Thursday, November 24, 2005

History, tradition disagree on Thanksgiving

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Nov 24, 2005): The first Thanksgiving, in 1621, had an undercurrent of unease during the feast of gratitude the Pilgrims held after their first successful harvest in the New World.

What little we know of that three-day celebration is contained in two short passages from colonists, one written by Edward Winslow Dec. 12, 1621, and published in 1622; and the other written at least 10 years after the event by William Bradford, the colony’s governor, in “History of Plymouth Plantation,” according to Lisa Wolfinger of Cape Elizabeth, who with her husband Kirk Wolfinger owns Lone Wolf Documentary Group in South Portland.

Lisa Wolfinger, who spoke Sunday at a special service at Blue Point Congregational Church, UCC, in Scarborough, is working on a three-hour documentary about the Pilgrims, to air as “The Mayflower” on the History Channel around next Thanksgiving.

There is no Native American record of the feast, in the oral or written traditions of the tribes in the area, Wolfinger told the congregation, who wore name tags bearing Pilgrims’ names. Some children wore construction-paper Pilgrim hats, and the service was conducted “in the manner of the Pilgrims, as best we can,” said Rev. Carol Kerr, who may appear in the film as an extra, and whose son Gavin plays a young gentleman named Jonathan Brewster.

“The story of the Pilgrims is a great adventure,” said Rev. Kerr, “a story of great adventure and powerful heroes with God on their side.”

Creators of tradition

The group wanted to worship in their own way, reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves without a priest explaining or giving an “official” version of the scripture. They objected to the Church of England’s traditions, many of which descended from the Roman Catholic Church, as separating people from God.

The Pilgrims were a sect called Separatists, which split from the Church of England to form a new church, as opposed to the Puritans, a group who wanted to “purify” the Anglican Church from within, Wolfinger said.

“Congregationalism, our church, descended directly from their faith,” Kerr said. Even the fact that she wears academic robes during services – rather than a priest’s ornate garb – descends from the Pilgrims, whose ministers wore academic robes to signify the belief people should “use reason and your mind” to understand God, she said.

The Blue Point Church building is “much more Anglican” than the Pilgrims would have liked, she said, with stained glass and an organ – what the Pilgrims called “the devil’s bagpipes” – featured prominently.

Other traditions created by the Separatists survive, including the Congregational practice of a church choosing its own minister, rather than having a bishop or pope to make that decision, said Kerr, who was picked by a committee of church members.

Saved by English-speakers

Despite the lasting traditions they created, “the Pilgrims were a little crazy, if you ask me,” Kerr said. In a fervent desire to worship their own way, they left their homes in England for Holland, and then packed 102 of themselves onto a small wooden ship built to carry 75 people – the Mayflower – and set sail for America.

They slept on bare wood decks, had little or no sanitation and ate uncooked food during the 66-day voyage, which ended when the Pilgrims, with almost no provisions and nothing for shelter, arrived off Cape Cod in November 1620, just as winter was setting in, Kerr said.

About all they did have was faith. In one of his last speeches before the group left Holland, Rev. John Robinson, the sect’s leader, who stayed behind, told the Pilgrims to keep their eyes, minds and hearts open to new ideas and understandings of God and the Bible, “for I am verily persuaded that the Lord hath more truth and light to break forth from His holy word.”

And the Pilgrims had a little luck. When they landed, there were no natives in the area. Nearly all of them had been killed off by a plague, possibly smallpox brought by European explorers, Wolfinger said.

There were villages nearby, all vacant, and some with bones on the ground because so many had died “there was nobody left to bury them,” she said.

The Pilgrims moved into an area that had been cultivated, but only barely survived by hunting and gathering through the winter. By the spring, half of them had died of scurvy and pneumonia.

In March, an English-speaking Native American showed up, Samoset. He had learned the Pilgrims’ language from explorers and traders who had preceded them. He arranged a peace between the Pilgrims and Massasoit, the local chief.

