Local & State – Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel http://www.centralmaine.com Features news from the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine and Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine. Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:22:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 New York City man allegedly sold crack cocaine in Waterville http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/new-york-city-man-allegedly-sold-crack-cocaine-in-waterville/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/new-york-city-man-allegedly-sold-crack-cocaine-in-waterville/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:55:42 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/new-york-city-man-allegedly-sold-crack-cocaine-in-waterville/ WATERVILLE — A man from New York City who was arrested by Waterville police Thursday and charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs will head to court next month to answer to the charges.

Elwood Patterson, 48, was traveling on Elm Street at about noon Thursday when detectives stopped the vehicle and arrested Patterson on two counts of aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs, both Class A felonies, according to Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey.

Massey said Friday that the arrest was the result of a month-long investigation.

“During that investigation, officers were able to determine he had sold crack cocaine on a number of occasions,” Massey said.

Officers had a warrant to search Patterson and the vehicle for illegal drugs, according to Massey.

While police did not find drugs in the vehicle during the traffic stop, they did find $9,132 in cash, he said.

“He was charged with two counts of aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs because they’re alleging he sold two different times during the one-month-long investigation,” Massey said.

Patterson was unable to make bail and was taken to Kennebec County Jail in Augusta, he said. He is scheduled to appear in Kennebec County Superior Court Jan. 29, 2018, according to Massey.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/new-york-city-man-allegedly-sold-crack-cocaine-in-waterville/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786917_568141-patterson.jpgElwood PattersonFri, 15 Dec 2017 16:17:29 +0000
Waterville man heads to court next month after allegedly assaulting ex-girlfriend http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/waterville-man-heads-to-court-next-month-after-allegedly-assaulting-his-ex-girlfriend/ Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:52:13 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=786915 WATERVILLE — A Waterville man was arrested Thursday after reportedly striking his ex-girlfriend, grabbing her by the neck and banging her head off a counter, according to Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey.

Massey said Friday that Tyheen S. Walker, 33, of 19B Chaplin St., did not make bail and was taken to Kennebec County Jail in Augusta. Walker is slated to appear in Waterville District Court Jan. 16, Massey said.

At about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, police got a report of a possible domestic violence assault at Walker’s address, Massey said. They went to the home and spoke with a woman who alleged that Walker struck her more than once and threatened her, “grabbed her by the neck and at some point banged her head off the counter,” Massey said.

He said two young children in the home witnessed the assault.

“As they (officers) tried to talk with her, he was very uncooperative. He was extremely intoxicated and he tried to get back at the victim while officers were talking to her,” Massey said.

Police arrested Walker and charged him with domestic violence assault. He was on probation at the time, so police called his probation officer and Walker was placed on a probation hold, Massey said. Walker could not make the $500 bail and was taken to Kennebec County Jail.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786915_639001-walker.jpgTyheen S. WalkerFri, 15 Dec 2017 16:22:35 +0000
Waterville man charged with domestic violence assault http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/waterville-man-charged-with-domestic-violence-assault/ Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:35:43 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/waterville-man-charged-with-domestic-violence-assault/ WATERVILLE — A man arrested by police and charged with domestic violence assault after he reportedly grabbed and pushed and struck his ex-girlfriend will head to court next month, according to Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey.

Robert Hall, 37, of 23 Oak St., Apt. 2, agreed to turn himself in to police after the incident, which occurred before 1:20 p.m. Thursday, Massey said.

At that time, a woman called police to report her daughter, who lives at 23 Cool St., had called to tell her her ex-boyfriend had assaulted her, Massey said. Police went to the Cool Street address and there was no one there. They called the woman back, and she said her daughter was at 23 Oak St., not Cool Street, he said.

“When officers responded to 23 Oak St., they met with the complainant who said her ex-boyfriend came over to the house and wanted to see a minor child he is the father to,” he said.

An argument broke out when Hall tried to take the child with him and he assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Massey said.

“Eventually he grabbed and pushed and assaulted her,” he said.

When police arrived at the scene, Hall was not there, but officers had observed a car leaving the home and the victim’s description of Hall’s vehicle matched their description, according to Massey.

Later Thursday, police were able to reach Hall by phone and he agreed to turn himself in and did so at the police station on Colby Street. He was arrested and charged with domestic violence assault, made bail, and is scheduled to appear in Waterville District Court Jan. 16, Massey said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786912_600835-hall.jpgRobert HallFri, 15 Dec 2017 16:10:47 +0000
Cape Elizabeth picks Maranacook school chief as next superintendent http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/cape-elizabeth-picks-maranacook-school-chief-as-next-superintendent/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/cape-elizabeth-picks-maranacook-school-chief-as-next-superintendent/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:07:39 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/15/cape-elizabeth-picks-maranacook-school-chief-as-next-superintendent/ CAPE ELIZABETH — After a nearly two-year process and a couple of false starts, the School Board has selected the superintendent of Regional School Unit 38 in Readfield to become Cape Elizabeth’s school chief.

Donna H. Wolfrom is in her sixth year as superintendent of the Maranacook Area Schools. She has meetings with Cape Elizabeth administrators, teachers and students today and will be at Town Hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to talk with parents and other community members.

“I’m honored and overwhelmed to have been selected,” Wolfrom said Wednesday. “Cape Elizabeth has a reputation of having an excellent school system and community.”

Wolfrom said she hasn’t signed a contract yet, and expects to finish the school year in RSU 38 and start in Cape Elizabeth in time for the 2018-2019 session.

Born in New Jersey, Wolfrom, 66, moved to Maine in 1988. She now lives in Monmouth, and said she plans to find an apartment in or around Cape Elizabeth to stay during the work week.

Wolfrom previously was assistant superintendent in Bangor, where she was responsible for K-12 curriculum development, district-wide professional development, and writing and oversight of federal grant applications.

Before that she worked for 20 years in School Administrative District 55 (Sacopee Valley), first as a classroom teacher, then literacy specialist, and finally curriculum director.

Wolfrom graduated from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania with a degree in English and elementary education. She later received a master’s degree in literacy at the University of Southern Maine, and then a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Maine at Orono.

“The School Board feels strongly it has found the right fit for the position of superintendent,” outgoing board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres said. “Dr. Donna Wolfrom is not only warm and personable, but highly qualified with a rich professional background.”

A search committee of current and incoming School Board members, school administrators, a teacher from each school, parents, and community members, first screened applications then conducted two rounds of interviews with a pool of 10 applicants.

“Dr. Wolfrom was outstanding because she encompasses a combination of qualities that our stakeholders felt were important for our next superintendent,” Scifres said.

The board has been looking for a permanent superintendent since Meredith Nadeau, who was hired in 2011, announced her resignation in January 2016. She left that July for a job in New Hampshire.

Retired Mount Desert Island Superintendent Howard Colter has served as interim superintendent since then. The search to take his place has not been an easy one.

After Nadeau resigned, two candidates were selected to interview for the post, but both backed out in April 2016.

The board hoped to secure another finalist by last April, but instead suspended its search on March 28 because a suitable candidate could not be found.

Colter, who had expected to stay as interim superintendent until a new superintendent could start on July 1, 2017, agreed to remain for another year. A new search for his replacement began in October.

Wolfrom said Colter called her last year during the School Board’s search in 2016 to suggest she apply for the position, but she didn’t feel the time was right.

When she was invited again this fall, Wolfrom decided it was time to make the move.

“I’m really excited to get to know the community and learn what has been working so well for Cape Elizabeth schools,” she said. “I can’t wait to get into the schools and get a feel for the district.”

Scifres said it’s been a pleasure working with Colter.

“He has not been a traditional interim superintendent, in that he has done much more for Cape Elizabeth schools than just ‘keep the ship off the rocks,'” she said.

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Auburn middle school assistant principal convicted of OUI http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/auburn-middle-school-assistant-principal-convicted-of-oui/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/auburn-middle-school-assistant-principal-convicted-of-oui/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:55:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/15/auburn-middle-school-assistant-principal-convicted-of-oui/ AUBURN — The assistant principal at the city’s middle school was convicted Wednesday of operating under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident.

A jury of eight men and four women in Androscoggin County Superior Court returned guilty verdicts on the two misdemeanor charges at the conclusion of the two-day trial of Kevin Shaw, 48, of Minot.

The OUI charge is punishable by up to 364 days in jail. The jury found him guilty of an enhancement on that charge, having determined that his blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent or more. For that reason, he faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 48 hours in jail. The legal threshold for blood-alcohol content while driving is 0.08 percent.

The charge of leaving the scene of an accident is punishable by up to six months in jail.

Shaw will remain free on personal recognizance until his sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 27, a judge said.

He is operating with a restricted driver’s license.

Auburn Schools Superintendent Katy Grondin said Wednesday that Shaw had called her with the verdict.

Personnel issues are handled in private at the school, she said. Shaw remained employed at the school as of Wednesday as a faculty member in good standing, she said.

Shaw has worked in the local school district for more than 20 years and understands the importance of serving in his capacity as a role model, she said.

“I’m confident that he has taken the necessary steps to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “He also takes his role of responsibility very seriously. And he does recognize that he’s going to have to address concerns from the community.”

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Daughter of driver with suspended license dies in crash http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/daughter-of-driver-with-suspended-license-victim-in-fatal-crash/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/daughter-of-driver-with-suspended-license-victim-in-fatal-crash/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:27:28 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/15/daughter-of-driver-with-suspended-license-victim-in-fatal-crash/ A car driven by a Roque Bluffs man who had a suspeneded license veered off the road and hit a tree in Washington County around 11:15 p.m. Thursday, killing his 11-year-old daughter, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Christopher Stevenson was operating the vehicle when it left Route 191 in Cathance Township. His daughter, the only other passenger in the car, died at the scene, authorities said.

Washington County deputies issued Stevenson a summons on a charge of operating after suspension. The crash is being investigated.

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/daughter-of-driver-with-suspended-license-victim-in-fatal-crash/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/07/574998_shutterstock_160872065.jpgpolice siren lights genericFri, 15 Dec 2017 11:39:17 +0000
Belgrade house fire displaces family of six http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/residents-of-belgrade-home-escape-fire-unharmed-chief-says/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/residents-of-belgrade-home-escape-fire-unharmed-chief-says/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:17:15 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=786772 A fire damaged a Belgrade home Friday morning appeared to have started in the basement, officials said.

Belgrade Fire Chief Dan MacKenzie said the department responded around 7:30 a.m. Friday to 906 Oakland Road to fight the fire. Temperatures hovered in the teens in the morning during the blaze.

The residents were able to get out of the two-story home safely, MacKenzie said, and no one was injured.

“It was hard to fight because the home had been remodeled a couple of times,” he said.

MacKenzie said the state fire marshal’s office was on the scene, and the cause of the fire appeared to be accidental.

Early Friday afternoon, the American Red Cross said in a news release that its Disaster Action Team was working with the family of six to make sure they have food, essentials and a safe place to sleep, and the team will also be available to provide financial help and referrals.

Belgrade property records show the home, located on Oakland Road as it runs between Ellis Pond and Messalonskee Lake, belongs to Rose Marie Storm.

In addition to the Belgrade Fire Department, firefighters from Rome, Sidney, Oakland and Waterville helped battle the flames.

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Boy who fell from Windham roof collecting icicles still hospitalized http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/boy-who-fell-from-windham-roof-collecting-icicles-still-hospitalized/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/boy-who-fell-from-windham-roof-collecting-icicles-still-hospitalized/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:14:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1303179 The 9-year-old boy who fell from a roof while trying to collect icicles at an apartment building in Windham remains hospitalized with a head injury at Maine Medical Center, Windham police said Friday.

The boy, who has not been identified, was found unconscious in a narrow space between two buildings at 20 Main St. about 10 a.m. Thursday.

Police said the boy had been playing outside and bringing icicles into his grandmother’s apartment on Main Street.

When she heard a “thump” the grandmother went outside to find the source of the noise and found the boy on the ground in the back of the house and called 911.

It was unclear how the boy got onto the roof, but police said he might have climbed the fire escape or accessed a third-floor window.

 

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Fire damages Dairy Queen in Waterville mall http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/fire-damages-dairy-queen-in-waterville-mall/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/fire-damages-dairy-queen-in-waterville-mall/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:09:35 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/fire-damages-dairy-queen-in-waterville-mall/ WATERVILLE — Firefighters from three towns responded to a fire at a Dairy Queen in a mall off Kennedy Memorial Drive that started in a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system unit on the roof of the ice cream shop.

About 20 firefighters from Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Skowhegan worked the fire at the KMD Plaza mall in frigid temperatures.

Waterville Fire Chief David LaFountain, who was at the scene, said that while there appeared to be minimal damage inside the shop, materials exposed to smoke may have to be thrown out because of health regulations.

“The bigger expense is on the roof,” he said, as he watched firefighters working from a ladder truck on the heating and air conditioning unit. “They (Dairy Queen) reported yesterday they had problems with heat — that it was cold inside. We may be looking at a burnt motor.”

Both the state health inspector and officials from the state Fire Marshal’s Office were called to the fire, which was reported at 8:09 a.m. Friday.

LaFountain said Vassalboro firefighters covered the Winslow Fire Station and Albion firefighters covered the Waterville station.

He said that when firefighters got a call about the Dairy Queen fire, Waterville had a truck and crew at a fire in Belgrade, so the number of firefighters that could respond to the Dairy Queen fire was limited.

“We couldn’t call Oakland because Oakland was busy out in Belgrade also,” he said. “This is how it is nowadays with the lack of volunteer firefighters. We’re spread thin. When you have a fire, it ties up a half a dozen communities. If you have two at the same time, it ties up the whole county.”

As he spoke, firefighters were letting steam dissipate from the heating and air conditioning unit on the roof so they could try to find the point of origin of the fire, he said.

“The fire burned down into the attic and smoke got into the restaurant — all over the restaurant — and that’s why the state health inspector had to be called,” he said.

KMD Plaza is behind Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Kennedy Memorial Drive. Dairy Queen is in the westernmost end of the plaza. Besides Dairy Queen, the plaza houses Seacoast Security, Lacey & Company Day Spa, Beltone, Armed Forces Career Center and Retail Therapy Clothing Boutique and Consignment.

LaFountain said no one was in the mall businesses when the fire was reported. However, employees of Seacoast, which is in the easternmost end of the mall, said they were in their office.

Dean Nickles, Seacoast’s Waterville branch manager, said Dairy Queen has a Seacoast commercial fire system in place that detected smoke and Seacoast’s monitoring center in Rockport got the alarm and notified the fire department.

“It probably prevented more damage,” Nickles said of the early detection.

Nick Labbe, customer relations manager for Seacoast, said more of the mall could have caught on fire if the system had not been in place.

“The key thing is early detection,” he said. “We detected smoke when it first started.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/fire-damages-dairy-queen-in-waterville-mall/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786766_306420-DQ-fire-Waterville.jpgFirefighters work from a Waterville Fire Department ladder truck on the heating and air conditioning unit on the roof of the Dairy Queen in the KMD Plaza mall off Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville Friday.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:46:38 +0000
Applications flowing in as Toy Fund expands to Androscoggin County http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/applications-flowing-in-as-fund-expands-to-androscoggin-county/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/applications-flowing-in-as-fund-expands-to-androscoggin-county/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302917 The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund has been bringing joy to children in the Portland area for 68 years, but it’s brand new to the Lewiston/Auburn area.

The toy fund this year began accepting applications from Androscoggin County, expanding its reach to families that, in the past, did not qualify and were turned away.

And, as expected, the applications have been flowing in from parents who are grateful and relieved to be included.

“I am the single mother of four beautiful children,” a woman from Androscoggin County wrote to the fund. Her youngest, a boy, was born last year with numerous medical challenges, including a heart defect that required open heart surgery to repair.

“He is the apple of our eyes and has lit up our lives since his birth,” the mother wrote. “I was meant to be my children’s mother and I love them to the moon and back. The four of them are my everything.”

But although the woman works 40 hours a week, she is struggling financially, she wrote.

“I struggle with affording basic necessities, but somehow I make it work. Due to poverty guidelines and income limits, my family is not eligible for any government/public assistance programs. My family and I are more than grateful for any assistance the toy fund can offer. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at pressheraldtoyfund.org or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

 

TOY FUND DONATIONS

Thank you for your work with the Toy Fund. CF Santa $200

Merry Christmas! $100

In memory of my mother Madeleine Broadhurst- she always made Christmas time special for her children and made it special for all children. Lori and David $100

Merry Christmas from Pam and John Fridlington $250

In memory of Bob & Irene and Leo & Barb $50

Anonymous $50

Merry Christmas! Rick & Janet $50

In loving memory of Gigi with love from Alex, Brendan and Abbi $200

Have a wonderful holiday! $100

Merry Christmas from Edie and Jack Cornell $50

Anonymous $100

Anonymous $20

Sam and Marge DiBiase $50

In honor of my wonderful bus driver, Mr. Mike Lavallee, Bus 31, Scarborough from Amelia Odlin $25

In memory of Joe Guertin, who loved toys. $50

In memory of Joe Bromley – Carl & Rachel Akin $30

In lieu of local Christmas cards – Carl & Rachel Akin $30

Merry Christmas! The Hughes family $50

LT’s – Merry Christmas! $50

To honor Earl G $25

Merry Christmas to the children $25

In memory of Mom and Dad Foss $150

Edwin Heisler $100

Constance and Robert Fallon $20

Janine Myers $100

Year to date: $57,554

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As ACA hangs in balance, health care task force pursues Maine-based solutions http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/maine-task-force-to-pursue-improvements-to-health-insurance-accessibility/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/maine-task-force-to-pursue-improvements-to-health-insurance-accessibility/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302990 As Congress decides whether to repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, a Maine-based task force set to meet for the first time next week will be studying state-based fixes to the health care system. Included in the discussion would be long-shot proposals to establish a single-payer system in Maine.

