Lambert earns dean’s list honors at Tufts University

Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts,  recently announced the dean’s list for the Spring 2016 semester.

Among these students is Cody Lambert, of Winslow, class of 2019.

Davis enters class of 2020 at The Citadel

The Citadel, in Charleston, South Carolina, is welcoming the class of 2020. The incoming class of over 800 new cadets, students represents 36 states and seven foreign countries. Seth Davis, of Liberty, matriculated as part of The Citadel’s class of 2020, the largest recorded freshman class in the history of the college.

Erskine announces virtual food drive

As part of the recently announced School Spirit Challenge, Erskine Academy has announced access to a virtual food drive.  Interested parties are encouraged to visit https://www.gsfb.org/donate/vfd/550 to “shop” online for food products or to make a financial donation to Good Shepherd on behalf of Erskine Academy.  Virtual contributions made by October 28, 2016, will be applied towards Erskine Academy’s competition with seven other Maine high schools vying to become School Spirit Champion.

For competition purposes, every dollar sent – virtually, by mail, or brought to the school – is “weighed” as five pounds of food.  More importantly, Good Shepherd’s ability to purchase food wholesale assures that every dollar raised buys five pounds of food.  Therefore, every gift received is leveraged for maximum benefit.  Those residing in the vicinity of Erskine Academy are encouraged to participate in the school’s “Fill the Bus!” campaign by donating redeemable cans and bottles through October 14. Bottles and cans can be dropped off by the bus on the school’s front lawn and will be added to the food and fund campaign.

China slate of officers released for Nov. 8

by Mary Grow

China voters will choose among seven candidates for three positions on the Board of Selectmen at Nov. 8 local elections.

For other town boards, there are no contests and one empty line on the ballot, for Budget Committee secretary.

Candidates for selectmen, in alphabetical order as listed on the draft ballot, are Albert Althenn, Joann Austin (incumbent), Wayne Chadwick, Neil Farrington (incumbent), Jeffrey LaVerdiere, Robert MacFarland (incumbent) and Raymond Robert.

Running without opposition are incumbent planning board members Toni Wall (District 2), Thomas Miragliuolo (District 4) and Frank Soares (member at large); incumbent budget committee members Thomas Rumpf (District 2) and Timothy Basham (District 4) and potential new member Valerie Baker (member at large); and Dawn Castner for representative on the Regional School Unit #18 board of directors.   If elected, Baker and Castner will succeed Jonathan Vogel and Robert Bennett, respectively.

China polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the former portable classroom beside the town office on Lakeview Drive.

China: Public hearing set on events center application

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have scheduled an Oct. 11 public hearing on Parris and Catherine Varney’s application to use the barn on their property at 701 Neck Road for weddings and other events.

The board’s initial discussion of the application at their Sept. 27 meeting drew an audience of a dozen neighbors.  Board member James Wilkens, who lives across the road from the Varney property, asked questions but abstained from voting.

Planning Board Chairman Frank Soares said two neighbors had written to the board expressing concerns about traffic and other issues.

The Varneys said they intend to rent out the barn, with hired caterers, music (either a disc jockey or a band) and a bar.  Most events would be entirely inside the barn, unless a couple wanted to exchange vows outside under a tent.  There would not be outdoor music or speakers, they said.

They intend to rent portable toilets that will be behind the barn, not visible from Neck Road. Parking will be off the road in a field behind the barn.  They seek permission to host events seven days a week and to run them until 11 p.m.

Parris Varney said the barn had been used in June for his daughter’s wedding, which he estimated brought almost 150 guests. He said he had not yet talked with the state fire marshal or local fire and rescue personnel.  Board member Toni Wall asked him to ask someone from the China Village fire department to check the property for adequate access for emergency vehicles before the Oct. 11 hearing.

Of the two other applications on the planning board’s Sept. 27 agenda, one was quickly approved and one was postponed because it was incomplete.

Edwin and Tammy Bailey received approval to replace the 50-year-old building that houses their Route 3 redemption center with a new single-story building – “just a box,” Edwin Bailey said – on the same foundation.  They do not intend any changes in the business or business hours, plumbing, landscaping or anything else planning board members saw as impacting neighbors or the environment.

Dylan Fortin’s after-the-fact application for an auto repair and towing business at his house at 427 Pleasant View Ridge Road lacked required information, so Soares returned it to him to complete before Oct. 11. Codes Officer Paul Mitnik got in touch with Fortin after receiving a complaint about an unlicensed business.  Fortin immediately came to his office and began the application process, Mitnik said.

