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

Plans Afoot to Reopen Daycare

A new plan has emerged for reopening a day-care facility in Westbrook that
closed abruptly in February, leaving parents scrambling to find child care. Less
than a day after Lollipop Lane Educare shut down Feb. 11, the state issued a
temporary license to Norma Wolf, the parent of a boy at the center. Wolf wanted
to reopen the facility immediately, but said Wednesday that the plan "didn't
move forward." She declined to comment further. Now Mindy Brigham, a single
mother with a background in education, has applied to the state for a license to
operate a child care center at 18 Patrick Drive in one of the two buildings
previously occupied by Lollipop Lane.
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

City Extends Trespass Order Against Former Finance Chief

The city's former finance director has been banned from City Hall for another
year. Westbrook police served Susan Rossignol with a trespass notice Saturday at
the request of Mayor Colleen Hilton and City Administrator Jerre Bryant, said
police Capt. Tom Roth. Rossignol, who was Westbrook's finance director for 32
years, was served a one-year trespass notice in March 2010, two months after
Hilton announced at her inauguration that she was not reappointing Rossignol.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, May 9, 2011

Walker Memorial Library Participating in 'Food Not Fines Week'

Beginning today and ending Saturday, May 14, the Walker Memorial Library is participating in the "Food Not Fines Week" initiative organized by the Maine State Library. As a result, library patrons can have their late fees wiped clean this week, as long as they return an overdue item and donate a non-perishable food item to the library.

The donated food will be re-distributed to the Westbrook Food Pantry.

- John C.L. Morgan

City Approves Pike's Plans

Pike Industries' plan to build an access road and buffers at its quarry in
Westbrook, as ordered by a judge in November, was approved by the city Thursday.
When it finishes the construction, Pike will be able to resume blasting rock at
its quarry off Spring Street. Work at the quarry has been on hold as Pike's
neighbors, including Idexx Laboratories, have challenged the company's right to
blast rock there. After years of debate before local boards and in court, a
Maine Business Court justice in November approved a consent agreement among
Pike, Idexx and the city that allows Pike to blast with certain conditions,
including the new access road and buffers.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Public Safety Overtime Costs Aggravate Councilors

Tempers ran high at the city’s Finance Committee meeting on April 25, as the
committee, made up of city councilors, voted to slash overtime for fire and
police officers by 10 percent. The move came after some councilors grilled
Pardue, over a total overtime budget of about $350,000. "I’ve been here for 12
years, and I’ve been hammering on this issue," said Councilor John O’Hara,
jabbing his forefinger at Pardue for emphasis. "The hemorrhaging is just
- John C.L. Morgan

Pulse Hosts 7th Annual WMPG Fashion Show

The Spring Street dance studio hosted the event last Saturday (April 30).

- John C.L. Morgan

WHS Alums Stars for Keene State Lacrosse

From the moment Lauren Sawyer first picked up a
lacrosse stick, she knew she found her athletic calling. "I just felt
comfortable from the minute I tried it," she said, of her freshman year at
Westbrook High. Eight years later, it's obvious that Sawyer was meant to play
lacrosse. A senior at Keene (N.H.) State, she will lead the second-ranked Owls
into the Little East Conference semifinals today against the University of
Southern Maine. Sawyer is the school's all-time leading scorer, with 102 goals
and a record 193 assists, giving her a total of 295 points.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

City Council Gives Initial Approval to Budgets

The Westbrook City Council gave initial approval Monday to the operating budgets
of the city and the school department, totaling $55.1 million. Next Monday, the
council will hold a public hearing and a final vote on the budgets. Together,
the 2011-12 budgets would raise property taxes by 4.2 percent, which is the same
as 70 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value or $132 for the owner of
$190,000 home. Residents will vote June 14 on the school budget, which is
slightly less than $30.9 million and accounts for 44 cents of the tax rate
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, May 2, 2011

City Council Replenishes Pool Funding, Though Pool Personnel Remains Unclear

In a close decision, the City Council Finance Committee voted 4-3 Monday night
to restore funds saved by laying off Lisa Wohl, the former manager of the Davan
Pool at the Fred C. Wescott Building--but whether this leads to Wohl’s
reinstatement remains to be seen. Mayor Colleen Hilton has the ultimate
authority to hire or fire employees, regardless of the committee’s vote. After
the decision by the committee, which is made up of the entire City Council, she
said she stood by the layoff, but that she would re-examine the situation in
light of testimony from the public supporting Wohl and other details that
emerged during discussion of the issue.
- John C.L. Morgan