China TIF committee agrees on two motions

by Mary Grow

China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members agreed unanimously on two motions at their Dec. 4 meeting, including, conditionally, a recommendation to town selectmen. The recommendation to selectmen is to ask voters to appropriate $20,000 in TIF funds for the China LakeSmart program, after they clarify allowable uses of TIF money, specifically whether it can be used to pay salaries.

China Lake Association President Scott Pierz asked for the assistance for LakeSmart. The program, headed by Marie Michaud, works with lakefront landowners to install buffers and other erosion control measures to protect China Lake water quality.Normally, Pierz said, the China Lake Association provides shrubs and other materials for projects; the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA) pays the salaries of the Youth Conservation Corps members who do the work. However, increases in the Maine minimum wage left CRLA short of money last summer, and the minimum wage is due to go up again in 2018.

TIF Committee members agreed that good water quality is a contribution to China’s economic development, so LakeSmart’s goal qualifies for TIF money. The remaining question is whether TIF funding, if approved by selectmen and town voters, would have to be restricted to materials only.

The second issue was the previously-discussed Susan Bailey property at the head of China Lake’s east basin. Committee members instructed Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux to find out whether the low area on the east side of Lakeview Drive can be filled in to create a parking area.

The property includes two separate parcels, about six acres of mostly wetland where people using the boat landing now park and 30 or more acres across Lakeview Drive, bounded by Lakeview Drive and Pleasant View Ridge Road.

Committee members want the small parcel as a key part of their plan to expand access at the head of the lake. The project is starting with a new causeway bridge, planned to include wide walkways from which people can fish.The two parcels are part of the same mortgage. L’Heureux said the attorney who was asked if they could be separated has not yet given an opinion. Joann Austin said separation, if allowed, would cost another $2,000 or so, requiring new surveys and valuations of each parcel. Some committee members favor paying up to $120,000 for both lots.

Frank Soares sent a letter to the Dec. 4 meeting stressing the larger lot’s value for overflow boat landing parking plus parking for those using the snowmobile trail that crosses the lot; protecting the east shore of the swamp, called the muldoon, north of the causeway; and giving the town the rest of the land “to develop, sell or trade for other uses.”

H. David Cotta opposed the purchase, pointing out the limited developable areas on the larger lot. Several other committee members questioned whether state or local environmental regulations would allow filling the low area to create the desired parking. Irene Belanger said the dip was created when the road was raised and is a drainage area for the road. At one point the complex discussion led committee member Dale Worster to propose looking elsewhere for lake access instead of trying to expand use of “the little corner” dictated by the existing boat ramp.

Ultimately, Tom Michaud made a motion asking L’Heureux to provide written proof the town can fill in the low area to make a parking lot if voters agree to buy the property. Otherwise, he said, there is no point in further discussion. The motion was unanimously approved. In other business, Austin provided very preliminary information on her proposed elderly housing project on Route 3, on land adjoining the former Fairpoint building (where the China Planning Board is close to approving a satellite Kennebec Community Church). As plans develop, she said, she intends to talk with China for a Lifetime Committee members; she is likely to seek TIF assistance eventually. Worster commented that her project sounded more useful than boat parking.

The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Jan. 15, 2018.

CHINA: Committee recommends new forklift, pre-crusher compactor for transfer station

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent their Dec. 11 meeting looking ahead, including considering a Transfer Station Committee recommendation to buy equipment.

Committee members recommended replacing the forklift and adding a new pre-crusher compactor in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Selectmen later discussed buying a new forklift immediately; the old one is rickety enough to create safety concerns, several board members said.

Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said he authorized immediate repairs to make sure the machine is safe to use.

Bob Kurek, Palermo’s representative on the Transfer Station Committee, said the pre-crusher would compact demolition and debris to make hauling it away more efficient. Currently, he said, transfer station staff spend a lot of time tamping down debris with the front-end loader, and still get an average of only 6.6 tons per load. The pre-compactor should increase the average load to at least 10 tons, saving almost $3,300 a year in hauling fees.

At that rate, Kurek said, the $53,000 machine (plus an estimate $3,000 installation cost) would pay for itself in about 17 years. The model he suggests has a 25-year life span.

