Friday, January 27, 2012

Cuts in State Spending Could Close Westbrook Drug Rehab Center

At Mercy, the cuts would lower revenues by an estimated $6 million a year, said
Eileen Skinner, president and chief executive officer. As a result, the hospital
would likely close the Mercy Recovery Center, the largest substance-abuse
treatment center in Maine. Closing the Westbrook facility, which serves people
from all over the state, would eliminate 100 jobs. Mercy supports the governor's
goal of being fiscally responsible, Skinner said. "But we obviously endorse an
approach that is more gradual and targeted so things can adjust and people can
understand the unintended consequences of whatever action they take," she said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Swimmer Looks to Raise Funds to Fight Heart Disease

An informal effort to raise money for heart health
research and education, started last year by a Westbrook woman, has blossomed
into a worldwide event scheduled for Valentine’s Day. Participation in Swim for
Your Heart Feb. 14 has grown exponentially since last year, said the event’s
founder, Pat Gallant-Charette, who drew international acclaim after swimming the
English Channel last summer.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Woman Swims English Channel (August 22, 2011)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

City Officials Weighing Options for New Public Services Facilities

Building a new facility for the Westbrook Public
Services Department could cost as much as $17 million. The proposal is the most
expensive of four options that a 10-member building committee is considering to
replace the department's facility on Saco Street, which has been in need of
upgrades since 2006. The committee plans to make a recommendation to the City
Council in coming weeks. The $17 million plan calls for a six-building complex
that would include offices, a warehouse, covered areas for equipment and school
buses, and a storage shed for salt and sand. Other options call for fewer
buildings and would cost from $10.6 million to $14.4 million, according to
estimates from Westbrook-based Sebago Technics, the project's engineering firm.
Plans call for completing construction in 2014.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pike Faces Fines for Exceeding Blasting Limit

Pike Industries will pay $4,500 in fines for blasts
in its Spring Street quarry that violated vibration limits set in a consent
agreement reached by the city, Pike and neighboring Idexx Laboratories. The
city's code enforcement officer issued the fine on Jan. 11. Tom Spellman, Pike's
crushing manager for Maine and New Hampshire, said today that the company plans
to pay the fine. The consent agreement reached in the fall of 2010 set the
maximum ground vibration of a blast at 0.5 inches per second. A blast on Dec. 9
registered at 0.73 inches per second, and a blast on Dec. 14 registered at 0.59
inches per second. A third blast on Dec. 16 did not violate the standards set in
the agreement.
- John C.L. Morgan

New Development Being Planned for Warren Avenue

The building that was once home to a short-lived
Westbrook strip club is part of a new proposal designed to develop a large
parcel of industrial property off Warren Avenue. A copy of the proposal,
submitted to the city last month, indicates the property’s owner, Selden Von
Herten, wants to turn his 20.5-acre parcel into a commercial and industrial
condominium site.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Westbrook Soccer League to Host Poker Tournament

The Westbrook Soccer League is hosting a state-sanctioned poker tournament this Saturday at the Stockhouse Restaurant and Sports Pub.

The tournament begins at 4p, but you can register as early as 2p. There will be a 100-player cap, and the buy-in to participate is $60. Seventy-five percent of the net proceeds go to the eventual winner.

- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I serve on the Westbrook Soccer League Board of Directors.

State Chops Down Elm Trees to Aid Bridge Work

[T]he Department of Transportation first had to
make room for relocated power lines and poles. That meant taking down a number
of large trees growing by the side of the road, including some growing on the
property next to The Elms, a bed-and-breakfast inn across the street from the
mill. The inn was first built byS.D. Warren as a retreat for visiting company
executives, and is now privately owned.
- John C.L. Morgan

City Begins Negotiations with Labor Unions

When running for re-election, Westbrook Mayor
Colleen Hilton said she wanted to keep finding ways to make the city run more
efficiently, and she anticipated carrying that philosophy into the next round of
collective bargaining negotiations. Last week, Westbrook officials, including
Hilton, met for the first time this year with representatives of all five of the
city’s bargaining units, in what she called a "frank" discussion.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Paul LePage's Horatio Alger Years

Author and reporter Colin Woodard has written an article on Paul LePage's upbringing.

And though Woodard is receiving some criticism that he should've included a possible conflict-of-interest disclosure in the piece, he deserves high praise for penning an informative essay in which he synthesizes previously published material with original reporting. The result is a rich portrayal of the Maine executive's formative years.

The second part of the essay, which will be about LePage's climb in the business and political arenas, will be published by the Portland Phoenix on January 20.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Residents Among Mainers Paying for FEMA's Errors

Last year, 370 Maine property owners appealed to the Federal Emergency
Management Agency to remove their homes or businesses from flood plain status,
according to the Maine State Planning Office. Most of them had to hire surveyors
at an average cost of $750 to prove they didn't need to pay for costly flood
insurance policies required to obtain a mortgage.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, January 13, 2012

In the Blood

For the context of this video, read Bob Keyes's feature on Maine musician/filmmaker Sumner McKane's "In the Blood."

- John C.L. Morgan

The Improvised Puppet Project to Play Show at WHS

The Improvised Puppet Project will be playing a show in the Westbrook High School auditorium tomorrow night (1/14) at 7p. The show will benefit the Sock 'N Buskin, the drama club at Westbrook High.

