News – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel Features news from the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine and Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine. Tue, 20 Feb 2018 19:48:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ruling expected this week in 1980 Maine cold case murder trial Tue, 20 Feb 2018 19:34:31 +0000 BANGOR – A judge will announce her decision later this week in the case of a murder charge stemming from a decades-old death in Maine.

Fifty-seven-year-old Philip Scott Fournier is charged with killing 16-year-old Joyce McLain in East Millinocket in 1980. Superior Court Justice Ann Murray is expected to make her decision public on Thursday.

The case baffled investigators for years. There isn’t physical evidence tying Fournier to the crime scene, but prosecutors say he confessed numerous times over the years. Fournier’s defense says the defendant’s memories are unreliable.

Final arguments in the case were held earlier this month. A defense lawyer said “doubts will linger” over the case regardless of whether Fournier is convicted.

McLain disappeared while jogging and her body was found two day later wearing only sneakers and socks.

]]> 0 Superior Court justice is expected to announce her verdict Thursday in the murder trial of Philip Scott Fournier, who is charged in the 1980 death of high school student Joyce McClain in East Millinocket.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:36:47 +0000
Colby College hires head of state police as new security director Tue, 20 Feb 2018 18:20:28 +0000 WATERVILLE — Following an extensive nationwide search, Colby College has announced it is hiring the head of Maine State Police to take over as its director of security.

Maine State Police Chief Robert Williams has led the force for the past seven years to close out a law enforcement career spanning 33 years. He began as a trooper with the state police before finally being named colonel by Gov. Paul LePage in 2011. He will officially take over as security director for the college on March 12.

In a statement from the college, Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer Doug Terp said that “having a seasoned leader with experience in every aspect of protecting our communities will position Colby for continued strength,” especially at a time when security on college and university campuses has become increasingly complex.

“”Bob also demonstrates a keen ability to build relationships, which is an important element of this role. We look forward to welcoming him to Colby,” Terp said in the release.

Williams will lead a staff of 40 employees at Colby and will manage and administer safety programming, facility security, compliance training, emergency preparedness and critical incident management.

“As a native of central Maine, I have watched Colby continue to rise,” Williams said in the release. “I am drawn to Colby’s commitment to excellence, something that I have continually worked toward as a member of the Maine State Police. After a full career in law enforcement, I am excited about the opportunity to interact with a whole new community.”

Williams is a graduate of the University of Maine in Augusta and earned a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Husson University. He also attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. A resident of China, he is a longtime member of the Vassalboro Fire Department and has served on its board of directors since the early 1990s.

He began a career in law enforcement in 1983 as an officer in the Pittsfield Police Department. He later became a state trooper in Skowhegan for 11 years, rising to the rank of sergeant. He eventually became a lieutenant in the communications unit, and in 2000 rose to the rank of major. In 2007 he was named lieutenant colonel.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

Twitter: @colinoellis


]]> 0 State Police Chief Robert WilliamsTue, 20 Feb 2018 13:43:50 +0000
Workers’ comp losses expected to decline 12% in Maine Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:31:09 +0000 The cost of workers’ compensation insurance claims in Maine is expected to decline by double digits in the coming year, the state’s top insurance regulator said.

Maine Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa said he has approved a 12 percent average decrease in the recommended estimate for workers’ compensation loss costs in the state. Loss costs vary by industry, but most should see a decrease, he said.

The decrease could save Maine businesses as much as $27 million in the coming year if all insurers fully adopt the recommendation, Cioppa said in a news release. Workers’ compensation insurance providers use data on loss costs to set annual premiums. The new recommended loss cost estimates are for the 12-month period beginning April 1.

“Maine employers’ efforts to improve workplace safety, return injured workers to their jobs in a timely manner and control medical costs continues to pay off,” Cioppa said. “This most recent decrease should result in lower workers’ compensation premiums on average across all industry groups.”

Workers’ compensation loss costs are calculated annually for each state by the National Council on Compensation Insurance based on previous and projected loss and benefits payments. They must then be approved by each state’s top insurance regulator.

The decrease is only a recommendation, Cioppa said. It is up to individual insurers to decide whether to accept the proposed change in loss costs.


]]> 0 this Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, photo, workers build an apartment and retail complex in Nashville, Tenn. On Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, the Commerce Department issues the first estimate of how the U.S. economy performed in the October-December quarter. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:22:28 +0000
David Rockefeller’s amazing art collection is going up for auction. Here’s a peek Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:14:26 +0000 LONDON — An art collection amassed by billionaire David Rockefeller could raise more than $500 million for charity when it is auctioned this spring.

Auctioneer Christie’s is selling hundreds of artworks including major paintings by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, from the collection of the oil-family scion and his wife Peggy .

Rockefeller, grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, died in March at the age of 101. His family is selling the art collection to benefit cultural, educational, medical and environmental charities.

It includes Monet’s water-lily painting “Nympheas en fleur,” estimated to sell for $50 million to $70 million, and Picasso’s “Fillette a la corbeille fleurie (Young Girl with a Flower Basket),” which has an estimate of $90 million to $120 million.

“You end up running out of superlatives,” Jonathan Rendell, deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas, said at a preview Tuesday. “Some of the things are jaw-dropping.”

Billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller was the grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller. 1981 photo via AP

Rendell cites Picasso’s “extraordinary” portrait of a young girl, which was painted in 1905 when the artist was in his early 20s, and first bought by writer Gertrude Stein.

Also up for sale is a small painting of an apple, given by Picasso as a gift to Stein, a friend and patron.

“That little apple is a lovely object because it takes you right into the history of art,” Rendell said. “Picasso’s gift to Gertrude Stein, who made his career – it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Matisse’s reclining nude, “Odalisque couchee aux magnolias” is expected to sell for $50 million, breaking the sale record for the artist.

“I expect to see quite a lot of records broken,” Rendell said. He added: “That was my most English understatement.”

Rockefeller’s estate is selling more than 2,000 objects, including modern art masterpieces, Chinese export porcelain, American paintings and European furniture, according to Christie’s. The results could be the largest tally in auction history, according to current and former auction specialists.

Along with major European Impressionist and modern paintings and works by American artists such as Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe, the auction will feature a selection of furniture, jewelry, Chinese bronzes and porcelain – including a dessert service that accompanied Napoleon into exile on the island of Elba.

Highlights of the collection are on display in London from Wednesday to March 8. There will also be previews in Paris, Beijing, Los Angeles and Shanghai before a series of sales in New York from May 7 to 11.

An avid collector, Rockefeller promised about 30 significant artworks to MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, said Fraser Seitel, a spokesman for the estate.. Those works will be excluded from the Christie’s auctions.

Rockefeller’s will specified that an Andrew Wyeth painting, “River Cove,” be given to the Portland Museum of Art, Forbes reported at the time of his death.

Christie’s competed for the collection with rival Sotheby’s, which offered the Rockefellers a guarantee of more than $650 million in 2013, according to a person familiar with the matter. A Sotheby’s spokesperson declined to comment.

Christie’s top sale for an estate collection was that of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge, which tallied $484 million in February 2009, according to the firm. Competitor Sotheby’s top estate sale was the collection of its former chairman A. Alfred Taubman that tallied $469 million in 2015 and 2016, according to the company.

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 13:30:21 +0000
Peanut allergy treatment showing signs of success Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:12:38 +0000 The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut flour helped sensitize children to nuts in a major study.

Millions of children have peanut allergies, and some may have life-threatening reactions if accidentally exposed to them. Doctors have been testing daily doses of peanut flour, contained in a capsule and sprinkled over food, as a way to prevent that.

California-based Aimmune (AIM-yoon) Therapeutics said 67 percent of kids who had its treatment were able to tolerate the equivalent of roughly two peanuts at the end of the study, compared to only 4 percent of others given a dummy powder.

The study involved nearly 500 kids ages 4 to 17 with severe peanut allergies. They were given either capsules of peanut flour or a dummy powder in gradually increasing amounts for six months, then continued on that final level for another six months. Neither the participants nor their doctors knew who was getting what until the study ended.

About 20 percent of kids getting the peanut powder dropped out of the study, 12 percent due to reactions or other problems.

The results have not yet been reviewed by independent experts, but will be presented at a medical meeting next month.

The company plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the treatment by the end of this year, and for approval in Europe early next year.

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 13:32:21 +0000
Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:47:08 +0000 The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election has charged an attorney with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official, according to court papers made public Tuesday.

Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom until he was fired last year, was to appear in court later Tuesday at a plea hearing.

The charge does not involve election meddling or relate to the Trump campaign’s operations. It stems from a part of the special counsel’s investigation into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, and Rick Gates, a former campaign aide and longtime business associate of Manafort.

Manafort and Gates are accused of directing a covert Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. The lobbying effort was part of political consulting work that Manafort and Gates carried out before they joined the Trump campaign.

Gates and Manafort were indicted last year and accused of conspiring to launder millions of dollars they earned from political consulting work in Ukraine. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Van der Zwaan is accused of lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates during an interview with the FBI late last year, according to the charging document filed in federal court in Washington. David Mills and Laura Grossfield Birger, attorneys for van der Zwaan, did not immediately return email and phone messages Tuesday afternoon.

Van der Zwaan’s plea hearing Tuesday comes on the heels of an extraordinary indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller last week that charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies in a hidden social media effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by denigrating Democrat Hillary Clinton and boosting the chances of Trump.

According to the court filing, prosecutors say van der Zwaan lied about his role in the production of a report on the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She is a political foe of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political party was a client of Gates and Manafort.

Van der Zwaan is accused of lying during an interview with prosecutors and FBI agents on Nov. 3, 2017, about the timing of his last communication with Gates and an unidentified person described as “Person A.”

Van der Zwaan told investigators that he last texted with Gates in mid-August 2016 and his last contact with Person A was in 2014 when he discussed the person’s family. But prosecutors say that wasn’t true.

In fact, they say he had discussed the Tymoshenko report with Gates and Person A in September 2016 during a phone call that he surreptitiously recorded. They also say Van der Zwaan deleted emails sought by the special counsel’s office including one between him and Person A from September 2016.

The Tymoshenko report was cited in the 12-count indictment against Manafort and Gates. It accuses the two men of acting as unregistered lobbyists in connection with the rollout of the report, which was commissioned by the Ukrainian government. According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates “used one of their offshore accounts to funnel $4 million to pay secretly for the report.”

The report was authored by the law firm, Skadden, Arps. Van der Zwaan’s now-defunct LinkedIn page lists him as an associate in the London office of the law firm.

On Tuesday, Skadden Arps released a statement saying it had fired van der Zwaan last year. The firm said it “has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter.”

It did not say what led to the firing. The charging document notes that the emails van der Zwaan is accused of deleting and withholding from the special counsel’s office were also sought by the law firm, which is referred to as “Law Firm A.”

Associated Press writers Jeff Horwitz and Desmond Butler contributed to this report.

]]> 0 Counsel Robert Mueller departs the Capitol after a closed-door meeting in June with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign. (Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite)Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:42:59 +0000
Scientists say new buoy-less lobstering technology could save right whales Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:16:50 +0000 FALMOUTH, Mass. — Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are urging New England lobstermen to begin using new technology to help prevent the deaths of rare right whales.

The Boston Globe reports scientists from the institution recently met with fishermen to push for the use of traps that can be brought to the surface using radio signals that can inflate bags or send lines to the surface, rather than relying on ropes connected to buoys.

Scientists say that over the past year, at least 18 right whales have died, many after becoming entangled in the ropes. They say there are just 450 of the whales left in the world and just 100 breeding females.

Lobstermen attending the seminar this month argued the technology is too pricey, creates problems with marking fishing territory and that signal failures would leave expensive equipment stranded at the ocean floor.

]]> 0, ME - FEBRUARY 3: Snow covered lobster traps sit on a dock in Jonesport on Friday, February 3, 2017. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Tue, 20 Feb 2018 11:17:05 +0000
Albertsons to buy Rite Aid in cash-and-stock drugstore deal Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:10:02 +0000 Grocer Albertsons will buy drugstore chain Rite Aid in a deal that would accelerate the remaking of the U.S. retail and health-care industries.

The takeover serves several purposes. Rite Aid will get a buyer after a failed merger with another chain last year. Albertsons will add new locations and size amid increasing pressure from online competitors. And the grocer’s private-equity owners will exit their 2013 investment without having to go through an initial public offering in a turbulent market.

Rite Aid operates 15 stores in Maine, most in smaller communities roughly bounded by Waterville in the south, Millinocket in the north and Old Town in the east.

The Shaw’s supermarket chain, which has 21 stores in Maine, is owned by Albertsons.

The combined companies will have about 4,900 stores, including 4,350 pharmacy locations, in 38 states, they said in a statement. The Albertsons-owned pharmacies will be rebranded under the Rite Aid name, including those inside Shaw’s supermarkets.

Retailers have been under growing pressure from online competitors like, and the corner drugstore has been no exception. While the prescription drug businesses at pharmacies has been relatively stable, front-of-the-store sales have been in decline. Giant retailers like Walmart are also looking to play a bigger role.

The result has been consolidation. CVS Health Corp. agreed last year to pay about $68 billion for health insurer Aetna, while the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Walgreens Boots Alliance is in early talks to buy drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp. after its takeover of Rite Aid was scaled back last year for antitrust reasons.

Rite Aid shares rose 28 percent before U.S. markets opened on Tuesday. The companies said the deal is expected to close in the second half of the year.

Rite Aid shareholders will have a choice whether to take all stock or a combination of stock and cash. After it closes, Albertsons shareholders will own 70.4 percent to 72 percent of the business, the companies said.

The companies have a combined value of around $24 billion, including debt, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported on the transaction earlier Tuesday.

The deal also comes after Rite Aid’s failed attempt to sell itself to Walgreens. That merger fell apart amid scrutiny by U.S. antitrust authorities. Walgreens eventually won approval to buy 1,932 stores, three distribution centers and related asset for $4.4 billion in September.

Rite Aid CEO John Standley will serve as chief executive officer of the new company, the companies said, while his counterpart at Albertsons, Bob Miller, will be the chairman. The companies haven’t decided on a name for the new company.

Albertsons, which is backed by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, last year put plans for an initial public offering on hold after Amazon acquired Whole Foods, according to people familiar with the situation.

Cerberus acquired Albertsons in a $3.3 billion deal with Supervalu in 2013. It later merged the business with Safeway, creating a grocery chain of 2,230 stores and 250,000 employees across the U.S.

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 11:47:57 +0000
Maine land trusts say governor uses bogus data in pitch to tax them Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage is once again accusing conservation groups of “ripping off” taxpayers in Maine by not paying local taxes on vast swaths of land across the state.

But conservation advocates and some lawmakers counter that the governor is peddling misleading information that ignores payments made by land trusts as well as the public benefits of preserving land in a state defined by its natural beauty.

“They are paying taxes, they are providing and generating income and, in most cases, they are open to the public for (recreational) use,” said Sen. Tom Saviello, a Wilton Republican.

For three years, LePage has pushed unsuccessfully for policy changes that would allow municipalities to tax land trusts, hospitals, private colleges and other nonprofit organizations currently exempt from local property taxes. Despite this track record, he clearly plans to continue pursuing the issue during his final year in office, with a heavy focus on conservation groups that he views as driving up property taxes for homeowners.

“The desire to preserve land without benefit to the taxpayers, or their input, is out of control,” LePage said last Tuesday during a wide-ranging State of the State address. “We must restore balance. We must ensure that all property owners are required to contribute to the local tax base. Everyone must pay their fair share.”


A sizable and valuable portion of land in Maine – worth $18.3 billion in 2016 – is tax-exempt. But what LePage failed to make clear in his address is that roughly $11.8 billion worth of that land is owned by the state, the federal government, municipalities or quasi-municipal agencies such as water districts. The remaining $6.4 billion is spread among all nonprofits – a designation that encompasses churches, hospitals, American Legion halls, chambers of commerce, charitable organizations and, of course, land trusts.

Conservation advocates accuse LePage of deliberately – and repeatedly – muddying that distinction, including during his speech last week.

“We established an online registry for all nonprofits to report conservation-land ownership,” LePage said. “The result of all property-tax exemptions reported within municipalities exceeds $18 billion. Think about that – $18 billion.

“The loss of that tax revenue has shifted over $330 million to guess who: hardworking property owners in the state of Maine,” he said.

Jeff Romano of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust – one of the state’s most influential conservation organizations – called that “disingenuous” and part of a pattern from the LePage administration.

“I continue to be frustrated that he attributes all tax-exempt properties in the state of Maine to land trusts when land trusts cover less than 1 percent of it,” said Romano, the trust’s public policy manager. “He essentially blames land trusts for every public school that is off the tax rolls, every government building off the tax rolls, every hospital and every nonprofit organization in the state.”

Maine’s hard-charging Republican governor has often accused hospitals, colleges and other nonprofits of failing to cover their fair share of costs borne by their host municipalities. But his favorite target appears to be conservation organizations and their political allies, although his proposal to tax nonprofits has encountered bipartisan opposition.

“They have taken hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of conservation land off the tax rolls, which increases local property taxes,” LePage said last June. He added: “Democrats are more interested in kowtowing to wealthy environmental organizations, like Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Coast Heritage Trust, than protecting the Maine taxpayer.”


There is no dispute that Maine has a robust conservation ethos.

Roughly 20 percent of Maine’s land base – or 4 million of the state’s 20 million acres – has been conserved in some fashion, whether as a state park or as working forests protected under a conservation easement. According to a recent report issued by the governor’s office, those 4 million acres include:

274,579 acres of federal land such as Acadia National Park, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and the White Mountains National Forest.

1,046,400 acres of state-owned parks, public reserved lands or historic sites.

476,060 acres of land owned by land trusts.

2,301,915 acres of private lands protected through conservation easements, most of which would be subject to taxation.

The governor’s report, which was distributed to members of the Legislature last week, estimates that land trusts account for $390.9 million of the $1.4 billion in estimated value of the tax-exempt conservation lands.

The Maine Land Trust Network puts the total acreage owned by land trusts at closer to 600,000 rather than the 476,060 reported by LePage’s office. In another difference with the LePage administration data, the October 2017 report from the land trust network also includes information on the proportion of conservation lands still “on the tax rolls” or that pay fees to municipal, state or county governments.


