China selectmen, firefighters discuss auditing requirements

by Mary Grow

China selectmen and representatives of the South China Volunteer Fire Department spent part for the Aug. 7 selectmen’s meeting sorting out auditing requirements, with specific reference to the importance of the transition from one fiscal year to the next. China’s fiscal year ends June 30 and the new one – 2017-18 currently – begins July 1.

Fire Department Treasurer Fred Glidden told selectmen he presented several invoices dated in June for payment after July 1 and was told they could not be paid. They were 2016-17 bills and according to auditing practice, that year’s books are closed and cannot be reopened, and prior-year bills can’t be paid from current-year funds.

Had the department ended FY 2016-17 with a surplus that went into its reserve fund, the bills might have been paid from reserve in July, Town Manager and Treasurer Daniel L’Heureux said; but there was not an adequate balance carried forward.

Glidden said he already paid two of the bills from departmental funds, raised through donations and fundraisers, and intended to bill the town for reimbursement in this fiscal year. Fine, L’Heureux said, as long as the bill to the town is itemized.

For the remaining bills, the manager recommended getting new invoices dated in July. They would then fall under the current year’s budget.

When Glidden and Fire Chief Richard Morse objected that they had carried bills forward in past years, L’Heureux said sometimes there are such irregularities, until the town’s auditor spots them and requires correction.

In a related matter, Glidden said LD 150, sponsored by State Representative and China Village Fire Chief Tim Theriault, takes effect Nov. 1 (90 days after the state legislature adjourned for the year). LD 150 repeals the $1,000 limit on the municipal appropriation that can be given to an organized volunteer fire department in a lump sum and adds a requirement that the purposes of the appropriation be itemized.

In other words, after Nov. 1 this year, and at the beginning of subsequent fiscal years, China’s three volunteer fire departments can request a check for their annual appropriation and do their own spending, instead of submitting bills bi-weekly to the town office.

Neil Farrington, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, advised Glidden and Morse to make sure if they choose that option, they will continue to share the town’s discount on purchases like diesel fuel and heating oil. Selectmen asked L’Heureux to investigate the question.

In other business, L’Heureux said he hopes to be able to recommend the 2017-18 tax rate at the selectmen’s Aug. 21 meeting. He is waiting to hear whether the state will approve China’s application to add the new Central Maine Power Company substation off Route 3 to the town’s Tax Increment Financing Program. Whether the value of the new substation is in the TIF program or the regular tax base will affect the rate he recommends.

Selectmen reaffirmed their intention to offer the basement of the old town house beside the town office for rent to a nonprofit group. They authorized L’Heureux to do necessary repairs and maintenance.

L’Heureux said the Thurston Park II Committee did not endorse the proposal for selective timber cutting on an additional approximately five acres in the town-owned park, so only the work originally planned will be done.

L’Heureux and Farrington repeated their request for volunteers for the vacant budget committee position, the 2018 Bicentennial committee and other town boards and committees.

BBBS names Hudson executive director

Gwendolyn Hudson

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine announces Gwendolyn Hudson has been named executive director, leading the state’s second largest BBBS youth mentoring organization that serves seven counties and over 700 youth facing adversity in Midcoast, Kennebec Valley, eastern and central Maine.

Hudson has been with BBBS of Mid-Maine for over five years, serving first as community-based director and most recently as human resources director. Her leadership in these capacities brings to the new position important knowledge and experience in youth-based mentoring programming and agency management. Board Chairman Edward W. Gould, Esq., called Hudson “the perfect person to continue the agency’s longstanding, successful mission.”

Hudson is a graduate of the University of Maine where she received an undergraduate degree in Spanish, German and Anthropology and a master’s degree in education. She was a middle school teacher at Chinle Junior High School on the Navajo Reservation, in Arizona, before returning to Maine to teach at Gardiner Regional Middle School and later joining Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine in 2012. She is a 2016 graduate of Midcoast Leadership Academy.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with an outstanding staff and board of directors who, with the support of many community partners, are dedicated to changing kids’ lives for the better,” Hudson said.

Hudson lives in Rockport with her husband, Mark Breton, and daughters Bella and Julia Mae.

