Winslow receives $36,572 to assist fire department

photo from Winslow Fire Facebook page

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced recently $33.6 million in direct assistance grants to 166 fire departments nationwide through the agency’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. Additional phases will soon be announced.

The Winslow Fire Department will receive $36,572 from FEMA for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG). This grant will be used for Advanced Emergency Medical Technician training.

The announcement includes Assistance to Firefighters Grants to the following fire departments in Maine:

Winslow, ME – Federal share of $36,572 for Emergency Medical Technician – Advanced – training. Brewer and Gorham also received grants.

The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations. Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.

This grant is funded through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. Eligible applicants include local fire departments, fire districts, nonaffiliated EMS organizations, tribal fire departments and State Fire Training Academies. The grant applications are submitted from each agency directly to FEMA, where the applications are reviewed and scored by fire service personnel from throughout the nation.

FEMA obligates funding for this project directly to the recipient agencies. It is the recipient agency’s responsibility to manage their grant award within federal guidelines with technical assistance and monitoring provided by FEMA Fire Program Specialists.

Additional information about FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters grant program(s) may be found at

Windsor selectmen sell two no longer used vehicles

Windsor Town Manager Theresa Haskell received a Certificate of Service from the Maine Town, City and County Management Association for her 10 years of service to the town of Windsor. (photo by Sandra Isaac)

by Sandra Isaac

Windsor Selectmen sold two no-longer-needed public works vehicles to the highest bidder at their meeting on September 3.

Sealed bids for the 2003 International and the 2010 Ford F550, were opened and reviewed. Nine bids were received for the 2003 International, with the winning bid $9,150; 15 bids came in for the F550, with a winning bid of $23,300. Winning bidders have until the end of the month to pay in full or the vehicle will be offered to the next highest bidder. Proceeds from the sales will go into the Public Works Truck Reserve Account, as approved at the town meeting.

In other business, Town Manager Theresa Haskell received a Certificate of Service from the Maine Town, City and County Management Association for her 10 years of service. She has been with the Town of Windsor since 2005 and became town manager on October 28, 2008.  In addition to being the town manager, Haskell has served as the tax collector, treasurer, road commissioner, General Assistance administrator and health officer.

Selectmen noted in their report that many town residents approached them while at the Windsor Fair with concerns or questions about town roads. Selectmen explained that the town road maintenance is on a six- to seven- year cycle, a timeline approved by voters. Other residents suggested improvements to certain roads, such as widening shoulders or increasing a turn flare out. Flashing lights were also suggested at the Route 17 and Griffin Road intersection, or placing a “stop ahead” warning on the tarmac or as a posted sign. All suggestions were noted and discussed in detail.

Further discussion about the fair included Cemetery Sexton Joyce Perry’s report on the sale of flowers at the Windsor Fair, which brought in just over $400. These funds, along with the proceeds from continuing sales of concrete or granite pavers will go towards the veterans’ memorial fundraising efforts.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be on Tuesday, September 17 at 6:00 p.m.

Vassalboro selectmen hear Growth Council representatives

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen hosted representatives of the Central Maine Growth Council (CMGC) at their Sept. 5 meeting to hear about potential advantages of CMGC help with town projects.

Senior Economic Development Specialist Garvan Donegan, accompanied by Development Coordinator Elaine Theriault-Currier, explained that CMGC is a Waterville-based public-private regional economic development organization funded by area municipalities – it serves as the economic development department for Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland – and more than 90 colleges, hospitals and businesses.

The organization helps members attract and site new businesses, expand existing businesses, develop a workforce, implement solar power, do land use planning (including recreational trails), and apply for grants – all items of interest to Vassalboro selectmen.

Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus commented that the town is so much a bedroom community that, “You can’t buy a drop of gasoline in Vassalboro,” to fill your lawnmower.

Membership in CMGC would cost Vassalboro about $14,000, Donegan estimated. Membership fees are based on a formula that combines population and state property valuation. Vassalboro officials could also use CMGC services on an hourly-fee basis.

