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First snow, then record cold in Portland this week

A day after snow blanketed Maine, Portland set a record low temperature Thursday morning with a low of 22 degrees at 4:50 a.m., according to the National Weather Service in Gray.
This low broke the previous daily record of 24 degrees from 2003, according to Mike Kistner, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.4-18-14-snow-in-april
On Wednesday morning, 1.2 inches of snow fell in Portland. Wednesday morning's surprise snowfall didn't shatter any records, however. The latest measurable snow ever in Portland was recorded May 10-11 in 1945; in 1967 was the city's latest trace of snow, which came on May 26, Kistner said.
Average last frost for Portland is around May 7. Mid-April has proven erratic. The high temperature climbed to 69 degrees on Friday, April 11, and then dipped to 48 degrees on Sunday, April 13, before settling at 41 degrees on Wednesday, April 16, Kistner said. In Portland, the temperature records go back to 1940.
Kistner said warm spells, snow and cold snaps aren't unusual for April in Maine.
"You never know. It can be 80 one day and two days later we get a snowstorm," he said.

The forecast for Easter weekend features mostly sunny conditions, with highs in the 50s.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 01:23

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Kelly Laurence Quartet perfects 'quasi-lounge act'

The Kelly Laurence Quartet plays Wednesday, April 23, at Gingko Blue, strolling out the American songbook with tunes from such classic crooners as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.4-18-14-TG-quartet-1
"We call it 'modern nostalgia,'" says lead singer and eponymous opposite Laurence Kelly, who is joined by Flash Allen on keyboard, John Clark on upright bass, and Steve Luttrell on drums.
Allen and Clark are classically trained musicians. Allen is a freelance piano player. He's currently the organist at Christ Church in Portland. His wife, Tina Allen, is a local singer.
Clark plays with the Bangor Symphony. "I've been with them 17 years," he said. "I've had my own jazz sextet, The Jazz Workshop, and I play in the Casco Bay Tummlers — a klezmer band that plays Jewish party music."
Luttrell, the former Portland poet laureate, is editor and founder of The Cafe Review.
His new collection of poetry, called "Plumb Line," will be published by North Atlantic Books (Random House) next year. With the band, he trades in his metrical beats for drumsticks. Laurence is the founder of Brian Boru. The four bandmates found each other through a pair of connections.
"We started this quasi-lounge act five years ago," Allen says of his earlier work with Kelly. "We played mostly at Uno's (wine bar), Top of the East, Pearl, and numerous private parties and weddings."
Luttrell and Clark played together in a surf rock band called "The High Tides."
"We played at Gritty's, Boru's, around town," Clark said. The two pairs became a foursome and have been getting in tune in Clark's Bracket Street basement.
In addition to some golden oldies from the 1940's, they also cover more "current" music like the Eurythmics – "80's nuggets with a lounge flavor," Kelly says.
"If you look around at the Portland music scene these days, there's a lot going on," Luttrell said. "But there's not a lot of people doing standard songs — the 1940s era — American songbook. We're going way beyond our roots, playing music our parents would be proud of."
The self-effacing band likes to think of themselves as "Portland meets Las Vegas" — or perhaps "Oxford Casino."
"We're all integrated in the Portland music community in different ways," Allen said. "This is a theatrical performance."
The quartet performs in black tuxedos and brings all the feel-good sounds of a cousin's open bar wedding — a gig the band says they are always prepared to play.
Catch them this Wednesday at Gingko Blue. Listen for the strains of a vintage lounge act and look for Ol' Blue Eyes.

Event Details:
The Kelly Laurence Quartet
Wednesday, April 23, at 7 p.m.
Gingko Blue
455 Fore St., Portland
For more information, call Steve Luttrell at 400-6899.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 01:23

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Nova Star makes first trip to Portland

