Thursday, September 29, 2005

Trucker pleads not guilty

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 29, 2005): The truck driver who caused the July 29 accident that killed a Scarborough woman pleaded not guilty Monday to nine misdemeanor charges stemming from the crash.

Scott Hewitt of Caribou faces charges in Kennebec County Superior Court of operating after suspension, possession of a suspended driver’s license, operating without authority, operating after being placed out of service, two counts of falsifying truck logs, operating without a medical certificate, operating while in possession of a radar detector and operating while in possession of a controlled substance.

Hewitt has not been charged with anything that holds him responsible for the death of Tina Turcotte, 40, whose car was crushed when Hewitt’s tractor-trailer failed to slow down behind her on I-95 in Hallowell. Turcotte and a truck ahead of her were slowing for a traffic backup ahead of them.

Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle said the evidence did not allow him to charge Hewitt with manslaughter.

Michael Vaillancourt, the attorney for Turcotte’s husband, Scott Turcotte, said last week he was dissapointed Hewitt was not charged with manslaughter. And Turcotte’s mother and stepfather, Pat and Bob LaNigra, said last week they blame state lawmakers for not making better laws and police officers for failing to enforce existing laws. The LaNigras said if those two groups had done their jobs, Turcotte would still be alive.

Hewitt’s driving record contains more than 60 convictions and more than 20 suspensions of his license.

Hewitt finished a sentence on unrelated charges in Cumberland County Jail Wednesday, and was transferred to Kennebec County Jail, where he was being held on $100,000 cash bail or a $500,000 property bond.

A hearing in which Hewitt will request those amounts be lowered was slated for Wednesday morning, but has been put off until Oct. 7, according to a Kennebec County Superior court clerk.

Hewitt was originally going to be held on $100,000 cash bail. A judge changed Hewitt's bail requirements to allow him to post a $500,000 property bond as an alternative.

The new possibility of posting a property bond has alarmed state Sen. William Diamond, D-Windham, the senate majority leader and a former Maine secretary of state.

In a statement Monday, Diamond said he feared the bond would make it easier for Hewitt to post bail and get back on the road. Diamond noted that shortly after the fatal crash in July, Hewitt was again arrested on a charge of driving after suspension.

Croquet tourney held on Higgins Beach

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 29, 2005): A group of visitors and local summer people held the first of what they hope will be an annual croquet tournament on Higgins Beach in mid-September.

The event was organized by longtime Higgins Beach summer resident Wally Patch, who was inspired by an old image of people playing croquet on the beach, and hopes to involve more Higgins Beach people in the future.

Last year he was browsing a Higgins Beach Web site when he saw a picture of "two old ladies playing croquet."

Patch, who has been coming to Higgins Beach for 50 years and Crescent Beach before that, has built his own croquet court at his home in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, and decided to give it a shot on Higgins Beach.

He found a spot, right in front of The Breakers Inn, where there is a little bit of rock outcrop on the sea side of a patch of sand, where the tide leaves a smooth area rather than the usual ripples.

The low-tide sand made “a beautiful court except for seashells and small impediments here and there,” according to Emery Branscombe of Toronto, who plays competitively four times a week at home, on professionally maintained courts.

The group waited until low tide, raked seaweed and marked out a regulation court to play nine-wicket croquet under U.S. Croquet Association rules.

The course had a slight incline toward the ocean, which made play more exciting than usual, and on Sept. 14, the middle day of the competition, fog rolled in, obscuring much of the course.

Patch, who is 80, said croquet is a good game for seniors, because it is good exercise and makes players use their brains to plan shots. He took up the sport after arthritis made playing golf too painful.

He said he might talk to the Higgins Beach Association about making a croquet court next to the group's clubhouse.

Dandies founder retired, but not from circus

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 29, 2005): Although former gym teacher Jon Cahill retired last year after 34 years in Scarborough schools, he has continued his involvement with the Gym Dandies Children's Circus and plans to be with the group in New York City in November for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“It’s not the end of my career with the Gym Dandies, but it’s a real culminating event for me,” said Cahill, who started the group in 1981 as an after-school juggling club.

A dancer had visited Wentworth Intermediate School as a guest artist and taught him to juggle, which he began incorporating into his gym classes.

It has grown in the years since, and now includes more than 200 kids from third grade through senior year at Scarborough High School, who juggle, walk on large rolling balls and ride unicycles with seats as high as six feet off the ground.

Dozens of parents help in practice and during shows, helping keep lines of performers straight and close together, and assisting kids who fall off their unicycles to get back up and rejoin the show.

Cahill said few people have seen anything like the Dandies' performance.

“There are going to be 2.5 million people there that are going to be flabbergasted” when they see the Dandies in the parade, Cahill said after Monday’s before-school rehearsal in the Wentworth parking lot.

The parade will involve 56 kids riding “giraffes,” the six-foot unicycles, in rows and performing various moving formations along the 2.5-mile parade route.

“Once they’re up, they’re going to stay up for an hour and 15 minutes,” Cahill said.

“I can’t imagine it being harder than the monsoon we rode through,” said Scarborough High School junior Matt Sirocki, who was in the two previous major appearances of the group, in the 2000 and 2004 National Independence Day Parades in Washington, D.C. In 2004, rain poured down on the Dandies as they rode in the parade.

He said it’s uncomfortable to ride a unicycle for longer than 30 minutes, but said that goes away with the excitement of putting on the show.

The group is still trying to raise money for the trip, and received a $1,000 donation from the Saco and Biddeford Savings Institution Monday. The Scarborough Board of Education gave $5,000 toward the trip, which is estimated to cost $35,000, and the Maine Community Foundation recently donated $5,000 to support the entire program, some of which will be used for the trip, Cahill said.

The group is also raising money for a return trip to the National Independence Day Parade on July 4, 2006.

Some larger potential donors decided not to give the group money because Macy’s parade rules bar groups from wearing logos for organizations or businesses other than themselves, Cahill said.

“I wouldn’t do that anyway,” he said.

The group spent about $8,000 – “over budget” – on uniforms for the parade, which required them to have gear for warm weather, cold weather and rain. The uniform helmets, knee and elbow pads used last year in D.C. are still in good shape and will be reused, Cahill said.

He said the parade, “a once in a lifetime event,” will draw many of the Dandies’ families, including relations from around the country, to New York for the Thanksgiving holiday. Others here in town and elsewhere will be watching to catch a glimpse of the group on television, though Cahill said he has not received any guarantee of airtime.

He said it is appropriate the parade is happening this year, the Dandies’ 25th, in which there are three seniors who have been in the group since third grade – longer than any of the other Dandies.

Those seniors, Cassaundra Kapinos, Sarah Morin and Dana Bennett, will feature prominently in the parade, with Bennett and junior Brandon Baines leading the group while juggling clubs atop their unicycles, Cahill said.

Junior Kaycee Stevens, a world-class unicycle competitor who has parlayed his skills from the Dandies into medals in international competitions, said this parade is bigger than the ones in Washington, D.C., because there is more television coverage and it is better known among the public.

Cahill said he will keep going with the group, building on this event and heading for more. “I don’t intend to stop in the near future,” he said, noting that despite his retirement, “I still get to work with kids.”

Rummage sale raises $6,925 for Katrina relief

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 29, 2005): The "Rummage for Relief II" yard sale raised $6,925 for the American Red Cross efforts for Hurricane Katrina relief Saturday, earning $3,925 in cash and donations. A local business that prefers to remain anonymous is matching $3,000 of the amount raised.

Organizer Carrie Callahan, on whose lawn the sale took place, said her garage was full of donated items for sale on Thursday, and Friday morning brought more carloads and truckloads of items.

The main sale was held Saturday, but on Sunday "it still looked like a full tag sale," because there was so much stuff, Callahan said.

She said some people took advantage of the opportunity to pass on more generosity. One woman came from elsewhere in Maine, arriving late Saturday. She bought eight boxes of books several bicycles, to give to children in her hometown, Callahan said.

Many of the leftover items were donated to local charities, including homeless shelters and a shelter for single mothers. The remaining donated items – mostly furniture – will be given to the Salvation Army, Callahan said.

Kids with cap gun cause scare

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 29, 2005): A trio of young South Portland boys caused a scare at the Brown Elementary School Friday, waving a realistic-looking cap gun from a balcony of a home across the street from the school.

