Report from the transfer station

by Irene Belanger

So many things to talk about. Again many big thank yous for recycling clean items. Thanks to all and to our grand transfer station staff. We have a good reputation out in the “wonderful world of trash.” Many thanks also go out to those who pick up roadside trash while out for your daily walks. Special thank you to the lady who cares for the South China Village area.

Remember to check the upcoming issue of The Town Line for the dates, times and places for drug drop off, hazardous waste/electronics and paper shredder events. The library corner in the free-for-taking building has become very popular. Books for everyone to enjoy. Books are meant to be shared.

Clean, bagged good clothes, shoes and handbags in the apparel box are benefiting others. Good participation, thank you. Also shop the free-for-taking building locally. Let me know if you think a bulletin board would be a good idea. Maybe someone is looking for a specific item for a craft or other project. Call me, Irene at 445-2349 or Neil Farrington with other ideas to recycle-reuse good items. Want to volunteer to help at the China Transfer Station? I need names and info for those who are now helping as the station’s open schedule will soon be changing.

Think you’d like to volunteer? Thurston Park needs workers for several projects. Contact Jen. We meet the second Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m., at the town office campus.

Want to form a group to renew the search for waterfront property for all of our town residents to use? Call Irene at 445-2349.

How about a group to develop one or two ice rinks? Call Irene 445-2349. Enthusiasm needed.

A gardening group to work on various town properties and look at redoing the sign coming into China on Rte. 3?

Speaking of volunteerism, I thank you Kelly Grotton and Lucas Adams along with many others for all of the work going into a project so grand as planning the China Community Days, which was a success despite rain and gray skies. Thank you to staff who assisted. The children had a ball all throughout the day with the fire tanker truck “spraying” them. It was a joy to watch and I wish I was a kid again. Thank you everyone including vendors, police, fire departments.

Thank you to former Town Manager Dan L’Heureux and new Town Manager Dennis Heath.

Thank you to all who attended China Community Days – China 200-year celebration. Thanks to Bicentennial chairman Neil Farrington.

Selectmen set tax rate at 0.01545 mils

by Mary Grow

As anticipated, Vassalboro selectmen have set the 2018-19 tax rate at 0.01545 mils, or $15.45 for each $1,000 of valuation. The new rate is an increase of 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation over the 2017-18 rate. At the Aug. 6 special selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Mary Sabins said she expects tax bills will go out in mid-August, probably around Aug. 16. By town meeting vote, the first quarterly payment is due Monday, Sept. 24.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is Thursday evening, Aug. 23, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. public hearing on conditions at Brock’s Mobile Home Park, as required by dangerous buildings regulations.

Planners approve town’s first medical marijuana storefront

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members have approved the town’s first medical marijuana storefront, in one end of the ABC storage building on Route 3.

Board members also had two shoreland applications on their Aug. 7 agenda. They approved one and tabled the other for more information.
Bryan Moore and Wendy Ostrow explained their plan to rent the apartment area in the former motel building and turn it into a two-room shop where people with prescriptions for medical marijuana can get them filled.

They described in detail the paperwork required to qualify just to enter the medical marijuana area and the limits on their practice as caregivers.
They will not grow or process marijuana, so the store should not produce odors or unusual waste products. There will be no on-premises consumption. Security will be extensive.

They run a similar operation in Trenton, they said. On Aug. 7, Moore said, 55 customers had stopped; he did not say whether the number was low, high or typical.

Planning board members expressed surprise that no neighbors attended the meeting. Given the apparent lack of concern, they decided informally that no public hearing was needed.

After reviewing criteria for a commercial business, they unanimously approved the permit.

Ostrow said no opening date has been set. One shoreland zoning application was from Michael and Lisa Smart to remove and replace a camp at 12 Cote Road in the Webber Pond shoreland. Board members voted unanimously to allow the change.

