The future of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in South Portland remains up in the air after a weekend meeting of parishioners. The church’s finance committee has recommended that the church be closed by June 30. The problem is a lack of cash. The church’s annual income of $180,000 doesn’t cover the $200,000 in annual expenses. The 60-year-old boilers are on their last legs. Church property requires other expensive repairs. At the same time, the congregation is small and shrinking. Most parishioners agree that the church should be closed, but on Sunday wanted some questions answered before making a final decision. Among those questions are whether the sale of some church property could help the parish stay open. The final decision rests with the bishop.
The trial of a key figure in a prostitution scandal at a Zumba studio in Maine has gone through four days without a jury being selected. And it’s unclear if the process will resume Monday. A pair of appeals to the state supreme court delayed the trial of Mark Strong Sr. in Superior Court in Alfred. The defense is worried that the lengthy delays could cause potential jurors to turn against Strong even before jury selection is completed and the trial begins in earnest with opening statements and testimony. Jury expert Valerie Hans from Cornell University Law School says surveys show jurors hate delays. But she says there’s no research showing that they’d punish a defendant.
A New Hampshire transportation spokesman says a lift bridge that’s been out of commission for days to motor vehicle traffic over the Piscataqua River has been reopened. The 73-year-old Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth, N.H., to Kittery, Maine, was shut down on Wednesday after its center span got stuck during a routine test. The closing blocked shipping lanes until the bridge was lifted Saturday to allow boats to pass, but cars and trucks could not use the bridge. The ships carry heating oil and other supplies on the river. Bill Boynton of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation said the bridge was lowered and tested Sunday and was back to normal operations by the evening for both ships and motor vehicles.
The Viles Arboretum Farmers’ Market is now accepting applications for their upcoming season.The market runs every Friday, starting May 3rd to October 4th.It’s located off Route 9 on Hospital Street in Augusta.To get an application, just call 626-7989.You can also visit www.vilesarboretum.org.
The Maine Board of Environmental Protection has voted to ban the chemical BPA from baby food and infant formula packaging.State lawmakers now must review and authorize the action.In June, petitions from Maine voters called on the board to replace BPA in baby and toddler food packaging with safer alternatives.
A man made sick by tainted ground beef is suing Hannaford supermarkets.Kenneth Koehler of Old Orchard Beach claims he suffered two months of debilitating symptoms after eating ground beef he bought in November 2011.He was one of more than a dozen people sickened in a salmonella outbreak that led Hannaford to recall ground beef last month at its stores in New England and New York.Koehler claims he ran up $8,000 in medical bills.
Governor LePage has cleared the way for heating oil truck drivers to work extra hours.It’s to make sure deliveries are made during extremely cold temperatures.Some oil companies say restrictions on their drivers made them fall behind meeting the demands of their customers.
Police in Maine have apprehended a man wanted in Kentucky on sexual abuse charges. Wilton Chief Heidi Wilcox says officers arrested 44-year-old Jaime Johnson at a relative’s home in town on Wednesday night. Maine authorities were tipped off by Kentucky State Police, who say Johnson is wanted on 15 counts of sexual abuse. Johnson was charged in Maine as a fugitive from justice. He is being held at the Franklin County Jail pending a bail hearing scheduled for Friday. Details of the allegations Johnson faces were not released by Maine authorities. It was unclear if he had a lawyer.
Industry experts predict a big lobster catch in Maine next year, which would mean low prices for those who catch lobster for a living.The commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources met with concerned fishermen on Thursday to talk about it.Lobstermen say prices for their catch last year were so low it was almost not worth pulling their traps.A veteran lobsterman from Scarborough says last year’s warm winter caused lobsters to arrive early.He hopes this year’s colder winter will mean the catch will return to being spread out so there isn’t such a glut on the market this summer.
You might not like the cold but, right now, you have to live with it, and some people have to work in it.It’s not easy to shoulder the cold, but Ronald Murray still manages to be warm to his customers.Murray is working an eight hour shift on the coldest day we’ve seen in two years.”I think the last couple years we’ve been very fortunate to experience atypical winters, and now Mother Nature has reminded us that we’re still here.”The Big Apple at the corner of Forest and Park Avenues is one of the few gas stations that still pumps for you, that’s why Murray says it’s especially busy.The single-digit temperatures in Portland, and sub-freezing with the wind chill.If some drivers say it’s too cold to get out of the car, Ken Murphy says it was definitely too cold to go out for a four mile jog.”I think I need to rethink what I am doing. You definitely don’t do this at this time of year. This wasn’t a very wise decision for me to do today.”But meanwhile, Mainers like Mark Hallet didn’t even wear a coat.Hallet is from southern Aroostick county.”It’s above zero: the wind’s not really blowing worth anything. So, it’s a nice and warm day down here.”In case you missed the forecast, Friday is going to be very cold too.
