A Maine Sunday Telegram reporter who investigated how for-profit online education companies are affecting Maine’s digital education efforts is among the winners of the 64th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism. Colin Woodard will be awarded the 2012 George Polk Award for Education Reporting for a two-part report published Sept. 2 in the Maine Sunday Telegram. Winners also include journalists from Mother Jones, Bloomberg News, The New York Times, CBS News, The New Yorker, The Washington Post and “Frontline.” The awards were announced Monday. The Polk Awards are among the top prizes in U.S. journalism. They were created in 1949 in honor of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. This year’s awards will be given out April 11.
The Saco Drive-In is turning to its loyal customers in an attempt to survive. Manager Ry Russell says the movie theater must make the conversion to the digital format, or the community fixture may have to close after more than seven decades in business. The trouble is, keeping up with technology is expensive. Russell tells the Journal Tribune, the cost of a new digital projector, added to the costs of upgrading the facilities to accommodate it, could add up to $90,000. To raise the money, the drive-in has posted an announcement on its Facebook page asking people to donate what they can. Those without Facebook accounts can contact Russell at sacodrivein(at)gmail.com for information. A number of fundraising events are also planned, including a comedy show.
The historic tavern in Freeport that bills itself as the “Birthplace of Maine” has closed abruptly and no one seems to know why. A sign on the door says Jameson Tavern is “closed until further notice,” but offers no explanation and apologizes for any inconvenience. It was built in 1779 and was a private residence until being converted into an inn and tavern in 1801. On its website, Jameson Tavern says it is the site of the signing of documents declaring Maine’s independence from Massachusetts in 1820. Attempts to reach the current owner have been unsuccessful. The building that houses the tavern as well as another business is currently for sale for $1.85 million.
The mayor of Auburn says it’s time for his city and Lewiston to explore sharing services again, a plan that was discussed several years ago but abandoned. Mayor Jonathan LaBonte says the cities could save millions of dollars per year by sharing costs for core services including police, fire and public works. He says the need is even greater now with tighter budgets and a potential $93 million cut in state revenue sharing to Maine cities and towns. In Lewiston-Auburn, those proposed cuts could mean between $4 million and $6 million less for the 2013-14 municipal budget. That could result in service reductions and higher property taxes. The Sun Journal, reports he says more cooperation between Auburn and Lewiston could be a model for other communities around the state.
A Maine judge is convening lawyers for two defendants in a prostitution scandal at a Zumba studio to determine how the case will proceed following a lengthy delay. Jury selection has been on hold for more than three weeks in the trial of Mark Strong Sr. after a judge dismissed 46 counts alleging violation of privacy of prostitution clients. The married insurance business owner still faces 13 other counts dealing with promotion of prostitution. Both Strong and Alexis Wright, who ran a fitness studio in Kennebunk, have pleaded not guilty. She’ll be tried later. Among the matters to be taken up Tuesday is a motion by Strong’s attorney to lift a gag order on attorneys. The earliest that jury selection could resume is Wednesday.
Maine lawmakers could vote this week on a $153 million supplemental budget.It’s in response to $88 million in extra Medicaid costs and $35 million in shortfalls because of a lagging economy.It would balance the budget year ending in June.The appropriations committee endorsed it last week. Now it’s up to the House and Senate to put it to a vote.Passing it would let lawmakers turn their attention to the new two-year budget, which begins on July 1st.The governor has proposed a $6.3 billion plan.
A second person has been charged in connection with what authorities call one of the biggest cocaine busts in Maine in recent memory. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency says 23-year-old Vanbopha “Stephanie” Nhoth was charged Thursday with cocaine possession in connection with the seizure of more than eight pounds of the drug after a traffic stop in Portland on Tuesday. Nhoth is the live-in girlfriend of Adam White, who was arrested Tuesday on trafficking charges after police seized cocaine from his car and his house in Falmouth. They also found a gun in the car. Police say the pure, uncut cocaine could be worth up to $374,000. Nhoth was a passenger in the car but was not initially charged. White was originally pulled over for speeding in a school zone.
A Maine company that wants to operate ferry service between Portland and Nova Scotia says it has an agreement to lease a new $165 million vessel and could start service this summer if it is awarded a contract. Quest Navigation Inc. of Eliot is one of two companies proposing to operate the service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Quest officials tell The Portland Press Herald, the vessel is 531-feet long, has 162 cabins, two restaurants and capacity for more than 1,200 passengers. The other company, Baltimore-based Maritime Applied Physics Corp., is an engineering firm that specializes in designing electro-mechanical systems for harsh environments. The Nova Scotia government is expected to decide this month whether to partner with one of the companies or issue another request for bids.
Organizers say the ice fishing will go on at this weekend’s derby but Sebago Lake is not an option. The Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby will happen as planned on Saturday and Sunday at other lakes and ponds in the region. Organizers say the recent storm has left conditions too variable on Sebago Lake, making the ice unsafe. They say the big lake has almost no ice and there are numerous pressure ridges along Jordan Bay with open water on either side. All prize pools from the Sebago Lake Derby have been shifted to the Cumberland County Derby.
