councilor says she’s looking into how the city could cut ties with contractors previously convicted of violent crimes.

City Councilor Sarah Nichols says she’s proposing language that would allow the city to get out of a contract if the other party’s principal contract holder committed crimes like domestic violence, sexual assault and others. The move comes after the council voted in favor of a contract with concert promoter Alex Gray in September, who pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges one month later.

If enacted, the ordinance would be the first of its kind in Maine. City Council Chairman Ben Sprague says Nichols’ proposal is well-intended, but raises questions about legal enforceability. Nichols says the proposal is common sense.

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Advocates for home solar projects slam decision by ‘out-of-control’ PUC https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/rooftop-solar-customers-take-loss-in-puc-decision/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/rooftop-solar-customers-take-loss-in-puc-decision/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:11:57 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/rooftop-solar-customers-take-loss-in-puc-decision/ Maine’s rooftop solar installers, who thought they had until April 30 to put up panels under existing, more-generous compensation rules, were caught off-guard Wednesday when the Maine Public Utilities Commission unexpectedly decided to close the window March 16.

The decision was criticized by installers and clean-energy advocates, who said it creates more confusion in Maine’s already contentious solar marketplace.

“The Maine Public Utilities Commission is out of control,” the Natural Resources Council of Maine said in a prepared statement. “Today the PUC decided Maine is closed for business and intent on destroying jobs in America’s fastest-growing job market.”

In December, in response to a request from a solar installer, the PUC voted to delay implementation of a rule on how people who install new systems in 2018 will be compensated for electricity they feed into the grid.

The current net-metering rule requires utilities to pay small energy generators the full retail price for the electricity they send into the grid. Under the new rule, the credit on electric bills from systems installed after Dec. 31, 2017, would gradually decrease over time.

The PUC agreed with the solar installer that more time was needed to iron out some technical issues and extended that deadline to April 30. That meant that systems installed before then would be subject to the current level of compensation.

The delay didn’t sit well with Gov. Paul LePage. He has long argued that the compensation method, called net energy billing or net metering, is a subsidy paid by all ratepayers.

LePage sent a letter to the PUC in mid-December, saying the delay only benefited installers and “wealthy people who can afford redundant electric systems.” He asked the commission to kill the four-month extension and let the new, stepped-down compensation level take effect Jan. 1.

The three commissioners didn’t do that, but they compromised during their deliberations Wednesday, deciding that enough progress had been made in clarifying some technical issues around net energy billing that they could end the grace period six weeks earlier, on March 16.

They also said that customers who were currently having their systems installed would have their situations reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Solar installers were still trying to assess the impact, but Vaughan Woodruff of Insource Renewables, the installer who sought and won the original extension, said the result was likely to confuse and anger customers, who won’t understand what the rules are. He said his company had 15 or so projects set to go up before April 30, and those that are installed between March 16 and then will be subject to some yet-unspecified review.

“All we were asking for is a clear set of expectations,” Woodruff said. “I really don’t understand what was gained by this today.”

Net metering was devised in the 1990s to encourage renewable energy development. Opponents say it’s obsolete in an era when the cost of solar panels has fallen dramatically. But homeowners have come to expect net metering, and it has become part of the business model for rooftop solar installers. For these and other reasons, net-metering rules are being debated and modified across the country.

In Maine, LePage has twice vetoed bills in the Legislature that would have kept robust financial incentives in place for rooftop solar. This winter, solar advocates are pinning their hopes on L.D. 1444, which deals with large, community solar projects but also addresses compensation issues.

Also in play is a challenge to the PUC’s net-metering changes at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The court heard oral arguments in December and a decision is pending.

Net metering is a longstanding and controversial financial incentive meant to promote renewable energy technology. The details matter because hundreds of jobs are tied to solar installations, and shifting policies about compensation can lead many residents to put off investing in solar.

In Maine, the PUC’s original rule change would not apply to all existing net-metering customers, and to any who installed solar before Jan. 1, 2018, for 15 years. Their incentives would stay as they are today.

New customers who install solar over the next 10 years, however, would have the credit on the transmission and distribution portion of the electric bill gradually decreased. For instance: Any net-solar customers who install systems after Jan. 1 would be credited 90 percent on the transmission and distribution portion of the bill, each year, for 15 years. They would still get a full credit on the supply portion of the bill.

The reasoning behind the formula, the PUC said, is to try to match financial incentives with the expected pace of falling equipment prices, thereby maintaining a similar payback on investment for homeowners.

In December, the PUC agreed to delay the change until April 30.

But Wednesday’s action represented yet another date change, and the ongoing uncertainty was slammed by the Natural Resources Council.

The group said: “The PUC decision to move the goal posts for the third time in a single year is a slap in the face to hundreds of Maine workers and their families who are investing in greater energy independence for our state. The PUC has again shown its willingness to put the governor’s whims ahead of its duty to make sound, fair, fact-based economic decisions.”

The group said consumers and businesses will now need to scramble to keep projects alive, and that the action sends a message to businesses and investors that Maine is a risky place to do business.

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

tturkel@pressherald.com

Twitter@TuxTurkel

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/rooftop-solar-customers-take-loss-in-puc-decision/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/12/1299596_623137-solar.jpgMaine's rooftop solar installers won a four-month reprieve Tuesday when the Maine Public Utilities Commission voted to maintain the status quo on how homeowners and small businesses are compensated for the electricity they feed into the grid. A rule change, which was being challenged last week in court, is under consideration by regulators.Wed, 21 Feb 2018 19:40:45 +0000
Vermont teenager charged in plot to shoot up high school there had recent ties to Maine https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/vermont-man-charged-in-plot-to-shoot-up-high-school-there-had-recent-ties-to-maine/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/vermont-man-charged-in-plot-to-shoot-up-high-school-there-had-recent-ties-to-maine/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:58:56 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/vermont-man-charged-in-plot-to-shoot-up-high-school-there-had-recent-ties-to-maine/ A Vermont teenager who was arrested last week after police discovered that he was planning to shoot up his former high school spent the last year and a half at a residential facility for troubled teens in midcoast Maine.

Jack Sawyer, 18, also was enrolled part time at York County Community College in Wells this semester but had withdrawn from his class this month.

Sawyer has pleaded not guilty in Vermont to two counts of attempted aggravated murder and individual counts of attempted first-degree murder and attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held without bail.

According to an arrest affidavit, Vermont State Police thwarted Sawyer’s plan to carry out a shooting at Fair Haven High School thanks to the help of a girl who had met the young man at Ironwood Maine, a residential treatment facility and private school in Morrill, near Belfast, where both were living.

Angela McDevitt, who now lives in Lagrangeville, New York, told the Poughkeepsie Journal that she was concerned about a disturbing exchange she had with Sawyer over Facebook Messenger following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last week that left 17 people dead.

McDevitt shared those messages with police. They included Sawyer expressing support for the shooting in Florida and referring to it as a case of “natural selection.” When McDevitt questioned him about the remark, he replied, “I don’t know why you think that I would think any differently. Like you know that I was going to shoot up my own school so I don’t really have much remorse.”

Attempts to reach McDevitt on Wednesday were not successful but she told the New York newspaper that she was conflicted about reporting Sawyer.

“But I knew that I had to because it was a matter of lives at hand,” she said.

Police detained Sawyer on Feb. 15 in Poultney, Vermont, where his parents live, and received permission to search his vehicle. They found a 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition and a notebook, titled, “The Journal of an Active Shooter.” Police also found books on the Columbine shooting, a gas mask, thumb drives, a digital camera and a video recorder.

“It was very clear that Sawyer had spent time researching school shootings and how he could execute his plan to shoot up (Fair Haven),” Detective Sgt. Todd Williams wrote in the affidavit.