The pre-crusher could also serve as a back-up disposal box when the transfer station is unusually busy.

A new forklift would cost a little more than $24,000 or around $26,000, depending on the chosen machine, with trade-in, Kurek said. A good used one would be only about $6,000 cheaper.

If selectmen were to buy a new one in the current fiscal year, part of the payment could come from the transfer station reserve fund into which Palermo’s annual fee for sharing the facility is deposited.

Selectmen intend to revisit the issue in January 2018.

In other business Dec. 11, Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 Superintendent Carl Gartley attended to repeat in person his prior written invitations to selectmen and other interested town officials to tour China’s two schools. No date was set.

Gartley said the RSU is applying again for state funds to enlarge China Primary School so that China Middle School could be closed. There are 84 applications for major construction being submitted, he said; the state typically funds about a dozen in a 10-year period.

Meanwhile, more than $2 million of the $14 million bond issue RSU voters approved in November will be spend on China schools, Gartley said.

Selectmen accepted board member Neil Farrington’s offer to serve as coordinator for China’s 2018 bicentennial celebration, a post Farrington has been filling informally for more than a year in the absence of any other interested person.

Farrington proposed selectmen enter into discussions with trustees of the Branch Mills Union Church about the town taking responsibility for maintenance of the 1857 building.

The town, unlike a religious unit, can apply for historic preservation grants, he said. In addition to preserving a historic building, his proposal would even out support for China’s four villages, now that South China has gotten sidewalks and help with the library relocation, Weeks Mills has had its schoolhouse repaired and China Village has the causeway project funded with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money.

By consensus, the rest of the board approved a professional inspection of the church.

In the other end of town, board member Donna Mills-Stevens said the planned fire pond on Neck Road needs approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection before work to enlarge the existing pond starts. Mills-Stevens had also found a report of waste dumped on one of the properties involved, with no evidence the state had closed out the issue.

According to the holiday schedule on the town web site, on Friday, Dec. 22, the transfer station will be open as usual and the town office will close at 2 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 23, the town office will be closed and the transfer station will close at noon. Both will be closed Sunday, Dec. 24 and Monday, Dec. 25, as well as Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

Selectmen agreed to close the town office Tuesday, Dec. 26, to conform to the state schedule. L’Heureux said the transfer station will be open half a day, 7 a.m. to noon, on Dec. 26, to avoid a big rush at the end of the holiday week.

Because the next regular China selectmen’s meeting would have been Christmas Day, board members rescheduled it to 8 a.m. Wednesday, Dec, 27.

Vassalboro: Residents hear update on ARI from speakers

Left, Ladd Dam, and right, Box Mill. Contributed photos

by Mary Grow

About 30 people gathered in the East Vassalboro Grange Hall for a Nov. 29 update on the Alewife Restoration Project (ARI), aimed at restoring alewife runs from the ocean into China Lake. Speakers focused on two obstacles, the Ladd and Box Mill dams.

Presenters were Landis Hudson and Matt Streeter of Maine Rivers, Nate Gray of the Maine Department of Marine Resources and Peter Abello and Ben Naumann of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Other groups involved in or assisting with ARI include the China Lake Association, China Region Lakes Alliance, the towns of China and Vassalboro, the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, Maine Rivers, the Nature Conservancy and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Outlet Stream, which runs from China Lake into the Sebasticook River, had six dams that obstructed fish passage. The Masse dam in East Vassalboro has been removed; the Lombard dam between East and North Vassalboro is also to be taken out. The Outlet dam in East Vassalboro will have a fishway. Plans for the Morneau dam between East Vassalboro and Lombard dam are incomplete.

Plans discussed Nov. 29 include a fishway at the Ladd dam, along the west bank, with the existing impoundment to be maintained and Ray Breton’s recreational area on the east bank to be undisturbed.

Naumann said an archaeological survey is pending. Engineering plans are due this winter. If funds are available, construction of the fishway could be a 2018 project. An informational sheet distributed at the meeting said a Denil fish ladder is planned; it would allow an annual alewife harvest to benefit the town, like the harvest at Webber Pond.

The partly-collapsed Box Mill dam is a “complex site, highly modified over the years,” Gray said. Naumann agreed, saying the dam is nicknamed “Swiss cheese” because it has so many holes.