The network estimates that 94.5 percent of the roughly 2.5 million acres of conservation lands in private hands remain on the tax rolls. About 1.9 million acres of that total is privately held land in which the owners sold off development rights in the form of conservation easements that keep the land as working forests but also guarantee public access for recreation. The other 460,000 acres are land trust-owned properties still subject to some level of taxation because they are included in Maine’s Tree Growth or Open Space programs, which reduce taxation levels in exchange for the land remaining as working forests.

On another 100,000 acres, conservation groups made “payments in lieu of taxes” to municipalities. Also known as PILOTs, these payments are a way for nonprofits or government agencies to help cover the costs borne by their host municipality. The federal government, for instance, typically makes payments in lieu of taxes, as do some private institutions such as colleges and hospitals.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust, for instance, paid $139,390 in property taxes or payments in lieu of taxes to host municipalities last year, said Romano, the policy manager.

“Most of the land is generating revenue to the communities … to help compensate for any services they receive from the communities,” Romano said of conservation land statewide. Although those payments may be less than the full taxation rate for the assessed value of the land, Romano said the public has access to the land for recreation.

“This land is providing a whole host of benefits to the community,” he said.

Asked for a response to the Maine Land Trust Network data, LePage’s communications office called the report “more of a marketing piece than a true analysis piece.”


Some communities seem to benefit – or suffer – more than others from the presence of tax-exempt conservation lands within their borders, however.

During a lengthy panel discussion before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee in December, municipal representatives relayed starkly different views of the influence of land trusts. While managers from some Cumberland County communities said they had good working relationships with conservation groups, others from such rural towns as Alna in central Maine and Lubec in far Down East Maine raised concerns about the amount of land removed from the tax rolls or protected from development.

In an analysis published last week, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting compared the impacts of conservation trends in two towns: Cumberland and Lubec. In Cumberland, tax-exempt lands held by land trusts and by state and local government accounted for $218,065 in lost tax revenue, a manageable loss in a town with an assessed value of $1.3 billion. In Lubec, however, land trusts alone accounted for $175,035 in lost revenue in a town with one-tenth the total assessed value of Cumberland, according to the report posted on the public interest center’s Pine Tree Watch website.

LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the governor believes communities need a stronger say in decisions that conserve land or place it off-limits to development.

“There are over 4 million acres restricted from development or off the tax rolls for conservation,” Rabinowitz said in a prepared statement. “In a state strong on home rule, local governments do not have the final say on whether land is taken off the tax rolls or permanently prohibited from being developed. There is no local oversight for (more) than 100 organizations that are making decisions about where growth can happen and the property tax shift is only one effect of that lack of oversight or formal input.”


Members of the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee are currently finalizing a report on tax issues related to conservation lands. The Legislature ordered the report last year as part of a budget deal with LePage that ended a three-day government shutdown.

Last week, committee members appeared to agree that lawmakers should review ways to ensure that municipalities receive more of the tax payments paid to the state via Tree Growth, Open Space or other state programs. But it was clear from members’ comments that they were not swayed by the LePage report on tax-exempt lands.

“Unlike those that want to espouse that land trusts are paying no taxes and not on the tax rolls, I think you have proven that’s not a true statement,” Saviello, a Republican who has frequently clashed with LePage, told fellow committee members and staff. “I’m not saying that it’s enough, but I think you have proven very effectively that it is not a true statement.”

Nor were members impressed with the administration’s rejection of several requests to have a representative answer questions about discrepancies between the report and other data supplied to the committee.

“In the absence of any sort of explanation, I would think that we might just want to set the governor’s data aside and say, ‘That’s an interesting story,’ ” said Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth. “But without any source data, it’s just that.”

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

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

]]> 0 Paul LePageTue, 20 Feb 2018 07:09:00 +0000
Maine Mariners would receive some parking revenue under deal with Portland Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Portland city councilors will vote Wednesday on an agreement that would allow the Maine Mariners hockey team to keep parking revenue generated at a city-owned garage during home games.

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

The city had similar agreements with the Portland Pirates, which in recent years returned over $45,000 a year to the minor league hockey franchise. Portland also received season tickets from that hockey franchise while it was here.

The Pirates left the city in 2016 after 23 seasons here, leaving the arena without an anchor tenant less than two years after county taxpayers invested $33 million into upgrades to accommodate the team and other events.

City Councilor Justin Costa, who leads the Economic Development Committee, which unanimously recommends approval of the parking agreement and a lease for office space at 94 Free St., said the parking revenue would help put the Mariners, an ECHL team, on a more stable financial footing as the franchise tries to build a fan base in Maine’s largest city.

“Ultimately, we hope that they succeed and can provide a long-term anchor tenant for the insurance arena because that does have a significant impact on the downtown businesses,” Costa said.

Costa said he could not predict how much revenue would be generated for the team.

But according to figures provided by the city, the Pirates received a little more than $47,000 from the parking agreement in each of their last two seasons.

The average attendance during those two seasons were 2,963 and 3,363. But negotiations with the Mariners and the Cross Insurance Arena were based on an average attendance of 2,100.

The Mariners signed a lease in June for the arena, which is funded through the county budget. County Manager Jim Gailey said the arena budget for fiscal year 2017 was down a little more than $593,000 without an anchor tenant. He said the annual bond payment with interest for the renovations is $2.7 million.

“(We) hope with arena football starting in April and hockey starting in September/October these numbers will turn around,” Gailey said in an email.

The Mariners, which are affiliated with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, also will lease 2,145 square feet of city-owned office space at 94 Free St. for up to 15 years. The rent would begin at $4,830 a year and increase over time until 2030, when it would be $19,320 for the remainder of the term.

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

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

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

Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director, said it’s up to City Manager Jon Jennings to decide how the tickets should be used.

“When we have out-of-town guests come into Portland, there’d be an opportunity to use the tickets to showcase our sports venue with the Maine Mariners,” Mitchell said. “(Jennings) advises that the executive office will work with anyone interested in attending a game so that they can be used throughout the season.”

City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin said the city rarely used the tickets when they were provided by the Pirates, which she said at one point had to remind the city of its season tickets. “To my knowledge, and to those who are currently here, we have never used them,” she said.

Mitchell said agreements giving parking revenue to minor league sports are standard.

“Minor league sports teams at best are break-even propositions,” he said. “Providing some financial support becomes important to help with their establishment and growth in the community.”

The Mariners’ lease also includes free tickets for the county: including 10 for a charitable organization and 60 for promotional uses. Gailey said those tickets are used by the arena’s marketing staff to attract advertising revenue from businesses.

According to the team’s website, season tickets for a full season range from $432 to $756, depending on seat location.

The city had a similar parking and tickets agreement with the Pirates.

In 2010, the city entered into an agreement for the Pirates to keep parking revenues in exchange for a free half-page ad in the team’s annual yearbook, two season tickets and 400 individual tickets for “promotional use,” among other things. The team could charge $5 a vehicle.

A 2014 agreement increased the fees to $7 a vehicle, which went to the team, and ratcheted back the ticket request to two season tickets.

The city has similar agreements with the Maine Red Claws, a minor league basketball team that plays at the Portland Expo, and the Portland Sea Dogs, a minor league baseball team that plays at Hadlock Field. The agreements cover lots at King Middle School, Fitzpatrick Stadium and the Expo. They also cover Maine Medical Center’s garage on Congress Street and a lot behind Amato’s after 5 p.m. and on weekends, Grondin said.

According to the Red Claws agreement provided by the city, the team receives revenue from parking and concessions sales, after the city recoups its costs for providing those services. The city does not appear to receive any complimentary tickets from the team.

Grondin said that parking agreement returned nearly $4,300 to the Red Claws last year, while the concessions agreement returned nearly $59,000 to the club.

The Sea Dogs, however, are responsible for their own concessions and keep the revenue, except for non-club events, for which the team pays the city 10 percent of the revenue. The team also keeps the net parking revenue, which exceeded $36,000 to the club last year, Grondin said.


]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 10:30:12 +0000
Group homes for intellectually disabled face acute staffing shortage Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 The group home system that cares for adults with intellectual disabilities is on the verge of a major workforce crisis, advocates and leaders of nonprofit agencies say, despite a temporary measure approved by the Legislature last year.

Reimbursement rates from Medicaid, which pays for the group home care, have fallen over the past 10 years under Democratic and Republican administrations. Medicaid is a blended program using federal and state dollars, and states have flexibility to set rates to reimburse the nonprofit agencies that provide services.

In Maine, those rates have spiraled downward and made it difficult for group homes to compete for workers. The jobs of caring for adults with intellectual disabilities are demanding, stressful and sometimes require overnight shifts. If those jobs are essentially minimum wage jobs, advocates say they are competing with employers that pay the same or better for jobs that are easier to do.

Advocates for group homes say the reimbursement rates need to increase in order for many of them to survive, and a bill to ramp up rates is pending in the Legislature.

Karen MacDonald, executive director of Port Resources in South Portland, which operates about 20 group homes in Cumberland and York counties, said it’s “make or break time” not only for Port Resources, but for many group home operators.

“If we don’t have changes, we would need to make painful decisions about whether we can afford to operate all of our group homes,” MacDonald said. “If we could at least stay above minimum wage, people would feel more comfortable choosing this career path over Walmart. This is critical.”


The reimbursement rate is one issue arising out of the troubled state system for adults with intellectual disabilities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Inspector General released a scathing audit last summer that exposed numerous shortcomings in the system.

The audit, which reviewed records and incident reports between 2013 and 2015, found that the Maine Department of Health and Human Service did not comply with requirements for reporting and monitoring critical incidents for more than 2,600 Medicaid beneficiaries being cared for by community-based providers during that time, including about 1,800 adults with intellectual disabilities who live in group homes. The report revealed the state failed to investigate the deaths of 133 people in state-managed care.

Many of the problems at the group homes arise from reimbursement rates being so low that agencies can’t attract and retain workers, said Lydia Dawson, executive director of the Maine Association of Community Service Providers, a trade group that represents group homes operators. That makes it difficult to comply with all the reporting requirements and maintain quality of care for clients.

Home-based and community based services, such as group homes, largely replaced bigger institutions in Maine, which at one time was considered a leader in treating people with intellectual disabilities. Pineland Center in New Gloucester, an institution for adults with intellectual disabilities that was plagued with problems, closed in 1996. Pineland’s long and troubled history included forced sterilizations, removing healthy teeth from young people to prevent biting, unnecessary drugging of patients, unsanitary conditions and frequent use of straitjackets and chair restraints.

Pineland’s closing paved the way for a community-based system for adults with intellectual disabilities.


And for about a decade or more, the community-based system worked well, experts say. But the erosion of reimbursement rates has led to numerous problems, including a swelling of the waiting list for group home services – which are provided under Section 21 of the Medicaid code. The waiting list has ballooned from about 100 in 2008 to more than 1,000 in recent years.

Dawson said that the slight increase in reimbursement rates approved last spring and set to expire in June 2018 is insufficient. If the rates aren’t increased, group homes will start closing all over the state, she said.

“What was done is absolutely inadequate and doesn’t fix anything. Functionally, it’s no different than it was a year ago,” Dawson said. “It’s a really sad state of affairs.”

Dawson said workers are “asked to provide a complex medical service” for “pennies.”

Betsy Mahoney, 62, sees firsthand what stability at the group homes can do for her son, Brendan Young, 26, who has low-functioning autism. Mahoney said that when Young entered his teenage years, he became too difficult to care for in their home because he would sometimes become aggressive and anxious, and they needed help. They qualified for a Section 21 waiver and got Brendan into a group home when he was 20.

House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast sponsored a bipartisan bill that would restore rates to where they were a decade ago and add 10 percent for inflation, which would give agencies enough funding to pay for workers to earn about $11 per hour, a dollar an hour over minimum wage.

Lawmakers came up with an $11.5 million temporary measure instead that boosted pay from a little over $9 to about $10 an hour. That compromise is set to end in June, and lawmakers are pondering a more long-term solution.

Herbig said the rates approved last year were just the beginning and “barely scratched the surface” of what’s needed. The bill was carried over to the 2018 session and will likely get a vote, she said.

“I’m committed to getting as much funding as we can. It’s shameful we haven’t done more,” she said.

Herbig said she doesn’t know whether DHHS will support the program, but she was heartened to hear Gov. Paul LePage mention helping people with intellectual disabilities in his State of the State speech.

The Maine DHHS opposed the bill on technical grounds last year. This year, spokeswoman Emily Spencer said in an email response to questions that DHHS opposes Herbig’s bill “as written.”

“The department is supportive of paying providers a rate that allows them to provide services to the Mainers who need them most. That being said, the department does not support L.D. 967 (Herbig’s bill) as written. This (bill) would require the department to implement rates from a rate study performed more than a decade ago. It would be imperative to do a more up-to-date rate study that accurately reflects the current cost of providing services, especially in light of the increasing minimum wage,” Spencer said.

The LePage administration had also, in 2017, advocated for changes to the funding formula that would have resulted in further cuts to rates.


Meanwhile, minimum wage in Maine is now $10 per hour after a hike went into effect in January, and is set to go to $12 an hour by 2020. Voters approved the minimum wage increase in a November 2016 referendum.

Dawson said if the nonprofits can’t afford to pay at least $1 more per hour than minimum wage, it will be difficult to attract and maintain employees. She said there’s no hope of trimming the waiting list for Section 21 group home services without the rate increases and the ability to hire more workers.

A decade ago, nonprofits were paying direct care workers about $10 an hour, which at the time was $3 per hour over minimum wage. Dawson said that in addition to asking for a rate increase that would result in $11 per hour wages for the workers, the rates should automatically increase so that wages stay ahead of the minimum wage.

The bill would cost state taxpayers $26 million per year, according to official state estimates, but it would also save money in some cases by keeping clients stable and out of crisis situations. Hospitalized patients cost taxpayers far more per day than group homes.

MacDonald said about one-third of the group home workforce is a “revolving door,” with employees staying less than a year because of pay issues. A decade ago, they could get most employees to stay longer, she said.


Mahoney, of Cumberland, said that when the group home that her son stays at in Windham has a run of stable, quality employees, he thrives. For instance, they can consistently get him to his day programs, such as STRIVE in South Portland.

At STRIVE, which Young goes to three days per week, clients socialize and do fun or educational activities. Last week, Young cooked, played basketball and air hockey and ate brownies. Some of the STRIVE clients perform work, such as greeting visitors or cleaning.

Mahoney said transitions are difficult for people who have autism or other intellectual disabilities, and so a revolving door of workers can throw everything off. She said new workers need time to learn the nuances of their clients.

“If you ask Brendan whether he wants to go to STRIVE, he’ll say ‘no’ even though he likes it,” she said. “They have to learn how to coax him out the door.”

Mahoney said that when there are new workers Brendan will sometimes miss a lot of his day programs and spend too much time at his group home, isolated from social activities, and he starts to deteriorate.

“It is so important to get good people working there, but you get what you pay for,” she said. “If the system is so underfunded, it’s hard to make those trains run on time.”

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

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0 Conrad helps Brendan Young make a fruit salad in cooking group at STRIVE in South Portland. A bill in the Legislature to stabilize the group home workforce would cost $26 million a year.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 07:03:44 +0000
South Portland greenhouse plan envisions grow space for multiple restaurants Tue, 20 Feb 2018 03:58:01 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — The Planning Board last Tuesday approved an amended site plan for a $500,000 commercial greenhouse in the industrial section of the city.

The proposed 14,200-square-foot greenhouse will be built on a 2-acre lot at 25 Duck Pond Road.

The applicant and developer, John Crowley, doing business as 110 Dartmouth Street LLC, plans on leasing growing space to tenants.

The goal of the project is to provide urban agriculture space for local restaurants.

The design of the greenhouse will be a metal frame with glass panels underneath plastic.

In addition to the greenhouse, a 5,000-square-foot gravel area for soils and material storage, as well a parking area for eight vehicles, several generator pads, a transformer and job trailer are proposed.

“That’s a lot of tomatoes and vegetables to make this commercially viable,” said board member William Laidley, who questioned compliance rates and the experience of the development team in working with similar projects, as well as noting the city has not had a similar project come before the board.

Project engineer Daniel Diffin, of Sevee & Maher Engineers, said no tenants have yet been secured to lease the space. Diffin said he has worked on similar commercial agriculture projects with Backyard Farms in Madison and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

Department of Environmental Protection permits have been secured for the project, Diffin said.

As one condition of the approval, marijuana cultivation will not be allowed at the site unless the state and city allow such a use and the necessary permits and licenses are in place, said Tex Haeuser, the city’s planning director. Crowley is not seeking to grow marijuana, Haeuser noted.

Inspection of the site by the city’s code enforcement officer is also a condition of approval.

The greenhouse can be partitioned off into four units, depending on the type of vegetables or herbs being produced. A compost shelter will also be built at the facility, Diffin said.

Some board members questioned how a pesticide management plan would be developed and enforced.

Diffin said a plan would be the responsibility of the individual tenants. Such plans would have to be approved by the city’s sustainability director.

During the public comment period, resident Russ Lunt said the greenhouse sounds like a wonderful project that fits well in the area where it’s proposed, near the Public Works Department, the city’s landfill and other commercial operations, such as Hannaford Bros..

“It would be a great addition out there,” Lunt said.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661- ext., 106 or at:

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 10:09:26 +0000
Scarborough gives initial nod to keeping public pathway to Pine Point Beach Tue, 20 Feb 2018 03:39:49 +0000 SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council has given preliminary approval to an agreement with property owners to maintain public access to a pathway leading to Pine Point Beach.

Following two years of debate, the town and abutting property owners of Avenue 2, a beach access path since the 19th century, reached an agreement that preserves public access in exchange for the town relinquishing rights to the land.

“It’s a win-win for everybody; we increase income from the tax base and we preserve access,” Councilor Chris Caiazzo said after the 4-2 vote Feb. 8.

Two public hearings on the agreement have been scheduled, the first slated for Feb. 21, before a final vote by the council.

The matter first came to light after property owner Charles Gendron approached the town about discontinuing Avenue 2 because he needed additional land as dictated by setback ordinances to build a larger replacement home on his property, according to Gendron’s attorney, John Bannon.

Under the new agreement, Gendron can build up to 25 feet from the center line of the path.

According to council Chairman William Donovan, the path is owned on one side by Gendron, and on the other by Gables on the Sea Condominium Association.


Determining the ownership of the land caused the two-year delay in reaching an agreement. Some councilors and residents believe the town owns the land.

Under the agreement, the town has a right-of-way easement that preserves public access. The association sought to limit certain types of activity, such as camping and fires, and hours of use, which bothered other town residents committed to preserving public use.

