COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: An open letter to China residents from the town’s fire chiefs

Tim Theriault, Chief, China Village FD
Richard E. Morse, Chief, So. China FD
William Van Wickler, Chief, Weeks Mills FD

To the residents of the town of China, ME, from the volunteer fire departments.

First and foremost we thank you for your annual support both in the money allocated in our budgets, the stipend funds you have approved, and donations during our various fundraising efforts.

It is the collective opinion of the three volunteer fire departments that there are issues with the present selectboard that need to be addressed.

Recent events have brought to light, what in our opinion, appears an effort to control and dictate to the fire departments how to do business. In a recent “Special Meeting,” as it was titled on the town’s website, there was considerable discussion about the fire departments and action taken to reduce the stipend amount to be provided for firefighters in the proposed 2019/2020 budget. This move was done in one afternoon. A midday request was given to the town manager by the selectboard, he in turn provided an alternate to the existing system in place. That evening it was presented, a motion made to use the alternative, and approved unanimously by all members present. This was accomplished in less than one day. There was no discussion held or notice given to any of the fire departments. The only way we became aware of the matter was an after the fact email from the town manager, stating the selectboard approved an alternate to the stipends and the details of how it will work. This recommendation to cut the stipend of firefighters was proposed, ironically, as the selectboard has proposed to increase their own stipend.

In that same meeting, a selectboard member made the statement that a fire department has had the same budget figure for several years (this was proven to be incorrect at the next budget committee meeting). However, this brings to light the same pattern of distrust. This assumption was stated without any communication, not once did anyone reach out to that chief for clarification or an explanation, not to mention the past budgets were available for review had anyone bothered to check.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. In the Town of China, the Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs) are independent State of Maine, nonprofit Corporations registered in good standing with the Secretary of State. This form of Fire protection is specifically allowed and provided for in Maine law. This law also allows the Town to support such VFDs with funding in order to provide the emergency services they are required to provide as a Town. VFDs consider these funds to be their operations funds, and they are used to support emergency services that they provide to the Town. The VFDs are not Municipal Fire Departments, and are not under the control and supervision of the Selectboard (Board). They are independent and they have been specifically acknowledged as such in two successive Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by the Board and the Chiefs of the VFDs.
  2. The Board has indicated that they want to know how many fundraising dollars each VFD has so that they can reduce VFD operations budget allocations accordingly.
  3. It is not appropriate for VFD fundraising dollars be a revenue stream for the town. The funds raised do directly impact town services in the support of firefighting activities and materials. Raised funds are not projected revenue, but are instead additional efforts of volunteers to provide better services to their community. Unless there were some pattern of abuse of these funds, or complaints from the membership in regards to them, there is not a reasonable reason to request this information.
  4. The Board does have a right to see our books in reference to Town-provided tax dollars. We totally agree with that and currently provide the town with detailed quarterly financial reports showing how we spend Town provided funds.
  5. The fruits of these private donations as well as fundraising efforts directly pay for or provide matching grant funds for the VFDs to purchase fire trucks, build fire stations, support and reward membership, and for other costs consistent with our status as independent corporations.
  6. Two years ago, by the request of a former board member, an article was placed in the Town warrant asking the town to appropriate $40,000 for stipends for the VFDs and China Rescue. This was done as a good faith effort though not fully vetted. In spite of the VFD Chiefs speaking against the proposal on the grounds that we had not been consulted and that the proposal had not been fully thought through. Thankfully (in retrospect), the Townspeople voted overwhelmingly in support of it. The first year of the proforma (July 1, 2017), the Board and the VFDs signed an MOU which in addition to recognizing the independence of the VFDs, set up a process for providing the stipends to the VFDs. It called for certain amounts for Chiefs and other officers and for other amounts to reward participation by all members including the officers. The money was to be held by the Town and given to the VFDs on the basis of invoices presented to the Town. The Town would then cut a check to the VFDs and they would pay out the stipends based on the fixed amounts and participation. Financial reporting was required.
  7. In spite of our initial opposition to the stipend program, the VFDs now recognize and appreciate that it has become a positive factor and has met its intended goal of increased recruitment, retention and participation.
  8. It is ironic that what was once proposed by the board and opposed by the VFDs has turned completely around and for some reason unknown to us (because they no not consult us) the Board now seems to be in opposition to it as evidenced by their criticism and cuts to the stipend budget and the way it is managed.

