Sunday, March 29, 2015

New pre-release center to be built near existing prison in Windham - By Michelle Libby

Last week two meetings were held to discuss the plans for the new 23,000 square foot women’s pre-release facility that is slated to be built on River Road in front of the Maine Correctional Center (MCC) in South Windham. 
Dr. Joseph Fitzpatrick, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections (DoC), led the meeting along with the architect on the project from SMRT, the warden from MCC and Amanda Woolford, director of female services. 
The pre-release program allows women with three years left on their sentence, who have good behavior, the opportunity to transition to the pre-release program. Through this facility they continue to get training, therapy and management, however they are no longer behind bars and are encouraged to work in the community. 

“This is extreme low risk. It’s called community level of custody and there is no risk to the community, but a lot of benefits,” said Fitzpatrick. 

The building will have state of the art security, cameras and alarmed doors. Two officers will be on all the time. They are attempting to pilot a tablet system where they can monitor the facility from anywhere on site. There will be one access point at the main lobby. 

Currently the pre-release program is using a leased building in Alfred that is too small for the women and lacks space for programing. The facility does not have its own medical center. Women who need treatment must be transported to MCC for care. Almost 99 percent of the women come to the program with a trauma background. This program helps them more beyond the trauma. The women who come to the pre-release are motivated to integrate back into society. According to Woolford, they tell her “I have to prove this to my son.” 

“The facility wasn’t designed as a space for this. It’s a struggle every day,” said Woolford. It’s all inclusive care at the new location having access to medical, dental, mental health care and the culinary arts program could share food services with the main facility, she said. 

The new facility will have 68 beds to start with and have the option to add on 24 additional beds if necessary. There will be a kitchen, laundry and program space and well as a visitors’ area. 

“The program space is what I’m really excited about,” said Woolford. “It’s painful. We have 68 people in a tin can.” 

“This isn’t a show you this and sneak this in later,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re presenting the whole thing A to Z.” 

The DoC came ready to present their best plan to the Windham community. Approximately 20 residents, the legislative delegation all came to listen. DoC had two women speak about their experiences having the women work for them, one at a horse farm and another at a group home for adults with disabilities.
“It’s been a godsend. Every one of the staff said how great it is to have them part of our culture,” said Gail Crowl. 

Of the 300 to 350 women who have been through the program, only 18.5 percent return.
“It’s an opportunity to help women,” said Liz Wisecup. The program is a relationship model to help them deal with society. 

The timeline on the construction is for full completion by December 2016. The building will cost just under $10 million and will be self-funded by the DoC through savings they have for capital improvements, said Fitzpatrick. With the reduction in overtime since Fitzpatrick came on almost a year ago, they have been able to realize the savings.  “It’s not a done deal, but I’m optimistic. It’s a win-win for the community and the women,” said Fitzpatrick.

“It’s going to happen and it’s necessary,” said Rep. Mark Bryant. 

There will be one more community meeting on Saturday, March 28 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Windham High School auditorium.

Maine Maple Sunday draws thousands for the liquid gold despite frigid temperatures - By Michelle Libby

Lyle Merrifield, owner of Merrifield Farms in Gorham stood guard over his syrup production, while thousands walked by the blazing fire and the steaming sap this past weekend. This Sunday marked the 16th Maine Maple Sunday that Merrifield’s has participated in. Over the years the celebration and interest in the process has grown. 
“It’s been an excellent two days,” said Merrifield, who estimates that between 1,500 and 1,800 visited on Saturday and at least 3,200 to 3,500 on Sunday. “I’m amazed by how many people are around.” Despite the freezing temperatures, around 20 degrees, and the strong wind, people didn’t pass up the opportunity to stop by for ice cream with maple syrup over it, or to try maple cotton candle, or any of the other treats Merrifield Farms created using maple syrup. 

“It’s quite the production,” said Tony Ward. Penney Ward’s father used to make maple syrup and her brother still does. She said this was her first time going out on Maple Sunday. 

Production this year is almost three weeks behind, according to Merrifield. Normally by this time he would have boiled sap four times. That being said, he’s “expecting a really good, extended season.” The production is about the same as last year, he said. Merrifield has collected 900 gallons of sap so far and expects to collect between 7,000 and 8,000 gallons. 

“It’s an experience,” said Braedan Weil from Gorham. 

“It reminds me of childhood. I used to come here all the time as a child,” said Sara Steinmetz from Gorham, who said she used to cross country ski over to the farm. 
In addition to sampling the wares, visitors were able to purchase syrup made and bottled at Merrifield’s in glass or tin containers.  Merrifield keeps his product priced right he said, which keeps him in business. “There’s plenty of market for everybody. Every family should try (making syrup),” Merrifield said with a laugh. “It makes it easier for us to sell it. They realize how inexpensive it is.” 