Sawyer waived his Miranda rights and admitted to police that he had been planning to carry out a shooting at the school for about two years. He told police that didn’t have any specific targets but said he wanted, “As many (casualties) as I can get.”

He also wrote in his journal about how he planned to deal with the armed school resource officer stationed at the high school.

“My best plan is to either wait to see if he leaves school grounds or to sneak up on him and shoot him in the head point blank,” he said.

Although Sawyer grew up in Vermont and targeted his former high school in Fair Haven, west of Rutland, he lived most recently in Maine. According to the affidavit, he was sent to Ironwood after he ran away to California during his sophomore year of high school. His father told police that his son suffered from depression and had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but had recently stopped taking medication.

A representative of Ironwood Maine, the treatment facility, could neither confirm nor deny that Sawyer was a resident there, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects patients’ privacy.

According to information posted on its website, Ironwood Maine was founded in 2006 by Marion and Rod Rodrigue, who were struggling to find a program for their own daughter. The couple sold the facility in 2011 to Wesley and Susan Horton of Duxbury, Massachusetts, who continued the founders’ mission and still own Ironwood today.

The facility is licensed to serve 45 residents between the ages of 13 and 18. The average length of stay is 9 to 12 months.

McDevitt told the Poughkeepsie Journal this week that Ironwood was a farmlike setting where residents had daily chores and sometimes cooked meals over an open fire.

Sawyer told police he left Maine on Feb. 9, but it’s not clear if he was still staying at Ironwood then.

Barbara Finkelstein, president of York County Community College, confirmed Wednesday that Sawyer was enrolled in one course there this semester but had withdrawn this month. She also shared an email she sent Tuesday to students informing them of Sawyer’s arrest in Vermont.

“We have no indication that anyone in our community was at risk during the time the student was enrolled with us,” Finkelstein wrote.

Sawyer wrote in his journal that he attempted to purchase a shotgun at a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Maine but was denied because he did not have a Maine driver’s license.

He was later able to purchase the same gun in Vermont and was making plans to purchase additional weapons, including an AR-15 – the semiautomatic rifle that has been used in numerous school shootings and is now at the center of the latest gun-control debate.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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Cumberland councilor says his comments about diversity and crime weren’t racist https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/cumberland-councilor-says-his-comments-about-diversity-and-crime-werent-racist/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/cumberland-councilor-says-his-comments-about-diversity-and-crime-werent-racist/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 15:55:15 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/cumberland-councilor-says-his-comments-about-diversity-and-crime-werent-racist/ CUMBERLAND — Town Councilor George Turner said that his remarks last week about a lack of diversity being responsible for Maine’s low crime rate, should not be construed as racist.

Turner, who is white, spoke near the end of the council’s Feb. 12 meeting about Cumberland Sgt. Thomas Burgess receiving the annual Humanitarian Award from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

“We really have a wonderful state, and a wonderful bunch of people,” Turner said. “And the police, we can be very proud of in this town, and I think in this state in general. The fact that we’re not as diverse as some other states may account a little bit for the less criminal activity, but I think part of it has to do with the culture of Maine, and I think we can be very proud.”

Turner Tuesday said that if he could do it again, he likely would not have said things that way, “because the inevitable should have occurred to me, that somebody might misinterpret what I was saying.”

In an email Tuesday he added, “I suggested that perhaps the lack of cultural diversity in Maine contributes to our lower crime rate. It seems to me the relative lack of cultural diversity along with sparse population for a geographically large state lends itself to less opportunity for outright violent discord.

“By contrast the denser populated areas of states, punctuated with large cities whose inhabitants often don’t identify much beyond their neighborhood, are more prone to clash. Such is my opinion; race and ethnicity have nothing to do with it.”

On Tuesday, Councilor Shirley Storey-King said, “George is a well-meaning person, (but) I think he misspoke.

“We all need to have a heightened awareness of the language that we use; we absolutely do,” she said. “Our whole society is hyper-focused on our words, and we do need to be careful with the words we choose.”

Rachel Healy, director of communications and public education for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said Turner’s remarks are not helpful in a charged political climate.

“Immigrants are under constant attack in this country and remarks like (Turner’s) only fan the flames,” she said in a statement. “Instead of blaming diversity for society’s problems, elected officials should set their sights on the real problems that they are failing to address – poverty, underemployment and a lack of access to health care.”

Cumberland’s population of 7,211, according to the 2010 Census, is 97.2 percent white, followed by 0.8 percent Asian, 0.5 percent black, 0.3 some other race, and 0.2 percent American Indian.

Of Maine’s total 1.3 million population, 95.2 percent is white, 1.6 percent of two or more races, 1.2 percent black, and 1 percent Asian.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Maine had the nation’s second lowest rate of violent crimes in 2015 and the ninth lowest rate of property crime.

“You can look at homogeneity in various ways,” Turner said. “And I don’t think it’s controvertible that in some of these big cities and the conditions that people live under, there’s a certain clash of cultures at times that probably contributes to some extent, and we don’t have as much of that here. That’s all I meant.”

Those conflicts arise more than they occur “with people that’ve been used to each other forever,” Turner added.

He said his comments did not refer to race, and that he is “anything but” racist. “But I think that different cultures, being unused to each other, at least early on, can cause problems.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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SWAT team raids South Portland motel; 4 arrested on theft and drug charges https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/drug-raid-at-south-portland-motel-nets-4-arrests/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/drug-raid-at-south-portland-motel-nets-4-arrests/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 15:33:21 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/drug-raid-at-south-portland-motel-nets-4-arrests/ Four people were arrested on theft and drug trafficking charges Tuesday after a SWAT team executed a search warrant at the Maine Motel in South Portland, police said.

Officers converged on the motel, located at 606 Main St., about 5:30 p.m. in connection with an ongoing investigation by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, South Portland Detective Sgt. Chris Todd said in a statement.

Officers set off two flash bangs, an explosive device that creates a loud bright diversion. Three people were arrested at the motel, and a fourth was apprehended as he tried to flee in a vehicle. No shots were fired and no one was injured, police said.

The Maine Motel at 606 Main St. in South Portland. Google photo

Arrested were:

• Aaron West, 36, of Westbrook, who is charged with robbery, violating conditions of release and a theft-related arrest warrant.

• Freddie Mejias, 51, of Standish, charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin, aggravated trafficking in cocaine, and possession of heroin. Meijas was found in possession of 33 grams of heroin and 24 grams of cocaine, police said.

• Jorge Torres, 30, of South Portland, charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin, a probation violation from a previous drug trafficking charge. He was found with 12 grams of heroin and 5.6 grams of cocaine in the hotel room, police said.

• Misty Gagnon, 33, of Fort Fairfield, arrested for outstanding warrants related to alleged thefts from another police agency.

 

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Waterville man deported to Haiti, leaving behind his pregnant wife and 2 young sons https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/waterville-man-lexius-saint-martin-deported-to-haiti/ Wed, 21 Feb 2018 15:31:25 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/waterville-man-lexius-saint-martin-deported-to-haiti/ Lexius Saint Martin, the Waterville resident arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Jan. 2 and placed in a New Hampshire detention center, was deported Tuesday morning to Haiti.

Saint Martin, 35, and his wife, Mindy, 28, who is due to have a baby in May, have two boys, Donovan, 5, and Marcus, 2.

The family’s lawyer, Evan Fisher, of Augusta, said Wednesday that he did not receive confirmation of Saint Martin’s deportation until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“It’s devastating to the family and we’re obviously very upset by it,” Fisher said. “We’re focusing our efforts on anything that can bring the family back together.”

