New Leos inducted at Erskine Academy

Standing from left to right, Leo Advisor Roxanne Malley, Isabella Parlin, Colby Johnson, Sarah Jarosz, Marina Lavadinho, Julia Basham, Tyler Ormonda, Madyx Kennedy, Dominique Andrews, Hanna Spitzer, Acadia Senkbeil, Jacob Sutter, Sierra LaCroix, Mitchell Gamage, Liz Sugg (Leo Club president). Front, Neil Iverson (District Governor), Kim Haskell (Whitefield Lions Club President), Paula Beach, (past International Director). Leos inducted but absent from photo, Jane Blanchard, Logan Tenney, Brayden Hinds and Danielle Shorey. (Contributed photo)

Seventeen new Leos from Erskine Academy, in South China, were inducted Thursday, October 11, at the Whitefield Lions Club in Coopers Mills. The Leo Club at Erskine Academy sponsored by the Whitefield Lions is the largest in the state and was formed two years ago under the guidance of Whitefield Lions Cal Prescott, Barry Tibbetts, Rod Kenoyer and Erskine Leo Advisor, Roxanne Malley.

Furlong gets budget position; Wilkens to planning board

by Mary Grow

CHINA – A miscellany of reports and updates highlighted the China selectmen’s Nov. 13 meeting.

Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood gave board members results from Nov. 6 write-in ballots in local elections. After discussion with the two residents who tied for the at-large position on the budget committee, Jeffery Furlong will hold the position. James Wilkens has been elected to the at-large seat on the planning board.

Wilkens is vacating the alternate at-large position. Anyone from anywhere in town interested in becoming the planning board’s alternate member is invited to contact the town office.

Ronald Breton, elected to the board of selectmen, said he has resigned from the Tax Increment Finance Committee and as one of two China representatives on the Kennebec Regional Development Authority board that oversees FirstPark. Selectman Irene Belanger said selectmen need to appoint a successor to the KRDA board; no action was taken.

Hapgood also announced the annual Four Seasons Club rabies clinic, scheduled for noon Saturday, Jan. 5, at the clubhouse on Lakeview Drive. More information will be available.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said the preliminary survey of the town-owned land off Lakeview Drive has started, with A. E. Hodsdon engineers doing the work. Voters approved spending $5,000 for the review, aimed at evaluating the land’s suitability for an emergency services building and perhaps a community center.

Two transfer station employees had their hours increased to 21 a week, entitling them to benefits, effective Nov. 7, after voters approved additional money, the manager said. The third question voters approved asked selectmen to ask the Maine legislature to allow China to stop collecting personal property taxes. Heath said the request is being drafted. Board members advised seeking Maine Municipal Association legal advice on the wording.

Transfer Station Manager Tim Glidden and selectmen talked again about disposal of used tires and discussed what kind of extended warranty would be most useful on the new Ventrac tractor selectmen plan to buy (see the Nov. 8 issue of The Town Line, page 3). Glidden said unless he hears a better idea within a day, he plans to contract to send tires to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company. A decision on the warranty was postponed to give Heath time to get more details.

The town manager said the sidewalk for the new bridge on Causeway Street was to be laid Nov. 14, and paving was scheduled for Nov. 15. The project contractor, Consolidated Land Technologies of China, put conduits for electrical wires under the roadway, an addition to the original contract for which Heath said CLT did not charge the town.

Board members re-elected Robert MacFarland board chairman and Belanger board secretary. They accepted Breton’s offer to represent the board in the Kennebec County Legislative Delegation.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is currently scheduled for Monday evening, Nov. 26.

Two local World War II Navy veterans remember

Left, Albert Boynton, of Whitefield, during his WWII Navy service. Right, Boynton, at 92 years of age. (Contributed photos)

by Jeani Marquis

Seventy-three years ago, two local men took part in some of the most intense conflicts of World War II that took place within months of each other and brought U.S. troops closer to mainland Japan.