School officials took the threat seriously and called police, who responded with three officers, who realized the gun was not real, according to Officer James Fahey.

The gun was confiscated, and the boys’ parents were called to the scene, where adults and children were sternly spoken to by officers. No criminal charges were filed, Fahey said.

Scarborough woman assists ABC 'Makeover'

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 29, 2005): A Scarborough woman is part of a massive effort to build a new home for a lobsterman, eight years after another Scarborough man helped the fisherman survive the loss of a limb.

Mary Nablo said she was asked to coordinate volunteers for the project for the hit ABC television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." In the show, which will air in December, a construction crew will tear down a house and rebuild it in seven days.

The home belongs to a Wells lobsterman, Doug Goodale, who lost his arm in a freak accident while lobstering alone in 1997.

He caught the right sleeve of his slicker in the winch he used to haul his lobster traps up from the sea floor, and it crushed his hand, wrist and forearm, as well as throwing him overboard, according to the doctor who treated Goodale at Maine Medical Center after the accident.

That doctor, Scarborough resident Donald Endrizzi, was surprised to learn of Goodale’s good fortune Tuesday evening, but immediately remembered the situation. “It’s not something you forget,” he said.

Goodale managed to cut himself loose from the rope and get back into the boat with the use of just his left arm, shutting off the winch and then cutting himself free of it, before driving the boat back to shore with one arm.

Goodale collapsed on the dock and was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center. “His arm (was) completely mangled," Endrizzi remembered. “The nerves and arteries were all shredded.”

After his arm was amputated and cleaned up, Goodale “was unbelievably remarkable,” driving his truck two weeks later, Endrizzi said, calling his feat of survival “Herculean."

"I can’t imagine this guy managed to get back in the boat,” he said.

Nablo got involved through “a friend of a friend of a friend,” who called to ask if she could help organize the effort.

“They wanted someone who knew a lot of people” and had good organizational skills. Nablo, who has coordinated a number of community events, including Operation Cupid, in which Scarborough Middle School students collected donations and sent care packages to members of the 133rd Engineer Battalion in Iraq earlier this year.

“They told me a couple weeks ago to free up my schedule,” Nablo said. “A lot of us have been kept in the dark.” She did not even know the exact situation until seeing it on Channel 8, Portland’s ABC station, Tuesday evening.

“There’s a bunch of people all coming down from Scarborough” to help, and Nablo is looking for more helpers.

Saving the history of neighborhood stores

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 29, 2005): Kathy DiPhilippo grew up in South Portland and has fond memories of the city’s neighborhood stores, so it was no surprise she wanted to include a chapter on them in a book about the city’s history.

What was a surprise was what she found when trying to research them: Next to nothing.

DiPhilippo set out to fill that void and recently published, "South Portland: A Nostalgic Look at our Neighborhood Stores." The book tells the story of local groceries, pharmacies and food spots, like Bennett's Ice Cream Bar in Thornton Heights. She will talk about the book on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at Nonesuch Books and Cards in Mill Creek.

DiPhilippo, whose maiden name is Onos, grew up a few steps from L and A Variety at the corner of Broadway and Elm Street, and walked by there every day on her way to and from Kaler School.

“When I was a kid, I would go to Mill Creek and there was King’s and there was Wellwood’s,” said DiPhilippo, who is 37.

DiPhilippo, who is the historian for the South Portland Historical Society, started looking for old photos to illustrate a history of the city.

“There are stores that there are no photographs of,” she said, including L and A. She looked for King’s and Wellwood’s too, coming up empty in the archives of the local society, the Maine Historical Society and Greater Portland Landmarks, though those searches yielded pictures of other stores.

She also started learning about the history of some of the neighborhood shops.

“I’ve read every history of South Portland that I can find” and had never seen much on Uncle Andy’s, founded by John Palanza, so she interviewed him and realized the richness of the stories the shops could tell.

“There are people who love history and there are people who like nostalgia,” and she crafted her book to appeal to both sets, with historical facts and thorough research as well as people’s recollections of the places she describes.

“I interviewed a lot of people in their 80s and a few in their 90s,” she said. “People went to stores and they had memories – wonderful stories.”

As her research drew her deeper she realized the stores alone would fill a book, not just a chapter in a larger work. She asked people about their favorite stores, and also sought out people who could help with oral histories of specific stores of significance.

The time people spent with her, and the depth of their memories, made her feel “a responsibility to document” the history. “It became a quest.”

In the process, she learned that retail sales changed after World War II. Before the war, many stores had old wooden floors with sawdust on them to absorb spills. Goods like flour were sold in bulk from large containers.

Back then, “you’d go down and hang around the store,” and catch up with friends and neighbors who passed through.

After the war came “modern” store innovations like linoleum floors, as well as more pre-packaged food. And supermarkets arose, pushing corner groceries to change or give way.

“The ones that did make it through were the ones that smartly changed to the variety store,” DiPhilippo said.

She continued her search for old photos, eventually scoring a success in the city assessor’s office, which had remnants of an early 20th-century collection of photos of every building in the city.

“All that was left was a couple of ‘B’ streets, not including Broadway” and the streets whose names started with “C,” including Cottage Road, DiPhilippo said. But it had photos of several landmark buildings, such as the building that is now Red’s Dairy Freeze, when it was still a Tastee-Freeze, and before the barn-style roof was put on.

She worked on the book for a year, from the first interviews through sending it to the publisher in July. The mother of three small kids, she had hoped to finish by the end of the school year, but as the deadline neared she realized she wasn’t going to make it, even though she was working every night until 3 a.m.

During the days, her mother would come over to help take care of the two youngest children, who are not yet attending school, while DiPhilippo worked on the book.

“I could not have done it without her,” DiPhilippo said. Sometimes her kids would work on “their books,” pieces of folded paper they would draw or write on, while she worked on hers.

She is now working on two other book ideas, both about local history. “I just love South Portland history,” she said.

Editorial: Helping with housing

Published in the Current

(Sep 29, 2005): One Scarborough woman has been working to relocate Gulf Coast residents to Maine, recognizing that those who needed help paying for housing before Hurricane Katrina are even more in need now.

And another Scarborough woman is coordinating volunteers giving a Wells lobsterman a new home because his is in poor repair. Read more about them and their efforts on Page 1.

Both of these are worthy efforts, and we should be proud that people in our communities are helping with them. But they should not overshadow a similar problem right here at home: Affordable housing is hard to find in Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, and is getting even more scarce all the time.

There are a few projects, including Brickhill in South Portland and the Chamberlain brothers’ proposal for their property in Dunstan, which could help the situation. But even as they move forward, market forces are pushing housing prices higher.

Driving around our three communities over the past few weeks, I’ve seen several large, nice houses going up. Two of them, medium-sized homes on relatively small pieces of land just off Highland Avenue in South Portland, now have a big sign out front: “Starting at $425,000.”

The others have more modest signs, but are no more affordably priced for lack of a big ad.

Housing prices are outstripping increases in personal income. From 2000 to 2004, Maine’s per capita personal income grew 7.3 percent, according to the Maine Department of Labor. But in just the past 12 months, Maine’s housing price index rose 13 percent, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Even median home prices, as announced by the Maine Association of Realtors Wednesday, rose 7.7 percent.

Developers and landowners have a right to make money from their investments. But following present practices, they risk saturating the market, reaching a point where they are building homes nobody can afford.

It would be better for everyone if they found a balance, building expensive homes for those who can afford them – and they exist – while building smaller, less expensive homes as well.

Many of the developers working on local projects, including the Chamberlains and Brickhill’s Richard Berman, are local residents, who can experience the value of the communities they help create.

We are lucky in this: Many communities around the country are in the hands of absentee developers, who have little reason to care about anything but the almighty dollar.

As Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough review their comprehensive plans, and South Portland looks at neighborhood plans for Mill Creek and Knightville, leaders and community members should look closely at what they can do to promote the development of affordable housing.

They should explore ways to create incentives for developers to diversify housing, such as exempting affordable housing units from school or other impact fees, often assessed to offset the expenses a town will incur as a result of increased population. They could also exempt affordable housing from caps on the number of new homes that can be built, or offer, as Scarborough did with a recent development in Oak Hill, permission to build more homes than traditional zoning would allow in exchange for some – or all – of those additional homes being made to qualify as affordable.