Vassalboro Tax rate set at 14.55 mils

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen have set the 2017-18 tax rate at 14.55 mils, or $14.55 for each $1,000 of valuation, an increase of 50 cents per $1,000 over the 2016-17 rate.

Town Manager Mary Sabins told board members at their Aug. 10 meeting the 14.55 mil figure is the lowest recommended by assessor Ellery Bane. With selectmen’s approval, she expected Bane to make the figure official on Aug. 15; tax bills would be prepared and mailed as soon as possible thereafter.

By town meeting vote, the first quarterly tax payment is due Sept. 25.

Sabins has arranged to include in residents’ tax bills a notice of Kennebec Explorer bus service now available to Vassalboro and China residents through the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program.

The bus picks up people in the two towns Monday and Thursday mornings and brings them home in late morning and early afternoon. One-way fare is $1.25. Scheduling is done in advance through a toll-free telephone number, 1-800-542-8227 opt. 2.

The other major business Aug. 10 was awarding the contract to survey the new section of the Cross Hill Cemetery. After discussion with Cemetery Committee Chairman Jane Aiudi, selectmen approved Thomas A. Stevens’ bid, conditional on satisfactory review by Sabins and the Cemetery Committee.

Stevens offered various prices depending on the size and type of plot markers. The accepted figure is $5,170.80.

Aiudi commented that all bids were less than the committee had expected to pay. In other business, selectmen reviewed the history of the road section off Pleasant Point Road, on Webber Pond, now called Kilburn Lane and voted unanimously to take no action on a resident’s request to change the name.

They discussed proposed culvert work and paving plans with Road Foreman Eugene Field and encouraged him to proceed as he planned.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Sept. 7.

Self defense, computer classes in Palermo

A self defense class to increase your confidence on Tuesday and Thursday, August 8 and 10, from 6:45 to 9:00 p.m. Participants should be reasonably healthy, wear comfortable, loose clothing, sneakers and no jewelry. Bring sturdy work gloves. Cost is $10 and includes Persuader Keychain. The class is limited to 10. Pre-registration is required by calling 993-6088 or emailing palermo@palermo.lib.me.us.

Free computer classes for those who want to learn computer basics, Windows 10, Excel, and much more on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning on Tuesday, August 15 through Thursday, August 31, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. If available, please bring a laptop. Computers and laptops will be available for those who need them. For a detailed Computer Class Outline, go to www.palermo.lib.me.us.

The library is located at 2789 Route 3. For more information: call 993-6088 or email palermo@palermo.lib.me.us or www.palermo.lib.me.us.

The Palermo Community Library offers Kindles, books, large print books, audio books, Inter-library loan, DVDs, VHS tapes, Wi-Fi, patron computers, printing, faxing, and ancestrylibrary.com! There is also a community room with a large screen TV available for meetings and presentations.

The Palermo Community Library is an all-volunteer library. If you’d like to volunteer, please call 993-6088.

 

China Lake Association celebrates its 30th anniversary

Fifth and sixth grade students who received awards for their entry in the China Lake Association’s annual poster contest. Photo courtesy of Scott Pierz

Submitted by Scott Pierz

The China Lake Association held its annual meeting on July 22 at the China Primary School, celebrating its 30th anniversary with an excellent program for its membership. The meeting was attended by over 75 people.

China Lake Association Directors Elaine Philbrook and Marie Michaud presented the awards for this year’s poster contest held for the fifth and sixth graders at the China Middle School. There were some amazing posters this year, created upon the theme of one of China Lake’s most precious resources, the Maine Loon. Susan Gallo, of Maine Audubon, presented information to the students on loons, and she was also the keynote speaker at the annual meeting delivering a power-point presentation called “The State of Maine’s Loons” covering the lifespan of the Maine Loon.

Director Bob O’Connor gave the loon count for China Lake this year, reporting 22 loons and with four new loon chicks observed. A second keynote speaker, Betsy Barber (a PhD candidate at the University of Maine) presented her thesis on “Modeling the Nutrient Budget for Alewife in China Lake.” These were two high quality presentations and the audience was engaging, asking many questions about both topics.

