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.

Families enjoy China’s free Fun Day

Contestants prepare for the duct tape sled competition. (Photo by Bob Bennett)

by Rick Hansen

We don’t often have the option or opportunity of opening our property to neighbors, and sometimes that feels un-neighborly. It is a consequence of the litigious world in which we live, and sometimes it can’t be avoided. We feel that there need to be times set aside for intentionally welcoming and visiting with our community… as family, as friends, and as neighbors.

Living in the northeast, we usually think of summer as the best time for community gatherings like block parties, backyard picnics, parades, and outdoor celebrations. Some of our neighbors realized that there was a need for winter community also, and that is why they approached us four years ago about being the host site for a China Community family sledding party.

We had some reservations, but decided to pray about the opportunity and then accepted the challenge. What began as a small, localized sledding event has steadily grown into an event that attracts hundreds of people looking for a day to celebrate winter fun in Maine with family and friends and neighbors. This year, February 16 was the day for the Family Fun Day… and what a day it turned out to be! Despite concerns due to lack of snow, icy conditions, unpredictable weather, etc., prayers were answered and all the pieces landed in place for a memorable outdoor event on a pleasantly mild winter day.

After months of reviewing last year’s event, brainstorming and planning for this year’s event, and reaching out to sponsors new and old, it was time for the 2019 Family Fun Day to begin. Volunteers arrived throughout the morning, ready to serve their neighbors in the kitchen, dining hall, and sledding areas. That included some Jobs for Maine Graduates and other students from China Middle School as well as several adults. Final adjustments were made to the sledding hill and the delicious food that was very generously provided by Big G’s, in Winslow, was warmed.

Banners, provided by Central Church of China, were hung around to direct families to the festivities while Fletcher’s Lawn and Yard Care spread sand on the icy areas. Bar Harbor Bank and Trust set up a table from which they offered Gatorade, cocoa, and sunglasses near where Bob’s Glass and More set up a S’more station so that people could warm by the fire and make their own S’mores with ingredients donated by Gene at Lakeview Lumber. Delta Ambulance and China Village Fire and Rescue were both represented, making sure that any sledding injuries were quickly and skillfully handled.

The China Four Seasons Club brought their new trail groomer and sleigh to offer rides through the field by the lake. The cardboard (and duct tape) sled race capped off the day as imaginatively designed, homemade sleds sped down the hill, racing for gift card prizes purchased with donations by LaVerdiere’s General Store, Branch Mills Heating Solutions, Lakeview Lumber and others.

Other ingredients for the day were donated by local churches and individuals, and everyone was so blessed by them! Because of such generous donations of time and resources, there was absolutely no charge to enter, participate, eat, and enjoy the fellowship with neighbors. Family is foundational in this community, and the local definitions of neighbor and family are often one and the same.

We appreciate the generosity of our sponsors, those who brought gifts of food which were donated to the China Food Pantry to help keep our neighbors fed this winter, and those who donated their time to come serve their community and neighbors.

Planning for a 2020 Family Fun Day has already begun and we expect to make a few improvements for next year. We hope to see you then!

The Hansens are Camp Directors at China Lake Camp.

Budget committee absorbs much information at meeting

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Budget Committee members absorbed much information and many opinions at their March 5 and March 7 meetings, though they are well short of overall budget figures needed to begin making recommendations to voters.

The total budget for the current (July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019) fiscal year is somewhat under $10 million. The school budget, which is not yet determined for 2019-2020, is somewhat under $8 million, of which almost $3.7 million comes from local funds. Vassalboro’s share of the 2018-2019 Kennebec County budget is $325,000 and change, with the 2019-2020 assessment also undetermined as of early March.

Questions budget committee members discussed at their two early-March meetings include whether to repair the town grader, buy a second-hand replacement or ask Road Commissioner Eugene Field to lease a grader as needed; whether to replace the police cruiser; additional staffing and possible redesign at the transfer station; and town employees’ salaries.

Last year’s future capital expenditure summary describes Vassalboro’s 1991 grader’s condition as good. At the March 5 meeting, Selectman Lauchlin Titus updated: “It’s still a four-letter word, but the word is ‘junk.’”

Field thinks repairs possible. He recommends committing at least $20,000 to have the grader examined and tested; if it is repairable, he expects at least another five years’ work from it. He said he found one used grader, a 2005, for $80,000; he does not support buying a new one at $280,000 or more.

