Thursday, August 29, 2002

Cape schools juggle budget changes

Published in the Current

An unexpected increase in federal funding has the Cape Elizabeth School Board breathing a bit easier in the current climate of concern over state budget cuts, but the specter of additional state cuts still looms.

For now, $39,800 in state cuts will be offset by an estimated $40,000 in federal grants for students who have additional needs but don’t qualify for special education.

“We’ve heard rumors there may be more,” said Business Manager Pauline Aportria.

The board has an additional $232,000 in surplus, beyond their expected end-of-year surplus of $285,000, as a result of $60,000 in state agency payments for special needs students and savings due to an end-of-fiscal-year spending freeze.

The board, meeting as its finance subcommittee, decided to use $200,000 of that additional surplus to begin a capital improvement fund. They expect to use some of that money to either offset the cost of the high school and Pond Cove renovation projects, or to perform some needed roof repairs, if the
renovation project fails to win voter approval.

The money could be reallocated to other purposes if, for example, additional state funding cuts meant the schools needed the money sooner. The Town Council would need to approve such a reallocation, Aportria said.

After a discussion of whether to keep additional money in an undesignated reserve to bring the district’s reserve funding up to 2 percent – the “generally accepted accounting principle” – the board gave up under budget pressure from the council in the spring.

Board member George Entwistle said keeping the reserve at 2 percent would provide the district a strong negotiating tool when returning to the council during this year’s budget process.

But board members agreed that putting the money in a building fund would be the wisest move, particularly because they could move it if needed.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said the $200,000 for building expenses could make a big dent in the initial years of any bond that would be passed for the project.

“Ultimately, it’s going to reduce the tax rate,” said board member Kevin Sweeney.

School Board chair and building subcommittee chair Marie Prager said the high school building project, in particular, had been projected to cost more than they had imagined.

The $9.2 million proposal from HKTA Architects is far more than an initial survey, conducted by SMRT Architects, which projected high school renovation costs at $2.5 million, Prager said.

The big jump, she said, would pay for “redoing the high school the way everyone thinks it should be done,” including staff requests and $2 million in site work. Prager said she expects to get 20 to 25 years of use out of the upcoming renovation, but the cost is too high right now.

“We will bring it down,” she said. She warned, however, that the cost would not be cut to $2.5 million.

In its regular August business meeting, which followed the finance subcommittee meeting, the Cape Elizabeth School Board hear the following reports:
–Middle School Principal Nancy Hutton said there will be 34 new students at the middle school this year, including 11 new eighth-graders. She said there were 17 seventh-graders participating in the laptop iTeam program, in which they will help their peers and teachers better use the laptop computers. Hutton also spoke about the middle school outdoor education trips to Camp Kieve and Chewonki, and fund-raising activity to pay for the trips.
– Superintendent Tom Forcella told about new district employees hired over the summer.
– Pond Cove School Principal Tom Eismeier said he is accepting questions to be answered during his upcoming trip to learn about education in Japan.
– High School Principal Jeff Shedd said the state has mandated all high schools have in place at the end of this school year a local assessment program ready for implementation in the fall.

Cape playgrounds get rave reviews

Published in the Current

Dozens of kids already have tried out the new playgrounds at Pond Cove and the middle school, and the reviews, from kids of all ages, is unanimously positive.

“There’s a tire swing there, there’s a trampoline there, and there’s a street sweeper,” said Will Downes, age 4, pointing out some of the new playground’s features.

“I think the playground looks beautiful,” said the well-spoken 4-year-old, who will start kindergarten this year. He went on to detail the virtues of the new slides (there are three) and several ladders, a climbing pole and a fireman’s pole.

“My favorite is the tire swing,” Downes said.

Mac Sweeney, 8, is eager for crews to put the finishing touches on the playground next to Pond Cove.

“I can’t wait until the other playgrounds open,” he said. But he is happy with what he’s seen so far. “I think it’s great,” he said.

Playground reconstruction was organized by CapePlay, with local support from Cape architect Pat Carroll and construction by Skip Murray and L.P. Murray and Sons construction.

Lisa Silverman-Gent, co-chair of CapePlay, said everything “went right on schedule.” She expects there will be a blacktop painting party in September to set up foursquare courts and other games on the blacktop areas near each playground.

The equipment was chosen by students, teachers, administrators and members of the public, Silverman-Gent said. She thanked members of the community for donations and support.

“The two school playgrounds could never have happened without the community,” she said.

The final phase of CapePlay’s efforts will be a new playground at Fort Williams, tentatively planned for the oak grove near the Day One offices. But that remains subject to approval by the Fort Williams Advisory Committee, Silverman-Gent said.

There is no timetable for that project, though CapePlay will need to raise roughly $90,000 to complete it, she said.

Silverman-Gent said that in addition to the Murray crews, who were “very generous” with their time, her co-chair Laura Briggs and volunteer Tina Harnden also played important roles in getting the project done.

Sex offender registry expanding

Published in the Current

Thousands of people convicted of sexual crimes are required under a revised state law to register with their local police department by Sept. 1 – a mandate the Maine Civil Liberties Union believes should be challenged in court.

At issue is how far the state wants to go back in a person’s criminal record. Originally the state’s sex offender registration law required that all people convicted of gross sexual assault of minors, which includes rape, since June 30, 1992, had to register with state and local police. In 1999 the legislature expanded the law to include a number of other offenses, ranging from unlawful sexual contact to nonparental kidnapping. From that date forward, all people convicted of those offenses also had to register.

In September 2001, the state Legislature made the 1999 law retroactive to the original 1992 date. All offenders convicted of any of the crimes since 1992 are required to register by Sept. 1 of this year.

The backward-looking expansion of the law is expected to add about 3,300 people to the sex offender registry. In mid-July the list held about 750 names, some of which were duplicates. The new list is projected to include 4,000 people.

Registration happens at the police station in the town where the offender lives, and involves appearing at the police station and giving a photograph and a set of fingerprints to the police, as well as providing proof of address, according to Lt. Jackie Theriault of the State Bureau of Identification, a part of the Maine State Police.

Local police send the information to the state, where it is compiled into a statewide registry.

Local police also have to decide whether to notify neighbors of the offender.

Neighbors of registered sex offenders are not always notified. Theriault said this is up to local authorities, who can decide whether to tell neighbors, and how wide an area to alert, if notification occurs.

“We deal with them on a case-bycase basis,” said Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton.

“You’re walking a tightrope,” he said, between the public’s right to know and the registrant’s right to privacy. He said generally the department would notify the neighbors about someone classified as a “sexually violent predator” and would be less likely to notify people about a registrant classed as a “sex offender,” the other designation on the registry. Violent predators include those who are repeat offenders and first-time offenders who have committed especially serious sexual crimes.

“It depends on the offense,” Moulton said, and on the department’s perception of risk to the community.

Moulton said the town has four offenders registered, and police have notified neighbors two or three times in the last two or three years. They have confined that notification to the immediate neighborhood where the registrant lives.

Moulton said some registrants have “settled in” even after notification, while others have left. He said the department has not been notified of any retribution problems, with neighbors harassing or otherwise targeting registrants for abuse. Moulton also said he has not had problems with registered sex offenders committing further sex offenses while in town.

Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams said the town has not been home to any registered sex offenders since the law took effect. “We’ve been lucky,” Williams said. He said a small number of offenders have visited people in town or worked in town, but had not caused any problems and had not stayed very long.

If a sex offender were to move to town or if an existing resident were to be required to register, Williams said, “we would probably notify the neighborhood.”