Massasoit even arranged for Squanto – a Native American who had been kidnapped and taken to England and Spain and spoke English too – to live among the Pilgrims to help them. In 1621 he had just returned from Europe to find that almost all of his tribe, the Pawtuxet, had been killed by the plague, Wolfinger said.

Without the natives’ help, “the Pilgrims would not have survived,” she said.

Indians not invited?

But survive they did, and after their harvest they held a celebratory feast. The few records we have of the event show “how far we’ve distorted what actually happened,” into a holiday where families get together to eat and watch football, Wolfinger said.

One of the key debates among historians is whether the Native Americans were invited to the feast, as many American schoolchildren learn. Neither of the written accounts says they were, though Winslow’s letter says the Pilgrims “exercised their arms,” or performed military-like drills, including possibly firing weapons, which Wolfinger said might have concerned the Native Americans, whose chief then showed up with 90 warriors.

“There’s a baseline level of unease in this celebration,” she said, and the “raw footage” clips she showed of the film-in-progress reflect that, with no joyous conversation between the Pilgrims and Native Americans, even as they sit together to share a meal.

“You’ve got all these people showing up for a party, there’s not that much food, and they won’t leave – and they’re fully armed,” she said.

Sidebar: First-hand accounts of the first Thanksgiving

Edward Winslow, printer, in a letter dated Dec. 12, 1621,and published in 1622 as chapter six of “Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth:”

“Our corn (i.e. wheat) did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

William Bradford, the colony’s governor from April 1621 on, in “History of Plymouth Plantation,” written between 1630 and 1650:

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.”

Sidebar: Elements of Pilgrim worship

The service began with a drummer calling people to worship, and with a member of the congregation thumping a “tithing rod” three times. (The wooden rod was used to prod men – and a similar one with a feather on it was for the women – who fell asleep during the four-hour services in unheated sanctuaries.)

Men and boys sat on the right-hand side of the sanctuary and women and girls sat on the left.

The beadle, a church official who kept religious order in the community, carried the Bible to a bench at the front of the church, and the minister walked up the aisle last.

The service started with “free prayers” – written by the minister or made up on the spot, not written down in anything like the Anglicans’ “Book of Common Prayer” – conducted while minister and congregation members alike held their hands upraised. This was also called the short prayer: “The short prayer was the 15-minute prayer at the beginning of the service,” according to Rev. Carol Kerr.

If the minister said something people liked, they would call out “Amen.”

Then there would be a hymn in a call-and-response format, with some members of the congregation leading and everyone else following along, line by line.

When the scripture readings were complete, people could comment about what they heard, and ask questions.

After the sermon, there would also be a time for questions and comments.

Then, before the offering and benediction ending the service, there would be a time called “censures,” when congregation members would stand up and report on the misdeeds they had seen others doing. “This is probably a part of Pilgrims and Puritanism that you’re glad we don’t do anymore,” Kerr said.

Source: Rev. Carol Kerr

Editorial: Giving thanks

Published in the Current

(Nov 24, 2005): This week, as Thanksgiving gives us a chance to stop and take stock of all of our blessings, please remember to think of others who are less fortunate. They are all around us – here in Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, and they live here year-round.

Some are children, like Barry Cash, whose difficult road is one few of us can fathom. Even so, Cash, now 18, has happy memories of his childhood with his family, before his mother put him on a Lewiston school bus and told the driver not to bring him home, as we read on Page 1. He has also found a family that cares for him deeply, and we are grateful to the LaVoies for opening their hearts and their home to him.

Others are like the 47-year-old Scarborough mother we talked to, who needs help from the Scarborough Food Pantry, or others who get help from the other local pantries.

People have been telling us that this winter the need will be greater, with fuel prices high and sure to stay there. Even as gas and oil prices fall to near or even below $2 a gallon, that is more than some can pay.