Vassalboro has only 2.2 miles of unpaved public roads that need annual grading. However, Field said, he and his crew use the grader for shoulder work after paving and as the reserve vehicle in case a plow truck breaks down in mid-storm. Graders are not readily available, he said; if he had to rely on leasing he might not find one when needed.

Discussion of the grader, planned 2019 paving and deteriorating culverts led several people to share accounts of towns elsewhere whose officials have discontinued or dead-ended roads when they could not afford maintenance or a replacement bridge.

Field also requests funding for a new small truck. Asked at the March 7 meeting whether the truck or the grader is more important, he said he needs both.

Police Chief Mark Brown wants his 12-year-old cruiser replaced. He recommended buying a new one, preferably an all-wheel-drive SUV prewired for lights and siren, over three years. The estimated annual payment would be about $13,000. At this early stage in the budget process, his proposal appears to have support.

If he does not get a new vehicle, Brown said, the repair budget needs a generous increase, because the current one keeps having problems – it’s “nickel and diming the town to death.”

Transfer Station Manager George Hamar said he would like a full-time assistant. He has worked alone for a year, having to skip training classes and find a substitute if he is ill.

Town Manager Mary Sabins is considering seeking a new employee qualified to divide hours between public works and the transfer station.

Selectman John Melrose proposes a $5,000 appropriation to get a traffic engineer’s suggestions about changing the traffic pattern at the transfer station to make it safer.

Sabins presented her salary recommendations for current town employees and for any new hires. At this stage, the only firm figure in that area is Sabins’ contractual two percent raise.

The budget committee’s job, as re-elected Chairman Rick Denico reminded members March 5, is to advise voters on selectmen’s and school board members’ recommended expenditures for the new fiscal year. “We can work with the numbers, but we can’t change policy,” he said.

Later in the meeting, budget committee member and former Police Chief Richard Phippen wanted to talk about the selectmen’s policy on policing, which emphasizes community policing and leaves monitoring for speeders mostly to county and state law enforcement. Phippen said residents want as much speed control as possible; Denico repeated policy is not the budget committee’s job.

Policy and priorities, resident Holly Weidner suggested, should be considered at one or more public meetings in the fall, well before the pre-town-meeting budget crunch. Denico referred her to the 2014 Capital Expenses Committee reports on the town website as a starting point, and Selectman Robert Browne invited her to bring concerns to a selectmen’s meeting.

The budget committee canceled scheduled March 12 and March 14 meetings, because Sabins will be out of town – in Washington, D.C., representing Maine in her capacity as Maine Municipal Association President, Titus said approvingly. They also canceled a March 19 meeting because they had talked March 7 with most of the people invited March 19.

Their next meeting is currently scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21, after that evening’s selectmen’s meeting. Expected attendees include representatives of the volunteer fire department; a Cemetery Committee representative to explain a request for money for software; and any social service agencies whose requests are new this year.

Posted Roads Update 2019

Dennis Heath, China town manager

from the office of Dennis Heath, China Town Manager

As most of our community business owners and farmers are aware, this is the time when our local roads are posted for no use by vehicles over a state-defined weight of 23,000 pounds. (https://www.maine.gov/mdot/postedroads/docs/posted_roads_all_2012.pdf)

The exceptions are included in the state statutes here: http://mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/29-A/title29-Asec2395.html.

The resulting damage to our local roads from overweight vehicles demands that we strictly limit granting waivers. Waivers for convenience will not be issued. Use of local roads when the outside temperature is lower than 32F is permitted, but only when evidence of thaw seepage through the roadway is not visible. Please contact (207) 445-2014 with questions or emergency requests.

China’s Lydia Gilman wins Maine’s Got Talent competition

Lydia Gilman, 16, of China, performs at the Maine’s Got Talent competition, in Lewiston, on March 9. Lydia won the competition. (Photo by EM. Images, photographer, Erik Peterson)

Lydia Gilman, 16, an Erskine Academy junior, from China, took home first prize at the 2019 Maine’s Got Talent competition. Maine’s Got Talent is a dynamic musical competition featuring the selected top 10 performing artists in Maine for the show. The top three winners of Maine’s Got Talent receive cash prizes of: $750 for first place, $500 for second place and $250 for third place. The event was held at the Gendro Franco Center, in Lewiston, on March 9, 2019.

Lydia sang, If I Ain’t Got You Babe, in the styles of Alicia Keys and brought the house down. The second place award went to Jaycen Daigle, of Eliot, performing an original composition (both singing and playing guitar). The third place award went to Tessa Walker, of Portland, who sang You Make Me Feel A Natural Woman, in the style of Aretha Franklin.