How it works
Maine’s sex offender registry was created in 1991 by the state Legislature, which required that beginning June 30, 1992, offenders convicted of gross sexual assault of minors under the age of 14 register with state and local police when they were released from prison or immediately after conviction, if the sentence did not include jail time.

Convicted offenders were required to tell police where they lived. If they did not change residence, re-registration was not required, according to Theriault. In 1995, the Legislature changed the law to include offenders convicted of gross sexual assault of a victim under age 18. That law became effective in 1996.

In 1999, the Legislature expanded the law to apply to 12 other lesser offenses: gross sexual assault as a sexually violent crime, sexual exploitation of a minor, sexual abuse of minors, unlawful sexual contact, visual sexual aggression against a child, sexual misconduct with a child under age 14, kidnapping (nonparental), criminal restraint, violation of privacy, incest, aggravated promotion of prostitution (victim under age 18) and patronizing prostitution of a minor.

The 1999 law applied only to offenders convicted after the law took effect. It also created two separate categories of registrants, “sex offender” and the repeat offender or “sexually violent predator.” The latest revision, in September 2001, rolled back the time frame on the new offenses to June of 1992.

Sex offenders are required to register annually for 10 years after release from prison or sentencing, if there is no prison time involved. Sexually violent predators are required to register every 90 days for the rest of their lives.

In each case, the registry mails a registration form, which cannot be forwarded, to the last known address of the offender. Registrants must take the form and a recent photo to the local police department, where police will verify their identities and take a set of fingerprints.

The records are then sent back to the registry office in Augusta, where the list is updated if necessary. Registrants must also pay $25 per year in administrative fees, Theriault said.

If registrants move, they have 10 days to notify the state registry office, whether the new home is in Maine or outside the state. If moving out of Maine to a state with a sex offender law of its own, a registrant must also notify the authorities in that state.

Similarly, sex offenders convicted in other states where they are required to register, must also notify Maine police if they move into the state.

Criticism of retroactive change
The Maine Civil Liberties Union is criticizing the sex offender registry for covering too broad a range of crimes and, in particular, the new requirement to register people convicted as long ago as 10 years ago.

“In our view, requiring someone to register can often amount to punishment,” said Louise Roback, the MCLU’s executive director, who recently came to Maine from a position as the executive director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, where she dealt with sex offender registry issues, among other concerns.

Roback said imposing punishments is the role of the courts and not the legislature. Further, she said, imposing additional punishments for crimes committed in the past could be a violation of constitutional rights.

Once a person serves their time in prison or on parole or probation, Roback said, “they have paid their debt to society. ”

Further, some of the people now required to register, she said, are criminals who committed an offense long ago and may not have run afoul of the law since. “It is unusual to go back so many years,” she said.

Roback said listing on a sex offender registry tars the reputation of a person who may be on the way back to productive participation in mainstream society.

It may, she said, also result in “severe incidents of vigilantism,” which she said she saw in New York.

Roback said she understands the intent of the law, and said it seems to be legitimate. “People wanted to protect their children from child molesters,” she said. But now the list of offenses requiring registration is too large, she said.

“Legislators just can’t stop” adding offenses to the list for which registration is required. The list presently includes at least three crimes not directly related to sex acts or sexual behavior: non-parental kidnapping, criminal restraint and violation of privacy.

Not enough protection
Further, legislators who say the sex offender registry protects children are ignoring a major source of sex offenses against children.

“The vast majority of sex offenses committed against children are committed in the home by people that the parents trust,” Roback said. A sex offender registry does nothing about that, she said.

If the idea was for people to take action to protect themselves and their children from sex offenders, Roback said, the defenses are misdirected.

“The real danger is something that parents are overlooking,” she said.

She is not opposed to “reasonable measures” taken by parents and legislators to protect children from sexual predators. But she said creating lists serves only to drive offenders “underground,” and prevents them from seeking services they may need to be healthy, functioning members of their communities.

“It does tend to ostracize people from society,” Roback said.

Challenging the law
Roback said the MCLU is open to considering a challenge to the law, and is hoping to hear from sex offenders affected by the law change, who feel they are being wronged by the new requirement to register. “We haven’t heard from anyone complaining about it,” she said.

Often, she said, convicted criminals are reluctant to stand up for their rights, because filing a lawsuit would require them to identify themselves as sex offenders. She did say that anonymous lawsuits could be a possibility.

She said challenging this law is important because it may violate constitutional protection against what is called “ex post facto” legislation, or laws that outlaw behaviors that have already occurred, or add punishments to sentences handed down in the past.

In the meantime, state officials are encouraging anyone who thinks they might need to register to contact state police, rather than risk violating the law.

“I want them to call us and we’ll help them,” said Lt. Theriault. If people do not register, they are in violation of state law and can be charged with a Class D misdemeanor offense.

Nursing home makes changes after death

Published in the Current

Improvements have been made at the Viking Community Nursing Home – where an Alzheimer’s patient wandered off and died earlier this month – but the facility is still being fined for what the state calls “substandard” care.

The finding of “immediate jeopardy” has been lifted, according to Helen Mulligan, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. But not all the problems have been fixed.

“The facility isn’t in total compliance,” Mulligan said. It is considered to be providing “substandard quality of care,” because of problems with record keeping and security, she said.

As a result, Viking is being fined $350 per day from Aug. 23, and is not eligible for Medicare payments for new admissions, she said. If the nursing home does not fix the problems, Mulligan said, its Medicare payment
agreement for existing patients will be terminated Feb. 13, 2003.

The nursing home remains in violation of federal requirements to prohibit “mistreatment, neglect and abuse of residents and misappropriation of resident property,” and to complete “a comprehensive care plan within seven days” of patient needs assessment, Mulligan said.

The Viking is the subject of state and federal scrutiny following the Aug. 9 death of Shirley Sayre, 77, who wandered out of a secure unit at the Viking and drowned in a culvert across Scott Dyer Road.

An initial investigation by state regulators found the nursing home placed several residents in “immediate jeopardy.” A $3,050 fine per day was levied Aug. 12 and remained in place until Aug. 22, requiring the Viking to pay$33,550 for that infraction.

Corrections plan accepted
Viking sent a plan of corrections to the state Department of Human Services Aug. 22, according to department spokesman Newell Augur. It has been accepted, after some minor revisions, he said.

State inspectors paid a surprise visit to the Viking the following day. “It wouldn’t have made any sense for us to go in before they’d filed a plan of corrections,” Augur said. Once a plan had been filed, though, the state wanted to check on things quickly, especially given the prospect of the Viking losing federal funding without a successful inspection, he said.

Door locks and alarms that had been malfunctioning during the Aug. 12 investigation had been fixed by the end of that day, and remained functional Aug. 23, Augur said. Individual care plans had been updated by Aug. 23, Augur said, but that’s not quite enough.

“They have completed the care plans for all the patients in the facility,” he said. “They haven’t proven to us that they can set up a system” to prevent future care plans from being incomplete.

Augur said the plan of corrections provides a strategy for doing just that, but it has not been tested yet.

Duane Rancourt, administrator at the Viking, said all the necessary corrections have been made and he is waiting for word from regulators that will allow the nursing home to admit new patients.

The biggest adjustment for staff and visitors is the keypad to get in and out of the building, he said. The code to the keypad is posted at the door, but he said that doesn’t give dementia patients an opportunity to get out because “they have a hard time with sequential things.”

Rancourt and the Viking staff also are taking advantage of a temporary slowdown in business to relocate the Medicare unit to the long-term care unit, a change that he had planned for some time, he said.

And despite regulatory criticism and scrutiny, the Viking is getting support from many family members of current and former patients.