The Saint Martins’ situation is representative of deportations that have taken place nationwide since President Donald Trump initiated a concerted effort to crack down on immigrants, both illegal and legal. With Congress unable to arrive at a compromise over immigration, thousands of young men and women who arrived in the United States as children, the dreamers of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, will be subject to deportation March 5. Others with temporary protected status, or TPS, have been stripped of it after decades and fear returning to countries they fled because of war or environmental disaster.

A rally drew a crowd of 100 to City Hall in Waterville on Feb. 3, where speakers demanded justice for Saint Martin, who arrived legally as a child, got into trouble, but then turned his life around after serving his sentence to become a contributing member of society with a wife, children and a small business. Some asked when Saint Martin had become so dangerous that federal agents felt it necessary to take him into custody without warning, while others questioned what justified taking him from his family and his community. Still others implored people to contact their representatives in government to act on Saint Martin’s behalf.

On Tuesday, Waterville resident Hilary Koch stood before the City Council to say that two weeks ago she approached the city to ask if it would make a public statement of support for the Saint Martin family, but her request was ignored.

“I asked for a conversation and a statement showing the Saint Martins that you stood by them,” she said. “I had hoped the mayor could reach out to Governor LePage.”

Koch said the system is broken.

“We have become so incredibly concerned with doing what we think appears to be right that we have forgotten to do what actually is right. It’s not us versus them. This is not about me versus you. This is about all of us together finding a way to lift each other up.”

She pushed for the city to make a statement to support bringing Lexius home.

“My grandpa reminded me recently of a saying: ‘I wish somebody would do something. Oh wait, I’m somebody.’ I am somebody, and I am here to remind you that you are somebodies who were elected to do something. So please do something and help bring Mr. Saint Martin home. It’s now harder, but it still isn’t too late.”

Mindy Saint Martin said Wednesday morning that she spoke briefly with her husband, who had borrowed a phone in Haiti. He had arrived there between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, but the phone reception was not good. ICE officials had taken his driver’s license away, so he was without identification, she said.

John Reynolds talks to a Waterville crowd about federal agents’ seizure of his brother-in-law, Lexius Saint Martin, a family man and small-business owner who deserves a second chance.

“He has very distant relatives there. He didn’t know them personally, but he was able to stay with one of them last night,” she said. “His sister (who lives in the U.S.) helped and he’s going to stay in a hotel room the next couple of days, and I’m not sure what will happen. We have no idea what he can do. He has no papers, so he can’t find work anywhere.”

Her husband is not doing well, she said, and she and her family are having a difficult time.

“I’m just so full of anger — so many different emotions running through you. And I am petrified of his not being here for the birth of our daughter.”

Lexius Saint Martin was the sole provider for Mindy and their children, and now they have no income. Mindy said she probably will live with her parents and rent out her and Lexius’ house.

“Lex said do anything you need to do to keep the boys fed and me fed. I’m going to rent the house out because I don’t want to lose the house.”

She said she has enough money left to support her family for one more month.

She said she was shocked he was arrested Jan. 2 because he was doing everything ICE officials asked him to do.

“He wasn’t hiding. He was doing everything he was supposed to be doing, so for that to happen out of nowhere, it’s devastating; and people make comments about how he is illegal and I should go back to Haiti. They don’t know what it’s like in Haiti. Haiti is a horrible place to be. In the city last week people were burning stores down in Port-au-Prince. I’m already heartbroken as it is, and for people to say that, they need to do research and see how these countries are before they send people back there.”

Saint Martin came to the U.S. with his father and siblings in 1994 when he was 11. Classified as a refugee, he was in the U.S. legally and had green card status. He attended school in Florida and later came to Maine to work in the blueberry fields.

In 2007, three years before he met Mindy and when he was working at Walmart in Augusta, he was arrested for trafficking in cocaine. He was convicted in 2008, served seven months in jail and vowed never to get involved in anything illegal again. However, he had violated his immigration status. An immigration judge ordered his removal.

He was taken to Texas, where he awaited deportation, but he was released when Haiti suffered an earthquake and could not take people back. The deportation order, however, was not rescinded.

In 2010 Lexius met Mindy through friends. They fell in love, though she said she would not date him unless he got a job. Two days later, he landed a job cleaning for a business at a hospital in Boothbay.

Lexius later started his own successful business, LMD Cleaning Services, which contracted with Lincoln Health. He cleaned three facilities and a nursing home. In spring and summer, he cleaned windows at places such as the Lovejoy Health Center in Albion and for families including the Alfonds in Belgrade.

He was arrested by ICE agents Jan. 2 after he left his Oakland Street home in Waterville to head to work. His wife had no idea he was gone until she got a phone call a while later, informing her that he was taken to jail.

On Tuesday, Fisher appeared in U.S. District Court, via telephone, to present a petition for a writ of habeas corpus that says Saint Martin should be released because his rights were being violated, but Saint Martin’s deportation makes the court case moot, Fisher said.

“He’s no longer in federal custody, so that leaves a big problem for the habeas petition.”

Fisher was to appear a second time in court Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m still going to call in and update the judge and let him know that deportation happened,” he said.

Fisher said he has not yet spoken to Lexius Saint Martin but wants to do so as soon as possible.

Fisher said he got inconsistent information recently about Saint Martin’s status. An ICE agent told him last week, for instance, that Saint Martin was deported Feb. 12, which was not correct.

“We don’t have a lot of facts. ICE wasn’t giving us a lot of information. We certainly thought there was a possibility that ICE actually lacked the ability to deport him anytime soon, so in a way we were surprised that he was deported.”

Fisher said a legislative effort such as a private bill or a broader immigration reform bill could bring Saint Martin back to Waterville.

“Either one of them could remove his barrier to re-entry to the U.S.,” he said.

Fisher has been in contact with U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s offices about the deportation, he said.

“Their offices have been cooperative and interested in helping him,” he said.

While Mindy Saint Martin said she is not one to ask for help financially, Fisher said a PayPal account was set up for her as people ask how they can help.

Linda Woods, a retired Lawrence High School English teacher who had Mindy as a student, has been trying to help the family.

Woods said Wednesday that she cannot comprehend how the U.S. could let Lexius Saint Martin be taken from his family while he was working hard at a job, supporting his wife and children and being a productive member of society. Now, she said, the family has no way to support itself other than to ask for help from the state.

“The thought of this family being torn apart just breaks my heart,” Woods said. “It makes no sense to me. It’s too bad the immigration officials don’t review each case on an individual basis. Had they bothered to get to know Lexi as an individual, they would see that he has become a solid member of society who has worked hard to develop a business that will support himself and his family.”

An email sent Wednesday to John Mohan, public affairs officer for the New England Region of ICE, did not immediately return an email with comment Tuesday afternoon.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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Portland to consider safe-injection site for drug users https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-to-discuss-safe-injection-site-for-drug-users/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-to-discuss-safe-injection-site-for-drug-users/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 15:03:12 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-to-discuss-safe-injection-site-for-drug-users/ Portland officials will hold discussions on whether to establish Maine’s first safe-injection site for drug users.

The idea arose when the operator of two recovery houses suggested to city officials that Portland needs a medically supervised place where addicts can safely use drugs. The proposal comes as Mainers are dying from overdoses at a rate of more than one a day.

“It is not an endorsement of drug use,” said Jesse Harvey, who operates two recovery houses in York County. “It is an acknowledgement that if drugs are going to be used, it should be done safely.”

Facilities where drug users can inject drugs such as heroin under the supervision of medical professionals are more common in Europe and Canada. Last month Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to approve the concept, although it has yet to identify funding or a location. Several other large U.S. cities have discussed the idea, and Portland appears to be the first in Maine to formally consider it.

Maine’s Legislature considered a proposal to set up a state-sanctioned safe injection site but rejected the legislation in May.

