Portland passes a 5 cent fee for grocery bags and a ban on styrofoam food and drinks containers

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Portland has become the first community in Maine to impose a surcharge on disposable bags and one of the first in New England to regulate both bags and polystyrene coffee cups and food containers.

Beginning in April of 2015, customers at grocery stores, convenience stores, and farmers's markets will have to pay 5 cents for every paper or plastic bag they use to carry home their purchases. Right now the stores include that cost in their prices and give out bags for free. Under this new ordinance, the stores will keep the 5 cents, but the state will tax the sale of the bags. The new mandate will not apply to department stores, restaurants or dry cleaners.

Portland streets closed Monday for film shooting

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A film shoot will shut down a few streets in Portland on Monday.

"Night of the Living Deb" will create a street closure. India Street will be closed to local traffic only between Middle and Federal Streets, and Newbury Street will be closed to local traffic only between Hampshire and Hancock Streets between the hours of 8:30 A.M. and 12:00 P.M., and again from 1:00 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.

There will be a wait time even for local traffic and buses while cameras are rolling.

Police will be on site to direct traffic, but motorists are encouraged to seek alternate routes if possible.

Portland council to vote on polystyrene ban, bag fees

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Portland City Council will vote on two controversial ordinances Monday night.

One would charge five cents for disposable bags at stores that sell food. The other would ban plastic foam containers, also known as Styrofoam.

The proposals would ban restaurants from putting food in plastic foam containers and charge customers five cents for every paper or plastic bag. The fee would only apply to retailers that sell food, like grocers, convenience stores, and farmers markets. The fee would not apply to restaurants and dry cleaners. If the proposals pass, retailers will be able to keep the entire bag fee.

Growing flowers and herbs vertically in a pallet

FALMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- How would you like to cover a plain outdoor wall with flowers or herbs. Pallet gardening is a great option for people who are space challenged.

Basically, you can grow flowers in old pallets... the ones used to move products around on forklifts. You just need to attach a backing and nail it in, so that it is strong enough to hold the soil.

Amy Witt from the Cooperative Extension shows you what to do in the video. They are also holding an "Ask the Expert " day on Wednesday June 18th at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth from 5-7pm. There will be live music and fun events. Tidewater Farm is behind the Falmouth Walmart.

Portland votes on city-wide park ballot question

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Portland residents are voting in a referendum to decide the fate of a half-acre park that has sparked a city-wide debate about the Maine city's commitment to open spaces.

The ballot question, if approved Tuesday, would add 35 open spaces to the city's list of protected lands and make it more difficult to sell them. The key piece is Congress Square Plaza, a half-acre plaza in downtown Portland. The city wants to sell most of the plaza to an Ohio-based hotel owner.

Supporters say failure could imperil other open public spaces in a city that has seen increased development interest in recent years. Opponents of the measure say passage would discourage investment in the city.

The referendum comes a year after the city legalized marijuana via ballot question.

Maine schools moving to "proficiency-based" diplomas

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- School boards across Maine are re-writing their high school diploma requirements, as they get ready for a whole new way of determining when a student is ready to graduate. Over the next few years, Maine schools will be transitioning to what's called a "proficiency-based diploma." It's supposed to cut back on the number of remedial courses that students have to take in college. But it will be a big transition for many schools.

Proficiency-based diplomas are awarded when a student has met set standards in both school subjects and in things like problem solving skills, instead of when they've accumulated a certain number of credits. Casco Bay High School in Portland has been using the system for 9 years.

Three-day Old Port Fest wraps up on Sunday

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The 41st annual Old Port Fest wrapped up on Sunday.

This is the first year that the festival was a three-day event, and weather was a key factor in its success. The streets were packed with people of all ages who enjoyed the sunny skies, food, and entertainment.

There were live bands and performances on different stages throughout the day - but one solo in particular was the talk of the crowd.

12-year-old Tyler Briggs played a drum solo that he wrote himself on One City Center's balcony. He said he was nervous, but also excited.