Holidays are a time of plenty in many homes, but in homes where there is not plenty, the absence is felt more deeply. But there is a sadder story here: As the holidays pass, people tend to neglect the needy again, until the holidays come around again.

By March, Norma Coughlin, director of the Scarborough Food Pantry, turns to people who go to church at the pantry’s home, the First Congregational Church on Black Point Road, to fill the larder for those still hungry as winter ends.

Coughlin and the volunteers there, as well as others at other food pantries and organizations in our three communities, keep their minds and hearts on helping the less fortunate throughout the year, not just when the “giving season” is upon us and winter rolls in.

We urge everyone to try harder to keep others in mind, even during our busy lives. That is a large part of what makes a community and keeps ours together.

To the LaVoies, Coughlin and her crew, South Portland Food Cupboard Director Sybil Riemensnider and her volunteers: We are thankful to you, and for you, and for all who help others, now and throughout the year.

A personal note

I will be leaving the Current Nov. 30 to become the managing editor of the Portland Phoenix.

I want to take a moment to express my personal gratitude to all of you, our readers, advertisers, friends and community members, for your support – both professional and personal – in my four years here at the Current.

I leave with both a heavy heart and great excitement. I will miss covering these communities so closely, though I will still live in South Portland, visit my sister’s family in Scarborough and spend time with friends in Cape Elizabeth.

Many of you will remember my friend and colleague Brendan Moran, who worked with us at the Current from very early on. He is now Current Publishing’s executive editor, and will begin oversight of the Current, with an assistant editor to be named shortly. Together they will ensure the continuation and improvement of the strong news coverage and writing you have come to expect from the Current.

After next week, I will join you as an interested reader and paid subscriber, and I look forward to the next chapter in the story of this, my hometown newspaper.

Thanks again to all of you, for so much.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Thursday, November 17, 2005

S.P. parades for veterans

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Nov 17, 2005): After South Portland's Veterans Day parade, Lloyd Woods, commander of the Maine Department of the American Legion, thanked veterans for their sacrifices in the name of freedom.

"We can never forget out defenders. They are the backbone of America," he said.

South Portland City Clerk Susan Mooney said veterans "are responsible for the liberty and freedom we enjoy today." She said veterans who never served in direct combat should not discount their contributions to freedom.

Lt. Roger Sabourin, a retired Navy officer and Army senior enlisted man who organized the parade, said "it is not the media that got you your freedom today," and not ministers either. "It is the veterans who have paid the price," he said.

Helping with an extreme makeover

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Nov 17, 2005): When Weird Al Yankovic showed up in Wells on a television production site, Rhonda Finley of Scarborough was home, asleep.

“I always was at home on a power nap when good stuff happened,” Finley said upon seeing Yankovic’s accordion performance on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” Sunday evening on ABC.

Finley and her friends Mary Nablo and Laura Roche were volunteer coordinators during the filming of the program, which gave a Wells lobsterman a new home in a week, as part of a national hit television program that visits deserving families to tear down their old houses and build new, state-of-the-art homes.

The trio, and many other contractors, workers and volunteers, watched the program’s Sunday broadcast at the Thomas Room in South Portland at a party thrown by the lead company, Katahdin Homes.

Nablo, Roche and Finley worked at a volunteer check-in desk at a parking lot near the construction site at the home of the family of Doug Goodale, a lobsterman who lost his arm in a freak accident in 1997 aboard his lobster boat. Goodale was treated at Maine Medical Center by Dr. Donald Endrizzi, a Scarborough resident.

The three had been recruited by their friend Karen Gaydos, formerly of Scarborough and now of Saco. Gaydos’s father is a friend of Katahdin Homes president David Gordon, and was helping with logistics, Finley said.

As contractors and other volunteers arrived at the site, Nablo, Roche and Finley worked in shifts to sign them in, get them hard hats and send them up to the home site, where Hollis resident Susan Dow met them and put them to work.