Opponents of the state proposal argued that safe-injection sites violate federal drug laws because the use of opioids is criminal activity. Operation of a safe injection site could jeopardize federal funding for any participating health care providers and could place at risk the federal licenses of any medical professionals who participate, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and medical licensing bodies. If a drug user died in such a facility, the operator and staff also could bear legal responsibility, they said.

Critics of such safe houses in other states have argued that they would undermine prevention and treatment efforts, while supporters say they can help keep drug users alive and connect them to services that might help them get them into recovery.

Harvey said he will ask Portland’s Overdose Prevention Task Force to recommend creating a comprehensive user engagement site, or safe house, within two years. The task force meets at 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, in City Hall Room 24. No specific sites have been identified.

“Maybe a symbolic thing first, just to start a conversation,” he said. “There is no reason why in the next 24 months we shouldn’t have one.”

The council’s Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee, which is led by Ray, has put safe sites on its plan for discussion and asked City Manager Jon Jennings to have city staff “explore the benefits and challenges.”

City Councilor Brian Batson, a nurse, said he brought the idea to the committee because he believes it’s time for Portland to have a conversation about it.

Batson said such facilities may reduce the risk of life-threatening infections as well as fatal overdoses, although he also said he is not ready to endorse the idea for Portland.

“All I want is to have a conversation, bring the community in and discuss what our city needs,” he said. “We have a public health crisis, an epidemic that kills more than gun violence in the U.S. We have to shift the paradigm and have creative conversations to leave no stone unturned.”

Mayor Ethan Strimling said he is pleased the committee is planning to discuss the issue, although he is eager to learn more about the details and potential obstacles to such a facility.

“It’s absolutely something I’m open to. I want us to explore this very deeply,” Strimling said. “I want to create as many opportunities as possible for people with substance abuse disorders to get professional help and this could be another way to do that.”

With opioid overdoses continuing to increase, Harvey said, he wants to start the conversation about safe sites as part of an overall approach to the growing drug problem.

“What I have come to see in the last 30 months … is we need a comprehensive approach to substance use disorders,” Harvey said. “I’m surprised the conversation is not more advanced in Portland, (since) it is such a progressive place.”

He acknowledged that designating a spot for safe drug consumption, where medical staff can provide clean needles and the overdose antidote drug naloxone, may not be something city government is prepared to do. “I’m just concerned with getting the conversation started, not as much a focused on who runs it and how right now,” Harvey said.

Drug-induced deaths in Maine have been rising for more than half a decade, from 156 in 2011 to 376 in 2016. The state has not yet released data from all of 2017, but through June 30 of last year, 185 deaths were linked to overdoses, according to Attorney General Janet Mills. Of those deaths, 84 percent were linked to heroin and other opioids.

Press Herald Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this article.

David Harry can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 110 or at:

dharry@theforecaster.net

Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Read this story in The Forecaster.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/portland-to-discuss-safe-injection-site-for-drug-users/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/AP_110511064492.jpgRegistered nurse Sammy Mullally holds a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C., in 2011. Insite, North America's first and only legal injection site, promoted by its founders as a safe, humane facility for drug abusers, is now facing a court challenge from the Conservative government that sees it as a facilitator of drug abuse. The case opens before the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Thursday, May 12, 2011 and has drawn international attention. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:41:09 +0000
Workers at Hannaford distribution center go on strike for at least 24 hours https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/hannaford-distribution-workers-launch-24-hour-strike/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/hannaford-distribution-workers-launch-24-hour-strike/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:55:20 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/hannaford-distribution-workers-launch-24-hour-strike/ Striking union workers at a Hannaford Supermarkets warehouse in South Portland chanted, marched and temporarily blocked delivery traffic Wednesday in a show of strength aimed at bringing management back to negotiations.

“This is a wake-up call to your company,” United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 President Jeff Bollen bellowed to roughly 150 striking union members during a late-morning pep talk. “They need a slap to the head and we are going to give it to them.”

A 24-hour strike was launched early Wednesday morning, two days after Delhaize America Distribution, the company that operates the distribution center, said it had understood there would be no strike before a scheduled mediation Monday. The company is a subsidiary of Ahold Delhaize, an international supermarket conglomerate that also owns Hannaford.

Bollen and other union officials denied there was any agreement to wait until Monday to strike.

“That’s an outright lie, totally false,” Bollen said.

The union wanted to resume negotiations at the beginning of the week, but it was told that company negotiators were unavailable because of vacation plans and family obligations, he said.

Union workers in South Portland are tired of being disrespected by company owners and have become a “militant” unit, Bollen said. On Saturday, they voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s final contract offer and authorize a strike. Union negotiators said the proposed contract would have slashed wages for new workers and did not address soaring health insurance costs.

Striking workers glare at a truck leaving the Hannaford distribution center Wednesday in South Portland. About 250 turned out for the picket line. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

UFCW Local 1445, based in Dedham, Massachusetts, represents 15,000 workers in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including 246 employees at the Hannaford warehouse.

The company “didn’t believe these people would go on strike,” said Tom Brown, the union’s servicing director. “They are showing the company they will not be bullied – it is really about respect.”

Union members plan to go back to work Thursday, but Brown said that could change.

“If they don’t come to the table, it could go on longer,” he said.

The distribution center services 103 Hannaford stores in New England, including 63 in Maine.

In an email Wednesday morning, Delhaize America Distributors spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said the company was “disappointed” that the union decided to strike after agreeing to a mediation date.

“Delhaize America Distribution intends to fully serve its customers and does not anticipate that UFCW Local 1445 actions will have a significant impact on its ability to serve its customers,” Phillips-Brown said.

Keith Marcotte, a 20-year Hannaford employee and union steward, blows a noisemaker outside the grocer’s South Portland distribution center Wednesday. Marcotte said the planned 24-hour strike was a show of good faith. “It shows that we have the mustard to do this. And it shows that we are willing to honor our jobs by working tomorrow,” he said. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

She declined to respond to Bollen’s assertion that the company lied about a no-strike agreement, and whether it delayed contract talks because company negotiators were on vacation.

“We have no plans to revise the agreed-upon mediation date at this time,” she said.

The strike didn’t seem to have an immediate effect on Hannaford shoppers. Shelves were full of fresh meat, seafood and produce Wednesday at two locations in South Portland, and employees were busy restocking.

Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom did not respond to an email asking if the company had contingency plans in case the strike disrupted deliveries. A six-week walkout by delivery drivers and distribution workers at the competing Market Basket supermarket chain almost four years ago left shelves empty and forced company owners to reinstate a popular CEO.

Emmy Irvin, 23, stopped at the Hannaford near the Maine Mall for a sandwich on her lunch break Wednesday. She hadn’t heard about the strike but was concerned about possible disruption.

“Hannaford is where I do all my shopping, so it does worry me,” Irvin said.

Trucks were rolling in and out of the distribution center’s main gates Wednesday, past workers with signs and portable speakers blaring artists such as Metallica, Rage Against the Machine and Bruce Springsteen. Picketing workers tried to convince some drivers not to enter the property, and at least one truck driver, also a UFCW 1445 member hauling a meat delivery, turned around. Others honked their horns or raised a clenched fist in solidarity with the strikers, eliciting cheers and whistles from the crowd.

South Portland police were called multiple times in the morning to clear people from Hemco Road in front of the distribution center, said police Lt. Todd Bernard. The officers were not on a paid detail, so they could be pulled away on another call, he said.

Virtually all of the day-shift workers were on the picket line Wednesday, said Jason Sparks, an order selector who has worked at the warehouse for 11 years.

“Everyone’s out here. No one has crossed (the picket line) that I know of,” Sparks said.