Community support
One family member of a recent Viking Community patient, who asked not to be identified, told the Current that he was satisfied with what he called “excellent care” from Viking staff. He also said, “Alzheimer’s can strike anybody, and it always ends in death.” He went on to express support for the staff of the Viking, whom he said were “doing the best they can” dealing with patients with challenging conditions.

Selvin Hirshon, whose wife was an Alzheimer’s patient at the Viking for close to seven years before her death in February, said he strongly supports the Viking.

“I think it’s one of the best nursing homes” in the area, he said. Before moving his wife into the Viking, he said, he looked at “at least half a dozen nursing homes around here” and chose the Viking. “I think very highly of it," he said.

Hirshon said he has spoken with other family members of Viking residents who feel similarly. He said he knows a number of the staff, too, after spending “300 days a year for nearly seven years” visiting his wife. He said the staff and administration, including administrator Rancourt, “go out of their way” to be friendly to residents and to make it a nice place to live and work.

“I would give it a very high rating,” Hirshon said.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Laptops arrive in local schools

Published in the Current

Defying state budget cuts and legislative criticism, delivery truck drivers dropped off precious cargo at middle schools across Maine in the past week. The word raced down school hallways and into administrative offices, quiet with students home for summer: Laptops!

Indeed, contrary to the wishes of some state legislators and fulfilling the dreams of middle school teachers and administrators, 160 Macintosh iBook laptop computers arrived at Cape Elizabeth Middle School Aug. 13, according to Gary Lanoie, the district technology coordinator.

“We’re very excited,” said Principal Nancy Hutton.

Judging from traffic on the state’s educational technology e-mail, Lanoie said, it appeared that most districts across the state received their laptops last week. The new arrivals are to equip each seventh-grade student with a personal laptop computer, to be taken from class to class throughout the day,
and even home from school at certain times and under certain circumstances.

About 20 laptops arrived in Cape at the end of June, so teachers could familiarize themselves with the equipment before having to teach students to use them.

Lanoie and a two-person staff have the grueling task of configuring 160 laptops to look and operate exactly alike. There is software to help with the project, but the real challenge is setting up an initial computer installation, which can then be “cloned” to the rest of the computers, Lanoie said.

Part of the problem is that the computers have multiple layers of security restrictions, and installations must take them into account, to ensure that students neither have too much access to software and settings, or too little.

Fortunately, Lanoie said, tech coordinators around the state are working together and collaborating via e-mail to solve the problems that arise. Lanoie himself found a good piece of software for cloning computers, and sent a note to his colleagues about how to make it work most effectively.

There is also a hefty manual of suggested policies and procedures for districts to use when handing out the laptops to students, and administering their use.

“There seems to have been a lot of thought in preparing the program,” Lanoie said.

He will also have some help on the ground: 19 seventh-graders have signed up to be what Lanoie is calling the “iTeam,” kids who will help each other and their teachers handle the small everyday glitches of computer use, and who can assist Lanoie in troubleshooting problems as the computers are used throughout the school.

Because of state budget woes, the laptop program was in limbo for much of the past year, and school officials were constantly qualifying planning around the laptops with phrases like “if the laptops arrive.”

The state endowment intended to pay for the program over the course of the next four years has been raided several times by Gov. Angus King to cover an increasing state budget shortfall, but the account still has money in it.

State Attorney General Steven Rowe had advised the governor earlier this summer that the state could break the contract it made with Apple to provide the laptops, additional equipment and training, but breaking the deal could cost as much as it would to go forward, according to Rowe’s interpretation of the contract.

Legislators had criticized the program because of its anticipated cost: $37.2 million over four years, which they said could be used for other things.

But the first phase of the project is in place. Next year will see another large shipment of laptops, to equip each eighth-grader with a machine as well.

Now that the laptops are here, the focus is on using them. Cape’s seventh-grade teachers are excited about the prospect and have said they are looking forward to seeing how they can use them, despite some trepidation about what the changes may mean when classes start using laptops in earnest.

School renovation wish list hits $12 million

Published in the Current

After months of anticipating a $5 million to $6 million renovation plan for the high school and Pond Cove School, Cape Elizabeth school officials were surprised to learn last week that the price tag will be closer to $12 million.

At a building committee meeting Aug. 15, the board learned a comprehensive high school renovation could cost as much as $9.2 million, with a Pond Cove expansion slated to add nearly $2.7 million more.

After seeing the dollar figures, School Board Chair and building committee chair Marie Prager said, “I think everyone’s in shock.” The group had been operating under the assumption that the cost would be much lower.

The latest project designs, created by Bob Howe of Portland’s HKTA Architects, include a wide range of options that are likely to be pared significantly.

In an earlier meeting with Howe, Superintendent Tom Forcella and other school representatives had indicated a number of sections of the proposals that would not be part of a final project.

“It seems to me as if everything is included,” Forcella said when he saw the HKTA plans. Howe said the plans were a result of extensive discussions with school faculty and staff, and included ways to meet a “wish list” developed during those discussions.

“We’ve accommodated a lot of the wishes, (but) not all the wishes, ”Howe said. If the costs need to be reduced, he said, that is up to the schools. “As we explained early on, this isn’t going to be an easy process,” he said.

Prager said the building committee and the School Board need to “look at what we really need and what we can live without.”

Town Manager Mike McGovern, present at the meeting, said a new high school could cost as much as $40 million.

Howe agreed, saying, “these renovation costs are rather modest, considering the size of the building.”

Forcella said he would explore the possibility of having school maintenance staff perform some of the work in-house, which would lower labor costs and also reduce administrative expenses.

Reworking the interior
The high school renovation would have two major thrusts: redoing public spaces used by all students and by the community at large, and reconfiguring classroom and administrative space for improved academic and management use.

It would remake the locker rooms, now poorly ventilated and not handicapped-accessible, resurface the gym floor and add new gym bleachers, expand the cafeteria, reconfigure former kindergarten classrooms into high school class space, rearrange the school’s administrative and guidance offices and add at least 100 parking spaces.

Throughout the school, the proposal would upgrade the electrical and smoke detection systems, repaint or re-floor nearly every room and replace the school-wide intercom system by putting a telephone in each classroom.

McGovern said he anticipated there was as much as $1 million in project work that could be done in-house for a cost of closer to $200,000.

A new set of gym bleachers was included in the cost. The new seats would be fixed to the wall, with a motor to roll them out. Forcella said that might be overkill. “We rarely would need the seating that we have,” he said. He suggested Howe look into bleachers Forcella has seen at other schools that roll around the gym and can be arranged in a variety of positions to meet different audience needs.

Also slated for renovation is the school auditorium, which could get new seating, carpeting and lighting.

Another issue is what Howe called a “thrust stage,” a homemade addition to the front of the stage that slants down and toward the audience. It was not a part of the original design of the stage and blocks several large air return vents, limiting the ventilation of the entire auditorium, Howe said.

As much as $1.7 million of the total cost would be for work outside the building, creating new parking spaces, re-grading the hill at the main entrance to the building and providing handicapped access to the track and soccer field.

McGovern suggested scaling that work back significantly, reworking the entrance to the school and paving a couple of dirt areas already used for parking. “You could save a million bucks right there,” he said.

‘Looks like a bargain’
In comparison to the $9.2 million high school, the $2.7 million Pond Cove additions appeared cheap to the group. “The elementary school looks like a bargain,” Forcella said.

A new two-story wing housing classrooms, arts and multi-purpose space would be constructed between the town fire station and the playground.

The primary focus of the addition will be to provide space for the kindergarten classes, which have previously been housed in the high school.