More information can be found here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Parents Give Feedback at School Budget Forum

Most of the discussions in the forum, which lasted
more than two hours, centered not on whether to close the school, but what the
reconfiguration of the city’s educational districts would mean for
fifth-graders, who would be thrust into the middle school with much older kids.
"We know they're very different children, with very different needs," School
Superintendent Marc Gousse said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Historical Society Prepares for Move to Community Center

Diane Dyer, the society’s director, said the move
in part is to make the society more accessible. Right now, the society gets
about 25 people visiting per month, but she is sure there could be more. "A lot
of people don’t even know we’re here," she said. The community center, on the
other hand, is a far more visible location, she said, and first-floor access
there will make visiting the collection even easier. Right now, visitors
must travel up a steep flight of stairs. "The idea was to make it more available
to people," [president Mike] Sanphy said. The other goals, he added, are to make
the collection safer. Its new home, he said, will have fire alarms and
sprinklers, something the society doesn’t have at the legion building. The city
also won’t have to pay $600 per month in rent to house the collection, either,
Sanphy said.
-John C.L. Morgan

Related: On Location: Westbrook Historical Society (June 24, 2008)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Maine Food Coma

Joe Ricchio and friends toured four other Maine locales (Bangor, the Fryeburg Fair, Lewiston/Auburn, and Sanford) and did not die of any heart attacks before posting abbreviated shows online. If you enjoy Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," you'll probably enjoy this show--including the episode when Ricchio sits down with Bourdain backstage at Merrill Auditorium.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: No Reservations (April 23, 2010)

Dept. of Labor Calculates Living Wages for Mainers

Wicki Biz:
What do you have to make to be able to afford to
live in Maine? If you look at the basic expenses, the whole kit and caboodle,
including food, rent, utilities, phone, health care, transportation, child care,
clothing, personal care, household goods, taxes, etc., what’s the end cost? A
new report out from the Maine Department of Labor tells us that.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, January 6, 2012

Superintendent Advocates for the Closure of Prides Corner School

There will be no mention of Prides Corner
Elementary School in the school budget that Superintendent Marc Gousse
recommends to the Westbrook School Committee for next year.Gousse told about 80
0people at a community forum Thursday evening that he couldn't "with good
conscience" advise the committee to keep the school open.The closure of Prides
Corner is part of larger proposal to reconfigure the city's elementary grades
and address a $2.2 million shortfall in the budget.
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

LeClerc's Closes

On Tuesday, a sign up in the window of LeClerc’s
Service Center in Westbrook advertised that the recently closed gas station is
available for purchase or lease. But even as the locks on the doors at 952 Main
St. were being changed, Jeff Farstad was still turning away drivers looking for
gas and callers asking to bring vehicles in for repairs."It’s tough talking to
my customers," Farstad, 43, said Tuesday as he finished closing the station for
the last time.
- John C.L. Morgan

WHS Principal Resigns

First-year Westbrook High School Principal Thomas O’Malley is resigning his
position at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, according to School
Superintendent Marc Gousse. Gousse said O’Malley made his resignation official
in a letter dated Dec. 19. O’Malley’s resignation is effective June 30, 2012,
Gousse said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Director of Economic Development Also Submits Resignation

The city's economic and community development
director, who vacated his post Saturday, is one of two department heads to
resign in recent weeks. Keith Luke, who was hired in 2008, submitted his
resignation letter on Dec. 14, the same day as Chief Financial Officer Dawn
Ouellette. In his letter, Luke wrote that he is resigning "at this point to
allow Mayor (Colleen) Hilton time to match skills with the priorities of her
management team during her second term in office."
- John C.L. Morgan

Profile of a Native Architect

Maine Home + Design:
As a 29-year-old architect still early in his
career, Evan Carroll is not your typical nursing home resident. Yet for nine
days in September, he lived at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough. Carroll
was studying firsthand the needs of nursing home residents to inform his future
design work in the housing market.
Carroll, a 2001 graduate of Westbrook High School, had his aforementioned stay at the veterans' home documented in a September 2011 PPH article.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Judge Rules in Favor of Westbrook, Against Dreamers

A federal judge has ruled that the city of Westbrook did not violate a strip
club owner's Constitutional rights by revoking the occupancy permit for Dreamers
Cabaret and subsequently enacting a nude entertainment ordinance. The ruling was
handed down Thursday in U.S. District Court by Magistrate Judge John H. Rich
III. The Ferrante Group Inc., the owner of Dreamers, which sued the city in
September 2010, can object to the ruling within 14 days of when it was
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, January 2, 2012

Who are the Most Influential Political Players in Maine?

Matt Gagnon over at Pine Tree Politics has his list of the Top 25.

- John C.L. Morgan

News Fit to Post--Holiday Edition

Westbrook school officials will be hosting a second public forum devoted to solving the upcoming budget deficit. (December 28)

Westbrook school officials
are looking at ways to combat substance abuse among students. (December 28)

Some neighbors of Pike
filed complaints about the company's blasting efforts throughout December. (December 28)

Westbrook elementary school students and teachers
tout the success of a growing anti-obsesity campaign. (December 27)

Members of the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church
served a free Christmas meal to about 300 people. (December 26)

Developers are
looking at turning vacant St. Hyacinth buildings into housing. (December 21)

Westbrook's Finance Director
will step down from her post. (December 21)

Westbrook Housing officials
are looking at new strategies for selling three downtown condo units. (December 21)

The Westbrook Fire Department
continued a ten-year tradition of delivering gifts to children. (December 21)

- John C.L. Morgan