The limits were nixed from the agreement because town ordinances already regulate public parks.

Councilors Katy Foley and Peter Hayes voted against the agreement. Foley said she believed the town owns the land, and said there were other, creative ways to give Gendron the space he needs.

The town’s attorney, Benjamin McCall, said if the case went to court, it is not certain the town would prevail, meaning the pathway could be designated as private property, and public access could be disallowed. McCall said the goal to protect public access was achieved in the agreement.

It is not clear whether the town ever formally accepted Avenue 2, so who has ownership of the property was central to working out the agreement, McCall said. He said access to the beach will exist in perpetuity.

Susan and Don Hamill, on behalf of the Pine Point Neighborhood Association, last week said they are largely happy with the result of negotiations, but criticized the town’s inaction earlier in the process.


The neighborhood association retained its own attorney and asked to be a part of the negotiation process, since it was not invited by the town. The Hamills said they chose to become involved to ensure the public interest was represented as well as the public’s right to walk the path.

Dunes near the pathway will also be protected under the agreement, which includes a conservation piece.

Portions of the agreement the Hamills fought for included keeping the landscape natural, as well as making the path 10 feet wide, instead of the original 5 feet. “We had a positive impact, but it must be said, this was never our first choice,” Susan Hamill said.

The pathway is known as a paper street, which means it exists only in town plans and is not developed or used as a road.

Juliette Laaka can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at:

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 07:25:45 +0000
New, revised emoji comes with correct number of legs Tue, 20 Feb 2018 03:30:43 +0000 Score one for advocates of anatomically correct emojis.

Responding to outrage from lobster leg aficionados and the Accuracy in Emojis movement (OK, not really), the organization that decides which digital images can dress up the world’s emails, texts and tweets has literally given its new lobster emoji two more legs to stand on.

Soon after the Unicode Consortium released proposed images of the 157 new emojis expected to be available in 2018, some folks noticed the little red lobster came up a bit short. Lobsters have 10 legs – including their tasty claws – but the proposed emoji showed only eight legs plus a tail that appeared somewhat malformed.

While a common mistake even among businesses that should arguably know better (ahem, Red Lobster), an eight-legged lobster even in digital cartoonish form didn’t sit well with some people.

“The #lobsteremoji is happening! Hopefully the final version will have the right number of legs,” tweeted the folks from Rockland’s annual Maine Lobster Festival on Feb. 12 above a picture of an anatomically correct, 10-legged version.

Well, the reference site that creates emoji images took note.

“We heard you. We made some mistakes. And we are fixing them,” Jeremy Burge, chief emoji officer at Emojipedia, wrote in a blog post Monday unveiling changes to the digital icons for lobster, skateboards and DNA. Emojipedia designs the sample images for emojis, which are then displayed by the Unicode Consortium.

The new proposed emoji has two more legs just behind the cartoon crustacean’s carapace as well as a slightly tweaked tail.

In an email, Burge noted that Emojipedia’s lobster emoji is just a “sample image” of what could eventually be available. The companies that make the emojis available to users, such as Apple and Adobe, could come up with their own versions.

“I have to say that I’m a bit embarrassed we didn’t get the leg count right the first time, but I’m happy it was brought to our attention so quickly!” Burge wrote. “I hope to visit Maine one day and will be sure to make liberal use of the lobster emoji when I do.”

Of course, Mainers and lobster lovers weren’t the only ones to critique the accuracy of the new emojis. Emojipedia also “fixed” the DNA emoji to show that the double-helix that carries genetic data twists to the right, not to the left as originally proposed. And Burge wrote in his blog post that skateboarding legend Tony Hawk was brought in as an “emoji advisor” to inform Emojipedia’s second attempt at a skateboard after Hawk pointed out a few foibles in the original.

The updated lobster emoji is expected to be available later this year – hopefully in time for Maine tourists to spice up their tweets, snaps and Facebook posts about chowing down on the real thing.

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

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 1:56 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2018, to say that Emojipedia designs the sample emojis, which are then displayed by the Unicode Consortium. 

]]> 0 Unicode Consortium's first attempt at a lobster emoji had a shortage of legs and a slight tail problem.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:57:09 +0000
Maine ethics panel takes up Republican official’s disputed website Tue, 20 Feb 2018 03:26:24 +0000 AUGUSTA — For $74 and some off-the-clock sweat, Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage says he created and ran a once-secretive online newspaper that did not have ties to the state party.

The party itself told the Maine Ethics Commission it knew nothing about who operated Savage’s Maine Examiner until Democrats filed a complaint about it last month. At that time, no one had publicly acknowledged ownership of the website.

Democrats allege the website was possibly an illegal Republican operation that skirted campaign finance rules, something the Republican Party strongly denies. The ethics commission is due to consider the Democrats’ complaint at its meeting Thursday in Augusta.

What is clear is that the Maine Republican Party has been focused on news for more than a year, issuing videos in early 2017 attacking what it called “fake news” in some traditional newspapers and calling on supporters to blow the whistle when they see things that seem biased or wrong.

Since then, it has gone even further.

The party has created at least three dozen videos in the past year as part of its “News You Can Trust” series that lays out what Republican officials from Gov. Paul LePage to U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin have to say about the issues of the day. At first, Savage himself appeared as a co-host, but he ceased serving as co-anchor early on.

He did not lose his interest in news, though.

According to a response filed recently with the Ethics Commission on behalf of Savage in response to the Democrats’ complaint, Savage created the Maine Examiner as “a personal project,” shelled out the cash to register a website and got down to work.

All of it, according to the Republicans, was done “in his individual capacity, at his own expense, and outside the scope of his employment” with the party. Savage is the Republicans’ top staff person in Maine. But the party has often used or referred to material produced by the Maine Examiner.

In a “News You Can Trust” video issued three days before the Lewiston election, the state party focused attention on Examiner stories reporting on how Democrat-backed Ben Chin had called some voters racists in internal campaign emails – leaked documents that Savage’s online paper wrote six stories about between Dec. 3 and Dec. 10.

It also ran a story Dec. 7 about the city towing Chin’s car after he accumulated too many unpaid parking tickets.

All of the Chin-related stories were widely shared on social media, some of it pushed by the Republicans. In a runoff vote on Dec. 12, Chin lost to Republican-endorsed Shane Bouchard by 142 votes.

If Savage and the Maine Republican Party “wanted to push their message through an alternative website, that’s fine. They should have just told people they were behind it,” Phil Bartlett, the Maine Democratic Party leader, said Monday. “But these dirty tricks and the lies to cover them up are what make people sick and tired of politics.”

From the Examiner’s first story Sept. 11 until The Boston Globe called attention to the site in January, it published about 70 stories and a few editorials, all of them shuffled online by Savage.

Its first story, about a proposed plastic bag ban in Bangor, hit the internet at 7:55 p.m. on a Monday.

After a slow start – eight stories in its first six weeks – the website publication picked up the pace quickly in October, marking its busiest period: the days leading up to Lewiston’s mayoral runoff on Dec. 12.

Republicans have not publicly detailed the days and times when Savage is expected to be working for the party, making it more difficult to determine whether he did any of the Maine Examiner work while he was on the party’s clock.

A look at all of the stories and editorials published through Jan. 17, when the Globe story appeared, shows no obvious pattern. He published stories every day of the week, with Sundays and Thursdays the most common. Saturday was Savage’s slowest day.

Checking the time of publication also shows no clear pattern, except that he never filed anything after 10:28 p.m. or earlier than 6:20 a.m.

His busiest time for publishing fell between 9 a.m. and noon. Evenings were generally pretty slow.

“For someone who says he wrote for the Maine Examiner only on his free time, Jason is either not working very much (for the party) or he’s just not telling people the truth,” Bartlett said.

There is no evidence, however, that Savage worked on his online paper at times he was supposed to be serving only the Republican Party. His job intrinsically requires him to work at odd hours and to have his days divided more than most between his job and his personal life.

The Ethics Commission will have its hands full trying to determine whether Savage skirted the law.

For instance, on the night of the Dec. 12 election in Lewiston, Savage issued a tweet congratulating Bouchard for his victory shortly after 10 p.m., something that might seem like at least a semiofficial step.

He did not post a story about the win on the Examiner’s site until 10:28 that evening, perhaps an indication that he wrote it after he was finished with anything required of him as a party leader.

While Republican leadership is expressing support for Savage and has maintained him in the party’s top spot, Democrats are deeply skeptical.

“Common sense tells us that he’s probably still not being straight with us, and that what he’s saying now – in addition to not being the truth – is nothing more than a last-ditch ‘Hail Mary’ to cover himself and the Maine GOP,” Bartlett said.

“The bottom line here is that what Jason and the Republicans did was wrong. It was dishonest and deceitful to Maine people. I hope Jason will just come clean with Maine people about this.”

Savage could not be reached Monday. He has yet to comment in any detail on the Examiner and related issues.

The Examiner’s stories are generally presented with a conservative slant, with some clearly aimed at hurting Democratic politicians. None would do any obvious harm to a Republican. With a few exceptions, the stories are basically true, but they sometimes have a clear right-wing bias.

Despite Savage’s admission to the ethics panel that he created and operates the site, it does not carry any information about its ownership, editors or writers. It remains cloaked in anonymity.

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

]]> 0 SavageTue, 20 Feb 2018 12:42:06 +0000
Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust indictment Tue, 20 Feb 2018 03:21:52 +0000 ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg “troll factory” say they think the criminal charges are well-founded.

Marat Mindiyarov, a former commenter at the innocuously named Internet Research Agency, says the organization’s Facebook department hired people with excellent English skills to sway U.S. public opinion through an elaborate social media campaign.

His own experience at the agency makes him trust the U.S. indictment, Mindiyarov told The Associated Press. “I believe that that’s how it was and that it was them,” he said.

The federal indictment issued Friday names a businessman linked to President Vladimir Putin and a dozen other Russians. It alleges that Yevgeny Prigozhin – a wealthy restaurateur dubbed “Putin’s chef,” paid for the internet operation that created fictitious social media accounts and used them to spread tendentious messages.

The aim of the factory’s work was either to influence voters or to undermine their faith in the U.S. political system, the 37-page indictment states.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that while the indictment focuses on “Russian nationals,” it gives “no indication that the Russian government was involved in this in any way.” Peskov reasserted that Moscow did not interfere in the U.S. election.

Mindiyarov said he failed the language exam needed to get a job on the Internet Research Agency’s Facebook desk, where the pay was double than the domestic side of the factory. The sleek operation produced content that looked as if it were written by native English speakers, he said.

“These were people with excellent language skills, interpreters, university graduates,” he said, “It’s very hard to tell it’s a foreigner writing because they master the language wonderfully.”

The English test he took asked for a writing sample about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the U.S. presidential vote, Mindiyarov recalled.

“I wrote that her chances were high and she could become the first female president,” he told the AP.

Mindiyarov said he took a job at the troll factory in late 2014 because he was unemployed and curious. At the time, about 400 people occupied four floors of an office building and worked 12-hour shifts, he said. Most of the operation focused on the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia, not political races in the West, he said.

The factory had video and photo departments, Mindiyarov said. The trolls received their wages in cash and operated in teams as they tried to foment public interest with fake discussions, he said.

“We worked in a group of three where one played the part of a scoundrel, the other one was a hero, and the third one kept a neutral position,” he said. “For instance, one could write that Putin was bad, the other one would say it was not so, and the third would confirm the position of the second while inserting some picture.”

After only a couple of months, Mindiyarov quit. He said he hated the work.

“The world in those comments was divided into black and white: America was bad, Putin was good,” he said. “They praised whatever had to do with Putin and criticized anything related to America, ‘gay’ Europe, and so on. That was the principle of the work.”

Another former worker at the St. Petersburg workshop, Lyudmila Savchuk, also described it as an efficient venture that churned out posts around the clock.

Like Mindiyarov, Savchuk was employed in the domestic department of the “troll farm,” not the international division. Nevertheless, she said her experience there corresponds with what she knows of the allegations made by American authorities.

“The posts and comments are made to form the opinion of Russian citizens regarding certain issues, and as we see it works for other countries, too,” Savchuk told the AP.

Paid trolls used carefully crafted fake identities that made them come across like real people, she said.

“The most important principle of the work is to have an account like a real person,” Savchuk said. “They create real characters, choosing a gender, a name, a place of living and an occupation. Therefore, it’s hard to tell that the account was made for the propaganda.”

Prigozhin, aka “Putin’s Chef,” owned restaurants and catering businesses that hosted the Russian leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries. He used his relationship with Putin to expand his business to include services for the Russian military.

“I’m not at all upset that I’m on this list,” Prigozhin said of the indictment in comments carried by Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency. “If they want to see the devil, let them see him.”

Along with producing social media supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy and disparaging Clinton, the Internet Research Agency purchased online advertisements using identities stolen from Americans and staged political rallies while posing as American political activists, the indictment alleges. The agency also paid people in the U.S. to promote or ridicule the candidates, the document states.

Analysts and journalists have found that some of the Russian-run accounts accrued national followings in the United States, while far-right Americans and several members of Trump’s team retweeted posts created in St. Petersburg.

It reportedly used doctored videos to spread false reports about a supposed Islamic State attack on a chemical plant in Louisiana and a purported case of Ebola in the state of Georgia. Seeking to sow division and mistrust ahead of the U.S. election, the agency apparently whipped up a fake video of an African-American woman being shot dead by a white police officer in Atlanta.

“All of the trolls knew that it’s Prigozhin who stands behind this all,” Mindiyarov, the ex-commenter who left the organization in early 2015, said. “But nobody had any evidence.”

He said that the employees disliked Prigozhin, in part because he didn’t set up a cafeteria or canteen in the troll factory building even though he owned a sprawling catering business.

“People had to bring food boxes from home,” Mindiyarov said. “Prigozhin did not treat the trolls well. He could at least feed them.”

While the U.S. indictment mentioned 13 people, many more must have been involved in the effort, according to Savchuk.

“Here they laugh about the news that 13 people could influence the elections in the U.S., but there were many more people doing that,” she said. “These technologies are unbelievably effective.”

She added that she learned how effective the troll farm’s work was when she saw regular people sharing opinions and information that she knew were planted by trolls.

“They believed it was their own thoughts, but I saw that those thoughts were formed by the propagandists,” she said.

The Internet Research Agency has reportedly changed locations, moving to another business center in the northern part of St. Petersburg. It’s unclear whether it still goes by that name.

Andrey Zakharov, an investigative journalist with Russian RBC outlet who co-reported an investigation of the troll factory, said the list of indicted Russians looked “quite random” to him.

“They simply included in it all the names they could find,” Zakharov told the AP. “According to our information, some of these people don’t work at the factory now and did not even work there during the (U.S.) elections. This does not look like a result of a solid investigation.”

Although the U.S. indictment is detailed, it makes assertions without providing evidence outright. Russian officials have seized on that, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who dismissed the charges as “just blabber.”

]]> 0 view of a Buisness center, believed to be the location of the new "troll factory" in St.Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. The U.S. government allege the Internet Research Agency started interfering as early as 2014 in U.S. politics, extending to the 2016 presidential election, saying the agency was funded by a St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:16:12 +0000
Bates is No. 1 college nationally for Fulbright recipients Tue, 20 Feb 2018 03:01:04 +0000 LEWISTON — With 23 Fulbright Student award recipients this year, Bates College has produced more than any other liberal arts college.

And despite Bates’ relative smallness, about 1,800 students, only six universities across America wound up with more.

The international educational exchange program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is among the most prominent honors that new graduates can claim.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Fulbright Program and proud of what it signals — that our students graduate from Bates prepared to contribute on a global stage,” Bates President Clayton Spencer said in a prepared statement.

“Two-thirds of our students study abroad. They do community-engaged work at more than twice the national average, and they work closely with faculty to develop skills in language, cultural studies and an understanding of world affairs.”

Bates’ 23 current Fulbright Student recipients are now engaged in multimonth research and teaching experiences in 18 countries that stretch from Canada to Thailand.

Spencer said she is “thrilled for our students, grateful for the leadership of the program on our campus and deeply appreciative of the generosity of our faculty and staff in helping our students prepare for these important opportunities.”

Bates has been posting everstronger numbers in the Fulbright ranks, rising from six as recently as 2013.

This year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the second ranking Fulbright producer is nearby Bowdoin College, which has 20. Williams College in Massachusetts has 19 to snag the third spot.

Number one among all institutions: Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, with 39.

The only other schools to top Bates’ total: University of Notre Dame (29), Northwestern University (25), Princeton University (25), University of Michigan (25) and Harvard University (24).

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 13:32:28 +0000
Poland says no apology needed for premier’s Holocaust comments Tue, 20 Feb 2018 02:57:35 +0000 WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s government refused to apologize Monday for Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s comments about “Jewish perpetrators” during World War II, escalating a row that’s upended the country’s relations with Israel and is alarming the U.S.

When confronted during a conference in Munich on Saturday over Poland’s new law that criminalizes suggestions that the Polish nation bore any responsibility for the Holocaust, Morawiecki listed Jews among nations that along with Germans were “perpetrators” of Nazi-era crimes. His list included Ukrainians, Russians and Poles.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the comments were “outrageous,” while Yair Lapid, an opposition politician, called on Israel to recall its ambassador from Poland.

Morawiecki’s intention was to list nations that collaborated with the Germans, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Monday, adding that use of the word “perpetrators” was a “linguistic mistake” for which there’s no need to apologize. Last month, Poland’s ruling party passed the Holocaust law despite U.S. warnings that it censors free speech and may weaken the east European nation’s “strategic interests and relations.”

The prime minister’s “remarks were not aimed at denying the Holocaust or hiding its real perpetrators,” Czaputowicz told private broadcaster Polsat News on Monday.

“One has to be ill-willed to look for a willingness to put an equal sign between the suffering of Jews and other nations under Nazi occupation,” Czaputowicz said.

The Union of Jewish Communities in Poland said that while there were “Jewish criminals and Jewish police in the ghettos” set up by the Nazis during the war, Morawiecki’s comments signaled a “moral blindness and historical ignorance” by putting those “who acted under the greatest duress in one sentence with Polish perpetrators and Ukrainian and German criminals.”

Relations between Poland and Israel have deteriorated over legislation that makes suggestion of Polish complicity in the Shoah a crime punishable by up to three years in jail – a move seen by critics as an attempt to whitewash history.

It also marks a U-turn in reconciliation efforts, which included an apology by then-President Aleksander Kwasniewski in 2001 for anti-Semitic incidents like a wartime massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbors in the village of Jedwabne in 1941.