“We had a schedule that was modified pretty much hour to hour” of the number of people needed, Nablo said.

The trio – and Dow, who joined them at Sunday’s party – recognized lots of people on the TV program, as well as in a “behind-the-scenes” show broadcast on the Portland ABC channel an hour before the national broadcast of the “Extreme Makeover” show.

“There’s Angie,” one said. “There’s Emily,” said another. “I remember him,” they said as a paint-stained man spoke briefly to a camera.

In one shot of the work area, they recognized a place they drove through often. “Our cars are going to come right up there,” Finley said.

Finley was featured prominently, if you knew where to look. She was in most of the shots of the family reacting to the “reveal,” their first glimpse of their new house, standing near the major contractors on the project and the show’s stars. Nablo was on the show briefly, in a passing shot. Roche knew she would not be on TV, as she rarely saw cameras.

Their work was exhausting. Roche said she tried to help out and be a full-time mom to her four children. As a result, she volunteered at the work site all night and was up during the day with her family, getting no sleep “for about five days.”

Finley said some volunteers were surprised they were not going to be helping with the actual construction, expecting the work to be more like a Habitat for Humanity project, in which everyone pitches in on nearly every task.

On the show, however, because the new house has to be built well in five days, there is no time to teach people construction skills along the way, Finley said.

So people sewed, carried items, and did other odd jobs that needed doing, and were spotted from various angles in the television broadcast.

“We sat on that bus,” Finley said during the opening sequence of the show, in which the show’s stars drive to the work site in a custom charter bus.

When landscape designer Eduardo Xol was interviewed on-camera near a stack of lobster traps, the three recognized the spot where they parked their cars for a couple days early in the project.

There were other, emotional ties. “I’ve never not cried watching this show,” Finley said.

And there was laughter, as they recalled a trip away from the work site to pick up some supplies.

“We had 12 minutes to get to Home Depot, to Biddeford, from Wells,” Nablo said. They were going about 80 mph through heavy fog on the highway, carrying the walkie-talkies they had been issued, when they got a phone call from Gaydos, wondering where they were and why no one was answering the calls on the walkie-talkies.

The crazy situation and the ridiculous pressure came out in peals of laughter as the women told the story, taking turns as each needed to laugh or breathe.

They arrived at Home Depot, having called ahead. “We walk in the door and they act like we’re like gods,” Finley said.

They could not do everything, though. The night before the final day, Nablo was told the production crew wanted 300 people at Wells Harbor in the morning, to watch Goodale receive a new lobster boat as part of the show.

Nablo decided that she would not be able to help: “I don’t know 300 people in Wells,” she said.

The show has had lasting effects, beyond the trio’s willingness to help again – “maybe in a year,” Roche said. Someone was recently fiddling with Finley’s cell phone, looking at the names in the address book, and asked, “Who is Greg the welder?”

It took her half an hour to remember that she had once needed to get in touch with a man to weld a barre for a dance studio in the basement of the new home. She had entered his number into her phone in a rushed moment amid the frenzy, and forgotten about it.

“It seems like a lifetime ago,” Finley said.

Westbrook crash cuts power, closes Saco Street

Published online at

WESTBROOK (Nov 17, 2005): A car accident on Saco Street in Westbrook has cut power and telephone service to sections of the city and closed Saco Street traffic near the public works building, at 371 Saco Street.

The number of cars involved and any injuries are unclear at the moment. and American Journal staff are on the scene. More details will be posted as they become available.

Editorial: Rebuilding trust

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Nov 17, 2005): Like it or not, the Scarborough schools have a credibility problem when it comes to construction. While early claims that large portions of the high school renovation project were substandard have been dismissed, some problems linger, most notably a section of foundation that is cracked to an unknown degree.

