AARP offers free tax service to low and moderate income individuals

The AARP Tax-Aide program provides free federal and state income tax preparation and electronic filing to low and moderate-income individuals. Returns are prepared by IRS-certified volunteers. The program is funded by the AARP Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable organization, and the IRS. Counselors will help individuals navigate the many changes on the 2016 federal and state income tax returns. You do not need to be an AARP member to use this service.

Assistance is available by appointment at the following sites from Feb 1 to April 15.

2017 AARP tax-aide volunteer sites:

AUGUSTA: BUKER COMMUNITY CENTER, 22 Armory St., Augusta. Mondays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 582-3053 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ONLY to make appointments.

AUGUSTA: LITHGOW LIBRARY, 45 Winthrop St., Augusta. Saturdays from 9 to noon, Feb 11, Feb 25, March 11, March 25, April 8. Call 582-3053 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ONLY to make appointments.

HALLOWELL: SPECTRUM GENERATIONS, COHEN COMMUNITY CENTER, 22 Town Farm Rd., Hallowell. Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Call 626-7777 to make appointments. (Note: Changed from Thursday to Friday)

MADISON: CROSSROADS BIBLE CHURCH, 705 White Schoolhouse Rd., Madison. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Call 643-2559 to make appointments.

MT VERNON: DR. SHAW MEMORIAL LIBRARY, 344 Pond Rd., Mt. Vernon. Saturdays February 18, March 4 & 18 and April 1 from 10:15 1:15 p.m. Call 293-2565 to make appointments.

WATERVILLE: SPECTRUM GENERATIONS, MUSKIE COMMUNITY CENTER, 38 Gold St., Waterville. Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 248-9567 from 10:00 to 4:00 to make appointments.

WINSLOW: WINSLOW LIBRARY, 136 Halifax St., Winslow. Fridays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Call 872-1978 to make appointments.

Vassalboro News: Voters overwhelmingly approve ban on recreational marijuana facilities

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro voters lopsidedly approved a ban on recreational marijuana facilities in town at their Jan. 9 special town meeting. With more than the required quorum of 125 voters in the Vassalboro Community School cafeteria, the “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Establishments and Retail Marijuana Social Clubs in the Town of Vassalboro” was debated for almost half an hour. Although speakers divided fairly evenly for and against the ordinance, when Moderator Richard Thompson called for a show of hands, 100 or more people voted for the ordinance and only about two dozen voted against.

The new town ordinance, allowed under the state recreational marijuana law approved Nov. 8, says: “Retail marijuana establishments, including retail marijuana stores, retail marijuana cultivation facilities, retail marijuana products manufacturing facilities, and retail marijuana testing facilities, and retail marijuana social clubs, are expressly prohibited in this municipality.” The ordinance does not apply to “any lawful use, possession or conduct pursuant to the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.”

Jim Pfleging, a former California law enforcement official, was the first and one of the most vehement supporters of the ban. He called marijuana shops and social clubs “attractive nuisances” that would promote money-laundering and theft, lead to more instances of impaired driving and increase demands on the town police chief.

Because the business has to be conducted in cash, he said, there would be no records and therefore minimal tax benefits to the town.

Pfleging was later challenged by a medical marijuana caregiver who said he was able to use banks and credit cards. Medical marijuana is different, state Rep. Richard Bradstreet said; he agreed with Pfleging that banks “won’t touch” recreational marijuana dealing as long as it’s illegal under federal law.

Most of those opposed to the ordinance wanted to see what regulations the state creates before closing off what could be an opportunity for new businesses in town. They felt a ban was too hasty, given the lack of knowledge about what effects the new state law will have.

Bradstreet was among critics of that point of view, saying his support of the ban was motivated “by what I do know about marijuana, not by what I don’t know.”

Selectman Lauchlin Titus’s motion that the vote be by written ballot “because some people are going to be uncomfortable” voting publicly was overwhelmingly defeated. After the ban was approved, voters passed over the second ballot item, which asked for a moratorium on marijuana facilities and, selectmen explained, was included as an alternative if the ban were rejected. The meeting adjourned less than an hour after it started.

Robert Dowe honored for many years of service to China area

Robert C. Dowe, of China, after receiving a plaque recognizing his many contributions to the town of China. Photo by Julie Finley

On Christmas Eve 2016, Robert Dowe, of China, received a most unusual Christmas gift. Through the corroboration of three China organizations, Boynton-Webber American Legion Post #179, The South China Volunteer Fire Department, and Dirigo Masonic Lodge #104, he was presented with a plaque in appreciation for the many years of service he gave to the organizations and the town.