Rising health insurance costs and a cost-neutral contract that would cut wages for new workers by at least 20 percent, to $16 an hour, are the crux of the dispute, said Larry Knight, a selector who has been at the distribution center for 31 years.

Workers gave back benefits in previous three-year contracts because of a sagging economy, but now the parent company, Ahold Delhaize, is making record profits and just received a huge corporate tax break, Knight said.

Ahold Delhaize, based in Zandaam, Netherlands, also owns the Stop & Shop, Giant and Food Lion supermarket chains in the U.S. Managers regularly tell warehouse employees that the South Portland operation is one of the most productive and profitable in the country, Knight said.

“We have made a lot of concessions in the last couple contracts because the economy wasn’t going well,” he said. “Trickle-down economics has to trickle down a little bit.”

Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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Staff Photo of the Day: Feb. 21, 2018 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/staff-photo-day-feb-21-2018/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/staff-photo-day-feb-21-2018/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:20 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1331437 ]]> https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/staff-photo-day-feb-21-2018/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/POD-train.jpgPORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 22: Conductors wait outside the steam-enshrouded "Polar Express" before departing on an afternoon trip along Portland's waterfront. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:26:21 +0000 Newspapers take Biddeford to court over effort to curb deliveries of free papers https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/newspapers-take-biddeford-to-court-over-effort-to-curb-deliveries-of-free-papers/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/21/newspapers-take-biddeford-to-court-over-effort-to-curb-deliveries-of-free-papers/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1335603 Two York County newspapers have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Biddeford, saying an ordinance aimed at curbing deliveries of free unsolicited papers violates the federal and state constitutions.

The companies that publish the Journal Tribune and Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier say an ordinance adopted last year in an effort to reduce litter complaints is unconstitutional because it denies freedom of the press and free speech and imposes restrictions greater than necessary, according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 16 in U.S. District Court in Portland.

A New England nonprofit organization that advocates for freedom of the press also has called on Biddeford to scrap or alter the ordinance because of concerns it violates the First Amendment.

The Courier, a weekly newspaper delivered on Thursday, has for years generated complaints from residents upset by piles of unwanted papers collecting on their streets and sidewalks, in some cases getting buried in snow and damaging snowblowers. The Journal Tribune delivers a free Sunday edition that has prompted similar complaints, according to city officials.

“We’ve had this problem since last century,” Councilor Marc Lessard said before the September vote to implement the ordinance.

Lessard, who refers to the unsolicited papers as litter, said he understood the concerns of residents because his own snowblower has been damaged by a free paper four different times. “I ended up shoveling three driveways because I didn’t have my snowblower,” he said.

Issues of the Journal Tribune are strewn across a lawn on Gove Street, Biddeford. Two companies are suing the city over restrictive new rules. Staff photo by Jill Brady

The ordinance requires any person or business that distributes or delivers unsolicited print or other written material more than twice a year to obtain an annual $100 license from the city clerk. It also created an opt-out list of residents who don’t want the papers delivered to their homes. The list is maintained by the city and prohibits anyone from delivering unsolicited items to those addresses.

Individuals or businesses that do not honor the opt-out list and do not pick up uncollected papers or materials within 72 hours could lose their license from the city and face a fine from $100 to $2,500 per violation.

Both newspapers allow residents to opt out of delivery by contacting their offices and they send out employees to retrieve newspapers that are not picked up after delivery, according to the lawsuit. The newspapers also reimburse residents whose snowblowers have been damaged.

The newspapers say if delivery is eliminated or substantially curtailed, their capacity to generate advertising revenue to support the papers would be diminished and could make them not financially viable.

The lawsuit alleges the ordinance “is an irrational and unreasonable statute, imposing unjustifiable restrictions on the exercises of protected constitutional rights.” The newspapers are seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance.

ADVOCATE: CITY ‘DOES A DISSERVICE TO NEWSPAPERS’

City Manager James Bennett said Tuesday he could not comment because the city had not been served with the lawsuit. James Haddow, the attorney for the newspapers, and Journal Tribune publisher Devin Hamilton also declined to comment. David Clark, general manager of Mainely Media, which publishes the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier, could not be reached Tuesday.

Nashwa Gewaily, a media and First Amendment attorney for the Massachusetts-based New England First Amendment Coalition, said the organization is “deeply troubled” by the ordinance and encouraged the city to rescind or substantially modify it.

“Biddeford does a disservice to newspapers, donor-supported charities, and community organizations in equating all freely delivered printed or written material with unsightly debris that ought to be promptly discarded,” Gewaily wrote in an Oct. 17 letter to city officials. “More harmfully, it does so with regulations too burdensome and unreasonable to effectuate its purpose in a way that would pass constitutional review.”

The question of whether pamphlets or newspapers left on personal property are litter or literature has been argued for centuries in the United States, including in U.S. courts.

Gewaily cited a 1998 Illinois court ruling that invalidated an anti-littering, press-implicating rule and said “tossing a newspaper onto a private yard is different than tossing a discarded hamburger wrapper onto that yard.” The letter from the coalition also said the financial burden placed on media organizations and individuals is “exorbitant and excessively punitive.”

ORDINANCE INTENDED TO PROTECT HOMEOWNERS

Similar arguments have been made around the country, and in Maine.

In 2014, the Saco City Council decided not to proceed with a proposal that would have prohibited newspaper companies from dropping off free papers on driveways and city sidewalks because of concerns such an ordinance would be unconstitutional. That proposal was also generated by concerns about free newspapers that sat uncollected in driveways and roads long after they were delivered.

The new Biddeford rules are “intended to ensure and protect the privacy rights of Biddeford residents and property owners on their private property and to deter the accumulation of unsolicited printed or written materials that might signal that a house is unoccupied,” according to the ordinance.

During a brief discussion of the ordinance in September, councilors referenced longstanding frustration with the unsolicited newspapers and the challenge of crafting an ordinance that does not infringe on free speech.

No member of the public spoke about the proposed ordinance at the time. It was supported unanimously by the council despite a letter from Hamilton and Clark outlining their opposition to the proposal, their companies’ ongoing efforts to recover uncollected papers and their willingness to work with city officials to address the issue.

City Council President John McCurry said during the Sept. 19 council meeting he hoped the ordinance would “stand up in court” because previous attempts to address the issue ran into freedom of speech concerns.

“We worked very closely with (city) attorney (Keith) Jacques, who did a lot of work on this to ensure we are within our legal bounds and able to produce an ordinance that works,” said Councilor Laura Seaver.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

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Ex-developer who served prison time remembered as larger than life https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/ex-developer-who-served-prison-time-remembered-as-larger-than-life-figure/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/ex-developer-who-served-prison-time-remembered-as-larger-than-life-figure/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:56:56 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/ex-developer-who-served-prison-time-remembered-as-larger-than-life-figure/ A former prominent Lewiston-Auburn developer who served prison time for misappropriating federal money was remembered Tuesday as a generous friend and an outstanding athlete who was larger than life, figuratively and literally.

Travis Soule, 53, of Portland died Saturday after suffering a fatal heart attack on a stationary bike, friends said.

Soule had been participating in a spin class, a longtime passion of his, and had planned to go to his job at Yankee Ford in South Portland, where he was general sales manager.

He had joined the Maine Cycling Club nearly a decade ago to lose weight and get fit, Rainbow Bike owner John Grenier said Tuesday.

Soule came into Grenier’s shop to buy a bike and their friendship blossomed.

“He was a classic tough guy,” Grenier said. “Strong mentally and physically.”

Grenier, like Soule, had been a weightlifter but had adapted to cycling and showed Soule how it was done.

Soule had competed in varsity football, wrestling and outdoor track in high school and later attained the level of black belt in karate.

But friends also remember Soule’s softer side, Grenier said.