There was a panel of celebrity judges for the event. The judges were: Tom Doucette, (a former Maine’s Got Talent participant), Celeste from WBLM, and Joe Phillipon, of the Lewiston Police Department. The final results included the judges’ voting along with audience participation. Molly McGill was the emcee for the competition.

This event is a fundraiser for Sandcastle Clinical & Educational Services, a private, nonprofit agency established in 1996, that provides quality services for children with special needs and those at risk for developmental issues. This is the 8th Annual Maine’s Got Talent competition for Sandcastle and its largest fundraiser for the year.

Lydia is the daughter of Lance and April Gilman, and granddaughter of Judi Gilman, of China.

Braden Soule receives principals award

Braden Soule

Braden Soule, of Fairfield, a senior at Erskine Academy, in South China, has been selected to receive the 2019 Principals Award, Headmaster Michael McQuarrie announced recently. The award, sponsored by the Maine Principals Association, is given in recognition of a high school senior’s academic excellence, outstanding school citizenship, and leadership.

Soule is a consistent high-honors student in a highly-competitive program that includes all classes taken at the honors or accelerated level and numerous Advanced Placement courses and Concurrent Enrollment classes with nearby colleges. He has received recognition and accolades for his standout accomplishments in the classroom, athletics, and several hundred hours of community service.

“Braden has earned and enjoys universal acceptance in the school community. He is an exemplary student and fine representative of Erskine Academy and young people in general, and personifies the school’s core values of scholarship, leadership, stewardship and relationships,” noted Headmaster McQuarrie when making the award.

Soule, Mc­Quar­­rie, and other award winners and their principals will attend an Honors Luncheon at Jeff’s Catering, in Brewer, on Saturday, April 6, 2019, at 12:30 p.m.

The Honors Lun­cheon recognizes these outstanding students with the presentation of an individual plaque and the awarding of five $1,000 scholarships in the names of Horace O. McGowan and Richard W. Tyler; both were former Maine principals and executive directors of the association. In addition, five $1,000 scholarships will be presented through the efforts of the MPA Scholarship Golf Tournament.

The Principals Award is presented in more than 100 Maine public and private high schools by member principals of the MPA, the professional association that represents Maine’s school administrators.

Planners give thumbs up to school gym expansion

photo source: JMG.org

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have unanimously approved an enlargement of the China Middle School gymnasium. RSU (Regional School Unit) #18 Superintendent Carl Gartley said he hopes work will start as soon as school ends in June and be mostly done when school reopens in September, though it might run into October.

At the Feb. 26 China Planning Board meeting, Gartley, engineer Blaine Buck, of Cordjia Capital Projects Group, and architect Mike Sealander, of Sealander Architects, presented project plans.

The addition will be on the west side of the gym, toward Lakeview Drive. It will run the length of the existing building, about 86 feet, and extend the building west about 26 feet. Sealander said it will cover the existing grass strip, but will not affect parking; the existing sidewalk will probably be “chewed up during construction,” but it will be replaced.

The new space will house a new stage, two teachers’ offices and a practice room, plus a storage room and under-the-stage chair storage. There will be room for bleachers in front of the new stage.

The present stage and related rooms will become boys’ and girls’ locker rooms and provide additional bathrooms and a shower that Sealander sees being welcomed by referees.

Gartley said the middle school building is slated for additional work as separate projects, including providing LED lighting indoors and outdoors, repairing the roof and updating the air handling system. Funding will come from the RSU #18 bond issue voters approved in 2018, he said.

Planning board members decided they did not need to hold a public hearing before acting on the application. Gartley commented that redoing the gym has been discussed informally in town for many years, and Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo observed that there was no audience at the board meeting.

Review of the ordinance criteria found the project meets all of them. Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said he is satisfied it also meets requirements of China’s Phosphorus Control Ordinance.

The next planning board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, March 26, unless Mitnik receives one or more applications (he does not anticipate any) in time to schedule a March 12 meeting.

Selectmen OK two TIF board recommendations

by Mary Grow

At their March 4 meeting, China selectmen unanimously approved two Feb. 25 recommendations from the TIF (Tax Increment Finance) Committee. They authorized Town Manager Dennis Heath to negotiate with Susan Bailey to buy her small piece of land across Causeway Street from the boat landing, and to pay a bill from Comprehensive Land Technologies for the new bridge west of the boat landing.