Albert R. Boynton, from Whitefield, was only 17 years old at the time and had enlisted in the Navy with his father’s permission. He turned 18 by the time he arrived at boot camp at Sampson, New York. After training, Boynton was assigned to the USS Goodhue APA-107. Their mission was to transport Marines, armaments, equipment and food and medical supplies to strategically located islands.

Carl J. Stenholm, of China, during World War II. (Contributed photo)

Carl J. Stenholm, of China, also a new naval recruit of 18 years of age, was assigned to the USS Hyman DD-732, a destroyer newly tooled from Bath Iron Works, in Maine. Their mission was to protect the transport vessels, destroy enemy aircraft and provide the gunfire to protect the Marines as they landed on the beaches.

By early February 1945, hundreds of ships were gathered from the Atlantic and Pacific theaters for long-range battle plans to strategically take over islands close to Mainland Japan. The Hyman and Goodhue were assigned to this complex offensive.

On D-Day February 19, 1945, the naval invasion surrounded the island of Iwo Jima. The USS Hyman was positioned close to shore, so close that Marines could be seen moving forward on land with flame-throwers. There would be no more practice drills for the 370-member crew on the Hyman. Standing dead in the water, their guns bombarded the shores clearing the way for the Marines fighting yard by yard on rough, unsheltered terrain.

By February 22, all but the western side of Iwo Jima had been silenced and the Marines were anxious to take Mount Suribachi that night. The Hyman was volunteered to provide the searchlight illumination for the Marine’s climb, knowing it would make their vessel an easy target. A close call by an enemy shell reminded the crew this was a night they would not forget. Through the dark, The Hyman’s 5-inch and 40-caliber guns were carefully coordinated over ship-to-shore radio to provide accurate coverage for the Marines.

At 0700, February 23, the Hyman was ordered to hold fire and the Marines would take the remainder of the hill by small armaments. Stenholm and his crew-mates didn’t realize at the time they would be witnessing history. Three hours after the Hyman was ordered to cease fire, the sounds from Marines’ gunfire and grenades on top of the hill also went silent. At 1020, a flag was raised by a small band of Marines indicating that Suribachi was ours. This event was the iconic flag raising of Iwo Jima.

On March 26, 1926, closer to Mainland Japan, the USS Goodhue arrived at Keramo Retto to put ashore troops and equipment for the upcoming invasion of Okinawa. Unfortunately, while returning to sea, the Goodhue underwent heavy air attack on the evening of April 2. The two anti-aircraft guns successfully defended the vessel from Kamikaze attack from the starboard. They were not as lucky with the attack heading dead ahead. The enemy aircraft hit the mast killing crew in the stern as it fell. Exploding bombs from the plane caused further casualties and fire aboard the vessel.

Boynton remembers hearing an announcement from the PA system, “Damage Control report to Shaft Alley,” and he knew they would be checking for leaks. He said he was very worried “he’d be going for a swim” and checked his life saving gear. Worrying would have to wait for later. Boynton was immediately sent to stretcher duty. The attack killed 27 and wounded 117. A makeshift morgue was set up in a hallway, an unsettling sight for young men’s first experience of death. Boynton vividly remembers taking a moment that night with his good friend Harry Hawkins, from Missouri, to pray. In the morning, they anchored into a calm bay with other damaged vessels. Following repairs, the Goodhue rejoined her squadron on April 10 to resume her transport duties at Okinawa.

The battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa saw heavy casualties on both sides and were victories for the U.S. forces leading to the end of the war. Both men came home safe, yet still mourn the shipmates they lost along the journey. The memories and emotions of war run deep even after 73 years.

This Veterans Day, as you thank men and women for their service, take a moment to ask them to share their stories.

Like it was yesterday

Les Ames’ military awards displayed on the wall of his South China home. Next to the Purple Heart awarded for his World War II injury is the shrapnel responsible for the wound. (Photo by Isabelle Markley)

by Isabelle Markley

Seventy-seven years after World War II, Leslie (Les) D. Ames is sitting in the living room of his South China home recalling the December 7, 1941, radio broadcast that changed his life.