Donegan gave selectmen figures on grants received by CMGC members that substantially exceeded membership fees. New businesses would increase tax revenue, Titus added.

Board members postponed decisions to a future meeting. Residents’ comments and suggestions are welcome before and at the next discussion.

The other major topic Sept. 5 was whether, and if so, how to redesign the Vassalboro transfer station to make it safer. Board members decided they want to continue to use the present compacter-plus-roll-off-containers disposal system, instead of changing to, for example, large open-top tractor-trailers; and they probably want to move the entrance off Lombard Dam Road farther east, to gain more sight distance.

Town Manager Mary Sabins is in touch with the companies that made and sold the town’s compacter in 1988 and plans to schedule an inspection, with an eye to replacing the aged machinery. Selectmen asked her to ask Road Commissioner Eugene Field to develop a plan and a cost estimate for a new entrance.

Rather than redesign the interior traffic pattern, they proposed using cones and other barriers to create temporary patterns for station Manager George Hamar to experiment with.

In other business, selectmen unanimously approved Recreation Director Danielle Sullivan’s request to add a cheerleading program for third- through sixth-graders to the Vassalboro recreation program. Sullivan said she has a coach lined up and permission to practice in the school gym; registration fees will cover the cost of uniforms.

By another unanimous vote, selectmen added school board member Jessica Clark to the Solar Energy Project Committee.

Sabins reported two former town officials have returned. Paul Mitnik is the codes officer after Richard Dolby resigned and Peter A. Nerber is animal control officer after Christina LeBlanc resigned. Mitnik’s town office hours are scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than closing time, Sabins said.

Titus commented, a propos of residents’ complaints about lack of law enforcement, that he saw state police blue-lighting speeders in two different parts of town on two consecutive days.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Sept. 19. Board members voted unanimously to cancel an Oct. 3 meeting, due to conflicts for Sabins and Selectman Robert Browne. Should early-October decisions be needed, they can schedule a special meeting.

New playground opens at Vassalboro Community School

by Mary Grow

The pre-kindergarten (preK) students at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) now have their own playground sized for four-year-olds, thanks to the Southern Kennebec Regional Development Corporation’s Head Start program.

The new playground, funded entirely by Head Start and designed with input from Vassalboro’s preK staff, is close enough to the older students’ area so siblings can wave to each other, but each group has its own facilities. For the preK group, there are a climbing castle and a swing set on a circle of wood-chip-covered ground.

The youngsters have a 40-minute daily recess to use the new playground. “They love it,” VCS Principal Megan Allen said.

The Head Start grant that provided the playground has been extended to December, Allen said. Additional funds will buy four tricycles, plus safety helmets, for preK students.

Vassalboro’s preK program is in its fifth year, runs five full days a week and has 18 students, its highest enrollment so far. There are three full-time staff: veteran VCS preK teachers Jessica Field and Sarah Page and educational technician Danielle Plossay. Page is a Head Start employee and spends part of her time providing the in-home services that are part of Head Start programs; Field and Plossay are VCS employees.

Allen said the playground project involved working with two “fantastic” women from the Regional Development Corporation, Agency Director Cristina Salois and Program Manager Melissa Savage.

The larger playground is limited during school hours to students five years old and older, probably, Allen surmised, to meet insurance regulations. Both areas are used by families after school and on weekends, she said.

The PreK program began almost entirely separate from the rest of the VCS community, Allen said, but preK students are getting involved in more and more school experiences. The plan is to have the youngest students “integrated into the school environment as much as possible.”

They’re sharing the cafeteria; a few minutes after the preK children sit down to eat the kindergartners join them and after a few more minutes the first-graders. Classes are small enough so the space is neither too noisy nor too crowded, Allen commented.

Beginning in October, the preK students will have a turn at music, gym time, library visits, computer work and other additions to classroom teaching, just as the older students do.

