Practice makes perfect

Lukas Blais, 6, of Vassalboro, trained with Nunchucks at the Huard’s Martial Arts boot camp in August. (photo by Carolyn Blais)

Vassalboro selectmen hear Growth Council representatives

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen hosted representatives of the Central Maine Growth Council (CMGC) at their Sept. 5 meeting to hear about potential advantages of CMGC help with town projects.

Senior Economic Development Specialist Garvan Donegan, accompanied by Development Coordinator Elaine Theriault-Currier, explained that CMGC is a Waterville-based public-private regional economic development organization funded by area municipalities – it serves as the economic development department for Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland – and more than 90 colleges, hospitals and businesses.

The organization helps members attract and site new businesses, expand existing businesses, develop a workforce, implement solar power, do land use planning (including recreational trails), and apply for grants – all items of interest to Vassalboro selectmen.

Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus commented that the town is so much a bedroom community that, “You can’t buy a drop of gasoline in Vassalboro,” to fill your lawnmower.

Membership in CMGC would cost Vassalboro about $14,000, Donegan estimated. Membership fees are based on a formula that combines population and state property valuation. Vassalboro officials could also use CMGC services on an hourly-fee basis.

Donegan gave selectmen figures on grants received by CMGC members that substantially exceeded membership fees. New businesses would increase tax revenue, Titus added.

Board members postponed decisions to a future meeting. Residents’ comments and suggestions are welcome before and at the next discussion.

The other major topic Sept. 5 was whether, and if so, how to redesign the Vassalboro transfer station to make it safer. Board members decided they want to continue to use the present compacter-plus-roll-off-containers disposal system, instead of changing to, for example, large open-top tractor-trailers; and they probably want to move the entrance off Lombard Dam Road farther east, to gain more sight distance.

Town Manager Mary Sabins is in touch with the companies that made and sold the town’s compacter in 1988 and plans to schedule an inspection, with an eye to replacing the aged machinery. Selectmen asked her to ask Road Commissioner Eugene Field to develop a plan and a cost estimate for a new entrance.

Rather than redesign the interior traffic pattern, they proposed using cones and other barriers to create temporary patterns for station Manager George Hamar to experiment with.

In other business, selectmen unanimously approved Recreation Director Danielle Sullivan’s request to add a cheerleading program for third- through sixth-graders to the Vassalboro recreation program. Sullivan said she has a coach lined up and permission to practice in the school gym; registration fees will cover the cost of uniforms.

By another unanimous vote, selectmen added school board member Jessica Clark to the Solar Energy Project Committee.

Sabins reported two former town officials have returned. Paul Mitnik is the codes officer after Richard Dolby resigned and Peter A. Nerber is animal control officer after Christina LeBlanc resigned. Mitnik’s town office hours are scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than closing time, Sabins said.

Titus commented, a propos of residents’ complaints about lack of law enforcement, that he saw state police blue-lighting speeders in two different parts of town on two consecutive days.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Sept. 19. Board members voted unanimously to cancel an Oct. 3 meeting, due to conflicts for Sabins and Selectman Robert Browne. Should early-October decisions be needed, they can schedule a special meeting.

New playground opens at Vassalboro Community School

by Mary Grow

The pre-kindergarten (preK) students at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) now have their own playground sized for four-year-olds, thanks to the Southern Kennebec Regional Development Corporation’s Head Start program.

The new playground, funded entirely by Head Start and designed with input from Vassalboro’s preK staff, is close enough to the older students’ area so siblings can wave to each other, but each group has its own facilities. For the preK group, there are a climbing castle and a swing set on a circle of wood-chip-covered ground.

The youngsters have a 40-minute daily recess to use the new playground. “They love it,” VCS Principal Megan Allen said.

The Head Start grant that provided the playground has been extended to December, Allen said. Additional funds will buy four tricycles, plus safety helmets, for preK students.

Vassalboro’s preK program is in its fifth year, runs five full days a week and has 18 students, its highest enrollment so far. There are three full-time staff: veteran VCS preK teachers Jessica Field and Sarah Page and educational technician Danielle Plossay. Page is a Head Start employee and spends part of her time providing the in-home services that are part of Head Start programs; Field and Plossay are VCS employees.

Allen said the playground project involved working with two “fantastic” women from the Regional Development Corporation, Agency Director Cristina Salois and Program Manager Melissa Savage.

The larger playground is limited during school hours to students five years old and older, probably, Allen surmised, to meet insurance regulations. Both areas are used by families after school and on weekends, she said.

The PreK program began almost entirely separate from the rest of the VCS community, Allen said, but preK students are getting involved in more and more school experiences. The plan is to have the youngest students “integrated into the school environment as much as possible.”

They’re sharing the cafeteria; a few minutes after the preK children sit down to eat the kindergartners join them and after a few more minutes the first-graders. Classes are small enough so the space is neither too noisy nor too crowded, Allen commented.

Beginning in October, the preK students will have a turn at music, gym time, library visits, computer work and other additions to classroom teaching, just as the older students do.