“I can remember that day as clear as yesterday. I was still in high school. You knew things weren’t ever going to be the same,” he said. Pearl Harbor had just been bombed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan. “A few of my classmates left right after the announcement,” he said.

His draft notice arrived on his 18th birthday, February 18, 1943, but three deferrals allowed him to graduate from high school before reporting for service in the Army. He enlisted June 22, 1943, at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and reported to Camp Croft, South Carolina, for 17 weeks of Infantry Basic training.

Four weeks into basic training, he was accepted into the Air Corps Flying Cadet program in Lynchburg, Virginia. “The Air Force had more planes than pilots,” Les recalled. In March 1944, his flight training came to an end when he received a telegram from General “Hap” Arnold, commanding general U.S. Army Air Force, saying, “You are further relieved from Air Force training for the convenience of the government.”

There were too many pilots and infantry divisions were needed for the escalating ground war in Europe. Assigned to the 78th Infantry Division, attached to the 310th Infantry Battalion, October 1944, found him on a Liberty ship headed to England and spending a month in the English coastal resort town of Bournemouth, practicing amphibious landings in preparation for a beach landing at Le Havre, France.

Heading north through France, Belgium and into Germany toward Aachen, he told of traveling on mud roads and along hedgerows so thick a tank would stand on end when it tried to penetrate the dense growth along the road. He spoke of the constant cold, of having no shelter from the winter weather, of K-rations instead of hot meals and of the increasing incidents of trench foot that made walking painful and difficult for the soldiers.

Wounded on January 7, 1945, when a piece of metal shrapnel went through his right arm severing bones, nerves and tendons before lodging between two of his right ribs, he was evacuated from the battlefield through France to England and eventually back to Fort Devens, where he had joined the army two years before. Thirteen months after his injury, a surgical team from Walter Reed Hospital reconstructed his right arm. “It (the surgery) was very successful, although it left me with my right arm 3/4 of an inch shorter than the left which plays heck with my golf game,” he said. After medical discharge in August 1946 he attended the University of Maine under the veteran rehabilitation program graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering.

His medals for service during World War II’s Ardennes, Rhineland and Germany Campaigns include the Purple Heart, the Bronze star and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Displayed in the same shadow frame is the piece of shrapnel that ended his battlefield experience.

CFAL to hold public meeting in November

by Eric W. Austin

The China for a Lifetime Committee will host a public meeting about local volunteering needs and opportunities at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 17, at the China Lake Camp and Conference Center (255 Neck Road).

For the past several months, using feedback received from last year’s community survey, the China for a Lifetime Committee has been discussing the best way to organize local volunteers to help our most vulnerable residents. This public meeting is a culmination of those months of effort and is an opportunity for the committee to present their ideas to the broader community.

The committee will present the 17 areas of need that they hope to organize volunteers to address. These areas include things like: a senior citizen check-in team to keep an eye on our older residents, a litter clean-up crew to address the trash on our roadways, a substance abuse team to help those in our community combating addiction, and many more.

Working with The Town Line newspaper, the committee has also created a “Friends of China” Facebook group to help residents better communicate with one another, especially in times of emergency. Anyone is welcome to join or post in the group, and the committee will be using it to keep everyone updated on issues of interest to the citizens of China.

There will be coffee and light refreshments available for attendees. Any questions, please email the committee at chinaforalifetime@gmail.com.

LaVerdiere, Breton, Mills-Stevens win seats on board of selectmen

by Mary Grow

In local elections Nov. 6, China voters re-elected incumbent Selectmen Jeffrey LaVerdiere and Donna Mills-Stevens and chose former Selectmen Ronald Breton over Wayne Chadwick to fill the seat vacated by Neil Farrington.

According to Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood, LaVerdiere got 1,142 votes, Breton 966, Mills-Stevens 960 and Chadwick 945. Farrington was elected without opposition to the Regional School Unit #18 Board of Directors. Unopposed for re-election were Planning Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo and member Toni Wall and Budget Committee members Tom Rumpf, Tim Basham and Jean Conway. The winners of write-in contests for at-large seats on the planning board and the budget committee remained to be determined as of Tuesday night.

