Area students spend fall in areas across globe

No education is complete without the opportunity to discover the world and our role in the global society. Stonehill college students, in Easton, Massa­chusetts, traveled to countries near and far in the pursuit of knowledge, humanity and service during the fall 2015 semester.

Marissa L. Jordan, of Whitefield, studied in Italy at John Cabot University, Rome. A member of the class of 2017, is studying communication and political science and international studies.

Abigail S. Weston, of Waterville, studied in Germany at Freie Universitat Berlin European Studies Program. A member of the class of 2017, is studying graphic design.

Have you seen the signs?

If you drive through Vassalboro proper or on the Dunham, Oak Grove or Bog roads, you may see a sign with the Vassalboro Historical Society logo advertising an Audio Tour stop, with a name, stop number, a QR code (like a barcode only square), and a phone number.Vassalboro Historical Society

If you call the phone number and at the prompt enter the stop number, you will hear a short description of the history of the stop. Using the QR scanner on a smart phone will link to the same site, but in a different way. The first of at least seven stops have been entered. Can you find them all?

Using OnCell technology which “is the leading digital storytelling platform for cultural destinations and other interesting places,” the historical society joins the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the National Park Service in providing a technology-based way to reach out.

It is hoped this is a first step in connecting the technology savvy with the wonderfully rich history of Vassalboro. For more information about how you can be a part of the Vassalboro Historical Society, call the museum at 207-923-3505 or by e-mail at

Movie of the Month in Palermo

Over the past 60 years, autism rates have risen from 150:1 to 65:1 in most of America.  Interestingly, the Amish population seems less susceptible. What is this strange syndrome, and what causes it?  How does it look and feel to be autistic?  Some say it is a different form of awareness to be embraced.  Bring a potluck dish (or a donation) to the Palermo Community Center on Turner Ridge Road on Friday, August 26th at 6 p.m.  Join friendly folks for fine food and thought-provoking discussions–for free! For directions or more information, please call Connie at 993-2294.

Jefferson Food Pantry annual meeting

The Jefferson Area Community Food Pantry recently provided food assistance at St Giles Episcopal Church.

The food was purchased from Good Shepherd Food Bank, in Auburn. Donations of fresh garden produce was received from DRA CSA Food Bank Farm, Cindy Bea and County Fair Farm. Bread was given by the USDA.

Volunteers and donations are appreciated. Volunteers may call Richard St Amand at 530-3769. Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation may send a check made out to St Giles Church with JACFP written in the memo area, PO Box 34, Jefferson, ME 04348

The annual meeting is Monday, August 22, at 9:30 a.m., and is open to all with a potluck breakfast at St Giles Episcopal Church.

Distribution days are the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, 4 – 5:30 p.m., at St Giles, 72 Gardiner Road, Jefferson.

For more information please call 315-1134.

CHINA News – TIF committee eyeing two major projects for consideration

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee are discussing two major projects on China Lake, one near China Village and the other involving a good part of South China Village.  They are also debating whether to set aside part of the TIF income for a revolving loan fund for small businesses in town.

The project that committee members call the causeway project, referring to the boat landing at the head of China Lake and nearby areas, is more advanced.  At the committee’s Aug. 15 meeting, Mark McCluskey, of A. E. Hodsdon Engineers, presented detailed plans for additional parking on the north side of Causeway Street and fishing platforms extending over the water west of the bridge.  His preliminary cost estimate for the work is $517,500.

The South China project is the brainchild of committee member Dale Worster, and so far is only a concept, not approved for serious committee review and lacking detailed planning or cost estimates.  It involves improving the current South China boat landing for lake access and buying most of the properties in the village east of Old Windsor Road and creating a village center running uphill from the former Farrington’s store to the south end of Lakeview Drive, with fancy stores, eateries and other attractions.

Worster would also like to see China partner with a development company to build a retirement community either on the east side of Lakeview Drive or south of Route 3 close to the Hannaford supermarket.