Our local developers, we hope, can be prevailed upon by social and economic forces to help our communities remain strong and diverse, with recent college graduates, young families, parents with school-age children, empty-nesters and retirees all finding places they can afford to call home.

Revals next week

In next week’s issue of the Current, we will begin publishing the results of Scarborough’s recent town-wide property revaluation. The full listing of properties in town, their owners and land and building values, will be published over two weeks, because of space constraints. Pick up the Current next week to get your copy.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mother blames state for fatal crash

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 22, 2005): The family of a Scarborough woman killed in a truck accident on I-95 July 29 blames state officials for her death.

Pat LaNigra, the mother of Tina Turcotte, 40, who was killed when a tractor-trailer crushed her car, said her loss has been “devastating” and made worse by knowing it could have been avoided if state legislators had crafted better laws and police had done a better job of enforcing the ones already in place.

“This would have been prevented had the state backed up its own laws,” LaNigra said. “If their job was done the way it should have been done, Tina would still be here today.”

The truck driver, Scott Hewitt, 32, of Caribou has an extensive record of bad driving, including more than 60 convictions and more than 20 suspensions of his driver’s license. He had also been involved in a fatal crash in 1994, after which he pled guilty to three minor trucking violations and received a six-month suspended jail sentence.

“He was a bomb waiting to explode,” LaNigra said. Legislators and police are “allowing people to die on the roads and they’re just slapping hands” of bad drivers.

Hewitt, who was charged with nine misdemeanor crimes and two non-criminal traffic infractions in connection with the crash, has not been charged with anything that holds him responsible for Turcotte's death.

Hewitt has been charged with operating after suspension, possession of a suspended driver’s license, operating without authority, operating after being placed out of service, two counts of falsifying duty status records, operating without a medical certificate, operating while in possession of a radar detector, operating while in possession of a controlled substance, operating an unregistered motor vehicle and operating without insurance.

No felony charges

Although police found marijuana in the cab of Hewitt's truck, and he tested positive for it in a blood test, Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle said there is no evidence Hewitt was impaired at the time of the crash.

The accident report from the Maine State Police indicated Turcotte and a tractor-trailer cab in front of her were slowing down because traffic was backed up in front of them. But Hewitt, who driving a tractor-trailer behind Turcotte, did not slow down, according to the report.

An assistant district attorney and four police officers at the scene, including one specially trained to recognize people under the influence of drugs, did not believe Hewitt was impaired, Fowle said, noting that marijuana can stay in a person’s bloodstream for as much as a month after a person uses the drug.

“We’re looking for any possible way to prosecute the more serious crime of manslaughter,” Fowle said.

But that’s not possible, because Hewitt’s behavior does not meet the legal definitions of “recklessness” or “criminal negligence,” Fowle said.

Both of those require a person be proven to have made a “gross deviation” from the “standard of care” an average person would use under the same circumstances, and Hewitt’s behavior was not that, Fowle said.

Fowle said the law does not allow him to consider the circumstances under which Hewitt was driving. “We’re looking at the actual driving,” Fowle said, “the operation of the vehicle itself” to determine whether the driving was reckless.

“What he was was inattentive,” Fowle said. “Inattentiveness has never been a basis” for a prosecution for vehicular manslaughter in Maine, he said.

Fowle said Hewitt is not being charged with being a habitual offender because the Secretary of State’s office, which handles driver records, did not classify him as such.

And he is not being charged with driving to endanger because that requires a similar standard of proof to manslaughter, Fowle said.

Fowle said he has talked to Turcotte’s family and said he answered the questions they had. “I told them to come back if they had more questions,” Fowle said.

He said he felt he owed them a personal explanation of the charges.

“It’s not an easy decision to make,” Fowle said. The only worse decision, he said, would be to “bring a charge that’s not supported by the evidence or the law.”

Husband hires lawyer

Scott Turcotte, Tina Turcotte's husband, referred all questions to his attorney, Michael Vaillancourt of the South Portland firm Ainsworth, Thelin, Chamberlain and Raftice. Vaillancourt said a lawsuit is “a possibility,” but would not indicate who might be the defendant in such a suit.

“Scott (Turcotte) was very disappointed” in Fowle’s decision not to charge Hewitt with manslaughter, and believes the evidence shows “Tina’s death being caused by Mr. Hewitt,” Vaillancourt said.

Scott Turcotte is interested in changing state laws, as are his parents-in-law, Pat LaNigra and her husband, Tina’s stepfather, Bob LaNigra.

But they are pained by the thought that “this could have been prevented” by applying the state’s existing laws more effectively, Pat LaNigra said.

Noting that Hewitt had possession of his driver’s license, which had been suspended, at the time of the crash, she and her husband ridiculed the state’s efforts to confiscate the license by mailing him notices.

Bob LaNigra said when a couple gets a divorce, a sheriff’s deputy comes to each person’s home and serves them papers they have to sign right there.

He wondered why that same care was not taken to get licenses back. He wants deputies to “physically remove the license as well as the license plates” from the vehicle of a person whose license is suspended.

And he said that if Hewitt had not had his license, a New York state trooper who stopped him the day before the fatal crash would have stopped him from driving on to Maine.

‘Someone’s not doing their job’

The LaNigras are working with Gov. John Baldacci and several state legislators, including Sen. William Diamond, D-Windham, a former Maine secretary of state, to change the laws.

But they are upset that other state initiatives appear to be getting more attention, including the newly hiked cigarette tax, which doubled Monday, going up to $2 per pack.

“Smoking isn’t even against the law,” said Pat LaNigra.

The couple wants stiffer penalties for bad drivers, and fears that politics will get in the way.

“Someone’s not doing their job. The laws aren’t strict enough,” said Pat LaNigra.

If a police officer is not sent to the home of a suspended driver to confiscate their license, Bob LaNigra said the person should have a short time to mail it in, and should face additional criminal charges for failure to do so.

He wants increased enforcement efforts on the roads and increased fines for breaking laws, saying the revenue from the fines could pay for the additional staff required to improve patrols and truck inspections.

He said in 1996 the Legislature decreased mandatory jail sentences from six months to a year, citing jail overcrowding, and refused to increase fines because people from northern Maine couldn’t afford them.

Though the fines have been increased since, he worries that any law changes “won’t be strict enough because they’ll be compromised.”

Pat LaNigra said fines should be high, and had little sympathy for people who couldn’t afford them. She said Hewitt’s friends and family members knew he was driving illegally, and suggested he hit them up for financial help to pay the fines. She said eventually they would stop helping him and he would be forced off the road.

Into the future

Both Pat and Bob LaNigra are concerned that, though Hewitt may face some jail time, he will eventually be eligible for his license again.

“He’s a bomb waiting to blow up. He’s a murderer waiting to kill,” said Pat LaNigra. “Sixty-eight convictions, kills two people and there’s no law to get this man off the road forever.”

She is concerned the state is sending the wrong message to young drivers, who, she noted, risk losing their licenses for running stop signs.

And she doesn’t believe Fowle’s allegation that Hewitt was merely “inattentive.”

“How long can you be inattentive” that you don’t see a car and a tractor-trailer cab in front of you, she asked. “It’s not inattentiveness; it’s incompetency.”

She thinks a proposal from the state to publicize the worst 100 drivers in Maine is too little, given that there are tens of thousands of people with suspended driver’s licenses, many of them with five or more suspensions.

“This is a no-brainer,” she said, asking that the list be expanded to at least 1,000, or possibly even more.

“These people are on the road constantly, not just truckers,” she said.

She wants people to write to the governor and their legislators, and to remember “the people that you vote in were partially responsible for this.”

She noted that not all truckers are bad drivers, and that not all bad drivers are truckers. “Tina’s father was a trucker for 25 years and he never once got a suspension,” she said.

The couple and Tina’s husband are planning a memorial charity dance on Friday, Oct. 21, at the Asylum in Portland, to benefit the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Fund and Lab-Quest, in honor of Tina’s having survived breast cancer. This was her fifth year cancer-free.

And on Sunday, Oct. 30, the Great Pumpkin Race in Saco, which Bob LaNigra has organized since 1978, will split its proceeds with its usual beneficiary, the American Lung Association, and charities close to Tina’s heart. “She was a great animal lover,” said Pat LaNigra. The charities receiving money in Tina’s honor have not yet been determined.