“One of the things that always struck me was how nice a person he was,” Grenier said. At the bike shop, “if there was a customer standing there who didn’t have enough money to fix something, he would pull me aside and tell me, ‘Hey, I’ll take care of that for him.’ A complete stranger.”

Soule got wind that Grenier planned to go to a local restaurant for his 30th anniversary and arranged for an expensive bottle of wine at the best table.

Another cycling club member, Dr. Jamie Loggins, said Soule became a fast friend when Loggins arrived in the area in 2006.

They rode together frequently, Loggins taking advantage of Soule’s size while drafting behind him, said Loggins, who stands 6 feet, 2 inches tall.

“We were big guys trying to participate in a skinny man’s sport,” he said. “Travis made me look small.”

Like most of Soule’s friends, Loggins said news of Soule’s death came as a complete surprise.

“I was shocked and horrified and sad,” he said. “If it can happen to Travis, it can happen to anybody.”

Ben Tuttle, who competed with Soule in football from childhood through high school, spoke of Soule as an enigma.

“Travis was a force, the epitome of health,” Tuttle said. Soule played linebacker to Tuttle’s lineman.

For those men entering middle age, Tuttle said, “It’s a perspective in the city of Portland (where) many lives have been touched by Travis’ death that we’re all trying to comprehend. We don’t get it. We don’t understand. How could somebody so vibrant, so healthy, so complete as a competitor be gone.”

Henry Griffin, an assistant attorney general who served as Soule’s defense attorney in 2012 when he was charged with federal counts of fraud and embezzlement, said his former client had gotten in a financial jam as the economy began to collapse.

Griffin remained friends with Soule. “Unfortunately, everything people see in the headlines is anything but who he actually was from my perspective,” Griffin said.

After serving 14 months in federal prison, Soule had addressed his health and other issues “he needed to work on,” Griffin said. “He really was continuing to work hard and was becoming a better person and a better father and, in my opinion, he succeeded in that goal.”

At the time of Soule’s sentencing, Griffin had characterized him as an ambitious, hardworking family man who resorted to manipulating paperwork and mingling funds in an effort to prop up his business during the start of a severe downturn. Griffin blamed the soaring price of heating oil for sparking Soule’s money problems. He said Soule’s lapse in judgment was an “aberration.”

Prosecutors had told the judge that the government believed prison time was warranted, given Soule’s repeated deception, forgery and diversion of taxpayer money. Then Assistant U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank said prosecutors didn’t know where all of the ill-gotten money went.

Misappropriating $180,000 of taxpayer money was a “serious violation of trust,” Frank said. “There is a message that needs to be conveyed here.”

Soule told the judge: “I know I broke the law. I know I hurt a lot of people. … I am truly very, very, very sorry for what I did.”

He said he had learned from his crime that the ends never justify the means.

“I was desperately trying to save something,” he had said. In doing so, he said he’d destroyed his character, beliefs and reputation.

Soule pleaded guilty to soliciting estimates from various contractors for rehab projects at three Pine Street properties and filing the estimates with fraudulent applications to the city of Lewiston for loans under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program, which is aimed at improving availability of affordable housing for low-income families.

Through his plea, Soule acknowledged that he embezzled money from the HOME Investment Partnership Program by converting checks and vouchers for his own use, including forging subcontractors’ signatures and depositing some of the checks into his personal checking account.

In 2005, Soule and the city of Lewiston signed an agreement to jointly develop the spit of land that juts into the Androscoggin River, the remnants of the Libbey Mill, the Cowan Mill, the former CMP building and a substation. The multimillion-dollar Island Point project would have converted the two mill buildings into upscale condominiums, bringing a mix of retail and office space to the other buildings and site a high-end hotel.

In 2007, the joint development agreement with the city expired when Soule couldn’t secure financing. Also that year, the rest of the W.S. Libbey Mill was torn down.

After serving his time, Soule excelled in sales at Yankee Ford where he earned a manufacturer’s award for two consecutive years that is conferred on only two people in New England, according to his obituary.

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South Portland council bans unhosted short-term rentals in residential zones https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/south-portland-council-bans-unhosted-short-term-rentals-in-residential-zones/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/south-portland-council-bans-unhosted-short-term-rentals-in-residential-zones/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:38:37 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/south-portland-council-bans-unhosted-short-term-rentals-in-residential-zones/ SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council gave final approval Tuesday to sweeping regulations of home rentals offered on websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway that will ban unhosted stays in residential neighborhoods.

Short-term rental operators who don’t live on the premises will have a grace period before the city moves to shut them down in September.

Councilors acknowledged that some short-term rental operators will be unhappy and may lose money, but the majority said they voted to preserve housing and residential neighborhoods in the face of a deep community division.

“I believe the council has struck the right balance,” said Councilor Claude Morgan, whose waterfront district has many short-term rentals.

“Tonight we have the opportunity to hit the reset button and restore residential neighborhoods,” he said.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilor Adrian Dowling opposed. Dowling said he believed the council should have established a committee to develop regulations.

City officials hope to stop people from buying, renovating and renting out entire homes to transient guests in a community that’s trying to increase affordable housing and preserve residential neighborhoods.

South Portland is one of the latest U.S. cities to wrestle with this issue, along with neighboring Portland. South Portland’s outright ban of non-owner-occupied rentals is the most restrictive so far in greater Portland.

Cape Elizabeth adopted a permitting process in 2012 that allows the town to revoke the permit if the property is the subject of three complaints within three years. Portland passed a more involved registration process last April that sets a cap on the number of non-owner-occupied rentals citywide at 300.

Some other U.S. cities, including New York, have also banned or severely restricted such rentals of units that are not owner-occupied, although the crackdowns have proven difficult to enforce. A recently released study by McGill University researchers concluded most short term renta s in New York are illegal and that the practice has fueled a housing shortage and rent increases.

There are 282 short-term rentals in South Portland, according to a recent count by Host Compliance, a third-party web service. About 200 of them are single-family homes that are not owner-occupied, allowing travelers to rent a whole house or apartment for a few days or a few weeks.

Before voting Tuesday, the council held a sixth dedicated public hearing on the issue. Concerns among the 20 people who spoke remained largely the same and evenly divided.

Several people spoke in favor of the regulations, again thanking the council for taking a stand against the “never-ending onslaught” of short-term rentals and pointing out problems associated with operating businesses in residential neighborhoods.

Several spoke against the regulations, again pointing out the impact of lost commercial revenue, questioning why the council didn’t establish a committee to develop a different set of rules and suggesting the issue should go to referendum.

A gofundme.com campaign to fight the regulations has raised $7,500 toward a $25,000 goal. It was started by Margaret Birlem, who lives in Cape Elizabeth and operates a short-term rental in South Portland.

The proposed ordinance will allow owner-occupied or “hosted home stays” throughout the city, but it will ban from all residential zones any “non-hosted home stays” that don’t have an owner on the premises.

Legal rentals will have to register by April 15 and operate under the new ordinance starting June 1.

Operators who don’t meet the letter of the law will be allowed to honor reservations made by Feb. 6 for home stays through Sept. 15. They will have to swear an oath and sign an affidavit they have a contract for a stay, not simply a booking, said Sally Daggett, the city’s attorney.

The ordinance is written to protect residential neighborhoods “from the nuisance impacts that are often associated with short-term rentals” and “to prevent long-term rentals from being replaced with short-term rentals.”

All short-term rentals will have to be registered, inspected, insured and subject to fines and possible closure if they didn’t follow the rules. Fines will range from $500 to $1,500 per day, depending on the violation.

Operators of hosted home stays will have to prove it’s their primary residence by showing they receive the Homestead Exemption on their property taxes.