At the Aug. 15 meeting there was preliminary talk of time frames needed to get the causeway project on the Nov. 8 ballot for town voters’ action.   Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux suggested inviting local residents to the committee’s first September meeting to give them information on the plans.

Since the South China project is still in an early stage, there was no discussion of involving South China residents.  Committee member Frank Soares, who also chairs the planning board, predicted many would object.

Worster responded, “Some people might just have to learn to live with progress.” The causeway project requires at least two preliminary steps, amending China’s land use ordinance and buying a piece of land opposite the boat landing.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik explained a simple ordinance amendment that would exempt “functionally water-dependent uses” from setback requirements from the lake.  State law allows such provisions, he said.  Local ordinance amendments require voter approval.

The land committee members want to recommend buying is owned by Susan Bailey and is currently used as unofficial parking for the boat landing.  L’Heureux said Bailey is willing to sell the town that lot, which is mostly wetland, plus another lot across Lakeview Drive.

Committee members considered Bailey’s asking price too high and agreed they do not favor buying the other lot at any price.  L’Heureux suggested it might provide a new site for the China Village volunteer fire department, whose members would like more room for a larger building; committee members did not want to combine two separate projects.

In one of two substantive votes Aug. 15, committee members unanimously asked L’Heureux to ask Bailey whether she would sell only the lake lot and if so for what price.  New committee member Tom Michaud, whose wife Marie heads China’s LakeSmart program, and China Lake Association President Scott Pierz urged adding measures to protect China Lake water quality.  McCluskey said his plan includes a swale to absorb run-off from part of the proposed parking area.  Committee member and Selectman Joann Austin recommended additional measures, like pervious paving that would absorb water; McCluskey is willing to consider such steps.

Another suggestion discussed inconclusively was to replace the bridge over the China Lake inlet with a box culvert like the one under Routes 202 and 9 a short distance north.  L’Heureux and Robert MacFarland, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the bridge is deteriorating.

In their second substantive vote, committee members unanimously asked L’Heureux to get cost estimates from the contractor who installed the box culvert, so they will have an idea of additional expenditures for bridge replacement (which do not need to come from TIF funds, MacFarland said) and to seek a cost estimate for additional stormwater run-off controls.

The proposed revolving loan fund, as L’Heureux explained it, would be used to provide funding, in small amounts at low interest rates, to supplement bank loans to help local businesses start or expand.  Committee members are undecided whether they should prepare a detailed plan before they ask voter approval, or whether the concept should go on a Nov. 8 ballot with details, like interest rates and maximum amounts per business, to be worked out if voters approve.

The question of lake access was also on the Aug. 15 committee agenda, separate from the China Village and South China projects, but committee Chairman Amber McAllister said she didn’t have the energy to deal with it.

The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Aug. 29, in the town office.

Nomination papers available in China

by Mary Grow

Nomination papers are now available for China’s Nov. 8 local elections.  According to Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood, the following people’s terms end this year:

• On the Board of Selectmen, Joann Austin, Neil Farrington and Chairman Robert MacFarland.
• On the Planning Board, Toni Wall (District 2) and Thomas Miragliuolo (District 4), and the currently vacant alternate position elected from anywhere in town.
• On the Budget Committee, Thomas Rumpf (District 2), Timothy Basham (District 4), Al Althenn (secretary, elected from anywhere in town) and Jonathan Vogel (at-large position).
• Robert Bennett’s position as one of China’s two representatives on the RSU (Regional School Unit) 18 board.  Hapgood said Bennett will not be a candidate for re-election.

Hapgood said signed nomination papers must be returned to the town office by 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, for candidates’ names to appear on the ballot.

Vassalboro tax rate set at 14.05 mil

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen have set the 2016-17 tax rate at 14.05 mils ($14.05 for each $1,000 of valuation), Town Manager Mary Sabins reported after the board’s Aug. 8 meeting.

Sabins said the new rate is 0.35 mils (35 cents per thousand dollars) higher than the 2015-16 rate.    Tax bills should go out this month; by town meeting vote, the first quarterly payment is due Monday, Sept. 26.

