Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Department of Doh!

I'm linking to this Falmouth story partly because I don't Westbrook to be the only town to represent in the crime dispatches, but mostly because the story is hilarious. Courtesy of the PPH:
Two officers had just arrived at Walton Park on
Aug. 19 and parked a "bait car" with some valuables inside hoping to catch a
crook and reduce the number of burglaries and other crimes reported there this
summer, according to Falmouth Police Lt. John Kilbride. But, according to
Kilbride, an 18-year-old man instead broke into the surveillance van and took a
bottle of water, apparently not noticing the officer in back behind a curtain.
The second officer was out of sight near the bank of the Presumpscot River. Then
the alleged water thief and a friend stood next to the van, in front of a
one-way glass window, and prepared to smoke some marijuana with a pipe made from
a carrot. One teen even told the other that using the carrot would make it
harder for police to bust them, Kilbride said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Council Tables Vote on Pike-Idexx Compromise

Emotions ran high Monday night as the City Council
weighed sharply opposing views on a proposal that would let Pike Industries
continue mining its rock quarry in the Five Star Industrial Park. After more
than two hours of testimony, the council voted 7-0 late Monday to table its vote
on the consent agreement reached this month by Pike, Idexx Laboratories and city
officials. More than 125 people packed the public hearing at Westbrook High
School as the council considered the consent agreement, which would establish
guidelines for Pike's quarry.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, August 30, 2010

Miscue Leads to Big Donation of Cat Food to Refuge League

Sun Journal:
The Animal Rescue League in Westbrook, Maine, won't have to worry about how to
feed the cats in its shelter for a couple weeks. On Friday [August 27], an
18-wheeler pulled up and dropped off 87 cases containing 1,044 cans of cat food.
The gift worth $1,000 was due to a miscommunication. The truck driver delivered
a load to Hannaford Bros. Co. in Scarborough but the supermarket chain had not
ordered the cat food. The driver contacted Portland's animal control officer who
put him in contact with league. The driver said his boss wanted the truck back
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Loses TechMaine

The TechMaine industry association is moving out of Westbrook this weekend and
eyeing space in Portland, including the soon-to-be-vacated L.L. Bean factory
store on Congress Street. TechMaine opened its Westbrook offices five years ago.
The high-tech industry group has been around since 1992, originally called the
Maine Software Developers Association. The name was changed to TechMaine in
2007. The Westbrook location was the first physical space the group had and gave
area tech companies a place to meet, host user groups and share access to
technology.But the lease is up, and member companies have told the group they
felt it would be more valuable to have TechMaine's offices in downtown Portland,
amid the cluster of technology firms, said Joe Kumiszcza, executive director.
Several recent surveys reinforced that sentiment, Kumiszcza said.
- John C.L. Morgan

An Appearance on the WPD's Facebook Page Could Mean No Old Port for You

Both clubs [Oasis and Wharf 51] are using ID scanners that let security
know if a person trying to get into a bar has caused problems before. The
devices store information about IDs that have been scanned and flag anyone with
past problems. Security workers are also checking out Westbrook Police
Department's Facebook page. The department is diligent about putting up mug
shots of wanted people, and security wants to keep them out of the bar, Currier
The WPD's Facebook Page can be seen here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Pike-Idexx Agreement Still Faces City Council Vote


[W]hile Pike regional manager Jonathan Olson and Idexx president Jonathan Ayers
shook hands at an Aug. 20 press conference at City Hall and said they were happy
with the deal, a number of the city’s other businesses and residents decidedly
are not. The consent agreement is not final--it still needs the approval of the
City Council. And some businesses and residents are hoping to persuade
councilors to reject it outright--or at least send it back for further
negotiations to change it. The council will hold a public hearing and vote on
the proposal on Monday, Aug. 30. At the public hearing, the council is likely to
hear vocal opposition from those upset that the agreement would allow Pike to
resume blasting and other quarrying operations at the site.
The PPH has editorialized in favor of the agreement, but ARTEL's Senior Scientific Manager George Rodrigues has rebuked the agreement in writing, while Artel's CEO Kirby Pilcher spoke out against the agreement on Fox's Good Day Maine.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Westbrook Politics: August 30- September 3, 2010