Voters approved three of five local referendum questions. They refused to abolish the quorum requirement for town meetings, by a vote of 505 yes to 1,241 no; and they refused to authorize selectmen to approve requests for Tax Increment Finance funds between town meetings, by a vote of 788 yes to 1,102 no.

The three questions that voters approved:

  • Direct selectmen to petition the legislature to let China stop collecting personal property taxes (yes, 1,003; no, 804);
  • Authorize spending up to $5,000 for a preliminary study of town-owned land on Lakeview Drive to see if it is suitable for a new emergency services building and a community center (yes, 1,240; no, 657); and
  • Authorize use of money from the sale of tax-acquired properties to fund pay increases at the transfer station this year, as two employees add enough hours to entitle them to benefits (yes, 1,173; no, 743).

Hapgood said a total of 2,058 ballots were cast, not a town record but a good turn-out for a non-presidential-election year.

Farrington given recognition plaque for years of service on board of selectmen

by Mary Grow

Neil Farrington

At the Oct. 29 China selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Dennis Heath presented retiring Selectman Neil Farrington a plaque recognizing his 14 years of service on the board and proclaiming Oct. 29, 2018, as Neil Lawrence Farrington Day in China.

Farrington was still on the Nov. 6 local ballot, as an unopposed candidate for election to the Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 Board of Directors.

Public works to get new tractor and attachments

by Mary Grow

China selectmen voted unanimously to buy the public works department a new Ventrac tractor with equipment for bush hogging, sweeping and plowing South China’s sidewalks.

The negotiated price of $44,000 will come from the reserve fund voters created to buy capital equipment. Before acting at their Oct. 29 meeting, selectmen carefully reviewed proposed savings of over $12,000 a year that Public Works Foreman Gary Cummings and crew member Shawn Reed said should pay for the machine in about three and a half years.

Almost three-quarters of the anticipated savings come from not contracting to have South China sidewalks plowed. Reed and Cummings have worn out a residential-grade John Deere tractor on the task; they expect the commercial-grade Ventrac to handle it better and longer; and the lower of two quotes they got for contracting the job was $9,000.

Questioned about maintenance, Reed estimated the tractor would use up to $400 worth of fluids and other consumables a year. The town crew will do the maintenance work.

Yes, Cummings told Selectman Donna Mills-Stevens, the crew has time to do the jobs assigned to the Ventrac. Bush hogging, for example, does not need to be done weekly or on a fixed schedule.

Other business at the Oct. 29 selectmen’s meeting focused more on reports than on decision-making, although board members did make one more unanimous decision.

Disposing of used tires has become a problem for China and other towns. Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton said the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC) will take tires, plus ash and demolition debris if needed to fill up a load, at the lowest price he has found. Selectmen unanimously authorized Town Manager Dennis Heath to make an agreement with PERC, unless Selectman Jeff LaVerdiere, who has also been researching possibilities, finds a cheaper alternative.

Cummings and Heath reported the redesigned fire pond on Neck Road is completed. The manager reported that the new culvert replacing the Causeway bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin was set in place that day.

After a low turnout at the annual household hazardous waste disposal day in Winslow, Grotton recommended China officials consider not participating for a year or two. China pays Winslow to allow China residents to bring in hazardous waste.

At Heath’s invitation, representatives from Spectrum Generations and the Family Violence Project, two organizations likely to request town funds at the March 2019 town business meeting, made short presentations about their organizations’ services.

Since Nov. 12 is a holiday, Heath proposes scheduling the next regular selectmen’s meeting for Tuesday evening, Nov. 13. When the meeting date is set, it will be listed on the calendar on the town’s web page.