The Health Care Coverage Task Force – created by the Legislature after a hearing on a single-payer bill that failed earlier this year – will meet Wednesday in Augusta to begin a wide-ranging discussion on health care. The task force includes residents, a bipartisan mix of eight lawmakers, and representatives from health care groups, hospitals, the insurance industry, and small and large employers.

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor Maine.gov photo

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, a physician who is on the task force, said that although he supports single-payer in theory, he’s looking for practical solutions that can be supported by Republicans, Democrats, patients, hospitals and health care professionals.

“No health care reform is going to work unless we bring everyone to the table,” Gratwick said.

Democrats tend to support single-payer, but Republicans are usually opposed.

While many European countries and Canada have established universal health care systems, the United States created the Affordable Care Act under then-President Barack Obama, reforming the existing system rather than creating a single-payer version. No state has adopted a single-payer system despite several attempts to do so.

Single-payer means that a single entity – usually the federal government – is responsible for paying health care providers such as doctors and hospitals. Out-of-pocket costs for individuals go down, but taxes are increased to compensate. The U.S. has elements of a single-payer system in the Medicare and Medicaid systems for seniors, the disabled and low-income populations. The ACA reduced the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and offering subsidized insurance to working-class and middle-income families that didn’t have employer-based insurance.

SINGLE-PAYER PASSAGE FAILED IN OTHER STATES

Since congressional Democrats and Obama muscled the ACA through Congress on a party-line vote in 2010, many Republicans have argued that it doesn’t work well and have tried to dismantle it.

President Trump and congressional Republicans came within one vote of repealing the ACA this summer – with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine a key “no” vote – and are trying to weaken the ACA in a number of ways, including by repealing the individual mandate in the pending tax reform bill.

Repealing the individual mandate – which requires people who can’t get insurance through an employer to purchase coverage or pay a penalty – would result in 13 million fewer Americans with health care coverage, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. The Trump administration also has cut ACA advertising and outreach budgets and slashed the enrollment period from 12 weeks to six.

Meanwhile, as Congress and the Trump administration consider ways to undermine the ACA, California is exploring adoption of a single-payer system. A bill to create single-payer stalled in the California Legislature this year, but Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a strong supporter of universal health care and he is considered a leading Democratic candidate for governor next year.

However, other efforts to create state-based single-payer systems have collapsed – including in Vermont in 2015, Oregon in 2002, Colorado in 2016 and California in 1994. Voters soundly rejected single-payer ballot initiatives in Oregon, Colorado and California.

John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health at Harvard University, said single-payer system proposals in the United States have failed when details start emerging.

“As much as people are attracted to the idea, it has always fallen apart when you get to the issue of finance. How are we going to pay for it? Then the exuberant support fades, people’s fears take over and it falls apart,” McDonough said.

OTHER TYPES OF REFORMS HOLD POTENTIAL

He said the referendums in Oregon, Colorado and California started with promising levels of public support before failing at the polls, with less than 30 percent of voters voting “yes.”

But Delene Perley, education and communications chair for Maine AllCare, a group that advocates for single-payer, said she looks to Canada, which started in the provinces before becoming a countrywide system in the 1980s.

“If we can’t get universal health care done nationally, we can start in the states,” Perley said. She said she’s also encouraged by the Nov. 7 vote in Maine to expand Medicaid, which passed with 59 percent of the vote. Perley believes Maine AllCare eventually will launch a referendum drive.

“It’s headed that way,” she said. “That Medicaid vote was a good sign. People want health care that they can access and afford.”

Perley doesn’t hold out much hope that the Maine task force will recommend a single-payer system, but “it’s a start. It’s opening the discussion,” she said.

McDonough said there are many reforms that states can approve to improve health care affordability without going to a single-payer system, such as a robust reinsurance program in Alaska that allows people to “buy into” Medicare or Medicaid, or simply offering more generous subsidies on the ACA’s individual market.

For instance, the Massachusetts state government approved a system similar to the ACA in the 2000s under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney that offered enrollees more generous subsidies than what was later approved under the ACA. When the ACA’s individual market started in 2013, Massachusetts continued the generous subsidies – supplementing federal ACA funding with state dollars – so that enrollees wouldn’t see their health care costs go up, McDonough said.

He said the more generous system has led to Massachusetts having the lowest uninsured rate in the nation, at 2.8 percent.

McDonough said there’s nothing stopping any state from making reforms similar to the ones in Massachusetts, which would lower health insurance costs and make coverage more affordable for those buying on the individual market.

“You can go for the so-called ‘perfect system’ in single-payer, and end up with nothing,” he said. “Or you can make these other, more incremental, reforms.”

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/15/maine-task-force-to-pursue-improvements-to-health-insurance-accessibility/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1292414_healthcare-chip-2dfa82bc-d098-11e7-9d3a-bcbe2af58c3a-e1513349043146.jpgFri, 15 Dec 2017 09:47:04 +0000
Portland elver trafficker caught in sting gets jail, another Mainer pleads guilty http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/interagency-elver-trafficking-sting-yields-more-jail-sentences-another-guilty-plea/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/interagency-elver-trafficking-sting-yields-more-jail-sentences-another-guilty-plea/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:29:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1303018 Operation Broken Glass, an interagency sting of a national elver trafficking ring based in Maine, has yielded two more jail sentences and a guilty plea this week.

Yarann Im, a 35-year-old Portland seafood dealer, was sentenced to six months in jail for illegally trafficking 480 pounds of elvers, which are also known as glass eels or juvenile American eels, following a hearing Thursday in federal district court in Portland. Im pleaded guilty in 2016 to buying more than $500,000 worth of eels, or almost a million individual elvers that had been illegally harvested in Virginia, North Carolina and Massachusetts, and selling them abroad.

Thomas Choi, a 76-year-old seafood dealer from Maryland, was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison with a $25,000 fine for trafficking in $1.26 million of elvers.

On Tuesday, Maine fisherman Albert Cray pleaded guilty to trafficking elvers, admitting to harvesting them illegally in New Jersey and selling them to a Maryland dealer, who then exported them from the United States to buyers in Asia. In 2013, Cray admitted to trafficking more than $250,000 worth of illegally harvested elvers, according to a statement of facts filed with Cray’s plea agreement.

“The poaching and illegal selling of American eels negatively impacts not only the species, but also the economies of our East Coast states and the livelihood of local U.S. fishermen who legally harvest these eels,” said Edward Grace, acting chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “These recent court actions should serve as a warning to those who illegally profit from our country’s natural resources. You will be caught and held accountable.”

Eels are highly valued in East Asia for human consumption. Japanese and European eels were historically harvested to meet this demand, however overfishing has led to a decline in these populations and harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the void. American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded on all sides by ocean currents. They travel as larvae from the Sargasso to the East Coast of the U.S.

They enter a juvenile, or elver, stage when they reach the U.S. They swim up river and grow to adulthood in fresh water. Harvesters and exporters of American eels can sell elvers to East Asia for more than $2,000 a pound. Because of the threat of overfishing, Atlantic Coast states have cooperated to ban elver fishing in all but Maine and South Carolina, which heavily regulate their elver fisheries.

Led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Operation Broken Glass set up a sting operation into the illegal trafficking of elvers. It has resulted in guilty pleas for 19 people that are estimated to have illegally trafficked more than $5.25 million worth of elvers. Maine Marine Patrol was one of 20 law enforcement agencies that has helped work on the investigation.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

poverton@pressherald.com

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/interagency-elver-trafficking-sting-yields-more-jail-sentences-another-guilty-plea/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/10/711844_20140416_Elvers2.jpgA federal decision on the status of eels will come as the market for baby eels, called elvers, is booming. Maine has by far the most lucrative eel fishery in the country.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:42:53 +0000
It’s a Jedi night in Maine and the nation as latest Star Wars film opens http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/its-a-jedi-night-in-maine-and-the-nation/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/its-a-jedi-night-in-maine-and-the-nation/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:44:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302971 There was no way Tom Long of Portland was going to miss the nationwide opening of “The Last Jedi,” the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga that has become a cultural touchstone for generations of moviegoers.

Long, 43, sported a Jedi costume while holding his ticket to the eagerly awaited installment of the series in the lobby of the Westbrook Cinemagic before the show Thursday night. He’s seen every single Star Wars film in a theater, including the 1977 original when he was 2.

“I don’t remember it, but I was there,” he said.

Phoebe Tran probably won’t have that problem even though she’s a relative newcomer to the ways of the Jedi. Attending the movie with the group of adults that included Long, the 7-year-old sported a Star Wars T-shirt.

Positive reviews and the return of Luke Skywalker to the franchise meant optimism for the new release was running high in the Cinemagic lobby before the show Thursday night.

Lane Boucher of Biddeford, wearing a Rey costume, likes all the Star Wars films – even the much-maligned prequels – and was looking forward to “The Last Jedi.”

Dressed in Jedi robes, Pete Spiegel, left, and Brian Juengest stage a lightsaber duel on the sidewalk before the opening show of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on Thursday at Regal Cinemas in Augusta. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“I’ve heard some trepidation out there, but I’m excited,” she said. “I’m not too afraid.”

It was much the same in theaters across the state as loyal fans turned out in force.

At Regal Cinemas in Augusta, Jake Sturtevant and his family – who have their own podcast about Star Wars – were among a crowd that included plenty of fanboys and fangirls in costumes and Star Wars-related apparel.

Sturtevant, of Poland, was wearing a gray Star Wars hoodie, and his daughter, Bella, 11, and son, Simon, 8, were decked out in capes and blankets adorned with images of their favorite characters.

“I like Luke (Skywalker) the best,” Simon said. His sister didn’t name a favorite character, but did say she really enjoyed the first three films in the trilogy, Episodes I-III, which were released in 1999, 2002 and 2005, respectively.

Their podcast, which is called Sturt Wars and is available on SoundCloud, focuses on the children and what they think is happening in the Star Wars universe. Sturtevant said he’s happy to share his love for the franchise with his kids.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “To see that next generation of fans taking over is pretty special.”

Sturtevant grew up a Star Wars fan. He has a brother named Luke and a sister named Leah, but he said he never asked his mother if they are named after Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. His mom was at the theater with the family Thursday and confirmed that the names were partly because of Star Wars.

Phoebe Tran, 7, sports a Star Wars shirt in the lobby of Cinemagic in Westbrook on Thursday for the nationwide opening of “The Last Jedi.” Tran went to the movie with a group of adults including Tom Long, left, who wore a Jedi costume for the occasion. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The last Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” brought the death of Han Solo and the return of Skywalker, and the movie ended with Skywalker on a deserted island being handed a lightsaber by Rey, the main character in the film. Sturtevant said he’s curious to see what Skywalker’s role is in the film and what becomes of Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, who died unexpectedly almost a year ago.

“I’m really curious where they take things with the new characters and how they work in the story with Luke, because we haven’t seen him in a while,” Sturtevant said.

Director Rian Johnson is new to the franchise, and he has a tough act to follow. J.J. Abrams directed “The Force Awakens” and will return to direct Episode IX, which is set to be released in 2019.

“I think it’s great to see somebody new step into this middle (episode),” Sturtevant said. “To be able to see a different perspective is really interesting.”

The crowd included a mix of adults and families, and there were people in Star Wars leggings, cloaks, hoodies and robes. Just as they did two years ago on opening night, superfans Peter Spiegel and Brian Juengst brought their lightsabers and had a three-minute duel outside the theater.

“I’ve been able to avoid reviews and spoilers by a media shutdown,” Spiegel said. “My expectations are to go in and have fun.”

Spiegel, 42, of Hallowell, and Juengst, 35, of Manchester, predicted the film will address actress Carrie Fisher’s death in a shocking way – they both think her character, Leia, will die.

Juengst was looking forward to seeing how the new writer-director, Johnson – whose previous films included the noirish “Brick” in 2005, “The Brothers Bloom” in 2008 and 2012’s sci-fi adventure “Looper” – handles the story.

“‘Looper’ was based on a book, and he had a lot of source material to work with, and Star Wars is so rich with history,” he said. “There are already characters set in there, and he gets to play in this established sandbox, which makes a huge difference.”

Staff photographer Ben McCanna contributed to this report.

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/its-a-jedi-night-in-maine-and-the-nation/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302971_178022-20171214_STARWARS_2.jpgDressed as Jedi knights, 42-year-old Peter Spiegel, left, of Hallowell and Brian Juengst, 35, of Manchester stage a light-saber battle Thursday night on the sidewalk outside Regal Cinemas in Augusta. The Star Wars fans were about to watch Episode VIII in the saga: "The Last Jedi."Fri, 15 Dec 2017 10:18:15 +0000
Maine lobster council to keep funding marketing effort despite critics http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/lobster-advisory-council-votes-unanimously-to-fund-marketing-collaborative/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/lobster-advisory-council-votes-unanimously-to-fund-marketing-collaborative/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:42:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/14/lobster-advisory-council-votes-unanimously-to-fund-marketing-collaborative/ Despite grumbling from lobster dealers, the state Lobster Advisory Council voted unanimously Thursday to continue funding the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

The collaborative is about to begin the final year of its five-year mission to promote the state’s signature product. It wants the Legislature to renew its authorization, and its $2.2 million a year budget funded by surcharges on state-issued lobster licenses. But it needs the support of the people that its work is serving – the individual lobster zone councils and the Lobster Advisory Council that oversees it all.

Thursday’s endorsement from the statewide council gave the organization a perfect scorecard with local lobster regulators, having already won approval from all seven lobster zone councils. The state Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association also support the organization, praising and defending the agency in front of the very legislative committee that will be tasked with its reauthorization next year.

South Thomaston lobsterman Robert “Bob” Baines told fellow council members that he realized the importance of what the collaborative does when he attended one of its “Maine After Midnight” tasting parties for chefs in San Francisco in August. He and four other Maine lobstermen spent 48 hours sharing the story of Maine lobster with an array of the city’s most influential chefs. The experience surprised him, Baines admitted.

“Everybody who we talked to was really interested in Maine lobster,” said Baines, who introduced the reauthorization motion. “The cost of the trip? I have no idea. Was it valuable to do? Absolutely. There were five fishermen on that trip, and they took three other trips like that, and the amount of people we talked to, well, I personally spoke to well over 100 people, and it was all positive. All positive.”

MARKETING STRATEGY QUESTIONED

But the collaborative’s focus on using social media, lobster sightseeing trips and after-hours tasting parties to make high-end chefs from across the country fall in love with new-shell lobster has come under fire from some lobstermen, dealers and the lobstermen’s union. They claim the strategy doesn’t help those who harvest new-shells late in the fall, gives too much time, attention and funds to the harvester side of the story, and wastes license-holders money on strategies that don’t raise lobster prices.

These groups want the collaborative to focus on extending the new-shell consumer season into the fall, supporting efforts to sell new-shell lobster abroad, and cutting license surcharges, possibly even getting the state to kick in some money to fund the marketing effort for its top export.

The dealers are especially frustrated, saying they are paying the lion’s share of the license surcharge and getting the least out of it.

“I don’t know one dealer that has ever said they’ve made one dollar off this,” said John Hathaway, the president of Shucks Maine Lobster.

The collaborative’s chef strategy focuses on the harvester, but leaves the dealers out in the cold, said Annie Tselikis, director of marketing for Maine Coast out of York and the director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association. The harvesters and dealers, who often accuse the other of trying to get the upper hand, need to work together, Tselikis told the council and the collaborative representatives who attended the meeting Thursday.

“The chef strategy is not the best tactic for where we are as an industry and for how product actually gets to market,” said Tselikis, who sits on the collaborative’s board. “That’s a very, very long-term strategy and we are a very rapidly changing industry right now, a very dynamic market. … The dealers are on the front lines of that, and we see it and there is value in that. We need to be able to work together moving forward.”

MOUNTING FEES, SIGNATURE PRODUCT

Dealers like Hathaway want to work with the collaborative to market their lobster directly to the chefs who attend the after-hours parties, but the group has said the collaborative needs to be careful about promoting any particular dealer. Instead, the group directs chefs to the collaborative’s website, which has a list of state dealers that sell wholesale or retail Maine lobster.

Low boat prices make it hard for some in the industry to swallow the collaborative’s license surcharge. The fee ranges from as low as $165 a year for a lobsterman who fishes alone, to $1,200 for a wholesaler or lobster hauler, to $4,000 for the highest-volume processors. Some players in this industry hold more than one license, so they pay into the Lobster Promotion Fund that bankrolls the collaborative more than once.

Supporters argued that a state that relies so heavily on one product needs to make sure it is doing its best to sell that product. The cost of the license surcharge is not much more than what the average lobsterman spends on bait in a day, they argue. And state law created the collaborative to market lobster, not necessarily to raise the price, although growing demand undoubtedly must help.

“We aren’t making a sales pitch,” said collaborative director Matt Jacobson. “We want as many people as we can to talk about our story. That’s what sells lobster.”

While the collaborative points to website hits, social media mentions and attendance at its after-hours chef tasting parties as evidence of success, critics argue the only real metric of success in this $533 million-a-year industry is the price of lobsters, and unfortunately for the collaborative and the industry, the price has fallen this year even though the catch has been slow and global demand has been strong.