Monday, August 30
City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: August 22- August 28, 2010

High: 83F (August 28)
Low: 52F (August 28)
Precipitation: 2.74 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:59a
Previous Sunset: 7:25p

High: 91F (August 4)
Low: 47F (August 7)
Precipitation: 2.95 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 95F (July 6)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 33.98 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Once More to the Lake

Taking a cue from E.B. White, so I won't be back until next week--God willing and the Presumpscot don't rise.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: August 22- August 26, 2010

There are no events scheduled this week.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: August 15- August 21, 2010

High: 84F (August 17)
Low: 52F (August 21)
Precipitation: 0.15 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:52a
Previous Sunset: 7:36p

High: 91F (August 4)
Low: 47F (August 7)
Precipitation: 0.21 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 95F (July 6)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 31.24 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pike and Idexx Release Specifics of Agreement

Courtesy of an article in the PPH, which also featured critiques of the agreement:

* Pike Industries will drop its original plan for an asphalt or concrete plant.

*Pike will not operate the quarry on the Spring Street property closest to Idexx Laboratories.

* Pike will operate the quarry with limits on sound and vibration, with no more than eight explosions annually.

* Pike will limit the magnitude of the blasts to substantially lower levels than what has occurred in the past, and to one-quarter of the legal limit.

* Pike will eliminate any dust.

*Pike will greatly reduce the visual impact of the quarry on the Five Star Industrial Park with berms, fences and buffers.

*Truck traffic will be limited to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no increase in volume.

- John C.L. Morgan

Gangs of Westbrook

Westbrook Police Chief Bill Baker said that gang [Asian Boyz] is definitely in
his city and has connections to several Massachusetts communities: Lowell,
Lawrence and Brockton. Gang members have used safe houses in Westbrook but their
criminal activities have been centered primarily in Portland and Massachusetts,
Baker said. "I would even go so far to say there isn’t any visible or
active gang activity in Westbrook," he said. "What there is is people with
connections to the gangs, some of whom act badly in Westbrook and get prosecuted
for crimes."
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, August 20, 2010

French Press to Remain Open After All


The French Press Eatery, a popular restaurant on Main Street in Westbrook that
just closed a week ago, is re-opening on Tuesday, Aug. 31, according to one of
the owners, James Tranchemontagne. The restaurant at 855 Main St. was shut down
last Saturday, Aug. 14, and put up for sale for financial reasons. However,
Tranchemontagne said on Friday, Aug. 20 that financial advisors said it would be
easier to sell if the eatery were open. Also, he said, although the restaurant
was not bringing in enough revenue to pay off bills associated with its recent
renovation, bringing in some revenue would be better than none.
The PPH has more on the decision to re-open the cafe.

- John C.L. Morgan

Maine: Where You Come to Die

Move over, Vacationland, we might just have a new slogan brewing.

There is, of course, the oft-stated fact that Maine is
the oldest state in the U.S. Then there's the fact that our bureacratic efficiency at processing death certificates has actually inspired some to move to Maine in order to, well, die. Now, though, the perception of Maine as America's retirement home has apparently filtered down to the MTV set. Here's Taylor Swift in the PPH:

"When I am old and I have silver hair. Or white. I don't know which one it will
be, some shade like that. I want to live in Maine. I want to have a house and
make necklaces or something and have a lot of cats," she said. "It's a whole
fantasy for me. So at least I know where I'm going to end up."
To paraphrase Lady Antebellum, we Mainers kind of need you now.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: The New Brunswick Model (August 19, 2010)

City Reaches Compromise with Idexx and Pike

Westbrook officials, Idexx Laboratories and Pike Industries have reached an
out-of-court settlement that will allow Pike to continue its quarrying operation
in Westbrook, Mayor Colleen Hilton confirmed Thursday night. The parties reached
a consent agreement limiting Pike to eight blasts a year in its quarry in the
Five Star Industrial Park, Hilton said. Details of the agreement will be
announced during a news conference at 1:30 p.m. today at City Hall. Hilton said
the City Council will be asked to approve the agreement at its meeting Aug. 30.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Westbrook Life

My daughter and I were walking down Seavey Street yesterday, and passed a guy holding a can of Pepsi:

Me: Hey, how are ya?
Him: (This)

Stay classy, Paper City.