The addition is more straightforward, Howe said, because all of the space and fixtures will be new, and modifications will only be made to the existing building so that the new space connects well. The cost of the new wing will be $2.4 million.

An additional $267,000 would pay for a new art room off the connection corridor between the two major sections of the building. It would also offer a new entryway from the paved courtyard between the Thomas Memorial Library and the school.

The building committee had asked Howe to break out the cost of the art room from the cost of the new wing because the two spaces are not contiguous and would serve substantially different functions.

Setting priorities
A group including Prager, Forcella, School Board finance chair Elaine Moloney and high school administrators is expected to meet in early September to set priorities for the project, in terms of what work to do first, what to phase in over time, and what not to do at all.

Moloney said she wanted to know what would happen if things were cut from what she called “this grand scheme,” and whether there was a chance any of the work might get done in the next 20 years, the projected life of the renovation.

Forcella said no. “If we don’t put it in this plan, it’s not going to happen,” he said.

“This is the time to decide what we can live with,” Prager said, anticipating significant cuts.

McGovern said the middle school and Pond Cove renovation 10 years ago cost $11.7 million. He warned that traffic and parking will be an ongoing issue for the school buildings.

“At some point you’re going to need another exit out of the high school area,” he said.

He also said that though the numbers might look less scary when residents see how much debt the town is paying off each year, the schools will still need to “sell it to the council and sell it to the town.”

Cape town councilors have said in the past that they are likely to send the proposal to a referendum, though state law does not require them to.

In response to a question from Moloney, Howe said “marketing” of the plan should begin in October, when final numbers have been set.

Though the numbers may look large, Prager asked committee members to keep a cool head. “I think we shouldn’t freak out now,” she said.

Howe gave them “everything they want” in the proposal, and the time has come to make changes and cuts to the project.

“There’s a lot more here than we really need,” Prager said. But still, cuts won’t come easily. “This is going to be hard,” she said.

Cape readies for school start Aug. 29

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth schools are getting set for school to begin Aug. 29, and returning students will see a few changes this year.

At Pond Cove School, new playgrounds may be in place in time for school to start, or soon thereafter, according to Principal Tom Eismeier. Erik Nielsen will start as a permanent fourth-grade teacher, and two other new teachers will be filling in for people on leave, Eismeier said.

Some furniture has changed hands, too. “There was a fair amount of room switching,” he said.

At the middle school, the big news is the laptops, according to Principal Nancy Hutton. “We’re very excited,” she said. Laptop computers have arrived for the seventh graders and are being readied for distribution in the first couple of weeks of school.

Also new this year will be the week that seventh-graders go to Camp Kieve as part of their outdoor education program. Rather than after Thanksgiving, as in the past, Hutton said the trip will happen in October.

At the high school, the science curriculum is the largest change, with freshmen starting a new science class sequence, starting with physics and moving to chemistry, and biology in subsequent years, followed by a science elective senior year, said Principal Jeff Shedd.

This places a large load on the science teachers during the transition, in which juniors and freshmen will be studying physics, though they will use very different approaches, including different textbooks, mathematical complexities and experiments, Shedd said.

All high school teachers will have time off each week with other members of their departments, to work on assessment planning. “It will be a real stimulus
to teachers working together, ” Shedd said.

District-wide, teachers will continue to work on curriculum and professional development on their own time, said Superintendent Tom Forcella. The district is also beginning a partnership with a district in Pennsylvania and one in Missouri, to “move our districts to another level,” Forcella said.

The alliance, which Forcella said will expand to as many as four other districts in the eastern part of the U.S., is modeled on a similar program in several western states. The first meeting of the three districts will be in October, and will begin to address the issues schools have in common, aside from state funding issues commonly discussed at intra-state gatherings of schools. The idea is to make the districts stronger on a larger scale than just Maine, Forcella said.

“Our kids compete nationally and, eventually, globally,” he said.

Budget cuts also weigh on Forcella and school officials. Cape’s state funding for schools was cut by $40,000 over the summer, and Forcella thinks it’s not over yet. “This is just the beginning,” he said, noting that state budget deficit figures are projected to increase to as much as $1 billion in the next three years.

Forcella said the district has been hard-pressed to find qualified science, foreign language and special education teachers during the summer hiring processes. He said the problem is there are fewer applicants for available
positions, and added that many foreign language teacher training programs prepare people to teach high school students. Much of the need, especially in Cape Elizabeth, he said, is for primary-level foreign language teachers.

Idle teens clash with cops on Cape

Published in the Current; co-written with Brendan Moran

Cape Elizabeth Police Officer Mark Dorval was driving on Shore Road late one night in early June when he spotted several large dark objects blocking the road. He swerved and nearly hit them.

When he got out of his car, he found 10 rocks that had been removed from a wall at a Delano Park entrance. The largest rock weighed 120 pounds. Police
believe the rocks were laid across the road by teenagers and could have killed someone if police hadn’t discovered them first.

The rocks were just one example of what police and Town Manager Mike McGovern say has been a problem in Cape this summer: teenagers partying and vandalizing. Cape teenagers say they’re not always to blame; kids from other communities sometimes do the vandalism. They also complain they have nothing to do in town, and police spend most of their time chasing after them.

Although police and McGovern attributed most of the vandalism to a small percentage of the kids in town, they said it has been worse this year than in past years. “Every time (teenagers) tend to congregate, there are problems,” said Police Chief Neil Williams.

“I think the big problem is most officers see a group of kids and immediately think the kids are smoking pot and drinking,” said Joe Thornton, 18. “If you want to go hang out at (Kettle Cove) and you’re honestly not smoking or
drinking, I don’t think there’s a reason to be chasing us out of there.”

McGovern said he’s seen teenage criminal mischief go in cycles. Police dealt with a spike in teenage crime a couple years ago. Things have quieted down
since then. But this summer they’ve seen a resurgence.

Williams said police are making twice as many arrests this year as they were at this time last year. Calls to police that used to stop by 1 or 2 a.m. are continuing until 3:30 or 4 a.m.

McGovern did not want to describe all the vandalism that has occurred, because he is afraid other teenagers will copy the vandalism that has already been committed.

But in the last several months, cars have been broken into; mailboxes have been damaged; the Little League shack at Lions Field was damaged; the Snack Shack at Crescent Beach was broken into; two trees at the high school were chopped down; and the word “Stags,” the Cheverus mascot, was written with grass killer at the high school track.

“It’s all connected to kids partying and drinking,” said Detective Paul Fenton. “Anything that’s in their path home will be destroyed.”

Nothing to do
Teenagers who spoke to the Current didn’t deny that some party and some even vandalize property. They said part of the problem is that after dark neither teenagers or police have much to do in Cape.

They said teenagers from other towns have caused some of the vandalism. They also said that some teenagers vandalize property on the way home from parties that have been broken up by police.

“There really is nothing for teenagers to do in this town,” said Alex Herbert, 17. “So a lot of teenagers go out in the woods and start a fire and have a good time. And I think that kind of adds to the problem.”

“It’s not even Cape kids who do it,” said Anthony Struzziero, 15. “A lot of South Portland kids come into town and mess with stuff.”

Teenagers complained that police spend all their time going after them. They said police often pull over cars if they see that it’s full of teenagers. When they go to Kettle Cove or Fort Williams to party, they said, police go out of their way to find them, sometimes using a night-vision scope.

“I’ve been in an experience where what we were doing was wrong, but I felt cops going out of their way to find out what we were doing was (itself) wrong,” said Herbert.

“I think we’re unfairly targeted, just because they really don’t have anything else to do. There’s not enough real crime in this town,” said Sam McCarthy, 18.