Sew for a Cause group gears back up for winter sessions

Pillows created by Sew for a Cause for foster children to decorate and give to their siblings at Camp to Belong. (photo by Jeanne Marquis)

by Jeanne Marquis

In talented hands, fabric and thread can help improve lives of many individuals, both locally and in a distant continent. This is the motivation of a group called Sew for a Cause, established by Rachel Kilbride. Sew for a Cause reconvened after their short summer break to work on projects on September 5, at the St. Bridget Center, in Vassalboro. Future sewing sessions will be September 19 and October 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sew for a Cause began in November 2018 and now has over 20 passionate, highly productive members. Their love for sewing is surpassed only by their love of giving what they have made to comfort others: newborn infants, elderly, foster children, veterans, families in shelters and the infirmed. Among the items these skilled ladies sew are comfort caps for cancer patients, baby quilts, pillowcases, lap and full-size quilts.

Rachel Kilbride says that 90 percent of their material and batting is donated. Oftentimes, fabric and unfinished sewing projects are presented to the group when neighbors are cleaning out a parent’s home. Sew for a Cause graciously accepts most sewing materials and volunteer hours. Sometimes fabric donations come in just when the materials are needed the most. In this first year, the group had a project that required an enormous amount of fleece. No sooner had they discovered the need, Rachel had received a phone call from a donor who had the correct yardage.

Sew for a Cause also produces unique fabric items for special needs. For example, they create fidget quilts for Alzheimer’s patients to help simulate memories. These are lap size quilts with touchable symbols of what may have been important to the individual in their younger years, such as small toy baseball bat or a small fuzzy dog sewn into the quilt. Touching these symbols helps to open a dialogue between Alzheimer’s patient and their caregivers.

Another special need was fulfilled by Bunnie Picher who sewed over 200 washable feminine hygiene pads for young girls in Uganda. These items of necessity help prevent girls from missing a week of school each month, so girls can build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

(photo by Jeanne Marquis)

Sew for a Cause sews pillows and quilts designed for foster children to write messages on and give to their siblings to commemorate their week together. Camp To Belong is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting brothers and sisters who have become separated in foster care with a week of camp.

The Camp Director for Camp to Belong Maine, Adrian Phair explains, “These kids have been through so much and lost so much during their short lives – including living and growing up without their siblings, something most people with siblings take for granted. For these kids to have something to take home with them, from their siblings with each other’s writing on them – with their messages and thoughts to each other, gives them all something to hold on to, physically, and emotionally. It’s a reminder that their sibling is with them always, as a friend, as a family member, as someone who will be there for them as the years go by. The fact that these pillows were made by such an amazing group of sewers, who want to give back whatever they can is an act that has an amazing ripple effect.”

The ripple effect has touched many other organizations throughout Central Maine as well, including a women’s shelter, Togus VA Medical Center, assisted living homes and other institutions. The women of Sew for a Cause put their heart and soul in their projects.

Both their altruistic spirit and camaraderie of these talented women is evident when you attend one of their sewing sessions within the walls of the St. Bridget Center. Laughter and conversation rise above the hum of the machines and sewing shears. They encourage others to join and make it clear that there is plenty of work for non-sewers as well. For more information on how to get involved or to donate sewing materials, call Rachel Kilbride at 207-604-9339.

Local residents named to the Becker College dean’s list

The following local residents were named to dean’s list at Becker College for the spring 2019 semester.

Rebecca Beringer, of Waterville, is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in exercise science, pre-physical therapy/health science concentration.

Brandon Coulombe, of Vassalboro, is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in interactive media design, game development and programming concentration.

2019 Real Estate Tax Due Dates


Monday, September 30


(pay all up front or semi-annually)
Friday, September 27
Friday, March 27, 2020


Thursday, October 17


(pay all up front or quarterly)
Monday, September 23
Monday, November 25
Monday, February 24, 2020
Monday, April 27, 2020


(pay all up front or quarterly)
October 11
December 13
March 13, 2020
June 12, 2020


(pay all up front or biannually)
September 30 or
Half on Sept. 30
and half March 31, 2020

VASSALBORO: Back to school issues dominate board’s meeting

by Mary Grow

Not surprisingly, Vassalboro School Board members spent most of their Aug. 20 meeting discussing back-to-school issues. A preliminary result of their deliberations about the school lunch program appeared in the packets sent home to parents as school opened Aug. 27.

The welcome-back packet included a survey asking parents how often their children ate school-provided food, what they liked and disliked and especially what the meals program could do to encourage participation. Survey results will be anonymous and confidential. Information is also on the new website,

Board members and Superintendent Alan Pfieffer stressed the importance of student participation in the meals program, which includes breakfast and lunch. The state, using federal funds and guidelines, reimburses schools for free and reduced-price meals served to students whose families meet income requirements. Yet, Pfeiffer said, many families eligible for the program do not apply.

As a result, the Vassalboro Community School lunch program, like many others in Maine, runs a deficit, and Vassalboro doesn’t receive federal money for which it could be eligible.