The second was from Ryan and Jessica Gallant, who applied to relocate a camper and convert it to a camp at 107 McQuarrie Road, also in the Webber Pond shoreland. The Gallants were not at the Aug. 7 meeting, and board members found they needed more information before they could reach a decision. They therefore tabled the application. In an Aug. 14 email, Codes Officer Richard Dolby said the applicants had withdrawn their application.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Sheepscot Lake Association continues scientific monitoring of water quality

Alewives by John Burrows (source: mainerivers.org)

by Carolyn Viens
Sheepscot Lake Association

In response to a recent editorial by John Glowa I felt compelled to reinforce to our community the fact-based research and data that support the concern by the Sheepscot Lake Association as well as many local residents regarding the opening of Sheepscot Dam and the waterway. This discussion and the presence of alewives and other migratory fish is not new to Sheepscot Lake. As many will recall, alewives and sea lampreys were present in the past due to IF&W opening the dam. As a result of the detrimental effect of these anadromous visitors becoming land locked due to low water levels, similar to the levels still experienced, the fishway was later closed in an effort to restore sport fishing and eliminate the phosphorous loading from dying fish. The local residents’ concern is not over anadromous fish restoration but rather the implications when those fish become landlocked, as was the case in the 60’s until the dam was closed.

I reference an article in The Town Line from September 2017 regarding Webber Pond and the impact of alewives. It was stated the trapped alewife added to the nutrient load at Webber and the pond “reached a saturation point” for which the alewives were as much a deficit as a benefit. According to this article, “alewife presence in the lake may have exceeded the tipping point in the lake. Specifically, the alewife count in 2010 was 83,905, and 2016 was estimated at 353,470. Charles Backenstose, Webber Pond Association Vice President, questioned how many alewives were too many. “Over population could affect water quality,” he suggested. It is believed that with the number of alewives entering the pond, they may be bringing in more nutrients to contribute to algae blooms than they are taking out in the fall.”

Over several years in the ‘60s, as mentioned earlier, Sheepscot suffered the effects of anadromous fishes in the lake. The resulting reduction of sport fishing catch and health of the fish caught during those times was noted by residents. One of the reasons thought to be have caused this was the increased presence of Thiamonase, which destroys Vitamin B-1 in fishes such as lake trout and salmon. It has been shown in studies by the USGS to affect the health of the offspring of lake trout and salmon feeding on large numbers of land locked and anadromous alewives who carry this toxic enzyme. The result is the death of those offspring soon after hatching. This may have contributed to the reduced catches experienced before the fishway was closed, however definitive research simply has not been done. The remedial action of closing the fishway during the spawning migrations took decades to show results but did slowly reduce the incidence of sickly fish and lamprey wounding to today’s healthy level.

The Sheepscot Lake Association regularly monitors lake water quality with world class equipment and certified data collectors in cooperation with the Maine Lake Stewards organization. The purpose of this activity is to establish a database by which we can detect early fluctuations before any situation escalates. This will help ensure any necessary action is identified through direct observation and implemented on a timely basis to protect the lake. Sheepscot Lake has excellent water quality and good sport fishing, and we are all working hard to protect the health of Sheepscot and everything that lives in and around the lake for future generations.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative, as submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

China Lake Association holds annual meeting

At their annual meeting on July 28, the China Lake Association presented Scott and Katy McCormac with the LakeSmart Award. In photo, Katy, left, accepts the award from Marie Michaud. (Contributed photo)

Submitted by Scott Pierz

The China Lake Association held its annual summer meeting on Saturday, July 28, at the China Primary School, which included an excellent presentation by Dr. Whitney King, of Colby College. More than 70 people attended.

China Lake Association Director Elaine Philbrook presented awards for this year’s poster contest held for the fifth and sixth graders at the China Middle School. There were amazing posters again this year, created upon the theme of “The Year of the Buffer.” The top award winners were fifth grader Chase Larrabee and sixth grader Stephanie Kumnick.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Whitney King, from Colby College, who presented the audience with information about the condition and treatment of East Pond. His talk was entitled, “Saving East Pond: A Cautionary Tale.” During this summer, a team of participants and scientists undertook the task of introducing alum, also known as Aluminum Sulfate, into East Pond. The project took 20 days to complete. In proper concentrations, this process is believed to reduce (“lock up”) the phosphorus concentration in the water-body thereby limiting the availability of phosphorus to produce algae blooms. Dr. King’s report also included information about the historical condition of China Lake. There were many interesting and good questions, and Dr. King was very dynamic and knowledgeable in his presentation.