But police feel like they have plenty to do. Williams said they’re getting so many calls on nights and weekends that they could use more officers at those

“It’s difficult for police to pick on kids,” said Fenton. He said police are too busy with calls and patrols to go after kids who aren’t causing trouble. He also said breaking up parties limits noise complaints and prevents criminal activity that happens when parties end on their own.

“I feel even if they are targeting kids, there’s a reason to because lately there’s been a lot of property damage,” said Lindsay Tinsman, 19, the daughter of Dispatcher Greg Tinsman.

Nowhere to go
In June, the Cape Town Council ran into another rock, “the rock,” as it’s known, after residents who live across from it wrote a letter threatening legal action if the town didn’t curb the partying and graffiti. The residents, Dennis and Ann Flavin, complained the graffiti was ugly and often laden with obscenities.

They also complained that the graffiti writing was often accompanied by loud partying.

Some teenagers and parents, however, argued painting the rock was a tradition. While the tradition has been considered a positive one by many since teenagers painted a flag after Sept. 11, McGovern said in past years painting the rock has often been linked to drinking.

The Town Council decided to resolve the debate by having police crack down on activity at the rock after dark.

Now the rock has become one more place where kids can’t be after dark, perpetuating a pattern that has been in Cape for years. Teenagers get together in a place where they’re not supposed to be, and police ask them to move.

“That’s happened forever,” said McGovern. “But, you know, the folks down at Kettle Cove deserve their peace too.”

“They want a place to congregate, and there is no good place,” said Chief Williams.

The new Community Center will open later this month. But the center will be devoted mostly to seniors. And even if some of the space at the center were devoted to teens, it wouldn’t necessarily help.

“We’d still do the same stuff,” said Struzziero. “There would be less of it, but the kids who want to party will go out and party.”

“The mischief that happens in Cape, an awful lot of it happens between 1:30 and 3 a.m.,” said McGovern. “I don’t think there’s anything the town could provide at that time.”

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Rabies watch on in Cape

Published in the Current

As 11 Cape residents, children and adults, continue treatment for possible exposure to rabies during a fox attack on a little girl at a Cape day-care center, residents and authorities remain cautious about further incidents.

The girl, a 2-1/2 year old, missed one day before returning to the Funny Farm Daycare on Old Ocean House Road, according to Lisa Rockwell, an owner of the business. The other children and adults are back at the day-care center as well, she said.

Cape police say they are watchful for rabid animals in town, but caution residents not to panic.

Capt. Brent Sinclair said last week’s incident is unusual. He said residents who see a nocturnal animal during daylight hours should go inside and call
the police, but said that outdoor recreation and relaxation are still safe.

Sinclair added that police will kill any wild animal that they suspect of being rabid, preferring to be on the safe side rather than wait for the animal to be
involved in an encounter with humans or pets.

The police station also has available rabies information fliers from the state Division of Disease Control. Police have gotten inquiries from members of the public concerned about rabies and rabid animals in town.

At a Town Council meeting Monday, council Chairman Jack Roberts said people should not be afraid to go outside, but suggested they consider carrying a stick with which to defend themselves should they encounter a rabid animal.

Geoff Beckett, an assistant state epidemiologist with the Maine Bureau of Health, said even with a recent rabid animal attack, such an incident is unlikely to recur. “It is unusual for people to be attacked by wild animals,” he said.

Beckett also said there have been no cases of humans contracting rabies after contact with raccoons, foxes, skunks or other land animals in the past 20 years. That is because people know they have been bitten, he said, and seek treatment.

There are, he said, fewer than three cases a year in which humans have unknowingly been infected with rabies, “virtually all” through contact with bats.

Beckett said that discussion of the strains of rabies virus, notably the distinctions between “fox rabies” and “raccoon rabies,” should be left to epidemiologists, as the effects on humans of either variety of the rabies virus is “exactly the same.”

The fox attack was not the first encounter between humans and rabid animals in Cape this year, though it was certainly the scariest.

On July 10, a rabid gray fox approached humans and dogs on a deck outside a residence near Two Lights State Park.

One dog and a human forced the fox off the deck and it retreated into nearby woods, where it was located and destroyed.

On July 17, two police officers shot a rabid raccoon several times as it showed aggression toward the,.

Animal Control Officer Bob Leeman warned residents to keep a close eye on their pets when outdoors and to take care even when walking pets on a leash. The aggressive nature of the rabid animals so far this year is a concern, he said, and people need to pay attention.

Woman leaves nursing home, dies

Published in the Current

State investigators have finished an inquiry into the death of a Cape Elizabeth woman who walked out of a secure area at the Viking Community nursing home and drowned in a culvert just down the street. A report is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

Shirley Sayre, 77, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, had lived in Portland growing up, and worked in Portland and South Portland. She attended local Baptist churches and participated in various church activities, including teaching Sunday school for many years.

She was a resident of the Viking Community nursing home on Scott Dyer Road, and was living in a secure area of that facility, used to house and care for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, when she somehow got out.

Her family has declined comment on the investigation.

At Sayre’s funeral, her son, Stuart, who also lives in Cape Elizabeth, said his mother was “a wonderful mother who was always there for me.” He remembered her as a patient mother, who was loving and insightful.

He said he confided in her about personal issues, and also enjoyed discussing a wide variety of topics with her. He expressed great gratitude to her for teaching him to read and to love reading and writing. At one time, he said, she was frustrated because she had read through entire sections of the libraries in Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

Shirley Sayre’s sister, Charlotte Russell of South Portland, remembered taking trips with Shirley and their friends, and enjoying each other’s company while reading or in the company of family, friends and loved ones.

Stuart expressed sorrow at not knowing when to say goodbye to his mother, as she entered “her deep descent into the mind-robbing illness named Alzheimer’s. ”

Sayre was put to bed just before 11 p.m., Aug. 8, according to an appeal for help sent to local media outlets by the Cape Elizabeth Police Department the following morning.

A bed check a short time later revealed that she was not in her bed, and a subsequent check of the grounds failed to locate her.

Cape police were notified Sayre was missing at 12:57 a.m., according to dispatch records, and a search began. She was found dead just after 9 a.m., Aug. 9, in a culvert on Scott Dyer Road.

The search involved members of the Cape fire, rescue and police departments, as well as the WET team, Maine Warden Service and the Maine State Police.

Fire Chief Philip McGouldrick, who coordinates search and rescue efforts in the town, said searchers were out all night. They looked in the stream behind the Viking, and along roads and trails near the nursing home.

McGouldrick said searchers kept to existing paths because a police dog from South Portland was working to sniff out where Sayre was, and they didn’t want to contaminate the dog’s search area with lots of human scent.

“We weren’t getting into the woods because we didn’t want to confuse the dog,” McGouldrick said.

Firefighters also used thermal imaging cameras, usually used to help them find concealed areas that are still burning in building fires. In this case, McGouldrick said, they would show a warm person as distinct from surrounding vegetation or buildings, which would be cooler.

In the morning, searchers hadn’t found anything, and regrouped to do a visual search of the area.

Sayre’s body was found by a state warden, floating face-down in a pool of water in the culvert, McGouldrick said. The state medical examiner determined that the death was caused by drowning.

And though searchers had passed by the location several times during the night, he said it would have been hard to spot in the dark.

“They barely saw her in the daytime,” McGouldrick said.

Sayre’s daughter-in-law, Lynne Sayre, said the family “could not say enough” to thank the people who searched all night. “We are so moved,” she said, “by their compassion and passion for what they do.”