China’s firefighters have a history of long-term commitment to the town. Some members serve as much as 50 years in one capacity or another. That type of dedication deserves to be commended, not shunned, at the very least a chance to participate in the decision-making process.

Additionally, there have been comments made by some selectmen stating we need to have only one department and a centralized fire station, again no discussion with the department heads as to why. This will not best serve the town. The geographic location of the existing stations works well and all departments respond seamlessly. It is our opinion that what we have now works well and effectively, so we are at a loss as to why so much effort has been given to fixing something that is, in our opinion, not broken.

Here are our questions: Do they have problems with the way we prevent, manage and control emergencies in this town? Do they think we are not doing our jobs? Do they question our motives? Do they think they can run the VFDs better than the current Chiefs? Do they think they have the knowledge, training and experience to do so? Do they think that change to a municipal, paid fire department would be better? If so, in what ways? Do they have personal problems with any of the Chiefs or members?

One thing we do know. The current situation is not sustainable and should not continue. Beyond the obvious need for communication, we feel the solution is to trust us with what we’re trained to do, take comfort that we know what we are doing, and let us continue the excellent emergency services we have provided to China since 1947.

We hope this information sheds some light on our situation and we hope to hear from you at the public hearings for the proposed budget and the town meeting.

P.S. For more information about how the selectboard and budget committee conduct their business, we recommend that you visit the Town’s website and look at the live stream of their recent meetings.

Read the Selectboard’s response here.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Local resident advocates for new state of Maine flag

The original Maine flag, flown from 1901 to 1909.

by Matt Bourque
China resident

As the new Maine Legislature begins its work of improving our state, and Maine’s bicentennial edges closer, an interesting bill proposed by Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, could possibly help Maine’s image abroad and boost our economy.

LD 687 “An Act to Restore the Former State of Maine Flag” seeks to replace the current Maine state flag with the original flag flown from 1901 to 1909. Our original flag is simple, prominently displaying a pine tree and star on a beige background. This design is a far cry from our current flag, which resembles many other state flags such as New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and a host of others.

Maine has an image. We are portrayed as a rural vacationland nestled along the coast away from the bustle of the busy cities which sprawl across the United States. We are the last outpost of simple living, surrounded by sparkling lakes and deep forests. We are distinct. However, we lack a unifying symbol which we could rally around domestically and also spread the image of Maine across the country. Adopting a distinct flag could help boost our image, and subsequently, our economy.

Some states, and many American cities, have adopted unmistakable flags which positively portray their characteristics and are recognizable at first sight. There are few Americans who would not recognize the unique design of Colorado’s flag or the striking power of Chicago’s city flag. These flags serve both as a rallying point for their citizens, but also as a symbol their residents carry with them as they travel within the United States and across the world.

Of course, adopting a new state flag is not without its difficulties. Two obstacles face its implementation, namely the cost of replacing the flag and determining the legitimacy of the new flag. The cost to instantly replace all current state flags with new ones would be high, yet if older flags were phased out over a period of time, money earmarked for the purchase of new flags could be spent at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

Most importantly, however, is determining whether the Maine people want a new flag to represent them. The old flag, despite resembling many other U.S. state flags, has been flown for over 100 years and many might still remain attached to it. If a new flag were to be used to symbolize our Maine, it must be accepted by a majority of the Maine people.

Maine is unique and we deserve a flag which best represents us. The simple pine tree, a nod to our nickname as the “Pine Tree State,” and the blue star symbolizing our motto “Dirigo,” would serve us well as we continue to improve our tourism industry and seek to diversify our economy to be more competitive on the American stage.

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, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

To submit a Community Commentary send it to townline@fairpoint.net or visit our Contact page.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Local man announces presidential candidacy

The following article does not constitute an endorsement by The Town Line staff or its board of directors.

by Fred Wian
China resident

Today, I’m announcing that I am a presidential candidate for 2020. My campaign, “Running for You,” will have all the aspects of a government which is Of, By and For the People.

From the onset I will tirelessly perform the duties of president and lead our country with positive and progressive ideas further into the 21st century. Second, I am not from ‘within the beltway,’ but will bring viewpoints from all areas of our country. I have traveled in all 50 states, without exception, and very many of them, multiple times. Of that total I have lived in five states, coast to coast, north and south, for at least a year.

