Looking Back in Westbrook and Gorham


May 8, 1991

A rent increase proposed at The Hamlet would help pay off a big fee charged by Michael Liberty, his Katahdin Corp. and David Cope for their services in arranging for the purchase of the Westbrook mobile home park. The fee is too big for Raymond Nason, the financial consultant who has advised the Mobile Home Park Rent Justification Board. He lopped $123,400 off it for figuring a fair rent. He didn’t say just how big the total fee is, but the Hamlet Tenants Association has a figure of $538,000. Nason told the board that a pending 21.4 percent rent increase will let the owners make 6.2 percent on their money when they deserve 12 percent. Michael O’Donnell, president of the tenants group, said there can be “no justification” for the hike.

Sebago Inc. laid off 51 workers at its Westbrook shoe shops Thursday and four more in Bridgton, about 8 percent of its Maine workforce of around 675. The company said orders for its shoes slowed significantly starting in October. The layoffs only were decided on after the annual spring boom in orders failed to materialize.

Westbrook Mayor Fred Wescott said he’ll be a left-hander for the next six weeks. He is having surgery to repair the biceps tendon in his right arm. The tendon snapped April 27 when Wescott was cleaning the yard at his Brackett Street home. “It felt about the way it does when you hit your funnybone,” he said.

Gorham’s 125-year-old Civil War monument will be re-dedicated in a Memorial Day ceremony. The marble and granite monument and the building nearby, now an art gallery, dominate the entrance to the University of Southern Maine campus on College Avenue. The event will feature about 50 Civil War buffs, who will stage an encampment behind the Gorham Municipal Center on Main Street. The encampment is sponsored by the Gorham Historical Society.

Some of Gorham’s finest were recognized for outstanding work at last night’s Town Council meeting by Town Manager Paul Wescott. Accomplishments by Sgt. Jody Thomas, Detective Wayne Drown, Sgt. Wayne Coffin and Patrolman Michael Mercer led to letters of commendation from Police Chief Ed Tolan. Wescott in turn decided that the four were due public recognition.

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May 9, 2001

Westbrook Mayor Donald Esty praised petitioners’ “positive attitudes” at Monday’s City Council meeting and called for all to talk together to try and make the old high school “live again,” with no need for any name-calling nor any negative comments. Thee public hearing on the petitions that have enough numbers to force a referendum on the fate of the school the City Council agreed to sell for $1 then began. Without name calling, strong hint of reproach for the council’s Feb. 12 action emerged. Anthony Bessey, for example, pointed out that not one of the councilors who voted in the 4-3 majority to sell the old school to Westbrook Housing Authority has offered their reasons for voting “a decision so drastically different from a good portion of the voters.”

The Town Council recommends it. The School Committee recommends it. But a proposed $22 million middle school with gym, theater and playing fields in Gorham goes to Gorham voters May 15 in a one-question referendum. No one opposed has spoken out publicly. But town leaders this week were leery of silent opposition and refused to accept also for Tuesday’s election a separate question asking for a $3.2 million swimming pool at the middle school. The bond issue for the school is by far the biggest ever put before Gorham voters.

Tim Flannery’s proposed $16 million Dana Court office building in Westbrook doesn’t in fact have enough tenants yet to go forward, though the City Council was told a month and a half ago that it did, Councilor Deborah Frank said at a Finance Committee meeting Thursday. An adjacent $5 million parking garage is also being planned. The city is proposing to offer a $300,000 a year tax increment financing incentive to the developers.

The director of Westbrook’s adult education has announced a six-week summer Class B bus-truck driving course. Paul St. Cyr said a Class B license is for anything, including buses, under 28,000 pounds. The tuition is $900. This is the fifth year for the program, but the first in the summer. It’s also the initial collaboration of Westbrook’s adult education and Maine Line Tours in South Portland.

Nancy Guerin is the American Journal’s new Westbrook Notes columnist. “I grew up in Westbrook and went to school here. I have always read and enjoyed this column. I have missed it in recent weeks. I bet you did, too,” she wrote.

Mrs. Virginia Dorr, Ossipee Trail, Gorham, enjoyed dinner on Easter Sunday in the home of her son and daughter-in-law, Russell Jr. “Bud” and Donna Dorr, Sunny Hill Road, South Casco.

In 1849, Capt. John Warren built a 3½-story building on Main Street at Bridge Street. The building had retail shops on the first floor. C.B. Woodman Pharmacy occupied the space on the corner of Main and Bridge, later becoming Vallee Pharmacy operated by Charles Vallee, father of entertainer Rudy Vallee. The upper floors were divided into offices, apartments and a meeting hall. On Feb. 13, 1942, a fire destroyed the upper floors. Local contractor O.G.K. Robinson demolished what was left of the upper floors and then rebuilt the first floor as retail space. The Vallee Pharmacy reopened and remained in business into the early 1970s. To see more historical photos and artifacts, visit the Westbrook Historical Society at the Fred C. Wescott Building, 426 Bridge St. It is open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon, and the first Wednesday of each month at 1:30 p.m., September-June. Inquiries can be emailed to westhistorical@myfairpoint.net. The website is www.westbrookhistoricalsociety.org. Photo and research courtesy of Mike Sanphy