- John C.L. Morgan

Community Center Undergoes Rejuvenation

Laura DiBiase was delighted with the day camp program that her children attended
this summer at the new Westbrook Community Center. In the past, she said, she
had to coax her 10-year-old son to attend, but a restructuring of the city-run
program this summer to include many more activities beyond sports made her son,
and now her 6-year-old daughter, eager to go to day camp. "He and his sister
loved going," DiBiase said. "This year it’s almost like a totally new program."
The re-vamped summer recreation program is just one of the changes at the city’s
new Community Center--located in the former Wescott Junior High School building
on Bridge Street. And as the fall approaches, plans for more new opportunities
are under way, according to Maria Dorn, the city’s first director of community
- John C.L. Morgan

The New Brunswick Model

This Maritime province shares many traits with its western neighbor, Maine. Both
places are defined by their forests and rugged coastlines. Both value
independence and self-reliance. And in both places, the vast majority of
residents are white and aging. As the baby boom generation begins to retire,
officials and business leaders in both New Brunswick and Maine have fretted over
where the next wave of workers, homeowners and taxpayers will come from. Unlike
Maine, New Brunswick is taking strong action. New Brunswick has developed a
multipart strategy to grow its population, and it appears to be working.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: 2010 v. 1895 (May 5, 2010)

More on the Closure of French Press


The French Press Eatery, a popular cafe in downtown Westbrook, has closed just
one month after expanding to a 55-seat restaurant with a bar. One of its owners
said a weak economy and a lack of events downtown contributed to the cafe's
demise. City officials said they will work with the owners to help the business
reopen. The French Press, known for its homemade doughnuts and specialty coffee,
closed on Saturday, three days after the owners held a grand reopening to
celebrate their expansion. James Tranchemontagne, a co-owner, said he ran out of
money to keep the business going. The expansion cost an estimated $130,000.
The AJ has also written an obituary for the cafe.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, August 16, 2010

French Press Eatery Closes Its Doors

Via a post on their Facebook page Saturday afternoon:
Thank you for giving the French Press Eatery a wonderful nine months. It has
been a journey like no other. Sadly, at this time, we are closing the doors
indefinitely due to circumstances beyond our control. All of us have enjoyed our
time here and we hope to see you our new friends at the Frog and Turtle.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: August 16- August 20, 2010

There are no events scheduled for this week.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: August 8- August 14, 2010

High: 89F (August 10)
Low: 50F (August 14)
Precipitation: 0.00 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:44a
Previous Sunset: 7:47p

High: 91F (August 4)
Low: 47F (August 7)
Precipitation: 0.06 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 95F (July 6)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 31.09 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Canada, with Love

Rev. W.H. Gane of Amerherstburg, Canada had the following to say about the Paper City in the official program devoted to Westbrook's 1895 celebrations of July 4:
Westbrook is a manufacturing town and is devoid of
what we call aristocracy, although the noblest aristocrats I ever met I met in
this city. There is a wonderful sense of equality and a definitely expressed
commonality of thought and feeling. Splendid and comfortable homes are owned by
the workingmen, and great taste is displayed in interior and exterior adornment.
Every home in which I visited gave unmistakable evidences of culture. The books
and magazines of the day give mental stimulus to the [residents]. I saw no
drunkenness, no poverty, no want, no half-starved, ragged children in this
beautiful city; but thrift, health, and happiness.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Did You Know? (March 19, 2008)

Department of Unfortunate Timing

Joseph Brannigan, a longtime Democratic state senator who represents part of Westbrook, took to the PPH editorial pages Monday morning to defend State Rep. Sean Flaherty (D-Scarborough) against PPH columnist Tony Payne's August 1 swipe at Flaherty ("[W]hat does a part-time swim coach fresh out of college know about solving a billion-dollar hole in the state budget?").