Pat LaNigra is still pained and bitter. “I’ve just lost so much faith in the system,” she said. “This would have been prevented if the state was doing its job.”

Editorial: Give them food

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 22, 2005): Young people need good food to help them grow up to be healthy, strong adults. It’s up to adults to give them that food, and to help steer them away from unhealthy choices.

The Scarborough Board of Education has temporarily suspended a state requirement that all food served on school grounds meet some qualifications as minimally nutritious.

And while that’s fine for a very short period of time, the board should, as it plans to, review the food served on school grounds and at school functions, with an eye toward making the available choices good for kids.

The board has suspended the rule, recently imposed by the state, to avoid surprising booster groups for sports teams and extra-curricular groups, who often sell candy and baked treats to raise money, and have likely bought sugary goodies to sell at games and activities.

In the past, some groups in town have even sold Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts to raise money.

And while the money goes to a good cause, the food should, too. Schools and school groups should not be in the business of selling goodies of negligible nutritional value.

What’s defined as non-nutritious food is quite lenient. A food must provide at least 5 percent of the federally recommended daily intake of at least one of eight nutrients: protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, calcium and iron.

Anything that provides less than 5 percent of all of those nutrients is fairly called “junk food,” and is not what adults should be serving children, no matter the setting.

The guidelines, as Dr. Lisa Letourneau of the Scarborough Wellness Initiative notes in a Page 1 article, still allow some chips and candy bars to be sold in schools.

School meal programs started in Europe in the 1700s, and moved to the United States in the 1800s, with the idea of providing children at least one nutritious meal each day.

That is still a vitally important goal, and should not be forgotten, especially with childhood obesity at an all-time high and rising. Our kids are unhealthy, and we need to fix the problem, not point fingers at others.

Adults in all venues – home, school, jobs and after-school activities – are responsible for helping children grow up healthy.

Schools are an important factor in this because they are places communities send their children to learn good habits, smart ways to approach the world and positive behaviors that will help them be productive members of society as adults.

The goal of school lunch programs should not be to provide children with junk food, nor to make money for the school. It is also questionable whether school lunch programs should be required to pay for themselves, as is the case in Scarborough and common elsewhere.

The school lunch programs should focus on providing healthy, nutritious foods at a reasonable cost.

If children – or parents – want food other than what a school provides, they can provide it with their own money from supermarkets or other stores. It may cause a loss in revenue for schools, but lunch should be about nourishing children’s bodies in an environment that also enriches their minds.

The same goes for food sales by school-related programs, like booster clubs. The clubs exist for the benefit of children. If good food won't raise the money they need, perhaps the boosters could look to the dozens of local organizations that raise money without selling food for ideas, such as craft sales, event programs and raffles.

While candy is a sure seller, that’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. The Scarborough school board should ban non-nutritious food sales by school lunches, boosters and other groups using school facilities.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Stolen boat beached with lobsters aboard

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 22, 2005): A boat stolen from a Portland pier Saturday night was beached early Sunday morning on Willard Beach, with live lobsters crawling around the boat.

The “Thorfinn Olaf,” named after the father of owner Mark Nordli of Portland, had been left at Hobson’s Wharf at 2 p.m. Saturday when Nordli finished hauling his traps.

When he returned to the wharf at 5 a.m. Sunday, he found the boat missing. Nordli called the Portland police and then the Coast Guard.

While he was on the phone with the Coast Guard, they were also getting a call from the South Portland police saying the boat had been found on Willard Beach.

Officer Kevin Battle, also the city’s deputy harbormaster, estimated, based on the location of the boat, that it was beached around the time of the high tide, between 1 and 2 a.m.

Nordli said when he arrived at about 7:30 a.m. Battle was already there, and there were “lobsters running around the boat,” leading Battle and Nordli to believe the thieves had pulled some traps overnight. Nordli corraled the lobsters and took them away.

The only thing missing was a battery-powered drill, and the boat did not sustain much damage, at least some of which Nordli attributed to wave action rather than vandals.

Several unmarked gas cans with fuel in them were on Nordli’s boat, leading him to suspect the people who stole his boat lifted gas from other boats first. Police have no suspects in the theft.

“People get drunk on Saturday night, and they say ‘let’s go steal a boat,’ I guess,” Nordli said.

With help from his son, Nordli was able to refloat the boat around 9 a.m. on the incoming tide that same day. He said he might be out fishing that afternoon.

Cigarettes stolen from local store

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 22, 2005): The night after Maine’s cigarette tax increase took effect, a Scarborough business felt the effects.

Thieves bashed in the glass door of Eight Corners Pizza at 2:02 a.m. Tuesday morning and in about 45 seconds made off with $750 to $800 worth of cigarettes, according to owner Peter Walsh Jr.

Two minutes after the store’s alarm went off, Scarborough police Officer Jeff Greenleaf arrived, and found the thieves already gone.

The thieves had driven right up to the door, smashed it in with “a bowling-ball-sized rock,” and one person jumped onto and then over the counter to get to the cigarette rack, Walsh said.

He guessed the person had a large bag and just shoveled packs of cigarettes into the bag, because there were cigarette packs on the floor that had been stepped on.

Walsh estimated that 150 to 200 packs were taken, with a retail value – including the new $2 tax, double the old tax – of between $750 and $800. He blamed the tax increase for the theft, saying he pays about $50 a carton, but a thief could sell a stolen carton “for 20 bucks and people will but it.”

He said police estimated the thief was in the store for 30 to 45 seconds, while a getaway driver waited outside. Scarborough and South Portland police were alerted immediately, but did not spot a car.

Walsh said the thief did not touch the lottery tickets or alcoholic beverages right next to the counter, and said there is no cash ever kept in the store after closing.

The thieves did $1,500 in damage to the store, Walsh said. He is considering installing a steel gate across his door, but thinks that’s a little much for Scarborough. “I don’t want to see it, do you?” he asked.

It is the second time thieves have hit the store. In 2002, people who broke in and stole cigarettes were caught red-handed that night, he said.

Police got various pieces of evidence from the store after Tuesday’s break-in, Walsh said. “We’re going to catch them.”

Portland Players celebrate 75th season

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 22, 2005): As the curtain rises Friday evening at the Portland Players in South Portland, the historic theater will be starting its 75th season, with residents of Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland appearing throughout the show, as always.

The theater opened in 1931 as the Portland Dramatic Guild in a playhouse in Portland. No productions were performed from 1942 to 1946 as a result of World War II, but after the war the theater came back to life.

“When I first came here it was the only show in town – that and the symphony,” said Betty Longbottom, who has been involved with the theater since the 1950s.

“We’ve just kept going and going,” said Longbottom, now the theater’s vice president for artistic development.

The theater world has changed in Maine. Now, “the competition for the theatrical dollar is fierce,” she said.

In the late 1960s, the theater, which had been in a building on Preble Street in Portland, was told by the landlord that it would have to move.

“Before we knew it the seats were gone," Longbottom said.

She was in the last show in the Preble Street theater – “Fallen Angels” by Noel Coward – and the first one in its home ever since, a former movie theater on Cottage Road in South Portland, “Royal Gambit” by Hermann Gressieker.

The theater has never had an endowment, but has managed to keep going year-to-year. “There were times when we would worry about it, but we’re still hanging in there,” said Longbottom, who recently moved to Portland from a home in Cape Elizabeth near the South Portland line.

A key has been finding good directors who know how to cast, she said. That has remained constant, though audience demands have changed.

The theater used to do two musicals a season, and now does three. “Straight plays are not that well attended,” Longbottom said.

Donations and ticket sales used to cover most of the expenses, but the theater is now seeking grants for projects, including roof repair.

And they know “anything with kids in it is going to sell,” she said.

Jean Maginnis, a South Portland resident who is on the theater’s board of trustees, got involved through her son, who is now 21 and a college senior studying theater.

When he was 12, Maginnis was looking for a summer activity for him that he could walk to. Having gotten so much from the theater, “I feel like I need to give back,” she said.

There are no longer any summer kids’ programs, but Maginnis is considering restarting them.

As it is, of the 49 people in “Oliver!” which opens Friday, about half are kids, who “have given up most of their summers,” Maginnis said. Their parents have, too, driving them to and from rehearsals.

She is planning a large celebration event in April, and at that time may kick off an endowment fund-raising drive.