PRICE IMPACT OF OUTSIDE FORCES

But Jacobson said there are some things that no marketing council can fix, no matter how well-funded it is. He blames low boat prices on things such as hurricanes that ruined the summer restaurant seasons in lobster-loving cities like Miami and Houston, and the trade deal between Canada and the European Union that put Maine lobsters at a huge competitive disadvantage with one of its biggest customers.

The collaborative plans to continue its focus on using chefs and the media to influence consumers, but Jacobson said the organization is open to changing some of its strategies. He said the collaborative will probably never use its limited budget to try to market Maine lobster abroad, because he doubts it has enough money to make an international splash in that kind of high-overhead market.

But he said it could explore more ways to stretch the new-shell season into fall, for example.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

poverton@pressherald.com

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/lobster-advisory-council-votes-unanimously-to-fund-marketing-collaborative/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302982_482333-20160615_LobsterBo2.jpgThe Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative's $2.2 million budget is funded by surcharges on state-issued lobster licenses.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:13:44 +0000
Crews from several towns battle Rumford house fire http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/crews-from-several-towns-battle-rumford-house-fire/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/crews-from-several-towns-battle-rumford-house-fire/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:59:34 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/crews-from-several-towns-battle-rumford-house-fire/ RUMFORD — Firefighters from several towns were battling flames and freezing temperatures after a single-family home caught fire shortly before 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Early reports were that the house at 411 South Rumford Road had been evacuated as fire crews from Rumford, Andover, Mexico, Woodstock, Peru, Dixfield and other towns fought the blaze.

A Rumford fire official said later Thursday that he had not heard of any injuries suffered in the blaze.

According to a source in Rumford, the home is owned by David A. Arsenault who, along with his son Corbin, escaped the burning home just before explosions were heard.

It was not immediately clear what exploded.

The first police officers at the scene reported that the building was totally engulfed. There were also power lines reported down in the street.

Fire crews battled ice and temperatures in the single digits as they fought to knock down the fire. Crews remained at the scene two hours after the fire was reported. A fire official said they would likely be there until early Friday morning.

South Rumford Road runs parallel to the Androscoggin River and Route 2.

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/crews-from-several-towns-battle-rumford-house-fire/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/696228_696899-fire-e1487346980230.jpgA house is destroyed by fire early Friday morning on Springer Road in St. Albans.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:39:46 +0000
Star Wars fans turn out in force for opening of ‘The Last Jedi’ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/star-wars-fans-turn-out-in-force-for-opening-of-the-last-jedi/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/star-wars-fans-turn-out-in-force-for-opening-of-the-last-jedi/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:17:26 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/star-wars-fans-turn-out-in-force-for-opening-of-the-last-jedi/ AUGUSTA — Jake Sturtevant and his family love Star Wars so much they have their own podcast about it. It was no wonder the group was one of the first at Regal Cinemas in Augusta on Thursday night for the first showing of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, the eighth episode the movie franchise.

Moviegoers came from near and far, far away for the first of six shows at the Augusta movie theater Thursday. While there wasn’t as many people gathered in the lobby as there was two years ago for the opening night of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, there were still plenty fanboys and fangirls in costumes and Star Wars-related apparel.

Sturtevant, of Poland, was wearing a gray Star Wars hoodie, and his daughter, Bella, 11, and son, Simon, 8, were decked out in capes and blankets adorned with images of their favorite characters.

“I like Luke (Skywalker) the best,” Simon said. His sister didn’t name a favorite character, but she did say she really enjoyed the first three films in the trilogy, Episodes I-III, which were released in 1999, 2002 and 2005, respectively.

Their podcast, which is called Sturt Wars and is available on SoundCloud, focuses on the children and what they think is happening in the Star Wars universe. Sturtevant said he’s happy to share his love for the franchise with his kids.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “To see that next generation of fans taking over is pretty special.”

Sturtevant grew up a Star Wars fan. He has a brother named Luke and a sister named Leah, but he said he never asked his mother if they are named after Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. His mom was at the theater with the family Thursday and confirmed that the names were partly because of Star Wars.

The last Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” saw the death of Han Solo and the return of Skywalker, and the movie ended with Skywalker on a deserted island being handed a lightsaber by Rey, the main character in the film. Sturtevant said he’s curious to see what Skywalker’s role is in the film and what becomes of Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, who died unexpectedly almost a year ago.

“I’m really curious where they take things with the new characters and how they work in the story with Luke, because we haven’t seen him in a while,” Sturtevant said.

Director Rian Johnson is new to the franchise, and he has a tough act to follow. J.J. Abrams directed “The Force Awakens” and will return to direct Episode IX, which is set to be released in 2019.

“I think it’s great to see somebody new step into this middle (episode),” Sturtevant said. “To be able to see a different perspective is really interesting.”

The crowd included a mix of adults and families, and there were people in Star Wars leggings, cloaks, hoodies and robes. Just as they did two years ago on opening night, superfans Peter Spiegel and Brian Juengst brought their lightsabers and had a three-minute duel outside the theater.

“I’ve been able to avoid reviews and spoilers by a media shutdown,” Spiegel said. “My expectations are to go in and have fun.”

Spiegel, 42, of Hallowell, and Juengst, 35, of Manchester, predicted the film will address actress Carrie Fisher’s death in a shocking way — they both think her character, Leah, will die.

Juengst said he is looking forward to seeing how the new director and writer, Johnson, whose only other notable film was the 2012 “Looper,” handles the story.

“Looper was based on a book, and he had a lot of source material to work with, and Star Wars is so rich with history,” he said. “There are already characters set in there, and he gets to play in this established sandbox, which makes a huge difference.”

Regal had six showings — three in 3D and three standard — scheduled Thursday, and they were all but sold out. There are 16 showings — eight in each format — planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

jpafundi@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/star-wars-fans-turn-out-in-force-for-opening-of-the-last-jedi/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786475_178022-20171214_STARWARS_2.jpgDressed in Jedi robes, Pete Spiegel, left, and Brian Juengest stage a lightsaber duel on the sidewalk before the opening show of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" on Thursday at Regal Cinemas in Augusta.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:30:53 +0000
Travis Mills’ retreat hosting families from hurricane-damaged Florida, Texas http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/travis-mills-retreat-for-wounded-veterans-finishing-season-on-a-snowy-note/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/travis-mills-retreat-for-wounded-veterans-finishing-season-on-a-snowy-note/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:13:44 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/travis-mills-retreat-for-wounded-veterans-finishing-season-on-a-snowy-note/ ROME, Maine — A retreat for combat-injured veterans that was created by a Maine man who lost all four limbs in Afghanistan is wrapping up its first season with a winter session.

The Travis Mills Foundation is hosting five veterans and their families from hurricane-damaged Florida and Texas for a snowy holiday that kicked off Wednesday.

Mills created the retreat to serve as a place where veterans and their families can get together with others who have experienced disabilities. Mills said he wants to show veterans they still can do things with their families and not be sidelined by their disabilities.

“We are looking forward to a few days of rest and fun as a family with others who understand our daily struggles,” said Brien Costello of Eustis, Florida, who came with his wife and four kids.

Mills attended the kickoff Wednesday night that included a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There’s no more kayaking or tubing in the lake because of the season, but there’s still plenty to do, including cookie making, pottery painting and yoga.

The Travis Mills Foundation’s facility at the former home of cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden has served 88 families, all free of charge, in its inaugural season.

Daniel Burgess of Cape Coral, Florida, said he was looking forward to “the positive impact of other service members and their families.”

“Also to get away from our norm and reconnect as a family. Plus my wife and daughters were all born and raised in Cleveland, so they are excited to see snow and winter again,” said Burgess, who was accompanied by his wife and two teenage daughters.

Mills is a busy guy. In addition to launching the retreat, he became a father for a second time, welcoming a son, Dax, into the world. He’s also been busy with a business partner, running a dock and motel on Cobbossee Lake in East Winthrop.

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/travis-mills-retreat-for-wounded-veterans-finishing-season-on-a-snowy-note/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/10/AP17170684454552.jpgIn this June 15, 2017 photo, Travis Mills gives a tour of his wounded veterans' camp at the former estate of cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden, in Rome, Maine. Mills, a U.S. Army staff sergeant, awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden. "She assured me that's not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side. This week Mills is opening a summer retreat to Maine to help others like him who have suffered severe war injuries." (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:42:27 +0000
Jensen Bissell, Baxter State Park director since 2005, to retire this month http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/jensen-bissell-baxter-state-park-director-since-2005-to-retire-this-month/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/jensen-bissell-baxter-state-park-director-since-2005-to-retire-this-month/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:08:57 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/jensen-bissell-baxter-state-park-director-since-2005-to-retire-this-month/ Baxter State Park will soon launch only its second search for a new director in more than 30 years.

Jensen Bissell announced recently that he will retire on Dec. 29 after a dozen years as park director and another 18 years helping manage the forests on the park’s northern end. Bissell said the timing seemed right for him personally and for the park, which he added is staffed by a strong crew who “can handle the park very easily over the next four to five months” before a successor is selected.

“The closer (retirement) got, the more I realized that there are things that I want to do that I don’t have time to do while working,” Bissell said Thursday. “I look forward to just coming to hike, camp and fish in the park like anyone else.”

Soft-spoken yet a staunch defender of the 209,644-acre park’s wilderness mandate, Bissell took over as Baxter’s director in 2005 following Irvin “Buzz” Caverly’s retirement after 24 years as park director.

“I think he has been absolutely terrific,” said Alec Giffen, a former Maine Forest Service director who served on the three-member Baxter State Park Authority board during Bissell’s early years as director. “In my view, it is hard to imagine anybody better-suited to the job. He is thoughtful, he is apolitical … and is open to thoughts that are outside of the box.”

Bissell said he never aspired to become director when he joined the park in 1987 to manage the roughly 29,000-acre Scientific Forest Management Area, which is the only part of the otherwise-wilderness park where timber is harvested.

But Bissell said the 18 years he spent managing the park’s multipurpose but lesser-utilized northern end helped prepare him to be park director – a position that requires balancing public demands for access and infrastructure with the late Gov. Percival P. Baxter’s strict instructions to maintain the park as a wilderness.

“That will never change,” Bissell said. “Every director in this position will have that tension.”

Gov. Baxter created the park that bears his name by purchasing parcels piece by piece and then transferring them to the state with restrictions written into the deeds, such as no hunting in much of the park, no dogs anywhere and a limited number of unimproved roads.

Oversight of the park rests with the three-member Baxter State Park Authority, comprised of the state attorney general, Maine Forest Service director and the commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. But it is the park director that must balance those conflicting demands and requirements in a park that hosts the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail atop mile-high Katahdin.

Among his proudest accomplishments, Bissell lists more than doubling the budget for training, undertaking major restoration of park infrastructure, and making staff pay more competitive with other parks. During the past several years, park staff have also rebuilt and, in many cases, re-routed heavily trafficked trails, including the popular Abol Trail up Mount Katahdin after part of it was buried under a massive rockslide.

“I think that we have been able to double and sometimes triple the amount of resources we are putting into trail management,” Bissell said.

Giffen, who now serves on the board of the nonprofit Friends of Baxter State Park, credited Bissell with improving the Scientific Forest Management Area that Percival Baxter set aside to be a showcase for innovative, sustainable forestry practices. In addition to providing wood for local mills, the timber harvesting in the area generates several hundred thousand dollars in revenues for the park.

“Jensen deserves a lot of credit for putting that whole enterprise on a sound footing,” Giffen said.

As director, Bissell oversaw the incorporation of Katahdin Lake – a parcel long sought but never secured by Percival Baxter – into the park in 2007 after it was acquired in a complicated land swap. The lake is now a popular destination for hikers and campers. But Bissell has also had to manage the increasing demands put on park staff by growing numbers of Appalachian Trail “thru-hikers,” an issue that garnered national headlines two summers ago.

The Baxter State Park Authority is expected to launch a national search for a new director in the coming months. Meanwhile, Bissell said he is looking forward to using that fly rod that he always kept in his park vehicle but rarely had a chance to use.

“It’s really going to be nice to be able to come to the park and fish the entire day if I want to,” Bissell said.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/jensen-bissell-baxter-state-park-director-since-2005-to-retire-this-month/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302759_741628-Bissell1.jpgBaxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell will retire on Dec. 29. "It's really going to be nice to be able to come to the park and fish the entire day if I want to," he said. His first task in 1987 was to manage 29,000 acres of the park.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:20:23 +0000
Bill to regulate addiction recovery homes moves forward in Legislature http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/bill-to-regulate-addiction-recovery-homes-moves-forward/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/bill-to-regulate-addiction-recovery-homes-moves-forward/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:06:50 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/bill-to-regulate-addiction-recovery-homes-moves-forward/ AUGUSTA — Top leaders at the State House agreed Thursday to allow consideration next session of a bill that would set standards for residential opioid addiction treatment programs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, will be taken up when the Legislature convenes in January.

“An Act to Ensure Quality and Increase Access to Recovery Residences,” would establish standards for residential programs, which are currently unregulated other than having to abide by local zoning ordinances.

Bellows said the lack of official standards for recovery residences in Maine makes it difficult for patients and families to determine whether a particular residence will aid their recovery.

“It takes courage and determination for a person to say goodbye to their former lives and get on the path to recovery,” Bellows said in a prepared statement. “When Mainers take the step to enter a recovery residence, they deserve to know they’re getting the safe, healthy, stable environment they signed up for. By setting standards and expanding eligibility, recovery residences can become a key component of our fight against addiction and overdose.”

Maine is struggling with an epidemic of opioid addiction that led to 376 drug overdose deaths in 2016, mostly from opioid drugs that include heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers. The crisis, which reaches every corner of the state, has overwhelmed treatment resources and left public officials scrambling for solutions.

About 15,500 people received treatment for opioid addiction in 2015, but public health officials say the demand for treatment services is much higher. That demand has fueled the establishment of recovery houses, often called “sober houses,” especially in the Portland area – but the programs are essentially unregulated.

Bellows’ bill would have the state adopt standards set by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, a nonprofit affiliation of recovery house programs across about two dozen states and based in Minnesota. The alliance established a national standard for recovery houses that helps consumers identify the levels of services offered and compare resources and programs.

The legislation also would make people in recovery eligible for the Bridging Rental Assistance Program. The federally funded program provides housing subsidies to people with psychiatric conditions who lack the means to afford stable housing. The bill would amend rules to make it easier for people to use these funds to pay the costs for placement in a recovery residence.

For a bill to be considered during the second session of the Legislature, which begins Jan. 3, the Legislative Council must conclude that it addresses an emergency issue, according to the state constitution.

“If ever there were an emergency, it is the drug crisis, which is taking a toll on Maine families from all walks of life,” Bellows said. Her bill was endorsed by a special legislative task force set up to find solutions to the opioid crisis. The task force recently completed its work and forwarded a list of suggested bills, including Bellows’, to the full Legislature.

“Future generations will hold us accountable for the ability to face the drug crisis head-on and save Maine lives,” Bellows said in thanking the Legislative Council for allowing the bill to move forward. “With its decisions today, the council showed it’s serious about taking action.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/bill-to-regulate-addiction-recovery-homes-moves-forward/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/658915_913953-20150611_milestone_3.jpgPORTLAND, ME - JUNE 11: A room in the detox portion of Milestone on India Street, seen Thursday, June 11, 2015. Milestone has had to scramble together resources to make up for cuts to funding in MaineCare that devastated its budget. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:17:39 +0000
Local clergy gather to bless Augusta warming center http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/clergy-gather-to-bless-augusta-warming-center/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/clergy-gather-to-bless-augusta-warming-center/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:24:16 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/clergy-gather-to-bless-augusta-warming-center/ AUGUSTA — Clergy gathered to bless a new warming space for needy people on Thursday at the former St. Mark’s Parish Hall on Pleasant Street.

The Rev. Suzanne Colburn, the new interim pastor at the Emanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church, and other local clergy members gave the blessing for “the gift” of the space.

“We have come together to renew friendships and to rededicate ourselves and this space to justice, peace, wholeness, and the care of God,” Colburn said, reading from an adaptation of a prayer.

The warming center is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the winter.

After the Augusta Food Bank moves out, the warming center will move up to the first floor. Then Addie’s Attic and The Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry will expand into the rest of the lower level. The former St. Mark’s church and parish hall are up for sale, so the group Bridging The Gap is looking for a new space to move into, according to project director Sarah Miller.

Bridging The Gap runs the pantry, Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank and warming center there.

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/clergy-gather-to-bless-augusta-warming-center/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786451_871529-20171214_Blessing_00.jpgThe Rev. Suzanne Colburn, right, starts an event Thursday during which several local clergy members blessed a warming center run by Bridging The Gap at the former St. Mark's Parish Hall on Pleasant Street in Augusta.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:04:51 +0000
As Cobbossee Trail plans near completion in Gardiner, officials seek public input http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/as-cobbossee-trail-plans-near-completion-in-gardiner-officials-seek-public-input/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/as-cobbossee-trail-plans-near-completion-in-gardiner-officials-seek-public-input/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:43:08 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=786438 GARDINER — As plans for one portion of the Cobbossee Trail near completion, city officials are seeking opinions from downtown business owners on the impact of some design decisions.

Brian Keezer, from the Maine Department of Transportation, and Patrick Wright, the city’s economic development coordinator and the executive director of Gardiner Main Street, gave a brief update Wednesday on the status of the plans for the long-awaited trail project.

City officials first pursued redeveloping the part of the city that Cobbosseecontee Stream runs through in 2009, but the economic crash sidelined the project for a number of years.