Doreen Hunt, the acting administrator at the Viking, refused to comment, saying there was an investigation going on about the incident. On Aug. 9, Hunt faxed a short statement to local media outlets that said Sayre apparently wandered off a secure unit and out of the building unnoticed by staff.”

Newell Augur, a spokesman for the Department of Human Services, said the agency’s investigation was routine in all cases of what he called “elopement,” in which a patient in a secure area of a nursing home leaves without the knowledge of the staff.

He said that regular inspection visits to the Viking Community earlier in the year had turned up what he called “the normal amount of deficiencies” for a nursing home of its size. And while there was a shortcoming in the number of day staff for each patient, Augur said the deficiency was “not alarming” and had not included problems with patient supervision by nighttime staff.

McGouldrick said the Viking’s secure areas are locked by keypad access. Doors won’t open without people punching in the correct code, he said. McGouldrick also said it may never be known exactly how Sayre got out of the building.

Thursday, August 8, 2002

War protesters, residents look for Bush

Published in the Current

Supporters of President Georg e W. Bush and those critical of his policies lined Black Point Road Aug. 3, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president and show their feelings.

The largest group was between 60 and 80 protesters of all ages, organized by Peace Action Maine and the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace. The main theme was “no new war in Iraq,” according to Greg Field, the executive director of Peace Action Maine.

“The administration is clearly moving towards war,” Field said. He urged the government to seek other alternatives to economic sanctions and bombing. “Support for the people of Iraq is not support for Saddam Hussein,” Field said.

The protest was originally scheduled to take place at the corner of routes 77 and 207, but was moved, at the request of Scarborough police, to the driveway of the Scarborough Sanitary District, opposite the entrance to Scarborough Beach State Park.

Field said he had no objection to being moved closer to the presidential event, and said the police had also told protesters to stay on one side of the road, rather than lining both sides.

Field said a number of Bush administration decisions needed more attention, including plans to invade Iraq. “Terrorism is impossible to fight by landing troops,” Field said, charging Bush with “using the tragedy of 9/11 as a pretext” for attacking Saddam Hussein.

He also said new laws intended to increase domestic security needed review. “The Bush administration isn’t making us more secure,” Field said.

He suggested the government enter negotiations with the Iraqi government to deal with the poverty in that country, and to begin economic development programs in Iraq.

Elizabeth, a protester from Cape Elizabeth who asked that her last name not be used, said she opposed military action in Iraq. “I don’t think it’s a good solution to the problem,” she said.

She encouraged the U.S. to send food and medicine to Iraq and back off military spending, as well as working with other world leaders to deal with global social issues.

Jack Bussell of Portland, a retired U.S. Army warrant officer and board member of the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace, said he wanted to “abolish war as an instrument of foreign policy. ”

Arguing that war should serve a higher purpose, Bussell said, “Veterans have given their lives in battle in the hopes that their sacrifice will advance the cause of world peace.”

He said a huge segment of the U.S. economy serves the military-industrial complex, and suggested that factories convert their production for peaceful means.

“Suppose Bath Iron Works built Stealth hospital ships,” Bussell said, that could be used to “sneak into” foreign harbors and treat sick children.

He said the nation had a “unique opportunity” after Sept. 11 to “step back and look at the causes” of violence and terrorism. He then suggested that the entire nation take a “30-day retreat” to “sit back and look at ourselves,” to answer the question, “what is America all about?”

The protest attracted honks of support from passing cars and peace signs from people in SUVs.

It also found its share of counterprotesters. One man slowly cycled by saying repeatedly, “Anyone wearing petroleum products, please put down your sign.”

Another man ran up and down the line carrying an American flag and a “Steven Joyce for Congress” sign, chanting “We support the president.”

Elsewhere on Black Point Road, people gathered in smaller groups on their front lawns, setting out chairs to try to get a glimpse of the president as his motorcade went by.

And though Bush arrived by boat from Kennebunkport, there was a motorcade of large black SUVs that went down the road, as people waved from the roadside.

One family parked their RV in the front of their driveway, to be able to sit in air-conditioned comfort during the wait for the motorcade.

As the afternoon wore on, Scarborough police, acting at the direction of the Secret Service, closed off a large section of Black Point Road, from the intersection with Route 77. Several Prouts Neck residents, as well as a few guests with invitations to the presidential event, were stuck outside the security blockade for nearly 45 minutes.

Residents and local police officers had been told that morning that residents would be allowed down into Prouts Neck throughout the afternoon, but that changed with a Secret Service directive that traffic should stop whenever the president moved around the event area.

After a wait in which several people got frustrated but remained calm, residents were allowed to proceed down Black Point Road, while would-be beachgoers and others continued to be stopped.

At about 5 p.m., the motorcade made its way back out Black Point Road and headed south on Route 1, again without the president on board.

Released from duty for the afternoon, three Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s father in Kennebunkport grabbed a bite to eat at the McDonald’s in Oak Hill.

Their three black SUVs were parked out front, two with Texas license plates and a third with Maine plates.

“Just trying to catch a quick bite,” one of them said.

Rabid fox bites child

Published in the Current

A rabid fox bit a 2-1/2 year old girl Tuesday at a day-care center in Cape Elizabeth.

Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, a fox ran from a brushy area 20 feet from Funny Farm Daycare on Old Ocean House Road. Ten children were playing in the driveway, supervised by two adults. The fox ran directly to the group and bit the girl on her arm, breaking the skin. The fox then ran back into the underbrush between the day-care and the yard next door.

Cape Elizabeth Rescue responded and transported the child to a Portland hospital.

According to the day-care owner, she was treated and released from the hospital and is now home with her family. Two day-care teachers, who may have been exposed to fox saliva, also are being treated.

Officers Vaughn Dyer and Mark Dorval were able to locate what they believed was the same fox. When found, the fox charged the officers, who shot it. The body is now in a state lab in Augusta.

The lab confirmed on Wednesday that the fox was rabid, which came as no surprise to Cape police Capt. Brent Sinclair. “That’s just not normal behavior” for a fox, he said.

Scott Rockwell, an owner of the day-care, said he has seen foxes in the past, but has never had any problems with them.

Ironically, he said, “I had just taken the kids on a walk” on the town greenbelt trail behind the day-care property. The kids had gone inside for a drink and then headed outside to play in the driveway, he said.

Rockwell said that parents had been understanding about the event, and though the bite victim was not at the day-care the following day, “everyone (else) brought their kids back here today. ”

Rockwell said the girl was fine and at home with her parents on Wednesday.

He said the day care routinely talks about animal safety with the children in its care, teaching them “the importance of staying together in the woods.” He added that people encountering foxes should be wary.

“If you see one, don’t go near him,” Rockwell said.

Sinclair said the teachers at Funny Farm had done everything right by taking the kids inside, getting medical treatment and notifying parents. “They did exactly what they should have done,” he said.

Dr. Jon Karol, an emergency medical physician and director of Maine Medical Center’s Brighton First Care facility, said the standard treatment for a human bitten by a rabid animal is two shots on the first visit, both given in the upper arm. One shot is rabies immune globulin, given just once in a dose
based on the patient’s weight. The other shot is a rabies vaccine.

The patient also has to return four times over the month following exposure for additional doses of the rabies vaccine, Karol said.

Quick work stops gas spill contamination

Published in the Current

A fuel truck spilled 3,500 gallons of gasoline in a Pleasant Hill Road parking lot just before 7 a.m., Aug. 6, briefly threatening the Nonesuch River and the Scarborough Marsh. But quick work by a crew from Maietta Construction kept the spill from spreading very far.

At 6:42 a.m., the Scarborough Fire Department got a call that a tanker truck had hit a pillar protecting fuel valves and had sprung a leak.