Two years ago, Mayor Michael Brennan recalls meeting with people to talk about bringing a ferry service back to Portland, but it was nothing but a dream.
Thursday, restoring ferry service became a reality.4-18-14-nova-star-main
The Nova Star arrived at the Ocean Gateway terminal during its maiden voyage between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland. The stop in Portland was a part of the final preparations for Nova Star Cruises to ready for the May 15 start of service between the two coastal communities, after it arrived in Yarmouth Tuesday after a 10,000 mile journey from Singapore.
“Today’s arrival of the Nova Star to Portland fulfills the vision of Mark Amundsen, CEO of Nova Star Cruises, to restore a vital tourism and transportation link between Atlantic Canada and the Northeastern United States,” said Dennis Bailey, spokesman for Nova Star Cruises, in a statement. “It’s an amazing accomplishment for him and his team, and a great day for Portland, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, which suffered economically when the last ferry service was discontinued several years ago. This brand new ship will be a great addition to the Portland waterfront, and everyone who has been on board has been impressed with its design and comfort. We’re looking forward to starting daily service on May 15."4-18-14-ferry-2
Coupled with the growth of businesses in the downtown and Old Port, including new hotels, restaurants and shops, Brennan said the ferry service will support those ventures and help make Portland a better destination point for travelers.
"I think the economic benefits will be very clear for the city," he said.
Brennan said with the ferry services and Eimskip at the International Marine Terminal bookending Portland's waterfront, it will put the city back on the map.
"It reinforces Portland as an international port," he said.
Nova Star Cruises announced in November that daily ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland will be restored.
The company plans to run daily round trips from May 15 to November 2 using a new 528-foot cruise ferry, the Nova Star. The service will between the two coastal cities will be the first since the CAT discontinued its runs in 2009.
The Portland City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with Nova Star Cruises to use the Ocean Gateway Terminal as its Portland base when services resumes to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on May 15.
The company will lease the facility at $19,200 per year, with a $10,000 deposit, according to a memo. Nova Star will be responsible for $225,000 in facility improvements needed to accommodate the service, and could finance that through a loan from the Portland Development Corporation.
Greg Mitchell, the city's economic development director, said many of the needed improvements to the facility have already been completed or will soon be finished.
The lease will run for seven years and be renewed after the first two years upon mutual agreement of the ferry service and the city.
The city estimates the revenue from the agreement could range from $150,000 to $400,000.
The lease will grant the ferry service exclusive use of the departure building for its office and ticketing; the queuing area from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; the berthing area from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily; and the terminal building's ground floor for Customs and Border Protection screening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to a memo.
The company will have non-exclusive use of the receiving building from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parking will be provided for up to five employees and up to 10 part-time parking spaces for up to 10 employees at an agreed upon cost and location, according to the memo.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 April 2014 01:22

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Committee endorses foam ban, still working on proposed bag fee

A City Council committee endorsed a ban on polystyrene containers but the fate of a fee on disposal carry out bags is still up in the air.4-17-14-foam-Hinck-Rep
The Transportation Sustainability and Energy Committee voted 3-1 Wednesday to send a proposed ordinance that bans the use of polystyrene containers for the retail sale of food products to the full council; but the committee is awaiting some additional language from the city attorney before making a ruling on a proposed fee on disposable plastic and paper bags.
The committee justified its vote on the foam ban based on the substance's impact on the environment, while Cheryl Leeman, the sole dissenting vote, thought a different tack could be taken.
Councilor Jon Hinck, having inquired about the life cycle of polystyrene foam, said that the material he read and the research he did made him more inclined to support banning its use and moving toward the use of other products.
"I end up only finding more justification for the proposal we have," he said.
While information provided to the committee by the American Chemistry Council attempted to show the adverse effects of other food containers on the environment, specifically methane production related to the material being landfilled, that information didn't weigh too much on Hinck, since he said Portland doesn't landfill its garbage. He said another important piece that lead to his decision is polystyrene's impact on the marine environment and Portland is dependent on its identity as a coastal community.
Councilor David Marshall said he thought polystyrene's impact on the marine environment is important as when the substance breaks down it creates problems in the ocean, not just having it floating in the water but being ingested by wildlife.
Marshall said he didn't see any substantive material that showed a significant adverse impact on the economy by banning the foam containers.
"I see this could certainly be an adjustment," Marshall said, but he failed to find any undue hardship and as a consumer, he said he's fine with paying more for a coffee if it's served in a paper cup versus a foam one.
Unlike his colleagues on the committee, Leeman said the issue of polystyrene being improperly disposed of and winding up blowing around the city is one of human behavior.
"You can't legislate human behavior," Leeman said, and noted she's concerned that the ordinance doesn't get to the root of the problem. She said people have a responsibility to pick up trash in front of their homes and properly store their recycling and other materials.
Leeman said she'd support an aggressive education campaign but without seeing an economic feasibility study related to the ban, she wouldn't support the proposed ordinance.
"From my perspective, I just don't see this being the solution to the problem," she said.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit a retail food vendor from serving or selling prepared food on polystyrene service ware; not allow food packagers who offer products for retail sale to use the material; and keep the city and groups doing work with the city from using polystyrene food containers. The ordinance allows for prepackaged foods in polystyrene containers to be sold.
An initial draft of the ordinance was amended to remove language that affected the seafood industry because no reasonable alternative to the polystyrene foam packaging was available for the sale and packaging of raw food.
The language for the ordinance was based on one that Freeport enacted in 1990. The town's ordinance prohibits retail vendors from serving or preparing food and packaging meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in polystyrene containers. The ordinance further prevents retailers and vendors within the town from selling polystyrene food or beverage containers.
The committee postponed a decision on a possible bag fee and asked for some possible amendments to be drafted to help reach a consensus. The committee floated possible amendments including removing dry cleaners and laundry services from the ordinance, allowing the bag fee to be retained by the vendor, not including restaurants and possibly excluding paper bags. An opinion is also being sought from the Maine Revenue Services related to retailers being able to retain the money from the fee and if it's taxable.
As it was first sent to the committee, the ordinance proposes a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bags levied on grocers, convenience stores, food service establishments and clothes cleaning services. At its inception, the proposed ordinance only affected grocers and convenience stores, but the task force that drafted the measure opted to include farmer's markets and one-day events, clothes cleaning services, and restaurants and other food service establishments despite some concern from members of the group that the ordinance was too broad.
The ordinance was considered by the working group as an attempt to decrease the amount of waste created by disposable bags. Exemptions in the ordinance include bags for items like fruits, vegetables, meat or fish, flowers and plants, prescription medications or newspaper bags. The ordinance includes a clause that allows for bags to be given out at no fee during an emergency situation, at the discretion of the city manager or other official.
An establishment can retain up to 40 percent of the waste reduction fee. The portion of the fee that will go to the city will be used for programs to mitigate the environmental impact of disposable bags, including providing reusable bags to residents and visitors, education programs and waste reduction programs.
Both ordinances were drafted and approved by the Green Packaging Working Group.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 02:28