Because the state has increased the homestead exemption, the increase will have more effect on owners of businesses and seasonal homes than on people whose Vassalboro home is their primary residence.          In other business Aug. 8, Sabins said selectmen decided to put two local questions on a Nov. 8 ballot.  One will ask voters to approve or reject changes to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance developed by the planning board; the other, not yet worded, will deal with proposed sidewalks in East Vassalboro.

Public hearings on both questions are scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, before that evening’s selectmen’s meeting, with the shoreland ordinance hearing first, Sabins said.

Selectmen accepted with regret the resignation of Police Chief Richard Phippen and expressed appreciation for his service, Sabins said.  She will be advertising for a new police chief.

Tom Richards was reappointed to the cemetery committee.

Sabins reported that the recently formed senior citizens’ working group is focusing on transportation, seen as a major need in Vassalboro.  At the group’s next meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23, in the town office meeting room, a representative of the Neighbors Driving Neighbors program will explain it and a representative of the medical office in North Vassalboro will talk about programs for the elderly offered there.

Planners find comments worthy of action

by Mary Grow

As promised, at their Aug. 9 meeting China Planning Board members reviewed in detail written comments on proposed ordinance amendments received after their July 26 public hearing.  They also discussed other amendments that are likely to be presented at a future hearing on their way to a November ballot.

Three residents submitted written material repeating their July testimony, expressing concerns about various proposed ordinance changes and related issues.  The changes the board recommends mostly incorporate revised state shoreland guidelines.      Board members found three comments worthy of action.  They corrected the numbering on a set of articles after a resident pointed out cross-references to non-existent sections; they deleted a reference to 30 days for approval of a sign permit after Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said most sign permits are approved or denied within a week; and they corrected a discrepancy in requirements between discontinued signs and discontinued structures by redefining a sign as not a structure.

If the third change remains, the owner of a discontinued structure that does not meet land use requirements will have up to five years to reuse it or give up; the owner of a discontinued sign will have two years to reuse or remove it.

Otherwise, board members decided their draft is satisfactory.  Board member Milton Dudley said that he did not believe one person’s comments were a valid reason to change state guidelines.

One proposal the board rejected would require lighted signs to be turned off when a business closes for the day.  The draft ordinance would require lighted signs be turned off at 10 p.m.  Mitnik said he did not intend to be on China roads to enforce either deadline, though he would respond to a complaint of an ordinance violation.

A majority of the board approves of “grandfathering” signs that do not meet current or new ordinance requirements, allowing them to stand.  Mitnik said asking business owners to remove all non-conforming signs would be difficult because there are many in town.

In addition to shoreland and related issues covered at the July 26 hearing, board members discussed amended conditional use criteria and endorsed a draft approved by an earlier board.

They discussed what requirements for converting a seasonal residence to year-round are useful in protecting lake water quality.  A legal septic system is essential, they agreed; other requirements, like lot size and setback from the lake, seemed less important.

Mitnik said China’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee and selectmen want fishing docks and perhaps a trail at the causeway at the head of the China Lake, between The Landing restaurant and Church Park.  The current ordinance would not allow them, so Mitnik suggested adding language exempting water-dependent facilities and uses from setback requirements, as allowed by state law.

Planning Board members intend to continue work on draft ordinance revisions at their Aug. 23 meeting.  Board Chairman Frank Soares proposes another public hearing, perhaps in conjunction with the selectmen, at a date not yet set.  He said a final draft needs to be ready by Oct. 19 for inclusion on a Nov. 8 local ballot.

Beneficial nuisance on Webber Pond

Webber Pond Association President Frank Richards recently stated in an email to lake residents, “Everyone who has been out in a boat or raked weeds off their shoreline this summer has noticed the extreme proliferation of a long stringy weed. There’s an actual floating island in the northwest bay, so thick you can’t take a boat through it.” Because of his concern, Richards contacted Nate Gray, a biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, asking for him to go to Webber Pond to observe the  proliferation of weeds. “I was pretty sure it was a native plant growing in proliferation because of the drought, slightly lower water, and more sunlight,” Richards said. Gray  confirmed it is as Elodea Canadensis, a common species of aquatic plant in Maine. Its proliferation has some good points. It is sequestering a lot of phosphorus and actually contributing to clearer water this summer.