Homeowners who live in one- to four-unit properties will be able to rent out one room or apartment and host a maximum of two adult guests and a child under age 2. Homeowners with multiple units will be required to notify potential tenants if one of the apartments is used for short-term rentals.

When registering with the city clerk, operators also will have to show proof of property and liability insurance, sketch plans for parking and building layout, a completed self-inspection checklist and emergency contact information, among other requirements.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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Flooding possible if high temperatures melt ice jam on Kennebec River https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/flooding-possible-if-high-temps-melt-ice-jam-on-kennebec-river/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/flooding-possible-if-high-temps-melt-ice-jam-on-kennebec-river/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:30:56 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/flooding-possible-if-high-temps-melt-ice-jam-on-kennebec-river/ AUGUSTA — Unseasonably high temperatures forecast for Wednesday have the potential to rapidly melt a big ice jam on the Kennebec River between Farmingdale and Randolph, raising the possibility of more flooding after last month’s destructive and sudden overflow.

Local and county officials said Tuesday they aren’t alarmed – but are watching closely.

“If we get a big influx of water, the river could rise, and we don’t want to see the river rise a lot,” said Sean Goodwin, director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. “If the river rises a lot, it will break up the ice, which we don’t want because there is no place for the ice to go.”

The concern is, he added, that if the ice jam did move, it would “move to Gardiner and monkey things up there. But Lord knows what the ice jam is going to do.”

Goodwin said authorities hope the ice jam will melt gradually in place rather than break up, travel downstream, then jam up again and block the flow of the river, potentially causing it to flood.

Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said he’s monitoring river conditions there, and staying in touch with Goodwin. He’s aware the warm weather has the potential to prompt movement of the ice jam just upriver of Gardiner’s downtown, some of which is located within the floodplain.

If there are any indications the ice jam could move or Gardiner could flood, Nelson said he’d look to warn residents, and motorists, not to park in the city’s low-lying areas, such as the Arcade parking lot, which abuts Cobbossee Stream near where it flows into the Kennebec River.

“The advantage we have in Gardiner is the (ice) dam is in Farmindale; the downside is it might end up in Gardiner,” Nelson said Tuesday. “With the dam being north of us, if we start to see a significant backup above us, and things are melting off below the dam as well, we need to be aware the dam may move. Unless there is significant rainfall, I think we’re in decent shape.”

Nelson warned, however, that if the ice damming up the river just north of Gardiner gives way and goes downriver, only to jam up again, it could bring flooding in a matter of minutes, not hours.

National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Sinsabaugh said it’s possible earlier forecasts suggesting temperatures could get into the upper 60s in central Maine overstated the highs.

Sinsabaugh said a warm front draped across southern New Hampshire seemed to be hung up in Maine, preventing temperatures from going as high as they were once expected to on Wednesday. He said southern New Hampshire on Tuesday had sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, but temperatures in Maine remained in the 30s and 40s, lower due to the warm front’s not moving.

He said the temperature forecast for Augusta had been revised downward, with highs now expected somewhere in the upper 50s.

“It all depends on how far that front pushes north overnight,” he said. “If we can break out and see some sun in the Augusta area, you’re probably looking at highs in the low to mid-60s, instead of the 50s.”

He said the forecast, for the next 48 hours, includes only a minimal amount of rain, so he didn’t anticipate flooding caused by rainfall. He said there could be enough runoff from snow melt, however, to cause some shifting in ice, potentially enough to get ice jams moving.

Nick Stasulis of the U.S. Geological Survey’s New England Water Science Center said the potential is there for ice, and ice jams, to move on rivers, the Kennebec included.

But he said early indications, garnered from observing water levels upstream, and in smaller streams and rivers, suggest not much melting has yet taken place.

Goodwin said water level gauges on the river indicated Tuesday “the river is behaving nicely.”

He said flows were returning to normal levels, and he and others believe the ice jam across the Kennebec has been eroding, unseen underwater, in place.

“We believe there is a lot of erosion going on under the ice jam – that’s a good thing,” Goodwin said. “We’re hoping it will melt in place. We’ve been watching it steadily. The ice jam is a concern to us.”

Goodwin said the ideal conditions for the ice jam to go away without causing additional flooding are warm days and cool nights, so it melts gradually.

Stasulis said the expected arrival of colder, more seasonable weather later this week, with temperatures expected to be in the 30s, should help stop the snow melt promptly, before it causes flooding due to runoff from the melting snow.

Betty Bailey of Percy Bailey Auto Sales, which sits alongside the Kennebec River in Gardiner, said she and others at the business watch the river pretty closely. Both the current location on Maine Avenue, and its longtime former location on Water Street in Gardiner, were affected during the flood of 1987.

She said they have a plan in place in case flooding happens again. They would move the dealership’s cars to other parking lots, including the parking lots of their church, First Baptist Church of Gardiner, up a hill and far out of reach of floodwaters, on Church Street.

Goodwin said he expects Coast Guard ice-breakers to make another attempt at clearing river ice in the spring, after failing to have much luck breaking up ice downriver of Richmond last month.

Nelson said if people see the ice jam moving, they should notify county or local authorities so they can alert others that there could be an increased potential for flooding.

“We’re watching, but the potential is something may happen you don’t even see coming,” Nelson said. “People have to be aware. We just hope if there are changes, they happen slowly.”

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

kedwards@centralmaine.com

Twitter: kedwardskj

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/flooding-possible-if-high-temps-melt-ice-jam-on-kennebec-river/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1335572_69844-20180220_WarmImpact_0.jpgThe ice jam in Kennebec River between Randolph and Farmingdale is seen Tuesday in Randolph. The Pearl Harbor Remembrance Bridge is seen at top left corner.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:14:41 +0000
Balmy weather could bring Portland a record high Wednesday https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/balmy-weather-could-bring-portland-a-record-high-wednesday/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/balmy-weather-could-bring-portland-a-record-high-wednesday/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:18:09 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/balmy-weather-could-bring-portland-a-record-high-wednesday/ It won’t quite be beach weather Wednesday, but temperatures could soar into the 60s, breaking a record set at the Portland Jetport 65 years ago.

Chris Legro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the agency is forecasting a high temperature in Portland of 65 degrees. If it does get that high, the mark would break a record of 59 degrees set in 1953.

Legro cautioned that lingering fog and clouds over the Portland area might prevent temperatures from going that high.

“We are forecasting a high of 65 degrees, but there is some risk involved. I wouldn’t bet my house on it,” Legro said.

Inland temperatures may climb even higher than at the coast. Legro said Fryeburg could hit a high of 70 degrees.

Things will begin to cool down on Thursday with forecasters calling for highs in the upper 30s in the Portland area.

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Maine man saves life of ice fishing buddy using technique he watched on TV https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/ice-fisherman-performs-cpr-on-friend-in-auburn/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/ice-fisherman-performs-cpr-on-friend-in-auburn/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:17:17 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/ice-fisherman-performs-cpr-on-friend-in-auburn/ AUBURN — With no formal training, an ice fisherman breathed life back into a friend who had collapsed Saturday afternoon on Taylor Pond.

Gary Croteau, 59, of Auburn was drilling his eighth hole through the ice with his friend, Larry, whose grandchildren were expected to join them later.

Croteau, who has a small shack on the pond, had invited Larry, 77, and his family for an afternoon of ice fishing.

Gary Croteau: “I’ve seen CPR done on TV. I paid attention to it and it actually worked. So, I mean, I took my time. And everything went fine.”

“We were just enjoying the day,” said Croteau, who did not want to give Larry’s last name.

As Croteau and Larry were steadying the power augur for the last hole, Larry began to slump, pulling the augur with him, Croteau said Monday.

Larry fell onto the ice, his breathing labored. He took one last, long inhale, then stopped breathing.