The truck, owned by Abenaqui Carriers of Windham, was carrying both diesel fuel and gasoline, and had just finished making a diesel delivery to the Penske truck leasing business on Pleasant Hill Road.

As it was pulling away, the truck hit a concrete pillar, damaging the discharge manifold the truck uses to dispense fuel, according to Fire Chief Michael Thurlow.

Gasoline from that compartment of the truck began to spill, and the emergency valve, also damaged in the collision, didn’t work properly to cut off the flow.

Neil Maietta was at the Maietta Construction company just next door when he heard the accident happen. “We saw gas coming out of a tank truck like it was coming out of a fire hydrant,” he said. “I didn’t know when it was going to stop coming out.”

About 2,000 feet from the spill site is the opening to a culvert with no outlet except the Scarborough Marsh. Maietta said his nephew Mikey and other Maietta workers were able to put a big pile of clay and sand into the culvert’s opening before the gas flowed through.

“We had a lot of pressure but everybody stayed pretty calm,” Maietta said. “My guys, they reacted really well.”

Thurlow said their efforts “certainly saved a substantial environmental impact.”

The first firefighters on the scene decided there was a large explosive hazard and asked Central Maine Power to shut off the power. Electricity was cut off for much of Pleasant Hill Road and a large section of Route 1.

Power was restored to most of the area when the danger of explosion diminished, Thurlow said. A couple of buildings near the spill were without power for several hours.

South Portland firefighters brought over some of their spill containment equipment, which they have on hand in case of an incident at the tank farm there, including a foam truck and booms to help control the flow.

Clean Harbors Environmental Services, a South Portland environmental remediation firm, brought over a large amount of pumping equipment to empty the catch basins and then the pool created at the base of the dam.

When Maietta’s crew had filled in the culvert, it was dry, without even any water running through. He took Clean Harbors workers back to the dam and found the dam had worked.

“There was two feet of pure gasoline at the dam site,” Maietta said.

Also on scene were people from the U.S. Coast Guard, the state Marine Patrol and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Most of the firefighters left when the DEP deemed the scene safe around noon, according to Deputy Fire Chief Glen Deering. While gas fumes had been thick in the area earlier in the day, air quality tests showed safe levels before the fire crews departed.

Some firefighters did remain on the scene, though, pumping water into the drainage area just north of the Hannaford Bros. office building, working to flush out remaining gas from the dense underbrush.

There may be further activity required to clean up the site, Deering said, but that would be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Jon Woodard, DEPsupervisor for response services for Southern Maine, said the cleanup should be relatively quick. Workers went through the underbrush area to be sure they had collected all of the gas possible. The foliage will probably die off this year, but will return next year, Woodard said.

Work was expected to be completed the evening after the spill, Woodard said. Further evaluation might result in additional cleanup work, he said, but he expected it to be a small-scale cleanup over the long term.

“What’s dissolved in the water and what’s a sheen really can’t be cleaned,” Woodard said. Most gasoline in a spill, he said, evaporates before it can be cleaned up by remediation crews.

Sampling of the water upstream and downstream of the spill will help the DEP determine what contamination has occurred, he said.

Abenaqui Carriers, Woodard said, is considered the responsible party in the incident, and has “stepped up” and is paying for the cleanup.

Woodard said he thought the truck could have held more gas, possibly three times as much as spilled, and noted that the “quick thinking” of the Scarborough firefighters and the Maietta crew in building the dam helped quite a bit.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Woodard said.

Thursday, August 1, 2002

Kids design race shirts

Published in the Current

Come race day, Beach to Beacon competitors and volunteers, as well as participants in the children’s race, will be wearing shirts designed by Cape students.

The T-shirt designs were developed in a contest open to all Cape Elizabeth students, many of whom participated through their art classes.

Ten-year-old Kylie Tanabe created the design for the children’s T-shirts as part of her fourth-grade class last year, with Pond Cove School teacher Ogden Williams.

“He got us going on drawing the lighthouse,” Tanabe said. She also takes art lessons from her grandmother, and prefers to do tole painting, copying and adapting photographs and paintings. She had painted a lighthouse as a gift for her parents, and drew a similar lighthouse, adding in a small house and other elements to resemble Portland Head Light.

Her father, Keith, said Kylie is “fearless” and always ready to try new things. She recently went on her first upside-down roller-coaster and grinned widely when asked what she thought of it. She will be running the kids’ one-kilometer race on Saturday.

Joanna Wexler will be a senior next year at CEHS, and designed the logo that will be printed on the runners’ and volunteers’ shirts. Her design was also an art class project from school.

In the class, with high school art teacher Richard Rothlisberger, students created thumbnail sketches and then fleshed out their ideas in various mediums.

“We went through many stages,” Wexler said. “It was really open to what you wanted to do.”

Wexler, a cross-country runner and lacrosse player at CEHS, will not run the race this year, as she tried to register after the field was full, but will volunteer.

Her design includes Portland Head Light, as well as a wave and a path with footsteps. “I definitely wanted to include the beacon,” Wexler said.

Monks calls for corporate responsibility

Published in the Current

Part-year Cape resident and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Bob Monks, spoke out against corporate accounting scandals July 29 at a Portland campaign event for Democratic Senate candidate, Chellie Pingree. He called the current financial, accounting and legislative climate “a watershed in America.”

Speaking alongside Bevis Longstreth, a former member of the Securities and Exchange Commission and also a part-year Maine resident, Monks called for Democratic control of both houses of Congress, saying it was the only way corporate financial reform would truly happen.

Monks was a Reagan appointee at the U.S. Department of Labor and has been a member of the boards of several public companies. A Republican, he challenged now Sen. Susan Collins in 1996, and now is supporting Pingree. “Who you vote for makes a difference,” Monks said.

He said the American economy has succeeded as a direct result of the trust investors had in publicly traded companies. “That has enabled our standard of living,” Monks said. But corporate and government irresponsibility has badly hurt the credibility of the system.

“We may have killed the golden goose,” Monks said.

He roundly criticized the U.S. Senate for regulating specifics of the accounting profession, saying legislators “can’t tell people how they should add.”

Corporate officers have had huge pay increases that do not relate to the value of the work they do at a company. Instead, Monks said, CEOs have formed a powerful group of people who serve on each other’s boards and increase their own salaries.

“When people change the rules, vote themselves the money and get 1,000 percent pay increases, that’s just wrong,” Monks said.

Also, he said, 75 percent of stock options go to the top five corporate officers in a company. Stock options are at the center of a national controversy about accounting practices, with companies claiming they are not expenses, while critics say stock options have value and therefore are expenses.

“It’s about Mr. Big getting bigger, ” Monks said.

Seniors warned of in-house thefts

Published in the Current

Seniors are being warned to be careful about workers and others they allow into their homes. In three recent incidents, two Cape Elizabeth seniors had jewelry and other valuables stolen, and another had 50 tablets of painkillers stolen. In all three cases, in-home workers are suspected, according to Cape police.

The pills are believed to have been stolen by a person who advertised a housecleaning service by putting fliers on cars and in doors in various neighborhoods in Cape, according to Community Relations Officer Paul Gaspar. The victim hired the woman.

“She cleaned her house and cleaned out some of her medication as well,” Gaspar said.

Gaspar recommended that seniors and their families use caution when selecting home health care workers. He said people should make sure they use a reputable agency licensed by the state. To verify that information, people can call the Southern Maine Agency on Aging or the state Attorney
General’s office.

Pam Allen of Elder Independence of Maine said her organization requires provider agencies to check backgrounds and certifications of prospective employees.