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With a year on the books, Book Mobile returns to Longfellow Park

Shortly after marking its one-year anniversary, the Portland Public Library's Book Mobile hit another milestone this week.4-17-14-book-mobile-1
On Wednesday, the Book Mobile returned to Longfellow Park — a neighborhood park just off Forest Avenue on Longfellow Street at Oakdale — following what the neighborhood organization called a 20-year absence.
"It's taken some knocking on some doors to bring it back here," said Carol Schiller, president of the University Neighborhood Organization (http://www.livinginportland.org/uno.htm). "We're just overjoyed."
Many new families have moved into the neighborhood.4-17-14-book-mobile-2
"They can use this resource, because it's hard when you're a parent to go to the downtown library or anywhere, and now they walk out of their house and in a second they're in the Book Mobile," Schiller noted.
From 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every other Wednesday (it returns April 30), the Portland Public Library Book Mobile will arrive at the park, with its roughly 1,600 adult, teen and children's books, audio books and DVD's. The Book Mobile is handicap accessible through a fold down ramp on the back of the vehicle, and the public can sign up for library cards on the Book Mobile with proper ID.
Steve Weigle, portable library team leader, said, "We go all over the city of Portland, we have stops at elementary schools, we stop at senior housing developments, a little bit of everywhere."
A year ago, Portland Public Library Executive Director Steve Podgajny heralded the mobile library as a way to "go to people – where they live, work and recreate." At the time, Podgajny also noted that the Book Mobile dovetailed perfectly with Mayor Michael Brennan's then-recently established Portland ConnectED program, a community initiative designed to create pathways to success "from cradle to career for all Portland children, students and residents by supporting and encouraging early literacy" for city youngsters.
"We just hit our first-year anniversary April 5," Weigle said, "April 5 last year we set up in Monument Square for First Friday Art Walk. So we just finished our first year and had a very successful, I think, first year. Wonderful stops, great circulation."
Purchased through library funds and a major gift by KeyBank, the Book Mobile soon embarked on a full schedule (see http://tinyurl.com/nta3yfb).
"We're trying to focus on the early literacy, that's what we're trying to strive to get the kids reading," Weigle said.
"There are stops we go to, Riverton Park comes to mind, as soon as I pull the Book Mobile in, we'll park in front of the Boys & Girls Club there, and the kids are like ants from an anthill, they come out as soon as they see us. ... The kids are just waiting to jump on. We have that at many places, Kennedy Park, Sagamore Village, Front Street Community Center, it's wonderful," he said.
The 24-foot mobile library attracts about a 70-30 kids-to-adults ratio, Weigle estimated.
At places such as Northfield Green, a senior housing development, residents also appreciate the resource, Weigle said.
"They live for something like this," he said.
The Book Mobile visits more than 20 locations throughout the city including schools, residential areas and special events. For more information, visit http://www.portlandlibrary.com/locations/portable-library/#sthash.mY6Twm3e.dpuf.

Portland ConnectED update

Portland ConnectED, a program that encourages literacy efforts like those undertaken by the Portland Public Library Book Mobile, reached its own milestone this week.
On Wednesday, the founding partners of Portland ConnectED, including Mayor Michael F. Brennan, Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk, and executives from education, civic, business and philanthropic sectors, introduced their Baseline Report, "which sets forth the initiative's goals and strategies to ensure healthy childhood experiences and ever-increasing educational outcomes for all of Portland's children, youth, and families, from cradle-to career, college and citizenship," a press release stated.
A little over a year ago, the founding partners of Portland ConnectED — including Creative Portland, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, the John T. Gorman Foundation, The Opportunity Alliance, Portland Public Library, Portland Public Schools, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Southern Maine Community College, United Way of Greater Portland and the University of Southern Maine — came together "committed to the proposition that to ensure Portland's sustained growth, we must all work together like never before to support our schools, children, and families," the city press release reported.
For a copy of the report, visit http://www.portlandmaine.gov/portlandconnected/portlandconnectedbaselinereport.pdf.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 02:28

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