Fortin said he had been doing auto repairs part-time for about two months and intended to apply for a permit, but “Paul got to me before I got to him.”

TIF committee continues recreational plan for head of lake (China)

by Mary Grow

Five members of China TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee continued discussion of plans to improve recreational access at the head of China Lake’s east basin at their Sept. 26 meeting.

Engineer Mark McCluskey of A. E. Hodsdon presented updated cost estimates that include:

•  $387,500 to build a bulkhead and fishing platforms along the lake side of the causeway, expand parking and add erosion control measures, making the area safer for boaters and fishermen;
• $350,000 to replace the deteriorating bridge across the inlet with a new bridge including a sidewalk;
•  $585,600 to build a new fire station for the China Village Volunteer Fire Department, which has no room to expand its present building just west of the head of the lake; and
•  $210,000 for miscellaneous costs, including engineering, legal and permit fees.

Committee members unanimously endorsed the idea of a new bridge.  McCluskey said the traffic lanes could not be widened much without significant environmental impacts.  As planned, he said, the work will require an application to the state Department of Environmental Protection; he offered to schedule a pre-submission meeting with DEP staff as soon as possible.

Residents near the causeway are to be invited to a meeting to hear about project plans, either the meeting with DEP staff or a separate TIF Committee meeting.  No definite dates were fixed until McCluskey reports back.

The first step in the committee plan for the causeway project is acquisition of a six-acre lot across Causeway Street from the boat landing.  A Nov. 8 local ballot question asks voters to appropriate $10,000 from the TIF account for the purchase.

Landowner Susan Bailey has been reluctant to sell at that price, but at the TIF meeting Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said she might have changed her position.

Committee members talked briefly about two other issues, but with two members absent made no decisions.

First was the possible acquisition of the former Fairpoint building on Route 3. L’Heureux had an email from South China resident Rick Fischer asking if the idea had been abandoned.  Committee Chairman Amber McAlister said no, just postponed.

Selectman Neil Farrington, in the audience Sept. 26, urged the committee to recommend buying it.  His vision is a daycare that would serve both children and senior citizens; others suggested other uses for the large story-and-a-half building.

The issue of lake access has been on the committee’s agenda for several meetings.  It was agreed that Irene Belanger, who is a selectman and a TIF Committee member, will ask the Board of Selectmen to create a new lake access committee.

A prior lake access committee recommended acquiring the former Candlewood property on the east shore of China Lake, but voters rejected the plan.   At that time no TIF money was available.

TIF funds are taxes paid by Central Maine Power Company on its expanded power line through China; by state law the money must be used for economic development, including recreational development.   A new China Village fire station is probably not eligible for TIF funds, according to the Sept. 26 discussion.

In addition to the request for $10,000 for the land at the head of the lake, the Nov. 8 ballot includes a request for $50,000 in TIF money for recreational trail maintenance.  A public hearing on local ballot questions is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17.

Selectmen add 14th item to November 8 ballot (China)

by Mary Grow

China selectmen have added a 14th article to the warrant for the Nov. 8 local election (for a summary of the first 13, please see The Town Line, Sept. 22 , p. 6 ).

At a special meeting Sept. 22, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said the board voted unanimously (with Neil Farrington absent) to ask voters to appropriate from the Development Program Fund $10,000 to purchase land at the head of China Lake’s east basin across Causeway Street from the boat landing.

The Development Program Fund is fed by tax revenue from the expanded Central Maine Power Company line, money set aside in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan and spent by voters on recommendation of a TIF Committee and the selectmen.      The proposed purchase is a preliminary step in the committee’s plan to expand water access at the head of the lake to make it safer for fishing and boat launching.  The committee has had an engineer study the area; future additional steps include providing fishing platforms over the water connected by a trail, additional parking and runoff control measures.

The land the committee is asking voters to buy is owned by Susan Bailey, with whom L’Heureux has been negotiating a sale price.  He said Bailey continues to ask for more than $10,000.  The parcel, which is mostly wetland, is assessed at $1,700, according to discussion at selectmen’s and TIF Committee meetings.