Numerous engineers have come up with more than a dozen conceptual designs over the last three years, Naumann said. The experts are moving toward consensus on a plan; if they agree, construction is possible in 2018 or 2019.

Gray said removing the dam is not an option. Outlet Stream was diverted when it was installed, and without the dam significant upstream erosion would threaten the Oak Grove Road bridge.

Once a plan has been made, Naumann said residents will be invited to another meeting for an updated progress report.

Abello, NRCS district consultant based in Augusta, explained that the agency’s main role in the project is to assist with funding. The landowner – Ray Breton for both the Ladd and Box Mill dams – applies; Abello helps develop plans that meet the landowner’s goals and preserve natural resources.

The funding process is highly competitive, Abello warned.

Before the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers were dammed in the 1800s, Gray said, alewives and other fish used to travel well inland to spawn in lakes and ponds. The Edwards dam on the Kennebec was removed in 1999 and the Fort Halifax dam on the Sebasticook in 2008; by the spring of 2009, alewives were sighted below Box Mill dam.

The small fish are valuable for lobster bait. They might also play a role in removing the algae that are over-abundant in China Lake and other area lakes; scientific studies are not unanimous, but Webber Pond Association President Frank Richards gives alewives some of the credit for improved water quality.

China Lake has been stocked by trucking in alewives since 2012, Gray said.

In addition to alewives, a Denil fish ladder can accommodate other small fish, including Atlantic salmon and perhaps small striped bass, Gray told an audience member. Unwelcome fish like pike, white catfish and carp, which are present in the lower Kennebec, will probably be deterred by shallow water in Outlet Stream between North Vassalboro and the Sebasticook, he said.

CHINA: Planners revert to old method for reviewing conditional use applications

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members agreed at their Nov. 28 meeting to return to their previous procedure for reviewing conditional use applications and went on to apply it. Until about a year ago, board members would usually review such applications, which are for new or expanded commercial or other non-residential uses, at one meeting and make a decision at the following meeting. That procedure gave neighbors a chance to comment and board members time to consider the comments and develop reasons for their decisions.

China’s ordinance lists 15 criteria an application must meet, dealing with effects on the environment and nearby properties. The ordinance and several court rulings require planning boards to prepare written findings of fact to substantiate their decisions on each criterion.

Recently the board has made numerous decisions in a single meeting, in the interest of avoiding delay for applicants. It has not been clear who should prepare the written findings of fact or how detailed they should be.

Members present at the Nov. 28 meeting agreed to return to the two-meeting process, with the codes officer to prepare the findings of fact after board members make decisions on the 15 criteria at the first meeting. The application before the board was from Kennebec Community Church, in Augusta, to use the former Fairpoint building on Route 3 as a satellite church. Joann Austin, who owns land on three sides of the church lot, was present and offered comments.

Pastor Dan Coleman and church member Rick Bergeron, who will be supervising renovations, said they plan few changes outside the building. Access from Route 3, parking, lighting, the well and septic system and most of the parking will not be affected. Additional handicapped parking spaces are to be designated.

The two major issues board members discussed were the septic system or systems and the plan to clear trees and vegetation between the building and Route 3 to increase visibility.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said the property has two septic systems; he added the capacities together to make sure the systems will accommodate the maximum number of people who could be in the building. Plans submitted showed only one system, and Bergeron was not aware of another. The issue is to be investigated.

The vegetated area toward Route 3 is at least partly a designated buffer required by China’s Phosphorus Control Ordinance, leading to multiple questions about how much clearing could be allowed and how church officials plan to maintain the buffer. Board members asked Mitnik to clarify the size of the buffer and location of retention ponds, and added a condition to the proposed permit saying any clearing would need the codes officer’s approval.

A majority of planning board members found the application met all 15 criteria. If requested information is supplied, final approval could be granted at the next board meeting, scheduled for Tuesday evening, Dec. 12.

Mitnik said there might be two commercial items on the Dec. 12 agenda, if applicants are ready: Parris and Catherine Varney’s re-application to use their barn on Neck Road for parties, and a preliminary discussion or new application for a Dollar General store on a small lot on the southwest corner of the intersection of Route 3 and Windsor Road.