Selectman Irene Belanger spoke to the association, highlighting the Spirit of America Award that was presented to LakeSmart Coordinator Marie Michaud and the LakeSmart volunteers for their achievement on installing buffers on lake-front properties around China Lake. Marie Michaud updated everyone on the progress being made this summer, with over a dozen LakeSmart buffers already installed with the help of the Youth Conservation Corps. More work is to be completed by season’s end. Volunteers are welcome to step forward to be trained and to help with evaluating shorefront properties. Anyone interested can get more info by e-mailing chinalakesmart@gmail.com.

The association recognized the considerable contributions made by the Kennebec Water District that donated funds to be used to purchase materials for the LakeSmart projects. Also, the Kennebec Water District donated a truck to be used by the Youth Conservation Corps and the Courtesy Boat Inspectors (who are responsible for inspecting boats to check for invasive aquatic plant species). The courtesy boat inspectors can be seen at the Head of China Lake on the weekends. The Kennebec Water District’s representative Matt Zetterman stated that the district monitors China Lake’s water quality at three different (deep hole) locations every two weeks. He reported that on July 14 this year the water clarity in the west basin was the best it has been since 1981, showing a Secchi disk reading of 7.55 meters (over 24 feet!).

China Lake Association directors Elaine Philbrook and Marie Michaud presented the awards for this year’s poster costest held by fifth and sixth graders at China Middle School. Photo courtesy of Scott Pierz

Matt Streeter, the Project Manager for Maine Rivers and the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI), spoke on the progress being made on the ARI project. He said that engineering designs continue to be developed for several of the locations that will provide access for the alewives, including the design of an engineered fish passage at the Outlet Dam, in East Vassalboro. Most of the ARI’s recent efforts have involved obtaining the state permit to remove the Masse Dam this year, and the ARI expects the permit to be issued very soon. The Youth Conservation Corps contributed by planting buffers on properties above the Masse Dam to stabilize and protect the shoreline adjacent to the Outlet Stream.

Elaine Philbrook talked about the Volunteer Lake Moni­toring Pro­gram she is participating in along with Ken­nebec Water District personnel. The Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program is designed to train and certify people to monitor a wide range of water quality concerns, especially looking for and identifying invasive aquatic plant species. Anyone who would like to participate in this program can reach out through the association’s website or Facebook.

The association’s president, Scott Pierz, asked members to consider approving two items, the first dealing with funding appropriations and other fiscal matters deemed to be in the best interest of the association; the second item involved seeking a recommendation from the China Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee for additional funding to support and operate LakeSmart. The association membership voted to approve both measures.

The association’s Registered Agent Jamie Pitney conducted the business of renewing some of the director’s terms, and also welcomed two new directors, Dale Worster and Jeff Zimmerman. In addition, the slate of officers will remain the same for another year until the next annual meeting in 2018. 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 them out on Facebook.

CHINA: Board approves codes officer’s request for fines

by Mary Grow

China Codes Officer Paul Mitnik recommended and selectmen, at their July 24 meeting, accepted guidelines for monetary penalties for ignoring the state’s Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) requirements.

Mitnik’s major problem – which he said is infrequent – is that contractors or homeowners fail to call him for the inspections MUBEC requires at different stages of a building, like the foundation, the framing and the insulation.

When Mitnik finds a violation has occurred, the law empowers him to take down enough of the new construction to do the inspections. He prefers not to use this option, he said; he is more likely to ask questions to try to determine if the work was done to code and to ask selectmen to approve a consent decree with a monetary penalty.

The guidelines are intended to make monetary penalties more consistent. The maximum Mitnik recommends is $500 for an uninspected foundation; the minimum, no fine at all if he can do an after-the-fact inspection, for example for a garage with framing still visible.

If Mitnik believes the violation is deliberate he can double the penalties; and some penalties, notably the $100 for ignoring a stop-work order, are imposed every day of the violation, rather than being one-time. Board members unanimously approved the guidelines.

In other business July 24, selectmen unanimously accepted the higher of two bids for the woods truck formerly used by the Weeks Mills volunteer fire department, $3,500 from a Madison resident.

On a 4-1 vote, with Ronald Breton opposed, they pre-approved an additional tract in Thurston Park for selective timber harvesting, conditional on the Thurston Park II Committee recommending the additional work. The committee and the selectboard previously approved cutting in four areas, totaling about 39 acres; the new area, as shown on a map distributed at the meeting, appears to be about five acres.