By the time it was revived and funded a year and a half ago, the Maine Department of Transportation had developed plans to replace both the Bridge Street and the Maine Avenue bridges, which cross the stream just north of the downtown neighborhood. After some discussion, city officials agreed to turn over the portion of the trail that passes along the edge of downtown Gardiner over to the transportation department to be completed along with the bridge projects for efficiency and cost savings.

Gardiner officials will still plan and manage the western portion of the Cobbossee Trail, from the point it leaves the Arcade parking lot to its western terminus further upstream.

In his update, Wright said the current designs reflect some of the comments and information gathered at a community meeting in late August.

An early version of the design showed a fence or a safety barrier along the entire edge of the Arcade parking lot, which sits between Cobbosseecontee Stream and Water Street.

Wright said that concerned a number of residents and the committee created by the city to shepherd the project, because it cut off access to stream. The original design incorporated steep slopes lined with rock to prevent erosion.

With some design changes, Wright said, all but a small section of that barrier has been eliminated.

A second design element that’s still being worked out is bicycle and pedestrian safety where the trail runs along Maine Avenue in the state’s right of way, Wright said. The route crosses the driveways that access the Hannaford supermarket.

A third piece of the plan that’s still under consideration by the city’s committee involves creating a more park-like atmosphere at the west end of the Arcade lot, where the former Dennis’ Pizza restaurant is located. The could have an impact on available parking spaces in the city lot. Wright said the committee is seeking input from downtown business owners on how the change might affect them.

“I would like to come back with (more complete) plans at a future meeting in January and go over them in more detail,” Wright said.

The window of time to incorporate more changes is shrinking as the project is running up against a deadline. Because this section of the project is being managed by the state Department of Transportation to coincide with the bridge replacements, the design has to be 90 percent complete by Feb. 1. The project is scheduled to go out to bid by mid-2018.

District 2 City Councilor Pat Hart said one thing that came to light at the forum is that the project has no landscape architect involved.

“The committee has actually formed a sub-committee to dig in and look at that part,” Wright said, “and the DOT has changed the plans to say landscape design will be subject to the plans that sub-committee will create.”

In the version that residents saw at the August public meeting, the none on the plan said landscaping would be completed the on-site engineer.

Wright said it’s the city’s responsibility to design the landscaping, but he cautioned city officials that the project is being paid for by transportation funds, not city beautification funds. The sub-committee is also tasked with finding funding if they want to include plantings and signs not covered by project funds.

“Our stream is beautiful now,” Hart said. “When I go to the Bridge Committee meetings and see all the rip-rap, it actually leaves us worse off. It’s not a betterment, it’s not even an equal trade, it’s not even status quo. It leaves us worse off.”

Hart said thanks to the sewer project completed several years ago near the New Mills dam city residents know what that looks like.

“We know when trees go down and rip-rap goes up, it’s really ugly. We lost a beautiful part of the city and big oak trees,” she said.

While that was not a transportation project, Hart said she encourages the transportation department to be more holistic in how it works with communities to preserve their assets and what their projects look like after they are completed.

“That stream is gorgeous and so many people enjoy it,” she said. “Rip-rapping it and making it look industrial is a bad deal.”

Keezer said the department has a couple of architects on staff and one has offered his services to the project, which may include the trail project.

“Budgets are a big thing, and we are tight on budget,” Keezer said. “If there are any ways to sneak in some landscaping, we’ll try to take advantage of that. To what extent, I don’t know.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

jlowell@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/as-cobbossee-trail-plans-near-completion-in-gardiner-officials-seek-public-input/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786438_738970_20160630_cobbossee_4.jpgCobbossee Stream in Gardiner is seen in June 2016 flowing under a railroad trestle. Officials are nearing completion of a plan for building a trail along the stream and are seeking input from downtown business owners on the impact of some design decisions.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:12:13 +0000
Holiday cards sent to Margaret Chase Smith on display at Skowhegan library http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/collection-of-holiday-cards-sent-to-margaret-chase-smith-on-display/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/collection-of-holiday-cards-sent-to-margaret-chase-smith-on-display/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:33:36 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/collection-of-holiday-cards-sent-to-margaret-chase-smith-on-display/ SKOWHEGAN — There’s Bill and Hillary Clinton. And Ike. And Nixon.

Cards, personal notes and letters from the nation’s leaders poured into the mail box at U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s home in Skowhegan every year beginning in November and stretching all the way through New Year’s Day.

Thousands of cards, every year.

There were Thanksgiving greetings, Christmas cards and birthday cards — Dec. 14 was her birthday — mailed to the Skowhegan-born senator who was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress and, in 1964, became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major parties.

Smith died at her home in Skowhegan on Memorial Day, May 29, 1995, at the age of 97.

A collection of seasonal greeting cards sent to Smith has been collected by John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library on Norridgewock Road, and is open for public viewing at the library. The collectio also has been uploaded online to Pinterest.

Angela Stockwell, library collection specialist and the one-time personal secretary to Smith, said she remembers Christmas cards and letters pouring in by mail by the dozens. Stockwell said the senator responded to every piece of mail she received, whether it was from Skowhegan locals or the White House.

“She dictated what she wanted to write to them, then I typed them,” Stockwell said. “Her mail was very important to her. That whole card period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, there would be thousands of cards that she would get — sixty or seventy a day. It was absolutely amazing. It was crazy, crazy. It was a busy, busy time.”

Taylor, the library assistant, said he came across a couple of Christmas cards a few years ago from U.S. presidents and heads of state and began checking for more. There were cards from vice presidents and people who ran for president, along with fellow senators, including Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie, who was born in Rumford.

“So we decided to put it up on the Pinterest page, which is what we did,” he said. “The cards that she received from presidents would have been after her career had ended in the Senate or while she was working there from 1940 in Congress. The earliest that we have would be from the Eisenhowers — the first one was 1956.”

There are several cards from President Dwight Eisenhower, who served in the White House from 1953 to 1961. There is a signed portrait from President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, from Elizabeth and Bob Dole, from President George H.W. Bush and his vice president, Dan Quayle, Nelson Rockefeller and Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

“This one is from the Johnsons. It goes across party lines,” Taylor said of Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president under President John Kennedy and sworn in as the 36th president following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.

“We have a few from Nixon, Ford, Vice President Agnew. This one’s from Muskie, who of course ran for president as well,” Taylor said, flipping through collection scrapbooks in the library’s research room.

There also is a card from George and Maude Mueller. George Mueller, who sent a photo of the first moon landing in his greeting card, was associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight for NASA in the 1960s.

Conspicuously absent from the collection of greeting cards is anything from Kennedy. Taylor said Kennedy was a Democrat and Smith a Republican, and the senator from Maine often disagreed with Kennedy.

“She sometimes questioned some of his actions and motives,” he said.

Among Smith’s admirers were comedienne Phyllis Diller and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We have lots of cards from Phyllis Diller, actually for different holidays — Valentine’s, Halloween,” Taylor said.

Smith and Diller were affiliated through Northwood University of Michigan, which was responsible for all daily operations and programs at the library until 2012, when the University of Maine assumed those responsibilities.

Diller had been named as a distinguished woman as part of a Northwood program, of which Smith was chairwoman.

There is a birthday card from President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton and a personal letter from Hillary Clinton.

“This would have been personally from the First Lady at the time,” Taylor said, referring to the letter from Mrs. Clinton. “It’s dated October 1993 and it’s talking about how Margaret was an inspiration for her and it’s signed on the back. It says she’s grateful still for her leadership today. She passed away in ’95, so Bill would have still been in office at that point.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/collection-of-holiday-cards-sent-to-margaret-chase-smith-on-display/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786427_899824-20171214-MCS-2.jpgAngie Stockwell, collections specialist at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, on Thursday holds a holiday greeting card from former President Dwight Eisenhower and a caricature of the former U.S. Senator from a collection at the Skowhegan museum. In the background is library assistant John Taylor.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:15:08 +0000
Sappi executive named 2018 Woman of Distinction by Girl Scouts of Maine http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/sappi-executive-named-2018-woman-of-distinction-by-girl-scouts-of-maine/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/sappi-executive-named-2018-woman-of-distinction-by-girl-scouts-of-maine/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:03:08 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=786409 Laura Thompson, director of sustainable development and policy initiatives at Sappi North America, has been named the 2018 Woman of Distinction by Girl Scouts of Maine.

Thompson was given the award Dec. 7 at the Women of Distinction Gala, an annual event that celebrates women whose individual excellence and high levels of achievement distinguish them as outstanding members of their communities and exemplary role models for today’s girls, according to a news release from the company.

“I am so proud to be recognized as the 2018 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Maine,” Thompson said in the release. “I hope that as an honoree I’m able to inspire girls to pursue activities and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — STEM — fields, and to think outside the box when it comes to which industries can fulfill those interests.

“The Girl Scouts is a fantastic organization that shapes young women into future leaders, and I could not be happier to work with them. It’s an honor to be recognized alongside so many accomplished women, and I hope that I can provide a similar impact on my community and peers.”

Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of New Hampshire, and a master of science and a doctorate in paper science from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. Since 1995, she has worked in a variety of departments in the paper industry, including research, mill environmental, product development, marketing, and for the past 10 years, sustainable development.

At Sappi, Thompson has played a key role in building an industry-leading sustainability brand for the company. Over the past decade, her work has created a competitive advantage for Sappi by establishing goals that drove unnecessary costs and waste out of corporate operations while lowering the company’s environmental footprint and providing Sappi with a sound scientific foundation and business-driven direction, according to the company.

Thompson’s leadership of Sappi’s Sustainability Ambassador Program has supported strong employee engagement at all Sappi locations and levels.

Thompson participates on boards and committees for the American Forest and Paper Association, Two Sides Sustainability Committee and the environmental non-profits GreenBlue and The Recycling Partnership. She also was part of a team at Sappi that worked with the Girl Scouts of Maine to develop a papermaking patch, which was unveiled during the Women of Distinction Gala.

Outside of work, Thompson volunteers in the local community with educational outreach and mentoring for various programs including the Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, supporting the Living Land and Waters mission to clean up the nation’s rivers, and the ongoing partnership with the Green Neighbor Family Fest and Urban Runoff 5K in Portland.

“For 105 years, Girl Scouts has helped shape girls aspirations and confidence in areas that need more female leadership,” said Joanne Crepeau, CEO, Girl Scouts of Maine. “Women are particularly underrepresented in STEM fields, and Girl Scouts has programs committed to increasing girls’ interests and abilities in these disciplines. Exposure to STEM professionals has real impact on girls especially when they see women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“This is why we are thrilled to honor Laura Thompson, whose professional pursuit and many accomplishments make her a perfect role model for women, of any age, today. Girl Scouts encourages girls to make a difference in the world and Laura is certainly doing that.”

Thompson joins other notable honorees, including Eileen Skinner, Gena Canning, Meredith Strang Burgess, Melissa Smith, Pamela Hurley-Moser, Betsey Timm, Brenda Garrand, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Erin Hoeflinger, Dr. Sandra Featherman, Meg Baxter, Beth Newlands Campbell, Judith Magyar Isaacson, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Sara Burns, Carol Mitchell, Maddy Corson, Eleanor Baker, and Jana Lapoint.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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Three New Hampshire fugitives caught in York County http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/three-new-hampshire-fugitives-caught-in-york-county/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/three-new-hampshire-fugitives-caught-in-york-county/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:52:31 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/three-new-hampshire-fugitives-caught-in-york-county/

Top: Sarah Quint, 29. Bottom left: Michael Francis, 28. Bottom right: Ricard Marino.

Three fugitives from New Hampshire were arrested this week in Lebanon, according to Maine State Police.

State troopers, deputies from the York County Sheriff’s Office and the New Hampshire Joint Fugitive Task Force teamed up to locate the fugitives after receiving information they were at 156 Long Swamp Road in Lebanon. When investigators knocked on the door Wednesday night, the people inside could be seen running into bedrooms, according to state police.

Michael Francis, 28, who was found hiding in a closet, is currently being featured as New Hampshire’s “Fugitive of the Week” by the United States Marshal Service. He was wanted out of Rockingham County, New Hampshire, for failure to appear in court on charges of distributing heroin/fentanyl. Police said Francis refused to identify himself to officers.

Investigators found Ricard Marino hiding in a different bedroom. He was wanted out of Strafford County on a charge of violation of condition of release stemming from a charge of operating as a habitual offender. He was found with suspected heroin and fentanyl, police said.

Sarah Quint, 29, originally gave investigators a false name. She was wanted in Strafford County for falsifying physical evidence and obstructing a criminal investigation.

All three were taken to York County Jail and are awaiting extradition back to New Hampshire.

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Maine Technology Institute awards over $1.7 million in grants for marine projects http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/mti-awards-over-1-7m-in-grants-for-marine-projects/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/mti-awards-over-1-7m-in-grants-for-marine-projects/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:03:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302647 The Maine Technology Institute said Thursday that it has awarded nine grants totaling more than $1.7 million to a variety of marine-related businesses and organizations.

The grants, from the Marine Economy Capital Grants Program and Cluster Initiative Program, were awarded in partnership with the Alliance for Maine’s Marine Economy, MTI said in a news release.

Projects to be funded by the grants include value-added seafood processing, seaweed aquaculture and shellfish aquaculture, taking place down Maine’s coast from Washington to York counties, it said.

Grant recipients include:

n Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay (award: $93,600, match: $142,192).

n Blue Hill Bay Mussels LLC in Hancock (award: $44,328, match: $204,972).

n Brunswick-based Coastal Enterprises Inc. (award: $66,574, match: $75,000).

n Community Shellfish LLC in Bremen (award: $100,000, match: $100,000).

n Maine Seafood Ventures in Saco (award: $400,000, match: $1.65 million).

n Mook Sea Farm in Walpole (award: $336,000, match: $1,897,228).

n Pemaquid Mussel Farms LLC in Damariscotta (award: $250,400, match: $540,000).

n Springtide Seaweed LLC in Port Clyde (award: $180,000, match: $697,000).

n Shucks Maine Lobster LLC in Richmond and Gorham (award: $400,000, match: $1.15 million).

MTI said grant proposals were evaluated based on five criteria: economic impact, industry-identified need and/or support, project scope and approach to innovation, project team and resources, and quality of budget and finances.

“MTI is delighted to partner with the Alliance for Maine’s Marine Economy to support innovators and entrepreneurs in Maine’s coastal and marine communities,” MTI President Brian Whitney said. “We look forward to monitoring the progress of these projects and understanding how lessons learned will support the marine industries.”

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

canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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Portland driver, 82, who hit pedestrian in parking lot had suspended license http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/portland-man-82-charged-after-hitting-pedestrian-at-pratt-abbott/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/portland-man-82-charged-after-hitting-pedestrian-at-pratt-abbott/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:48:49 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/14/portland-man-82-charged-after-hitting-pedestrian-at-pratt-abbott/ An 82-year-old man is facing multiple charges after he hit a pedestrian as he entered the parking lot of Pratt Abbott in Portland.

Robert Carson of Portland, whose license was suspended, was driving an unregistered and uninspected car Wednesday afternoon when he was involved in an accident at 1055 Forest Ave., police said. Carson’s 2011 Toyota Highlander struck 60-year-old Mary Anthoine as it entered the parking lot of Pratt Abbott.

Anthoine was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. Police said she was still being treated Thursday afternoon.

A Toyota Camry parked in the lot also was damaged in the incident.

Carson was charged with operating after suspension, operating an unregistered motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle without a valid certificate of inspection.

A public copy of Carson’s driving record in Maine indicates his license had been suspended in November 2016, and includes a notation that says: “failure to complete a road and/or written evaluation.”

Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said she could not provide more information about the cause for the suspension.

There are a number of reasons why a driver’s license could be suspended, including failure to pay fines, convictions for operating under the influence or medical conditions. The record of Carson’s driving history in Maine goes back to December 2013 but does not show any other accidents or convictions.

Staff Writer Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

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Portland planners approve hotel and condos on former Rufus Deering Lumber site http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/portland-planners-approve-hotel-and-condos-on-former-rufus-deering-lumber-site/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/portland-planners-approve-hotel-and-condos-on-former-rufus-deering-lumber-site/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:46:45 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/portland-planners-approve-hotel-and-condos-on-former-rufus-deering-lumber-site/ The Portland Planning Board has given the go-ahead for a hotel and condominium project at the site of a former lumberyard on Commercial Street after the developers made some concessions on traffic concerns.

Board members on Wednesday unanimously approved a master plan from Reger Dasco Properties for 383 Commercial St. that includes a 139-room hotel and conference center, 211 residential units, street-level commercial and retail space, and parking. The project will be developed in three phases, beginning with the hotel and a 117-unit residential building, according to plans submitted to the city.

To get approval, Reger Dasco agreed to pay $45,000 toward a traffic corridor study of Commercial Street, preserve parking for waterfront workers during construction and help pay for a traffic signal at the intersection of Commercial and High streets, said Director of Planning and Urban Development Jeff Levine.

“They are making some pretty significant investments on transportation infrastructure,” Levine said.

In earlier meetings, Planning Board members raised concerns about the project’s impact on traffic congestion and the waterfront economy. Lobstermen and other commercial fishermen have urged the city to slow the pace of new waterfront housing and hotels, which they regard as a threat to their livelihood.

Reger Dasco still needs approval for each part of the development from the Planning Board before it can start construction, Levine said.

The company plans to break ground on the project next June, said Joe Dasco, a principal with Reger Dasco Properties. Additional traffic from the development is expected to be minimal – about a 4 percent increase on Commercial Street during rush hour, according to the developer’s traffic engineer. Nevertheless, it agreed to pay $150,000 toward a traffic signal at Commercial and High streets that was planned before the project was submitted, Dasco said. The company also intends to provide $50,000 toward a multi-use path along west Commercial Street in the third phase of the project, he said.