China selectmen, serving as assessors, set tax rate at 16.30 mils

by Mary Grow

China selectmen in their capacity as the town’s Board of Assessors agreed unanimously on the 2019-2020 tax rate, which is $16.30 for each $1,000 of valuation, 50 cents per $1,000 higher than the previous year’s ($15.80 per $1,000).

The new rate was recommended by assessor William Van Tuinen and Town Manager Dennis Heath at the Aug. 28 assessors’ meeting. It is a compromise between the lowest rate needed to meet town obligations and the highest allowed under state law, by Van Tuinen’s calculation.

Balancing costs and revenues, China needs to raise almost $6.9 million from taxation. An absolute minimum tax rate would be $16.17 per $1,000; state law allows up to $16.98 per $1,000.

By town meeting vote, China taxes are due in two installments, the first by Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, and the second by Friday, March 27, 2020. The interest charged on late payments is nine percent annually, beginning immediately after each due date.

Heath said the increase for 2019-2020 is due to a higher school budget. He calculated the school budget at almost three-quarters of total spending from taxation.

China Comprehensive Planning Committee continues work on revised plan

by Mary Grow

Three members of China’s Comprehensive Plan Committee continued work on a revised plan for 2020 at an Aug. 28 meeting, focusing on housing and historic resources.

Kennebec Valley Council of Governments staffer Joel Greenwood presented a map showing the proposed development district along Route 3 recommended at the group’s July meeting before turning to the new topics.

Discussion considered goals, policies to achieve them and ways to carry out the policies. For example, under the housing topic members suggested continuing the emphasis on providing affordable housing that is in the 2008 China Comprehensive Plan and recommending ways to do it.

The historic resources section requires cooperation with at least two other entities, the state historic preservation program and the town’s now-inactive Historic Preservation Committee (since the nonprofit China Historical Society is also inactive). Greenwood had a list of areas and buildings already designated as historically significant and a map of areas that might be significant archaeological sites (defined, he said, as containing relics from the 1600s and earlier).

Topics for the next committee meeting, scheduled for Wednesday evening, Sept. 25, are economy and transportation.

Interested residents are welcome to attend committee meetings. The text of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan (126 pages) is on the town of China website under “Ordinances, Policies and Orders.”

China local ballot shows one contest, four vacancies

by Mary Grow

China’s Nov. 5 local election ballot will show one contest and four vacancies.

Incumbent Irene Belanger, Wayne Chadwick and Todd N. Tolhurst are candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. Incumbent Robert MacFarland is not seeking another term.

There are no candidates on the ballot for any of three planning board positions: District 1 (the northwestern part of town; Kevin Michaud is the incumbent); District 3 (the southeastern part of town; Ralph Howe is the incumbent); and the alternate-at-large position, whose representative can come from anywhere in town and which is currently vacant.

For the budget committee, Chairman Robert Batteese and District 1 representative Kevin Maroon are unopposed for re-election and there is no name on the ballot for the District 3 position Chadwick currently holds.

Dawn Marie Castner is unopposed for re-election as a Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 director from China.

China selectmen and planning board and budget committee members are elected for two-year terms. RSU #18 directors serve for three years.

Legal questions arise from revised medical marijuana application

Location of proposed medical marijuana operation on Route 3 in South China. (photo from Google maps streetview)

by Mary Grow

Three China Planning Board members spent an hour and a half Aug. 27 discussing Clifford Glinko’s revised application for a medical marijuana operation in the commercial building on Route 3 in South China that housed Mainely Trains and other businesses in the past.

The focus was on preliminary legal questions and the meaning of state law and local ordinance definitions. Board members had an opinion from town attorney Amanda Meader, but were informed she plans to supplement it, and they thought of additional legal questions. Glinko was accompanied by attorney Christopher McCabe, of MacCabe Law, LLC, which describes itself on its website as “Cannabis Law Firm” specializing in issues like Glinko’s.