There were also ox cart rides, and ice house, bar tours, cast iron cauldrons steaming over open fires to demonstrate how syrup used to be made and Sam Simonson a local blacksmith set up demonstrations for anyone who came by his stand. Chicken Wire (Jack Devereau, Jon Cooper and Jed Bresette) from North Gorham kept the visitors in line entertained with their upbeat tunes. “It’s a good family day. We entertain them,” said Merrifield. 

Merrifield Farms sells syrup year round at their farm at 195 North Gorham Road. 

“It’s the only time of year we get really good maple syrup,” said Judith Ahlquist of Scarborough, who enjoyed the farm with her daughter Elizabeth.

New Windham Police chief confirmed by town council - By Michelle Libby

Twelve Windham police officers including Chief Rick Lewsen sat in the audience of Tuesday night’s town council meeting as Kevin L. Schofield was named and confirmed as the new Windham police chief. Schofield will replace Lewsen at the end of April. 
Schofield is currently the police chief in Bridgton, Maine, where he has been for four years. 

“I’ve known him for a while,” said Lieutenant James Boudreau. “He’ll be a positive influence to drive us forward with a lot of innovation.” 

Schofield has also worked in Topsham and spent 21-years in Brunswick taking advantage of the opportunities he was presented like working as a detective, as an officer and finally retiring at the rank of commander. 

“He brings a lot of vision and follow-through. We’re excited as a department,” said Sgt. Bill Andrew.
Fifty people were involved in the five month search for the right candidate. “We wound up in a very good place,” said town manager Tony Plante. “We are in the process of transition. We’ll look forward to the next chapter of the Windham Police Department.” 

Schofield had been thinking about Windham as a career opportunity, when the position was advertised. “I knew I’d have a lot of support here. I can’t tell you how excited I am. You’re not going to regret your decision,” he told the council. 

Schofield has an associate’s degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a Master of Science degree in organizational leadership and executive certification from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. 

“It was heartwarming to see that kind of support,” he said about the officers in the audience. “It was also nice for the chief to come up to make a statement.” 

He described the police department staff as “high quality that cares about the department.”

Windham’s unique location and the way it has been marketed to the public made the position more interesting to him. There has been steady growth in the community over the years and he sees himself fitting in well with the continued managed growth projected, he said.   

“We’re very, very excited about this,” said DARE officer Matt Cyr. “I think he’ll be all over this town.”

One of Schofield’s main areas of interest is community outreach and youth. He has worked in the schools as a school resource officer and a DARE officer. He worked jointly with the YMCA to create programs for eighth graders and kids that are being rehabilitated or are at-risk. 

“I have a lot of energy and a lot of ideas,” Schofield said. His philosophy is to support his staff and to set them up to succeed with the right equipment, from computers in cars, in car cameras and good working radios. He did all of this in Bridgton to put them in a good situation for transition. “That drives me as an administrator,” he said. He wants to provide tools for folks to do their jobs well. 

He plans to spend the first month or two analyzing. “We will take vision, channel energy, set goals and achieve those goals,” he said. “Windham Police Department doesn’t know life without Rick Lewsen. We will honor that legacy. We will work as a team and as a department.” 

When asked what his dream job was, he said, “I put my resume in for my dream job.” And, now it is his.
Schofield is married and has two adult children. He and his wife plan to move to the area later in the year.
“He’s going to be a great chief,” Lewsen concluded. Lewsen has been with the Windham Police Department since its inception in 1976 and has been the chief since 1991.

Aubrie Froisland continues JSMS dynasty by winning InvestWrite competition - By MichelleLibby

Last week fifth-grader Aubrie Froisland from Raymond was recognized at a small ceremony at Jordan-Small Middle School for winning the SIFMA Foundation and McGraw Hill Financial InvestWrite Competition for the State of Maine. 

Her parents, Diana and David, and sister, Haley, were snuck into the school and the assembly so they wouldn’t give away the winner. “I can’t believe I didn’t spill the beans,” said Diana, who knew the results for months because the announcement kept being put off because of bad weather. 

Aubrie won for the fall essay competition in the elementary grades 4 and 5. She was asked to explain the benefits of long term investing. 

Aubrie didn’t realize she had won until she saw her parents, she said. “I know it’s not me. I didn’t’ have a clue,” she said. She did really well with the Apple stock she chose.  

Teacher Jack Fitch has been doing the Stock Market Game with his classes for 20 years. “SIFMA Foundation has been terrific. At parent conferences they want to talk about the stock market. The best stocks I have in my portfolio I have from my kids,” said Fitch. For the last five years, JSMS has had a winner every year from the InvestWrite competition, he said. 

Participation in the Stock Market Game has increased 85 percent in Maine, said Elizabeth Reidel, a vice president for SIFMA Foundation, who traveled to the school to present Aubrie with a certificate, trophy and balloons. 

“We appreciate how much time and effort they are putting in,” Reidel said. The National competition is fierce at 8,140 entries judged by experts in the finance industry. 

Although Aubrie said she probably won’t enter again, it’s mostly about not liking the attention, more than the essay writing. In her free time, she likes to read and run cross country.