]]> 0 Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at the Munich Security Conference. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his recent comments "outrageous."Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:57:35 +0000
‘Spin the bottle’ game among newest allegations against California lawmaker Tue, 20 Feb 2018 01:45:48 +0000 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A former employee of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia filed a complaint with the state Saturday, seeking to sue the Democrat for allegedly firing him after he refused to play “spin the bottle” with her.

In the complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which was posted online Sunday by his lawyer, J. David Kernick of San Diego wrote that during his time as a field representative in 2014, Garcia was “very disparaging to the staff and others, used vulgar language, discussed topics inappropriate for the workplace and showed herself to be very vindictive in nature.”

It is the second accusation of sexual misconduct against Garcia, who is currently on a voluntary, unpaid leave of absence while the Assembly investigates claims that she drunkenly groped a former legislative staff member. In addition, a lawyer last week released a list of other allegations from four former employees in Garcia’s office who said they wished to remain anonymous.

In his complaint, Kernick wrote that Garcia was “seemingly not critical” of his work until “after he questioned the appropriateness of her suggestion that after a fundraiser at a whiskey bar” they “sit on the floor of her hotel room and play spin the bottle.”

He was disciplined with a “write up for insubordination,” Kernick wrote, and fired two days later. Garcia used this write-up to prevent him from finding further work in politics, he said.

Tim Reardon, who served as Garcia’s chief of staff in 2014, called the complaint a “complete falsehood.” He said Kernick was warned for not doing his job, was encouraged to do better and was fired when his work did not improve.

“If Mr. Kernick wants to talk about his time working there, then he ought to open up his own personnel records and let people see what was written in there,” Reardon said.

Reardon said he never received any formal or informal complaints about Garcia or the office environment during his time as chief of staff. He said he believes the allegations are part of a political attack against Garcia, though he does not know who is behind it.

“It’s like a malicious, really bizarre alternate universe built on a lot of innuendo and lies solely to destroy to character of Assemblywoman Garcia,” Reardon said. “That’s all that I can see.”

Another former staff member shared with The Bee a voicemail they received last week from a private investigator, asking to discuss their time working for Garcia.

Last week, four anonymous former Garcia staffers submitted a complaint to the Assembly through the same attorney as Kernick, describing a “toxic environment” of heavy drinking and graphic sexual discussions in her office. It also included at least one allegation of illegal activity: that Garcia sometimes directed her staff to perform campaign work, such as fundraising and donation request calls, on Assembly time.

During a news conference at the Capitol last week, San Diego attorney Dan Gilleon said his clients wanted to expose Garcia’s outspoken advocacy against sexual harassment at the Capitol as “phony.”

]]> 0 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:00:06 +0000
California pot growers remain in the shadows after state regulation Tue, 20 Feb 2018 01:10:45 +0000 More than a month after California’s regulation of marijuana began, only a small number of the tens of thousands of cannabis businesses have joined the system – threatening the state’s shift to a regulated market and the promise of a billion-dollar tax windfall.

Less than 1 percent of the state’s 68,120 cannabis growers have been licensed, according to a report published Monday by the California Growers Association, the state’s largest association of cannabis businesses.

Growers can’t meet the cost of complying with regulations, or are prohibited from growing because of local land-use policies, the report says.

“Without broad participation, legalization will look a lot like prohibition,” with many illicit growers, the report concludes. “The current system will not achieve its goals without fundamental and structural changes that allow small and independent businesses to enter into compliance.”

Cannabis is primarily grown by small farmers on 2,500 square feet in cultivation, or 1/20 of an acre. These small growers face the toughest hurdles in complying with regulations, according to the report.

Monterey County, for example, is issuing licenses to high-tech greenhouse growers, mostly owned by well-funded outsiders, on the edge of urban Salinas – but is rebuffing small traditional farmers on parcels in the more remote reaches of the county such as Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

As of Feb. 7, merely 534 of the state’s growers, or 0.78 percent, are licensed, according to the new report.

“It’s all about access to capital,” said Kaiya Bercow of Santa Cruz County’s Utopia Cannabis, which has received licenses for cultivation and manufacturing. “If you are a cannabis operator, you have limited bank access. And you are in a business that is least likely to get external funding, because of risk,” he said. “Investors are hesitant to take legal risk and financial risks.”

Utopia Farms has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over 18 months to comply with local and state license requirements, he said.

“It’s what you’d expect when applying to be a business in California,” Bercow said. “However, cannabis has not developed with that process. Most, if not all, cannabis producers in California started without having to apply. They never built a team; they don’t have those internal skills. So they must either hire new employees, learn that new skill set or pay costly consultants.”

Only 13 of California’s 58 counties have passed ordinances to allow and regulate commercial cannabis activity as of February. An additional six counties are likely to pass ordinances in the near future and 14 counties are studying the issue with the intent to decide this year. The survey found that 25 counties ban commercial cannabis activity.

]]> 0 pot cultivation and sales licenses could be issued as early as July under the plan discussed Tuesday.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:14:05 +0000
Conditions mixed at some ski areas heading into important week Tue, 20 Feb 2018 00:51:43 +0000 MONTPELIER, Vt. — Conditions are mixed heading into one of the biggest weeks of the season for the region’s ski industry, but there is snow on the ground and resorts still expect people to hit the slopes.

The weekend was cold and snow fell in parts of the region, which is considered by the ski industry to be one of the best ways to encourage people to head north for skiing. But after that the forecast calls for warmer temperatures that could reach the 60s by midweek.

“The destination guest is going to come regardless of the forecast because they’ve committed to it,” said J.J. Toland, a spokesman for Jay Peak, a Vermont resort just south of the Canadian border. “When you see these types of funky forecasts, what it does for us is it alters the pattern of the day.”

When ski conditions aren’t the best, instead of spending time on the slopes, people can use the water park, climbing wall or movie theater. Other resorts in the region offer mini-golf, laser tag, winter mountain biking or swimming.

Ben Wilcox, general manager of Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, said this year has been “a little up and down.” But the numbers of skiers has gradually risen, he said, with the resort expecting strong numbers for Presidents Day week.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand out there from people wanting to find reasonable winter temperatures,” he said.

For the region’s ski industry, the week after Christmas is traditionally the most important, along with the Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day holidays.

Skiers are accustomed to fickle weather in New England, and this winter has been no exception. The new year began with temperatures cold enough to drive skiers away. Since then, temperatures have been up and down, and there has been rain and snow.

This month, some of the resorts received more than a foot of snow, and temperatures have been cold enough for them to keep making snow.

“Overall, the season has been kind of tough, because while the early season was good, the Christmas holidays took a hit due to the extreme cold,” said Jessica Keeler, of Ski New Hampshire, “despite the fact that conditions were fantastic.”

Mark Pomykato, of Portland, said a spring-like meltdown this week would be disappointing, but that wouldn’t prevent people from skiing. He said he still plans to hit the slopes.

“People will be there,” he said.

]]> 0, 19 Feb 2018 21:27:33 +0000
Trump revives push for limits on immigrants bringing family members Tue, 20 Feb 2018 00:14:05 +0000 NEW YORK — When the U.S. government approved Ricardo Magpantay, his wife and young children to immigrate to America from the Philippines, it was 1991. By the time a visa was available, it was 2005, and his children could not come with him because they were now adults.

More than a decade later, his children are still waiting.

Magpantay gets worried when he hears the White House is aiming to limit the relatives that immigrants-turned-citizens can sponsor, a profound change to a fundamental piece of the American immigration system.

“It is really frustrating and it is very dreadful for me, because after a long wait, if this will be passed, what will happen for them?” said Magpantay, a 68-year-old mechanical engineer in the Southern California city of Murrieta. “I won’t be able to bring them forever.”

For the past 50-plus years, family reunification has been central to U.S. immigration law. Those who become naturalized citizens can bring spouses and minor children and petition for parents, adult children and siblings to get their own green cards and become Americans in their own right, with their own ability to sponsor.

Many on opposing sides of the immigration debate have long felt the family reunification system needs reform. Immigration advocates want a reassessment of the quotas on how many people can come from a given country in a given year, which has created decadeslong backlogs for citizens of some countries.

Self-described “restrictionists,” including President Trump, want a narrower, nuclear definition of family, making spouses and minor children the only relatives a citizen could sponsor. That’s a central plank of the sweeping immigration overhaul Trump has proposed, a move that activists say could cut legal immigration in the U.S. by half.

Congress rejected competing bills last week meant to resolve the status of hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the U.S. illegally, including one plan that mirrored Trump’s overall immigration proposal. The lack of resolution on an issue that was pivotal to Trump’s election leaves it as a potential tinderbox for the midterm congressional elections this fall.

In his State of the Union speech last month, Trump referenced an attempted bombing by a Bangladeshi immigrant in New York in December as proof of the need to curtail what he and others term “chain migration” in favor of a more skills-based system.

“This vital reform is necessary not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America,” he said.

Trump is giving a spotlight to an idea that “was clearly out in the wilderness” in a policy sense, and something only its advocates were really talking about, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which has long pushed for limits on family sponsorships.

“He has forced issues to the forefront that need to be debated,” Krikorian said.

Advocates of family reunification call the rhetoric around merit and skills a smoke screen.

“They’re being disingenuous – their goal is to reduce immigration overall,” said Anu Joshi, director of immigration policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “This is just about cutting family, it’s a family ban.”

Prior to 1965, U.S. immigration was tightly controlled, with parts of the world all but ineligible and caps that ended up favoring immigrants from northern Europe.

Families of Italians and other Europeans pushed to change the law, resulting in a system that opened visas to all countries equally, with preferences for family reunification and, to a lesser extent, those with advanced skills or education.

One result was that Asians and Latin Americans started coming, and then they were able to bring their parents and siblings.

]]> 0 American Jeff DeGuia holds up family pictures at Unidad Park in Los Angeles earlier this month. DeGuia, 28, says it took his mother more than a decade to bring two sisters from the Philippines.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 19:14:05 +0000
Rev. Jesse Jackson defends LeBron James for speaking out Mon, 19 Feb 2018 23:58:50 +0000 CHICAGO — The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he’s deeply insulted by a Fox News host’s “attack” on Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James.

Political commentator Laura Ingraham criticized the three-time NBA champion for his recent comments about social issues, suggesting he should “shut up and dribble.”

Jackson says it’s important for James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and other NBA players to keep speaking out against injustice and the behavior of President Trump.

Jackson said Monday that James’ “slam dunk for justice is needed.” James says he’ll continue to “talk about what’s really important.”


]]> 0 Rev. Jesse Jackson says he's been seeking outpatient care for two years for Parkinson's disease.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 19:05:29 +0000
Gardiner officials to consider sewer rate increase Mon, 19 Feb 2018 23:16:52 +0000 When Gardiner elected officials meet this week, they will consider a proposal to increase sewer rates in the city.

A public hearing on the plan has been scheduled for Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

Wastewater Director Douglas Clark recommends increases totaling 15 percent that would be phased in over three years starting July 1.

In materials submitted for the City Council’s review, Clark said the proposed budget for his department is $1,657,103 and the proposed revenue is $1,522,671, leaving a deficit of $134,432.

The Wastewater account is an enterprise fund, which means it’s supported by its own revenues. While fund balance was used in the current budget year to balance the budget, and some fund balance is anticipated to be used for the next budget year, Clark said the practice is unsustainable.

Under the proposal, the increase in the first year would be 9 percent, and 3 percent in each of the two following years. In Gardiner, the minimum quarterly sewer charge is $87, which includes up to 1,200 cubic feet of flow (8,976 gallons) as measured by Gardiner Water District meters.

After the first increase, the minimum quarterly charge would go to $94.83. In the next year, it would go to $97.67, and in the final year, it would go to $100.60.

The same percent increases would apply to the usage rate. Currently, every 100 cubic feet of flow over 1,200 is $10. That charge would go to $10.90 in the first year, $11.23 in the second year and $11.56 in the third year.

Clark said the last time the sewer rates were increased was in 2010. While he’s not committed to this particular schedule, he said the target he’s seeking is 15 percentage points over three years.

City elected officials are also expected to hear a presentation of the final version of the city’s sidewalk reconstruction plan, which was funded in the city budget approved in 2016.

Also scheduled is a presentation by Mark Oullette of Axiom Technology, who will talk about conducting a broadband internet study for Gardiner.

Because the Feb. 7 meeting was canceled due to bad weather, some items on that agenda have been carried forward.

City elected officials are also expected to consider:

• Approving the first read of a proposal to change provisions in the Land Use Ordinance regarding indoor cultivation facilities, following a public hearing

• Setting minimum bids for tax acquired properties at 28 Spring St., 14 Plummer St., and 494 Water St.

• Accepting a $10,000 donation from the Coomb Trust to buy body armor for firefighters and paramedics

• Accepting $8,500 from the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency for equipment for the radio tower on Libby Hill Road

• Appointing Amy Dyer, Rus Baer , and Geri Doyle to city boards

• Approving a special event permit for the Maine Adventure Race

• Approving a victualers license for Locos Southwest Grill

• Approving a liquor license renewal for the The Depot Pub

• Extending the current memorandum of understanding for interim city manager services

Three executive sessions are scheduled, to discuss employee compensation, to give direction in filling the city’s economic development position and to reopen the discussion about hiring a city manager.

The Gardiner City Council meets at 6 p.m., Wednesday in the City Council chamber at 6 Church St.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

]]> 0 Gardiner City Council voted earlier this week to approve two programs that help reduce costs for senior citizens living in the city.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:59:43 +0000
Friends rally to help Readfield couple after fire destroyed home Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:51:05 +0000 Many of the firefighters who turned up to battle the blaze consuming the LaPlante barn and house at 17 Adell Road in Readfield on Jan. 23 recognized the property immediately.

They had been there five months earlier for a parade of fire trucks that was part of a birthday celebration the LaPlantes hosted for a 5-year-old Augusta boy who had a brain tumor.

“He’s never had a birthday party, said Joyce LaPlante, who added that a parent did not want the boy’s name made public. “It ended up being gigantic. It was like a carnival, there were 10 fire trucks, a bounce house, a pony.”

She had decorated the inside of the barn like a “princess palace,” and the hundred or so people attending raised $2,500 to buy the child a special swing set he could use. The boy is unable to walk.

One of those involved in the unofficial “Make-A-Wish” party and the firefighting was Readfield Fire Chief Lee Mank.

“You hate to see anybody’s house burn,” Mank said. “Knowing how they help other people made it that much harder.”

The community, friends and family have pitched in to help Joyce LaPlante, 55, and Terry LaPlante, 54, who have been living in an Augusta hotel with their two dogs, a German shepherd named Stella and a Pomeranian named Willow.

“We’re very grateful to everybody,” Joyce LaPlante said. “We wouldn’t be doing as well as we are if it wasn’t for all the wonderful people in our lives. They’re the ones keeping us going and making it easier for us.”

The LaPlantes lost almost everything in the blaze.

They escaped with their lives, their animals, Joyce’s purse, Terry’s wallet, and a 100-year-old portrait of Joyce’s grandmother that Joyce snagged from the dining room wall as she ran out.

Joyce LaPlante, a stylist at Heads Up Hair & Sun in Farmingdale, recounted the events that preceded the blaze.

“It was 10:30 at night, and I smelled something really funny.” She got up to check the wood stove which sometimes got a back draft, but it was fine. Then Terry, too, remarked on “an awful smell,” and he again checked the wood stove.

The smoke alarm sounded next.

“He ran downstairs, and he looked through the dining window, and he could see barn was ablaze,” she said. “It was an inferno.”

The flames blew into the attached house through the doggie door in the kitchen door, and the couple fled into the rainy night.

When firefighters arrived, the barn was aflame, and a metal roof prevented firefighters from being able to get directly at all the flames.

“We had to have an excavator come in and chew up where the barn was so we could put the fire out,” said Mank. “The barn was totally gone, and the house was still standing, but it was uninhabitable,”

Fire charred everything in the interior of the house.

Mank said the fire appeared to start in the barn and might have been electrical.

Sgt. Joel Davis of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, which investigated the blaze, said there was so much damage that the cause was undetermined but not considered suspicious.

“We’re doing OK,” Joyce LaPlante said last week. She said she feels lucky to have escaped so easily because several close friends are dealing with the deaths of loved ones, and she is trying to help them. “I’m just taking it all in,” she said.

On her Facebook page, she posted, “We all made it out alive, and that’s what counts. PEOPLE cannot be replaced.”

The LaPlantes are looking for a house to rent, preferably in Manchester, Readfield or Winthrop. “We want to rebuild and want to be close while we’re doing the project,” she said.

They had bought the four-acre property in Readfield with its 1855 house shortly after their marriage 31/2 years ago. Both are from the central Maine area.

While the home was insured, Joyce LaPlante said she learned it could be some time before the actual rebuilding can begin.

She said her husband, who works at On Target Utility Services in Gardiner, is dealing with all the insurance paperwork.

Emily Ann Vachon, girlfriend of Joyce’s son Shain Szady, started a gofundme page the day after the fire to raise money to help the LaPlantes. As of Friday, it had collected $4,322 in donations.

Donna Johnson, a receptionist at Access Worldwide in Augusta, and a family friend of the LaPlantes conducted a fundraiser at her workplace that brought in $600 in 10 days.

“Donna’s determination to help her friends and members of our community in need turned out to be a success from a small company here in Central Maine,” said an email from the firm. “We couldn’t be prouder to have someone like Donna, who has such compassion for others, represent AWWC in a positive community effort. Our employees grabbed a hold of this fundraiser and we hope it will help the LaPlante’s efforts!”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadam

]]> 0 LaPlante, left, and Terry LaPlante stand outside their fire-damaged home on Thursday in Readfield.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 10:01:29 +0000
Max Desfor, overseas news photographer who won Pulitzer Prize, dies at 104 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:45:51 +0000 WASHINGTON — Former Associated Press photographer Max Desfor, whose photo of hundreds of Korean War refugees crawling across a damaged bridge in 1950 helped win him a Pulitzer Prize, died Monday. He was 104.

Desfor died at his apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he’d been living in his retirement, said his son, Barry.

Desfor volunteered to cover the Korean War for the news service when the North invaded the South in June 1950. He parachuted into North Korea with U.S troops and retreated with them after forces from the North, joined by the Chinese, pushed south.

He was in a Jeep near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang when he spotted a bridge that had been hit by bombing along the Taedong River. Thousands of refugees were lined up on the north bank waiting their turn to cross the river.