Board members started to discuss the criteria that will determine whether they can approve the application, but got hung up on the first one and discontinued the discussion until their Sept. 10 meeting.

The first question was whether the revised application was amended or new. The three members present agreed it is a new application. Toni Wall’s motion for a new public hearing was not seconded.

Questions about state law included definitions of terms and how large the separation must be between a school – Grace Academy is on the south side of Route 3 almost opposite the proposed facility – and anything related to marijuana.

Neighbors John and Carol Boynton had questions about waste disposal and about the impact of the “opt in” provision in current state law. On Nov. 5, China voters will act on a local ballot asking whether they want to allow medical marijuana operations in town. Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo said as of Aug. 27 he had not seen the wording of the ballot questions.

The new application describes two “suites” in the building, one to grow and package marijuana for medical use – Glinko is a licensed caregiver entitled to conduct such activities – and the other to sell cannabis smoking materials. Glinko said the two operations will be separate.

He plans to have manufacturing, which he and McCabe described as extracting oils from the plants and turning them into saleable products, done off-site. There will be little waste, he said; it will be disposed of off-site by contract with a specialist in marijuana waste disposal.

China selectmen approve local referendum questions

by Mary Grow

China selectmen dealt with a wide variety of issues at their Sept. 3 meeting, including approving local referendum questions for Nov. 5 voting and reviewing recommendations from town committees and organizations.

The Nov. 5 local ballots will include elections for the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Budget Committee; five questions dealing with medical marijuana businesses; and a voters’ choice question on town office hours.

Under the latest state law, a municipality must “opt in” to allow anyone to open a medical marijuana facility covered by the law. China’s ballot has questions drafted to match state definitions, asking if voters want to allow:

  • Medical marijuana registered caregiver retail stores;
  • Medical marijuana registered dispensaries;
  • Medical marijuana testing facilities; or
  • Medical marijuana manufacturing facilities.

The final related question asks whether, if any of the previous four questions passes, voters want to set a minimum 1,000-foot separation between property lines of the medical marijuana facility and any pre-existing public or private school.

The last ballot question asks voters to choose between two proposed three-hour extensions of town office hours: Saturdays from 8 to 11 a.m. (the current schedule) or Thursdays to 7 p.m., three hours beyond the usual 4 p.m. closing time.

In other business:

  • Selectmen unanimously accepted the budget committee’s recommendation that town funds be moved from two separate financial institutions (one handling the Doris L. Young Scholarship Fund, the other managing other town funds) to Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.
  • They unanimously accepted the lower of two bids for trail work for the Four Seasons Club, $24,500 from Chadwick Construction, of China. Money comes from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds.
  • They postponed a decision on the Revolving Loan Fund subcommittee’s recommendation to approve a loan to Buckshot Power Sports, operated by Mike Rackcliffe, until they get a financial assessment report from Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, whose staff help implement loans. Two residents praised Rackcliffe’s Tobey Road recreational-vehicle business.

Selectmen again discussed the question of volunteer firefighters’ stipends, which they and China’s three fire chiefs have debated for almost two years. Weeks Mills Chief William Van Wickler thought the issue was settled after he submitted a stipend calculation formula to the Maine Department of Labor. Department officials called China’s plan “not contrary to the intent” of Maine’s wage and hour laws, he said.

However, Town Manager Dennis Heath is still waiting for a reaction from the federal Department of Labor, and Selectman Ronald Breton has questions. Heath proposed the chiefs and the two selectmen who worked on the issue schedule another meeting; Van Wickler said he will coordinate it.

Heath reported that tax bills would be mailed the first week in September and were on the town website (which says they were mailed Sept. 5, as promised). By town meeting vote, the first half payment of 2019-2020 taxes is due by Friday, Sept. 27.

The manager also announced a survey about transfer station use, to run through September. It too is on the China website.

The next China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Sept. 16.

The 2020 census comes to central Maine

by Eric W. Austin

Some of you may have noticed a strange man or woman snooping around the neighborhood with a briefcase. Do not be alarmed. This is not a new type of high-class burglar brazenly scoping out your house for a midnight break-in.