The special selectmen’s meeting was followed by a budget committee meeting at which L’Heureux said the committee recommended voters approve all but one of the seven monetary articles on the Nov. 8 ballot.      The manager said the committee unanimously recommended approval of three items: spending $12,000 from surplus to buy land behind the town office off Alder Park Road; appropriating $50,000 from TIF funds for recreational-trail maintenance; and buying the Bailey property.  Six members supported putting Palermo’s annual transfer station payment in a new transfer station capital fund; taking $3,800 from surplus to assess senior citizens needs; and adding $5,000 to the police budget.

Only three members supported the manager’s request to move $100,000 from surplus to the capital equipment and repair reserve fund, with three opposed and one abstaining, L’Heureux said.  The main objection was concern about reducing the undesignated surplus below the committee’s target level.

Selectmen voiced a similar concern at their regular meeting Sept. 19.  L’Heureux told them that in the eyes of bond rating agencies, moving the $100,000 from one account to another would not affect the town’s credit rating.

Selectmen have scheduled a public hearing on the Nov. 8 questions for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at China Middle School if the all-purpose room is available.  The next regular selectmen’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3.

Board discusses expanding pre-K program (Vassalboro)

by Mary Grow

At their Sept. 20 meeting, Vassalboro School Board members continued discussion of expanding the four-year-old (student) or pre-kindergarten program that’s beginning its second year at Vassalboro Community School.

The current program, which still had two openings as of Sept. 20, is affiliated with Head Start and therefore has income guidelines.  New school board member Libby Mitchell would like to have all four-year-olds able to enroll if their parents want them to.

AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 Superintendent Eric Haley said he had researched the question after August’s initial discussion.  He found that whether to start a program for four-year-olds is a local decision; the program requires state approval.

If Vassalboro were interested, he said, a letter of intent would need to be sent to the state commissioner of education by Jan. 1, 2017.  The letter would not commit the school department to follow through.

The first year of the new program would be financed by local funds.  The state would begin reimbursing the town the following year.  This year, Haley said, Vassalboro received $100,000 in state reimbursement for last year’s four-year-old students.

Committee members decided they should try to determine how many local parents would be interested in sending their four-year-olds to school.   They discussed possible ways to conduct a survey.

Mitchell said she believes educating four-year-olds is “a public responsibility,” and children should be able to start school before kindergarten regardless of income.  She does not believe sending four-year-olds to school should be mandatory, and she is not committed to a full-day (versus half-day) program.

Principal Dianna Gram said because Vassalboro’s four-year-old program is new, there is not yet evidence to determine whether it helps youngsters’ education.  Assessments are ongoing, she said.

In other business Sept. 20, school board members accepted the resignation of kindergarten teacher Pamela Blais and appointed kindergarten teacher Sarah Woodard and Educational Technician II Christian Wilkens.

The meeting was preceded by an informal gathering with new staff members.

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Sidewalk plowing estimates not pleasing to selectmen

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Road Foreman Eugene Field collected a lot of information on estimated costs of plowing sidewalks for the Sept. 22 selectmen’s meeting.  The information did not make board members happy, and they took no action.

The issue came up earlier in September during discussion of a pending Nov. 8 request to voters for funds to put in sidewalks in East Vassalboro.  Selectmen had just learned that the town is supposed to maintain the existing sidewalks in North Vassalboro, including plowing and sanding.  Vassalboro would also be expected to maintain East Vassalboro sidewalks.  (See the Sept. 15 issue of The Town Line, p. 6, for more details.)

Field talked with public works personnel in other Maine towns, researched different kinds of equipment and questioned a local contractor.   A lot of towns do not break out sidewalk maintenance in their public works budgets, he said, making an annual cost hard to get.

One town, he said, reported spending around $3,500 a season for sidewalk maintenance, excluding the operator’s pay.  The local contractor estimated he could do East and North Vassalboro on a three-year contract for a total of around $30,000.

Prices for a trackless sidewalk machine ranged from around $25,000 for a used one to $110,000 or more for a new one.  Alternatives like loaders and tractors are estimated to cost from $35,000 up.   Some of the machines would have other uses, Field pointed out.

Selectmen held lengthy discussions on two other topics at the Sept. 22 meeting, without resolving either.

Kent London and Jan Clowes of the Vassalboro Historical Society would like to renegotiate or at least clarify the 1992 lease between the society and the town that allows the society to use the former East Vassalboro school as a museum and defines responsibilities for the building and grounds.