Webber Pond

A “field” of weeds in the northwestern corner of Webber Pond. Photos courtesy of Frank Richards, president of Webber Pond Association.

Nate Gray

Nate Gray, a biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources holds a handful of the Elodea Canadensis, better known as American Waterweed or Pondweed. Photos courtesy of Frank Richards, president of Webber Pond Association.

Bowl for Cassidy top fundraiser

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s 2016 Bowl For Kids’ Sake, sponsored by Camden National Bank and Hannaford, drew over 545 teams and 2,100 bowlers to four regional events, raising over $285,000 for youth mentoring programs in seven counties. The highest fundraising region was Kennebec Valley with six local events held May 2 – 7 raising over $111,000. The highest single fundraising event overall was Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake, held in memory of Cassidy Charette, which raised over $30,000. Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake was sponsored by New Balance, Golden Pond Wealth Management, Aetna, Smile Solutions, Mainely Trusses and Hammond Lumber.

Funds raised by Bowl for Kids’ Sake benefit Big/Little matches in Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Penobscot, Somerset, Waldo, and Androscoggin Counties. Kennebec Valley bowling event proceeds support community and school-based programs in Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Bowlers in each region who raised $100 or more were automatically entered to win $1,000 cash in the Grand Prize Drawing for that region.  The winner in Kennebec Valley was Martin Meader, from New Balance. The top fundraisers were:

Jordyn Labrie, Paige Smith and Gabi Martin

Jordyn Labrie, Paige Smith and Gabi Martin from Central Maine United U-18 Girl Soccer Team, re-enact a photo taken at Bowl for Kids’ Sake in 2014 with their teammate Cassidy Charette. Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake raised $30,000 for local youth mentoring. Colby Charette, Cassidy’s brother, was top fundraiser, raising $2,435.


1st – Richard Behr (Big Brother) – $2,445
2nd – Jacy Cunningham (Home Depot) – $2,072
3rd – Rick Eskelund (Big Brother) – $1,530


1st – New Balance (20 teams) – $12,527.55
2nd – Hannaford (39 teams) – $8,935.97
3rd – Kennebec Savings Bank (7 teams) – $6,122.25


1st – Central Maine Auto Group (Sheila Turcotte) – $3,037
2nd – Home Depot (Jacy Cunningham) – $2,072
3rd – Kennebec Savings (Sandy Burgess) – $2,011

HIGHEST TEAM AVERAGE (More than 1 team):

1st – Big Brothers Big Sisters CBM Matches – $1,132
2nd – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine – $1,102
3rd – Kennebec Savings Bank – $875

Camden National Bank had 44 teams. Hannaford, the event’s other lead sponsor, had the most participating teams of any business, with a total of 102 teams from 31 store locations.

Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake, held in honor of BBBS Big Sister Cassidy Charette, raised $30,000 for the new site-based mentoring program at Alfond Youth Center in Waterville –  the second local mentoring program established in Cassidy’s memory. Bowlers who raised $100 or more were entered into a prize drawing for a laptop, courtesy of A-COPI. The winner was Desiree Luzzi, Cassidy’s aunt, who donated the prize to a graduating Big at Messalonskee High School.



1st – Colby Charette (BBBS Big Brother and Cassidy’s younger brother ) – $2,435
2nd – Desiree Luzzi – $1,050
3rd – Connor Garland (BBBS Big Brother)- $950


1st – Cass4Ever (Colby Charette’s team) – $3,435
2nd – Messalonskee High School Girls Soccer (Fern Calkins Team) – $1,455
3rd – Team Bernatchez (Jacob Bernatchez’s Team) – $1,095

If you would like more information about how your business or organization can participate in next year’s Bowl For Kids’ Sake or Bowl for Cassidy’s Sake events, call 314-6996.