Two other problems also remain in the latest version of an outside engineer’s review of the project, both of which relate to securing vertical support columns to the ground. As a result, the engineer, as we read on Page 1, has reiterated the suggestion that the schools and the construction companies arrange to purchase some type of long-term insurance policy to cover possible failure of the building’s performance down the road.

They should do just that – but the schools should not have to pay anything. If there is any fault, it is the responsibility of the workers who did the job, and their employers. If the schools failed to properly supervise the work – itself a questionable assertion – that still does not excuse shoddy workmanship.

The companies should warrant their work is good, and stand behind it, in a formal and legally binding statement to the building’s owners, the people of Scarborough. That is the long-term insurance policy taxpayers need and deserve.

But as a larger result of this situation, the Scarborough Town Council is moving to take over supervision of school building projects, with several councilors – not just Jeff Messer and Robert Patch, who raised concerns about the high school – saying there needs to be better supervision in the future, and earlier public airing of any possible problems.

The high school project turned into a political dispute, between councilors’ assertions of widespread wrongdoing and school officials’ denial that anything wrong ever happened. Neither was true, and the wrangling was bad for the community, the taxpayers and the schools.

If there are problems with a project, they should be brought to light professionally – without personal attacks. They should be investigated seriously and comprehensively, with the focus on getting value for the taxpayers’ millions, rather than advancing or protecting anyone’s personal or political agendas.

The Scarborough High School project is a $27 million endeavor paid for entirely by the residents of Scarborough, who are about to get asked for as much as $54 million more for an expanded middle school and a new intermediate school.

Several councilors appear to believe that the oversight of the next project needs to be better, and they are right. Involving more people earlier will prevent the political wrangling, and will also remove the opportunity for the councilors to be accused of “meddling” with school business. The quality of a public building used to educate students is everyone’s business.

It is not an unusual move for councils to appoint school building committees – it has happened in Cape Elizabeth and South Portland in very recent years, for Cape’s work on the high school and Pond Cove Elementary School, and for South Portland’s city-wide elementary school renovation and expansion work. A new city-wide committee in South Portland is investigating options for the middle and high schools there.

In neither of those communities was the council-appointed committee a cause for acrimony or political gamesmanship, and Scarborough should follow their leads.

Making a political football out of every step of this process will bring taxpayer exhaustion, possible voter rejection and neglect of the proper focus for all involved: How to balance the needs of the students with the needs of the town as a whole.

Not neighborly

Last week, a group of people gathered outside the cottage where convicted kidnapper Norman Dickinson is living, and yelled at him so that he was afraid and called police for help.

The perpetrators’ actions are indefensibly offensive, and they are no better than criminals for violating his right to live without fear.

Dickinson is a convicted felon, and was imprisoned for his crimes, which happened in 1989. About eight years ago he wrote to a judge, saying he would commit more crimes if he were released, and called himself a “time bomb.” But a lot of time has passed.

As we learn on Page 1, state corrections officials and local police believe Dickinson is not a serious threat – and are keeping a close eye on him nonetheless.

Neighbors are within their rights to remain vigilant, and to keep their eyes open for signs of danger. The question of where released prisoners should live is an important one that demands we provide real rehabilitation in our prisons and social support in our communities – not a group of yelling people in the street.

The people who participated in this activity should be ashamed of themselves, and those who watched from behind their curtains and did nothing should be too.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Brady wins Water District seat

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Nov 10, 2005): John Brady of South Portland ran unopposed for a seat on the Portland Water District board of trustees representing South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. He got 6,154 votes in South Portland and 3,251 votes in Cape Elizabeth.

Editorial: Blank ballots

Published in the Current

(Nov 10, 2005): Hundreds of voters in South Portland entered the ballot booth and did not make a choice. Hundreds of absentee voters did the same thing, leading us to wonder why.

Some people did not cast a vote for at least one council race, turning in partially blank ballots rather than picking a name.

Did they not know enough about the candidates to make a choice? Did they not know they were allowed to vote in all council races, no matter what district they themselves live in?