The Bailey lot is currently used for boaters’ parking; voters approved buying it to continue the use. Heath said the causeway project account still has more than $75,000 to complete the bridge work, including a final paving coat and changes to guardrails.

Another decision selectman made was to approve Heath’s recommendation that the town clerk be designated as the town manager’s alternate should he be out of town or otherwise unable to transact daily business. When Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere worried that a hypothetical future town clerk might be less trusted than Rebecca Hapgood, Heath reminded the board that they choose the clerk.

In other business, Heath told board members he has ordered new chairs for them, since the current ones are at least 10 years old, and a larger screen and new projector for the meeting room. Selectman Ronald Breton’s request for a new table, round or perhaps V-shaped so board members could see each other more easily, was discussed, but no action was taken.

Breton proposed another idea that was discussed without action: recommending a town ban on plastic bags, because so many other Maine municipalities are doing so.

LaVerdiere, who owns a retail store outside China Village, opposed a ban; it would increase prices, he said, because alternatives are more expensive. He said he reuses plastic bags as long as they last and commented that when he helps with roadside clean-ups he sees fewer than in the past.

Board Chairman Robert MacFarland said if retail-size plastic bags are banned, garbage bags should be, too: “They’re made out of plastic, and they’re four times as big.” His comment sparked a brief non-serious discussion of other plastic items that could be included in any ban.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is currently scheduled for Monday evening, March 18.

A mother’s instinct gives her son the chance he needed

Lacey and Chance Cunningham

by Jeanne Marquis

A local toddler, Chance Cunningham, from China, received a successful bone marrow transplant in Boston, Massachusetts, to fight a rare disorder of his immune system, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH. Chance and his parents Lacey and Jeremy Cunningham returned home on the weekend of March 2, following a long, emotional stay in Boston.

Lacey and Jeremy Cunningham with son Chance prior to his illness. (Contributed photo)

Lacey’s strong mothering instinct led to the early diagnosis of her young son’s HLH. She knew what he was experiencing was more than the typical childhood illness when Chance’s fever wouldn’t break and she felt hardening around his stomach area. Mothers know when something is wrong. What she didn’t know at the time was just how serious this illness could be until she and her husband Jeremy arrived at the Boston Children’s Hospital. It became real when a staff member told Lacey, “It’s very hard for parents of chronically ill children.” She said, “I was taken aback, like whoa, my son, my baby is considered to be chronically ill.”

Left unchecked, the ailing immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy organs and tissues. The treatment for HLH is to literally rebuild the immune system. The existing immune system needs to be inactivated by chemotherapy and replaced by a bone marrow transplant from a compatible and healthy donor.

The search for an appropriate bone marrow donor is more challenging than one would think. You might assume that family members are the best match. However, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, only 30 percent of patients have a relative that is a suitable match and able to donate. The other 70 percent, nearly 12,000 people in the US, depend on a worldwide registry of bone marrow donors for this lifesaving transplant.

Chance Cunningham

Chance’s donor came all the way from Germany. There is a desperate shortage of bone marrow donors in the U.S. On average 3,000 Americans die every year waiting for transplants, while only two percent of our population is listed on the registry for bone marrow donors. Bone marrow transplants are the only cure for HLH, the disease Chance is fighting, and other diseases such as Leukemia, the most common childhood cancer.

When Lacey was interviewed for this article, she asked us to focus more on the need for bone marrow donors than her own story because it is the only cure for many people like her son Chance. There is no alternative. She urges people to list themselves on the national registry for bone marrow transplants. She and her husband Jeremy are extremely thankful for the woman in Germany who donated her marrow. They are grateful for her physical donation of life-saving cells and also for her unfailing time commitment. The donor remained dedicated to the protocol even when the procedure was postponed three times due to Chance’s battle with HLH flare ups.

The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is a nonprofit organization established in 1986 and operates the Be The Match Registry, the world’s largest hematopoietic cell registry. Large numbers of registered donors are needed, especially from ethnic populations, because the odds that two individuals are HLA matched are one in 20,000. The success of a donor match depends on a registry with a large number of participants. To register as a donor, visit BeTheMatch.org and answer a questionnaire. If you are a candidate to be a donor, you will be sent a cheek swab kit in the mail.

The family of Chance Cunningham has set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses at www.gofundme.com/big-cheers-for-little-chance-cunningham.

See also: Debunking the myths about donating bone marrow

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.

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