She noted that a criminal history check won’t catch someone who is waiting for the chance to steal for the first time.

“Lock your possessions away, ” Allen said.

And screenings may not always be as thorough as they should be, she said. In Cumberland County there are 200 cases waiting for staff or additional staff, which is half of all patients waiting across the state, Allen said.

Agencies can’t find the staff to care for all the people who need help, meaning they may drop their hiring standards or be less likely to check every applicant fully, Allen said.

“Agencies are desperate to find staffing,” said Betty Jewett of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

If there is trouble getting help through an agency, people sometimes hire private caregivers, and that can be a real problem, Jewett said. With no supervision at all, they can gain access to more things and take greater advantage of their charges.

Allen’s organization audits home health care agencies, but can only check 20 percent of the statewide organizations in any given year.

Gaspar recommends checking references personally, rather than taking the word of an agency that a background check has been done.

Get the names of previous clients and call them, he said.

Protecting valuables by putting them in a safe-deposit box is another good move, as is getting jewelry and other valuables appraised and photographed, Gaspar said.

Allen said the best way to protect yourself is to know the names of people in your home, and who they are employed by. Allen also said seniors should remember that their home is still their property.

“If you feel uncomfortable, don’t let them in your home,” Allen said.

Financial exploitation
Some caregivers are more difficult to keep out of homes. They are friendly neighbors or even relatives.

Michael Webber, a detective with the state Attorney General’s office, said 80 percent of financial fraud against the elderly is committed by relatives.

Webber and Gaspar said between 60 percent and 80 percent of those crimes are not even reported because people are nervous about seeming unable to take care of themselves.

Sometimes unscrupulous neighbors can befriend seniors and begin to exploit them, or private caretakers can get access to checkbooks, credit cards or cash and use them for personal gain.

Home health workers and even helpful family members and neighbors should never ask for cash or gifts, said Jewett of the Agency on Aging. If seniors want to give gifts, that is fine, but there should never be any pressure to do so, she said.

Gaspar said there are people who are very friendly and helpful, and may ask for reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred on behalf of seniors. For example, if a neighbor picks up groceries, it is reasonable for them to ask for the money to pay for it. But Gaspar warned against giving bank account or checkbook access to people seniors don’t know or don’t trust.

Detective Webber in the Attorney General’s office agrees. “Choose your caregiver well,” he said. And seniors should always get a neutral third party to look at any legal documents before signing them.

“Never sign paperwork unless it’s been reviewed,” Webber said.

He said don’t sign blank checks for anyone. He also suggested setting up direct deposit for any payments seniors expect to receive, such as pension or Social Security checks. That can limit the opportunity of people to steal checks or otherwise gain access to funds.

Webber said some seniors set up a limited power of attorney arrangement, which permits a caregiver to act on behalf of a senior citizen. Webber reminds seniors that those can be revoked at any time, and the power granted in one can be very specific, including restricting a person to using a checkbook for bill payments but no other purpose.

He encouraged seniors to keep a close eye on their finances. Often financial exploitation is only discovered late, when services are not being provided because of lack of funds, Webber said.

A variety of criminal charges can result, from simple theft charges to endangering the welfare of a dependent, misuse of entrusted property, or even serious felony charges, depending on the amount of money involved, Webber said.

Fraud even increases the risk of death, Webber said. Seniors who have been victims of theft or fraud face a higher risk of dying in the decade following the incident, than do seniors the same age who are not victims.

Scam protection
A further important part of senior self-protection is being careful not to be scammed, authorities say.

Late summer and early fall are prime time for home repair scams involving driveway, roof or chimney repairs, Gaspar said. Fall cleanup and tree pruning are also common fronts used by scammers.

Many of these scams begin with a knock on the door. A worker will say something like, “We were in the neighborhood and saw you need some work done.” Then he will explain that he can help out with some “spare materials from another job nearby,” or can do the job for less money because he is already on the job site.

These are warning signs for a scam.

Maine state law requires three days elapse between when a homeowner makes an agreement with a door-to-door tradesperson, and when that work can begin. Even if a property owner wants work to begin immediately, to start before three days goes by is against the law.

State law also requires a written contract detailing the specifics of the job and compensation.

“Don’t be pressured by a door-to-door person who says, ‘I need to do the work now,’” Gaspar said.

Some door-to-door workers will work in pairs. One person keeps the owner occupied at the front door, while the second goes in the back door and steals wallets, purses and other valuables.

There are phone, mail and e-mail scams, too. One of the latest announces that the recipient has won a major award in the Canadian lottery but has to pay a large sum, $500 or more, to cover bank transfer fees. The “transfer fee” charges are deducted, but no award is ever paid, as none has been won.

If seniors believe or discover they are the victims of a theft, fraud or exploitation, Gaspar spoke for all the agencies and said, “please consider prosecution.”

Cape opens its homes to runners

Published in the Current

The Beach to Beacon race is Saturday and Cape Elizabeth families are preparing their guest rooms for international runners.

Rather than putting up elite racers in hotels, the Beach to Beacon includes a hometown touch: a visit to a Cape home.

Ann Marie Miliard’s family will host their fourth runner this year.

“It’s a great experience,” she said. She has two older kids, who come home from college for the summer. “We just really enjoy hosting the athletes,” Miliard said.

The first year they hosted, which was the race’s second year, the Miliards had a Japanese runner and her coach. The second year they had a British runner who ended up running the marathon in the Sydney Olympics. Miliard said they watched, but “she didn’t do so well.”

Last year the family hosted a Japanese runner. A neighbor was host to another Japanese runner, so the two were able to train together.

This year the Miliard home will open to Kenyan elite runner Esther Kiplagat. Miliard said she tries not to plan too many activities for the visitors.

“This is an athlete and they’re in training,” Miliard said. But she is sure of one thing in the pre-race schedule. “They usually want to run,” she said.

She also finds out what the athletes like to eat the night before and the morning of the race, so she can prepare them to perform.

One year a group of neighbors, including the Miliards, had a large potluck dinner with families and athletes.

Miliard is not running the race, but does have a plan for the morning of August 3.

“I’m going to stand right at the end of my street and cheer everybody on,” she said.

Elizabeth Wexler’s family is getting set for their third hosting gig, but the visitor this time will be a friend from last year, Evans Rutto, a Kenyan runner.

“We decided it would be really interesting,” Wexler said of the family’s choice to play host. Last year Wexler took Rutto around town to farmstands and supermarkets to purchase ingredients for an African dish Rutto likes to make for himself the night before races.

In the morning, she took Rutto and her husband, who also was running the race, to the start and then went to Fort Williams to catch the finish.

She was surprised to watch Rutto win.

“It was just an incredible thrill for our family,” Wexler said.

Before he left, Rutto gave Richard Wexler some pointers for his training for this year’s race.

“It’s interesting for the whole family and I think it’s interesting for the whole town,” Wexler said.

Ann Clark’s family is just beginning to learn what’s involved. It will be the first year the Clarks have hosted an athlete. “We always find these people just absolutely fascinating,” she said.

The family’s guest will be elite runner Abdi Abdirahan, a Somali-born U.S. citizen who now lives and trains in Phoenix.

Clark plans to show her guest the race route and have her family, including her husband and their young son and daughter, spend some time with him.

“I’m sure it’ll be a great experience,” Clark said. “We’re excited. I’m glad we can do it.”

Clark will run the race this year, but doesn’t expect to keep up with her guest. “I’ll be behind him,” she laughed.

As the community comes together around the race, Miliard sums up the reason so many Cape homes open up to international runners: “We just wanted to be part of it.”