It is not that they didn’t take the time to vote. We’re talking here about the people who actually held ballots in their hands, whether at home or City Hall in advance of Tuesday’s vote, or in a polling place on Election Day itself.

Others, who did not vote at all, also disappointed us. No more than half of the registered voters in any of our communities took the time to vote. When a statewide showing of 40 percent is considered “good” – and our communities did a few percentage points better – we are being ruled by the minority any way we cut it.

Either the majority, who don’t vote, don’t care about what happens or thinks those who do vote are doing a fine job making the choices. We hope it’s the latter, but we fear it is the former instead.

We also note that a number of important races went uncontested this year. While there were hotly contested races in all three communities, there were also races completely uncontested in all three. And those races were not just for the Portland Water District or the Scarborough Sanitary District, where some degree of technical knowledge and an equal measure of tolerance for bureaucratic drudgery are needed.

In Scarborough, nobody but the three incumbents put their names in for the Town Council races. In Cape and South Portland, only two people ran for two seats on the respective school boards.

That speaks to a lack of willingness to get involved. That may spill over into not voting, as well – though the ballot booth is a perfect place to put your priorities into action. It’s anonymous, specific and legally binding – what better way to have your say on the future of your community?

But why go to the trouble of voting and then leave sections blank? We’re not sure here, and would like to know why.

Is the problem, for example, South Portland’s unusual voting structure, which mandates that members of the City Council and School Board live in different areas of the city but answer to all voters in the city? It does result in the possibility that – as happened Tuesday in two council races – a person can lose his or her home district but still be seated to represent them.

Is the problem lack of information prior to voting? Is it uncertainty about what questions a voter is supposed to actually decide on? Is it confusion about what the questions were in fact asking? Is it something else entirely?

If you were one of those who left a ballot question blank, please tell us. Call us at 883-3533 or e-mail Jeff Inglis, editor, at

Sending mixed messages

Mainers have overwhelmingly agreed to borrow $74 million for state projects, increasing their own taxes, and to remove some of the tax burden from owners of working-waterfront property. And a rejection of $9 million – the second-smallest bond on the ballot – for the University of Maine System appears at Wednesday’s deadline time to be just barely failing, hardly able to be held up as a sign of residents rejecting excessive state spending.

So lawmakers at the state and local levels can be excused for doubting whether the people of Maine really want lower taxes. Even in Scarborough, where residents rejected a $1.2 million local bond and a charter change that would have loosened control of council spending, voters supported the statewide bonds.

In South Portland, voters supported fiscally conservative candidates and a $500,000 local road-paving bond, as well as the five statewide bonds. In Cape, incumbent Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta, one of the lead proponents of a town government spending cap linked to the consumer price index, was the top vote-getter while $83 million in state spending also passed with flying colors.

Lawmakers have expressed to us in the past a sense of confusion about what taxpayers really want: People often say they want lower taxes, but object if their particular favorite program is on the chopping block.

Now that is even muddier: Local spending is worth controlling, but state spending – widely blasted by residents and politicians alike as “out of control” – gets a big green light.

We should not be surprised to see more local and state spending as a result of this confusion, nor should it shock us if more people cry out in financial pain even as they vote for higher taxes.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Remember to vote

Published online at

(Nov 8, 2005): Polls throughout Southern Maine are open until 8 p.m. this evening.

On the ballot, in addition to numerous local races and referenda, are a people's veto of a new gay rights law, several statewide bond questions totaling $83 million, and an amendment to the Maine Constitution.

Call your municipal clerk for polling locations.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

S.P. marching band gets silver medal

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Nov 3, 2005): The South Portland High School marching band earned a silver medal Saturday in the Maine Band Directors Association statewide competition. The band performed "The Big Apple Symphony" composed by Johan De Meij.