The charm of the theater is the local people in it, she said. “It’s your insurance man by day who comes out in a costume and sings and dances by night.”

In another 75 years, the theater may still be performing the shows now considered classics: “Nobody’s writing anything,” Longbottom said.

But there are always new possibilities. The upcoming season includes the theater’s first-ever production of “Gypsy” and its first female version of “The Odd Couple.”

“We do it because we love it,” Maginnis said.

Local cast members in “Oliver!” are:

From Cape Elizabeth, Sam Spicer, Alanah Lockwood, Ana Ryden, Griffin Carpenter, Tim Hartel, Chris Bowman and Brianna Bowman;

From Scarborough: Stephanie Hughes, Martha Lopez, Colin Swords and Owen Kelley;

From South Portland: Lisa Rockwell, Jaimie Schwartz, Jamie Lupien, Jennifer Eaton-Burke, Eliza Schwartz, Ali Schwartz, Jonny Lewis, Jack Cutler, William Cleaves and Mark Crawford.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hotel room catches fire

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 19, 2005): A room on the third floor of the Extended Stay America hotel caught fire Monday afternoon, sending three people to the hospital to get checked out after inhaling smoke.

Scarborough Fire Chief Mike Thurlow said a contractor working in the room put a tool bag on an electric stove that had been left on. The contractor then left the room.

The smoke detector in the room alerted the hotel manager, who went up to check on the third-floor room. By the time the manager got there, smoke was collecting in the hallway, sounding the building-wide fire alarm at the hotel, just off Payne Road.

The manager was able to put out the fire before firefighters arrived, Thurlow said. The fire was put out so fast the room's sprinklers did not go off, he said.

Police Officer Doug Weed suffered minor injuries while carrying a dog down the stairs. He was checked at a hospital and was released, Thurlow said.

The other two people, the hotel manager and another person, were also released from the hospital after being checked out, he said.

Weed will have to replace the pants he was wearing, which suffered a tear in one leg.

The dog, a cocker spaniel with no name on its tag, had been left alone in its room. The dog was unhurt, and was cared for by another guest.

Hotel staff refused to comment on the fire.

Paulette and Ron Flaherty of Sebring, Fla., were staying in a room on the first floor while visiting family in the area. Ron is a retired South Portland firefighter, and the couple has children in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, South Portland and Saco.

When firefighters began cleaning up outside, Paulette was able to peek through the window into the couple's room, and said everything appeared to be undamaged.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Editorial: Respect others’ land

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Sep 15, 2005): If Paul Woods walked up his neighbor’s driveway and started clearing vegetation along her front path, she would be livid, and rightly so.

But that is, effectively, what the Broad Cove Association has done to Woods, as we learn on Page 1.

Wednesday morning, a worker showed up on Woods’s land, saying he had been hired by the association to clear some vegetation along a path Woods owns.

The path crosses an easement that is in dispute, with the association claiming all neighborhood homeowners have a right to cross Woods’s property to get to Maxwell Point Beach, also called “Secret Beach,” and Woods saying just a few families have that right.

Lawyers are already involved, the police say a court will have to resolve it, and the association is raising money for a legal battle. The language and drawings in decades-old subdivision plans are being dug out and scrutinized.

It’s true that Woods owns the land. It’s also true that neighborhood residents have been using the path and the beach for years, and have kept the path clear of brush and debris. The permission granted by the easement appears clear to both parties, though in different ways.

But it’s Woods’s land, and he is entitled to protect it. More than that, he must defend his rights against outside claims or risk losing them in a dispute just like this one.

Everyone in the neighborhood – and certainly everyone involved in the association – knows the property is in dispute, and everyone is waiting for someone to sue someone else, to get this disagreement where it belongs: in front of a judge.

But in the meantime the neighborhood association is demonstrating disrespect for the same property rights its members say they are defending.

The association has passed out flyers urging neighbors to continue using the disputed pathway, and has now sent a workman to do maintenance on it. That’s outrageous. The neighbors should respect Woods’s rights as the owner of the property, and not use it until this case is sorted out in court.

Let them retire

It would be easy to dismiss the concerns of Cape Elizabeth Police Officers Vaughn Dyer and Allen Westberry, if they hadn’t each spent 30 years on the force.

The two men, and their fellow officers, sergeants and dispatchers, want a better retirement package included in the contract now being negotiated with the town. The town has offered to increase from 7 percent to 10 percent its contribution of an officer’s pay to a private retirement account, while the officers want a guaranteed two-thirds pension after 25 years of service, no matter how old they are.

Dyer and Westberry – one 58 with a bum knee and the other 64, a triple-bypass patient last summer now waiting for Medicare to kick in before he retires – are prime examples of why police officers should have a different retirement package than other municipal workers.

They are both smart, capable, articulate men. And if they had any other job, they should be encouraged to keep it, bringing their experience and passion for the work to other, younger co-workers.

But to ask a man with arthritis in both knees, or one with three arterial bypasses, to run after a suspect – whether a teen escaping a party in the woods or a drunk driver whose car leaves the road – is ridiculous.

The police union contends that while the first three years of the new retirement plan would be more expensive for Cape taxpayers than what the town has offered, after that the cost would be lower than the town’s offer. The union has also offered to help offset the cost for those first three years, by giving up cost-of-living increases.

For the long term, whether considering the town’s finances or the physical state of its police officers, letting police officers retire with pensions after 25 years – no matter their age – makes good sense.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Maietta drops reelection bid

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 15, 2005): There will be contested elections for all three open South Portland City Council seats, but not for the two School Board seats or one Portland Water District seat.

Three people will run for the District 1 City Council seat on the Nov. 8 ballot: David Bourke, Claude Morgan and Quirino “Skip” Lucarelli, according to the city clerk's office.

In District 2, Kay Loring will run against R. Anton Hoecker for the seat being vacated by Thomas Maietta, who told the clerk's office Tuesday that he would not seek reelection.

In District 5, Brian Dearborn will challenge incumbent James Hughes.

William Harris and incumbent Mark Reuscher will seek two at-large seats on the School Board.

And for the Portland Water District seat representing South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, incumbent John Brady will run unopposed.

Reunion brings pilots together

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Sep 15, 2005): A retired Air Force pilot held a reunion at his Cape Elizabeth home Sunday, for members of his flight school class from 1969.

Fred Robinson and his wife, Janet, hosted the third class reunion, which was attended by men who flew for the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

The group met in April 1968 at Laughlin Air Force Base, just outside Del Rio, Texas. “Pilot training is 53 weeks and in Del Rio there is nothing” to do, said Fred Robinson. “We made our own fun.”

They did so again this weekend, with a tour of the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse – the east light of Two Lights – and a lobster bake for dinner at the Robinsons' home on the coast.

The longtime friends caught up on the news of kids, grandkids and retirement adventures, and reminisced about old times, too.

“A lot of guys started families while they were there,” Robinson said. Many of the men got married, and 17 children were born – all of them girls, according to one woman who married her husband and had a child there, Janice Danahy, the wife of retired Maj. Gen. John Danahy.

They became friends during the class, and in subsequent survival schools before being sent “in the pipeline” to fly cargo planes, forward air spotters or fighters in Vietnam.

“After the Vietnam War we had quite a few guys that stayed in” on active duty or in the reserves, as did Robinson for 21 years, while also working in the airline industry.

Some members of the group flew in the first Gulf War.

The group began meeting again in 1999, after a chance meeting between Robinson and class member Bobby Fullerton. Robinson was flying for the United shuttle when an American Airlines pilot came aboard and asked if he could ride in Robinson's “jump seat,” a spare seat in the cockpit where airline pilots often fly free of charge, as a professional courtesy.

The American pilot looked at Robinson and said, “I think I know you.” Robinson recognized Fullerton, and the pair began planning to get their pilot class together.

They were able to find many of the class with old addresses, military and commercial pilot connections, and even a federal database: One of the class, Tony Liguori, works for the Federal Aviation Administration, and searched names for the group.

They have met every three years since 1999. Members of the group came from as far as the country of Norway, though most came from across the United States, including Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, Cape Cod, Delaware and a couple from Louisiana who had “just the most beautiful weather” at their home while Hurricane Katrina ravaged the coast.

Cianchette launches bid for Blaine House

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 15, 2005): Republican Peter Cianchette began his campaign for governor Tuesday, with rallies in Bangor, Lewiston and South Portland.