“We have done more than our fair share as far as contributions,” Dasco said. “Will it relieve concerns? I can’t speak for the Planning Board. This project, as large as it is, is deemed to have minimal impact, but it is a busy street and that has been the issue from day one.”

Renderings of the project show a trio of five-story buildings separated by walkways, terraces and a hotel driveway. A path between York and Commercial streets through the development will be open to the public, Dasco said.

Rufus Deering Lumber Co. sold the lumberyard in November 2016,after more than 160 years at the location. Reger Dasco, a partnership of New York and Massachusetts developers, has built condominium complexes in Portland’s India Street neighborhood and recently purchased the former Portland Press Herald printing press building on Congress Street next to City Hall.

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

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/portland-planners-approve-hotel-and-condos-on-former-rufus-deering-lumber-site/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302582_Screen-Shot-2017-12-14-at-2.jpgA rendering of the proposed buildings at 383 Commercial St. in Portland shows a path through the hotel and condos development that will be open to the public.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:52:45 +0000
Boy collecting icicles seriously injured in fall from Windham roof http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/boy-collecting-icicles-falls-off-winham-roof-is-seriously-injured/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/boy-collecting-icicles-falls-off-winham-roof-is-seriously-injured/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:33:31 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/14/boy-collecting-icicles-falls-off-winham-roof-is-seriously-injured/ A 9-year-old boy fell off the roof of an apartment building in Windham on Thursday morning while he was collecting icicles.

Windham officials have not identified the boy. He was unconscious when emergency responders arrived at the house at 20 Main St. at 10 a.m. and is being treated for serious injuries at Maine Medical Center.

“There was the potential for some serious head injuries,” Windham police Sgt. Peter Fulton said.

The boy fell about 24 feet into this narrow space at the rear of the building at 20 Main St. Windham Fire Department photo

Fulton said the boy had been playing outside and bringing icicles into his grandmother’s apartment on Main Street. When she heard a “thump” the grandmother went outside to find the source of the noise. She found the boy in a narrow alcove on the back of the house and called 911.

“He fell from the roof to the ground, probably about 24 feet,” Fulton said.

It is unclear how the boy got onto the roof, but Fulton said he might have climbed the fire escape or accessed a third-floor window.

Officials are working to notify the boy’s father of the accident.

Fire Chief Brent Libby said he had notified the Department of Health and Human Services, which is routine practice in any case of a traumatic incident involving a chid.

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

mdoyle@pressherald.com

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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A year of car vs. moose: See where Maine moose crashes happened http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/interactive-map-see-where-maine-drivers-crashed-into-moose-in-2017/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/interactive-map-see-where-maine-drivers-crashed-into-moose-in-2017/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:51:59 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302486 Each dot in the map below represents a car crash involving a moose between Sept. 1, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2017, according to data from the Maine Department of Transportation.

There were 291 moose-car collisions for this period – a slight decline from the 305 crashes during the same period in 2015-16. Forty-seven of those crashes caused injury to the driver, including one fatality that occurred on I-95 in Howland.

Mouse over the points in the map for additional details from police reports about each crash.

Filters:

All crashes
Fatal crashes
Crashes with incapacitating injuries
Crashes with non-incapacitating injuries
Crashes causing only property damage
Daytime crashes
(6 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Evening crashes
(6 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
Nighttime crashes
(8 p.m. to 6 a.m.)
SOURCES: MaineDOT, OpenStreetMap
INTERACTIVE: Julia McCue and Christian MilNeil

Car-moose collisions are least common in the winter, and most common in June:

In 2017, moose crashes happened most frequently in the evening hours from 7 to 9 p.m.:

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No Paris climate accord? No problem, say New England, Mid-Atlantic states http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/no-paris-climate-accord-no-problem-say-new-england-mid-atlantic-states/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/no-paris-climate-accord-no-problem-say-new-england-mid-atlantic-states/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:46:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/14/no-paris-climate-accord-no-problem-say-new-england-mid-atlantic-states/ HAMPTON, N.H. – Since President Donald Trump vowed this summer to pull the United States out of an international climate accord, states looking to tackle carbon pollution have been forced to go it alone.

More than a dozen formed an alliance committed to reducing emissions in line with the Paris accord, an international agreement that aims to halt the rise in global temperatures. Several state leaders, including California Gov. Jerry Brown, were in Paris this week for a climate summit two years after the historic accord was signed. The summit offered updates on promised funding for poor countries to address climate change, the latest research on ways to cut emissions as well as the corporate world’s response to the problem.

Others, wanting to be more ambitious, are taking a look at the country’s only regional program that mandates emission reductions in the power sector. Known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, it covers nine states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic and is poised to expand.

“The clear signal from the Trump administration that they were going to pull back on environmental policy throws it back at the states and says, ‘OK, it’s your game,’” said William Shobe, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia. “A number of states are responding, saying, ‘OK, we’re up to that and we’re going to go ahead and implement policy.’”

The program sets limits on power plant emissions and requires them to purchase allowances equal to the amount of those emissions. Money raised through those allowances at quarterly auctions goes back to the states.

The only other program of its kind is in California , which covers the state’s entire economy. It linked up with Quebec’s cap-and-trade program in 2014 and will expand to include Ontario’s next year.

Since it began in 2008, RGGI has led to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent in the states stretching from Maine to Maryland — 16 percent more than other states without emissions programs. The program has also sent $2.8 billion back to the states, money that has funded a range of environmental programs, including energy efficiency upgrades at a middle school and library in Massachusetts, expansion of solar power in New York, and green measures at a brewery in New Hampshire.

“Young consumers don’t have any patience for companies that are not consciously involved in reducing their footprint and their impact on the planet. I think that runs pretty deep,” said Peter Egelston, as he led a tour of his Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Hampton, whose facility includes solar tubes that allow more natural light into the brewery and a high-tech milling system that gets more yield out of the malted barley.

Since the November elections, Virginia announced it is taking steps to become the first Southern state to join the regional cap-and-trade program, while New Jersey has promised to rejoin the pact. If they get on board, member states would represent a combined gross domestic product of $3.9 trillion, which if they were a country would displace Germany as the fourth-largest economy, according to the Acadia Center, a nonprofit that promotes clean energy.

Virginia’s climate strategy, approved last month, would limit emissions from most power plants starting in 2020, followed by a 30 percent reduction over a decade. Eligible carbon emitters would have to participate in the regional greenhouse gas program.

“We do not have the luxury of waiting for Washington to wake up to this threat — we must act now,” Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement.

New Jersey is set to rejoin the regional program when Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy takes office Jan. 16, succeeding GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who pulled the state out of the regional agreement, arguing it drove up electricity costs.

Still, RGGI has its doubters, many who contend its success has more to do with the changing energy landscape than government regulations.

They argue the nine states were already switching from coal-fired to natural gas power plants when they joined the program — which, according to a Duke University study , was responsible for a third of the reductions. Several states also instituted renewable energy goals that led to a shift toward wind, solar and hydro power that reduce emissions.

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group founded by billionaire Koch brothers, said the program has offered very few benefits and that such models can’t solve the climate problem. It has called for New Hampshire to pull out and opposes New Jersey rejoining.

“Our view is that RGGI and other ideologically driven energy policies cause energy prices to go up, which disproportionally impacts the poor,” said Levi Russell, an Americans For Prosperity spokesman.

Still, supporters say the program has been a force for good — reducing emissions and improving air quality without hurting economic growth.

And with its emission cap set to become more stringent in 2020, said Dallas Burtraw, a senior fellow at the research institution Resources For The Future, RGGI could be even more ambitious than Obama’s signature climate plan if ever went national. Obama’s Clean Power Plan called for cutting emission in the power sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It was put on hold by the Supreme Court and is being scrapped by Trump.

“We have a great success story to tell,” said Katie Scharf Dykes, who chairs the RGGI board and the Connecticut public utilities agency. “At this moment, this story is more relevant than ever before.”

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/no-paris-climate-accord-no-problem-say-new-england-mid-atlantic-states/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/11/1289360_utility_power_plants_jpeg_0.jpgFILE - In this Tuesday Jan. 20, 2015 file photo, a plume of steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H. New Hampshire's largest utility, Eversource Energy, announced Thursday March 12, 2015 that it has has agreed to sell its power plants. Eversource will sell its nine PSNH hydro facilities and three fossil fuel plants, including the Merrimack Station in Bow, Newington Station and Schiller Station in Portsmouth. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:56:29 +0000
Watch: Rangeley firefighters battle house blaze in minus-10 degrees http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/watch-rangeley-firefighters-battle-house-blaze-in-minus-10-degrees/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/watch-rangeley-firefighters-battle-house-blaze-in-minus-10-degrees/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:45:01 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302460 RANGELEY — A three-alarm fire that destroyed a Rangeley home early Thursday was caused by improperly discarded fireplace ashes, Rangeley Fire Chief Tim Pellerin said.

Homeowners Robert and Carol Hunt escaped the blaze at 72 Skyland Drive with a couple of dogs, but lost a cat, the chief said.

The ashes apparently were left on the deck of the log home, which has a breezeway and a three-car garage, he said.

“This is the third or fourth fire we’ve had due to improperly discarded ashes,” he said, reminding people to put ashes in a covered metal container and put the container away from any structures, not on a porch or deck.

Pellerin estimated damage to the structures at $450,000, and personal property loss at $150,000. Hunt does tile work and his tools and equipment were in the garage.

A little after 3 a.m., Carol Hunt told Pellerin she heard a noise like glass breaking and went downstairs to check. A fire on the front porch was already coming into the house through a window.

She called her husband, and the couple got out through the garage with the fire following them, Pellerin said.

By the time firefighters arrived, the entire house was in flames.

With temperatures as low as 10 below zero, firefighters struggled to keep water flowing through their hoses. They had to truck water about five miles to the home and hoses were freezing into the ground, Pellerin said. About 50 firefighters responded to the blaze. Mutual aid came from Phillips, Eustis, Salem, Strong and Carrabassett Valley.

Skyland Drive is a dead end dirt road located off Loon Lake Road, not far from the Rangeley Lakes Regional School.

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Review finds Long Creek is understaffed and ill-equipped to meet youths’ mental health needs http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/review-finds-maines-youth-correctional-center-under-staffed-ill-equipped-to-help-many-in-its-care/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/review-finds-maines-youth-correctional-center-under-staffed-ill-equipped-to-help-many-in-its-care/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:10:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302443 An independent review of the Long Creek Youth Development Center urged a top-to-bottom rethinking of Maine’s juvenile justice system after finding that too many young people with serious, unmet mental health needs are being housed at the state’s only youth correctional facility.

The assessment follows the suicide of a 16-year-old transgender boy, Charles Maisie Knowles, whose death on Nov. 1, 2016, prompted renewed scrutiny of how the correctional facility in South Portland treats LGBTQ youths and young people with serious mental health problems. Advocacy groups in the region that have been waiting for the report released Thursday called for closing Long Creek.

The review, conducted by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, a national organization focusing on youth justice, found that Long Creek is chronically understaffed and ill-equipped to handle the serious mental health needs of young residents who often are placed there because there is nowhere else for them to go. The review was commissioned by the state’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

Charles Maisie Knowles’ death at Maine’s juvenile detention center in 2016 was the first in at least 20 years.

It’s unclear what, if any, impact the assessment will have on Long Creek’s operation, but it’s certain to define the conversation about troubled youths when the Legislature convenes in January.

The report lauded the commitment of Long Creek’s leaders and the energy they devote to helping youths, and found that front-line staff are often professional and highly skilled. But the daily challenges are overwhelming for staff members who are not trained to handle the pervasive mental illness and behavioral issues that the Long Creek population presents, the report found.

“Staff and administrators at Long Creek were the first to admit that the facility is not the right place for many of the youth in its care,” the report said.

The circumstances at Long Creek have led to dangerous, unsafe conditions for both residents and employees, and have limited the center’s ability to fulfill its mission of rehabilitating youths and reintegrating them into society, the report found.

The findings echoed the concerns of Knowles’ mother, who in a series of interviews said she begged staff and doctors to give her son the mental health treatment he needed, but was rebuffed because Knowles was only detained at the facility temporarily.

The state Department of Corrections has disputed that characterization in the past, saying everyone at the facility, regardless of whether they are housed temporarily or long term, has the same access to care. About 80 youths live at the 160-bed facility, according to a survey of residents released last year.

Deputy Corrections Commissioner Jody Breton did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Two messages left for Gov. Paul LePage’s office also went unanswered.

MISTREATMENT OF LGBTQ YOUTHS

Knowles’ death was a flash-point for the Department of Corrections. The facility’s superintendent, Jeffrey D. Merrill II, was placed on leave five months later and quickly resigned. Merrill was replaced by Caroline Raymond, the former CEO of Day One, a nonprofit substance abuse and behavioral health treatment organization for adolescents based in South Portland that had done extensive work at Long Creek.

Although a review by the Maine Attorney General’s Office found that staff did not mistreat Knowles, the death was the first in decades at the facility and prompted criticism from outside organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, mental health experts and GLAD, the Boston-based nonprofit legal-rights organization that works to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity.

The report released Thursday specifically called out mistreatment of LGBTQ youths by other residents and staff, and cited a lack of policy guidance about how state employees should handle LGBTQ issues there.

The facility is so short-staffed that workers often are forced to work double shifts. So far this year, the staff of roughly 170 has logged 5,454 hours of overtime. Because workers are selected for mandatory double shifts on a reverse seniority basis, the least experienced workers are often left working the longest hours.

Among its recommendations, the report says staff should be trained specifically to work with children. Currently, staff at Long Creek must pass the same five-week, 200-hour course at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy as corrections officers who work in adult jails.

The report also recommends that state policymakers and legislators engage in a frank discussion about the future of the facility, which has a model of treatment and care – with large groups of youths housed in one place, often outnumbering the staff – that has been replaced in other states and may not be effective at treating many of the people who are housed there.

“A facility designed like Long Creek limits how well and how intensively staff can work with young people on skill-building and behavior change,” the report found. “When staff are charged with supervising a group of over 20 youth at any one time, it is difficult to devote the time and energy needed to dive deeply enough into an individual youth’s needs to effect long-term change.”

LONGSTANDING PROBLEMS CONFIRMED

State Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, said the report has confirmed her long-held concern that Long Creek is failing the children housed there, and that if changes are not made, another tragedy is unavoidable.

“The piece that I feel like we are seeing at every level of the criminal justice system in Maine is that the more that we cut health and human services for folks at all levels, the more we see them end up in my committee and in the work that I do,” she said.

Warren said her committee has been hampered in the past by the LePage administration’s policy prohibiting state employees, including those with the Department of Health and Human Services, from communicating with legislators or providing basic information. Warren is hoping DHHS, which has a new commissioner, will come to the table to work with legislators to find ways to better support troubled youths in their communities, and not in a correctional setting.

Read the report

“This prison is not the place that we deal with kids with pervasive mental illness,” Warren said. “And that’s what’s happening. Taxpayers deserve to know that what they’re spending their money on is actually working, and this report is saying it is not.”

Maine Sen. Kimberly Rosen, R-Hancock, the other criminal justice committee co-chair, said she was not given a copy of the report before it was published and was not forwarded one after its release. But based on media reports, she said the issues identified are familiar to her and to the committee, and that the third-party evaluation brings issues into sharper focus.

“It’s problems that have come up in our committee over and over and over,” Rosen said. “Special services, staff turnover, not enough staff. I think when we come back in January we need to (seek a) solution. I certainly don’t think closing Long Creek is a solution, but I think we have to look at the chronic issues that keep coming up, and if we have to put in an emergency bill to make changes, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”

Rosen hopes the state moves to the recommended community-based model, in which fewer youths are housed in smaller community-based facilities where they receive more personalized, intensive attention from staff. Employees at the center told evaluators that between one-quarter and one-half of the young people housed at Long Creek could be released into community-based facilities.

$250,000 A YEAR PER RESIDENT

Operating Long Creek is also expensive. A single resident costs roughly $250,000 per year to house and treat. In 2016, the state spent $15.28 million at Long Creek, with the vast majority, about $15 million, coming from state funds, according to the state Open Checkbook. Most of that money is spent on staff salaries and benefits.

Long Creek is the only youth detention facility in Maine, housing youths from all 16 counties who are arrested or run afoul of the law. The population there falls into two broad categories: youths who are detained and those who are committed.

Like adults in county jail, detained youths are awaiting the final outcome of their legal case, with the length of their stay ranging from a few days to several weeks or months. Committed youths are more permanent residents whose legal cases have been fully resolved, and will sometimes spend years at the facility receiving treatment and counseling while attending the A.R. Gould School, the in-house educational arm of the facility that offers classes to all grade levels.

About 80 youths live at the 160-bed facility, which is located in South Portland, just south of the Portland Jetport and west of I-295. Google map

CALLS TO CLOSE ‘FAILING’ FACILITY

In response to the report and its findings, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine called for the facility’s closure.

“Long Creek is failing Maine children and needs to be closed,” said Alison Beyea, ACLU of Maine’s executive director. “The report released today demonstrates the ongoing and systemic problems at Long Creek and an urgent need for action. Children are being warehoused in a violent and unsafe facility, often far away from home and community support.”

In calling for the facility to close, the ACLU highlighted staff abuse of residents and consistently high levels of resident-on-resident violence, the inappropriate use of force by staff, and a failure to provide legally mandated education and special education services.