Maine police have arrested a man wanted by authorities in Colorado on charges of sexual exploitation of a child. Police in Lisbon acting on information from the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force arrested 48-year-old Scott Helms on a fugitive from justice charge this week. Police say Helms is wanted by the Gilpin, Colo., County Sheriff’s Office on three felony counts of Internet sexual exploitation of a child and two felony counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child. Helms appeared Wednesday in district court in Lewiston and was held on $10,000 cash bail. Police say Helms has lived in Lisbon for several years. They did not disclose the exact nature of the alleged offenses. It was not clear if he had hired a lawyer.
Experts say unusually high phosphorous levels in Lake Auburn caused a fish-killing algae bloom last year, but what caused phosphorous levels to spike remains under investigation. A team of water quality experts and engineers hired by the Lake Auburn Water Protection Commission to investigate the fish kill team gave an initial report Wednesday night at Lewiston City Hall. The Sun Journal, reports that engineers say the high phosphorus levels could have been caused by runoff from the lake’s feeder streams and ponds or by a new species of alga, or a combination of the two. They also are trying to determine whether the bloom was an isolated event or a troubling trend, and how to stop it happening again. The bloom last September killed an estimated 200 trout.
The Livermore select board has voted to accept a nearly $41,000 settlement from an insurance company representing a Jay logger who harvested trees on about 10 acres of town land without permission. The board voted Tuesday to unanimously accept the payment, which represents the value of the trees removed from Memorial Forest last year, the cost of a property line survey and the cost of the timber valuation. Town Administrative Assistant Kurt Schaub tells the Sun Journal, no decision has been made on what will be done with the money. Officials say John Korhonen cut down trees on his own land then inadvertently harvested about 1,250 trees on town land. Schaub says it is a logger’s responsibility to know where property lines are.
A Westbrook man has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for a series of robberies last year. Paul Sans was also sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland to three years of probation and was ordered to pay more than $19,000 in restitution. He pleaded guilty in October to four counts of bank robbery and one count of interference with commerce by robbery. Prosecutors say the 30-year-old Sans robbed a Portland convenience store on Jan. 11, 2012, then hit Portland credit unions on Jan. 12 and 19, a Windham credit union on Feb. 7 and a Lewiston bank on Feb. 15. He and his getaway driver were caught fleeing the Lewiston robbery. That driver, Maria Mattson, was sentenced to more than four years in prison in December.
Maine’s highest court is preparing to weigh in on whether prostitution johns who were recorded without their knowledge have a right to privacy. A trial judge dismissed 46 invasion of privacy counts against Mark Strong Sr., who’s accused of viewing sex videos featuring men who were unaware that they were being recorded with a woman who’s accused of using her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution. Prosecutors are seeking to reinstate the charges. Arguments were scheduled for Wednesday in Portland. Strong also faces 13 other counts that deal with promotion of prostitution. He and dance instructor Alexis Wright have both pleaded not guilty.
A pest might be making its way back to Maine. The spruce budworm devastated Maine’s forests three decades ago. Spraying was done over East Millinocket in the early 80’s, which successfully rid Maine of the bugs, but experts say they might soon descend upon our state again. There’s a budworm outbreak in some parts of Canada, and there have been signs of the bugs in Maine.
A fire chief in Maine says three people have been hospitalized and one person is unaccounted for after an apparent home explosion. Chief Steve Hinds in Bath says the duplex was on fire when crews arrived on the scene on Bluff Road at about 5 a.m. Tuesday. Neighbors say they heard an explosion. He tells WMTW-TV, he suspects the fire was started by a propane or natural gas explosion. He says there is a quarter-mile debris field. An investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s office is on the way to the scene. No names were immediately released.
Bowdoin College wants to buy a former assisted living home in Brunswick and turn it into student housing, but some town officials are concerned about the impact it would have on the neighborhood. The college signed a purchase and sales agreement in November, but can’t turn the building into a dorm unless the town approves a requested zoning change. Town councilors voted 8-1 last week to send the request to the Planning Board. The Times Record, reports that Councilor Sarah Brayman worried about the college expanding beyond its traditional footprint. Councilor John Perreault worried the town was showing favoritism to the college that might not be extended to a private citizen.
A free dinner in Bar Harbor Tuesday will also raise some money for people in need.St. Saviour’s Parish is hosting the Community Valentine Dinner.All donations benefit the MDI Fire Fund, which supports victims of fires on Mount Desert Island.All are welcome.The event runs from 5:00 to 6:30, Tuesday night, in the Parish Hall of St. Savior’s Parish at 41 Mount Desert Street.
A memorial service was held in Vassalboro Monday for a 23 year veteran of the Maine Warden Service.Major Gregg Sanborn, 47, died last week after a battle with a rare type of lymphoma.Sanborn, a native of Fryeburg, was second in command at the Warden Service.He is survived by his wife, Deborah and son David, both of Sidney.
He’s not living large.That’s what a spokeswoman for Governor LePage says in response to a newspaper story that says taxpapers paid for $32,000 worth of food last year for the Blaine House kitchen.Blaine House Director Lynn Harvey says the governor hosts dinners for many people, including military families and potential state investors.Last week, a Blaine House tea party was held for up to eighty people who help military families.We’re told private groups sometimes help pay the way.