The map indicates that the work is about half done. Income from the harvest will go into a fund to support park expenses.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee member Tom Michaud told selectmen the committee asked three engineering firms for designs for a replacement bridge on Causeway Road at the head of China Lake. He hopes to have designs before the selectmen’s Aug. 7 meeting.

Selectmen unanimously appointed Dawn Castner a member of the China for a Lifetime Committee.

They signed the annual state road certification form, promising that $54, 200 in state road funds will be used for capital improvements. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said China annually spends several times that amount on paving and other capital expenditures.

Albion Days activities

In celebration of the 70th year of Albion Fire-Rescue and Yeaton’s Service & Supply, this year’s Field Day will be bigger and better than ever!

The festivities kick off on Thursday evening, July 27, with the Queens Contest at the Albion Elementary School from 7 p.m. to approximately 8:30 p.m.

They’re bringing back the Street Dance this year! In keeping with tradition, it will be held on Friday night, July 28, before Field Day. It won’t actually be in the street, it will be in the field adjacent to the Albion Fire Station. The Whiskey Sour Band – country with an edge – will be performing live from 6 – 9 p.m. All are welcome. Free admission. No alcohol or pets.

Saturday’s events kick off with the Fun Run behind the elementary school at 9 a.m., followed by a parade starting on the Hussey Road and proceeding down Main Street at 10 a.m. Events in the Field Day Field begin following the parade at 11 a.m., behind the Besse Building. There will be food available for purchase (chicken BBQ, fresh-cut French fries, hot dogs, baked goods, snow cones, and more), children’s activities – including a bounce house, dunk tank and petting zoo, the Lions Club auction, raffle and flea market, a K-9 Demo by Maine State Police, two shows by Tickles the Clown, and more! All are welcome! Join them for this fun, family-friendly event that brings the whole community together! Free admission. No alcohol or pets throughout the festivities.

CHINA NEWS: China Community Days set to be the best yet

Economic and Community Development Committee, from left to right, Lucas Adams, chairman, Teretia Sikora, Tara Littrell, Kelly Gordon and Jason Grotton.
Contributed photo

by Eric Austin

China Community Days is just a week away, and the Economic and Community Development Committee of China has been hard at work ensuring this year’s event will be one to remember.

The festival is now a 14-year tradition, scheduled this year for next weekend, Friday, August 4 through Sunday, August 6. A number of activities are planned, including a scavenger hunt and fishing derby for kids, and a spectacular fireworks show on Saturday night.

There will also be local Maine vendors showcasing a number of unique wares you won’t find anywhere else. And locals interested in making a quick buck should definitely take note of The Bazaar, where anyone can bring items they’d like to sell.

Committee chairman, Lucas Adams, expressed surprise at how the event has grown over the years. “It used to be just a China thing,” he said, “but now we have folks coming from all over the state, and vendors from as far away as Lewiston.”

Asked if they were doing anything new this year, Adams laughed. “China Days has always been a blast for the kids, but this year we’re trying to include more entertainment for the grown-ups.”

The committee is also still looking for volunteers, so if you can help out please contact the town office at 445-2014.

Check out their Facebook page or the China Town Office website for more information, and be sure to pick up The Town Line in two weeks when we’ll have a complete schedule and breakdown of all the activities planned for the big weekend!

Vassalboro News: Planners accept applications under revised ordinance

by Mary Grow

At their July 11 meeting, Vassalboro Planning Board members tried out the revised Shoreland Zoning Ordinance voters accepted at the June town meeting. They were able to approve two applications and tell one couple an application for additional work would probably be acceptable.

The change most relevant to the July 11 applications was the increase in allowed expansions of buildings in the shoreland, from 15 percent of the 1989 size to 30 percent. The way size is measured has also changed; now only the footprint of the building – the number of square feet it covers on the ground – counts.

The trick, veteran board member Douglas Phillips commented, will be knowing how things were in 1989. The two buildings in question had been previously expanded by 15 percent, and Codes Officer Richard Dolby had found the records.

Consequently, board members were able to approve permits for Don and Linda Lathrop to add a small roof over an entry stairway on the side of their camp at 138 Park Lane, on Three Mile Pond, and for Charles Backenstose to add a room on his camp at 59 Berry Road, on Webber Pond.