“Maine is failing these kids, some of whom are as young as 13 years old,” Beyea said. “The stories of violence and abuse are too much to bear. Community-based treatment closer to home is the best for struggling kids and for their communities. Locking kids up at Long Creek is a failed model and goes against everything science tells us that children need for appropriate development. This has gone on too long.”

GLAD also was highly critical of Long Creek in the wake of the report.

“The underlying takeaway from this assessment confirms what we already know: Prisons do not work for youth,” said Mary L. Bonauto, civil rights project director at GLAD, which represents four youths currently or recently incarcerated at Long Creek.

“Long Creek is not designed, built or staffed to meet the needs of the youth that are sent there” she said. “We all need to seize the opportunity we have to require a systemic look at how to provide resources, support and development to make a real difference for justice-involved youth.”

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

mbyrne@pressherald.com

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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Maine Public Safety dispatcher charged with having child porn http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/public-safety-dispatcher-from-auburn-arrested-for-child-porn/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/public-safety-dispatcher-from-auburn-arrested-for-child-porn/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302453

Eric Kramarz Androscoggin County Jail photo

AUBURN — A Maine Department of Public Safety dispatcher has been arrested and charged with possessing child pornography.

Members of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit arrested Eric Kramarz, 43, at his Auburn apartment Wednesday afternoon. He is charged with possessing sexually explicit material involving children and was taken to the Androscoggin County Jail.

The computer crimes unit received a tip that Kramarz had been communicating over Twitter with girls around 13 years old and had obtained sexually explicit photos from some of them, according to a news release issued Thursday.

Detectives have reviewed the computers Kramarz had access to at the Public Safety dispatch center in Gray, where he worked for the past 16 years. Nothing inappropriate was found, according to the department. Kramarz’s cell phone was seized and will be analyzed.

Kramarz has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

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Biddeford Fire Department gives boy a sweet ride http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/biddeford-fire-department-gives-boy-a-sweet-ride/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/biddeford-fire-department-gives-boy-a-sweet-ride/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:53:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302387 Crime isn’t usually the Biddeford Fire Department’s job, but when the crew at the Alfred Street station heard about a boy whose red wagon was stolen, the fire department leapt into action.

The firemen presented Johnny Orgill with a new wagon to replace one that was stolen last week. He also got a tour of the station, sat behind the wheel of a firetruck and tried on some of their equipment.

Johnny’s mom, Carrie Stackpole, took to Facebook to thank the firemen.

“Thank you so much for taking time to show him everything,” she said. “He will be back this summer for sure to help wash the trucks on Saturday morning:)”

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Bangor police agree to bring a rescue dog home in time for Christmas http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/officers-give-rescue-dog-a-police-escort-home/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/officers-give-rescue-dog-a-police-escort-home/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:40:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302395 At the intersection of happenstance and need, there was a border collie and the Bangor Police Department. A woman in Waldoboro contacted the department when she saw two officers were in Washington, D.C., escorting a Wreaths Across America trip to Arlington National Cemetery. She had a request: Would the officers pick up her rescue dog?

The woman had adopted a 14-week-old border collie puppy in Virginia named Tessa, but didn’t have a way to transport the pup to Maine before Christmas. She saw the officers were in the neighborhood and wondering if they had room for an extra passenger.

It was not a tough sell. From the Bangor PD Facebook page: “The conversation went like this-

TC: ‘Can you two bring a puppy back from Virginia after your visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday? I am working on a Christmas miracle.’

Officer Jordan Perry: ‘Yes, let me check with Danny’ (Hollers to Danny) ‘The Lieutenant wants to know if we can pick up a puppy in Virginia and deliver it to Maine.’

Officer Danny Place: ‘Of course.’ ”

As you might expect, the Facebook post about the journey has gone viral, being shared over 7,000 times as of 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.

On Friday, the officers were given a bag of dog food for the prospective passenger.

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Man escapes from submerged car after driving into icy Gorham pond http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/man-escapes-from-submerged-car-after-driving-into-icy-gorham-pond/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/man-escapes-from-submerged-car-after-driving-into-icy-gorham-pond/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:27:14 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/14/man-escapes-from-submerged-car-after-driving-into-icy-gorham-pond/ GORHAM — Police say a man was able to escape after driving his car into a Gorham pond Wednesday night.

Police told WGME-TV that when the 39-year-old driver swerved to avoid an animal, his car went off the road and into the freezing pond around 7 p.m.

The man was able to make his way out of the pond to shore where police found him shortly after the crash.

This story will be updated.

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Maine Turnpike Authority throws itself a birthday party http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/maine-turnpike-authority-throws-a-birthday-party-for-itself-and-takes-a-moment-to-ponder-its-existence/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/maine-turnpike-authority-throws-a-birthday-party-for-itself-and-takes-a-moment-to-ponder-its-existence/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:05:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/14/maine-turnpike-authority-throws-a-birthday-party-for-itself-and-takes-a-moment-to-ponder-its-existence/ The Maine Turnpike Authority, which is typically more concerned with managing its open road tolling system, rebuilding exits, and keeping the highway between Kittery and Augusta safe for travelers, took a few moments to celebrate its achievements Wednesday.

Erin Courtney, spokeswoman for the MTA, said the highway held a 70th birthday party at its Portland headquarters. The highway opened on Dec. 13, 1947.

After former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court, Daniel Wathen – he serves as chairman of the MTA’s board of directors – cut a gigantic 70th birthday cake inscribed with “New England’s Original SuperHighway,” the staff delivered cupcakes to all of the organization’s toll takers and maintenance yard workers.

“We had to do something at 70 years,” Courtney said. “It was a good time to remind people why we exist.”

Engineers have nearly finished what the headline called the ‘Hall Carpet Into Maine.’ They hoped for an opening to the extension to the Maine Turnpike to be December 1. The new section of 66 miles of superhighway featured different bridge design and a center that was concave, not convex. This photo shows the Portland-Westbrook interchange with Brighton Ave. in the foreground leading, left, to Westbrook and, right, to Portland. The City Hospital is shown on the right. Caption published in the Nov. 6, 1955 Telegram. Portland Press Herald photo courtesy Portland Public Library Special Collections and Archives

“With 70 years of history, more when you consider the Legislature created the Maine Turnpike Authority in 1941, it is important to remember the thousands of Maine people whose hard work is responsible for the Turnpike of today,” Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills said in a statement.

During the birthday party, staff shared old photographs, postcards and memories. One postcard, which was posted on the MTA’s Facebook page, read, “When the Maine Turnpike opened on 12/13/47, driving 60 mph was a first for most drivers. And Maine’s first mile-a-minute highway.”

Courtney said before the 47-mile-long turnpike opened it took drivers as much as a half day to drive on Route 1 from Kittery to Portland.

“The Turnpike was Maine’s first roadway with a posted 60 mph speed limit. Few New Englanders in 1947 had ever driven that fast,” the MTA said in a release.

In 1956, the turnpike was extended 66 miles from Portland to Gardiner, including the four-mile-long Falmouth spur.

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

dhoey@pressherald.com

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Maine processors who make pot products facing state crackdown http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/maine-processors-who-make-pot-products-facing-state-crackdown/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/maine-processors-who-make-pot-products-facing-state-crackdown/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302338 Maine plans to start cracking down on the growing number of labs and kitchens that specialize in turning cannabis into a product that doesn’t have to be smoked.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says processors, labs and kitchens that turn caregiver cannabis into manufactured products such as foods, oral tinctures, topical salves and vaporizer waxes for medical marijuana caregivers are breaking state rules and will face harsh penalties, such as losing their caregiver license or referral to law enforcement. Inspectors are warning caregivers that the crackdown will begin Feb. 1.

Processors, caregivers and patients want to fight the crackdown, saying it would end a startup industry that makes high-quality, potent concentrates – in an environment that is safer than do-it-yourself basement operations – and that helps patients who don’t like to smoke their medicine. They may ask a legislative committee that will have to sign off on rule changes to amend or overturn the processing ban.

“When these rules kick in, we are going to see a lot of frustrated patients struggling to find the medicine that works best for their needs, as well as plenty of upset business owners who have invested many hours and dollars,” said caregiver Dawson Julia, who owns East Coast CBDs in Unity. “If processors are forced to shut down, we’ll lose some of the most qualified and knowledgeable experts in the industry, as well as some of their state-of-the-art facilities.”

BACK-AND-FORTH DONATION SYSTEM

At the heart of the controversy is the state’s insistence that only a caregiver and one employee can touch any medical marijuana given to a patient. That prohibits the sale of cannabis-infused products that someone else makes and supplies to the caregiver, essentially forcing caregivers to make their own edibles, tinctures and other products.

Julia doesn’t see anything in state rules that forbids the system of back-and-forth donations that labs and edible makers rely on to manufacture marijuana products. He had been worried that the new rules were outlawing this system, and hoped that a department clarification issued last Friday put processors in the clear.

However, a DHHS spokeswoman reached Saturday, after the online rule clarification was posted, insisted the donation-based processing system is deemed illegal under current state rules.

The confusion on what is allowed and what’s not is widespread among industry insiders, patients and the public. DHHS hasn’t held a public education session to explain the rules. It doesn’t grant media interviews, either, and its one- and two-sentence emailed replies to reporter queries often don’t answer the questions asked. The agency inspectors often interpret the rules differently, so caregivers across the industry get conflicting advice, their lawyers say.

“The lack of any clear guidance from DHHS on what its rules actually mean, so that a lay person (or even attorneys) can understand its intentions, puts the whole industry on edge and constantly in fear of losing investments,” said Matt Dubois, an attorney with Maine CannaCounsel of Hermon, which represents caregivers, labs and edibles makers. “It’s totally untenable, and yet it’s been this way for years.”

CONFUSING REGULATORY RULES

In Maine, caregivers have developed a back-and-forth donation system that has allowed processors to avoid prosecution. It begins with caregivers donating pot to a lab. The lab then conducts the extraction and donates everything back to the caregiver – the concentrate, the stripped-away plant material, even the dregs. The caregiver pays the processor for the service, not the pot, and then sells the concentrate or a product made from the concentrate to his or her patient.

“The entire policy on caregiver-to-caregiver sales is completely unworkable,” said Dubois, who has talked about the rules at informational sessions held by the caregivers trade association, Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. “For DHHS to license a new kind of retailer, which is basically what caregivers are, but then prohibit them from wholesaling and force them to produce literally everything they sell, completely ignores the realities of supply and demand.”

The rule change could force a lot of caregivers to start doing their own extractions and baking, which consultants warn can be dangerous, or refer their patients to dispensaries that are allowed to hire an unlimited number of employees, including chemists to do in-house extractions. But the patients will likely have to pay more for their medicines at one of the dispensaries, which have higher overhead costs and a monopoly on these products that can allow them to charge a higher price.

The state remains unswayed.

“A patient, registered caregiver and the one employee (allowed to caregivers) are the only individuals who may handle a patient’s marijuana,” DHHS spokeswoman Emily Spencer said by email last week. “These companies are not engaging in authorized activity under the medical marijuana statute. … Loss of license and referral to law enforcement are both potential consequences.”

That position seemed to soften Friday when an item was posted in the medical marijuana FAQ section of the website of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The notice said DHHS had made a mistake on that particular rule, and that it didn’t intend to restrict the resale of donated marijuana when the new rules take effect.

But the state’s interpretation of the medical marijuana law was echoed Tuesday by Hannah King, an attorney with Drummond Woodsum who specializes in marijuana law. She said a court would be likely to back the department, viewing the exchanges of flower, concentrate and money between caregivers and processors as a single transaction.

The number of businesses engaged in this unregulated processing raises significant health and safety concerns, King said. Drummond Woodsum believes the Legislature has an obligation to address this issue and could do so by expediting the recreational marijuana market, which would license extraction labs and edible makers that would likely serve both the medical and adult-use sides of the market.

Interpretations aside, caregivers claim that DHHS inspectors never enforced processing restrictions, Julia said. But now, inspectors have told some caregivers that they should be prepared to prove they made all their own products during any inspections that occur after the new rules go into effect.

“Eliminating second-party processing would be the equivalent of telling a patient you now need to formulate and compound your own pharmaceuticals,” Julia said.

GROWING INDUSTRY OF PROCESSORS

The uncertainty has created fear among some of the biggest names in the state’s fast-growing marijuana edibles market and the behind-the-scenes extraction industry. More than a dozen lab operators and processors were interviewed for this story. Some abandoned their “civilian” jobs to get into this field, hired chemists, technicians and staff, signed leases for warehouses and commercial kitchens, and invested big money on extraction equipment needed to manufacture these concentrates and confections that many of the state’s 3,200 caregivers sell to their patients.

A carbon dioxide extraction machine can cost up to $500,000, for example, and banks don’t hand out loans for machines that make marijuana products, which are all still illegal under federal law. That means lab operators and processors are spending their own money, or that of their private-market investors, to get into this business. And if they fail, they would not be able to declare bankruptcy, because the federal bankruptcy system cannot liquidate or restructure cannabis assets.

“This just made me sick to my stomach,” said one wholesale edibles-maker who asked not to be identified for fear of drawing DHHS inspections.

Medical marijuana processing began with patients who were too sick to grow their own marijuana and instead hired a caregiver to grow their medicine for them. Some patients didn’t want to smoke their medicine and preferred odorless topicals, smokeless vaping or ingestible foods, oil or tinctures. Some needed the power of a concentrate.

While some caregivers learned to do that, others turned to caregivers who began to specialize in extracting the oils from cannabis, using solvents ranging from water to ethanol to butane to strip away everything from the plant they didn’t want and leave them with the concentrated parts they did, like the psychoactive element THC or the cannabinoid CBD. They would put the oils in capsules, vaporizers or foods ranging from cookies to soda to barbecue sauce.

But there is no medical marijuana processing license in Maine – the caregivers who specialize in this field submit to the same kind of cultivation, documentation and sales review as the caregivers who sell unprocessed pot. Their manufacturing setups are neither inspected nor regulated. The state lawmakers tasked with setting up the rules for the voter-approved recreational marijuana market are calling for a processing license on that side of the industry, but those wouldn’t apply to the medical side.

Despite the risks involved, processing marijuana products, especially edibles, is one of the fastest-growing sections of the marijuana industry. In states where adult-use cannabis is legal, edibles represent 10 percent of the total market, and that number is growing fast. Mainers bought $2 million worth of edibles at medical cannabis dispensaries in 2016 – about 7.4 percent of the $26.8 million in total sales. The year before, they bought $1.2 million, or 5.4 percent of total dispensary sales.

More changes could yet happen. Although the department says the rules are final, state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said they need approval from the Health and Human Services Committee, which he co-chairs, before they become permanent. Caregivers already have raised concerns about the new rule that allows surprise inspections of caregiver grows and new rules they believe will put medical marijuana patients’ privacy at risk, Brakey said.

 

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/maine-processors-who-make-pot-products-facing-state-crackdown/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302338_447236-20170713_Cannabis014.jpgTree Tap Extracts in Jay produces marijuana-infused maple sugar candies for patients, some of whom prefer to ingest the medicine without having to smoke it.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:26:19 +0000
Mother looks to cheer son after they fled California wildfires http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/mother-looks-to-cheer-son-after-they-fled-california-wildfires/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/14/mother-looks-to-cheer-son-after-they-fled-california-wildfires/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302230 A woman in Portland is thankful that she and her young son are OK after deadly wildfires this fall forced them to leave their home in northern California.

But now they are starting over with virtually nothing, just as the holidays approach.

“My son and I are homeless,” she wrote to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund. “We relocated to Portland because we lost everything in the Santa Rosa, California, wildfires on Oct. 9. We drove 12 days by car to get here. We’ve hit a huge hardship and I need help with making my 4-year-old son’s holidays bright and cheerful. Please help.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at pressheraldtoyfund.org or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

TOY FUND DONATIONS

Happy Holidays to all! Derek Berg $250

In memory of David Edward and David Richard Farnham $25

In memory of Tom and Brett Cooper $25

Anonymous $20

Merry Christmas! $40

United Way of Greater Portland Staff $115

Happy Holidays from Celia, Owen, Finn, Molly, Easton and Clara $100

In memory of our daughter, Lerin. Robert and Maryanne Foley $100

The Groban-Fischman Family $100

Anonymous $100

Conroy Family $50

In loving memory of Louis Atripaldi from Frances Atripaldi $50

Merry Christmas! Charlie & Cathy Toppi $50

Anonymous $50

From Bill Carr, in loving memory of Rebecca Fox Carr and Howard Fox. $50

In memory of Phil and Henty LaRou $200

Merry Christmas! Betty Bailey $50

Katie O $100

Anonymous $20

Peace & Love to all! $75

Anonymous $20

In memory of Lucy, who loved Christmas as much as the kids! Nancy & Tim $50

Anonymous $50

Love Trumps Hate $30

In memory of Alexander J Frustaci, The Gagnon family $100

Bill & Deb Mulvey $100

Anonymous $50

Total year to date: $54,629

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Boy’s story about ailing mother inspires jeweler’s generosity http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/jewelers-moved-by-boys-story-about-mothers-medical-woes/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/jewelers-moved-by-boys-story-about-mothers-medical-woes/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 03:16:23 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/jewelers-moved-by-boys-story-about-mothers-medical-woes/

Kaden James, 11, of Turner holds the pearl necklace and earrings that will be a very unexpected Christmas gift for his mother, Michelle James, seen in the photo. “He was so polite … and so appreciative,” says Day’s Jewelers Assistant Manager Vanessa Phipps. “It was really kind of what Christmas is all about.” Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

AUBURN — Kaden James’ mom has had a terrible year.