The band earned four stars for Drum Major Briggon Snow, three stars for the color guard, three stars for visual effect, four stars for percussion, four stars for music, three stars for general effect and an overall score of three stars, or a silver medal.

Band members are: flutes Henry Keiter, Amanda Pratt, Danielle Riesold, Linda Morton, Chelsea Towson, Holly Everest, Megan Lundgren and Sarah Hollman; clarinets Jamie Reinhold, Johanna Lester, Ying Ying Rhung, Holli Ciresoli, Sophia Boyce, Ben Fox and Laura Patriquin; alto saxophones Emily Libby, Kelly Galbraith, Hannah Rosengren and Patricia Lusty; trumpets Matt Farr, Francis Huynh, Eric Beaver, Kegan Zema, Dylan Martin and Jacob Bruneau; low brass Annie Cavallaro, Kat Libby, Alex Blaisdell, Neil Pearlman, Jen Davis, Nicholas Robertson and Albie Gingrich; percussion Evan Rench, Ross Gauvin, Corey Schwartz, Isaac Misuik, Kyle Wursthome, Josh Farr, Jamie Arn, Alessa Patterson, Lyle Haley, Jon Swiger, Alexis Mantis, Cameron Snow and Amanda Teixeira.

Color guard members are Samantha Nicholson, Abbi Shirk, Mark Vo, Jenny Crozier, Molly Bogart, Mary Maxwell, Larissa Bakker and Kathi Haykus.

The band director and music arranger is Craig Skeffington. Assistant director and drill designer is Craig Scott. Visual staff are Lisa Dorr, Matt Lagarde and Jillian Cote. Percussion arrangers are Anthony Marro, Tom Bureau and Andy Carpenter. Color guard staff are Tara Carpenter and Kathy Foss. Percussion staff are Tom Bureau, Shawn Boissoneault, Andrew Carpenter and Anthony Marry.

S.P. kids find pumpkins galore

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Nov 3, 2005): In honor of the upcoming retirement of Skillin School Principal Joyce Freeman at the end of the year, after 17 years at the school and 35 years as an educator in the city, students at the school went on a pumpkin hunt on the playground and playing fields Friday.

Nearly 500 pumpkins from Highland Avenue Greenhouses were scattered around the area – one for every student and a few extra. Kids ran hither and yon, each choosing carefully the perfect pumpkin to take home a couple nights before Halloween.

Editorial: Bonds have local payoff

Published in the Current

(Nov 3, 2005): In a time of high fuel prices, rising property taxes and state revenue problems, many people are saying that borrowing more money is not what Maine should be doing. We are being asked to do so on the Nov. 8 ballot, in five separate questions.

Some of the bonds include money for local projects, while others support programs that have helped local efforts in the past. Those benefits direct to you and other local residents, while not the only reason to consider supporting some or all of the bonds, are worth remembering when deciding what borrowing is acceptable to you when you vote.

Question 2, a $33.1 million bond for improvements to the state’s transportation network, includes $3.5 million for ferry vessels and port facilities, in particular rebuilding the pier at Fort Preble in South Portland, which would benefit the public as well as the marine science program at Southern Maine Community College, which has also raised $350,000 in private donations for the project.

The bond also includes money for projects in Cape Elizabeth: to repave Shore Road from Fort Williams Park to Route 77, and Spurwink Road from the Spurwink Church north for two miles; in Scarborough: to repave Pleasant Hill Road from Hackmatack Drive half a mile toward Route 77; in South Portland: to repave Foden Road from Western Avenue to Gorham Road, to help build a new bus garage for the city’s bus service and additional money for widening Western Avenue, according to John Duncan of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee.

There are several other local projects in the state’s plans that would either be constructed or move up in the to-do list, including repaving projects in all three communities, according to Herb Thomson of the Maine Department of Transportation.

Question 3, an $8.9 million bond for agriculture and water treatment, does not include any money intended directly for our three communities, but similar bonds in the past have supported the Portland Water District’s efforts to maintain a secure and clean water supply for its customers.