The Lathrop camp is just over 25 feet from the water, significant because the new ordinance divides shoreland into sub-zones with boundaries at 25 feet and 75 feet. Backenstose said the front of his camp is 30 feet from the water and the side of the camp 15 feet because of a cove that curves in beside it.

Dolby and board members were uncertain whether the Lathrop project even needed planning board action, or whether it could be categorized as maintenance and repair. They approved it anyway.

Dolby said the Lathrops can also apply for another 15 percent expansion, for example to add a porch, as long as they do not expand toward the water. (ep)

Backenstose intends to use the newly-allowed 15 percent to add a room on the opposite side of his camp from the cove, behind an existing deck. He is allowed a 10- by 12-foot addition; he plans, he said, to take 18 inches off the deck to add another foot and a half to the new room without enlarging the total footprint.

CHINA NEWS: Selectmen split on new truck purchases

by Mary Grow

China selectmen approved, barely, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux’s recommendations on replacing two town trucks with new ones.

At the July 10 selectboard meeting, L’Heureux said he had two bids on a tandem-axle plow truck and three on a one-ton single-axle plow truck. He recommended the following:

  • An International tandem-axle, at a price of $125,000, minus $55,000 for trading in the 2008 tandem-axle, plus $78,995 for plow equipment to be provided by Howard P. Fairfield.
  • An International single-axle for $71,000, minus $25,000 trade-in, plus $55,500 for plow gear, also from H. P. Fairfield.

Selectman Ronald Breton said he talked with the mechanics who maintain China’s truck fleet and on the basis of his conversations wants to trade in a 2015 truck that he said the mechanics said is underpowered and already rusting, not the 2008 that he called “the best truck the town has.”

Breton had invited Bill Bickford or one of his employees to the July 10 meeting, but no one was able to come.

L’Heureux replied that as town manager responsible for spending tax dollars, he considered financial factors over the life of each vehicle in making his recommendation. In general, he said, he tries to trade in a vehicle at about 10 years old to maximize value and avoid major repair costs.

Selectmen met July 10 in the old town house beside the town office. The idea was not a total success; although board members enjoyed looking at historic items before the meeting opened, they found the building too warm and, after dark, too mosquito-infested for comfort.
Contributed photo

The 2008 truck, he said, is at its peak for trading in; in another year, it will lose value, down time will increase and repair bills will mount, especially as outdated equipment becomes more expensive to work on or replace.

The 2015 truck was adjusted after the town bought it and now is “plenty strong enough to do the plowing that we do,” the manager said. It is also more fuel-efficient than an older truck.

Selectmen voted 3-2, with Joann Austin, Irene Belanger and Chairman Neil Farrington in the majority and Jeffrey LaVerdiere joining Breton in opposition, to accept the manager’s recommendations.

In other business, L’Heureux said road repaving is likely to start by mid-August. Work is to be done on Dirigo, Hanson and Bog roads and Parmenter Terrace. The manager said owners of two private roads piggy-backed on the town’s paving bid to get the lower price associated with a larger contract; the road owners will pay for the work done on their roads. Selectmen authorized the manager to sign necessary documents to complete two voter-approved actions: purchase of land adjoining town-owned land around the town office; and transfer of the former portable classroom, now stored on the town’s Alder Park Road property, to the South China Library Association, which will pay the cost of moving it.

L’Heureux said Jack Lord has designed a septic system for the first former portable classroom, set up near the town office as a future emergency shelter, and he has quotes for doing the work. Selectmen also plan a new well to serve the emergency shelter and, they hope, the town office. The current well is contaminated from the salt pile that stood behind the town office for many years; selectmen hope to find better water elsewhere on the enlarged property.

Selectmen appointed Robert Batteese a member of the Revolving Loan Fund Committee. L’Heureux plans to advertise for a secretary for the budget committee and members of the bicentennial committee that Farrington heads.

Farrington said he intends to add internet service and a handicapped ramp at the town-owned former Weeks Mills schoolhouse and use it as bicentennial headquarters.

At Farrington’s suggestion, selectmen met July 10 in the old town house beside the town office. The idea was not a total success; although board members enjoyed looking at historic items before the meeting opened, they found the building too warm and, after dark, too mosquito-infested for comfort.

The next China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, July 24.