On the plaque, presented to him by Sheldon Goodine, along with Neil Farrington, from the American Legion, Chief Richard Morse, of the fire department, and Don Pratt, of the Masons, it states: “In appreciation of your many years of service and sharing of your wealth of knowledge and talents to so many people. You are truly an America Hero.”

Messages from the different organizations on the plaque:

American Legion: Thank you Comrade Bob Dowe for your service and dedication to our country, from the officers and members of Boynton-Webber American Legion Post #179.

Fire Department: Thank you Engineer Bob Dowe for your dedication to protect the lives and property in our community, from the officers and members of the South China Volunteer Fire Department.

Dirigo Masons: Thank you brother Bob Dowe for your love and commitment to the betterment of all mankind, from the officers and
members of the Dirigo Masonic Lodge #104.


Albion News: New books at Albion library

New books that recently arrived at the Albion Library include:

Maine Authors: Ghost Buck, by Dean Bennett; and Maine Sporting Camps, by George Smith.
Children’s: Finding Winnie, by Lindsey Mattick.
Adult: A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Backman; The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith; Driving Heat, by Richard Castle; and Warrior in the Shadows, by Marcus Wynne.

Police conduct 11th annual Cops Care for Kids program Fairfield’s finest trade stetsons for Santa hats

by Mark Huard

The Cops Care For Kids Program was created in 2006 by Detective Kingston Paul who started shopping all year for small stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons which he would deliver to struggling families within Fairfield. After several years, then Chief John Emery found out that the program was being funded solely by Detective Paul and challenged all officers to donate $5 per week to the program. He himself donated $10 weekly and now the program raises about $1,300 per year. Once the officers started donating, the list was increased to include as many Fairfield children as possible and has risen to as many as 250 children.

Front, dispatcher Jeanne Kempers. Front row, from left to right, Officer Casey Dugas, Sgt. Matt Wilcox, Officers Jacob Boudreau and Patrick Mank. Back, Officer Shanna Blodgett, Sgt. Matthew Bard, Chief Tom Gould, Officer Blake Wilder and Captain Paul St. Amand. Photo by Tawni Lively, Central Maine Photography staff

This year, members of the Fairfield Police delivered to about 90 households and they gave presents to around 200 children. They were able to get names of families and children in need with the help of the Fairfield Primary and Benton Elementary School staff. The schools handed out slips to Fairfield children and collect them for the officers. Fairfield officers then go to local stores and start shopping for gifts. This year, around 600 gifts were wrapped by about 15 people in the basement of the Fairfield Town Office. They were packaged with a small stuffed animal and a business card which was printed in memory of Kingston Paul who passed away earlier this fall. Some of Kingston’s family members attended the wrapping session as well as family and friends of the department’s officers and town office staff (who helped with wrapping most of the fall). Kingston retired as a captain in 2015 after serving 20 years with the town of Fairfield, and after his passing, we learned that he donated $20,000 to the program to ensure its existence long into the future.

Fairfield Police received gifts from many sources including local citizens, the VFW and the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, although the officers are most proud of the fact that they donate the lions share of expenses for the program. Chief Tom Gould said, “It’s hard to put into words the emotions involved in the delivery process because it creates a unique connection between our department and the children who live in town. We’re just as excited to see them as they are to see us.”
Fairfield Police thank Skowhegan Printing for getting their 2016 program cards printed the same day they were needed. Also thank you to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office for patrolling the town and covering calls while all of their cruisers were busy making deliveries.

Thank you Village Market and the Fairfield Family Dollar Store for their continued support to the program.

Area News: Central Maine Squares donate to children’s home

Again this year the Central Maine Square (CMS) Dance Club was able to collect almost $1,000 in toys and clothing for the Home For Little Wanderers of Waterville. Each year the home puts on a drive for children across the area for the holidays. And as in the past the Central Maine Squares was eager and very willing to come to their aid.

Central Maine Squares dancers, from left to right, Colleen Howes, Claude Francke and Becky Potter are pictured with just a few of the gifts they collected. Contributed photo

Beginning with two club workshops in November and a dance on December 4, they were able to make this donation. The club thanks all who were able to donate, both club members and visiting dancers, and some of the spectators who came to the dance just for this purpose.

The Central Maine Square Dance Club invite any interested people to their new beginner lessons starting on Tuesday, January 3, and Tuesday, January 10, 2017. These will be free nights for anyone new to square dancing. All are welcome, no age requirements, and space is limited. Lessons start at 6:30 p.m., at the Waterville Junior High School on Route 104 (West River Road), in Waterville. To pre-register or for more info call Bob at 447-0094 or Cindy at 631-8816.

China News: Planning board directed to review Varneys’ request

by Mary Grow

The China Board of Appeals has unanimously directed the planning board to redo its review of Parris and Catherine Varney’s application for commercial use of their Neck Road barn.