The Maine Supreme Court put jury selection in a high-profile prostitution trial on hold on Thursday.It was in response to a challenge by Maine Today Media to open jury selection to the public, instead of doing it behind closed doors.Mark Strong, 57, of Thomaston is charged with nearly sixty misdemeanors, including conspiring with a dance instructor to use her studio in Kennebunk as a front for prostitution. The Supreme Court ruled late Thursday that jury selection can resume but must be open to the public from here on out.
A free, public forum sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission will help Maine consumers to spot scams and avoid fraud. U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud says the event will be held Thursday morning in Auburn. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and staff from the state Consumer Protection Department and other experts will also attend. Michaud, a Maine Democrat, announced the FTC forum after meeting with a Maine victim of a Jamaican phone scam last year. Michaud says the lengths criminals will go to steal from consumers is unconscionable. The forum is titled Being Scam Smart: Protecting Your Money and Identity from Fraud. Topics include Medicare fraud, identity theft and telemarketing, charities and fundraising, credit and loan offers, sweepstakes and lotteries, club membership offers and robocalls.
Maine realtors say both sales and median prices of single family homes rose in December, reflecting national trends.The Maine real estate information system says sales were up almost 12%, and the median price rose more than 6% to $170,000.Nationally, sales rose 11.5% in December, while median prices were up just under 11%.
A judge says jury selection will continue in the trial of a business partner of a Zumba instructor accused of using her dance studio in Kennebunk as a front for prostitution.With about a third of potential jurors dismissed, a judge hoped to finish selecting a panel and begin opening statements Wednesday in the trial of Mark Strong Sr., 57, of Thomaston, but the judge said in the late afternoon that jury selection would resume on Thursday.Strong faces 59 misdemeanor counts including conspiring with fitness instructor Alexis Wright. Both Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty.
A major ratings service has downgraded Maine’s bond ratings.Fitch has lowered Maine’s $472 million in general obligation bonds from AA+ to AA.$1.4 billion of the Maine Municipal Bond Banks’s general resolution bonds have been lowered from AA- to A+.Fitch says the state’s persistent budget gaps are the reason for the downgrades.A lowered bond rating can mean having to pay higher interest rates.
Portland’s planning board has approved the construction of two new hotels in the city. The hotels approved Tuesday will add more than 230 rooms and two restaurants to the Old Port area over the next few years. A 131-room Courtyard by Marriott with 14 penthouse apartments was approved near the Portland Fish Pier. The $17.5 million project is expected to start next month and open in June 2014. The board also approved a 110-room hotel and restaurant to be located in the former Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram building across from City Hall. The $8 million project is expected to get under way this summer and be finished by mid-2014.
Jury selection has ended its first day in the trial of a Thomaston man accused of being party to a prostitution operation in Kennebubnk.Mark Strong Senior is accused of conspiring with fitness instructor Alexis Wright.She’s accused of running a prostitution operation out of her Zumba studio and will be tried separately.Pre-trial publicity is a concern. Lawyers say it could take a couple days to pick a jury.
Attorney General Janet Mills says people claiming to represent Medicare are calling and asking people for their Medicare numbers in order to issue new cards.The callers also ask for the name of your bank, as well as your account and bank routing numbers. Anyone who has provided this information is advised to monitor their Medicare statements closely over the next year.Mills says never give out personal information over the phone. If you think your account information has been compromised, call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline 626-8849.
There is a record number of women in the new Congress, 81 in the House, and 20 in the Senate. Three of the female senators were on the CBS Morning Show on Tuesday, including Senator Susan Collins. One of the popular topics was that women don’t seem to be running for office. Here’s what Senator Collins thinks about that: “Women tend to think that they’re not quite ready and I always try to encourage women to take the risk, to roll the dice.” “You said if women were in charge we would have a budget deal by now. So with a record 20 women in the senate, is this going to get better?” “I certainly hope so. I actually was serious when I made that comment. I honestly believe that if you put the 20 women into a room and locked us up and threw in provisions occasionally that we would come out with a budget.”Collins says all of the women Senators get together about once a month for dinner.
A man from Maine played a historic role in Monday’s inauguration.Richard Blanco of Bethel delivered the inaugural poem, paying tribute to the American experience.He was born in Spain and emigrated to the US with his parents.At age 44, he is the youngest ever inaugural poet.