Unfortunately for State Sen. Brannigan, his full-throated defense of the freshman legislator (entitled "Columnist shouldn't attack lawmaker for his youth") was probably skipping through the printing press at about the same time this happened.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Phoenix Discovers the 'Brook

About Town:
It was a good landmark to indicate the location of my new favorite (probably
illegal) swimming hole; right there in the Presumpscot just before Bridge
Street. Basically you just walk through the parking lot and along the short
boardwalk that overlooks the river and the back of the Dana Warp Mill, clamber
down this rocky slope, jump off a rock, and then make sure to quickly swim back
toward the shore becaue the current is strong and we claim no liability for you
getting swept down to the waterfall.
Related: Bill Baker, YouTube Star (February 8, 2008)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Davan Pool, Walker Library to Get Some Work

The Davan Swimming Pool at the former Wescott Junior High School will likely be
shut down for repairs later this month. In Monday's first of two required
readings, the Westbrook City Council in a 6-0 vote (Dotty Aube absent) favored
spending $49,740 for pool repairs to be performed by Knowles Industrial Services
Corp. in Gorham.

In other action, councilors voted 5-1 (Victor Chau opposed) to spend up to
$4,000 if a possible historic preservation review would be required for a
heating system replacement at Walker Memorial Library. The city has obtained an
$85,000 energy efficiency grant to replace the boiler and steam radiator heating
system at the library. The library has been cited as needing extensive
repairs--$1 million or more--and the city has yet to decide on the library's
- John C.L. Morgan

World Cup-Inspired Culinary Wish List

I've been suffering withdrawal for about a month now that the 2010 World Cup has closed, but tonight's U.S. vs. Brazil friendly will take the edge off a bit.

It also gives me an excuse to make this post, which I've meant to make for a while now: A culinary wish list for Westbrook, inspired by the two countries (Uruguay and Germany) who battled for third place in South Africa this past July.

I wouldn't be surprised if Uruguay's Estancia del Puerto benefited from mouth-watering camera work and sizzling sound effects, but I can't resist drooling all over my keyboard when I watch this clip from Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. It seems just watching, hearing, and smelling meat being cooked this way would almost be as satisfying as it eating it.

The second item on this brief wish list is a more personal fare. Whenever I've gone to Berlin to visit a former German exchange student my family hosted while I was in high school, the döner kebab is basically the only thing I eat. Breakfast, lunch, mid-morning snack, dinner, midnight snack, it doesn't matter; I can't get enough. Apparently, I'm not the only one, as the döner is reportedly the most popular form of fast food in Germany, thanks in part to the country's sizable Turkish population.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: No Reservations (April 23, 2010)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Westbrook Politics: August 9- August 13, 2010

There are no events scheduled this week.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: August 1- August 7, 2010

High: 91F (August 4)
Low: 47F (August 7)
Precipitation: 0.06 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:36a
Previous Sunset: 7:57p

High: 91F (August 4)
Low: 47F (August 7)
Precipitation: 0.06 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 95F (July 6)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 31.09 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, August 6, 2010

School Department Providing Free Lunch for Students Throughout Summer

The Westbrook School Department is offering kids 18 and younger free lunches
this summer, trying to make sure students who would otherwise go without food
are fed even when they're not in school. This is the second year of the free
summer lunch program, and already officials say they're on track to serve nearly
fifty percent more kids this year than last. The lunches are offered at Canal
School, and this year, for the first time, at the Brown Street Center, a
neighborhood spot that organizers say has brought the kids together, not only
for lunch, but also to participate in activities to keep them moving and
learning in the summer months.
- John C.L. Morgan

City Council Approves Members of Comprehensive Plan Task Force

The city is moving forward with creating a blueprint for its future. The City
Council voted this week to appoint a 17-member task force to create a
comprehensive plan for Westbrook. The task force includes city officials,
business leaders and residents from each voting ward. Its goal is to create a
plan to guide city officials' decisions on issues such as land use, housing,
transportation, public facilities, and agriculture and forestry resources. The
task force, which is expected to start meeting later this month or in September,
will begin its work by developing a vision statement for the next 10 years.
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I'm a member of the task force.

