Grace Academy receives school supplies from BHBT

Students at Grace Academy, in South China, display the donations of school supplies from Bar Harbor Bank and Trust customers, collected at the South China branch. (Contributed photo)

Grace Academy Learning Center recently received a donation of school supplies to the Play And Learn (PAL) after school program from Bar Harbor Bank & Trust.

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust held its first School Supply Drive July 22 – August 16. A total of more than 3,500 items were collected at branch locations across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Local Branch Manager Nichole Lee set up a collection box in the lobby to encourage contributions. Employees and customers alike generously answered the call. Donations, in the form of new notebooks, folders, glue sticks, pencils, and crayons,will benefit local young learners.

“All donations support students and educators in the communities we call home,” said Joseph Schmitt, SVP/Chief Marketing Officer at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. “These supplies will help local children actively participate in classroom learning, making the educational experience better for both students and teachers.”

“This donation has made a huge impact on our small learning community,” stated Executive Director Michelle Bourque, “and we sincerely thank Bar Harbor Bank and Trust and their local staff who not only make banking in our community a pleasure, but learning at Grace a better experience for our students.”

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

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

China Comprehensive Planning Committee continues work on revised plan

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

China local ballot shows one contest, four vacancies

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal questions arise from revised medical marijuana application

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

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China selectmen approve local referendum questions

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other business:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Litter pick up volunteers recognized by selectmen

Representing the Second Saturdays litter pick up group, from left to right, Gary Nichols, Eric Austin, Don Matheson, Richard Dillenbeck, and Town Manager Dennis Heath, presenting the award. (photo by Tom Rumpf)

The volunteers for the litter pick up effort in China, “Second Saturdays,” were officially thanked at the selectboard meeting last week, including Gary Nichols, Eric Austin, Don Matheson, Richard Dillenbeck, Bob Bennett, Katie McCormac, Sandra Isaac, Don Poulin, Jerry Marx, Kara Cox and members of Central Church in South China, Ann Austin, Jeani Marquis, Joe Kantor, Dave Jorgensen, Donna Sukeforth, Lori and Yogi, Tamara and Tim Warren, Mark Jandreau, Nichole Lee, Aurie and the kids, the Boy Scouts, Lori Poulin, Scott Munroe, Sherry Spaulding, Mackenzie Roderick, Lili Lefebvre, Hayden Hoague, Sarah Praul, Jackson Roderick, Melissa Vail and many others who helped with this effort!

Thanks also to the China Town Office, the China Transfer Station and The Town Line newspaper for their help and support!

Larry Kassman to speak at Albert Church Brown Library

Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village.

Larry Kassman, a resident of Albion, will give an illustrated public presentation on his weathervane hobby at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, 37 Main Street, China Village. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

Larry started collecting weathervanes over 40 years ago. He got started after buying his first example at the Burnham Auction and has been collecting ever since. Being a historian by nature, he has collected not only physical pieces but interesting stories about this form of “folk art.”

Larry will talk about the origins of weathervanes. The interesting symbolism of the figures. Why are there so many roosters on churches? Who stole the famous grasshopper weathervane from Faneuil Hall, in Boston in 1974? How did racehorses get involved?

You will get to see several fine examples of weathervanes.

Finally, you will hear about what makes weathervanes desirable and collectible if you want to start your own collection.

CORRECTION: This story previously listed this event as taking place on Saturday. It should be Sunday. Story has been updated.

The 2020 census comes to central Maine

by Eric W. Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windsor selectmen reduce tax rate to 12.7 mils

by Sandra Isaac

Windsor selectmen decided to lower the tax rate to 12.7 mils ($12.70 for each $1,000 of valuation) at the August 20 meeting. Last year’s rate was 12.9 mils or $12.90 for each $1000 of valuation.

Assessors Agent, Vernon Ziegler, CMA, met with selectmen to set the 2019-2020 mil rate. Ziegler explained the process in great detail for those attending the meeting. “Windsor tax bills are approximately equal to what the town needs to run, but must include overlay to cover expenses and to make sure there is enough cash flow to keep the town running,” said Ziegler. The state mandates that municipalities shall not exceed five percent overlay.

Currently, the town of Windsor collects over $4 million in taxes, of which $759,000 is needed for the town to function. Approximately 80 percent of taxes collected is allocated to the county and schools.

Other factors that were considered included the revaluation of real estate that will be happening later this year. The last revaluation was completed in 2006. Further discussion topics included comparisons of surrounding towns rates and the four utility companies which currently pay a large portion of the town’s tax receipts.

After reviewing the data and listening to Ziegler’s recommendation, selectmen approved a 12.7 mil rate by a unanimous vote. Town Manager Theresa Haskell scheduled printing of the tax bills for later that evening and expected postal delivery to town property owners starting the last week in August.

In other news, the Ladies Aide was recognized by town officials with the Spirit of America award for its members’ dedication of time, aid and service to the town of Windsor and beyond. In addition to the plaques, the ladies are being invited to the Spirit of America award celebration later this year in Augusta.

During the town manager’s report, Haskell said the auditors completed their visit and that it all went well, but Haskell has yet to receive the final report. The auditor recommended carrying over $59,920 from major road construction to the major road/bridge and culvert replacement reserve, stating the difference is merely a formality to stay consistent with the current wording as approved by voters. Haskell also requested approval to take $10,000 from the bridge reserve account from 2018 that didn’t get transferred, and use it to open a certificate of deposit account (CD) that will mature in July 2020 to coincide with other maturing CDs. The selectmen approved the request.

The next regularly scheduled Windsor selectmen’s meeting will be on Tuesday, September 3 at 6 p.m.