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 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