“We came across this incredible sight,” he recalled in 1997 for an AP oral history. “All of these people who are literally crawling through these broken-down girders of the bridge. They were in and out of it, on top, underneath, and just barely escaping the freezing water.”

Desfor climbed a 50-foot-high section of the bridge to photograph the refugees as they fled for their lives.

“My hands got so cold I could barely trip the shutter on my camera,” he remembered. “I couldn’t even finish a full pack of film. It was just that cold.”

The Pulitzer jury in 1951 determined that Desfor’s photos from Korea the previous year had “all the qualities which make for distinguished news photography – imagination, disregard for personal safety, perception of human interest and the ability to make the camera tell the whole story.” The Pulitzer board honored his overall coverage of the war, based on a portfolio of more than 50 photos, and cited the Taedong River bridge shot in particular.

A native of New York, Desfor was born in the Bronx on Nov. 8, 1913, and attended Brooklyn College. He joined the AP in 1933 as a messenger. After teaching himself the basics of photography and moonlighting as a baby photographer, he began shooting occasional assignments for the AP. He became a staff photographer in the Baltimore bureau in 1938 and moved to the Washington bureau a year later.

During World War II, Desfor photographed the crew of the Enola Gay after the B-29 landed in Saipan from its mission to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945. He was with the first wave of Marines at Tokyo Bay shortly after Japan’s surrender that month and photographed the official surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.

Desfor worked for the AP in the Philippines and in India, where he photographed Mahatma Gandhi and later covered the assassinated leader’s funeral in 1948. He also worked in the AP’s Rome bureau and was set to return to the U.S. when war broke out in Korea.

After the war Desfor served as supervising editor of Wide World Photos, the AP’s photo service, and returned to Asia in 1968 as photo chief for the region. He retired from the AP in 1978, then joined U.S. News & World Report as photo director.

Desfor and his wife, Clara, raised a son, Barry, of Wauconda, Illinois. She died in 2004.

In January 2012, when he was 98, Desfor and his longtime companion, Shirley Belasco, surprised guests at a party celebrating her 90th birthday by marrying in front of their guests. They had been friends since the 1980s when the Desfors and Ms. Belasco lived in the same Silver Springs apartment building and became a couple a few years after his wife’s death.

A photo Desfor took during his long career that had particular meaning to him also came from the Korean War. Walking near a field he spotted two hands, blue from cold, sticking up in the snow and photographed them. The hands, which had been bound, belonged to one of several civilians taken prisoner and executed, their bodies left to be covered by snowfall.

“I labeled that picture, later on, ‘Futility,’ because it’s always been – I’ve always felt that it’s the civilians caught in the crossfire, the civilians, the innocent civilians, how futile it is for war,” he said for the oral history. “That epitomized it to me.”

]]> 0 refugees crawl perilously over the shattered girders of a bombed bridge in Pyongyang, North Korea, in a photo taken by Max Desfor.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:30:48 +0000
Experimental French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood dies at 62 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:31:45 +0000 PARIS — French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood, whose eclectic career spanned more than four decades and the world’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls, has died. He was 62.

Lockwood’s agent, Christophe Deghelt, said in a statement on Twitter that Lockwood died suddenly Sunday, a day after he performed in Paris.

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute Monday to the musician he called a “friend and partner of the greatest” and said possessed “influence, open-mindedness and immense musical talent” that will be missed.

As a composer and an improviser while performing, Lockwood enjoyed crossing musical genres, from jazz-rock to classical. He was known for experimenting with different sounds on the electric violin.

He’s survived by his wife, French soprano Patricia Petibon, and three daughters.

]]> 0, 19 Feb 2018 17:55:01 +0000
With demolition of Dennis’ Pizza, ‘a big part of Gardiner history’ falls Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:29:55 +0000 GARDINER — The two excavators made quick work of the building at 17 Bridge St., their long arms and heavy buckets crunching through the clapboard structure like it was a candy bar.

But before three stories had been reduced to rubble, then hauled away in a dumpster, Dennis Wheelock made off with his own memento: a sign that bore his name, and that of his longtime business.

“Figured I had to come see the old girl come down,” said Wheelock, after he’d loaded the old sign for Dennis’ Pizza into his car, but before the demolition crew had gotten to work. “Thirty years to build it; one day for it to come down.”

That sign was well-known to many who have passed through downtown Gardiner, some of whom came to watch the pizza parlor fall on Presidents Day morning.

The restaurant was actually more than 30-years-old, and a section of the building has been there for a century. It was known as Joe’s Pizza before Wheelock purchased and expanded it in the 1980s.

Almost five years ago, Wheelock sold the business to Kara and Andrew Waller, and in late 2016, they sold the building to the state Department of Transportation, in advance of a project that will see the replacement of two bridges, on Bridge Street and Maine Avenue.

The owners eventually decided to close Dennis’ Pizza for good, in part because they couldn’t afford to temporarily close while the state project proceeds. But other factors also influenced their decision, including an increase in the state’s minimum wage, the competition from a new Gardiner location of Domino’s, and difficulty finding a new site.

The closure and destruction of the Gardiner mainstay has left some residents feeling nostalgic, even upset.

“I’ve been eating there for 42-and-a-half years, from the minute I was born,” said Jolene Ladd, a 43-year-old who walked about two miles from her place on Highland Avenue to photograph the demolition Monday morning. “It’s a big part of Gardiner history. It’s going to be really missed.”

Temperatures were still in the 20s early Monday morning, and she added, “I’m trying not to cry because I don’t want my eyes to freeze.”

The bulk of the tear-down was completed by noontime. As the excavators began tearing through the structure, lumber, insulation and other debris fell into a heap, along with the occasional artifact: a Pepsi-branded refrigerator, a red plastic crate.

Dennis Wheelock on Monday watches demolition crews raze his former business, Dennis’ Pizza, in Gardiner. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

The wreckage accumulated in the Arcade parking lot between Bridge Street and Maine Avenue. One of the excavators positioned its bucket to the north side of the building, ensuring that none of it fell into Cobbossee Stream. On either side of the stream, people used their phones to take photos and videos of the project.

Another bystander was Mike McArthur, 37, a lifelong customer of Dennis’ Pizza who fondly recalled the portraits of little league teams displayed on its walls, including a few with his sons.

As he and Ladd chatted before the demolition started, they also both recalled sandwiches they enjoyed. The Denny Buster — a large sub-style sandwich with many meats, cheeses and other fixings — was enough to “feed my whole family,” McArthur said.

But some residents, such as Robert Abbey, were also focused on the improvements that are yet to come along Cobbossee Stream, including an extended walking trail and, with the removal of Dennis’ Pizza, better views of the stream in the area where it flows into the Kennebec River. Abbey is helping develop those plans as a board member with Gardiner Main Street, and he was among those watching the demolition on Monday morning.

Wheelock also said he felt “bittersweet” watching his namesake restaurant crumble.

Excavators demolish Dennis’ Pizza in Gardiner on Monday. Staff photo by Andy Molloy

He’s sad to see the building go, and proud of the fact that it employed many people, including more than 500 high school students. But he also sits on a committee that has been studying the downtown bridges and noted that the demolition will allow Maine DOT to complete its project more quickly.

“That’ll help downtown,” he said.

With the recent news coverage about the demolition, he also said that some old friends and customers have been calling to pay their respects.

“It kind of makes me feel good how many people have reached out,” he said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

]]> 0 demolish Dennis' Pizza in Gardiner on Monday.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:51:56 +0000
Woman jailed for 2016 theft from safe arrested Wednesday on drug charges Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:18:19 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — A local woman who was sent to jail last year for prying open a family member’s safe with a crowbar, stealing $22,000 in cash and buying a one-way ticket to Chicago, is back in jail after allegedly testing positive for methamphetamine and cocaine and being in possession of hypodermic needles.

Police said Jaclyn Suezanne Rutherford, 29, of Waterville Road, Skowhegan, also is thought to have recently stolen money from a family member to buy the drugs, a report that prompted the initial visit last Wednesday by police and probation officials.

Rutherford is being held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison on a probation violation, pending her next court appearance this week.

Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said police officer Tifani Warren assisted a probation officer with a check on Rutherford at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Rutherford’s home.

During the check, authorities reportedly found more than 50 hypodermic needles, assorted drug paraphernalia and a drug test indicated Rutherford had methamphetamine and cocaine in her system, Bucknam said.

“During the drug test, Jaclyn attempted to deceive Officer Warren by urinating in the toilet then filling the test kit with toilet water,” he said.

Warren summonsed Rutherford on charges of falsifying physical evidence and illegal possession of hypodermic needles.

Bucknam said it appears that probation officials received a complaint accusing Rutherford of stealing about $87 from a family member and using the stolen money to buy meth.

A call to the county jail Monday confirmed that Rutherford was being held without bail. It was unclear if she has a lawyer.

Skowhegan police said in Nov. 2016 that Rutherford had stolen the $22,000 in cash from the family safe, which was in a closet, and that the crowbar used to pry the safe open was found in Rutherford’s bedroom at the home.

When Rutherford was arrested, she was carrying about $17,000 in cash and had a one-way train ticket to Chicago.

“Jaclyn admitted to stealing the money and had plans to permanently leave Maine to live in a warmer climate,” then-Police Chief Donald Bolduc said at the time.

Rutherford was sentenced in Jan. 2017 to serve six months in jail to be followed by three years of probation and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,200, according to court documents. The full sentence handed down in court was for three years in prison with all but the six months suspended.

The stolen money had been kept in packets of $1,000 and $2,000 in Bangor Savings Bank envelopes.

She also was charged Oct. 7, 2016 in Skowhegan with assault, violating conditions of release and with obstructing the report of a crime for attacking another member of her family, though not the later victims of the theft.

Rutherford used physical force to prevent the victim of the assault from calling police, court documents said. As she was taken away in handcuffs by police, she allegedly screamed obscenities at the female family member, according to court documents.

“I’m going to kill her,” she allegedly yelled at police. “You can’t keep me forever, and when I get out I’m going for her. You can’t stop me.”

Rutherford pleaded guilty to charges related to that incident — assault, violating the conditions of release and obstructing the report of a crime. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail for those crimes to be served at the same time as the sentence for theft.

Of the stolen $22,000, Rutherford was found in possession of $16,800, which was returned to the victims.

She allegedly told police she had given $5,200 to a friend for picking her up the night of the theft and to help the friend pay rent, according to court documents. She was ordered to reimburse that money within 35 months of her release from jail.

Court documents show Rutherford had no income when she was arrested. Documents say she can not work because of injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident in Feb. 2016 in Oakland.

Rutherford was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor after the accident for treatment of severe head trauma, Sgt. Peter Tibbetts, of the Oakland Police Department, said at the time.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


]]> 0 RutherfordTue, 20 Feb 2018 10:16:24 +0000
Morning Sentinel Feb. 19 police logs Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:08:58 +0000 IN ANSON, Sunday at 10:58 p.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Embden Pond Road.

IN ATHENS, Sunday at 5:13 p.m., a scam complaint was taken from Chapman Ridge Road.

IN BRIGHTON PLANTATION, Monday at 8:36 a.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Main Street.

IN CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Sunday at 10:29 p.m., an assault was reported on Access Road.

IN CANAAN, Sunday at 6:29 p.m., a theft was reported on Ella Gerald Road.

IN CLINTON, Sunday at 9:49 a.m., a traffic accident, with injuries, was reported on Interstate 95.

IN CORNVILLE, Monday at 2:31 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Molunkus Road.

IN DETROIT, Sunday at 10:23 p.m., trespass was reported on Brann Place.

IN FAIRFIELD, Sunday at 5:12 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Skowhegan Road.

7:10 p.m., police made an arrest following a traffic stop on Main Street.

8:55 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Main Street.

IN FARMINGTON, Saturday at 12:56 p.m., a burglary was reported on Court Street.

Sunday at 12:52 a.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Wilton Road.

4:02 a.m., a disturbance was reported on Farmington Falls Road.

Monday at 7:55 a.m., harassment by phone was reported on Balsam Lane.

IN INDUSTRY, Saturday at 12:45 a.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Shaw Hill Road.

IN JAY, Saturday at 8:31 a.m., theft or fraud was reported on Knoll Circle.

IN MADISON, Sunday at 2:22 p.m., vandalism was reported on Weston Avenue.

IN OAKLAND, Sunday at 12:52 p.m., fire units were sent to a call on Rocky Shore Lane.

3:02 p.m., an unwanted person was reported at a restaurant on Main Street.

IN PITTSFIELD, Sunday at 11:37 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Main Street.

Monday at 6:48 a.m., a complaint was taken from Snakeroot Road.

IN RANGELEY, Saturday at 12:40 a.m., fire and rescue units were sent to a report of a structure fire on Bemis Road.

IN RIPLEY, Sunday at 9:51 a.m., threatening was reported on Stream Road.

IN ST. ALBANS, Sunday at 6:13 p.m., police were called to assist another agency on Papoose Lane.

IN SKOWHEGAN, Sunday at 11:38 a.m., a complaint was taken from Commercial Street.

1:03 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Middle Road.

2:28 p.m., a harassment complaint was taken from Dr. Mann Road.

3:01 p.m., police were called to assist another agency on Fairview Avenue.

5:07 p.m., a theft was reported on Dore Street.

9:16 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Water Street.

11:28 p.m., police made an arrest following a threatening complaint on Water Street.

11:44 p.m., a warning was issued following a trespass complaint on Madison Avenue.

Monday at 5:46 a.m., a disturbance was reported on Water Street.

IN WATERVILLE, Sunday at 6:42 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Broad Street.

1:32 p.m., an accident with injuries was reported on Main Street.

1:40 p.m., a theft was reported at a Summer Street apartment.

3:32 p.m., an assault was reported on Spring Place but police were unable to locate the reported victim.

4:31 p.m., a harassment complaint was taken from Drummond Avenue.

4:59 p.m., a reported 911 hangup led to the arrest of a man on Cool Street on a domestic violence charge.

5:58 p.m., an unwanted person was reported on Cool Street.

Monday at 12:54 a.m., police made an arrest following a report of suspicious activity near Center Place.

5:35 a.m., an Are You OK alert was activated on Kimball Street.

IN WILTON, Sunday at 5:19 p.m., a report of theft or fraud was taken from Weld Road.

IN WINSLOW, Sunday at 11:26 p.m., a harassment complaint was taken from Maple Ridge Road.


IN WATERVILLE, Sunday at 12:05 a.m., Bryan Rood, 34, of Albion, was arrested at Walmart on a charge of violating the conditions of release.

3:15 a.m., Owen Burry, 22, of Waterville, was arrested on Bartlett Street on a charge of disorderly conduct.

5:20 p.m., Shaun Cook, 45, of Waterville, was arrested on Cool Street on a charge of domestic violence assault with three priors and with obstructing the report of crime and criminal mischief.

Monday at 1:02 a.m., Monica Foss, 20, of Waterville, was arrested on Pleasant Street on a warrant.

]]> 0 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:34:28 +0000
Kennebec Journal Feb. 19 police log Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:08:37 +0000 IN AUGUSTA, Sunday at 8:29 a.m., disorderly conduct was reported on Industrial Drive.

8:50 a.m., a well-being check was performed on Townsend Street.

9:34 a.m., a well-being check was performed on Western Avenue.

9:35 a.m., a mental health and well-being check was performed on Airport Road.

10:33 a.m., a personal injury traffic accident was reported on Higgins Street.

11:00 a.m., a mental health and well-being check was performed on Middle Street.

11:16 a.m., a domestic disturbance was reported on Cedar Court.

5:43 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Northern Avenue.

6:33 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Western Avenue.

6:50 p.m., a mental health and well-being check was performed on Northern Avenue.

8:48 p.m., a disturbance was reported on Columbia and Grand streets.

10:02 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Tall Pines Way.

10:07 p.m., suspicious activity was reported on Water Street.

Monday at 12 a.m., suspicious activity was reported on Stone Street.

1:23 a.m., a mental health and well-being check was performed on Parkwood Drive.

6:45 a.m., a traffic hazard was reported on Water Street.

IN HALLOWELL, Sunday at 3:51 p.m., a traffic hazard was reported on Winthrop and Water streets.


IN AUGUSTA, Sunday at 12:18 p.m., Sally L. Jenkins, 35, of Augusta, was arrested on charges of criminal trespass, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, and assault, after criminal trespass was reported on Western Avenue.


IN AUGUSTA, Sunday at 4:17 p.m., Brady Michael Maheux, 18, of Augusta, was issued a summons on charges of burglary and theft by unauthorized taking (less than $500), after an investigation was performed on Riverside Drive.

]]> 0 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:03:58 +0000
Sex offender ordinance under consideration in Waterville Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:57:10 +0000 WATERVILLE — Andrew Ayers is frightened for his daughter when he looks out his window and sees a registered sex offender walking past Albert S. Hall School against his probation restrictions.

As a teacher, Ayers hears from female students about how frightened they are of sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

When he checked the law regarding sex offenders, he learned that Waterville could adopt an ordinance prohibiting some sex offenders from being within 750 feet of places children frequent such as schools, parks and playgrounds.

On Feb. 6, Ayers stood before the City Council and urged councilors to consider developing such an ordinance.

“I don’t think this would be an administrative burden on the city,” he said.

He told the council that other municipalities, including Biddeford and Falmouth, have enacted ordinances, and he thinks it shows that residents want such restrictions. He said he understands there are arguments against it, including one that says 93 percent of victims of sex crimes know their perpetrators.

“But I would say, what about the other seven percent?” he said.

Mayor Nick Isgro backed Ayers’ recommendation to have an ordinance and thanked him for speaking up.

“I think it’s a good idea by the way,” Isgro said, adding that he thought enacting an ordinance would send a message that sex offenders are not wanted in the city.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said state law authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances that restrict certain groups of sex offenders from living within 750 feet of places such as schools, parks and municipal pools, if they have been convicted of a Class A, B, or C sex offense against someone who has not obtained the age of 14 at the time of the offense.

“It’s not all sex offenders,” he said. “If the crime is against a 16-year-old, restrictions don’t apply, so they could live within 750 feet.”

Furthermore, sex offenders living within 750 feet of places children frequent prior to enacting the ordinance would be grandfathered, according to Massey.

No one had proposed such an ordinance for Waterville prior to Ayers’ request to the City Council, Massey said.

He said he has no issues with the idea of enacting an ordinance and he does not think it would place a burden on the police department.