I will select a vice president who has the qualifications, intelligence and patience to work for all the people of our great nation. Further, my choice would also have the insight and demeanor to cooperate with other countries and also the United Nations and NATO.

Of the many priority issues, I will work diligently to solve the following:

Infrastructure – immediate funding. This will ensure safety and provide jobs.

Healthcare – Universal care for all.

Tax reform – Shift the tax burden away from the poorer and beleaguered to those who are the most able to pay more.

Campaign finance reform – My campaign is an example of how this can be accomplished. Money in elections is bribery. I will not accept PAC money, none, zip, zero…even though this puts me at a severe disadvantage with my opponents. We should develop a system in which the government will provide candidates a moderate and equal amount of funding. Elections should be won, not bought. This will ensure leadership of, by and for all the people.

Immigration – We must revise our immigration system to continue reasonable immigration and the issue of DACA must be solved. Those legitimately seeking asylum must be taken in and treated as people, not cardboard boxes on a conveyor belt.

Border security – Modern, mostly electronic, security measures will be added to ensure security.

Gun Safety, Me-Too and LGBT – These issues are not at all the same; however, they share the same concept overall for solutions. In our newer world, we need to adapt and adjust. We are all human, the same species, we have equal rights, let’s get past gender bias as well as bias against minorities. Let’s have a country that allows gun ownership but with reasonable guidelines. Military type weapons only for the military, hunting guns only for hunting. We have computers, we can have valid background checks for all gun users and wherever guns are sold.

Climate change/Global warming – We must act, and the time is now! First day in office, return to the Paris Climate Agreement. The issue of global warming/climate change has affected many people in our country and world. This issue WILL AFFECT EVERY PERSON ADVERSELY IN OUR COUNTRY AND GLOBALLY! It is just a matter of time, location and the specific way it will happen. We have a finite planet to live on and past and present actions and policies continue to make life on Earth much more vulnerable. These actions and policies are man-made, they are proven scientifically to be detrimental and must be reversed for all people on our Earth. It can be done! The economics, the work force and health and safety of us all will be positive. It is a symbiotic situation.

Press friendly – I will provide a civil atmosphere for press briefings. The press is our friend, not our enemy, and cooperation with the press will prevail. Truth, honor and dignity are three words that best describe communications from the White House and Cabinet.

Government shutdowns – To be avoided if at all possible! They are detrimental for all the people. The recent shut down, which started in December 2018, compromised health, safety and jobs significantly in all walks of life and in many ways. It was politically motivated, and as of this writing, another shutdown is being threatened by the White House. Crisis management is not quality management. I will lead with a steady hand, aided by highly-qualified Cabinet members who have expertise in their respective positions.

Foreign Policy – We will interact with other countries from the basis of mutual friendship, interests and civility. If and when adverse issues arise we will seek understanding and peaceful solutions first.

In the near future I will start my national tour. I look forward to meeting as many people as possible and will look forward to your ideas and suggestions. My website, www.fredwiand.com.

My Campaign Tour – Stay tuned and I leave you now with three words that I stand for: TRUTH, HONOR AND DIGNITY.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: This is one guy who’s tired of telephone scams

image: AARP

by Roland D. Hallee, managing editor, The Town Line newspaper

This is an important message. Do not turn the page.

Does that sound familiar? I receive something like that every day, over the phone. It’s a robo call, and it sounds like this: “This is an important message. Don’t hang up.” At which point, I instantly hang up.

Times have become perilous.

Recently, I entered my seventh decade on this planet. I grew up in the 1950s, when times were simpler. During the post World War II and Korean War era, you didn’t lock your doors, a gentlemen’s agreement was settled with a handshake, and when someone gave their word, it meant something.

The dawn of the electronic age ushered in a new era of deceit and deception. A more complex world, wary of all phone calls, emails, etc., and a genuine distrust of other people.

Last week, on the front page of The Town Line, we ran an article about an ongoing scam involving Social Security benefits. That was to alert our readers of the scam. This article is to provide more proof to our readers that these scams do exist in our area in large scale, and everyone needs to be alert.

Rewind back to last summer, when my wife checked our answering machine one afternoon when she returned home from work. There, in broken English, was a warning that the IRS investigation task force had noticed four major and serious violations on our tax returns, and we had to notify them within 24 hours to rectify the matter. They wanted us to make the payment for back taxes. If we didn’t comply, the local “cops” would be coming to arrest us.