Doctors have performed 16 surgeries on Michelle James and amputated her left leg in a bid to fight off a flesh-eating bacteria that has left her in the ICU at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, according to her mother Diane Trepanier.

Monday night, after visiting his mother at the hospital, 11-year-old Kaden went grocery shopping with his grandmother at Shaw’s Plaza in Auburn. He told her he wanted to check out games at Game Stop and also slipped into Day’s Jewelers next door.

He told the sales staff how much he had in his savings account and said that he’d like to buy something beautiful for his mom for Christmas.

“As they started talking a little bit more, he explained how long his mom had been in the hospital,” said Vanessa Phipps, the assistant manager at Day’s. “He was very humble and very sad. KimBeth (Merchant), one of our sales associates, is a fan of all Hallmark Christmas movies – it reminded her of every Christmas movie. She’s like, ‘We have to do something.’”

The staff brought out three pairs of earrings and asked him to pick one, then they wrapped up that pair and a pearl necklace and handed him the bag.

“It was really precious,” Phipps said. “He had tears in his eyes because he was so touched. ‘You guys didn’t have to do that, I don’t want to take this.’ I told him, ‘When you come shopping for your girlfriend, make sure you come see us.’”

Trepanier, Kaden’s grandmother, said the family from Turner has had a very rough year.

Kaden James opens the box holding earrings in front of his grandmother Diane Trepanier at their home in Turner. The earrings and a pearl necklace were given to Kaden by employees of Day’s Jewelers in Auburn after they heard how he wanted to get his mom a nice Christmas gift because she has been in and out of the hospital over the past nine months. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Michelle James, 45, noticed a blister on her foot in February. Two weeks later, after a family vacation to Florida, the blister was still there and starting to bother her when she got up in the morning, Trepanier said.

“I didn’t like what it looked like,” Trepanier said. She urged her daughter to go to the doctor. “From the doctor she went to the emergency room. From the emergency room, they gave me 24 hours to decide to either take her leg or she wouldn’t be living in 48 hours; she was so sick and had a flesh-eating bacteria in there.”

Michelle James had been taking immune system suppressants for arthritis, complicating her recovery.

“By being on immune suppressants, she’s never been able to fight infections, and that’s pretty much what happens,” Trepanier said. “They kept having to cut more because the infection kept coming back.”

Trepanier said she was shocked to see the sixth-grader meet back up with her in Shaw’s supermarket Monday night with a bag from Day’s Jewelers in his hands.

Kaden told her the story.

“I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ ” The pair walked back to the jewelry store together.

“When I went in, they said they’d never seen such a polite little boy in all their lives,” Trepanier said. “I thought that was amazing.”

The staff was in tears. It turned out one of them had known Kaden’s mother from several years before. Trepanier thanked them profusely.

Kaden will give his mom the gifts on Christmas, in the hospital.

“I feel so good for him; it made him feel good,” Trepanier said. “He’s been having a hard time because he’s really close to his mother. It’s been rough. She hasn’t been home in nine months – she’s been in and out from the hospital to a nursing home, from the nursing home to the hospital.

“(There’s) so many bad people in the world and so many bad things they do, and when something like this happens, I think people should be noticed for it,” she said.

Phipps said six staffers pitched in to cover the cost of the jewelry.

“Of course, his mom’s story is very sad and unfortunate, but it was mostly him and how he wanted to give what little he had to give his mom something special,” Phipps said. “He was so polite and kind and so appreciative and it was really kind of what Christmas is all about.”

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/jewelers-moved-by-boys-story-about-mothers-medical-woes/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302264_23382-CITboy1P121417.jpgKaden James, 11, of Turner, holds the pearl necklace and earrings that the employees at Day's Jewelers in Auburn paid for and gave to him as a Christmas gift for his mother, Michelle James, in photo. "He was so polite ... and so appreciative," says Assistant Manager Vanessa Phipps. "It was really kind of what Christmas is all about."Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:23:04 +0000
Lawmakers begin looking for ways to fund Maine’s share of Medicaid expansion http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/lawmakers-begin-looking-for-ways-to-fund-states-share-of-medicaid-expansion/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/lawmakers-begin-looking-for-ways-to-fund-states-share-of-medicaid-expansion/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 02:22:44 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/lawmakers-begin-looking-for-ways-to-fund-states-share-of-medicaid-expansion/ AUGUSTA — Surpluses expected in the next two-year budget cycle could provide a starting point for funding the state’s share of Medicaid expansion, but it isn’t clear whether lawmakers would agree to use that money, or whether Gov. Paul LePage would veto such a move.

But the state’s share of expanding the health insurance program for low-income residents is an estimated $60 million, and the budget surplus is expected to be only about $12.5 million at the end of the coming two-year budget cycle in June 2019. Lawmakers will get a revised budget forecast in April.

The Legislature’s appropriations committee met Wednesday to start work on an official estimate of the costs and savings of Medicaid expansion. So far, lawmakers have offered no ideas about how to pay for it. The expansion funding battle is likely to consume much of the legislative session starting in January.

On Monday, LePage reiterated his opposition to expansion and in a letter to legislative leaders said they would have to find a way to pay the state’s share without raising taxes, cutting programs for disabled and elderly residents, or raiding the budget stabilization, or Rainy Day, fund – which LePage wants to increase to $300 million to lower the state’s borrowing costs. LePage also said he expects lawmakers to eliminate waiting lists for services for disabled and elderly residents before expanding MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

Democrats say the state is obligated to expand MaineCare after it received the support of 59 percent of state voters in a November referendum. After the law takes effect on Jan. 3, the Department of Health and Health Services must apply to expand MaineCare by April 3 and expand the program by July 2, analysts say.

Expansion would provide coverage to about 80,000 low-income residents – those earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $17,000 a year for a single adult and $22,412 for a two-person household.

LePage, a staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion, is unlikely to cooperate by quickly providing data needed to figure out how to fund the state’s share.

The governor has said lawmakers must put questions in writing and that experts from both the Maine Revenue Service, which collects taxes, and the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicaid, will be barred from appearing before the budget-writing appropriations committee.

During its three-hour meeting Wednesday, the committee reviewed the state’s revenue forecast and the work of its non-partisan Office of Program and Fiscal Review, which has crunched the numbers on health care expansion costs at least five different times when lawmakers considered earlier Medicaid expansion bills. The state’s share of the expansion cost would be an estimated $55 million a year for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and would expand to an estimated $60 million a year by 2021. But that would draw down about $525 million in federal matching funds.

Appropriations committee members focused on how much expansion would cost the state and when it would need the money, and worked on questions for DHHS.

At the top of that list is why DHHS has not provided an accounting for any savings in other state health programs, such as mental health and addiction services for low income residents, that would be recouped if MaineCare is expanded. According to Luke Lazure, an analyst with the fiscal review office, the state spends about $35 million a year on those programs.

“I would like to understand, I would love to see the same kind of detail from the department on what their estimate of costs are, the same kind of detail that (Lazure) just gave us here,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, the House chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He said he hoped DHHS officials were at least listening to the meeting Wednesday. “Because I think the goal here is to get to the right number.”

Gattine and other lawmakers said they would put questions in writing, but that the process should be more open-ended because the answer to one question often generates another.

Gattine said he wants to get to a implementation timeline and a plan for rolling out expansion, but some Republicans on the committee clearly backed LePage’s demand that a way to pay for expansion be found first. Neither committee Republicans nor LePage have offered suggestions on how to pay for it.

Democrats noted that they are prohibited from estimating how much the state might save in costs to other programs because of expansion, or how much additional income tax revenue might be generated by the estimated 6,000 health care jobs it is expected to create.

Expansion would also create at least 103 new jobs in DHHS and at least one lawmaker, state Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, suggested Wednesday some of those jobs should be located in rural Maine and outside of Augusta.

Gattine said the projected two-year revenue surplus of $12.5 million may be a starting point for expansion-funding talks, but that dozens of other proposals will compete for that funding.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/lawmakers-begin-looking-for-ways-to-fund-states-share-of-medicaid-expansion/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1230033_budget_maine_jpeg_0d5c1-e1500902453820.jpgLawmakers should not miss the opportunity to help businesses recruit educated and skilled employees by giving these workers a chance to pay off their student loans if they commit to living in Maine for five years.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 21:30:36 +0000
Planning Board approves move of Dummer House in Hallowell http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/planning-board-approves-move-of-dummer-house-in-hallowell/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/planning-board-approves-move-of-dummer-house-in-hallowell/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 02:15:05 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=786053 HALLOWELL — The Planning Board approved a proposal to relocate the historic Dummer House, the latest step in a process that began several years ago in order to create additional parking options for people in downtown Hallowell.

Moving the house, currently at 4 Dummers Lane, will pave the way for the city to construct the new, 30-space gravel parking lot on the property ahead of the start of the Water Street reconstruction project in April. The Maine Department of Transportation is set to begin reconstructing a 2,000-foot stretch of the busy corridor — also known as U.S. Route 201 — early next year.

Aaron Sturgis, of Preservation Timber Framing, represented Bean and said the house is “extraordinary” and worth preserving. He said it won’t be difficult to move, and the move, once it begins, should be completed in 20 to 30 days.

Sturgis said he was given assurances Wednesday by the excavator he hired that despite the frozen ground and snow, the house can still be moved.

There is no exterior work or renovations planned at this point, Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide said, but Sturgis said there will eventually be restorative work completed on the house.

“The building will be spun 180 degrees so the façade will be facing Second Street,” Ide said. “Other than that, it’ll look exactly as it does right now, for the time being.”

According to a Memorandum of Understanding with the city, Bean, the granddaughter of L.L. Bean’s founder, has agreed to move the historic house and sell the remaining property to Hallowell. Bean and the city have agreed on a $147,000 price for the remaining parcels of land.

If an agreement with the city is finalized, Bean will continue to own the house when it moves to its new location — on the corner of Second and Central streets — and Preservation Timber Framing in Berwick will handle the move and rehabilitation of the historic building.

City Manager Nate Rudy said the city’s main goal is still to make sure the project gets completed in time to build a parking lot on the Dummer House’s lot. The lack of ample parking on and near downtown Hallowell has been something residents and business owners have lamented for years, and Rudy said a 30-space gravel lot is all the city could afford. The work will be funded using the $300,000 voters approved in April as part of a $2.36 million bond package.

Bean acquired the house and restored it in the 1960s, and she plans to relocate the structure to a parcel on the corner of Central and Second streets. The city had discussed including the Dr. Hubbard House museum as part of the Dummer House transaction, but at its last meeting, the City Council decided to handle the future of the Hubbard museum separately.

There has been discussion about the Dummer House becoming a museum, and Bean said if this deal happens, the Hubbard would be a second museum space for the historical collections that many in Hallowell and around Maine could offer.

For several decades, the Hubbard Museum has housed artifacts and mementos from the life of John Hubbard, a doctor and the 22nd governor of Maine. The Hubbard museum’s previous owner donated the items in the museum to the Maine State Museum, and it was discovered recently that mold has damaged much of the collection. Currently, the Hubbard is only open for a few hours one day a year — Old Hallowell Day in July.

The agreement with the city for the Hubbard house stipulates that Bean would have to maintain the Hubbard museum at the same level or better than the city currently does, and Rudy said there’s no reason to think Bean isn’t up to the task. Rudy said the city spends about $1,100 to maintain the Hubbard each year, so it would save that money if the responsibility became Bean’s.

Nathaniel Dummer was a veteran of the American Revolution and one of Hallowell’s early civic leaders. He served as the town’s first postmaster from 1794-1802 and was a judge on the Court of Common Pleas in Kennebec County. He died in Hallowell in 1815 at age 60.

In other business, the Planning Board approved applications by Mike and Shannon Collins to replace windows, siding and doors, and repair brick chimneys and foundation at their property on Second Street; and by Laflin and Wolfington Realty to install an attached storage shed at its property on Water Street.

The Planning Board will hold its regular December meeting Dec. 20. An agenda has not yet been posted on the city’s website.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

jpafundi@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/planning-board-approves-move-of-dummer-house-in-hallowell/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/786053_415123_20170425_hallowell_5.jpgThe Dummer House in Hallowell, seen on April 25, is proposed to be relocated off land near Central Street to pave the way for construction of a new municipal parking lot.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 21:15:05 +0000
Ruling could cost Scarborough an additional $1.2 million to settle 4-year-old property tax dispute, lawyer says http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/court-ruling-could-cost-scarborough-an-additional-1-2-million-to-settle-4-year-old-property-tax-dispute-lawyer-says/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/court-ruling-could-cost-scarborough-an-additional-1-2-million-to-settle-4-year-old-property-tax-dispute-lawyer-says/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 02:00:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/court-ruling-could-cost-scarborough-an-additional-1-2-million-to-settle-4-year-old-property-tax-dispute-lawyer-says/ SCARBOROUGH — A new court ruling could cost the town an additional $1.2 million to settle a 4-year-old property tax dispute in favor of 52 waterfront residents.

So says a lawyer for the residents, who challenged the fairness of a little-known but widespread practice among Maine’s municipal assessors of giving tax breaks to homeowners for adjacent vacant lots that they also own.

The so-called abutting property program, which has been permitted by state revenue officials, resulted in assessment reductions on about 110 properties in town, ranging from a few thousand dollars for inland parcels to a few million for waterfront properties. Some homeowners saved as much as $60,000 in yearly taxes.

The 52 residents of Prouts Neck and Higgins Beach went to court in 2014 after the town’s Board of Assessment Review rejected their requests for abatements on their rising tax bills.

In August 2016, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that the town’s practice of randomly undervaluing separate adjacent lots at the request of individual landowners violated the constitutional requirement for equal taxation.

The court also found that the practice violated state laws that call for each lot to be assessed separately and at just market value, and it directed the assessment review board to make “appropriate abatements.”

This month, a Superior Court judge ruled on appeal that the $463,477 in abatements that the town divided among the 52 residents in September didn’t square with the tax breaks granted to homeowners in the abutting property program in fiscal 2013 through 2016.

‘INDEFENSIBLE’ ABATEMENTS

The $463,477 reflected $395,398 in tax breaks that the town gave to 19 homeowners who were still benefiting from the program in fiscal 2016, plus 7 percent annual interest.

The town divided the money among the 52 residents who brought the lawsuit, effectively giving each homeowner an 8 percent reduction in their land assessments over the four years. The average overall abatement was $8,913 per taxpayer.

In his order this month, Justice A.M. Horton found that the town’s formula to reach the abatement amount was “indefensible” because it was tied to the number of plaintiffs in the group.

“As the taxpayers point out, the way the board has structured the abatement means that, had there been five in their group instead of more than 50, the abatement for each would be 10 times greater,” Horton wrote. “Had there been 500 in the taxpayer group, the abatement for each would be one-tenth of what it is.”

Horton directed the town’s Board of Assessment Review to recalculate and issue new abatements that will put the 52 residents “in a position roughly equal” to the 19 homeowners who were “favored” by the abutting property program.

The 52 residents had asked the board to grant them abatements that reflected the percentage discount off market value that the 19 homeowners received through the abutting property program, which the plaintiffs figured to be 31.48 percent.

At that rate, the total abatement to be divided among the 52 residents would be about $1.6 million, plus 7 percent annual interest, said William Dale, a lawyer with Jensen Baird who represented some of the plaintiffs.

STATEWIDE PRACTICE

Town Manager Tom Hall declined to comment on Dale’s assessment that the town owes the plaintiffs a total of $1.2 million.

The Board of Assessment Review has yet to schedule a meeting to act on the ruling. The Town Council is set to discuss the ruling with the town’s attorney in executive session on Wednesday.

What impact this case might have on municipal assessing practices statewide remains to be seen. A call to Justin Poirier, acting director of the Property Tax Division at Maine Revenue Services, went unanswered Wednesday.

While Maine’s high court blasted Scarborough’s practice of randomly undervaluing separate adjacent lots, it upheld the practice of assessing lesser used or unused portions of larger single lots at a lower rate – as long as it reflects fair market value.

Municipal and state assessing officials testified during Scarborough’s abatement hearings in 2013 and 2014 that the practice of combining separate lots with shared ownership for assessment purposes was common across the state.

They pointed to a state law, Title 36, Section 701-A, that allows contiguously owned parcels to be combined for assessment purposes.

The law stipulates that it applies to “unimproved acreage in excess of an improved house lot … when each parcel is 5 or more acres (and) the owner gives written consent to the assessor.”

However, the law doesn’t say that parcels may be combined this way to reduce property assessments.

Ruth Birtz, assessor for the town of Lincoln and president of the Maine Association of Assessing Officers, said the practice is still used across the state to ensure fair and equitable assessments.

Birtz noted that on the outskirts of Lincoln – about an hour north of Bangor, in Penobscot County – house lots must be at least 2 acres, but some people buy more land for greater privacy and other reasons. Under those circumstances, it would be unfair to assess a homeowner with 12 wooded acres of land the same as a subdivision with six house lots up for sale.

But undervaluing excess land gets risky where property values are impacted by proximity to waterfront and other features that influence market demand, Birtz said.

“It depends on location,” Birtz said. “You’re not going to get a standard application across the state. There are a lot of variables in property assessment. At assessing functions, we’ve debated this at length. The highest and best use changes, depending on the area. Lincoln is different than York.”