Croteau knelt beside him. He thought for a moment, then began administering CPR, alternating chest compressions with breaths.

“On the fifth time when I was blowing, and backed off, he choked and he coughed with a big choke and took a deep breath and started breathing on his own,” Croteau said.

Minutes later, paramedics appeared and rushed Larry to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. A man on shore watched the drama unfold and answered Croteau’s calls for help and dialed 911.

Croteau said he’s since heard that his friend’s condition has improved.

“I know he’s well,” Croteau said. “He’s all good.”

Doctors are running tests to determine what caused his collapse, Croteau said.

Croteau, who ice-fishes on Taylor Pond every weekend of every winter, said he was never formally trained in how to perform the life-saving measure he administered successfully to his friend.

“It was a little shocking for me,” he said. “I’ve seen CPR done on TV. I paid attention to it and it actually worked. So, I mean, I took my time. And everything went fine.”

It had been a good day for fishing. Croteau caught a few northern pike, he said.

But knowing his friend would be OK made it even better.

“It’s a good feeling knowing something turned out good,” he said.

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Old Orchard Beach approves purchase of seasonal restroom trailer https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/old-orchard-beach-oks-purchase-of-seasonal-restroom-trailer/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/old-orchard-beach-oks-purchase-of-seasonal-restroom-trailer/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 03:02:39 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/old-orchard-beach-oks-purchase-of-seasonal-restroom-trailer/ The Old Orchard Beach Town Council on Tuesday night authorized the purchase of a seasonal restroom trailer in hopes it will deter visitors from relieving themselves on the town beach and on private property.

The council voted 3-2 to spend up to $72,000 on a restroom trailer, Assistant Town Manager Louise Reid said in an email.

The request for more public restrooms came after town officials started getting complaints that tourists and visitors were defecating and urinating on the town’s world-renowned beach and on adjacent properties. Old Orchard Beach offers public restrooms in the downtown – near the Palace Playland amusement park and the Amtrak train station – but not at other access points to the 7-mile-long sandy beach.

The proposal approved Tuesday calls for installation of a self-contained restroom trailer that can be put in place for the summer months, before being removed and stored outside during the off-season. The trailers have become a popular choice of municipalities for use at beaches and other outdoor recreation areas.

Town Manager Larry Mead will select the vendor for the trailer, which will feature three separate-entrance toilet rooms – one of which will be wheelchair-accessible.

According to the town proposal, Mead was able to reach an agreement with a local property owner that will allow the town to place the trailer near the corner of Union and West Grand avenues for the next five years. That location is within walking distance of the Union Avenue beach entrance.

The town has received quotes from four vendors ranging from $44,146 to $71,271. It will take about 10 weeks before the trailer can be shipped. The town anticipates installing it before the end of June.

Reid said that Councilors Kenneth Blow, Jay Kelley and Joseph Thornton voted to approve the restroom trailer, while Shawn O’Neill and Michael Tousignant were opposed.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/old-orchard-beach-oks-purchase-of-seasonal-restroom-trailer/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1258456_188381_070203_oob_tourism_1.jpgStaff photo by Gregory Rec -- Tuesday, July 1, 2003 -- Old Orchard Beach has been a tourist destination since the 1800s but a recent property revaluation indicates that tourism is declining, with taxes from businesses serving tourism at 14 percent, down from 27 percent nearly 10 years ago.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 22:17:53 +0000
Land-based salmon farm in Belfast could signal shift in U.S. aquaculture https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/aquaculture-project-in-belfast-could-lift-status-of-u-s-salmon-farming-industry-experts-say/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/aquaculture-project-in-belfast-could-lift-status-of-u-s-salmon-farming-industry-experts-say/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:53:41 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/aquaculture-project-in-belfast-could-lift-status-of-u-s-salmon-farming-industry-experts-say/ A Norwegian firm’s plan to build one of the world’s largest inland salmon aquaculture facilities in Maine has a chance to raise American salmon farming’s status on the international stage, people who follow the industry say.

Nordic Aquafarms wants to build a facility that would produce more than 60 million pounds of salmon per year. The state typically produces between 18 and 35 million pounds of the fish per year, and production has ebbed and flowed, said Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association.

Maine is the biggest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in the U.S., but the U.S. is a relatively minor player in the worldwide industry. Potentially doubling the state’s production capacity would significantly alter the landscape.

“They are taking a big risk, a big chance. Time will tell whether or not they are going to be successful,” Belle said. “They are certainly very confident in their ability to do so.”

Norway, Scotland, Chile and Canada produced more than 90 percent of the world’s approximately 4.4 billion pounds of Atlantic salmon farmed in 2012. The Nordic project wouldn’t raise the U.S. industry to the stature of those countries. But Erik Heim, chief executive officer of Nordic, said his proposal to use a different kind of farming system than many of his competitors sets the project apart.

The Nordic facility would use land-based tanks. Salmon farmers in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, rely heavily on a different model that raises the fish in pens in the ocean.

“Land-based production is in rapid development and our view is that it has a role to play in both the future global and U.S. seafood supply equation,” Heim said.

Maine’s salmon farming has had ups and downs over the years, including a 2003 ruling in an environmental lawsuit that brought expensive new rules and saw some companies pull out of the state. Into that void stepped New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture, which also farms in Canada and now dominates Maine’s fish farming industry.

A spokesman for Cooke declined to comment on the Nordic proposal.

The state’s combined salmon farms produced about 24.5 million pounds of the fish in 2010, the most recent year for which state statistics are available. Environmentalists believe the annual total has decreased in recent years because of problems with pests, including sea lice.

But the same environmental groups that are often critical of salmon aquaculture have shown some support for the Nordic project. The land-based tank model avoids the problem of escaped farmed fish entering the marine environment, said Neville Crabbe, spokesman for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

“The best way to mitigate the impacts of salmon aquaculture on wild salmon is to separate the two,” he said.

The Nordic facility would be located on 40 acres in Belfast, about 100 miles up the coast from Portland. The project needs a battery of approvals. Heim said he hopes to be in production by 2020.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/aquaculture-project-in-belfast-could-lift-status-of-u-s-salmon-farming-industry-experts-say/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1256971_561540-oceanblob.jpgSalmon circle inside a lock where they joined boats heading from salt water Shilshole Bay into fresh water Salmon Bay at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Federal research surveys this summer turned up among the lowest numbers of juvenile salmon in 20 years.Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:25:48 +0000
Police, drug enforcement officers raid South Portland motel https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/police-drug-enforcement-officers-raid-south-portland-motel/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/police-drug-enforcement-officers-raid-south-portland-motel/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:25:35 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/02/20/police-drug-enforcement-officers-raid-south-portland-motel/ South Portland police officers, agents for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Southern Maine Regional SWAT team raided a motel in the city’s Thornton Heights neighborhood Tuesday evening.

Lt. Frank Clark said the agencies teamed up to serve what Clark described as “high risk search warrants” at the Maine Motel, at 606 Main St. An official described it as a drug-related search warrant.

Clark said residents may have heard officers using flash bang grenades, which produce a bright light and thunderous blast to distract potentially dangerous criminals.

“What I can say at this point is that South Portland Police Department and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, assisted by our Southern Maine Regional SWAT team, served high risk search warrants at the Maine Motel earlier this evening,” Clark said in an email. ” There were no injuries and an increased police presence may remain in that area as the investigation is ongoing.”

Clark said additional information concerning the raid might not be available until late Tuesday or Wednesday morning.

Scott Pelletier, a spokesman for the MDEA, said his agency became involved after being made aware that drugs could be present in the motel room.

“I can confirm that we are doing a drug related search warrant at the Maine Motel, but there is another angle to this case that South Portland is working as well,” Pelletier said.

Pelletier was not certain if any arrests had been made.

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