Nice try!

I knew it was a scam because I have used the same tax preparer for over 30 years, never had a problem. And besides, we file short form, standard deduction, and could not possibly have “major” violations. If there would have been any federal violations, we would have been visited by U.S. marshals, and not the local “cops.”

A call to the local police department led to a referral to the state’s attorney general’s office, in which case I was informed that it was, indeed, a scam. A very profitable one for the scammers, according to the AG’s office.

Now, we fast forward to last Saturday.

I received a phone call, on my cell phone, from a restricted number. Now, I don’t usually answer those calls, but I was expecting a call from a state agency on another matter, one that usually comes in restricted. I answered.

It was a male voice, with a slight speech impediment, informing me that I was the chosen recipient of a Publishers’ Clearinghouse $4.5 million prize. The voice, which had an unconvincing tone of jubilance for me, asked several questions. Like what time I would be home to receive my windfall prize; what I would do with the money; how I felt about winning so much money, etc.

My responses were mostly one word.

My wife and I are known to binge watch the three NCIS series, Monk, Bones, Columbo and Matlock. I consider myself an amateur sleuth, trying to figure out the conclusion of the episode before it gets there. I needed to follow this trail as far as it would take me, without compromising my financial assets. Then, pass my experience on to others, as to what I had learned, and warn them of impending fraud calls.

The first thing that tipped me off was the fact that he said I was selected because I had returned the form they had sent by mail. Something I never did. All of those mailings went straight into the paper shredder.

He then proceeded to give me a “code” number, and that I needed three forms of identification: my driver’s license, another one that I don’t quite remember, and that I had to produce the “invitational receipt.” When I informed the caller that I did not have that, he replied by saying, “Don’t worry, we can remedy that. Go to the nearest Wal-Mart, proceed to the customer service counter, and they would have the receipt there for me.”

Up came red flag No. 2. A lot of unlawful activities occur in Wal-Mart parking lots. And with the sophisticated electronic equipment of today, they probably could have retrieved all my personal information off my driver’s license while it was still in my pocket. I was not about to risk that, even if it is not possible.

He then informed me he would be calling back in 30 minutes. Now, when the call first came in, I suspected scam, and told the caller that I was driving and unable to take down notes. He asked if I could pull over and take down the information. I wasn’t really driving, but sitting in a rocking chair at a friend’s home where my wife and I had gone for Saturday morning coffee.

I concurred, pretended to pull over by the side of the road, and took down the information.

Thirty minutes later, the person called again. This time he asked if I was at Wal-Mart yet. I told him that I was still about 45 minutes away. I was on the road, and was headed home. He then instructed me to proceed to the Wal-Mart parking lot, and sit and wait in the car until he called again, in 45 minutes, with additional instructions before I entered Wal-Mart. Another red flag!

Within that 45 minutes, I called the local police department and informed them of the scam that was developing. They instructed me to not answer the phone when it rang.

Exactly 45 minutes to the second, my phone rang again. I did not answer. The phone rang a second time. Again, I did not answer. The caller tried four more times to contact me, within a span of five minutes. Every time, the caller ID indicated it was from an unavailable number. The calls then stopped.

I figured we were done.

At ten minutes before 2 p.m., the time they were supposed to deliver my “certified bank check, for $4.5 million,” my phone rang again. This time from a local number that looked familiar. I answered. It was that male voice again, asking what had happened and whether I was at Wal-Mart.

At that point, I informed him that I was through with him, that I had called the police, and that this was a scam.

I hadn’t even finished uttering the word “police” when the line went dead.

That was the end of that. But, my reason for relaying this story is that if you are in your senior years, and you receive calls like this, hang up immediately, do not engage in conversation with these people. They can make things look mighty attractive, and plant that doubt in your mind of, “what if this is legitimate?” But, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, they will ask for money somewhere along the way.

Remember the tried and true saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

My solution to all of this? As of this writing, Sunday afternoon, I am a little disappointed that I  have not heard back from the police seeking more details about the scam. The scam caller gave me his phone number to call if I had questions. The police had told me that this was the first time they had heard about his scam. So, maybe, this is something new and that word has to be relayed to folks to be on the lookout for this particular scam.