Adrian Cronkhite, a partnership specialist with the United States Census Bureau, recently stopped by the China for a Lifetime Committee meeting to explain what they are up to. “We’re starting to conduct address canvasing – that’s determining where to count,” he said. “We send our address canvasers out to check to see if an address is still there.” Around ten percent of the U.S. population moves each year, which makes this preliminary step essential to conducting a successful census.

In most cases, said Cronkhite, address canvasers will not even need to knock on a door. They are simply trying to determine if an address has someone living there, and this can often be determined without bothering the homeowner. Address canvasers will be carrying an official badge identifying them as a government employee.

Nearly 14,000 Mainers are being enlisted in the effort to conduct the 2020 Census, and many positions are still available. Anyone looking for a short term job — typically lasting for 8-10 weeks — is encouraged to visit Most positions pay $16.50/hr and $0.58/mile.

Cronkhite also cautioned that people should be on the lookout for scammers. “If someone comes knocking on your door and they’re asking for a credit card, or they’re asking for money or anything like that, that’s fraud,” he said. “That’s not the census. The Census Bureau will never ask you for money. They won’t ask for your credit card number. They won’t ask for your social security number.”

Adrian Cronkhite took a roundabout path to his own position as a partnership specialist with the Census Bureau. Growing up in Dexter, he went to the University of Maine at Machias before enlisting in the military where he served for 14 years as a Green Beret in the Special Forces. That was followed by 12 years as a defense contractor and another eight years working directly for the federal government. Returning to Maine recently from Colorado, he bought the old Dexter shoe factory, closed in 2000, which he is in the process of renovating. He hopes to turn it into a shelter for homeless veterans when he retires following his current work for the 2020 Census.

The United States Census is required by Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states: “[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” The first meeting of Congress was in 1789, with the first nationwide census conducted in 1790. This will be the 23rd census in the history of the United States.

An accurate count is essential, Cronkhite explained, in order to correctly apportion more than $675 billion in federal funding, of which around $4.1 billion is headed for the State of Maine. Census data is also used to define legislative districts, school districts and voter precincts.

The census will officially kick off on April 1, 2020. Each household will be sent a postcard with 10 questions. Everyone is required by law to complete the questionnaire. Answers can be completed by mail, over the phone by 800 number, or online using a unique security code provided by the Census Bureau.

According to Cronkhite, 17 percent of China residents did not complete the census in 2010. “If you don’t respond,” he said, “someone will come knocking on your door, and nobody wants that.”

Cronkhite emphasized that information the census collects is completely confidential. Census Bureau employees like Cronkhite are barred for life from revealing any information under Title 13 of the criminal code. “We cannot share the information with anybody,” Cronkhite explained. “If I was to share someone’s personal information, I can be fined $250,000 or five years [in federal prison].”

The census’ electronic infrastructure also has some of the best security in the world. “Sixteen hundred times a day someone tries to break into the census data,” said Cronkhite, “and no one’s been successful yet. We have our own standalone system. Your information is not going to be shared with the world.”

The personal information of individuals is never provided to anyone outside the Census Bureau – not the Congress, not even the President. Only statistical breakdowns are given to the legislative and executive branches of government. In fact, this same statistical information is available to the public and can be browsed by going to the web address

Maine presents a special problem to the Census Bureau. “Maine is a different animal,” Cronkhite said. “Maine and Alaska. There’s a lot of people living in northwest Maine that don’t even want to be recognized or found, so they are actually using satellite footage now to track down residents — [to find out] where people are living or staying – and I’ll have to get on a snowmobile or four-wheeler to go up there next April.”

On December 31, 2020, the president will receive the results of the census as a statistical breakdown. By March 31, 2021, towns will receive their counts and will be notified if the results of the census require redistricting.

So, if you see a stranger prowling around your property, don’t shoot! It might just be a 2020 census employee.