After the planning board rejected the application on October 25, on the ground that the Varneys failed to prove they could meet one of the 15 criteria for a commercial project in China’s ordinance, the Varneys filed an administrative appeal.

The main ground for the planning board decision, as reported to the Varneys in Codes Officer Paul Mitnik’s letter formally denying the application, was that the Varneys failed to meet the fifth criterion on the list. It requires applicants to prove projects will not disturb neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of their properties “as a result of noise, vibrations, fumes, odor, dust, glare or other cause.”

The Varneys want to rent the barn out for weddings and similar celebrations, with music that they said would be entirely in the building.

Neighbors have argued that noise, traffic, headlights, consumption of alcohol, loss of privacy and other aspects of the project would be disturbing.

The Board of Appeals, Chairman Spencer Aitel said as he opened the Dec. 15 hearing, was not rehearing the application, but reviewing the planning board’s action to determine whether its decision had been reached correctly under the town ordinance. Matt Evans, the Varneys’ attorney, argued that the planning board failed to follow proper procedure in four respects, making its decision invalid.

First, he said, the planning board did not present the written findings of fact or conclusions of law required to support its decisions on each of the 15 criteria.

Second, planning board member Jim Wilkens’ participation tainted the procedure, since Wilkens is a neighbor of the Varneys, and his wife and son testified against the application. (Wilkens participated in discussion, but not voting, in initial planning board reviews of the application and removed himself physically from the board on Oct. 25.)

Third, Evans said, the Varneys presented a sound study that showed noise from music in the barn, with the doors closed, would be barely louder than normal background noise at the boundaries of their property, and the planning board heard no evidence to rebut the study.

Fourth, Evans thinks China’s ordinance lacks objective standards for deciding whether requirements are met, and therefore “appears to be arbitrary and capricious” and of doubtful validity under state law.

Testimony and discussion at the board of appeals focused on Evans’ first point and specifically on the noise issue. Neck Road resident John Deasy claimed that after the noise study was presented at the Oct. 11 public hearing on the Varneys’ application, neighbors were not given a chance to question or rebut it. The planning board record provides limited information on the qualifications of the sound engineer who did the study.

Board of Appeals member Virginia Davis said the record the board of appeals received did not clearly indicate whether the planning board allowed written testimony to be submitted for a specified time after the public hearing, as is common procedure. She believes interested parties should have been allowed to comment on testimony received at the hearing.

Davis was more concerned about the lack of written findings of fact, especially but not exclusively in relation to the fifth criterion. Written findings are required by local ordinance and state law, she said.

Her motion that the application be sent back to the planning board to make the required findings related to noise and the rest of the fifth criterion was unanimously approved. Davis added a request that planning board members do the same for the other 14 criteria, so that the board of appeals will not have to meet again.

Vassalboro News: Special town meeting planned for Jan. 9

by Mary Grow

If 125 registered voters attend, Vassalboro will hold a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, at Vassalboro Community School, to act on a two questions.

The first proposes an ordinance that would ban recreational marijuana facilities in town. The second, included in the event that the first is defeated, proposes a moratorium on such facilities.

The first document voters are asked to consider is titled “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Establishments and Retail Marijuana Social Clubs in the Town of Vassalboro.” Using the same definitions as in the law approved by state voters on Nov. 8, the ordinance prohibits activities allowed under the law: “retail marijuana stores, retail marijuana cultivation facilities, retail marijuana products manufacturing facilities, and retail marijuana testing facilities, and retail marijuana social clubs.”

If approved, the ordinance would not affect activities conducted under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.

If voters do not approve the prohibition, they have a second choice: a much longer “Town of Vassalboro Moratorium Ordinance on Retail Marijuana Establishments and Retail Marijuana Stores and Retail Marijuana Social Clubs.” The moratorium would remain in effect for 180 days and could be extended. The purpose would be to give town officials time to update local ordinances to protect residents from health and safety risks the ordinance alleges are posed by recreational marijuana activities. The law voters approved Nov. 8 allows municipal legislative bodies to regulate and to prohibit marijuana facilities.

In order to hold a special town meeting in Vassalboro, a quorum of 125 registered voters must be present.

Traditional shopping day at Chelsea school

The Chelsea Elementary School annual holiday table was in full swing during the few days before school vacation. The annual tradition provides students with the opportunity to choose for their holiday shopping. Seventh and eighth grade students assisted the younger students.

Holiday activities dominate area elementary schools

Madison Quimby, left, and Nash Corson performed in the Benton Elementary Holiday Concert on December 15.

Trey Bard and Ryland Richards, performed with the percussion section.

Photos by Missy Brown, Central Maine Photography staff