City Manager Michael Roy said that, in his 13 years working for the city, he does not remember anyone specifically asking that an ordinance be enacted.

“We have had people suggest that we adopt restrictions, but those suggestions were never able to be supported by law — meaning that they wouldn’t pass constitutional muster,” he said.

Not everyone views an ordinance as necessarily the best course.

Rachel Healy, director of communications and public education for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, based in Portland, said the organization is not familiar with Waterville’s efforts to consider enacting an ordinance but she spoke about such ordinances in general.

“Generally speaking, while well-intentioned, restrictions on where former offenders can live aren’t based on data and don’t make anyone safer,” she said. “Instead, they drive former offenders into the shadows and further away from their support systems. They also ignore the fact that most offenses are committed by family members or acquaintances of the victims, not strangers. A better way to keep our kids safe is to focus on getting former offenders the rehabilitative services they need.”


There are 46 registered sex offenders in Waterville, according to Massey, who said they live in various parts of the city. Some are on probation and may have specific restrictions because of that, he said.

In the city of 15,700 residents, living within 13 square miles, there is one sex offender for every 341 people, or about 3.5 sex offenders in each square mile, according to Massey.

When a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, police go door-to-door in that neighborhood to distribute fliers that notify residents of the sex offender, his address, and his crime.

The city of Augusta has a sex offender ordinance and the police department there has a website that lists streets a sex offender is prohibited from living on, he said. If Waterville were to enact an ordinance, police would advise newly registered sex offenders who committed crimes against people 14 and younger about areas they are prohibited from living in, according to Massey.

Augusta police Chief Robert Gregoire said in an email that Augusta enacted a sex offender ordinance in 2013 and the request to adopt an ordinance came from the public.

Asked if sex offenders tend to re-offend, Massey said some have done so in Waterville over the years, but most violations are either that they do not register when they move to a new address, as required, or do not abide by probation restrictions, such as to not have contact with a child under the age of 15 or 16.

“We’re pretty familiar with many sex offenders, and I think we do a pretty good job recognizing them and knowing where they live and doing what we can to do additional oversight, given all the other challenges we face,” Massey said.

He noted that many sex offenders live in areas where resources are available, including courts, probation offices, mental health counseling and alcohol and drug counseling.

On Feb. 7, police received a report of a registered sex offender, Cory Kibbe, walking near Albert S. Hall School at the corner of Pleasant and School streets. Kibbe, who is prohibited from being near the school, was arrested on a probation violation, according to police records.


Ayers, the man who asked city councilors to consider adopting a sex offender ordinance, asked Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, if he would sponsor such a proposed ordinance.

White said he would.

“I think Andrew has a very good point where we have a lot of schools in Waterville and we want to keep our kids safe,” White said recently. He said he will work on a proposed ordinance in the next few weeks and ask that it be placed on the council agenda for consideration.

White said he drafted an ordinance using language from Augusta, Biddeford, Auburn and Bangor’s sex offender ordinances and it has been sent to City Solicitor Bill Lee for review and suggestions.

“This ordinance should have been established in Waterville as soon as the state gave the towns and cities permission to enforce this,” White said. “With the revitalization of Waterville, I think this is important to establish within the city of Waterville. Of all the local neighborhood amenities that can influence the decision to purchase a home, good quality schools is one of the most influential as parents are looking for a safe environment for their children. Establishing this ordinance in the city of Waterville will show that we as a city strive to create a safe environment for citizens to live and raise a family.”

Roy said Friday that the City Council on Tuesday will discuss a potential sex offender ordinance for Waterville and officials will look at crafting an ordinance based on those enacted in other communities. No vote will be taken Tuesday, but it is possible councilors may take a first vote March 6 on a proposed ordinance, according to Roy.

Ayers said he has taught in Waterville 17 years, but lived in Vassalboro before he and his family moved to Waterville 1 1/2 years ago.

“We are excited about revitalization and wanted to live downtown,” he said.

Recently, he noticed police fliers in his neighborhood notifying residents that a registered sex offender who had committed gross sexual assault against a child under 14 was living in the area right across from a school. Ayers cited a list of municipalities that have enacted sex offender ordinances, including Bangor and Augusta, and said Waterville should do the same.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

]]> 0 Hall Elementary School Principal Barbara Jordan says goodbye to students boarding a bus in Waterville on Thursday. On Feb. 7, police received a report of a registered sex offender walking near the Hall School at the corner of Pleasant and School streets and arrested him on a charge of probation violation, according to police records. Waterville resident Andrew Ayers has asked the City Council to consider an ordinance prohibiting certain sex offenders from being within 750 feet of schools, parks and other places children under 14 frequent.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:28:53 +0000
Scarborough principal remains silent on reason for sudden resignation Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:48:44 +0000 Scarborough High School Principal David Creech declined to respond Monday to questions about why he suddenly submitted a letter of resignation last week amid growing controversy over a pending change in school start times.

Creech’s position on the new start times, set to take effect in the fall, remains unclear, but parents and community groups on social media are connecting the divisive issue to his resignation, effective June 30.

Opponents say the district’s plan to adopt a later start time for high school students will hurt younger students and cause other problems.

Creech sent this response Monday to an email request from the Press Herald for an interview about why he resigned Friday without giving a public reason:

“I am very proud of Scarborough High School. I love our students and staff. I greatly appreciate SHS families and the support given by the Scarborough community. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as principal of Scarborough High School for the past five years and I am sorry that my service to the school will have to end this way.”

Creech didn’t respond to a follow-up email that asked specific questions about why he resigned, whether he was forced to resign, whether he supports the change in school start times, what his future plans are and whether he’s getting a severance package.

Creech’s wife, Michele Bellfy Creech, posted a statement on Facebook that was shared Monday on a public page titled “Scarborough School Supporters Advocating for a Start Times Plan Compromise.”

In it she said her husband asked her “to convey how humbled and overwhelmed he is with all the support. …This is tremendously hard on Dave and on our family, but the support makes it easier.”

She said her husband is taking time “to think about his options and his next move.”


In a previous post shared Sunday on the Scarborough School Supporters page, Creech’s wife said that “he was forced to resign by the SI (superintendent)” and that “he would love to make a statement to the community but his hands are tied and he has been advised not to.”

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger and Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Beeley issued separate written statements Sunday saying that Kukenberger had accepted Creech’s resignation and that they were acting in the best interests of students.

Neither would address questions about the circumstances of Creech’s resignation, saying that it was a private personnel matter.

Beeley also wouldn’t say when the board might be scheduled to discuss what to do about the pending vacancy. She said she would provide a copy of Creech’s letter of resignation, but she had not as of Monday afternoon.

Creech has experienced an outpouring of support since Friday, including hundreds of emails; a #WeStandWithCreech social media campaign; a student petition signed by nearly 1,200 people who want the school board to reject his resignation; and a public protest planned to be held at Town Hall at 7 a.m. Monday, Feb. 26, when students return from February vacation.

Creech’s action followed a heated school board meeting Thursday, when the Scarborough Education Association issued a statement opposing the change in start times.

“The association believes that this is not the right time to implement this dramatic shift in school start times,” wrote teachers union president Justin Stebbins.

Union members doubt the veracity of research claiming benefits of later start times for high school students, as well as the results of a community survey, and they’re concerned about problems the change might cause.

The Scarborough School Supporters Facebook page linked Creech’s resignation to the dispute over start times, saying “the two issues of School Start Times and the Creech Resignation are likely intertwined. … No matter what your personal feelings may be regarding the school times issue, Principal Creech should NOT be collateral damage for voicing his concerns and supporting his teachers.”


Another petition, signed by nearly 1,000 people who oppose the new start times, also speculated that there may be additional reasons for Creech’s sudden resignation.

A former assistant principal at Kennebunk High School, Creech became principal of Scarborough High School in 2013.

The school board approved the change in start times last April, based on research that suggests high school students with later start times have improved mental health and reduced rates of automobile accidents, truancy, absenteeism and substance use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Classes at Scarborough High School now start at 7:35 a.m., followed by the middle school at 7:45 a.m., grades 3 through 5 at 8:20 a.m., and kindergarten through grade 2 at 8:50 a.m.

Under the new bell schedules, high school students will start at 8:50 a.m., middle school students at 9 a.m., and elementary school students at 8 a.m.

Opponents of the change are worried about longer bus rides, earlier pickup times for young students, impacts on after-school activities and the need for additional after-school care.

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

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

]]> 0 High SchoolTue, 20 Feb 2018 13:05:54 +0000
Waterville sex offender ordinance, farmers market location to be discussed Tuesday Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:03:54 +0000 WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday will discuss drafting a proposed sex offender ordinance that would regulate where some registered sex offenders may live in the city. Councilors also will consider voting on whether to close Common Street this spring for the seasonal downtown farmers market.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of The Center at 93 Main St. downtown.

A sex offender ordinance was proposed at a Feb. 6 council meeting when resident Andrew Ayers said other communities have ordinances that prohibit some registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of places where children frequent and he thinks Waterville should have one, too.

He asked Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, to sponsor an ordinance for the council to vote on and White agreed. City Manager Michael Roy said Friday that the ordinance idea will be discussed Tuesday under the city manager’s report section of the agenda at the end of the council meeting, but no vote will be taken.

Waterville is looking at sex offender ordinances in other communities that prohibit some registered sex offenders from living within 750 feet of places children frequent such as schools, playgrounds and community pools.

Meanwhile, regarding the Downtown Waterville Farmers Market, the location for the market this year has been up in the air as market vendors and owners of businesses on Common Street disagree on the layout of the market.

The council on Feb. 6 postponed voting on whether to close Common Street from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays from April 26 through Nov. 15 for 2018 to allow both sides to come to an agreement. The market was held on Common Street last year.

At the Feb. 6 meeting, City Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, volunteered to set up meetings for discussions between market representatives and business officials. Tate represents downtown as part of her ward.

Roy said Friday that those discussions are continuing and a meeting has been set up for Tuesday, before the council meeting, to see if the sides can come to an agreement.

On Feb. 6, Hanne Tierney, who manages the farmers market and sells produce from Cornerstone Farm, of Palmyra, told councilors vendors enjoyed the location on Common Street last year. The spot provides shade, the area is protected from the wind and people like the green space next to the street, she said. More than 50 percent of market patrons say they also shop at other businesses when they patronize the farmers market, she said.

But Bill Mitchell, owner of GHM Insurance Agency on Main Street, the Proper Pig restaurant on Common Street and two buildings at 14-24 Common that house an Edward Jones office and A&L Barbershop, said that while he supports having the farmers market downtown, it hinders visibility of businesses on the street. He said that if one wants a viable business downtown, it must have full exposure. He asked market representatives if they could move the vendors from the south side of the street to the north side to make the sidewalk near businesses more pedestrian-friendly, but they were not willing to do that.

Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, asked Tierney if the market would be willing to move to the north side of Common Street. Tierney said that would not work because the curve of the roadway does not allow enough room for vendors. She said marketers would consider moving to that side of the street late in the season, but she does not think it would work in mid-season, as farmers have so much produce and items for sale.

Al Hodsdon, owner of A. E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers, also on Common Street, agreed with Mitchell’s stance about accessibility to businesses.

When the farmers market moved to Common Street last year, there were no tenants in Hodsdon’s downstairs space but now there are tenants, and 30 to 50 clients a day enter the business, he said. He said the farmers market made it difficult for clients to get to the business.

Hodsdon said everyone enjoys the farmers market and it is a valuable resource, but having the market on The Concourse, across from the Cancun restaurant, would allow it to be more central in the city, with potentially more room. Also, the street would not have to be closed down for the market, he said.

A decision was made to move the farmers market from the northeast corner of The Concourse to Common Street in 2017, as Colby College was making plans to build a mixed-use residential complex on The Concourse site.

In other business Tuesday, the council will consider authorizing the city to enter into a contract with Stantec Consulting Services, of Scarborough, which consults with Waterville on the city-owned Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport. Trees have been removed from an area around the airport and stumps must be removed and the area graded, according to Roy.

“It’s a safety-related improvement at the airport so trees don’t grow up into the air space,” he said.

Councilors also will consider a change to the downtown tax increment financing district and related development plan. Roy said the city is asking the state to allow an expansion of eligible uses for TIF money to include trails and pedestrian amenities in the downtown.

“One of the outcomes, if we can get that changed, is some of the TIF money would be eligible to support the Riverwalk,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


]]> 0, 19 Feb 2018 22:02:03 +0000
Somerset County court for Dec. 4-8, 2017 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 20:20:28 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — Closed cases for Dec. 4-8, 2017, in Skowhegan District Court and Somerset County Superior Court.

Mark W. Alton, 58, of Dexter, negotiating a worthless instrument June 1, 2017, in Athens; $100 fine, $132 restitution.

Lewis E. Bachelder II, 40, of Industry, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 24, 2017, in Madison; $250 fine.

Scott A. Bailey, 30, of Norridgewock, operating unregistered ATV Oct. 8, 2017, in Mercer; $150 fine.

Karl M. Bechtel, 39, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, driving to endanger July 11, 2016, in The Forks; $575 fine, 30-day license suspension; operating under the influence, same date and town, dismissed.

Rick Robert Bender, 30, of Mercer, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, physical force March 29, 2017, in Mercer; 60-day jail sentence; violating condition of release March 29, 2017, in Mercer; 60-day jail sentence; two-year Department of Corrections sentence all but 60 days suspended, two year probation.

Michael Benedict Sr., 32, of Skowhegan, operating while license suspended or revoked Sept. 23, 2017, in Smithfield; $250 fine.

Scott A. Bickford, 41, of Norridgewock, unlawful possession of scheduled drug Dec. 3, 2017, in Madison; $400 fine, 24-hour jail sentence.

Sean R. Bixby, 27, of Canaan, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 27, 2017, in Canaan; $250 fine.

Nichole M. Braley, 30, of Pittsfield, domestic violence assault Sept. 26, 2017, in Pittsfield; 180-day jail sentence all but 10 days suspended, one-year probation. Operating while license suspended or revoked Nov. 7, 2017, in Pittsfield; $600 fine, seven-day jail sentence, one-year license suspension; violating condition of release Nov. 7, 2017, in Pittsfield; seven-day jail sentence; violating condition of release, same date and town, dismissed.

Justin W. Carr, 36, of Harmony, operating after habitual offender revocation June 1, 2017, in Harmony; $500 fine, 30-day jail sentence.

William A. Charity Jr., 61, of Albion, operating ATV on land of another without permission Oct. 6, 2017, no town listed; $100 fine.

Raymond D. Cohen, 29, of Plymouth, failure to register vehicle within 30 days Dec. 15, 2015, in Palmyra; $100 fine.

Joshua G. Coldwell, 30, of Bingham, burglary Aug. 30, 2017, in Bingham; three-year Department of Corrections sentence, $125.50 restitution; theft by unauthorized taking or transfer Aug. 30, 2017, in Bingham; three-year Department of Corrections sentence; criminal mischief, same date and town, dismissed.

Joseph L. Cote, 48, of Dexter, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer Oct. 1, 2017, in Palmyra; $200 fine.

Daniel D. Cram, 34, of Clinton, possessing revoked, mutilated, fictitious or fraudulent license/identification card Oct. 24, 2016, in Fairfield; $100 fine.

Kimberly D. Crosson, 43, of Jay, assault Nov. 12, 2009, in Starks; $300 fine.

Annamarie L. Donnell, 31, of Benton, operating while license suspended or revoked March 17, 2017, in Pittsfield; $500 fine, 48-hour jail sentence.

Ryan S. Flannery, 32, of Bangor, use of drug paraphernalia Oct. 12, 2017, in Palmyra; $300 fine.

George W. Foster, 58, of Little Valley, New York, operating vehicle without license Oct. 4, 2017, in North Anson; $150 fine.

Danielle Rose Furbush, 40, of Canaan, violating condition of release Nov. 22, 2017, in Skowhegan; 13-day jail sentence.

Wayde C. Hathorne, 45, of Greene, violating fish rule Sept. 10, 2017, in Johnson Mountain Township; $100 fine.

Daniel M. Jackson, 36, of Bowdoinham, burglary, aggravated assault and assault, April 14, 2017, in Palmyra, dismissed.

Craig A. Johnson, 56, of Madison, operating under the influence Oct. 29, 2017, in Madison; $500 fine, 48-hour jail sentence, 150-day license suspension.

Karie Laird, 39, of Bangor, assault Aug. 17, 2017, in Skowhegan; $300 fine, $300 suspended.

Justin Wayne Lancaster, 38, of Benton, aggravated assault Sept. 17, 2015, in Fairfield; seven-year Department of Corrections sentence all but 30 months suspended, four year probation.

Mickey A. Landry, 51, of Norridgewock, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 27, 2017, in Madison; $250 fine.

Dwain H. Libby, 49, of Anson, domestic violence assault Nov. 10, 2017, in Anson; 364-day all suspended jail sentence, two year probation.

Shane E. Murphy, 43, of Norridgewock, unlawful possession of scheduled drug Aug. 1, 2017, in Fairfield; $400 fine, 14-day jail sentence.

Daniel Perry, 23, of Orono, operating under the influence Sept. 2, 2017, in Moxie Gore; $500 fine, 150-day license suspension.

Steven A. Poirier, 49, of Norridgewock, disorderly conduct, offensive words, gestures Oct. 2, 2017, in Norridgewock; $250 fine.

Justin C. Porter, 32, of Smithfield, failing to notify of motor vehicle accident and failing to make oral or written accident report Sept. 18, 2017, in Norridgewock, dismissed.

Jonathan David Reynolds, 27, of Smithfield, violating condition of release Nov. 20, 2017, in Skowhegan; seven-day jail sentence; violating condition of release Nov. 26, 2017, in Skowhegan; seven-day jail sentence. Violating condition of release Nov. 26, 2017, in Skowhegan, dismissed.

David A. Sincyr, 56, of Skowhegan, operating while license suspended or revoked Oct. 2, 2017, in Skowhegan; $500 fine.

William S. Smith, 20, of Detroit, disorderly conduct, fighting Sept. 27, 2017, in Detroit; 24-hour jail sentence. Violating condition of release Dec. 1, 2017, in Detroit, dismissed.

Samantha Rose White, 22, of Skowhegan, motor vehicle speeding more than 30 mph over speed limit Aug. 16, 2017, in Madison; $500 fine; operating while license suspended or revoked, same date and town, dismissed.