Cianchette, a South Portland resident who in the past represented the city in the Maine House, lost to Democrat John Baldacci in 2000, and is up against state Sen. Peter Mills, who is also seeking the Republican nod to challenge Baldacci.

Cianchette’s South Portland kickoff was attended by several local Republican leaders, including Rep. Darlene Curley, R-Scarborough, who has decided not to seek the Republican nomination for governor; Cape Elizabeth Town Councilor Paul McKenney, who failed to unseat Sen. Lynn Bromley, D-South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, in 2004; and Paul Nixon, who did challenged Rep. Larry Bliss, D-South Portland, in 2004 and lost. Nixon also withdrew his name from consideration for the South Portland City Council Monday.

He was introduced by his wife, Carolyn, who works as the executive director for communication and development at Southern Maine Community College.

Peter Cianchette, who was the Maine chairman of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004 (Maine went for challenger John Kerry), and the Maine national committeeman for the Republican Party, came out firing against Baldacci, saying the governor increased Maine’s tax burden, raised health care costs and failed to lead in a time of great challenges in state government.

Cianchette laid out eight points he wants to work on if elected: improving Maine’s business climate, making government more efficient, limiting state spending, passing on additional state school spending to local taxpayers, rewriting the income and sales tax laws, revitalizing the health insurance market, improving educational accountability, and regionalizing local government.

He said he will spend time focusing on each of those issues, starting with educational accountability for the rest of September, and moving on to the economy for October, and spending a month on each of the other issues as well.

Towns, schools watching fuel prices

Published in the Current

(Sep 15, 2005): Scarborough students and school staff might need to “wear more sweaters” this winter, as the district has frozen all discretionary spending to save money that could be needed to pay higher-than-expected heating oil and diesel prices.

“There are very few accounts that we actually control,” said Superintendent Bill Michaud. He has stopped all spending on textbooks, office supplies and audio-visual materials, while allowing for some exceptions to be made on a case-by-case basis.

He said the district had considered canceling all field trips, because of the cost of diesel fuel for the buses transporting students and teachers to various locations.

“There are some field trips that are closely tied to the curriculum” and many that are outside of school but still in town, such as science trips to Scarborough Marsh and the town’s beaches.

He said the district will be reviewing all field trip requests, and “obviously some of them are going to be eliminated.”

Sports teams will be allowed to use buses only for required meets and contests, he said. There will be no more buses to scrimmages or exhibition games.

“We’ve also considered turning the thermostat down” to save energy, said Michaud. All the school buildings in town except for the primary schools are heated by natural gas, which does not allow the schools to lock in a price. And the district has not been able to lock in a price for what heating oil it does use, estimated to cost $500,000 a year.

Michaud will review the district’s fuel spending in early January to see whether it can afford to end the spending freezes.

Town Manager Ron Owens said if fuel prices stay about the same as they are now, the town and school combined could be more than $100,000 over the budgeted amount for diesel fuel, most of which is used for school buses.

If diesel prices, which are now falling, go back up, the budget hole would be bigger, as much as $700,000, if prices climb $1.20 a gallon above where they were two weeks ago, when the town got its last shipment of diesel.

“We can do some things to try to absorb that,” Owens said, such as reducing engine idling and finding ways to eliminate duplicate vehicle trips.

But if the hole is larger than about $100,000, Owens said he would seek approval from the council to cover the extra costs with money in the town’s reserve account.

Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Alan Hawkins told the School Board Tuesday he is starting to collect information about projected fuel costs, and might appoint a group to discuss what should be done.

Cape Town Manager Mike McGovern has asked all town departments to find additional ways to conserve fuel, in addition to their regular conservation measures, such as using timers on lights and boilers and using energy-efficient windows and light fixtures.

In South Portland, school Business Manager Polly Ward said the city and schools together locked in a heating oil price last spring, so that is not a concern.

She said district employees are concerned about diesel fuel costs and the cost of natural gas, but are not yet restricting field trips.

“Right now we don’t have any reason to believe that we’re not going to be properly budgeted” for fuel expenses, she said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New Medicare drug benefit: What you need to know

Published in the Current

(Sep 14, 2005): Seniors on Medicare, or those approaching age 65, have a big choice looming regarding Medicare's new prescription-drug coverage program.

While seniors will be given plenty of information, including from government agencies and advertising by large insurance companies, the wealth of information may actually make it harder to decide on the best prescription drug program for you.

Starting Oct. 1, insurance companies will begin a marketing campaign targeting senior citizens, to convince them to buy one or another Medicare-approved prescription drug insurance plan, collectively called Medicare Part D.

Starting on Nov. 15, those on Medicare will need to sign up for a specific drug coverage plan in order to be eligible for help paying the costs of prescription drugs starting on Jan. 1, 2006.

In the lead-up to what promises to be a complex decision-making process, Medicare drug specialist Katlyn Blackstone from the Southern Maine Agency on Aging is holding a series of seminars around Cumberland and York counties to inform seniors about the new prescription drug system.

There are 77,000 Medicare recipients in Cumberland and York counties, and “all of you will have to make some kind of decision regarding Medicare Part D,” even if that choice is not to participate, Blackstone said at a meeting with seniors in South Portland last week.

How it works

The Medicare prescription drug plan is separate from the hospital insurance program, called Part A, and outpatient insurance covering doctor’s office visits, called Part B.

Medicare Part D replaces the Medicare-approved drug discount card program that started in early 2004, meaning that people involved in those programs will have to choose a new Part D plan.

These prescription drug plans are offered by private insurance companies, who will charge a premium – projected to be about $35 a month, at least for the first year.

Benefits, under Part D, start with a $250 deductible, which must be paid by the individual. There is no insurance to help pay for the first $250 of drugs you use each year.

Under all the Part D prescription drug coverage plans, fees are charged at the full rate, not a discounted rate like with the current drug discount cards.

So, for example, if a person is taking a drug, and is in a drug discount plan with a payment of $25 for a drug that costs $100, the person would have to pay the full $100 for two months, and then $50 the third month, before the insurance kicks in.

After the person pays the $250 deductible, the new drug coverage insurance plans, under Medicare Part D, will pay 75 percent of the cost of the drugs.

That means seniors will be required to pay the remaining 25 percent – until the total cost of the drugs reaches $2,250.

Under Part D, therefore, a senior has to pay $500 of their own money, in addition to the $250 deductible, for a total of $750 out-of-pocket.

Beyond that, there is what Blackstone called a “coverage gap” in which “you are responsible for all of your drug costs” until the total cost of your drugs reaches $5,100.

This means the senior would have to spend another $2,850 of their own money – for a total out-of-pocket cost of $3,600.

After that, the drug insurance plan will pick up 95 percent of the cost of all drugs, leaving 5 percent to be paid by the senior.

These out of pocket costs for prescription drugs are an annual expense. And, the $35 premiums must be paid monthly as well.

How to get help

Before the sign-up period begins, seniors can ask for help paying the costs of the premiums and prescription drugs, once they have decided on a prescription drug plan.

Blackstone said everyone should fill out a form from the Social Security Administration to see if they qualify for help, based on their income level and other assets such as bank accounts.

The value of a senior’s home, and any vehicles, are not included in the income calculation.

People with Mainecare and Medicare will have no premium, no deductible, no gap in coverage, and co-payments at or below $5 per prescription, even for brand-name medications – though only if their medications are on the list of specific drugs covered by their plan.

If those people spend more than $3,600 in a year, then even the co-payment is waived.

People who live in nursing homes and on Mainecare will have no co-payments or any out-of-pocket expenses, Blackstone said.

Choosing a plan

There will be as many as 20 prescription drug coverage plans available to choose from in Maine.

All of the Medicare Part D plans must be approved by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. None of the plans offered will provide coverage for purchasing drugs from Canadian pharmacies.

The Medicare information booklet, mailed each October to recipients, will include a listing of all plans available in Maine and phone numbers to call for more information.

But even before that, the insurance companies can advertise their plans, including calling seniors directly.

“They’re not allowed to enroll you over the phone,” Blackstone said, warning seniors not to be talked into signing up too quickly.

She urged seniors to look carefully at all the plans, including asking what medications each plan covers (called its “formulary”) and how much it will cost, including co-payments.