Westbrook Couple Helps Disoriented Beach to Beacon Runner

With limited ability to speak English, [Wude] Ayalew somehow encountered a
couple from Saco visiting [Fort Williams]. They called a friend in Westbrook,
Kiros Alemtsehay, who is originally from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
"She was scared," Alemtsehay said. "I told them, just keep her there. I'll come
and get her." Before long, Ayalew was in Westbrook meeting Alemtsehay's wife
Jessica and their two children. After a few phone calls, [Tracy] Sesselberg
drove out to Westbrook and picked up her wayward runner.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smiling Hill Looks to Enter the Tomato Market


Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook is known for its dairy products. But now the farm
on County Road also hopes to make a name for itself as a producer of fresh
tomatoes grown year-round in a 20-acre greenhouse. The hydroponic vine-cluster
tomatoes Smiling Hill would grow would be red and ripe when they left the
greenhouse to go to customers in Maine and places like Boston and New York. But
they would be "green" in the sense that they would be grown in an
environmentally friendly way, according to Warren Knight, president of Smiling
(Update: The PPH has more on this story.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Daily Paintings

Westbrook artist Caren-Marie Michel is attempting to complete fifty-two paintings throughout the month of August. You can follow Michel's progress here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook's Portrait Laureate (January 18, 2008)

Cinemagic to Give Free Tickets to Blood Donors

Give blood, see a movie for free. Cinemagic Stadium Theaters in Westbrook will
offer that deal this weekend during the Fifth Annual Cinemagic Blood Drive. The
marathon drive, run by the American Red Cross, will be held from noon Friday
until 3 p.m. Saturday. Anyone who gives blood will get a free pass to see a
movie, at any time, at any of Cinemagic's six locations. Besides Westbrook, the
company has theaters in Saco, South Portland, Salisbury, Mass., and Hooksett and
Merrimack, N.H.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

America, We Have a Problem

George Packer of The New Yorker has written a very good essay about the sad institutional state of the U.S. Senate. Included was this nugget:
In 2007, [Senator Lamar] Alexander and [Senator Joe] Lieberman started a series
of bipartisan Tuesday breakfasts. "They kind of dwindled off during the
health-care debate," Alexander said. [Senator Tom] Udall has tried to revive
the Wednesday inner-sanctum lunch. For the first few months, only Democrats
attended. Then, one Wednesday in May,
Susan Collins, the Maine
Republican, showed up, joking nervously about being a turncoat; to protect her reputation, her presence was kept secret.

[Emphasis mine]

When a U.S. senator thinks it's necessary to clandestinely scurry about in order redeem a Senate tradition of bipartisanship by breaking bread with the other team, I'm not sure the title of this post is an exercise in digital hyperventilation.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Police: Profenno's Didn't Overserve Fatally Injured Driver

There is no conclusive evidence that Profenno's
Pizzeria and Pub should have stopped serving alcohol to Jana Pooler on the night
in May when she rolled her car on the Westbrook Arterial and was fatally
injured, according to the findings of a police investigation. Now, the state's
Liquor Licensing and Compliance Unit is reviewing the case, and Pooler's family
is considering suing Profenno's.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another Sparkling Review for 'Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay'

"The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay" is a novel of national scope and importance
but is also a Maine treasure. Any thoughts to expanding or creating a new
"Mirror of Maine: One Hundred Books that Reveal the History of the State of
Maine and the Life of its People" (Orono: UMO-Baxter Society 2000) ought to take
this volume into serious consideration.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: More Praise for Beverly Jensen's Book (July 12, 2010)

Photograph of the Day

About 'Photograph of the Day'

Most of us have swell with enthusiasm when describing how great this summer has been, especially relative to last year. The pessimists among us, however, can always point to the fact that each day of sunshine and thick air represents but one more step in the inevitable trudge toward wintry scenes like the one captured above.

The caption that accompanied this undated photo indicated that it captured the first output of electric lights in Westbrook history, evidently in the 1880s. The photograph is part of the collection of the Westbrook Historical Society.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Westbrook Politics: August 2- August 6, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010
Special City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Tuesday, August 3
Planning Board meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: July 25- July 31, 2010

High: 87F (July 28)
Low: 51F (July 31)
Precipitation: 0.34 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:31a
Previous Sunset: 8:02p

High: 95F (July 6)
Low: 49F (July 1)
Precipitation: 4.06 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 95F (July 6)
Low: -1F (January 10)
Precipitation: 31.03 inches
Snowfall: 24.8 inches

National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan