Tuesday, December 20, 2011

City Hopeful of Solution for Maine Rubber Facility

The Westbrook City Council has accepted a $125,000
grant to help clean up the former Maine Rubber buildings and property at 942
Main St., and renewed talks between the city and the property’s owners are
finally showing promise of new development there. "We’re making very good
progress," Keith Luke, the city’s director of community and economic
development, told the council at a meeting Monday night.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: City: Messrs. Elowitch, Tear Down These Walls (April 29, 2011)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Westbrook High Hires New Baseball, Softball Coaches

Westbrook High has hired new varsity baseball and
softball coaches. Greg Souza, a former assistant, is the new Blue Blazes'
baseball coach, and Dee (Regan) Allen will coach softball. Allen has coached
Portland for the last three seasons. Their nominations were approved Wednesday
night by the Westbrook School Committee.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, December 8, 2011

School Department Explores Closure of Prides Corner, School Re-Configuration

The Prides Corner School would be closed and the elementary school model would
be reconfigured if one scenario for the 2012-2013 budget is approved. School
Superintendent Marc Gousse officially informed the Prides Corner staff Monday
that their school might close. He followed that with a district-wide staff email
discussing the possibility and a meeting for district employees on Tuesday
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

Related: School Officials to Host Open Forum on Upcoming Budget (Monday, November 28, 2011)

Indian Restaurant, Ice Cream Shop to Open Downtown

If you love homemade ice cream, chocolate or curry, you might want to pay
attention to the 800 block of Main Street through the next month or so. Two new
Westbrook businesses will soon open in the heart of downtown, and both represent
the goals of two people who have already made names for themselves on the
Portland culinary scene.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Frog and Turtle to Host Santa Again

The Frog and Turtle is hosting Santa at its restaurant for the third year in a row on Saturday, December 10, from 10a-1p.

A ten-dollar donation to benefit the Mission Possible Teen Center will get you a photo with your child (or you, if you prefer) and Santa. There will also be complimentary coffees, cookies, and doughnuts.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, December 5, 2011

How Maine Gets Its Drink On

Considering it's nearly closing time on the 78th anniversary of the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment repealing prohibition, what better time to check out the Boston Globe's take on Maine's "new drinking culture":
John Myers, a traditional saloonist and cocktail
historian, tends bar at The Grill Room, a steakhouse with a wood-burning grill
in the center of the Old Port here. Myers, looking like a Wild West gunslinger
with his wool vest and bushy beard, stands in the lamplight - a sommelier of
cocktails ready to shake or stir. I’m sitting on the other side of the bar,
deciding what to order. I know that the bar man specializes in the tried and
true. I ask him what defines a classic cocktail.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Did You Know? (February 20, 2008)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On eHope

The man attaching the tube is a wiry,
energetic 53-year old Army veteran, and he's more than just a personal care
attendant. He's the reason why the Kennedys have a network of volunteer
caregivers to call upon."My name is Jeffrey Wood. I am the founder and president
of an organization called eHope."
EHope was begun five years ago. According to its website, the non-profit's mission is "To form caregiving communities which provide
non-medical, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual support, for a loved one
who faces a life-threatening illness."

An extended interview with Wood can also be heard at the link above.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Jeffrey Wood One of Region's 'Unsung Heroes' (December 31, 2010)

Dreamers Moves Out

Dreamers Cabaret, a controversial strip club that
opened for one day last fall and has been locked in a legal battle with the city
ever since, is moving out of its Warren Avenue location. Selden Von Herten, the
owner of the property, confirmed this week that he has filed suit in Cumberland
County Superior Court to prematurely terminate the club’s lease, which was
supposed to remain active for another four years.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, November 28, 2011

Owner of Dana Warp: Westbrook Provides Affordability, Political Stability

I think I naturally gravitated to Westbrook
for several reasons: One, I think from a pricing standpoint, there’s greater
upside, greater value to be had in Westbrook. Two, I think there’s greater
political risk in Portland. I was involved in the redevelopment of the Maine
State Pier and I saw Portland government at its worst, and I vowed that I would
never invest a dime in Portland, never, never.
- John C.L. Morgan

School Officials to Host Open Forum on Upcoming Budget

As part of that, [Superintendent of Schools Marc]
Gousse said, the district is presenting a public forum on Thursday, Dec. 1, at
6:30 p.m. in the library at the Westbrook Middle School, inviting parents and
residents to hear what school officials are doing in the wake of the frantic
2011-2012 budget process, and to solicit opinions on how to proceed now.The new
budget won’t be a walk in the park. Gousse said early numbers indicate a
possible budget gap of $2.1 million to $2.3 million, which the district will
have make up in order to prevent that amount from being handed off to the public
to fund through higher taxes.
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snyder's Company Files for Bankruptcy

A holding company once created to manage more
than 60 acres of land off Stroudwater Street initially destined for a
multimillion-dollar commercial development plan has filed for bankruptcy.Jason
Snyder, the owner of the land and the holding company, 500 Westbrook LLC, filed
paperwork in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Nov. 4 under Chapter 11. The paperwork
lists the company as the debtor, and Snyder as the company’s manager.
- John C.L. Morgan

WHS Replaces Unsafe Bleachers at Olmsted Field

The bleachers on the Stroudwater Street side of the
field are being dismantled this week, after a recent inspection brought safety
concerns and code violations to light. "We probably dodged a bullet there," said
School Superintendent Marc Gousse, who said this week that the bleachers were
labeled off-limits following the inspection, and removed to prevent anyone from
getting hurt.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Westbrook Leads Greater Portland in Wage Growth

Westbrook led the region with a 15.76% rise in
average weekly wages [over five years], ranking first in Greater Portland and
sixth in the state. Portland saw a 12.68% rise in average weekly wages, while
South Portland and Scarborough experienced 10.44% and 7.8% growth,
- John C.L. Morgan

Idexx Taking Advantage of iPad's Capabilities

Idexx has found a solution in yet another form of
technology. Its new mobile app allows vets to display radiographs on a tablet
computer. “The move to the iPad liberates that information,” says Jonathan
Ayers, the Westbrook company’s president and CEO. Pet owners typically pay out
of pocket for their animal’s veterinary services, and don’t always understand
the level of care involved, he says. When a vet can take an X-ray, share it in a
matter of seconds and explain the results effectively, clients are much more
likely to recognize the benefits--and pay for them.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, November 10, 2011

City Council Looks to Adopt Fireworks Regulations

The ordinance allows sale of fireworks by dealers who obtain a permit from the
city. Among other requirements, the ordinance mandates that dealers have proper
state and federal permits, and have to show proof of insurance, as is required
by state law. City Administrator Jerre Bryant said dealers must also comply with
other fireworks-specific state laws, such as the law requiring dealers only
operate out of stand-alone buildings, with no other tenants.
- John C.L. Morgan

Gallant-Charette Listed Among Notable USM Grads

From a PPH column written by university president Selma Botman:
How many of us follow the career of Pat
Gallant-Charette, a 1993 School of Nursing graduate and native of Westbrook, who
in August became the oldest American woman to successfully swim the English
Channel? A grandmother of two, and marathon swimmer, Gallant-Charette also holds
the record for the fastest swim of the Strait of Gibraltar for a woman over
50--3 hours and 28 minutes.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WHS Baseball Coach Resigns for Family Reasons

Mike Rutherford remembers how his parents used to watch all of his games when he
played for Portland High. Wanting to do the same for his daughter and stepson,
and knowing that would be difficult with his job as the Westbrook baseball
coach, Rutherford resigned last week after four seasons with the Blue Blazes.
"It came down to family," Rutherford said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Hilton, Dems Sweep Contested Races

Incumbent Colleen Hilton defeated Bruce Chuluda by more than 300 votes in the
mayor's race, in a repeat of their match-up two years ago. The vote total
Tuesday night was 2,659 to 2,350.
City Clerk Lynda Adams held onto the post she's had for the past four years. She
defeated former finance director Susan Rossignol, 3,114 to 1,801. In the City
Council Ward 2 seat, incumbent Democrat Victor Chau, who's finishing his first
term, defeated Republican Matt Maloney, 602 to 281. In Ward 4, Dorothy Aube, a
councilor for six years, received 327 votes. Gary Rairdon, who is unenrolled,
got 289 and Republican Ernest Porell finished third with 153. Democrat Michael
Sanphy, who had been appointed to fill the Ward 5 seat, won his first election,
defeating Republican Michael Lawson, 889-558.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Voters Approve Same-Day Registration, Split Ticket on Casinos

According to the PPH, Westbrook voters mirrored statewide voters' preference for reinstating same-day voter registration, with both local and statewide voters approving Question 1 with a 60-40% margin.

Westbrook voters also dovetailed with statewide voters with its votes on a proposed casino in Lewiston (57% of Westbrook voters rejected Question 3, and 63% of statewide voters did so), and local voters reflected countywide results on the bond question involving the renovation of the Cumberland County Civic Center (55% of Westbrook voters approved the $33 million bond for the renovation, compared to 59% of county voters).

Westbrook voters did differ with the rest of the state, however, in its preference for casinos based in Biddeford and Washington County: 51% of Westbrook voters approved Question 2, while only 45% of statewide voters approved the referendum question.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

City Renews Fajita Grill's Liquor License

City officials renewed the liquor license for the popular Fajita Grill on
Monday, after determining that their decision could not take into account
pending federal charges against the owner of the Mexican restaurant. Guillermo
Fuentes, 36, was arrested Sept. 21 on charges of conspiracy to harbor illegal
immigrants and employment of illegal immigrants. City Solicitor Bill Dale told
city councilors and the mayor that pending charges are not listed in the city’s
ordinance or state statute as a reason for denying a liquor license.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vocational Center Hosts Trades Demonstration for High School Girls

[Westbrook High student Paige] Fogg was among the girls getting a taste of
firefighting Friday from Westbrook firefighter Rachael Welsh at the Totally
Trades Conference. The event, organized by the training group Women, Work and
Community, aimed to expose girls to jobs typically held by men. About 75 girls
from several high schools participated in the event at Westbrook Regional
Vocational Center.
- John C.L. Morgan

UMaine Celebrates Rudy Vallee Day

The late entertainer and one-time University of Maine student Rudy Vallee was
remembered Wednesday afternoon on the steps of Fogler Library. Members of
UMaine’s four honor societies--All Maine Women, the Senior Skull Society, the
Sophomore Eagles Society and the Sophomore Owls Society--gathered there to sing
the “Maine Stein Song,” which Vallee popularized.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, October 10, 2011

Catching Up

- President Obama referred to the damage on Westbrook's Cumberland Street bridge as a reason for why Congress should pass the American Jobs Act. (October 6)

- The Seventh-day Adventist Church
bought the former Warren Memorial Library building and plan to make it the regional headquarters of the organization. (October 5)

- Chipotle
is planning to open a new shop in the Westbrook Crossing shopping plaza. (September 29)

- Fajita Grill
re-opened about a week after being raided by federal agents for allegedly employing illegal aliens. (September 28)

- City Council
wrestled over the regulation of fireworks within city limits. (September 28)

- Long-distance swimmer Pat Gallant-Charette
was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd." (September 26)

- School Committee
adopted a new policy on laptops issued by Westbrook schools. (September 21)

- Hassan Faraj, an Iraqi immigrant,
plans to open a new convenience store in the location of the former Salvation Army building downtown. (September 14)

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Westbrook GOP Picks Chuluda, Rossignol as Nominees for Office

The city's former mayor and its former finance director, who is banned from City
Hall, will run for office in November. At a caucus on Sunday, Republicans chose
Bruce Chuluda as their candidate for mayor and Susan Rossignol to run for city
clerk. Chuluda was mayor for six years before being unseated two years ago by
current Mayor Colleen Hilton.
Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz has a take on the nomination of Rossignol.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chuluda Considering Another Mayoral Run

With the Republican and Democratic caucuses about to fire the starting gun for
the 2011 elections, Bruce Chuluda, who lost to Colleen Hilton in the 2009
mayor’s race by 100 votes, said he is “strongly” considering challenging Hilton
again. “I’m certainly leaning toward throwing my hat in the ring,” Chuluda said
Tuesday. Chuluda said he will wait to gauge the response from his party at the
Republican caucus, which begins Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Westbrook
Community Center.
- John C.L. Morgan

Planning Board Approves Idexx's Plans for Building

Idexx Laboratories has the city's approval to start building the first phase of
its proposed $60 million corporate headquarters. The city's Planning Board
unanimously approved a site plan Tuesday for a 107,000-square-foot building to
house offices for 300 administrative employees, as well as a fitness center and
a food service area. Construction of the building, next to Idexx's existing
facility off Eisenhower Drive, is scheduled to start in April 2012 and be
completed in August 2013.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, September 5, 2011

Performing Arts Center Looks to Expand Marketing

Part of the problem is that [Jamie] Grant is the center’s only official staff
member. It’s his job to market the center, but it’s also his job to make sure
events run smoothly. For many of the 97 events he mentioned, Grant said, he had
to open the center and essentially run the building during the event. Grant
acknowledged that he needs to spend more time selling the center than running
events in it. “Every minute that I’m in the theater doing a show is another
minute that I’m not out of the theater getting someone else to do a show,” he
said. Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, a concert tour industry magazine
based in Fresno, Calif., agreed that a venue like the center needs someone to
announce its presence to potential performers.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Westbrook Woman Swims English Channel

The third time's the charm for a Westbook woman, who has finally realized her
dream of swimming across the English Channel. Pat Gallant-Charette, 60,
succeeded today on her third attempt to swim the 20-mile distance. According an
entry posted at 3:14 p.m. today on her blog, www.patgalant.blogspot.com/,
Gallant-Charette completed the swim after battling strong currents at the end.
"SHE DID IT!, OMG, she did it!" the entry reads.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Woman Prepared to Swim English Channel (August 15, 2011)

City to Outsource IT

[City Administrator Jerre] Bryant said Unified Technologies has been helping the
city with IT needs on an “on-call” basis since the vacancies occurred, and the
proposed contract would bring the company on in a more extensive fashion. The
contract, if approved, will involve a one-time fee of $7,650, and a monthly fee
of $15,000, starting in September and ending on June 30, 2012. Bryant said it
will cost a total of $161,950. By contrast, Bryant said the city’s budget for
that same time period for in-house IT services is $188,000.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, August 18, 2011

PPH Calculates Cost of Lawsuits

[F]or all three settlements, taxpayers will pay $338,000 of the $1.2 million
that the employees receive.
Each claim covered by insurance also requires that the city pay a deductible,
the cost of which differs depending on the type of claim. Each of the three Fire
Department employees' lawsuits triggered the payment of a $10,000 deductible.
That adds another $30,000 to the cost of the lawsuits. Big settlements also
affect the annual premium the city pays for insurance coverage. Between 2009 and
2010, the premium jumped from $188,000 to $208,000, or a $20,000 increase. In
the three years prior, the premium increased an average of about $10,000 per
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Foxy 'Brook

FOX 23's "Good Day Maine" has had a couple guests with Westbrook ties on their show recently.

Mandolin player Taylor Smith and his progressive bluegrass band Cribstone Bridge Band played on the show, and James Tranchemontagne of the Frog and Turtle cooked and talked shop.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, August 15, 2011

Westbrook Swimmer Prepared to Swim English Channel

Pat Gallant-Charette wants to swim across the English Channel in August. On top
of her job as a nurse, the 60-year-old grandmother from Westbrook, Maine,
follows a rigorous training schedule that includes one- to 10-hour swims along
the crashing waves of the cold ocean shore. Gallant-Charette almost crossed the
Channel once before, but currents kept her at bay just a mile and a half from
the finish. This time, she's convinced she'll make it.
also had a profile on Gallant-Charette last week.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Woman Sets Record in Swim Across the Strait of Gibraltar (June 29, 2010)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Westbrook High Football Prepares for Class 'B' Schedule

Westbrook and Marshwood moved from Western Class A to Western Class B, and
Brewer and Mt. Blue made similar drops in Eastern Maine. The moves are intended
to make them more competitive because they will play against schools of similar
size. "We're really excited about it," said Westbrook Coach Jeff Guerette. "It
gives us a chance to be competitive. The more attractive we can make the
program, the better the chances to get more kids out for the sport."
- John C.L. Morgan

Construction on William Clarke Drive Expected to Wrap Up in October

Using 80 percent federal highway funds and 20 percent state funds, MaineDOT
hired R.J. Grondin and Sons of Gorham as the contractor. The job started in
spring 2010 and it's scheduled to be completed by the end of this October, Latti
said. "Basically we're widening that road, it's nearly a mile long, from the
Westbrook Connector to Saco Street in Westbrook," Latti said. Over 16,500
vehicles a day use this stretch of Route 25, which connects the Westbrook
Arterial to Saco Street. More than 19,000 vehicles a day travel some sections,
Latti said. In the past, pedestrians faced a steady flow of traffic with few
easy crossings.
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mayor Hilton Named One of Five 'Women to Watch'

Maine Biz:
People seem to think Colleen Hilton should be more stressed out than she is. As
CEO of a health care organization facing major funding cuts and mayor of a city
that’s seen its share of controversy in the last year, she certainly has reason
to be. But for Hilton, making tough decisions comes with the territory.
"If you don’t have the mindset that you’re confident about what you’re doing,
you shouldn’t be doing it," Hilton says, sitting in her office at VNA Home
Health & Hospice, a nonprofit that serves more than 3,000 clients each year.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: CCB Inc. President a 'Woman to Watch' (October 13, 2009)

Monday, August 8, 2011

White Family Donates Land for Playing Fields

White Bros., which was sold last year to Connecticut-based Lane Construction,
has offered the city 14 acres near its quarry to use for athletic fields. The
company is also donating its workers and equipment to build the two fields--an
estimated $400,000 gift. "It's an unbelievable blessing for the city," City
Councilor Victor Chau said last Monday, before voting in favor of an agreement
to lease the land for 25 years for $25. The council also voted to spend $26,400
on the engineering and design of the fields. City Administrator Jerre Bryant
said that cost would be covered by donations. He wouldn't say who was donating
the money because those deals hadn't been finalized.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Look Back at Urban Renewal Legacy

The program offered free government funds and a promise: to transform America’s
aging traditional downtowns into modern, thriving hubs of commerce, community
and character. Three decades later, Westbrook is still waiting for delivery on
that promise. While the downtown area remains active, many of the smaller, local
retail shops that are the hallmark of the American downtown are gone. A changing
economic landscape surely had a role. But experts and city officials all agree
that a well-intentioned but poorly executed federal program must share some of
the blame.
- John C.L. Morgan

City, Ex-Fire Chief Reach Deal

The city has reached a proposed settlement with former Fire Chief Daniel Brock,
who sued the city in 2010 after recently elected Mayor Colleen Hilton announced
she wasn't reappointing him to lead the troubled department. The City Council
will take an initial vote on the agreement Monday. Until then, representatives
of both the city and Brock declined to give any details of the settlement.
Brock, 63, who received about $6,000 in severance pay, claimed in his lawsuit
that the city violated its charter and wrongfully discharged him. He has said he
would drop the suit if the city paid the equivalent of four years' salary plus
the health and retirement benefits he would have received through his planned
retirement age of 66. That payment would be more than $330,000.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Former Church Could Be Converted to Cultural Center

A Portland church has made good on its promise to donate a former Unitarian
Universalist church building in Westbrook to the community, with an eye toward
cultural development. The Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland
has sold the former church building at 719 Main St. to Westbrook Housing for $1,
according to John Gallagher, executive director of the housing authority.
- John C.L. Morgan

On Angelone's

Included in this PPH article about the closing of the Angelone's pizza joint in South Portland is some background on the Westbrook location, which is celebrating 40 years of business this year:
The Angelone family is credited with bringing the modern pizzeria to Maine. Jack
Angelone opened his first restaurant on Veranda Street in Portland in 1947,
where he entertained crowds by playing the piano. Angelone was joined in the
venture by his brother Joe and his wife Patricia. Pizza was not then a staple in
the American diet. A 1953 news clipping that hung on a wall at the South
Portland shop included a pronunciation of the word, "peet-za." The food grew in
popularity in the years after World War II, and in the late 1950s the Angelones
moved their restaurant to Portland's Monument Square. Angelone family members
have since opened several restaurants in Maine under various names.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, July 15, 2011

Superintendent Nominates New High School Principal

The Westbrook School District has chosen a new principal for the high school,
Superintendent Marc Gousse said Thursday. Gousse named Thomas O'Malley, of
Eliot, as the district's choice. The hiring must be confirmed by the school
committee to become official, but Gousse said today that he is strongly
recommending O'Malley. The school committee will likely vote on the hiring at
its next meeting.
- John C.L. Morgan

Charter Commission Receives Extension

The city’s Charter Commission at the moment is trying to figure out how to
create terms for elected officials that make more sense, eliminate needless and
confusing bureaucratic layers of government, and eliminate conflicts that
contributed, in at least one case, to a high-profile lawsuit against the city.
So naturally, commission members feel they need more time. This week, they got
-John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WPD Undergo Hostage Exercises

All police knew was that shots had been fired at the middle school. What they
didn’t know was that the shooter had a hostage on the second floor of the
building. The scenario was one of several played out Tuesday at Westbrook Middle
School, where the Westbrook Police Department is holding training sessions all
week. Officers from Westbrook and Gorham were invited to sign up for one of the
half-day sessions.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Hires Alum for H.S. Girls Basketball

"It's my alma mater," said [Chris] Aube. "That was pretty much the selling
factor. It was a tough decision. I think I established a pretty good program at
Gray-New Gloucester. I told the girls that this was the only position that I'd
consider. It's exciting to be going home, but it was also a tough decision to
leave." Aube coached the Patriots for four season, making the playoffs every
year. He went 44-30 in the regular season and posted double-digit wins each
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

IDEXX to Break Ground on Headquarters in Fall

Idexx Laboratories this fall will begin construction of a $60 million corporate
headquarters for 700 employees in Westbrook. Idexx has talked about building its
corporate headquarters in Westbrook since 2006, but plans were sidelined in 2008
when Pike Industries announced its plan to expand nearby quarrying operations.
- John C.L. Morgan


Clay Stewart, an experienced financial planner at Prudential Insurance, will host a financial planning seminar at Walker Memorial Library Thursday night (July 14) from 6p- 7:30p. According to librarian Marian Peterson, the event is not a sales pitch, but it is an opportunity for Westbrook residents ages 25-64 to learn more about the various aspects associated with financial planning.

Also, free lunches via the Westbrook Summer Lunch program will continue to be distributed to Westbrook youth (18 and younger) from 11:45a-12:30p every weekday through Friday, August 19. The lunch sites are Canal School (102 Glenwood Avenue) and the Brown Street Neighborhood Center (13 Reserve Street). For more information, see this virtual flier.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Owners, City Differ on Vision for Property

An owner of the former Maine Rubber building says he won't tear down the
massive, blighted structure at the western end of Westbrook's Main Street until
the city changes the zoning at the site or a tenant commits to the property. The
city secured a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant in April that would
cover most of the cost of demolishing the 27,000-square-foot building. The grant
was meant to give owners Dave and Jim Elowitch an incentive to tear down the
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

City Opts to Not Apply for Grant to Restore 'Blue Note Park'

On June 24, the Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corp. (WEIC) voted not to
pursue the application for a $140,000 state grant to revamp a walking mall
connecting Main Street and William Clarke Drive, known as Westbrook Commons,
according to [Director of Community and Economic Development Keith] Luke.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: City Explores Renovation of 'Blue Note Park' (June 23, 2011)

Paper City Pub Crawl (Summer '11 Edition): A Reflection

(Editor's Note: About twenty of us Brookies and a handful of adopted Brookies participated in the summer 2011 edition of the Paper City Pub Crawl on Saturday, June 25. Sponsored by the Paper City Junto, a fledgling social civic club I'm organizing, the pub crawl began at Thatcher's at 6p, and continued to Stockhouse (7p), Skybox (8p), The Frog and Turtle (9p), and Profenno's (10p). Below are three thoughts.)

Yes, a Burnt Trailer tastes as awful as it sounds.

The night's gimmick was a poker crawl of sorts, complete with designated drinks and playing cards for a poker hand at the end of the night. At Thatcher's, for example, the drink was Shipyard's Summer Ale, ditto Gritty's Vacationland Summer Ale at Stockhouse. Skybox was home to the Remember the Maine, and The Frog and Turtle whipped up more Rudy Vallee (page 3) cocktails in one hour than they had in a year. The headliner of the night, though, was the Burnt Trailer nightcap served by Profenno's.

Now, I'm a big fan of Moxie, and I think it's every Mainers' duty to have at least one of the numerous best-selling bottles of Allen's Coffee-Flavored Brandy stashed in a cupboard for special occasions. After experiencing the awful splendor of a Burnt Trailer (equal parts Moxie and Allen's) at Profenno's, though, I recommend keeping those two beverages at least 25 feet from each other, per the One Percent Doctrine. Think liquified coffee grounds, and you'll have a good idea of what the cocktail tastes like.

Hey, at least we survived to tell the grandkids.

We were a mobile economic stimulus package.

When I wrote the high-minded mission statement for the Paper City Junto, I noted the loosely-organized group's effort "to enrich the cultural, economic, intellectual, political, and social landscapes" of Westbrook. I'm still figuring out how to live up to that sentence, but I am comfortable the crawl improved the economy of Westbrook--for at least one night.

When about 15 of us kicked off the crawl at Thatcher's at 6p, no one else was in the restaurant. When we left an hour later for Stockhouse, the place was still empty. The economic impact of our group wasn't as drastic at the other four stops, but we did our part in injecting money into the Westbrook economy that would've otherwise been absent.

"I'm doing snow angels in front of the church."

Ask some of the old-timers, and they'll spin stories about that character or this incident that mostly came about because that section of town was a place people hung around in long enough to marinate in its surroundings and its people. It seems today, though, Westbrook's downtown is a destination spot for small, private happenings, whether it's a solo walk on the Riverwalk or a meal with family at a restaurant.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it (I do after all need to tease something out of a bunch of us walking--and imbibing--from bar to bar), but the pub crawl was a uniquely collective happening, an event downtown that has a common narrative among 20 or so loosely-joined people.

And the fact that one of those narratives may involve a lost crawler, snow angels in the middle of the summer, and St. Anthony's church makes it that much richer.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook a Testing Ground for Public Safety Consolidation

[Public Safety Director Michael] Pardue said the consolidation of [and fire and
police[ chiefs' jobs isn't right for every community. It made sense for
Westbrook because the police and fire departments were already in the same
building and both had strong leaders as second-in-command, he said. "The stars
have to be aligned correctly." Still, considering the cost savings on
administrators' salaries, and increased coordination and efficiency among the
departments, the structure should be considered more frequently, he said. "It's
a concept that I think has the potential to be evaluated by other communities as
we look to streamline our resources and answer the economic challenges we're
faced with at this time," said Pardue.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, June 30, 2011

City Fines Pike $3,000 for Blasting Violations

The city has fined Pike Industries Inc. $3,000 for two violations committed
during recent construction blasts the company conducted. City Administrator
Jerre Bryant said the city had the option of fining up to $2,500 per violation.
The fines, he said, total $2,500 for one violation on May 17, and $500 for
another violation May 20. Pike conducted the blasting in late May and early
June, while constructing an access road connecting Spring Street to a
controversial quarry the company plans to reactivate after decades of lying
virtually dormant.
- John C.L. Morgan

Tranchemontagne's Closes its Doors, Seeks Buyer

When opportunity opened one door for Andre Tranchemontagne, in the form of his
band, Pinsky, getting signed by a New York record label, it necessitated the
closure of his eponymous eatery on Main Street in Westbrook. "We closed the
doors Saturday afternoon," said operations manager Sasha Richardson, on Tuesday.
"Andre is spending a lot of time touring, and so his time has become limited,"
said Richardson, adding that the catering business at The Frog and Turtle
restaurant, also co-owned by Andre and his brother, James Tranchemontagne, "has
just exploded."
The Craigslist.com ad for the turn-key operation can be seen here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, June 23, 2011

School Board Hires Gousse as Superintendent, Approves New Teacher Contract

Westbrook High School Principal Marc Gousse has
accepted an offer to become superintendent of the city's school district,
pending the negotiation of a contract. The School Committee made the offer
Wednesday after an interview with Gousse, who has been interim superintendent
since March. It was the only interview the committee conducted for the job. No
other members of the district's staff applied during an in-house search. After
the interview Wednesday, the School Committee decided that a regional or
national search for a new superintendent wasn't necessary. "We decided we had
the best candidate," said School Committee member Suzanne Salisbury.
At a meeting Wednesday night, the School Committee approved a three-year contract with the district's teachers' union. Under the agreement, teachers will receive no raise or step increases in the first year, a 1.5 percent raise along with step increases in the second year, and a 2.5 percent raise with step increases in the third year.
- John C.L. Morgan
Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

City Explores Renovation of 'Blue Note Park'

According to the detailed proposal, revamping the space would include removing
some of the trees, pulling up uneven concrete slabs, then installing new
concrete slabs, putting in new areas of crushed stone, planting new trees,
installing new lighting, installing new benches and installing assorted
planters. In addition, the plan includes building two pergolas, and also calls
for two new concrete pads to accommodate sculptures to be installed in the
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Developers to Present Expanded Plan for Senior Housing

Tonight, [Sandy River Co.] will present an expanded proposal to the Planning
Board. The new proposal is for a three-phase project, with a 50-bed memory care
center for Alzheimer's patients, followed by a 120-unit independent- and
assisted-living facility and, finally, 44 cottages to sell to people who are 55
and older. Daniel Maguire, a partner in Sandy River, which owns 11 health care
facilities in Maine, said the economic downturn stalled the project and
eventually led the developer to change its plan. "We just felt there was a need
to add to (the previous proposal) and provide additional senior-care services,"
he said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Police Notes

The WPD suspects there might be an organized theft ring responsible for home break-ins since March. And in separate news, the WPD will be cracking down on impaired driving this summer, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the state.

- John C.L. Morgan

School Board Expected to Name Gousse as New Superintendent of Schools

School committee members have finished advertising internally for candidates for
the new Westbrook school superintendent, and Marc Gousse is on a very short
list. In fact, he’s the only name on the list, according to committee members
this week. School Committee Chairman Ed Symbol said he thought there would be a
few others, but after the 10-day period for accepting applications expired last
week, Gousse, who is interim school superintendent, was the only one.
- John C.L. Morgan

(Full disclosure: I'm employed by the Westbrook School Department.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Local Restaurateur's Band Gets National Pub

The band of Andre Tranchemontagne, a co-owner of downtown restaurants The Frog and Turtle and Tranchemontagne's Bar and Eatery, got national attention Monday when Alternative Press showcased its music video for their song "Losing Touch" (see below).

Pinsky, for whom Tranchemontagne is the drummer, will release a new album in early July.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dana Warp Mill Sold

The Dana Warp Mill was sold at auction this morning to the real estate investor
who took over the loan on the building last month. Sasa Cook, the sole bidder at
the auction held at the mill, bought the 250,000-square-foot building for $2.5
million. He said he expects to close this week. Former owner Tim Flannery
defaulted on his mortgage in September, and Bank of America placed the building
into receivership. Since them, CB Richard Ellis/Boulos Property Management has
been managing the building and will continue to do so.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, June 10, 2011

Former School Superintendent a Finalist for National Award


Former Westbrook Superintendent Reza Namin, who resigned in March, is one of
five finalists for a national superintendent-of-the-year award. The National
Association of School Superintendents announced the finalists Thursday. The
other four are from Colorado, South Carolina, Louisiana and Wisconsin. Theresa
Daem, the association's executive director, wrote in a news release that Namin's
outstanding achievements in Westbrook included the development of a strategic
plan for the district, reduction in drop-out rates and the initiation of virtual
high school courses.
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Voters Approve School Budget

The Westbrook school budget season officially came to a close tonight, as voters
elected to pass the 2011-2012 budget by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The clerk's
office confirmed tonight that the budget passed by a vote of 780-320. The $30.7
million budget will cut six teachers and seven support staff. Despite massive
spending cuts, equally large losses in state and federal funding means the new
budget will raise the property tax rate 37 cents per $1,000 of valuation.
- John C.L. Morgan

Don't Forget to Vote

Polls are open from 7a-8p today, so don't forget to vote on the FY2011-2012 school budget. Voting information can be seen here, the finalized budget can be seen here, and a summary of the budget can be read here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Ballplayer Named Best in State

Scott Heath of Westbrook received good news Wednesday while resting his left arm
after experiencing pain while throwing a pitch in the second inning Tuesday
against Cheverus. Heath was named the Maine Gatorade high school baseball player
of the year after going 5-0 in the regular season with a 0.00 earned-run
average. Heath has 41 strikeouts in 32 innings and batted .390 with 18 RBI. The
Blue Blazes finished with a 14-2 record after a 6-2 loss to the Stags and will
enter the Western Class A playoffs as the No. 2 seed.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, June 6, 2011

WRVC Grads to Compete in National Auto Event

A third turn of the ignition switch flashed a code on the scan tool: a
malfunction in the evaporative emissions purge solenoid, which transfers gas
fumes to the engine rather than the atmosphere. That was the problem,
but [Joshua Beeler and Anthony Perron] of the Westbrook Regional
Vocational Center would have to do additional tests to determine the cause and
the way to repair it. The scenario was just a test that instructor Carter
Waldren put together, the kind of challenge the teenagers will face next week at
the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills national competition in Dearborn, Mich.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, June 3, 2011

City Set to Celebrate WTD

With 15,000 to 20,000 people expected, vendors, performers, and organizers are
preparing to go all out for the 32nd annual Westbrook Together Days this
weekend. The event Friday and Saturday features entertainment on three stages,
carnival rides, an animal petting zoo, rock climbing wall, mechanical bull
rides, and more attractions for all ages. Saturday will feature a parade through
downtown. It will start at 10 a.m. on Lincoln Street. It will travel along to
Bridge Street, then to Main Street, ending at Riverbank Park.
- John C.L. Morgan

New Senior Housing Complex to Host Open House

The executive director of the city's housing authority concedes that he probably
overpaid for two dilapidated multi-family houses on Main Street 10 years ago.
The purchase, however, is about to pay off. Along with the houses came adjacent
land that stretches back toward the Presumpscot River. It is now the site of a
34-unit affordable housing complex for seniors. The property at 19 Ash St. will
be the site of an open house Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. Residents will begin moving
in next week, said John Gallagher, executive director of Westbrook Housing.
- John C.L. Morgan

Former Standout Coach Passes Away

Bill Folsom, the former Westbrook High basketball coach, was always impeccably
dressed with his navy blue sports jacket, powder blue and white striped tie,
perfectly creased slacks and polished loafers. His teams reflected his sartorial
style. The Blue Blazes may have been the first high school team in the state to
wear warmup jackets and pants. The players wore knee-length socks, which some
teams wore in those days. The Blazes always looked sharp in pregame drills and
it carried over to the game. Folsom wanted his teams, as his son, Mark, said,
"to be top shelf" in their appearance and their play. Folsom, one of the top
coaches in Maine history, died Sunday at 83 from the effects of a stroke in
North Fort Myers, Fla., where he lived for 23 years.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Vote on School Budget is June 7

With a referendum on the 2011-2012 school budget less than a week away, it’s
decision time for Westbrook voters on whether they will approve a 2.1 percent
budget increase over the 2010-2011 budget. Voting is Tuesday, June 7, with polls
open from 7a.m,-8 p.m. Even if the $30.7 million budget passes, massive cuts in
state and federal money to the district means six teachers and seven support
staffers will lose their jobs, to say nothing of the cuts in programs the
district will have to weather.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Judge Allows Former Fire Chief's Lawsuit to Proceed

A lawsuit filed by a former Westbrook fire chief who says he was improperly
removed from his job can proceed following a judge's ruling this week. Daniel
Brock sued the city of Westbrook and Mayor Colleen Hilton last year after Hilton
announced at her inauguration that she would not reappoint Brock as fire chief.
U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby, ruling on a motion by the city to throw out
the case, said Monday that the Westbrook fire chief isn't subject to annual
appointment by the mayor, even though the position is listed that way in the
city's charter. At issue were two seemingly contradictory provisions in the
charter: one that says the fire chief is appointed annually and another that
says the chief serves until death, retirement or removal for cause.
- John C.L. Morgan

Middle School Students Attend to Veterans' Graves

On Monday, as part of what is becoming an annual tradition, about 35 middle
school students listened to a presentation by [Deputy Public Services Director
Arty] Ledoux, who himself served as a U.S. Marine, about grave markers and their
significance for veterans and their families. Then, on Tuesday, the students
took to Woodlawn Cemetery, nearly across the street from the school on
Stroudwater Street, to attend to markers that had been bent, fallen over or
placed in the wrong position.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Investor Looks to Own Dana Warp Mill


A local real estate investor has taken over the loan on a former Westbrook mill
and hopes to soon own the landmark building that's home to a mix of small
businesses and art studios. Aleksandar "Sasa" Cook, who owns three other
properties in Westbrook, purchased the loan on the Dana Warp Mill from Bank of
America earlier this month. He expects to take ownership of the five-story brick
building after a foreclosure auction in June. Cook plans to continue to market
the 250,000-square-foot building, which is 30 percent vacant, as a good place to
grow a young company.

Related: Owner of Dana Warp Mill Victim of Foreclosure (September 10, 2010)

- John C.L. Morgan

City Eyes Investment in Public Works Facility

Finally, the public works project "has risen to the top," [department
director Tom Eldridge] said. The council earlier this month approved
spending $300,000 for Westbrook-based Sebago Technics Inc. to design the
facility. A 10-member building committee has been touring area public works
departments to get ideas for Westbrook. Arty Ledoux, deputy director of public
services and chairman of the building committee, said the city is awaiting a
report from engineers who will determine whether the existing 11,000-square-foot
building should be renovated or torn down.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pike Explosions Prompt Some Complaints, Citation from City

The blasting began on May 12, and local residents said the noise and vibration
weren’t that bad. "I really didn’t think it was that loud," Ronald Daniels, 69,
who lives at 690 Spring St., across the street from where the blasting occurred,
said that Thursday. "It was just a second, and that was it. It was done." But a
blast on Monday prompted a different reaction in the Birdland neighborhood. "I
jumped out of that green chair,” Josephine Peterson, 69, of 59 Oriole St., said
Tuesday while pointing to a chair in her living room and describing her reaction
to the Monday blast.



A consent agreement between Pike and the city
set ground rules for how Pike could conduct operations at the quarry. The
violation notice cited the stipulation in the agreement that Pike cannot set off
blasts emitting noises louder than 129 decibels. According to data from the
city’s planning office, a seismograph in the Birdland neighborhood recorded a
decibel level of 129.3 on Tuesday.

- John C.L. Morgan

School Superintendent Lobbies for Passage of Budget Referendum

The vote will be a make-or-break moment for the budget, and Interim School
Superintendent Marc Gousse knows it. After taking the reins in March, he took on
the task of deciding what--and who--to cut from the budget. Now, Gousse is
trying to get the word out to the public in advance of the June 7 vote, and is
asking for support. "Education is an investment," he said. "The generous support
we get from taxpayers will pay dividends down the road."
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Musicians Putting Old Rivalries Aside to Play Show

It started with The Beatles' 1964 appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Tom
Dyhrberg, who was a preteen in Westbrook at the time, remembers watching the
performance on television. "The music was great. The hall was full of screaming
girls. I looked at the screen and said, 'I want to do that,'" Dyhrberg said.
Soon, rock bands started cropping up at high schools around Greater Portland,
and Westbrook seemed to be the epicenter of it all. With a strong music program
in the school district, the city was "a hotbed" of talent, said Tony Boffa, a
locally renowned musician who grew up in Portland around the same time. Members
of three former Westbrook High School cover bands, who once competed for gigs,
are putting their old rivalries aside. On Saturday, they will play hits from the
1960s and early '70s at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.
- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wall Street Journal Looks to Local Chef for Franco Picnic

Enjoy a French-style picnic avec Creton (traditional French-Canadian pork
spread) from James Tranchemontagne of The Frog and Turtle in Westbrook, Me.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pike Begins Blasting Amid Letters of Protest

Pike Industries set off its first blast Thursday for the construction of an
access road at its Spring Street quarry, despite a last-minute demand from
neighboring businesses that the city halt the activity. A letter from Artel Inc.
was hand-delivered Thursday morning to Westbrook Code Enforcement Officer Rick
Gouzie asking him not to allow the scheduled blasting to proceed. Smiling Hill
Farm and television stations WPXT/WPME also sent letters to Gouzie opposing the
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Council Gives Final Approval to Budgets

The municipal expense budget is now finalized at $24,292,628, an increase of
$19,675 over the 2010-2011 budget. To make up for revenue losses, the city will
have to raise a total of $477,106 more from taxpayers next year. That translates
into a 26-cent increase in the tax rate for 2012, or a $49.01 annual increase on
a $190,000 home, according to Chief Financial Officer Dawn Ouellette. The
council’s vote also approves the school budget, which now goes to a public
referendum on June 7. If approved by voters, the 2011-2012 budget will be
$30,855,304, which is about $2.4 million smaller than the current 2010-2011
budget. If approved by voters, 42 positions will be lost throughout the
district, including teachers, staff, and administration personnel.
- John C.L. Morgan