Town voters have been appropriating $3,000 for the society every June; the town deducts appropriate charges, for example for mowing the grounds, and sends the remainder to the society at the end of the fiscal year.  London commented that the remainder decreased to around $900 last year, mostly because mowing charges increased.      He and Clowes also said that in the 1990s, the recreation department used part of the building and made a contribution in return; the department moved out and its contribution ceased, but, London and Clowes said, most of the grounds are used for parking for the boat landing, a recreational rather than historic activity.

Selectmen asked Town Manager Mary Sabins to talk with Clowes and Field about what they would consider a fair deal for the historical society.

Selectmen, resident Bernard Welch, Codes Officer Richard Dolby and town attorney Alton Stevens discussed a consent agreement between the town and Welch to resolve Welch’s violations of local ordinances.  Welch admits the violations but considers the combined fine and reimbursement for attorney’s fees too high.

Selectmen asked Sabins to continue discussion with Welch and Dolby.

The one decision board members made was to accept Field’s recommendation and buy a new John Deere loader from Nortrax, a Florida-based company with a Maine office in Westbrook.  At a cost of approximately $126,400, including a $3,000 option Field chose, the bid was the lowest of four received.   At the June 6 town meeting, voters authorized spending up to $165,000 for a new loader.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 6.

IF WALLS COULD TALK, Week of September 22, 2016

Katie Ouilette Wallsby Katie Ouilette

WALLS, you simply must tell our faithful readers about all you would talk about this week, if  you could talk.  I am amazed at all that has happened for you in just one week!

Well, WALLS, you know me well and know, for sure, that this great-grandma absolutely loves to have busy young-ones frolicking around.  Most of them were our great-granddaughter Reese’s age, but after he got his bare feet, her brother Owen Paine showed that he wanted to climb steps.  Grandma Linda and Grandpa “Tiger” Holt kept very busy being busy.  One young student whom I was so thrilled  to talk to sings, plays the violin, tap-dances, and even created a very unusual scrapbook. She will soon appear in a play in Waterville! Frankly. WALLS, her life reminded me of when I was very young and the same path was followed.  Oh, the birthday cake that Reese made was perfect.
Yes, WALLS, I know you are eager to tell about the Skowhegan Heritage Council’s hosting the 10th “Last Rose of Summer” Day.  This year, as usual, all the Heritage groups in Somerset County were invited.  Gail Kay, the chairman of Skowhegan Heritage Council was in charge of the council’s guest book and energetically told of the work that she and her husband painted the walls of the Dudley Corner School.  Yes, faithful readers, the Skowhegan Heritage Council has been diligent over these many years in restoring the Dudley Corner School, which not only schooled students, but the schoolhouse was, at one time, a meeting house for town meetings, was home to Boy Scout meetings and even has bragging rights to having Knights of Columbus meetings there.  Former Skowhegan Town Manager Pat Dickey encouraged fund raisers for the work done to the school’s exterior and for the erection of the present historic sign.

Yes, WALLS, it is time for you to tell of the piece-de-resistance to the LAST ROSE OF SUMMER DAY event held at the Margaret Chse Smith Library, on September 14.  Skowhegan’s Senator Margaret Chase Smith definitely did everything possible for her Skowhegan and Maine people.  Well, the red rose decorated the table….a single red rose was centerpiece.

There was also sheet music of  Piece I Leave With You  centered with the red rose, as, surely Senator Smith leaves us ‘peace’. Oh, yes, there were lots of red, white and blue plates filled with cookies and there was iced tea to drink, but the best of the best was music by Robert Choinier.  Senator Smith loved music and surely she was looking down from her “special fluffy cloud’”and smiling.  Yes, Senator Smith surely loved the variety of songs played by Robert and which echoed through the rooms of the senator’s former home and who called this magnificent house “home in Skowhegan.” Yes, David Richards, though working in his office for UMO, joined us, as did Angie, John and other members  of the senator’s team.  Oh, WALLS wonder if you know the red rose is our national flower and why?

Heather Johnson, executive director of Somerset Economic Development, stopped by en route from Jackman and said she remembers Senator Smith’s waving from her favorite porch chair to people driving past her house and her waving a “welcome” to those whom she loved so much.

Now, WALLS, the latest news you should bring to our faithful readers.  Fr. John Massie announced that Father Rasle will be highlighted at the Madison Historical Society’s Museum, on Old Point Avenue, in Madison, on Sunday afternoon.