Jack Sylvester turns 80 years old

In the photo Jack, seated, is being teased by his sister, Alene Smiley, right, and brother, Bob Sylvester. (Contributed photo)

On Sunday, October 7, the coffee hour at China Baptist Church was a special celebration for Jack Sylvester’s 80th birthday. About 70 people sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed a soup buffet, and cake and ice cream. Jack and Ann were the long time proprietors of the China General Store, in China Village, and made the store the favorite gathering place for many in the area. His personality and good humor endeared Jack to everyone. Jack was also the China Village Fire Department Chief for many years.

Four residents attend referendum public hearing

by Mary Grow

The four people who attended the China selectmen’s Oct. 25 public hearing on China’s Nov. 6 local referendum questions had plenty of time to get their questions answered and their comments noted.

The hearing was recorded as a video; people with the right computer equipment should be able to view it by opening “Live Stream” on the town’s web site.

The third question generated the longest discussion. It asks if voters want to use $5,000 from Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money for a preliminary concept plan for a consolidated emergency services building and perhaps a separate community center on town-owned land off Lakeview Drive, opposite the former Candlewood Camps.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said “consolidated” does not mean China’s three volunteer fire departments will share the building. Weeks Mills and South China would not be affected. The China Village department, which is constrained by its location close to wetlands at the head of China Lake’s east basin, would be the main tenant. Space would also be provided for China Rescue, the policemen who are in and out of town and perhaps for Delta Ambulance. The manager said if there were a building, Delta might station an ambulance in town. Residents have ranked a community center as important on two surveys, Heath said.

The question is on the ballot to see if a majority of voters want selectmen to continue to pursue the projects.

Resident Denis Breton would prefer the town consolidate emergency services in the town office area, sell the 34-acre Lakeview Drive property and “stop growing the empire.” For community events, the town has two schools with gyms and cafeterias, and the Baptist Conference Center building can be rented (expensively, Heath commented).

Resident Sandra Kostron replied that the schools could not be expected to store equipment, for example for a fitness course.

Selectman Irene Belanger said the China for a Lifetime Committee is looking into these issues.

Discussion of the first ballot question, whether to repeal the quorum ordinance, began with brief explanations and turned into consideration of alternatives.

The ordinance has been in effect since at least 1990, passed by voters in response to complaints that town policies and expenditures were being determined by a small number of residents who chose to come to town meetings. Now, Heath said, the complaint is from town office staff, who spend many hours rounding up the 120 voters required to make a meeting legal.

Other suggested ways to bring more residents to meetings included shortening the meetings or rescheduling from a March Saturday morning to a June evening close to the state’s June election day. Instead of an open town meeting, China could do its business by written ballot, giving voters all day to get to the polls; or switch to a council and manager form of government.

A propos of the second question, asking if voters want to seek legislative exemption from the requirement to collect personal property taxes, Heath said the town gets about $100,000 annually from owners of business and farm machinery. He and Selectman Neil Farrington think if the town stopped collecting the tax, new and expanded businesses would help cover the loss.

Question four asks approval to use income this year from the sale of tax-acquired properties to increase two transfer station employees’ hours, entitling them to insurance benefits. In the future, funds would probably come from an increased transfer station budget.

Audience and board members joined in praising the transfer station staff.

The final local question asks voters to allow selectmen to spend up to $100,000 a year in TIF funds for economic development projects between town meetings, on recommendation of the TIF Committee.

Currently, selectmen can spend TIF funds only with voter approval. The March 2019 town meeting warrant included a list of proposed expenditures, like donations to the China Region Lakes Alliance and the annual China Community Days celebration, which voters approved.

Should a new proposal be presented this fall with a request for TIF funds, selectmen could not grant it until voters acted at the March 2019 meeting, unless they considered it so important they tried to get 120 voters to a special meeting before March.

The goal of the ballot question, summarized by Robert MacFarland, Chair of the Selectboard, is “to allow us not to squander an economic development opportunity because of time constraints.”

Voters will act on the questions, and on local elections and state questions, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, by written ballot. China polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office. Absentee ballots are now available, and residents may vote before Nov. 6 at the town office during office hours.