Question 4, for $20 million in medical research and small business investments, includes $8 million in biomedical research funds, from which the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and the Foundation for Blood Research, both in Scarborough, are two of only six agencies eligible for grants. It also supports the Maine Technology Institute’s grant programs, which have benefited countless small businesses in Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, supporting both startups and existing firms with growth and new product development.

Question 5 asks for $12 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program. This program has contributed significantly to protection of open space in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, including the William H. Jordan Farm and the Meserve Farm properties, landmark farms now preserved with the help of state, federal, local and private dollars.

Question 6, for $9 million for higher education, would allocate $2 million to match $4 million in private donations to improve the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine and $5 million for renovations to community colleges, including Southern Maine Community College, which would get $1.3 million to renovate the health science building, which houses the nursing program and other medical-related classes serving more than 1,000 students every year, according to a college spokeswoman.

Not all of the money in the bonds will come to local projects, firms or residents. But enough of them will to merit your thoughtful consideration when balancing the costs of more state borrowing with the benefits of these particular bonds.

Go to the polls

Remember to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8. See Page 3 for poll locations and hours, and remember that if you can’t make it that day, you can contact your municipal clerk to vote in advance by absentee ballot.

Casting a ballot is your right as a citizen of a democracy. And without participation, government cannot represent everyone. Please be sure to have your say.

Jeff Inglis, editor

S.P. floats $70-plus-million school building plans

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Nov 3, 2005): The South Portland school department has begun seeking public comment on plans that could cost taxpayers between $70 million and $85.2 million to renovate and rebuild the city’s middle and high schools.

“The systems in our facilities are either at the end of their life cycle or past it in a couple of cases,” said Superintendent Wendy Houlihan.

There are two options, both of which would include a $38 million to $39.7 million renovation at South Portland High School, part of which is 50 years old and part of which is somewhat newer, Houlihan said. Though its enrollment is 1,100 – below its peak around 1,300 some years ago – changing needs for English as a second language and special education classes have upped demands so that “we’re just out of room, even though the population isn’t as big,” Houlihan said.

Both options would also include tearing down the existing Memorial Middle School, which is 40 years old.

One option would have the district paying $32 million to $35 million to rebuild a single middle school for 800 students on the Memorial site. In that case, the 80-year-old Mahoney Middle School would be closed.

The other option would involve building a $21 million to $22.5 million middle school for 400 students on the Memorial site and renovating Mahoney to hold 400 students, at a projected cost of $21.5 million to $23 million.

District officials are trying to determine whether the city would be eligible for state aid for the project, though that could delay work for several years. If the city were not eligible or decided not to seek state funding, the question would go to voters in 2006, construction could begin in 2007 and the work could be done by 2011.

The city just finished an $18 million project renovating and rebuilding four elementary schools, for which state aid was not available, though the city did get an interest-free loan of $442,000 from the state.

The elementary project was originally slated to cost $28 million – a number approved by voters – for five schools. Houlihan said the city saved only $4 million or $5 million by closing the Marsh School rather than renovating it, meaning that the entire project finished well below the projected cost.

“We have new schools, lovely schools, for our elementary schools,” Houlihan said, but said they are good value for the taxpayers. “They are not Taj Mahals; there is nothing exotic” about them.

She did not know whether the cost estimates for the middle and high schools – based on work by Harriman Associates – would be higher than the real costs. “It’s so hard to predict,” she said, especially if the project is delayed a couple years in the wait for state funding.

The district is working with Harriman Associates, an architecture firm that designed Scarborough High School’s $27 million renovation, and is working with Scarborough on a $54 million proposal for middle and intermediate schools.

Upcoming meetings on the subject will be held on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Frank I. Brown School at 37 Highland Ave.; and on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 6 p.m. at the Helena H. Dyer School at 52 Alfred St.