Director Elaine Philbrook talked about the Invasive Plant Paddle Program she is participating in, with a scheduled Plant Paddle to take place on Tuesday August 21, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Four Seasons Club, 570 Lakeview Drive. To register and to find more information about the Invasive Plant Paddle, go to: https://www.mainevlmp.org/invasive-plant-patrol-workshops/

Director Marie Michaud updated everyone on the progress being made this summer with the China LakeSmart Program. She reported that China LakeSmart was in full swing with over a dozen new shorefront buffers already installed this summer. The work is completed by the Youth Conservation Corps operated by the China Region Lakes Alliance. More work is expected to be completed by this season’s end. People were encouraged to join her team of volunteers who assess the shoreline of China Lake property owners who would like a buffer planted. It is a free service to China Lake property owners. Anyone interested can e-mail chinalakesmart@gmail.com. Finally, Katy and Scott McCormac were recognized for achieving a LakeSmart Award, which was presented by Marie Michaud.

The Kennebec Water District was recognized for its contributions, once again donating considerable funds to support China LakeSmart projects. Also, the Kennebec Water District helps support the Courtesy Boat Inspection Program on China Lake. Inspectors can be seen at the Head of China Lake on the weekends. The Kennebec Water District’s representative, Matt Zetterman, made a presentation and reported that China Lake again, for the second year in a row, has had incredibly good water quality based on lake monitoring data.

Nate Gray of the Maine Department of Marine Resources gave an excellent update on the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI). He spoke on the progress being made on the ARI project, including last year’s removal of the Masse Dam, and the upcoming scheduled removal of the Lombard Dam, in Vassalboro. He commented that conceptual fish passage designs continue to be developed for the Ladd and Box Mill Dams, in North Vassalboro, along with an engineered design of a fish passage at the Outlet Dam, in East Vassalboro.

Director Bob O’Connor wrapped up with the loon count for China Lake this year, reporting a decrease in the number of loons observed: 20 adult loons but only one new loon chick seen. This loon count is conducted early in the morning the Saturday before the annual meeting for a very short period of time, and in specific locations around the lake. This is the established way in which the loon count takes place, however, other local reports set the number of observed new loon chicks to be four.

Finally, Registered Agent Jamie Pitney conducted the business of renewing some of the director’s terms and the slate of officers will remain the same for another year until the next annual meeting in 2019. These include Scott Pierz (President), David Preston (Secretary), Tim Axelson (Treasurer) and James Pitney (Registered Agent).

For additional information about the China Lake Association or for anyone interested in becoming a member go to the China Lake Association’s website at http://chinalakeassociation.org/ or check things out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/China-Lake-Association.

Groundbreaking for new South China Library

From left to right, Aiden Pettengill, Librarian Cheryl Baker, Ian Maxwell and Xavier Colfer perform a ceremonial groundbreaking on August 6 at the new location for the South China Library. (Photo by Eric Austin)

Planners OK McCormick plan at former diesel truck facility for offices, farmers & flea markets

by Mary Grow

China Planning board members approved the only application on their July 24 agenda, giving Judith McCormack permission to re-use the former diesel truck facility at 1144 Route 3 as a residence, office space, a farmers’ market and a flea market.

McCormack said she plans to live on the second floor, which has a finished apartment. The lower floor will become office space and flea market booths; outdoor flea markets, weekends only, will occupy part of the grounds.

McCormack said she expects the marketers to sell crafts, antiques, seasonal local produce and similar portable, non-polluting items. She plans eight events this year, in September and October and again before Christmas.

She said there are about 50 parking spaces on the grounds; she sees no need for parking along Route 3.

She will provide a dumpster and, for 2018, plans to rent portable toilets for weekend events, since there is no handicapped-accessible toilet on the ground floor. Codes Office and Plumbing Inspector Paul Mitnik said portable toilets are legal for temporary use, as she plans.