“The companies want your business. Up front they are most likely going to be very generous in their formularies. … Later on that might change. We’re not sure,” Blackstone said.

Some drug coverage plans will require prescriptions be filled by mail, while others will be honored by local pharmacies.

Penalty for delay

Enrollment is not automatic, except for people on Medicaid (or Mainecare) or in Medicare savings plans. But even then, there is a choice to be made.

“If you have Mainecare and Medicare … you will be automatically assigned to a plan by the end of the year if you don’t pick one,” Blackstone said.

People with Veterans Administration prescription coverage, TRICARE or Federal Employee Health Benefits coverage do not need to sign up.

People on retiree prescription plans will get a letter by Nov. 15, telling them whether they need to sign up for Medicare Part D.

A person who decides not to sign up by May 15, 2006, and is not in a comparable plan, will have to pay a penalty if they sign up later.

The penalty is a percentage of the premium, based on how many months after the May 15, 2006, enrollment deadline the person signs up.

For example, if a person signs up a month late, they will have to pay the premium, plus 1 percent of the premium, each month. If a person signs up a year late, the surcharge would be 12 percent of the premium.

For more information about the new Medicare Part D drug coverage plans, call Southern Maine Agency on Aging at 396-6500 or 1-800-427-7411.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Locals divided on Patriot Act

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 8, 2005): Local residents are torn about the expansion of the USA PATRIOT Act, with some worried about government invasion of privacy, while others want the act expanded to provide more security against terrorism.

At a forum on the issue last week, Pauline Levin of Scarborough noted media reports “that abuses have occurred” under the provisions of the law, enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, to help federal agents fight terrorism.

But Arline Neumann, also of Scarborough, said she wants police powers extended. “I feel the Patriot Act protects me to stay alive,” she said at the forum, held at the Scarborough Public Library.

The law’s official name is an acronym standing for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” but it is often referred to simply as the “Patriot Act.”

The lead federal prosecutor in Maine, Paula Silsby, defended the law as something that provides police and investigators with "tools (that) facilitate the prosecutors' job" and are "necessary" to protect the public.

Several provisions are up for renewal by Congress this fall, which has led to a national debate on how much privacy people are willing to give up in exchange for a measure of security.

One controversial provision up for reconsideration allows federal agents to demand copies of records of books people have borrowed from libraries or purchased at bookstores, and, under some circumstances, to force library or store officials to remain silent about the demand forever.

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said her group agrees government should have tools to protect the public. “Our concern is the expansion” of investigative powers and restrictions on public knowledge or judicial oversight of the process, she said.

That “increases our necessity to trust government officials,” which is not always a good idea in a democracy, she said.

Librarians have also been concerned, with Wendy Miller of the Maine Library Association noting that America has a strong tradition of intellectual freedom.

In response to a question from Patricia Doyle, a resident of Westchester County, N.Y., who was visiting Levin, Miller said she would not report to police a person who asked her for a book on how to make bombs.

Shortly after 9/11, a man asked Miller for help finding books on Iraq and Pakistan, she said. She felt nervous initially, but then dismissed it as her own reaction because of the timing of the request. He wasn’t doing anything illegal, she said. “He’s just looking for information.”

The very fact that a man’s search for books on a particular topic worried Anne Altern, a South Portland resident born in Norway.

“In this country, you can buy a gun and no record is kept. … You can go to a library and check out a book and the record is always there,” she said.

Scarborough resident Jack Kelley said the danger is real, despite a “philosophy of privacy” that pervades American culture.

Drawing a distinction between day-to-day crimes and terrorism, Kelley said “failure to prevent a crime can result in somebody’s death” but failure to prevent an act of terrorism could result in destruction of a city.

Neumann said she didn’t mind if the government wanted to look at her book-borrowing records. “Before 9/11 I would have cared,” but now she does not, she said.

Most people in the room, whether they supported or opposed parts of the Patriot Act, said they believed there are terrorists “out there” who want to harm American citizens, and are using the Internet – freely and anonymously available in many libraries – as one tool in their efforts.

Bellows said her group’s concerns include ensuring the government doesn’t “waste taxpayer dollars” investigating peaceful groups. She noted that the FBI recently released 1,000 pages documenting investigation and surveillance of the American Civil Liberties Union, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU.

Silsby said the Patriot Act strikes a “balance” between freedom and safety. “I think we all agree that we have to remain safe in order to be free,” she said.

Neumann noted that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed “Atta looked like an average American businessman carrying a briefcase.” A search of his clothes or his luggage would have turned up nothing, she said. “He used the plane as his weapon.”

4 from S.P. ready to go

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 8, 2005): Four firefighter-paramedics with the South Portland Fire Department are ready to head to the Gulf Coast as part of a 20-member team from Maine.

"We're just waiting for a phone call," said Fire Chief Kevin Guimond. "I wish we could offer more people, but we've still got to cover the city."

Guimond said he and others in the department have also been working the last two days to set up a shelter in Maine for evacuees, but it now looks like they will not get this far, he said.

Lynette Miller of the Maine Emergency Management Agency said South Portland is one place a statewide task force is considering as a possible site for meeting up with evacuees to find out what they need and sending them elsewhere in the state.

She said federal agencies have halted "mass relocations" out of the disaster-affected area, citing evacuees' unwillingness to go so far from home.

Editorial: Not so far

Published in the Current

(Sep 8, 2005): While the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina is 1,600 miles away, people in our towns – even just down the street – are feeling its effects and getting involved.

Jack Malcolm of Cape Elizabeth and Ellen Thornton of Scarborough are back in their respective homes, relieved survivors of the storm. Aid donations are pouring into anywhere that is set up to collect them, whether a container truck at the Maine Mall or a firefighter's rubber boot at the Cape Elizabeth transfer station.

And though we felt only rain from Katrina, another “disaster” made landfall here: The federal response was not well coordinated. Cape’s Water Extrication Team was on standby, only to be told to stay put. The federal agency in charge said they weren’t needed.

Local firefighters and others signed up to help, too, but the feds are now saying they have everyone they need in place or on the way.

It’s hard to believe that, given the pictures and reports coming out of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, where thousands of people are still trapped in their homes or places of work by floodwaters contaminated with hazardous chemicals and sewage.

Only a couple days ago looting and random shootings were reportedly commonplace in the ruins of New Orleans, and hundreds – if not thousands – who had survived the hurricane were in danger of dying before help arrived. It certainly seemed, from this far away, as if more rescuers in boats, like the WETeam, and more public-safety workers, like the firefighters, could have helped.

We know now that if the feds had acted faster in the immediate aftermath of the storm, more people might have been saved, or at least rescued earlier.

Only time will tell whether the feds were right to delay Maine’s offers of aid, but that’s not enough for people in our community, who want to help.

Though we fear they may not be, we hope the feds are making the right decisions now, after failing so miserably just days ago. And we can take heart, knowing that if more help is needed – whether tomorrow, next month or next year – we have people in our communities who are standing up to say “I will.”

Thanks to them. We should all be proud of their willingness to serve, and should join them in whatever way we can, whether by donating food, money or time.

Four years already

This issue begins our fifth year here at the Current, and we owe it all to two groups of people: our readers and our advertisers. Without you, we would not have survived, nor would we be continuing to thrive and grow, still working each week to become the best community newspaper we can be.

In some ways, to some of us, it seems like yesterday a small group of us were in a small upstairs office putting together the first issue of the more than 200 we have published since.

And in other ways, we have grown to become a stronger weekly paper than we had hoped, always with the news from Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, but expanding our range to include developments at the Statehouse, and deepening our coverage in our towns to explore specific areas such as business, religion and, as always, schools, police and town government.

We have also introduced our readers to interesting and enlightening people who live nearby, and have helped make and strengthen connections within our communities.

We have illuminated social issues, trends and controversies, and have received countless positive comments. But we are not resting on our achievements. Rather, we push forward each week, striving to be even better, and in that effort, we need your assistance.

Your story ideas, comments and friendly faces are all important to us. Please contact Jeff Inglis, editor, at 883-3533, or by e-mail at, at any time with anything you would like to say. We welcome letters to the editor, guest columns, news tips, neighborhood updates and anything else you would like to send our way.

Thanks again for reading and participating in this, your community’s newspaper.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Students inspire teacher to write

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Sep 1, 2005): Mike Bogart never really thought of himself as an author, but his first book is due out shortly and he has two more in the works.