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

kbouchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/court-ruling-could-cost-scarborough-an-additional-1-2-million-to-settle-4-year-old-property-tax-dispute-lawyer-says/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/Scarborough-town-hall.jpgThu, 14 Dec 2017 10:54:31 +0000
Tax protest at Sen. Collins’ Biddeford office ends as police arrive http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/tax-protest-at-sen-collins-biddeford-office-ends-as-police-arrive/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/tax-protest-at-sen-collins-biddeford-office-ends-as-police-arrive/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:53:44 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/tax-protest-at-sen-collins-biddeford-office-ends-as-police-arrive/ About a dozen protesters who stood outside U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Biddeford office for about an hour Wednesday afternoon left peacefully after police arrived and told them they could be arrested for criminal trespassing.

No one was arrested and the protesters left around 5:15 p.m., said Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk.

Fisk said two of the protesters were in Collins’ office when a staffer notified Biddeford police that the office was closing and assistance was needed.

When officers arrived, they told the protesters inside and outside the office that they could be arrested, Fisk said. The protesters decided to leave.

Wednesday’s protest of Collins’ support for the Republican tax plan now working its way through Congress followed similar protests last week in Bangor and Portland.

In Portland on Dec. 7, nine religious leaders who staged a sit-in at Collins’ downtown office were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. That protest was streamed live on Facebook.

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

dhoey@pressherald.com

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/tax-protest-at-sen-collins-biddeford-office-ends-as-police-arrive/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/Susan-Collins.jpgSen. Susan Collins, R-Me., questions Alex Azar, President Donald Trump's nominee to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Wed, 13 Dec 2017 21:11:06 +0000
AOS 92 residents approve $1.89M budget http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/aos-92-residents-approve-1-89m-budget/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/aos-92-residents-approve-1-89m-budget/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:17:19 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/aos-92-residents-approve-1-89m-budget/ WINSLOW — Residents approved a proposed $1.89 million budget to fund Alternative Organizational Structure 92 for the 2018-19 school year at the board’s meeting Wednesday evening, though it’s still up in the air whether that budget will actually go into effect in July.

Before the vote, Superintendent Eric Haley explained that the AOS board was in the process of creating a plan to dissolve itself so that it can pursue a restructuring as a regional service center. He said if the AOS, which represents Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow, does indeed dissolve, the budget the residents were about to take a vote on would not go into effect because the AOS would no longet exist.

“If we vote to dissolve AOS 92 this budget will be null and void. It would be moot,” Haley said.

Haley did not go into detail about why the board is interested in disolving the district, but offered to answer questions from residents after the vote.

The budget that about 17 voters approved Wednesday is an increase of $103,582 from that of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Haley said that the two major factors that constitute about 74% of the incease are the superintendent’s salary and the administrative costs for special education.

The $30,990 bump in cost for a superintendent will only occur if the AOS remains in tact. Haley plans to step down from his role if the district is not dissolved because of the work load that comes with overseeing three school systems. Haley said the reason it would cost more to hire a new superintendent is partly because Haley receives health care coverage from his retirement package, and the AOS would have to pay those costs for Haley’s successor.

The $43,427 increase in funding for special education administration is due to the reorganizing of how that department is managed. Within the last year, the former director and assistant director for special education quit and told the superintendent’s office that the way the department was structured was not working. Upon their departure, the board decided to hire a director who worked one day a week as well as two assistant directors. The addition of a second assistant director is the reason for the increase.

Without any discussion, residents gave their approval of the $1,894,017.78 budget and all of its articles. If the AOS remains in tact, that budget will go into effect on July 1, 2018, when the next fiscal year begins. The residents of each community within the AOS will also vote on budgets for their respective school systems, which will include the money assessed to the AOS for the administrative costs of running their systems.

Haley told the Morning Sentinel in an interview last Thursday that the plan to dissolve the district should be complete by the last week of December. The AOS 92 board then would hold a special meeting to approve the plan. If the board approves the plan, it is expected to go to the state education commissioner in early January. If the commissioner’s office approves the plan, it will be on the ballot as a referendum question during a special election, tentatively scheduled for March 13. It then would take a majority of only one municipalitiy’s voters favoring the proposal to dissolve the district.

The regional service center that the district is pursuing is a school system structuring model being pushed by the state Department of Education. State officials say having local school systems regionalize and share some of their services should maximize efficiencies in districts. Some of the restructuring would include contracting for administrative work, such as tasks relating to payroll and accounts payable, to other regional service centers. AOS 92 is interested in the restructuring so that it can secure a reimbursement from the state for the cost of the district’s administration.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9238

ehigginbotham@centralmaine.com

Twitter: EmilyHigg

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Anson accepts former paper mill’s landfill, $2 million to maintain it http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/anson-accepts-former-paper-mills-landfill-2-million-to-maintain-it/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/anson-accepts-former-paper-mills-landfill-2-million-to-maintain-it/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 01:02:17 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/anson-accepts-former-paper-mills-landfill-2-million-to-maintain-it/ ANSON — After weighing all of the “risks and the rewards” Wednesday night, Anson residents voted to accept the closed Madison Paper Industries sludge landfill, along with more than $2 million from the paper mill’s former owners to maintain it.

There was plenty of discussion over the town’s ability to afford the upkeep of the landfill and if it was safe, but residents voted 18-16 to accept it.

Voters also agreed to use money from a town reserve account to proceed with a lawsuit against former Anson Tax Collector Claudia Viles, now serving prison time for embezzling more than $500,000 from the town.

The mill landfill, located above the Kennebec River in Anson, now becomes town property, and the money that was set aside by MPI for maintenance of the landfill — $2.4 million — will be turned over to the town to maintain the 66-acre site off Arnold’s Lane behind the post office. It is the last remaining property that the mill owned in Anson.

At the meeting Wednesday night a representative from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection told voters by phone over the public address system that if anything bad was coming out of the landfill they’d be seeing it by now.

“We don’t see anything unusual — we never have,” the DEP’s Linda Butler said. “We don’t anticipate any surprises.”

Investment adviser Randall Dean, of Madison, laid out ideas for using the MPI money for investment and engineer Peter Maher said there wasn’t any “dangerous type” of waste in the landfill.

Not all residents, including Anson/Madison Sanitary District Superintendent Dale Clark, were entirely convinced taking it over was a good idea.

But in the end, the “yeas” carried the question, but by just two votes.

The Madison paper mill closed in May 2016, leaving 214 people without jobs. The mill property was sold in December 2016 to a “joint venture” of New Mill Capital Holdings, of New York; Perry Videx, of Hainesport, New Jersey; and Infinity Asset Solutions, of Toronto.

The sale of the mill’s hydropower facilities to Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC, a hydroelectric power producer based in Morristown, New Jersey, was announced in April of this year.

The paper company used the landfill to hold sludge — wood chips and clay — from the papermaking process. Anson town officials have said the sludge was treated and is not toxic. The dump was closed and capped a couple of years ago under the direction of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The former paper mill owners had roughly $1.6 million set aside in a reserve account to maintain the landfill, along with $900,000 to transfer the landfill to the town for a total of $2.4 million.

Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray said earlier that the town will look after the site, doing routine mowing and upkeep to make sure it all remains safe and then will look into investing some of the leftover money.

“That’s the last piece that ties them to here,” Murray said. “They sold everything else.”

Legal teams for the town and the former mill owners now will draw up the needed paperwork for the transaction, to be finalized sometime in 2018. The money to be set aside also would be used for legal services in support of the town’s property tax abatement case involving the mill.

Anson Selectman John Bryant said the five-member board voted unanimously to accept the landfill — and the money — leaving the final decision up to voters.

Voters Wednesday night also agreed to take up to $45,000 from the town’s Insurance Claim Reserve Fund to pay legal and administrative costs for a pending legal case against Viles. A judge in Skowhegan sentenced Viles to eight years in prison in July. She will serve five years and then three years of probation for a class B felony theft conviction and nine months, to run concurrently, for 12 other crimes related to tax fraud and tampering with public documents.

Viles also was ordered to pay $566,257 in restitution to the town of Anson — $500,948 for the theft of excise taxes and $65,309 for economic loss to the town.

Murray said the town already has received $250,000 from the insurance company to cover some of the loss, and just recently Maine State Police turned over a check for $58,500 from money detectives discovered in a safe in Viles’ garage during their search of the property.

The town still needs to recover about $260,000, which Murray said the town is confident it will get with liens on Viles’ several pieces of property. She said the Viles family has “quite a bit” of property in the neighboring town of Embden and three parcels in Anson.

In other voting Tuesday night, Anson residents voted to appropriate up to $10,000 from the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund for repairing a town firetruck. Voters also agreed to appropriate up to $25,000 from the Insurance Claim Reserve Fund to cover the cost of water treatment made necessary by a line break at the North Anson Sewer Department earlier this year.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/anson-accepts-former-paper-mills-landfill-2-million-to-maintain-it/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2016/03/492439_114049_20160315_mpi_folo_51-e1458821699264.jpgAn empty pulp truck passes the Madison Paper Industries mill in Madison last week. The mill is closing in May and town officials said Wednesday they are optimistic about the possibility of getting help from the state.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:55:34 +0000
Auburn man convicted of illegally possessing a gun http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/auburn-man-convicted-of-illegally-possessing-a-gun/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/auburn-man-convicted-of-illegally-possessing-a-gun/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:04:30 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/auburn-man-convicted-of-illegally-possessing-a-gun/ An Auburn man was convicted of illegally possessing a gun Wednesday following a two-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Portland.

United States Attorney Halsey B. Frank in a statement said that 58-year-old Willie Richard Minor faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to court records, Minor was convicted in June 2010 of domestic violence assault against his wife. As a result of that conviction, Minor was prohibited from possessing firearms.

In November 2016, Minor told Auburn police in an interview that he kept a gun in his apartment. Auburn police obtained a warrant, searched his apartment, and found the gun, Frank said.

Minor will be sentenced after a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

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

dhoey@pressherald.com

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Bill to resolve issues around Acadia advances on Capitol Hill http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/bill-to-resolve-issues-around-acadia-advances-on-capitol-hill/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/bill-to-resolve-issues-around-acadia-advances-on-capitol-hill/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:54:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/bill-to-resolve-issues-around-acadia-advances-on-capitol-hill/ Bipartisan legislation to resolve territorial and jurisdictional issues in and around Acadia National Park has advanced on Capitol Hill.

The House version of the bill, co-sponsored by Republican Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Chellie Pingree, was unanimously endorsed by the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday and moved forward for an eventual floor vote.

The bill, which had been stalled for months, would make legal the park’s acquisition of the 1,441-acre Schoodic Woods parcel. The coastal woodland, with a campground and bike trails, was anonymously donated in 2015 but acquired by the park without respect to a boundary established by Congress in 1986 for future park expansions, the result of negotiations between the park and local residents.

The bill also would direct the park to permit “traditional” harvesting by clammers, wormers and periwinkle gatherers within the park in accordance with state law and local ordinances. The language appears to exclude seaweed harvesting, aquaculture pens and other uses that have not happened in the area to date. Under Maine law, a coastal property owner owns the intertidal zone, but marine harvesting can be done there.

“I’m extremely pleased this bipartisan and bicameral legislation is moving forward in Congress with broad support, and I will continue to push in the House to get it across the finish line,” said Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, where the park is located, in a written statement.

Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, introduced an identical bill in the Senate.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, amended the House bill to remove a provision that would have directed the park to give $350,000 to a consortium of Mount Desert Island town governments to subsidize trash disposal – a move that park proponents had said would cripple the park’s next budget.

Bishop argued the provision would constitute an “earmark” under House rules, but Poliquin said in a press release that he intends to find an administrative solution to secure the funds.

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/bill-to-resolve-issues-around-acadia-advances-on-capitol-hill/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/10/1278771_618197-20171019_Acadia471.jpgJonathan Renwick was among those who objected to Acadia National Park's move to block the harvest of marine organisms on an intertidal zone adjacent to park property. Acadia reversed course, but twin bills stalled in Congress would address the issue.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 19:40:46 +0000
Inmate revived after apparent overdose at Cumberland County Courthouse http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/inmate-revived-after-apparent-overdose-at-cumberland-county-jail/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/inmate-revived-after-apparent-overdose-at-cumberland-county-jail/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:23:38 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/12/13/inmate-revived-after-apparent-overdose-at-cumberland-county-jail/ An inmate at the Cumberland County Jail suffered a drug overdose but police officers revived her with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan on Wednesday afternoon at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, according to a release by the county sheriff’s office.

Kayla Brooks, 26, of Kennebunk started showing signs of an overdose while detained in a holding cell at the courthouse around 1:30 p.m.

Capt. Steve Butts Jr., administrator in charge of operations at the jail, said Brooks had been taken to the courthouse for an initial court appearance on a charge of failure to appear.

Butts said courthouse security immediately contacted the Portland Police Department. Officers administered Narcan, or naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Butts said that Brooks was transported by ambulance to Maine Medical Center where she was treated and released. He did not know what type of drug Brooks used or how she smuggled it from the jail to the courthouse.

Brooks was being held at the county jail Wednesday night on $750 cash bail. She had been taken into custody on Tuesday on a warrant charging her with failure to appear, Butts said.

Drug smuggling at the jail is hard to detect and becoming more common, said Butts, who has worked in jail systems for more than 20 years.

“As long as people have body parts, they can insert just about anything into a body part,” he said. Inmates refer to the drug inserts as “plugs.”

In April, an inmate at the jail, Danyielle Banks, 43, of Biddeford, started to show signs of an overdose while sitting at a table in the pod day room of the jail housing unit. Jail medical staff treated her with Narcan and she survived.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Wednesday’s incident at the courthouse.

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

dhoey@pressherald.com

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/inmate-revived-after-apparent-overdose-at-cumberland-county-jail/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/780849_616904_20140205_opiate_ov_2.jpgAn emergency opiate overdose kit, called Naloxone, is displayed in February 2014 at the MaineGeneral Harm Reduction program office in Augusta. Amid the opioid epidemic, police say Naloxone, also called Narcan, is used in hundreds of cases to revive people who have overdosed. Several departments around the state, including Waterville, are taking a new approach to the crisis — helping addicts get treatment.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:30:18 +0000
Maine’s top court hears challenge to new rules that reduce solar incentives http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/solar-incentives-at-core-of-legal-dispute/ http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/solar-incentives-at-core-of-legal-dispute/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 21:38:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1302036 A legal challenge to new rules that opponents say will reduce the incentives for homeowners to install solar power systems was likened to a reverse Robin Hood scheme Wednesday before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Tony Buxton, the lawyer representing the Conservation Law Foundation, said the state Public Utilities Commission’s plan to reduce the credit for excess energy that’s put back into the power grid by home solar generators amounts to a fee. And that fee is imposed on those who draw less electricity from the grid while providing electricity for other users.

“This is like our grocers charging us for the vegetables we grow in our own gardens,” he told the justices.

Current rules require utilities to provide a credit, at the full retail price, for the extra electricity that home solar power systems generate and put back into the grid for other consumers to use.

It’s an approach called “net metering” and is in place in much of the country. It was developed when roof-mounted solar panels were relatively new, and expensive, and was designed to encourage homeowners to generate much of their own electricity from a renewable, non-polluting source.

But critics, including Maine Gov. Paul LePage, said net metering shifts costs to other customers and doesn’t compensate utilities for the cost of erecting and maintaining power distribution systems.

A bill to require the PUC to keep net-metering rules in place while it studies the costs and benefits of solar power passed the Legislature this year, but was vetoed by LePage. Lawmakers then failed to get the two-thirds vote required for an override.

The PUC has proposed grandfathering the credit for current solar array owners for 15 years. But residents who install new systems would get a lower credit – 90 percent of the current credit – for 15 years. The lower credit would apply to the cost of power distribution; the credit for energy supplied to the grid would remain the same.

This month, the PUC decided to delay implementation of its new rule until April 30. That allows time for the Legislature to consider modifications to the law as well as four months for the Supreme Judicial Court to issue a ruling on the Conservation Law Foundation’s challenge.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley questioned whether the challenge should even be before the state’s top court. She noted that, under Maine law, challenges to PUC rules typically go before Superior Court judges first, but the law foundation appealed directly to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Buxton said the PUC’s rule is actually a rate change, which can be appealed directly to the higher-level court. The new rules, he said, affect how much those with home solar systems will pay on their bills, so the PUC essentially adopted a new rate in setting up the new credit program.

The court could decide that the matter first needs to be heard by a lower court, placing the foundation’s challenge before a Superior Court judge.

Mitchell Tannenbaum, the lawyer representing the PUC, largely sidestepped that issue, arguing that adjustments to programs designed to encourage changes in the marketplace are inevitably made over time as the need for incentives eases. The PUC said the new plan seeks to lessen the impact on other ratepayers and also represents falling costs for solar electric panels.

“This is what is always done with incentive programs,” he said.

But Sauffley seemed dubious of Tannenbaum’s effort to characterize the new rules as relatively minor, technical changes to the program.

“This rule is a very blunt instrument,” she said.

Buxton also argued that the new rules represent an illegal “exit fee” on those trying to largely disengage from the electric grid, that the PUC violated some of the rules of its regulatory process in adopting the new approach, and that the changes run counter to state policies aimed at encouraging the development of solar power.

There’s no indication of when the court might rule. The state’s top court typically takes three or four months to rule on appeals.

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

emurphy@pressherald.com

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http://www.centralmaine.com/2017/12/13/solar-incentives-at-core-of-legal-dispute/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/12/1302036_603703_20170802_solar_1063.jpgJack Doherty of Revision Energy installs a solar panel in Falmouth. Homeowners get a credit for excess energy fed into the grid.Wed, 13 Dec 2017 20:32:03 +0000