The Planning Board has scheduled a site visit to the Varney property for 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10. Like board meetings, site visits are open to the public, but those present should not expect board members to answer questions individually, and no decisions are to be made.

The Varneys applied initially in 2016. After several planning board meetings attended by neighbors opposed to the project, a board of appeals hearing and a court refusal to consider the merits, Planning board members intend to rehear the application from the beginning, as advised by town attorney Alton Stevens.

Glowa announces run for state Senate seat

John Glow (image credit: ballotpedia)

John M. Glowa, Sr., a 31-year resident of China, has filed to run as a Maine Clean Election candidate for the District #15 Senate seat which includes Augusta, Sidney, Oakland, Vassalboro and China. Glowa retired from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2016 after more than 29 years of state service and ran in 2016 for the District #79 seat in the Maine House of Representatives.

“One of Maine’s biggest problems is our poorly functioning state government. We need to identify what is broken and fix it. Our system of checks and balances between the branches of government is virtually non-existent. Our legislature passes laws and establishes programs with little or no accountability for how those laws and programs are administered. We need an effective system of auditing all government programs and for holding our government accountable. The legislature and the governor overturn citizen’s initiatives and defy the will of the people by holding public monies hostage. We can no longer afford just window dressing when it comes to writing and passing legislation. Unless we identify and fix what is broken with the system, we will never have a government that is truly representative of the people and it will continue to be run largely by and for the special interests.

“We need a government that promotes opportunities for our young people and is capable of solving a myriad of problems including, but not limited to education, mental health, substance abuse, the environment, the economy, the needs of our growing elderly population, gun safety and taxes. We cannot afford a government that is inefficient, ineffective and wasteful. Maine doesn’t need career politicians.

“We need qualified, capable people in government who know what is wrong, how to fix it and who have the political courage to do so.

“Having served the people of Maine for some three decades, like thousands of State employees, I have been subject to the political whims of numerous legislatures and governors. We must recognize our employees’ hard work and dedication to public service. We must stop treating them as second-class citizens. We must encourage them to speak up for what is right, not punish them or prevent them from doing so. We must attract and retain the best and brightest because our government is only as good as the people in it.”

Glowa is a lifelong sportsman, environmentalist, and animal and wildlife advocate. He has attempted for more than a two decades to reform Maine’s broken system of fish and wildlife management. He is a strong advocate for Maine’s environment and ecosystem and for educating the public about the ecological and economic importance of restoring Maine’s natural predator/prey relationships including wolves. He is also a strong advocate for Maine’s economy and, in particular, its wildlife watching industry which generates $1.3 billion in annual economic activity, supports nearly 18,000 jobs, pays nearly $500 million in annual salaries and wages, and generates nearly $200 million in annual tax revenue.

Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting canceled; rescheduled to December 14

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen will not meet Thursday, Nov. 30. They had already moved their meeting from evening to afternoon so board members can attend a training session for elected officials, and have now canceled the meeting due to lack of pressing business. Their next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Dec. 14.

Garage expansion OK’d by Vassalboro planners

by Mary Grow

Presented with the previously-missing site plan, Vassalboro Planning Board members quickly and unanimously approved Michael Chick’s application to enlarge his garage on Burns Road, off Church Hill Road.

At their regular meeting Nov. 9, board members ruled Chick’s application incomplete because it lacked an overall plan. They scheduled a special meeting for Nov. 21 with Chick’s application the only agenda item.

Chick’s plan showed the 16-by-60-foot addition on the back of the garage. At the earlier meeting, Chick and his wife said the addition is to provide more work and storage space; they plan no changes in activity level, traffic, landscaping, lighting or anything else likely to impact neighbors or the environment.

A couple whose land adjoins Chick’s five-acre lot told board members they have no objection to his project.

China selectmen hold annual vision session: take no action

by Mary Grow

On Nov. 27, China selectmen began their annual visioning session, at which board members informally discuss goals and priorities, with a list of two dozen items reviewed a year earlier.

They added one short-term and three long-term items and found four items that have been or are being taken care of.

The short-term addition, suggested by Jeffrey LaVerdiere, is finding a successor to Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux, who plans to leave his position at the end of June after more than 23 years.

