A day after a series of crashes on Interstate 95 that involved 75 vehicles and injured 17 people, state officials said they’re continuing to investigate and are gathering data to analyze all of the contributing factors. The chain-reaction pileup — believed to be the largest crash in state history — began just after 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and stretched from Carmel into Etna. Maine State Police said Thursday that no charges have been filed in connection with the crashes. “The troopers are now going through the paperwork as a result of a multitude of crashes,” Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said in a press release Thursday. “They’re continuing to interview the motorists involved and are also looking at photos that they took on the scene to try to get a sequence of events that lead to the chain reaction.” The state police investigation will examine the sequence of events to determine why so many cars ended up involved in the crash, which occurred amid heavy and wet snowfall that made for poor visibility. McCausland said troopers are looking into reports that the pileup began when a single car went off the road and another motorist stopped to lend a hand. “We have heard that, but have not confirmed that,” McCausland said. (read more at the Kennebec Journal)
Fire destroyed a home at 190 Hedge Bridge Road in Woolwich Tuesday night, Feb. 24, after firefighters were unable to put water on the blaze due to a long, unplowed driveway to the residence, Woolwich Fire Captain Glen Kirkpatrick said Wednesday. A dog and cat died in the fire that was reported at 8:56 p.m. Tuesday, Kirkpatrick said. The home’s owner, whose name was not available by press time, discovered the fire upon arriving home and called 911. No one was injured. The home’s occupants had a walking path from the road to the home through the snow, but if firefighters stepped off it they were about knee-deep in snow, Kirkpatrick said. He recommends all property owners keep their driveways plowed so that emergency vehicles can get through, and to help with firefighters’ safety. (read more at the Wiscasset Newspaper)
HOLLIS, N.H. — Back in New Hampshire for the first time since the midterm elections, it didn’t take long for Sen. Marco Rubio to get a question about immigration. Speaking to a group of people in a wooden barn in the southern part of the state, the Florida Republican — still debating whether to run for president or seek re-election to the Senate in 2016 — was asked about his past support for immigration legislation that includes a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants living in the country illegally. Rubio’s aides said the crowd was “more than 100.” “When I first heard you, I liked you a lot — and then you lost me,” a questioner asked Rubio, to some applause from the crowd. “But I’m back, here to give you another chance. My question for you is, ‘Can you commit if elected president to send home every single person that’s violated our country’s laws and is here illegally?’” In reply, Rubio didn’t hesitate. “I don’t think anyone can commit that to you,” Rubio said. “You have 12 million human beings in America, most of whom we don’t even know who they are and some of them whom our country’s not going to tolerate rounding up and sending back. That’s not a realistic proposal.”(read more at the Kennebec Journal)
WATERVILLE — A fast-moving fire tore through a five-unit apartment building in the city’s South End Monday, destroying the building and leaving 12 people homeless and two cats unaccounted for. By early evening, what was left of the three-story building was being razed. “It’s being torn down,” fire Chief David LaFountain said just before 5:30 p.m. “There’s an excavator over there, and it’s going to be ripping it down toward the street and putting it back into the basement.” Fierce wind made the fire at 15 Paris St. dangerous and difficult to fight, according to LaFountain. Just before noon he said, “With the wind conditions, it blew the fire all over the place. It kept changing directions. Right now we’re in defensive mode, which means nobody goes inside.” About 40 firefighters from Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield battled the blaze, which was reported at 10:12 a.m. Waterville fire officials, investigators from the state fire marshal’s office and Waterville police detectives worked Monday to determine the fire’s cause. (read more at the Kennebec Journal)
WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department said on Sunday it was not aware of any specific plot against U.S. shopping malls, backing away from comments by the department’s chief that he takes seriously a threat by Somali-based Islamist militants against the Mall of America in Minnesota and other shopping sites in the West. Some U.S. and Canadian officials had earlier cast doubt on the credibility of the threat made in a video attributed to al Shabaab, which appeared to call for attacks on Western shopping areas, specifically mentioning Mall of America, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, London’s Oxford Street and sites in Paris. Asked on the CNN program “State of the Union” on Sunday morning about the threat to Mall of America, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously.” He advised people going to the Mall of America, which is one of the world’s largest shopping areas, to be particularly careful. Hours later, Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Marsha Catron said the department and the FBI had shared information about the video with local law enforcement and “private sector partners.” (read more at the Bangor Daily News)
WATERVILLE — Kennebec Water District crews have been busy this month repairing or replacing sections of underground water mains that have burst or cracked because of colder than usual temperatures, according to Jeffrey LaCasse, the district’s general manager. “Extremely cold weather has driven the frost into the ground farther than it has in several years,” LaCasse said Friday. “Typically every 10 years we’ll get a bad one, and this is a bad one.” LaCasse said in some areas, frost is down in the ground five feet or more, putting pressure on mains and causing them to break. “We’ve had more than the normal number of leaks in the past three weeks,” he said. Starting around 5:30 Friday morning, residents of lower Johnson Heights, near North Street, called to report water coming out of the ground and flooding the area, a sign that there was a problem, LaCasse said. Some homeowners affected by the break reported having no water or low water pressure, another sign that there is a problem underground. Using a backhoe with an hydraulic ram, district workers found the break, closed off an 18 to 20-foot section of pipe that had broken, replaced it, and had the water flowing by 2:30 p.m., according to LaCasse. (read more at the Kennebec Journal)
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage has issued an Executive Order prohibiting state workers from accessing pornographic and other sexually explicit material on government computers or devices.
“Employees of State agencies are compensated for their public service by Maine taxpayers and as Chief Executive I take employee workplace policies very seriously,” said Governor LePage. “State agencies already have rules to prohibit this behavior at work, but the practice continues. This Order establishes clear rules for all departments and employees across the board.”
All Executive Branch policies banning State employees from using State resources to access pornography will be amended to provide specifically that such misconduct will not be tolerated even when it is incidental in nature, or when it is committed off-duty, according to the Executive Order. It further clarifies policies will be amended to provide clear and unequivocal notice that such misconduct will constitute just cause for termination.
There is an exemption for State employees, such as investigators, required to access pornographic material within their official duties and there are procedures for employees who accidentally access inappropriate material.
The State will be taking all appropriate steps to implement the Governor’s policy directive. This includes formally posting a work rule, informing leadership of the bargaining units that represent employees, and communicating directly with employees.
“While it is exceedingly rare for state employees to access pornography during work hours or using state resources, the State of Maine takes all violations of this policy seriously,” said Joyce Oreskovich, director of the Bureau of Human Resources. “Misconduct such as this, while uncommon, is a violation of the public’s trust and could expose the State to sexual harassment complaints. Governor LePage’s Executive Order provides clear guidance to state employees that this conduct will not be tolerated.”