Instead of diverting $5.7 billion to build a wall on our southern border, why not appropriate funds to establish an agency, a la FBI, that investigates these scams, and tracks down these predators of the elderly for prosecution? This is going on all over America, and many unsuspecting and vulnerable senior citizens are being bilked of their hard-earned, well-deserved, and under-compensated livelyhood following a lifetime of work.

Dear fellow senior citizens, please be vigilant, and as attractive as an offer sounds, don’t fall for it.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Where are all the employees? – “No one wants to work”

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

If you drive around the state of Maine you will notice everywhere, “Now Hiring.” Even on the back door of most tractor trailers you see the words, “Drivers Wanted.” Yet there are those who state there is no work to be found. Well, it is true most of these offers are for non professional, low paying jobs. However, that has changed somewhat because of the laws of supply and demand. Many of the jobs that didn’t pay much yesterday are very attractive today. Companies need employees so direly they are opting to offer a very nice wage compared to yesterday’s standards. Teachers should be researching this area for the future of their students.

This article and research was prompted by my recent visit to Sears at Cook’s Corner, in Brunswick. I brought my vehicle there for a tire check and rotation. I noticed there was only one person working in the garage. I spoke with the manager, Jeff Perkins, and asked him what was going on with his labor force. He replied, “No one wants to work and those who do want more than we can pay. They know that they can work out of their garage and make more money and at the same time, be their own boss.” There is some freedom in that persuasion; you can work your own hours and at your own speed, and at the same time you get to keep all the money and pay no taxes. There are a couple of things wrong here; one, you aren’t paying your share of taxes and, two, you are interfering with the balance of things.

Maine has a depleted work force as it is. My two sons are Master Masons, living in Florida, as they can live in a nice weather situation and they can make far more money there than they can here. My daughter was head chef at a restaurant in the resort area of the mountains of Idaho. Now she owns a gourmet restaurant with her husband. My boys and daughter have employees and pay taxes somewhere else. I miss them, but I understand why they left Maine. In my opinion, in Maine we should have learned some good lessons by now with the advent of a forest rich state with paper and lumber mills closing. Also, look at textiles, we had so many factories producing leather products, cloth and clothing as well as shoes, etc.; where have they gone?

They are only memories now with Maine becoming a medical service state with computer overtones. Everyone seems to want to be a geek and not a mechanic, carpenter, electrician, plumber or machinist. What’s happening and how do we change it? I interviewed Rick Larrabee, a part owner in Mid Coast Calibration Company, which is a machine shop. He stated he travels all over the country and everyone is in dire need of machinists, and they pay a professional wage, with benefits.

One of the lowest paying jobs is companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts at $10 per hour to start. There are some construction flaggers being paid $12 to $15 per hour. The benefits aren’t there but the wage is and growing because of the lack and quality of applicants. We must teach that benefits and the future are very important to those of the future work force.

Retail stores are starting at $10 to $11 per hour. These wages are much higher than a couple of years ago. Good for a second job but no benefits. We also need to think about our time with family.

I had the pleasure of meeting a very innovative administrator at Capital Technical School, Jim Holland. He graciously agreed to speak with me. Although they are having great success with their students it remains to have limited enrollment in proportion to state needs. There are 26 tech schools in this area. But in my opinion the numbers are far too small for our needs. Classes are only 10 to 15 students at a time. Enrollment is down slightly from the norm to 388 students. Everything is based on populations; which is another area for review. Maine has tittered around a population of a million and a half people for decades now. We are losing our children/grandchildren to another state that pays more; we need to learn to be more competitive.

We also need to vote and know who we are voting for, and what they really stand for. That can only be done by searching their history. We have so many kids running for office when we need to be looking for maturity and experience as well as their previous track record.

Well, I’ll leave that part of it up to my readers and the parents who influence the children’s direction. Just remember there is a very large market out there in the trades and we need that badly. Those kinds of jobs now pay more than many jobs we consider professional and offer benefits. It takes a pretty smart person to plumb a house or wire one. Think about it!

Now is really the time to think about your vote. When I think of Harvard, for example, I think of billionaire Bill Gates who dropped out to become the founder of Microsoft; also Steve Jobs, loved by millions, known for Xerox applications and the IPods, phone industry, a billionaire, who also dropped out of Reed College his first year.

You can be who and what you want without the Ivy League touch. That charisma is dying. I never regretted my educational path and I wasn’t rich, so no Harvard, just the university system and military schools. This election year, please vote and choose wisely. You can find the answers in your computers or at your local library. Be part of it all; your children’s futures and our state of Maine are at stake. God bless.