Longer-term, Board Chairman Robert MacFarland and new board member Donna Mills-Stevens recommended hiring a full-time policeman, if voters approve the expenditure. LaVerdiere questioned the need; Mills-Stevens said people want protection against vandalism and theft, and part-time officers are not enough.

Selectman Neil Farrington suggested reviewing the town’s personal property tax policy and perhaps setting a minimum valuation below which taxes would not be assessed. Mills-Stevens agreed, saying China’s personal property taxes deter new businesses from coming to town. L’Heureux was less enthusiastic, reminding board members of the state programs that ease the burden and pointing out that less personal property tax money from business means higher property taxes for everyone. Selectman Irene Belanger said updating China’s comprehensive plan should be on the selectmen’s list, though she and former Selectmen Ronald Breton agree the planning board needs to start the process. In the past a special committee has revised the plan. Belanger said China’s revised plan is due to be submitted to the state next year. Items from the 2016 list that are irrelevant or under way include:

  • Dealing with recreational marijuana, now that town voters have agreed to ban it;
  • Elderly housing, being considered by the China for a Lifetime Committee;
  • Better internet service, the province of the Broadband Committee and, selectmen decided informally, eligible to apply for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funding if needed, since good internet service is necessary for the economic development TIF dollars are supposed to promote; and
  • Making the emergency shelter in the former portable classroom behind the town office usable.

The ongoing causeway project at the head of China Lake’s east basin, funded by TIF money, though neither new nor on the 2016 list, was discussed repeatedly. MacFarland proposed bonding part of the cost; LaVerdiere agreed the project is likely to cost more than the $750,000 voters allocated.

Farrington wants to continue discussion of acquiring all of the Bailey property on both sides of Lakeview Drive as part of the project. Board members would like to own the small lot now used for boat-launch parking, but it is financially connected to Bailey’s larger lot. That land, they suggest, could provide parking for the recreational trail that crosses it and perhaps a site for a new China Village fire station.

Additional public access to China Lake is another ongoing issue. Belanger is trying to revive the committee that recommended the town buy the Candlewood property on Lakeview Drive and develop a town beach, only to be rejected by voters. Farrington is interested in trying to acquire the lot north of the Four Seasons lot on Lakeview Drive, which he said has 800 feet of frontage on China Lake.

Discussion of selling town property covered a small piece on the east side of China Lake designated a boat launch for canoes and other hand-carried craft, but, L’Heureux said, too small for parking; the 39 acres opposite the former Candlewood Camps given to the town, for which various uses have been discussed but none pushed; and Bradley Island in China Lake’s west basin. Sidewalks or other pedestrian and cyclist safety measures, on the 2016 list, merited brief discussion, with Belanger proposing sidewalks in China Village and L’Heureux suggesting the relocation of the South China Library might warrant extension of South China’s sidewalks up Jones Road.

The manager mentioned state and federal grants in connection with the sidewalks and other items discussed, saying he is always looking for relevant grant money. Much of China’s regular budget comes from the state, he said. With state funding declining, for example school allocations and revenue-sharing, he advised selectmen to look into enhancing local sources.

Because the visioning session was not a formal meeting, selectmen took no action on any of the items discussed.

Fire departments dominate China selectmen’s meeting

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent another 40 minutes at their Nov. 27 meeting talking with representatives of the three town fire departments about new ways of distributing the annual stipends from town voters.

For many years the town has kept the departments’ money and paid bills as they’re submitted. This year, two changes overlap:

  • On the state level, the legislature created a new law proposed by China Village Fire Chief and state Representative Timothy Theriault that allows towns to hand over annual appropriations in a lump sum and let each department pay its own bills. Departments are required to submit an itemized budget with their fund requests.
  • Locally, in November, voters approved a referendum question requiring all non-profits receiving town funds to submit a current financial statement as a condition for being considered for funding. Selectmen, some of the firefighters who have attended recent discussions and other residents did not realize that “all nonprofits” includes China’s fire departments and China Rescue. As a result, selectmen and emergency services personnel have had two meetings to try to clarify what information the emergency services need to provide and when. They are still not clear whether the itemized budget the state requires is the same as the financial statement the town requires.