The Executive Order language is as follows and may be found on the Office of the Governor website http://www.maine.gov/governor/lepage/official_documents/index.shtml :
AN ORDER CLARIFYING STATE MANAGEMENT’S RESPONSE TO CERTAIN PROHIBITED MISCONDUCT
WHEREAS, state agencies provide services to the people of Maine and employ those interested in public service;
WHEREAS, the employees of state agencies are compensated for their public service by the taxpayers of the State of Maine;
WHEREAS, the taxpayers of the State of Maine have a right to expect these employees to spend their work time and to use State owned, leased, or controlled resources in the furtherance of the official business of the State;
WHEREAS, the taxpayers of the State of Maine have a right to expect that during work hours these employees will not act in such a way as to embarrass or discredit the State or the Maine taxpayers;
WHEREAS, unless required to do so in the performance of official duties, State employees using State-owned, leased, or controlled equipment or other resources to create, record, store, copy, transmit, distribute, image, modify, print, download, or display materials that are sexually explicit or pornographic in nature embarrasses and discredits the State and its taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, unless required to do so in the performance of official duties, State employees using State-owned, leased, or controlled equipment or other resources to create, record, store, copy, transmit, distribute, image, modify, print, download, or display materials that are sexually explicit or pornographic in nature is contrary to and inconsistent with furthering the official business of the State;
WHEREAS, the creation, recording, storing, copying, transmitting, distributing, imaging, modifying, printing, downloading, or displaying sexually explicit or pornographic material by State employees using State-owned, leased, or controlled resources constitutes misconduct for which disciplinary action is warranted;
WHEREAS, based on practices developed by previous administrations, there may be some confusion about the appropriate management response to such misconduct;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Paul R. LePage, Governor of the State of Maine, hereby order as follows:
- For purposes of this Executive Order, “accessing pornography” means creating, recording, storing, copying, transmitting, distributing, imaging, modifying, printing, downloading, or displaying sexually explicit or pornographic materials but excludes doing so in the performance of one’s official duties;
- For purposes of this Executive Order, “State resources” includes State-owned, State-leased, or State-controlled I.T. equipment or other resources;
- All Executive Branch policies prohibiting State employees from using State resources to access pornography will be amended to provide specifically that such misconduct will not be tolerated even when it is incidental in nature, or when it is committed off-duty;
- All Executive Branch policies prohibiting State employees from using State resources to access pornography will be amended to provide clear and unequivocal notice that such misconduct will constitute just cause for termination;
- All Executive Branch agencies will take any additional managerial action deemed necessary to ensure that all Executive Branch employees receive adequate notice that using State resources to access pornography constitutes just cause for the termination of his/her employment from the Executive Branch.
The effective date of this Executive order is February 5, 2015.
February 20, 2015
Photo Courtesy of Flickr
RICHMOND — Police arrested a local man Tuesday night after he allegedly assaulted his band mate with a BB gun, took a sport utility vehicle and crashed it on Route 24, damaged a police cruiser and assaulted an officer as he was taken into custody. Jedediah Wasilewski, 36, of Richmond, was charged with armed robbery, operating after suspension, assault, assault on an officer, criminal mischief and violation of probation. He could be charged with operating under the influence, pending the results of a blood test, according to Richmond Chief Scott MacMaster. It all started at band practice, MacMaster said. Wasilewski was at a friend’s house in a mobile home park on Hatch Street to practice with other musicians who are in a band together. MacMaster said Wasilewski asked a friend for a ride to a residence where he was staying on Beedle Road so he could get his guitar amplifier, but the friend refused. Wasilewski then grabbed a BB gun, struck a Richmond man with it and pinned the man against a vehicle. Wasilewski then took an SUV belonging to someone else at the residence around 10 p.m. Tuesday. Soon thereafter he crashed the 2005 Ford Escape on Route 24, which is also known as River Road, near Knickerbocker Road. No other vehicles were involved in the crash. (read more at the Kennebec Journal)
Students at Cornell University are feeling the after-effects of Obamacare: a new $350 student health fee if they opt out of the university health plan, even if they have separate insurance plans. Announced last week by President David Skorton, the news spurred a series of rallies on campus, the Twitter hashtag #FightTheFee and an accompanying Twitter handle, which encouraged students to “pack” Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting. The new health fee would “impact approximately 70 percent of undergraduates, 30 percent of professional and 10 percent of graduate students,” Skorton said in a Feb. 5 statement. In light of the rise of health services costs, Cornell is restructuring the finances of its Student Health Insurance Plan, or SHIP. Students who do not opt in to the $2,352 plan will get hit with the $350 fee, which “most likely” won’t be covered by financial aid, according to The Cornell Review. The newspaper said the university plan is run through Aetna, whose CEO is a Cornell MBA grad. “The current funding approach for student health services relies on central university resources, funds from SHIP for services delivered to its members, and fees charged at the time of services to individuals,” Skorton wrote. (read more at the College Fix)