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, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Kennedy’s observations spot-on correct

by Glenn McDonald
Combat disabled Vietnam vet

I wish to commend The Town Line newspaper for performing a public service in publishing the excellent Community Commentary by my “brother veteran” Gary Kennedy in the October 11, 2018 edition.

He is a highly-respected veterans’ advocate and I can confirm that everything Gary said about Ryan Lilly and the new (hopefully temporary) director at VA Togus is spot-on correct and the absolute truth.

There are more than a few of us – I am a 100 percent combat disabled Vietnam vet – who have legitimate long-standing complaints about the very well-paid V.A. Togus “leadership.” But because of the way the “system” works there, some of us have felt helpless and hopeless that we can successfully expose what has been going on. No longer. United we stand, divided we fall.

Like Mr. Kennedy, I wish to hear from any veterans out there that have had less than satisfactory treatment from Lilly and his fellow bureaucrats at the top of the V.A. health care system. After the election, and come the first of next year, I will be in a much stronger position to make a positive contribution to preserving veterans’ rights.

I served in the military over a span of 33 years (1966 – 1969 in Vietnam) at first, as a very young NCO, Army combat correspondent, and later, company-grade and field-grade officer in the Regular Army, Army National Guard and finally, Army Reserve. I’m a life member of the DAV, American Legion and VFW. Please e-mail me at: mcc.majormac@gmail.com. Thank you.

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, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: If you have VA questions, I will find the answers

Veterans Day parade in Waterville 2016

by Gary Kennedy
Veterans’ Advocate

I have been a contributor of The Town Line news for a number of years now. I am a 100 percent service connect American veteran and have been aiding veterans in the development of difficult cases by all service organizations standards. I have seen VA refusals many times because of cases that couldn’t/ wouldn’t be developed, too time consuming or very difficult to prove. Most things can be proven if not frivolous. Your records were lost in a fire was the popular excuse. Some were in fact destroyed by fire but many were preserved and protected. Anyway, I am writing this to give my opinion based mostly on hearsay. However, when there is a lot of hum there is usually a hive. Lately the Veterans Administration has undergone a lot of trauma. I would like to share a little of that in hopes for feedback.

Veterans’ need media to vent their feeling and concerns. I can assure you this veteran will search for the answers for you. Whether you agree or not you will receive an answer. For those of you who aren’t aware, the Togus Pharmacy will be partially down from October 22, 2018, for approximately nine days because of a flood. Also another of my pet peeves is the fact that orthopedics is hurting for doctors and they have nowhere enough service rooms for the vets in need. The executive director Ryan Lilly could have prioritized the expansion of the medical side but elected to do almost nothing. Now there is a new director who has started off on the wrong foot; so I don’t see longevity there.

However, the VA, in its infinite wisdom, elected to promote Mr. Lilly to the head of the region and demote Kurt Johnson, the assistant director, to a paper pusher. He use to be the head of pharmacy but his friendship with Mr. Lilly somehow got him promoted to assistant director. It is fairly well known they are/were close friends.

There is a federal case involving prejudice involving Mr. Lilly and Mr. Johnson. The power-that-be overlooked the situation or have no knowledge of it; which means they didn’t do their homework. It was sad for me to see Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree joining forces at the new homeless housing complex developed on federal land. I am a veteran and support veterans with unfortunate circumstances but I don’t believe housing should be built on the 500 acres at Togus. It should be done but, in my opinion, is in the wrong place. That is a medical facility which could develop into the greatest in our country. I have said that many times. Lilly made the statement and believes that he had more land there but wasn’t sure what he would do with it. Some of that land is wetland and the habitat for various many wildlife and fish.

Last but not least, the director that replaces the promoted Lilly has just closed down the Veterans Record Retrieval window placing a state of mayhem there with a considerable workload shift on those employees. New people to the records who do other things will try to pick up the slack. The more they squeeze to make themselves look good to Washington, the more they eat on veteran services. They spend their money on bad who knows what; but it isn’t something you can see. They are building a small new building directly across from emergency to further congest and demean the beauty of the Togus facility. With 500 acres you can do better than that.