Bogart, a South Portland resident who works at Scarborough Middle School, was inspired by his students to write the book he has been working on for a couple years.

He teaches 19 STRIVE students, kids with academic or emotional challenges, and was “looking for something that would be interesting to our kind of students,” namely a “high-interest, low-reading-level” book for the kids who are struggling with reading.

“They’re all bright,” Bogart said. He found that if the students could read about a subject that interested them, they would read a lot. If they couldn’t find anything they liked, they would be less likely to read.

The demand is strong. “There’s not a lot of stuff out there,” said Bogart’s co-teacher Phil DelVecchio of Westbrook.

“A lot of the stuff that’s easy reading is more fantasy or science fiction,” and some kids just don’t like it, DelVecchio said. The teachers have also been working to get the students writing more, about “what they have in their head” as a way to keep up their interest, he said.

Bogart, a former Massachusetts firefighter who has coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for the last 12 years, thought he could use some of his life experience to get the kids reading.

So “Meet the Henderson Twins in Matt and Mike Henderson Play Hardball” was born. “Part of this is me trying to role-model” the writing he encourages in his students, as well.

Bogart, one of nine children, had two younger brothers who were twins, based a lot of the material on things he knows well.

The book follows the adventures of twin 12-year-old boys growing up in Boston. They love baseball, and play in their local Little League. They get to visit Fenway Park and meet their baseball hero, as well as see Boston firefighters in action and handle other challenges of daily life.

The boys live with their little sister, their grandmother and their widowed father. Their mother died when a drunk driver hit her car, and the book addresses the effect of that on the boys.

He included that theme as a warning to the kids, many of whom are on prescription medications in middle school but go off them in high school, choosing instead to “self-medicate.”

“I’m just finding that a lot of these kids are getting into alcohol and drugs,” said Bogart, who this week began his sixth year in the Scarborough schools. He wanted to “plant a seed” of warning in the kids while they are still young – 11, 12 and 13 years old – that drugs and alcohol can be very dangerous.

“When I wrote it, I read it with my STRIVE students,” who told him what they thought of it, said Bogart. One piece of advice they gave him was to make the language easier for them to understand. In some places, he had to choose different words or other ways to say something to help the kids move through the story.

The project took a big leap forward when Bogart’s friend and colleague Sue Lahaie, a longtime Scarborough teacher who died this summer, read it to a group of her students. Lahaie’s group wrote Bogart letters about the book and also held an “author’s tea” to discuss the book.

“She and the students suggested that I get it published,” said Bogart, who also has drafts of books with the Henderson twins playing football and hockey.

The baseball book will be out later this month. Bogart hopes to use the royalties from the book to purchase more books appropriate for his students, and will use his own work “if I come across a group that I think would enjoy it.”

People can buy the book at Nonesuch Books and Borders in South Portland, and get more information at The book is also available online through

Editorial: School’s open

Published in the Current

(Sep 1, 2005): Scarborough schools started earlier this week, Cape schools started today, and South Portland schools start Tuesday, so be careful on the roads: Keep your eyes peeled for kids walking and biking to and from school in the morning and in the afternoon.

We wish all the students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators well as a new year begins.

Here at the Current, we have started off the school year with our Page 1 package on the first days of school that continues inside with coverage of the Maine Educational Assessment test results.

We share our readers’ interest in what is going on inside the walls of our communities’ schools all day long, in how they prepare students for the world beyond, and in the forces outside those walls that shape teaching and learning. We hope you will help us with our reporting efforts by sharing your thoughts, questions and story ideas.

Safety is also a concern, and we are glad school officials in Scarborough and Cape have found ways to keep students safe while also allowing two troubled teens facing criminal charges back into class.

School is not just a place to learn academic skills; it is a venue for learning social and interpersonal skills as well.

Incorporating those two students – and all students with troubles and challenges who can be included safely – into classes and the society of school can only help them grow as individuals and fulfill their potential of contributing to the wider society in productive ways.

Still time to file

Elections are looming, and in all three of our communities some races are shaping up to be quite competitive, while other seats have attracted little or no interest.

We urge citizens to participate in local government, by seeking elective office. Democracy does not work without the freedom to make a choice on the second Tuesday in November.

It takes courage to run and energy to serve, but the level of non-governmental civic involvement in Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland is so high that it is surprising there are not more people who step forward, offering to participate.

Deadlines are approaching – Scarborough’s is Wednesday, Sept. 7; Cape’s is Friday, Sept. 9; and South Portland’s is Monday, Sept. 12. But there is still time to take out nominating papers, collect a few dozen signatures from friends, neighbors and colleagues, and return them to the clerk’s office.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Young poet’s book to benefit others

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Sep 1, 2005): Scarborough poet Nathan Laxague is just starting his junior year at Cheverus, but has already begun selling a book of his poetry for the benefit of several non-profit agencies.

Laxague, now 16, was inspired in seventh grade to write poetry to bring laughter to a friend of his who had cancer. During the school year, he wrote several poems for class assignments, and his teacher told him he should try to get them published.

That summer, he wrote several and has spent the years since trying to get the book published. It came out recently, as “Preposterous Poetry to Tickle Your Funny Bone,” with cover and inside art also by Laxague.

“It’s kind of silly stuff to cheer people up,” Laxague said. “It all rhymes because I’ve always had this thing against non-rhyming poetry.”

What began as an effort to help a friend has now become a larger cause. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds will be split among several non-profits, some local and others nationwide.

The Cancer Community Center in South Portland, which helps cancer patients and their families, will get 20 percent of the profits, as will the Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund in New Jersey, which also helps children with cancer and blood disorders.

Ten percent will go to saving the rain forest and endangered animals, and 10 percent will go to the Environmental Health Management Institute to buy educational materials for schools around the country.

The remaining 15 percent will go to a group Laxague is just starting up, called Kids Against Toxins, dedicated to advocating for a cleaner environment.

“People need to realize the toxins in the environment and the effects they have on people’s lives” and health, Laxague said.

The group has several ambitious goals: to create a fund to help people who need medical care but can’t get support from their insurance companies, to encourage hazardous-waste collection days in towns, to expand recycling and environmental programs in schools, and to encourage alternative-health practitioners to present at cancer support centers.

“We’re just getting it started,” Laxague said.

The book is on sale at Borders Books and Music in South Portland, Books Etc. and Emerson Booksellers in Portland. It's also on sale at Lonfellow Books in Portland, where Laxague will hold a book-signing on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6 p.m.

The Kids Against Toxins group is also holding an event to raise money on Monday, Oct. 3, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the O’Naturals restaurant on Exchange Street in Portland, at which kids can sign up, free of charge, to be members of the group.

It is also seeking donations for an art auction at Local 188 in Portland in April, to benefit the Cancer Community Center and children with cancer at Maine Medical Center.

For more information, contact Laxague at

Former deputy chief destroys evidence

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Sep 1, 2005): A former Cape Elizabeth deputy fire chief who works for the Scarborough Fire Department has pleaded guilty to destroying a computer hard drive before police could examine it as part of an investigation.

Mark Stults, 41, of Woodland Road pled guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of falsifying physical evidence in December 2004, according to documents in Cumberland County Superior Court.

In 2004, he was deputy chief of the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department, a post he resigned earlier a couple months ago, according to Cape Elizabeth Fire Chief Phil McGouldrick. Stults has not been on any fire calls with the department in recent months, McGouldrick said.

Stults works as a paramedic with the Scarborough Fire Department. Scarborough Fire Chief Mike Thurlow said he did not know about the court case and called Stults “a model employee.”

The charge accused Stults of knowing an official investigation was pending or ongoing and altering, destroying, concealing or removing items relevant to the investigation, the subject of which is not disclosed in court records.

Assistant Cumberland County District Attorney Robert "Bud" Ellis said investigators were following up on a tip when they attempted to search Stults's computer.

“Before an investigation could be done … the hard drive on the computer had been removed and disposed of,” Ellis said.

Stults declined to comment Tuesday, saying it was “a family matter.”

His sentencing has been put off for a year, according to court records.

Cape Elizabeth police Capt. Brent Sinclair said the department had handled the investigation, but would not elaborate, saying only that “the case has been adjudicated.”

Sinclair said Stults has not been charged with any other crimes, and said the Cape police investigation is over.