]]> 0 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:36:52 +0000
Hopeful poets bringing fight against gun violence to Maine Mon, 19 Feb 2018 20:19:13 +0000 For more than five years now, Brian Clements has led an urgent and frustrating effort to end gun violence in America. The kids in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died last week when their school was shot up by a former student, give him hope that maybe this time the outcome will be different.

“I am personally glad to see the people of Parkland, and especially the kids, speak out more vociferously, and I hope their voices will become the new voices of leadership,” said Clements, a poet from Newtown, Connecticut. He has helped edit a new literary anthology, “Bullets Into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence,” published by Beacon Press.

The book includes more than 50 poems by well-known poets, including Richard Blanco of Bethel, who contributed a poem that he wrote in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people and injured 58 others. Judi Richardson of South Portland, whose daughter, Darien, was the victim of a gun homicide in 2010, also contributed an essay about the damage a bullet can do and what it’s like to watch someone suffer and die from bullet wounds.

Richardson was the lead citizen sponsor of a 2016 ballot measure to require background checks on all gun sales in Maine. The measure failed. She and her husband co-founded Remembering Darien, a nonprofit committed to helping victims of violent crime.

Clements, Blanco and Richardson will read from the book and talk about gun violence and what can be done to end it at 7 p.m. March 6 at the Portland Public Library. The Telling Room, which empowers youths by helping them become better writers, is hosting the reading, and Telling Room writers also will participate.

Clements’ wife taught at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 20 children and six staff members died in a shooting in 2012. She still teaches in the Newtown school system.

Since that attack, Clements, a professor of writing at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, has made ending gun violence a priority. The anthology is one result of his efforts. He took a sabbatical to promote the book. Clements and his team of editors are scheduling events like the one in Portland in every state and the District of Columbia.

The goal, he said, is to use the book to begin community conversations. He arranged the book so that each poem is followed by a response from a victim of gun violence, a community leader or activist seeking changes.

“There is kind of a conversation that rises out of the dynamic between the poem and the response to the poem, and we are trying to replicate that at our events,” he said.

Over the weekend, when he heard the students from Parkland speak up confidently and with conviction, Clements sensed that maybe, just maybe, people will listen to the youth of Parkland and laws will change. He is hopeful.

“It’s good to see the people in Parkland are dealing with it the way they are,” he said. He noted that most mass shootings at schools have been at elementary schools and colleges, “where the responses have been more circumspect and controlled. It’s interesting that high school students are speaking out in a way we haven’t seen other people do.”

Richardson is eager to hear what the students of Portland have to say, and hopeful about their ability to take control of the conversation. “We are getting all these students speaking up and getting involved,” she said. “We are at a critical point here.”

In the book, she responded to a poem by Aziza Barnes, “I Could Ask But I Think They Use Tweezers.”

“To me, her poem is about the physical effects of gun violence on the body and how the bullet breaks your system apart and how a bullet is so small and yet so powerful,” Richardson said. “When I read her poem, I thought about our daughter. It resonated with me.”

Darien survived for three weeks in a hospital, after being shot several times by masked intruders who broke into her Portland duplex. She spent two days in intensive care and 18 days as an inpatient. Her parents watched her suffer as she worked to recover, and she died of complications from her wounds after being discharged from the hospital. One bullet traveled the length of her thigh and lodged in her hip, where it remained. Another bullet shredded the thumb of her left hand.

She died unexpectedly on Feb. 28, 2010, while visiting a friend in Miami. The Florida Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Richardson died from a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot, a result of the wound to her thigh.

“The bullets caused so much damage that we couldn’t see,” her mother said Monday. “We were hopeful our daughter was going to live, but there was too much damage. The response I wrote was just that. I was hopeful. We watched our daughter suffer, but we never realized she wasn’t going to make it.”

Her murder remains unsolved.

Blanco readily agreed when asked to contribute a poem because he thought it was an important and powerful project. He has written about gun violence before. Blanco referenced the Sandy Hook shootings in the poem “One Today,” which he wrote and delivered for President Obama’s second inauguration.

He offered the editors of the anthology “One Pulse, One Poem,” which he wrote after the Pulse shootings in June 2016. “Let’s place each memory like a star, the light of their past reaching us now, and always, reminding us to keep writing until we never need to write a poem like this again,” he writes.

“Things seemed urgent back then,” the poet said in an email. “And yet, nothing has changed. My favorite poem in the anthology, ‘The Gun Joke’ by Jamaal May, speaks to that absurdity. I think it’s time that we give up on our government and take matters into our own hands – create a national citizens initiative, similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to sustain that sense of urgency that will hopefully lead to a tipping point.”

For the Telling Room, working with Clements to host the community discussion was a natural partnership, said Celine Kuhn, the Telling Room’s executive director.

“Gun violence is on the mind of every student who walks through our doors and every student we meet in a classroom,” Kuhn said. “We feel a responsibility to amplify student voices on this issue, as they’re the ones most affected by it on a daily basis.”

Clements met representatives of the Telling Room at a national writing conference a few years ago, and thought of the Portland organization when he began arranging the “Bullets Into Bells” event in Maine.

“Their mission so closely aligns with the idea of the conversation we want to have with the book,” he said.

It will not be an abstract discussion, Clements promised. It will include facts and data about gun violence in Maine, so people can better understand how gun violence affects their communities.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Richard Blanco has contributed a poem to "Bullets Into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence," and will read from the book at an event March 6 in Portland.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 23:39:41 +0000
Hannaford workers authorize strike at distribution center Mon, 19 Feb 2018 19:03:10 +0000 More than 200 union members at Hannaford’s distribution center in South Portland have rejected a contract proposal and voted to authorize a strike if additional negotiations fail.

The current three-year contract between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 and the company that handles distribution for the Hannaford supermarket stores in Maine expired at the end of the day Friday. Union members “voted overwhelmingly” Saturday to authorize a strike, although a spokeswoman for the distribution company said Monday evening that the two groups plan to meet next week.

“We don’t want to have to strike, but if we can’t make the progress we need to ensure myself and my fellow co-workers can continue to make a decent living in our communities, then we may have to,” union member Bob LaBrecque said in a statement.

Hannaford is owned by the international food retailer Ahold Delhaize USA, but the South Portland distribution center is operated by Delhaize America Distribution LLC, a subsidiary of the parent company.

“Delhaize America Distribution, LLC, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 have agreed to mediate next Monday, Feb. 26, with respect to its South Portland, Maine, distribution center,” Christy Phillips-Brown, spokeswoman for the distribution company, said in a statement. “We have been advised there will not be a strike at this facility pending mediation.”

Hannaford was Maine’s second-largest private employer in 2017 with more than 8,000 workers statewide, according to statistics from the Maine Department of Labor. The Hannaford chain was purchased by the Belgian-based company Delhaize Group in 1999, which was then acquired by the Netherlands-based company Royal Ahold in 2016.

Hannaford operates 181 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, according to the company. Ahold Delhaize USA subsidiary Delhaize America Distribution employs more than 8,500 workers at nine distribution facilities in six states.

On Monday, officials with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 union accused Ahold Delhaize of “refusing to move in areas that will improve the livelihoods of their workers in Maine.”

Ahold Delhaize is one of the world’s largest food retailers. In addition to Hannaford, the company’s U.S. division also owns Stop & Shop, Food Lion, Giant and several other supermarket chains.

In 1998, workers at the South Portland warehouse initially rejected a three-year contract from Hannaford Brothers but then failed to muster the two-thirds majority necessary to authorize a strike. The union’s executive board later voted to accept the contract offer.

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

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Hannaford employee loads a jack with products in one of the numerous aisles of the warehouse at the distribution center in South Portland in 2014.Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:14:34 +0000
Maine ranger returns to black bear den and finds a gift to the world Mon, 19 Feb 2018 18:30:11 +0000 While on a timber inspection in Carthage last fall, Maine Forest Service Ranger Erik Ahlquist located what appeared to be a black bear den.

This week, he returned to the site with biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and this is what they found.

Maine Forest Service Ranger Erik Ahlquist holds a bear cub in Carthage. Photo from Maine Forest Service Facebook page

The department studies black bears in Maine and you can read their assessment of the population here. Their assessment notes that female black bears give birth when they are in their winter dens and cubs weigh about 12 ounces at birth.

The forest service’s social media posts didn’t say how many cubs they found or whether they woke up mom.

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 09:55:38 +0000
UMaine athletic director leaving for post in Denver Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:32:51 +0000 University of Maine Director of Athletics Karlton Creech will leave Orono to become the vice chancellor for athletics and recreation at the University of Denver, UMaine announced Monday.

Creech has been the AD at Maine since February 2014. He served previously in athletic administrations at the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State.

“I’d like to thank the University of Maine for the incredible opportunity to serve as director of athletics,” Creech said in a press release. “My years in Orono have been some of the most rewarding of my career and I look forward to following the continued success of the Black Bears.”

An interim AD will be named and a national search will be launched to fill the position, according to University of Maine President Susan J. Hunter.

“We understand that this is an opportunity for Karlton to take his talents to a new level of athletics leadership, and we wish him well,” Hunter said in the release. “The University of Maine takes seriously its role as the state’s only Division I program, and its responsibilities to Black Bear fans near and far.

“We will build on the leadership and fundraising that have effectively advanced UMaine Athletics in the last four years, and will continue to dedicate ourselves to excellence in athletics leadership that will best serve Maine.”

Creech begins his new position on May 1.

]]> 0 Creech has served as athletic director at the University of Maine for four years. He is leaving to take a post at the University of Denver. (Michael C. York photo)Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:41:19 +0000
Trump says he’d support stronger background checks Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:31:23 +0000 WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump offered support Monday for an effort to strengthen the federal gun background check system as he hunkered down at his private Florida golf course just 40 miles from last week’s deadly school shooting.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president spoke Friday to Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers.

Trump, who is spending the weekend at his private Palm Beach estate, started President’s Day at his nearby golf club, as White House aides advised against golfing too soon after the shooting at the Parkland high school that left 17 dead.

Trump spent much of the holiday weekend watching cable television news and grousing to club members and advisers about the investigation of Russian election meddling.

In a marathon series of furious weekend tweets from Mar-a-Lago, Trump vented about Russia, raging at the FBI for what he perceived to be a fixation on the Russia investigation at the cost of failing to deter the attack on the Florida high school. He made little mention of the nearby school shooting victims and the escalating gun control debate.

Surviving students have called for tougher gun control and plan a march in Washington next month. Trump has focused his comments on mental health, rather than guns.

The White House said Sunday the president will host a “listening session” with students and teachers this week, but offered no details.

The bipartisan background check legislation would be aimed at ensuring that federal agencies and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI. It was introduced after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

Trump has been a strong supporter of gun rights and the National Rifle Association. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Kristin Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the measure Trump discussed with Cornyn would help to enforce existing rules but would not close loopholes permitting private sales on the internet and at gun shows. She’s pressing for a ban on assault-type weapons and for laws enabling family members, guardians or police to ask judges to strip gun rights temporarily from people who show warning signs of violence.

]]> 0 Trump leaves the White House on Friday to spend the weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Aides advised him against playing golf so soon after the school massacre just miles away.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:29:08 +0000
Gas prices down slightly in northern New England Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:25:51 +0000 Gas prices are down somewhat in northern New England, mirroring a trend in nationwide prices.

GasBuddy’s daily survey of more than 1,200 gas outlets in Maine found that average retail gasoline prices in the state have fallen 5.3 cents in the last week to an average of $2.55 per gallon.

New Hampshire has seen a slide of 3.3 cents to $2.50 per gallon in that time.

GasBuddy says the national average gas price has fallen 5.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.51 per gallon.

Prices on Sunday in Maine were 22.9 cents per gallon higher than the same day a year ago.

]]> 0, 19 Feb 2018 13:02:09 +0000
Weather whiplash? First came snow, now record warmth is on horizon Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:30:05 +0000 The snow that fell over the weekend will be obliterated over the next few days. Record-breaking warmth is expected Wednesday.

Through this date, Portland has had over a foot of snow above the average and Bangor is over 2 feet above average. In fact, Bangor has already surpassed the seasonal average of 66.1 inches. Portland’s seasonal average is 61.9 inches; we’re only 6 inches off from that.

The big weather story this week is the East Coast warmth. A “Bermuda high,” more typical of July or August, will become established Tuesday and Wednesday.

If I knew no better and glanced at the East Coast on the map below, I’d think it is mid-summer. This kind of a pattern produces our hottest summer days. It would translate to 90s and low 100s in the Northeast.

In February, this type of a pattern translates to record warmth. Not only are daily records possible; the highest temperatures recorded in the month of February are in jeopardy.

Portland’s all-time record high for February is 64 degrees, set in 1963. Bangor’s is 60 degrees, set in 1937.

It is always a process to move warmth into New England in the winter and spring. Warm fronts slow down as they approach us, and they come with clouds and showers.

Tuesday will be no different. Expect a cloudy, damp day with off-and-on showers. Warmth will be on our doorstep. Temperatures will range from the 30s in eastern Maine to over 50 degrees in York County.

The warm front blasts through on Wednesday. After early fog and clouds, a southwesterly wind develops and transports the warmth through the state. Breaks of sunshine will pop temperatures into the 60s. Parts of western Maine could hit 70 degrees!

Midcoast and Down East will be cooler, which is typical in this kind of a spring pattern, as the southwest wind flows off the cold ocean. Even here, highs should top 50 degrees, far above the average.

After all, it is still February. Spring is not here yet. Cooler air will return and more snow chances exist heading into March.

Ryan Breton
Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @RyanBretonWX

]]> 0, 19 Feb 2018 11:30:05 +0000
Maine kelp, climate, ocean acidity projects get funding Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:10:23 +0000 BRUNSWICK – The University of Maine says projects about seaweed, the acidity of Gulf of Maine waters and the way climate change is impacting fish will receive nearly $1 million in funding.

The university says the funds are being awarded to faculty at UMaine and other institutions through the Maine Sea Grant College Program. The money is from the federal government and matching sources.

One of the projects is an investigation into the role of rockweed in food webs. Another will seek to learn how kelp forests are responding to changing environments.

UMaine says researchers will evaluate the acidity of the Gulf of Maine using current data and historical proxies. The final project will seek to find out how environmental factors such as climate change impact fish and invertebrates in coastal Maine.

]]> 0 Press Herald file photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer CHEBEAGUE ISLAND, ME - APRIL 28: At Ocean Approved's open-water kelp farm near Chebeague Island, researchers will place monitoring equipment this winter to see if the kelp's ability to absorb carbon dioxide and consume excess nutrients will reduce the acidity of the surrounding sea water, which would benefit shellfish living nearby.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:13:14 +0000
Bill would remove veterinarians from Maine opioid monitoring law Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:06:53 +0000 AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is opposing legislation to remove veterinarians from Maine’s prescription monitoring program.

Republican Sen. Jim Hamper’s bill could receive a committee vote Tuesday.

The bill would no longer require veterinarians to look up the prescription history of the person who brings in a pet before prescribing an opioid or a benzodiazepine for the animal.

Department of Health and Human Services Chief Health Officer Christopher Pezzullo said the bill would make it harder to reduce the misuse, abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. In 2016, 378 Mainers died from drug overdoses.

But Amanda Bisol of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association called for increased education for veterinarians who prescribe low doses of opioids and who aren’t experts in human medication. Veterinarian Andrine Belliveau said she has privacy concerns.

]]> 0, 19 Feb 2018 10:15:50 +0000
Amy Calder: Waiting for the last chapter Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:00:00 +0000 Deb Crowley Jones remembers the day her world fell apart.

It had been a happy marriage — or so she thought — living in Florida, weekends at the beach and taking cruises with her husband every year on their anniversary.

She had seen subtle signs that something was amiss, but she always let them go.

After all, when you are in love, a chemical thing happens in your brain where you don’t see red flags, she said.

It was May 14, 2011, when her husband of five years, Gerard Pepin, left for work at the Salvation Army where he was a clinical supervisor and psychotherapist. He returned home a short time later.

“He’s white as a ghost,” she recalled. “I’m saying, ‘What is the matter?’ and he’s not saying anything. Then he said, ‘I’m in lots of trouble.'”

Pepin, who counseled women recovering from drug addiction, was accused of sexual battery against a 24-year-old client.

“I took a deep breath,” Jones, now 60, said. “My legs were like rubber. I said, ‘Did it happen?’ He put his head down and waited a second and said, ‘Yes.'”

Jones told me this story Tuesday as we sat in her living room in Canaan, a long time and far away from what she had thought was an idyllic life.

That life started after she met Pepin, now 65, on an online dating site in 2005. A 1975 Skowhegan Area High School graduate, Jones was a divorcée with one grown son. She was living in Skowhegan and working in the mental health field when she met Pepin, of Bangor, online and they agreed to meet in a public place — a truck stop in Newport. He was a drug and alcohol counselor who also worked with at-risk teens, so they had a lot in common and hit it off right away.

In fact, he swept her off her feet.

“I instantly liked him. He opened the car door, he helped me off with my coat. We were both brought up Catholic, we both worked in the mental health field. I was an in-home support counselor. I didn’t want the date to end. We had a great time.”

That same year, they moved to Florida and were married on the beach in 2006. They took a romantic honeymoon cruise to the islands. Every year after that, they took another cruise.

But something happened on the honeymoon that raised concern. Pepin had a beer when he was supposed to be recovering from alcohol and substance abuse. On anniversary cruises, he spent a lot of time online. His only friends seemed to be former clients, which she did not think was right. But she brushed all those inconsistencies off.

Their home life was happy, she said.

“He treated me like a queen. We cooked meals together. We’d go to the beach every weekend. We had a good life.”

Until May 14, 2011, when he informed her of his crime.

Port Orange and Daytona Beach police came in the middle of the night, searched their house, removed items for evidence and took Pepin to the police station. Jones was devastated.

“I’d spent the last 15 years working with women recovering from sexual abuse and trying to get their lives together and my husband is doing that. I said ‘I’ve got to get out of here.'”

She moved back to Maine and into her house which she had not sold. She spent 1 1/2 years working with Skowhegan and Daytona Beach police, pretending she was sympathetic with Pepin and ultimately getting a taped confession from him about the sexual battery of the client in 2011.

“There were a lot of things I got him to admit to.”

She went through bankruptcy in 2012 and divorced Pepin in 2013. Last year, she moved to Canaan.

After leaving Florida, Jones said she learned her husband had had another woman on the side while they were married. She also got a call from a woman who told her she had a relationship with Pepin when he was a counselor in Bangor. She had been his client and then he hired her to work for him, according to Jones. As a mental health worker who was a mandated reporter, Jones called police.

