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