Thursday, March 31, 2005

Plant fires under investigation

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (March 31, 2005): The cause of a March 24 fire at RTS Packaging in the Scarborough Industrial Park is under investigation, according to Scarborough Fire Chief Michael Thurlow.

The fire did not do significant damage to the building, though the company did lose some of its products, according to a company spokesman. The company makes cardboard packaging such as dividers in beverage cartons.

Thurlow said the fire appears to have started in a cardboard waste collection system that runs throughout the building and collects scraps of cardboard cut by machinery. Thurlow likened the system to a sawdust collection system in a carpentry workshop.

He said the fire started somewhere in the system by an unknown cause, and said it is not the first time such a fire has started in the system.

“We really don’t know just what’s causing it,” Thurlow said. He said the company is being “very cooperative” and wants to find the cause of the fires as well, to avoid future damage and losses.

Town gets new ambulance

The Scarborough Fire Department has received a new ambulance, which arrived Tuesday. It is part of a multi-year effort to replace the town’s aging ambulances. Two of the three were replaced last year, and the new arrival means all three of the town’s ambulances are new.

A five-year contract with the ambulance dealer means each of the ambulances will be in service for three years before being traded back in for credit toward a new ambulance, according to Fire Chief Michael Thurlow.

“It keeps them under factory warranty,” meaning the town pays “virtually nothing” toward maintenance costs, he said.

The town’s previous ambulances were out of warranty and required a lot of maintenance. The one replaced this week was a 10-year-old model, Thurlow said. “It was a rough ride to Portland,” he said.

The new ambulances cost about $130,000, and if they drive fewer than 36,000 miles in three years – something Thurlow thinks likely – the dealer will give 50 percent of that back to the town in trade-in credit toward a future ambulance.

The contract the town has with the dealer is for five years, starting last year, and can be extended for two additional years beyond that, giving the town fixed prices on the vehicles.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Suicide pact alleged in double stabbing

Published in the Current; co-written with staff writer Ken Tatro

SCARBOROUGH (March 8, 2005): Police believe a 15-year-old Scarborough girl and a 20-year-old Scarborough woman suffered stab wounds Tuesday in the woods off Route 114 because of a suicide pact.

Police found the two in the woods next to the Scarborough Public Library, after the older of the two, Barbara Kring, called from her cell phone just before 5 p.m. Tuesday to report that she and a friend were bleeding and needed help, according to police.

Kring is a 2004 graduate of Scarborough High School. The 15-year-old is a freshman at the school.

Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton said Tuesday night that the two females were the only people involved in the incident. He did not know whether one or both of them used the knife police recovered and believe to be the only weapon involved.

What information the police do have so far comes from brief conversations officers had with the women before ambulances took them to Maine Medical Center, where both underwent surgery Tuesday night.

Both were listed in stable condition Wednesday afternoon, police said.

A family member of Kring’s declined to comment when reached by phone Wednesday.

Keith Matassa, coordinator of marine mammal rehabilitation at the University of New England, said Kring was “a great person” and “a really, really good volunteer” for the program, where she has helped treat stranded seals for three years.

A relative of the 15-year-old also declined to comment for this story.

Kring told dispatchers that the pair had a poisonous substance with them, according to police.

Police did recover an unknown liquid at the scene, and sent it to a lab for identification. The substance was not identified by press time, and police were not sure whether either of the women had injected the substance, though two syringes were recovered from the scene.

Grover said police didn't know the nature of the relationship between the two young women. He said police had not yet fully interviewed them, and were withholding some information until the end of the inquiry.

"It is part of an ongoing investigation," Grover said. No charges have been filed.

Scarborough police officials kept the Maine State Police abreast of events through Wednesday morning, before it became clear that both women would survive.

The Maine State Police has jurisdiction over murder investigations throughout the state, except in Portland. But Wednesday, state and local police agreed Scarborough's detectives should handle the case, Grover said.

At Scarborough High School Wednesday, students could get counseling if they needed it, said Principal Andrew Dolloff. The school has several staff members who are trained to help students affected by these types of incidents.

Dolloff said early in the morning he happened past the guidance area and noticed that a couple of the counselors were meeting with small groups of students.

But, for the most part, the school ran normally. There was no formal announcement to students about the incident.

"It's not that you try to downplay the significance ... but we do try to reduce the amount of hysteria or misinformation that is out there," he said.

The location, just yards from the Scarborough Public Library, is a wooded area within view of Wentworth Intermediate School and the Scarborough Middle School.

The general area – and especially the library – is a common place for students and young people to congregate in the afternoons.

"It was like Grand Central Station yesterday," said Assistant Library Director Susan Winch Wednesday.

Library staff were expecting to close early because of the bad weather, and were telling kids to arrange to get picked up before 5 p.m.

"There were just tons of kids in and out and in and out," Winch said. She said she did not know Kring or the other girl involved, and said that library staff often don't know the names of all the kids who spend time in the building after school.

She said "nothing unusual" happened at the library throughout the afternoon.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Springtime is surfing time

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (March 3, 2005): Scarborough surfer and filmmaker Ben Keller is showing two short works in a one-time-only event on Sunday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Stadium on Brown Street in Portland.

Keller, whose first major film, the documentary “Ishmael,” chronicled the lives of New England winter surfers, has been working on “Rubberman: A Northeast Surfer’s Journey” as a light-hearted approach to the subject.

“It’s more of a traditional surf movie,” Keller said. “It’s got some of the best surfing I’ve shot.”

“Rubberman” includes scenes of local surfers – Seth Balliett of Pine Point is the star of the 30-minute show – on local beaches like Higgins Beach, Scarborough Beach and “Doc Brown’s,” the section of Cape Elizabeth shoreline along Shore Road where the ocean comes in next to the road.

Keller said the short film also has footage of “a secret spot in Scarborough” that is beginning to become well known, but whose location he would not divulge. It also has shots of Scarborough surfer James Krans.

Calling the movie “a fun timeout for the community,” Keller said it has a “funny plot, horrific acting” and is designed to elicit audience participation such as booing and hissing at the screen.

The event will also include a showing of a 15-minute short film edited by Keller as a tribute to the early days of surfing films, including glimpses of Bob Denver (pre-Gilligan) and Nancy Sinatra, as well as a rare recording of the Supremes singing a surfing song.

The event officially begins at 6 p.m., with tickets costing $3. Proceeds will benefit Keller’s next movie. All ages are welcome. There will also be a raffle of surfing and surf-related gear, including a surfboard.