The goal, as phrased by board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere, is to provide the accountability required by auditors and by selectmen representing taxpayers. Discussion of asking voters to clarify requirements at the March town meeting led to no conclusion.

One issue has been resolved: firefighters have devised acceptable forms for applying twice a year for the annual stipends voters funded at the March 2017 town meeting. Application dates are around Dec. 1 and June 30; officers receive fixed amounts, other personnel a per-call or per-training-session stipend.

In other business Nov. 27, China Region Lakes Alliance President Jim Hart made a short presentation on CRLA’s work around China Lake, including physical labor to provide buffers, improve gravel roads and otherwise control run-off into the lake; support for the Alewife Restoration Program (ARI), intended to let alewives migrate into China Lake instead of being trucked in; and the courtesy boat inspection program aimed at preventing milfoil and other invasive plants from getting into the lake.

This year, Hart said, China Lake’s water quality was the best since 1981. There is no milfoil in the lake yet, although he fears its appearance is only a matter of time.

Challenged by former Selectman Ronald Breton about the bass tourneys on the lake, Hart said out-of-town bass fishermen do an outstanding job of checking their boats for unwanted plants.

Selectmen made four appointments: Breton as a member of the town Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee and as one of China’s representatives on the Kennebec Regional Development Authority; Wayne Chadwick as budget committee member from District 3; and Selectman Neil Farrington as a member of the Kennebec County Budget Committee.

They approved a renewal of China’s emergency services dispatching contract with the City of Waterville. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said the price has gone up three percent, to $11,701.83 per year, and will hold at that level for the three years of the new contract.

South China Fire Chief Richard Morse and Weeks Mills department representative William Van Wickler said the Somerset County/Waterville arrangement provides good service. Neither recommended switching to the alternate dispatching service available from Augusta.

The agenda for the Dec. 11 selectmen’s meeting includes a discussion with the Transfer Station Committee. Selectmen are likely to meet with committee members at 6 or 6:30 p.m., rather than the usual 7 p.m. New board member Donna Mills-Stevens tried to start the discussion Nov. 27, saying she has been “flooded” and “bombarded” with calls about the fee charged to commercial haulers. The fee, originally intended to cover the cost of the scales installed primarily to weigh commercial loads, was not eliminated after the scales were paid for.

Linda O’Connor, a Transfer Station Committee member, repeatedly asked that the discussion be postponed to Dec. 11, saying the committee has looked into the issue. After 15 minutes, the issue was tabled on the ground that everything being said would be repeated in two weeks.

Vassalboro: Bad idea becomes good idea to school board members

by Mary Grow

The regional service centers that were a bad idea two months ago are now a good idea, Vassalboro School Board members learned at their Nov. 14 meeting.

In September, past and future AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 Superintendent Eric Haley told board members superintendents had been advised not to rush into the new state-sponsored organizations, then called School Management and Leadership Centers, because state plans were so indefinite.

In November, AOS #92 Finance Director Paula Pooler said the centers appear desirable.

She told Vassalboro board members the regional centers would be potential revenue centers. A school employee is allowed to head a service center, she said.

By April 15, potential service center personnel are supposed to have drafted interlocal agreements, documents similar to the agreement that created AOS #92. The agreements would specify a minimum of two services a center would offer; AOS #92 provides more than two services to the current member towns (Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow), creating the potential for more income as a service center.

If Waterville were to become a service center, Pooler said, the AOS would have to dissolve. In Vassalboro, dissolution would require a town vote, which Pooler said could be scheduled in February or March 2018. Under a service center arrangement, participating school units would have their own school boards and superintendents. The AOS board would become a regional board with representatives from member towns. Pooler said a facilitator has been hired with a state grant to advise and assist.

Vassalboro board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said after hearing the revised service center plan, “Paula and I looked at each other and said, ‘Where’s the downside?’ ”

In other business, board members agreed by consensus that Vassalboro Community School will be in session Friday, Dec. 22. The calendar change could not be formally approved because it was not noticed in advance on the November agenda, but Principal Dianna Gram said she needed to notify parents before the next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday evening, Dec. 19.

Haley, who retired at the end of October with the understanding the AOS board will rehire him after the state-required 30 days of unemployment, attended the Nov. 14 meeting and the executive-session discussion of salaries that followed.