Many of us are getting “farmed out” now because they don’t have time for us or they don’t have the proper room, tools, ability and doctors. Thanking a vet is not enough. You need to learn respect, responsibility and remember why you don’t speak Korean, Japanese, German or Russian. We are the land of the free, home of the brave and no matter how bad we hurt we were there for you. The oversight of VA and how it evolves for the vet is the first priority. There is much more but this is enough for now. You can call me at 458-2832 and I will try to assist in anyway I can. We can keep our affairs alive through media.

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. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Sheepscot Lake annual water quality update

teens sailing on Sheepscot Lake

David Tyndall, of Kittery, photographed these teens sailing on Sheepscot Lake, in Palermo.

by Carolyn Viens
Sheepscot Lake Association

Water quality testing on Sheepscot Lake has been done since 1977, initially by the Maine State DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) and for the past eight years by the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA). Again this year, as with previous years, the testing has demonstrated the outstanding health of the lake we all enjoy throughout the year.

Approximately every two weeks from June through September the SLA tests for water clarity, dissolved oxygen from the surface down to the deepest part of the lake, and for phosphorous. The testing is done by a Lake Steward of Maine Certified Lake Monitor from the SLA Board of Directors. The water clarity is tested using a Secchi disk and scope. The Secchi disk is a plain black and white circular disk 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter used to measure water transpar­ency or turbidity in bodies of water. The disc is mounted on a tape measure, and lowered slowly down in the water. The depth at which the disk is no longer visible is taken as a measure of the transparency of the water. This measure is known as the Secchi depth, and is considered the standard methodology for measuring water clarity.

The SLA Monitor also tests for dissolved oxygen using a YSI Pro 20 dissolved oxygen meter, and collects standardized samples for phosphorus which are analyzed in state labs to determine the amount present. The measure of total phosphorus in Sheepscot averages 7 ppb (parts per billion). The state average for tested lakes is 12 ppb. This is good news as phosphorus is a nutrient that feeds algae and other aquatic plants, all of which can become a nuisance; even to the point of requiring physical cutting and removal to allow recreational and sport activities. Fortunately, this has not been a problem in Sheepscot Lake. When this natural element lands in the water algae thrives on it. Phosphorus comes from soil that is washed into the lake from rain and snow melt as well as from fertilizer and leaking septic systems. Human development along lake shores results in five to 10 times more phosphorous than from undeveloped land. There is also a threat of additional phosphorous from fish die-offs, such as when alewives, should they be in a lake, spawn and, during low water years, cannot leave the lake at the end of their cycle.

Meanwhile, the LakeSmart program is available to any lakefront homeowner who is interested in learning how their property impacts the lake. The program provides education on how to minimize runoff from lakefront properties as well as recommendations and certification for lakefront properties. If you are interested in having your property evaluated at no cost or obligation, please email the lake association at sheepscotlakeassoc@gmail.com. Some general guidelines for minimizing impact to the lake is to leave trees in place as they slow down rain water, create a shorefront buffer of natural leaves, pine needles, ground cover and native shrubs. Mow grass to a three-inch height minimum and leave the clippings on the ground. Or, better yet, eliminate grass and encourage native vegetation to hold the soil back from entering the lake. Make paths meander so water won’t rush straight down into the lake. Maintain camp roads to slow down erosion.

In addition to the lake quality testing regularly performed and the LakeSmart program, SLA also manages an invasive plant patrol. This courtesy boat inspection (CBI) program is funded mostly by grants from the town of Palermo, Maine DEP and SLA member dues. The CBI program regularly inspects boats entering and exiting Sheepscot via the boat launch. The goals are to identify any invasive species plant parts hitchhiking into the lake by accident prior to a boat being launched and to emphasize boat self-inspection. Fortunately, Sheepscot Lake does not have any known invasive plants at this time. Lakes with this problem often spend thousands of dollars each year to control their infestation. The Sheepscot Lake Association can help you understand the threats and the solutions. You do not need to be an association member to receive these benefits.

Sheepscot Lake continues to be a wonderful resource for all Palermo residents and visitors to enjoy. With the continued attention on the health of the lake by us all, we will help it thrive for many, many years to come. To learn more about how you can help protect Sheepscot, please contact the lake association at sheepscotlakeassoc@gmail.com.

Enjoy the remainder of the summer!

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: No evidence that anadromous fish restoration would have negative impact on Sheepscot Lake

by John Glowa, South China resident

In a recent submittal by the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA), regarding restoring anadromous fish passage into and from the lake in the July 19, The Town Line, Carolyn Viens of the SLA stated, “…the residents of Palermo won a major battle in the opposition to LD 922, the legislative bill mandating the opening of the Sheepscot Dam to alewives and other migrating fishes which would have had a negative impact on the health of the lake.”

Ms. Viens provided no evidence of her claim that anadromous fish restoration “would have had a negative impact on the health of the lake.” Ms. Viens also failed to note that L.D. 922 would have also (1) required the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to cooperate with the Department of Marine Resources (the two agencies have had and continue to have a decades long turf war over anadromous fish restoration vs. maintaining artificial freshwater sport fish populations), and (2) require the Department of Marine Resources to develop a management plan for Sheepscot Pond for anadromous fish species and habitat. Opposition, including from shorefront property owners around Sheepscot Pond resulted in the bill being withdrawn.

I have fished Sheepscot River below the outlet dam and have never seen the fishway functioning. In my opinion, it serves no purpose and needs to be replaced. The bill in question would have required that the existing fishway be kept open and operational from April 15-June 30. Unfortunately, It did not address the functionality/suitability of the fishway or downstream fish passage for adult and juvenile alewives from Sheepscot Pond.

I believe that local opposition to anadromous fish restoration in Sheepscot Pond has more to with perceived negative impacts on property values than it has to do with “the health of the lake”. Concerns about water quality impacts are, in my opinion, a red herring. One lakefront property owner I spoke with who lives in Oakland, was mainly concerned about potential negative impacts to the value of her property and lampreys wrapping themselves around her daughter’s ankles. When I asked her to provide any credible scientific evidence of negative impacts to Sheepscot Pond, she did not.

Ms. Viens noted that a representative of the Highland Lake Association will be coming to talk to the SLA “…regarding their experience with alewives and the impact on their deteriorating water quality….” This statement makes the assumption that alewives have, in fact, caused water quality in Highland Lake to deteriorate. There is NO scientific evidence to support this assumption. Highland Lake has suffered from human caused excessive nutrient loading and deteriorating water quality for decades. While I strongly encourage efforts to assess and improve water quality in Maine’s lakes, those efforts should not be based on hearsay and unproven assumptions. They should be based on science.

If the SLA wants to hear from those familiar with waterbodies that have healthy anadromous fish populations, perhaps they should hear from someone representing Damariscotta Lake, where the alewife run into the lake exceeds one million fish annually.

Sheepscot Pond has been home to anadromous fish populations for milennia. If anyone or anything has caused harm, it is humans who dammed the lake and upset the natural ecosystem. Maine is finally working to right these wrongs by restoring anadromous fish runs up and down the coast. Despite red herrings, roadblocks, and other delaying tactics, it is only a matter of time before the natural ecosystem of Sheepscot Pond will be allowed to return, as well.

OPINION: Proponents of LD922 uninformed, not concerned

Alewives by John Burrows (source: mainerivers.org)

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY

by Ursula Burke
Certified Water Monitor, Sheepscot Pond

It is alarming that those who favor passing bill LD922 are either uninformed or not concerned with the consequences of opening the fishway at the Sheepscot Pond dam to allow alewife herrings, American eels and sea lamprey eels access to the lake during spring spawning season.

Even the conservationists and environmentalists who tout restoring the historic spawning ground of native fish ignore history which will be repeated if this bill passes. During the 1970’s-80’s the fishway was opened and during seasons of low water levels sea lamprey eels became landlocked. They “wintered over” causing them to feed on the sport fish populations resulting in diminished catches and emaciated togue, landlocked salmon and bass.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife recognized the problem and closed the fishway during the spring spawning season. Now 30 some years later the lamprey population has diminished so that game fish are caught without lamprey wounds. They are healthier and of normal weight. The lake now hosts several fishing derbies every year.

If the supporters of LD922 were not distracted by the profit motive of alewife harvesting to supply bait for the lobster industry, they would take notice of the turnaround Sheepscot Pond has made and recognize the value of such a healthy and prolific lake to the community and all who now enjoy its recreational attributes not to mention supporting the tax base for Palermo.

LD922 offers us, the true stakeholders of Palermo and Sheepscot Pond, nothing but risk. It tramples on the rights of the “little guy” and feels downright un-American and wrong.

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