Board members attached one condition to the permit: if the business succeeds and continues into 2019, McCormack must install an appropriate toilet facility by the end of 2019.

TIF committee wants more info before expanding broadband coverage

by Mary Grow

China Selectman and Broadband Committee member Neil Farrington presented an outline of his proposal to increase tower-based broadband coverage around China Lake’s east basin to the TIF (Tax Increment Finance) Committee at its July 30 meeting. The reception was mixed.

The Broadband Committee has worked with Hussey Communications to experiment with adding height to the town office tower and installing repeaters elsewhere to increase coverage around the lake. Farrington proposes adding 50 feet to the town office tower.

Since he sees the project as promoting economic development, he plans to apply for TIF funds, initially in the research and development category.

Farrington’s committee has focused on the shore of the lake because it is the most underserved part of town, he said. Running cable down a camp road can cost thousands of dollars, so many lakeside dwellers have no service for themselves or, if they try to rent properties, for prospective tenants.

TIF Committee member H. David Cotta objected strongly to spending TIF money to benefit what he sees as a small group of people, many of them non-residents.

No one had exact figures on numbers of lakeshore people, year-round or summer.

TIF Committee members recommended Farrington get more facts and figures to support his request.

The TIF meeting began with a discussion of what officers the committee needed. Amber McAllister resigned as chairman – committee members thanked her for her work – and was succeeded by Frank Soares, with Tom Michaud as vice-chairman. Jean Conway will be secretary.

There was eventual agreement the committee does not need a treasurer or financial officer, because the town manager handles TIF finances.

Returning to discussion of the causeway project, Michaud said an application for local approval of the new bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin will be on the Aug. 14 China Planning Board agenda.

Committee members again reviewed tentative plans for acquiring additional parking for the nearby boat landing. They are considering trying to buy at least three parcels; Town Manager Dennis Heath said he had asked Tom Linscott, who supervises boat landings for the state, to let him know how many of the three the state would deem acceptable for parking areas.

Committee members set their meetings for the last Monday evening of the month, at least until the selectmen, who meet every other Monday, conflict with their schedule. The next TIF Committee meeting was set for Aug. 27.

Vassalboro selectmen to hold special meeting

Vassalboro selectmen will hold a special meeting at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6, in the town office, primarily to set the 2018-19 tax rate. Board members have the option of discussing other matters.

Their next regular meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23. The agenda begins with a public hearing, as required under state law concerning dangerous buildings, to hear an update on conditions at Brock’s Mobile Home Park.

China town manager presents several proposals to selectmen

Image Credit: chinalakeassociation.org

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent much of their July 23 meeting discussing the Tax Increment Finance Committee’s causeway project, which consists of replacing the bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin and, as phase two, improving the boat landing and access to the lake.

Additional parking is a prerequisite for state improvements to the boat landing. Selectmen approved committee members’ plans to have a state Department of Environmental Protection staff member inspect Susan Bailey’s property to assess its suitability for parking, to ask other nearby landowners if they are interested in selling and to discuss an easement for use of part of the China Baptist Church parking area.

The Bailey property is on the market for $120,000.

In other business, new Town Manager Dennis Heath presented several proposals, none ready for immediate action.

He and transfer station employees are discussing ways to have the facility open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, without additional expense. The Transfer Station Committee was expected to continue the discussion at its July 25 meeting.

Heath and veteran road employee Gary Cummings talked about a long-term road repaving plan, which Heath said could create an eight-year cycle. That issue he intends to discuss next with China’s Road Committee.

A third issue, on which Heath said he spent most of his first three weeks in office, was town finances. The manager had a summary of revenue and expenses beginning in fiscal year 2015 which, among other things, illustrated the difference between accounting on a cash basis, as done by the town office system, and on an accrual basis, as used by the auditors.

Heath’s preliminary conclusion is that the annual tax rate has been slightly higher than necessary to cover annual expenses, resulting in a healthy surplus.

The China website says the next China selectmen’s meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6.