On June 12, 2014, Pepin was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual misconduct.

Then on Oct. 18 that year, he was charged with vehicular homicide after he and his fourth wife got into a car accident in Long County, Georgia, and she died. On March 28, 2017, he was sentenced to five years in jail and 10 years probation for vehicular homicide and offering to assist in the commission of a suicide, as he and his wife had agreed to commit suicide by vehicle, except he lived and she didn’t.

Pepin currently is in Volusia County Jail in Daytona and has served three years of his five-year sentence.

Jones plans to travel to Florida to be at the S. James Foxman Justice Center in Daytona Beach when Pepin pleads to the 2011 sexual battery case and is sentenced. As of Thursday, the date for that had been postponed twice, and Jones learned Thursday that it will likely be in March.

“This is the last chapter of my book,” Jones said of her plans to be in court. “I want to see the final thing happen.”

She has been interviewed by media in both Maine and Florida about her life with Pepin. She now works part-time in an antiques store and said she is writing a book about her experiences. She also hopes to do speaking engagements to warn others about the dangers of meeting people online. She wants to urge them to get out of a relationship if something doesn’t feel right.

“My goal is to reach out to people that need help and to encourage them to find someone that will believe in them and help them through the journey so they don’t have to do it alone.”

Her experience left her broke and struggling with post traumatic stress, depression and anxiety, she said. She doesn’t want others to go through the same thing.

“Don’t disregard things that you see that are a little odd,” she said. “The main reason for my book is to empower people to reach out to get help from others. You deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 30 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

]]> 0, 18 Feb 2018 21:54:10 +0000
Portland police propose rules for body camera use Mon, 19 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Portland police have proposed a detailed policy to govern the use of body cameras, a step that advocates say can improve relations between officers and the community but one that also has raised privacy concerns in cities around the country.

The Portland Police Department’s eight-page policy proposal, which will be taken up by a City Council committee Wednesday, says officers equipped with cameras will be required to record virtually all enforcement actions, including traffic stops, field interviews, use of force, investigative stops, searches, detentions or arrests. But it also says officers can stop recording under certain circumstances to protect the privacy of crime victims or others, and that recordings shall not be used to “gather intelligence” during legal assemblies such as political protests.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who declined through a city spokeswoman to be interviewed, will formally present the policy to the City Council.

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

The city expects to conduct community outreach throughout February and March and launch the pilot program in the spring, according to a timeline given to councilors. Full implementation would follow in the fall.

While the use of body cameras is intended to enhance transparency and accountability, the city would not say if community groups have had a chance to give feedback, as the city said would happen, or if the policy will need the approval of the council.

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


Last year, South Portland became the first department in Greater Portland to implement the technology, although at least seven other communities elsewhere in Maine use body cameras.

After originally declining to reveal its guidelines for use, the South Portland Police Department released its policy in full.

Portland’s policy establishes a detailed set of rules and procedures about when officers are required to record their activities and when they can stop recording. It also lays out rules for accessing footage and how that footage may be used in employee evaluations and citizen complaints.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which pressed Portland to adopt body cameras, declined to comment on the specifics of the policy but said there is room for improvement.

“We want to see a policy that protects privacy, promotes police transparency and accountability, and includes clear guidelines for when cameras should be on or off,” ACLU of Maine spokeswoman Rachel Healy said in an email. “The current proposal is headed in the right direction, but there is room for improvement. We hope to work with the police department to ensure the final policy maximizes the benefits of body cameras and minimizes their potential harms.”

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said last week he would review the policy over the weekend. But he said his initial read was that the department did a good job balancing a community desire for the cameras to be used broadly, while also addressing First Amendment concerns.

“It looks like they were taking a deep dive to make sure they came forward with something really substantial,” Strimling said. “I want to hear more about how we’re going to enforce this.”

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

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

According to the policy, officers will be required to record all enforcement actions, including traffic stops, field interviews, use of force, investigative stops, searches, detentions or arrests.

That rule has an exception: “When an immediate threat to the officer’s life or safety makes activating the camera impossible or dangerous, the officer shall activate the camera at the first reasonable opportunity to do so.”

Then, officers can only stop recording under certain circumstances, such as at the request of a crime victim after the scene is secured, or at the request of a person with a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” including when an officer is in a residence for an nonemergency or lacks a warrant. A recording may also be stopped to protect the identity of a confidential informant.

Officers must document the reasons for stopping a video.

Special rules also apply to using cameras on school grounds, at health care facilities and at constitutionally protected assemblies, where officers might be conducting crowd control, escorts or are called for service.

“Facilitating the First Amendment rights of individuals is one of our primary law enforcement purposes,” the policy states. “These recordings shall not be used to gather intelligence or to identify individual participants not engaged in unlawful conduct.”

The policy reveals that the cameras record video even when they are not activated. Officers may request a video after an incident, but that video will not contain any audio.

The policy also accounts for scenarios where police officers have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including in offices, restrooms and locker rooms.

It also includes nine types of prohibited recording, including during the administration of an Intoxilyzer test “due to the possibility of radio frequency interference.”


Officers may not take pictures or videos of the recordings and post them to social media without permission.

Special protocols are also proposed for deadly force incidents and other serious crimes.

“If a deadly force incident occurs, a supervisor shall take custody of all involved (cameras) and transfer them directly to Internal Affairs for download. The supervisor shall document the collection and transfer of the (cameras) in a supplemental report.”

“In the case of a serious crime, (cameras) may be collected and downloaded by an Evidence Technician at the direction of the (Criminal Investigation Division) Lieutenant or Shift Commander.”

Police body cameras became a point of contention in Portland last year, after Portland police Sgt. Nicholas Goodman shot and killed Baker at the Union Station Plaza.

Police had responded to a report of a man who appeared to be intoxicated brandishing a rifle in broad daylight. Police said Goodman shot and killed Baker after he refused to comply with orders. The weapon was later determined to be a rifle-style pellet gun.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Strimling, the ACLU of Maine and the Portland branch of the NAACP called on the city to begin equipping Portland police with body cameras.

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

In November, the City Council approved a new three-year contract with the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing 125 officers and detectives, and the Police Superior Officers Benevolent Association, representing 32 lieutenants and sergeants, to begin working on a plan to roll out the cameras.

Advocates say body cameras make police more respectful in their interactions with the public and can help fill in the gaps in the investigation of certain incidents.

A study of the effects of body cameras on police behavior in Las Vegas showed that the technology reduced the number of officers who had at least one complaint filed against them by 30 percent. Use-of-force incidents also dropped by 37 percent.


The number of complaints filed against Portland police from outside the department has varied over the years.

According to a draft annual report by the Portland’s Police Citizens Review Subcommittee, 14 formal complaints were lodged against Portland police officers from outside of the department in 2016. Those complaints contained 37 allegations, including 10 dealing with use of force, six for unlawful arrest or detention and four for an officer’s conduct toward the public.

In two of the cases from 2016, a complaint about an officer’s conduct toward the public and a complaint about an officer’s personal behavior were “sustained,” according to the review committee report.

City officials said the 2016 report is only a draft and still needs to be approved by the subcommittee when it meets again in March. Figures for 2017 were not available.


]]> 0 police use of body cameras, like the one at right, could begin this spring, governed by rules in an eight-page policy proposal.Mon, 19 Feb 2018 09:50:10 +0000
As DACA deadline looms, dozens of Maine residents face uncertainty Mon, 19 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 The calls have been coming in at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland since September, but the answers are the same.

Nearly six months have passed since President Trump announced he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives work permits to young undocumented immigrants. The president said a permanent replacement for DACA would need to come from Congress, which has so far failed to pass one. The expiration date – March 5 – gets closer each day.

“We’re still hopeful that at some point Congress can come to a sensible solution,” ILAP Executive Director Sue Roche said.

Former President Obama created DACA in an executive order in 2012. The program does not offer a path to permanent legal residence, also called a green card, or citizenship. But it allows eligible immigrants to live and work in the United States with two-year, renewable work permits. Nationally, nearly 800,000 people have been approved for the program.

“They’ve moved on with their lives since they got work authorization,” Roche said. “They’re in college. They are in the military. They are working. Now, their futures are uncertain.”

Trump said Obama exceeded his authority by creating the program. Last week, three different deals that would have made DACA permanent failed in Congress, and lawmakers left for a weeklong recess with no solution.

The federal government planned to stop renewing work permits March 5, so the program would phase out as those authorizations expired. Two separate federal courts have blocked the president from ending DACA, so that March deadline might not stand. The Trump administration has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could announce as early as Tuesday if it will take up the case.

Meanwhile, dozens of Maine residents enrolled in DACA are facing uncertain futures.

“At the moment I feel very fearful,” said Christian Castaneda, 20, a University of Southern Maine sophomore enrolled in DACA.

Castaneda, who is studying business, hopes to run his own business and dreams about serving in the Marines, said there is no certainty in his life. He said it is a real possibility that he will be deported to El Salvador, where he was born. He has no memories of the country, which he left at age 4 with his parents and sister for a new life in Portland.

Last month, his parents learned the Trump administration was ending the protected status given to them in 2001, along with 200,000 other Salvadorans who were then living in the United States after earthquakes devastated their country. They will no longer be living and working in the United States legally after Sept. 9, 2019. Castaneda’s sister, who is also in DACA, faces being parted from her 6-year-old American daughter. Castaneda has several friends who are in similar situations.

“I don’t know what I can do,” Castaneda said Saturday.

Last month, he traveled twice to Washington to rally and to meet with three members of Maine’s congressional delegation: Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree.

“With everything going on, there really isn’t a clear message, so I can’t say what will happen. My life right now is up in the air,” Castaneda said.

Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that at least 105 people in Maine have received initial approval for DACA to date. Also, an unknown number of people have registered in other states and are in Maine for college or work.

Beth Stickney, executive director of the Maine Business Immigrant Coalition, said she believes the number of DACA registrants living in Maine is closer to 200 or even 300.

Stickney said she does not know of people who are making plans to flee, in part because the process of winding down DACA and deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants would be a long one. But they are still facing the loss of work permits and jobs, military careers and professional licenses, mortgages and car loans. So right now, there isn’t much they can do except wait.

“People really are just focused on getting through the day and hoping that there will be better news tomorrow,” she said.

Stickney said she has also spoken with DACA recipients who are conflicted about the terms of a compromise that might come out of Congress. For example, a bill that saves DACA might come with new limits on family immigration.

“The other thing that comes into the equation, too, is DACA folks don’t want to feel like they will be the cause of some bad immigration policy,” Stickney said.

Sister Patricia Pora, longtime director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said many young immigrants are as worried for their parents as they are for themselves. The Trump administration is also ending protected status for Haitians living in the United States.

“It’s hard to know what to say,” Pora said. ” ‘We’re with you,’ is basically what we say. We’re trying to advocate for you. There’s a lot of people that are supporting you. But how much can you say?”


]]> 0 Esteban, 31, of Woodbridge, Va., a nursing student and recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, rallies with others in support of DACA outside of the White House, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. President Donald Trump began dismantling the government program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Sun, 18 Feb 2018 19:57:36 +0000
Union College says it found strand of George Washington’s hair Mon, 19 Feb 2018 02:46:12 +0000 SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Tucked in the pages of a grimy, leather-bound almanac in the archives at New York’s Union College was a tiny envelope with the hand-scrawled words “Washington’s hair.”

A librarian who had been cataloging old books gingerly opened the yellowed envelope to find a lock of silvery hair tied with a thread.

“It was one of those mind-blowing moments that happen every once in a while in a librarian’s life,” said John Myers, a catalog and metadata librarian at the college. “I thought, that doesn’t mean George Washington, does it?”

It apparently does.

While college officials can’t say for sure it’s the real deal, the historical evidence is there. The hair was discovered in a pocket-sized almanac for the year 1793 that belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, son of General Philip Schuyler, who served under Washington during the Revolutionary War and founded Union College in 1795.

Susan Holloway Scott, an independent scholar and author, said locks of hair were frequently given as gifts during Washington’s day and it’s likely Martha Washington gave the snip of her husband’s hair to Eliza Schuyler, daughter of the general and wife of Alexander Hamilton.

Eliza passed it on to her son, James A. Hamilton, as noted by the handwriting on the envelope: “from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”

A prominent collector of celebrity hair believes it’s truly a relic of the nation’s first president.

“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s genuine,” said John Reznikoff, founder of University Archives in Westport, Connecticut. And Reznikoff knows hair. His personal collection of 150 locks includes a brain-speckled strand plucked from Abraham Lincoln’s fatal wound, a voodoo charm made from Jimi Hendrix’s hair and sartorial samples from Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Napoleon, Marilyn Monroe and, of course, George Washington.

India Spartz, head of special collections and archives at Union, called the hair “a very significant treasure” that will eventually be displayed at the liberal arts college.

Union has no plans to put the hair through DNA testing, in part because it could destroy part of the lock.

Reznikoff said hair locks are typically authenticated through examination of associated artifacts and historical connections rather than by DNA testing because genetic tests aren’t always reliable without the hair’s root attached and the possible contamination of DNA from multiple people who likely handled the hair.

“Most hair locks stand or fail on the basis of written provenance,” Reznikoff said. “So one needs really to consult with document experts rather than scientists.”

For librarian Myers, he’s still coming to grips with what he found during an otherwise mundane December day.

“It’s not nearly as significant as finding some obscure medieval manuscript from some important author,” he said. “But in the context of a small upstate college, this is, like wow! Kind of exciting!”

]]> 0 might be a lock of George Washington's hair and the envelope that contained it are seen on a table in the Union College library in Schenectady, N.Y. John Myers, the college's catalog and metadata librarian, discovered the hair strands in a yellowed envelope he'd found in a grimy old leather-bound almanac in the school's archives.Sun, 18 Feb 2018 21:55:16 +0000
Harpswell to ask voter approval for browntail moth research Mon, 19 Feb 2018 02:28:48 +0000 HARPSWELL — As spring approaches, voters will have the opportunity to approve new research on the local browntail moth population.

According to a draft warrant article for the March 10 town meeting, voters will decide whether to allocate just over $9,500 for the University of Maine to conduct studies on browntail moths, and ways to naturally reduce their number in Harpswell.

The vote follows a special Board of Selectmen meeting last November with University of Maine entemology Professor Eleanor Groden, director of the university’s Browntail Moth Research Project. The program is conducted in collaboration with the Maine Forest Service, and aims to pinpoint the cause of the insect’s spread throughout Maine and eco-friendly ways to fight it.

The infestation has become an annual nuisance and health threat in the midcoast and coastal southern Maine. Hairs from browntail moth caterpillars can cause allergic reactions in some people, ranging from rashes to serious respiratory problems, which has made their regional surge in recent years problematic.

Communities throughout the region are seeking ways to contain the infestations, including with pesticide spraying that sometimes raises environmental and public health concerns.

If the warrant article passes, Groden and her students will conduct a year of work in Harpswell, taking samples of moth nests, testing different eco-friendly pest control techniques, and composing a report to the town.

Harpswell’s pesticide ordinance, which was revised in March 2016, prohibits spraying within 25 feet of the shoreline to protect marine life. Aerial spraying of chemicals is also banned.

As a result, Mary Ann Nahf, chairwoman of the town’s Conservation Commission, instructs residents to clip browntail nests from trees in the winter and dunk them in soapy water to prevent springtime hatching.

Nahf said an increasing number of town residents in recent years have reached out to the commission regarding what to do about moth nests. In addition to the clipping and soaking method, homeowners can also hire licensed applicators to inject trees on their property with pesticides.

Stem injection, however, is only allowed in Harpswell with a waiver, which requires a town hearing to be granted.

At the selectmen’s Feb. 8 meeting, Nahf voiced the group’s support of the research.

For many people in Harpswell, she said, treating nests independently within the parameters of the pesticide ordinance is not ideal.

“The problem is, those remedies are either prohibitively expensive for many of our residents – stem injection, for example – or practically impossible, (like) clipping in mid-winter because so many of the nests are too high to reach safely,” she said.

If voters approve the funds, Groden will travel to Harpswell in late March to evaluate the density of moth populations at different sites. The researchers will take samples from webs at each site back to the university lab in Orono, set them up to allow caterpillar emergence, and examine them to determine survival over the winter, parasitism and disease level. They will also return to Harpswell to monitor caterpillar emergence and feeding activity at each of the designated sites.

In mid-May, the team will conduct field trials to evaluate the efficiency of at least three organically certified and biorational options for caterpillar control with a licensed pesticide applicator.

The team would ultimately assess the impact of the treatments on the browntail population and their natural enemies, collect pupation nests and monitor them in the lab, and revisit the treatment sites to monitor the presence of winter webs in February 2019.

“Widespread spraying has been tried in the past and has resulted in killing of marine life, (which is) not a good option for our community,” Nahf said in support of the study. “We need to better understand the geographic distribution and severity of the infestation throughout Harpswell and hopefully develop new remedies to address the problem.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

]]> 0 moth photographed in Castine in July 2003.Sun, 18 Feb 2018 21:36:20 +0000
Good news for Portland drivers – potholes about to be fixed Mon, 19 Feb 2018 01:56:47 +0000 The city of Portland tweeted a reassuring notice to motorists this weekend – it’s aware that potholes are plaguing drivers this winter and a major project will begin this week to fix the problem.

City officials said four areas will undergo pothole repairs on Tuesday and Thursday: Warren Avenue at the Maine Turnpike overpass, on Riverside Street near its intersection with Washington Avenue, on Stevens Avenue near Forest Avenue, and on Forest Avenue between Stevens Avenue and Walton Street.

The city also posted a notification on its website that the Portland Public Works Department has hired Coastal Road Repair LLC to repair potholes over the course of the next four weeks.

Pothole repairs will occur between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Traffic flow will be maintained through the work zones, but motorists should expect brief delays.

The repair schedule and locations will be updated weekly and may need to be changed in response to inclement weather conditions.

“Thank you for your patience as we deal with an extreme pothole season due to the weather,” the city said in a message posted on its website.

The website is also promoting a customer service tool – called “Fix It! Portland” – for reporting potholes and other problems affecting Portlanders’ quality of life.

Residents can download the “Fix It! Portland” mobile app for their smartphone via the Apple or Android App store. The app can be used for a variety of reporting purposes, including potholes and broken streetlights.

Residents may also fill out an online reporting form by visiting the city’s website and searching for the “Fix It! Portland” link.

Citizens who report quality-of-life issues will receive an automated response. Issues will be addressed based on priorities and budget availability.


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