Board members also voted to join the Kennebec Alliance Service Center, which is a totally different thing from the former AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92.

The service center, Pfeiffer said, is a more organized version of the informal cooperation among school officials that has existed for decades in such forms as regular superintendents’ meetings, shared staff and cooperative purchasing among different schools and school units.

RSU (Regional School Unit) #18 Superintendent Carl Gartley has been a major proponent of increased cooperation, Pfeiffer said. New state legislation encourages the idea with financial incentives; Pfeiffer expects when the state contribution to local school budgets is calculated in the spring of 2020, Vassalboro will get about $33,000 added as a result of service center membership.

The Kennebec Alliance already includes schools from the Skowhegan area (School Administrative District #54) through Waterville to China, the easternmost RSU #18 member.

Vassalboro is also in the second year of a three-year contract to continue to use the services of former AOS #92 staff members, several of whom regularly attend Vassalboro board meetings. Each of the three former AOS members has its own superintendent. Pfeiffer said he, Eric Haley, in Waterville, and Peter Thiboutot, in Winslow, continue to work together.

In other business Aug. 20, board members unanimously appointed five new staff members at Vassalboro Community School and accepted three resignations.

The meeting was preceded by the first of several proposed long-range planning discussions aimed at evaluating current conditions and developing recommendations for building on strengths and overcoming weaknesses.

The next regular Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Sept. 17.

Invasive Plants 101 workshop, held in China, well attended

Some of the attendees at the Invasive Plant 101 workshop, held in China on August 24, were, from left to right, Sonny Pierce, of Rangeley Lake Heritage Trust, Peter Caldwell and Marie Michaud, China Lake Association, and Spencer Harriman, of Lake Stewards of Maine. (contributed photo)

by Elaine Philbrook

Friend or Foe?

That was the question on participants’ minds who attended the Invasive Plant 101 Workshop, at China Town Office, on August 20.  The workshop was hosted by the China Lake Association and the Kennebec Water Districts. Participants included members of the China Lake Association, the Kennebec Water District, Echo Lake Association, Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, the Boothbay Region Water District, folks from the town of Palermo, and year-round and summer residents of China Lake.

The six-hour workshop was presented in four parts:

  • Overview of invasive species issues in Maine and the Nation;
  • Plant identification fundamentals;
  • Plant identification hands-on exercise with live aquatic plants;
  • Conducting a screening survey, employing tools and techniques.

Illustrations for 11 of Maine’s most unwanted invasive aquatic plants.

The overview included information on the negative impact invasive aquatic plants can have, and have had, on ecosystems, economics, recreation, property values, and human health in and around lake communities.  A few facts shared about Maine lakes and their economic development are as follows: 640,000 residents recreate on Maine lakes, visitors spend $2.3 billion annually, generating and sustaining $3.5 billion in economic activities, $1.8 billion in annual income from Maine residents and over 50,000 jobs.  These figures are from a 2005 study by T. Allen, Center for Tourism Research and Analysis, Maine Congress of Lakes Association.

The town of China benefits through the taxes generated from lake property owners, both year-round and seasonal.  China residents and others enjoy the natural beauty and recreational activities the lake provides. These same activities and pleasures are shared by people visiting for a day or vacationing for a longer period of time.  If China Lake or Three Mile Pond where to become infested by an invasive plant these recreational activities would be jeopardized.  The cost on the community can be phenomenal, from the loss of tax revenue to the expense of plant removal.  Early detection of an invasive aquatic plant will insure that the activities and financial benefits that we all enjoy from experiencing our lakes will continue uninterrupted.

One of the working groups at the Invasive Plants Workshop 101.

The second and third parts of the workshop were about the 11 aquatic invasive plants, their native look-a-likes, and what to do if you find a suspicious plant.  If you think you have found an invasive plant you should mark the sport where you found it, take a photo or obtain a sample of the plant, and contact your local identification representative on invasive plants (Elaine Philbrook) to help with identification (or follow the directions on the Lake Stewards of Maine web site: A word of caution, when gathering a sample of a suspicious plant, be careful to gather all the fragments of the plant.  Invasive plants are able to propagate from very small plant fragments.

The final part of the workshop covered how to conduct a lake screening survey and use helpful tools. A screening survey consists of people who have had training to identify invasive aquatic plants.  Participants choose or are assigned an area on the lake to watch for suspicious plants.  Once a year they report their findings to the lead supervisor.  A survey can take place anytime during the year you can get out on the water. The best time to do a survey is between mid-July to early fall because plants are in bloom.

To become a “screener” you need to be trained.  Trainings can be a six-hour Invasive Plant 101 workshop, or three-hour Invasive Plant Paddle; both are offered by the Lake Stewards of Maine. A third option is an Invasive Plant Paddle offered by a trained local resident.

If you are interested in becoming part of the screening survey team contact Elaine Philbrook at   The goal of the China Lake Association is to have enough trained people available to develop a screening survey team that will continuously monitor the China Lake.

2019 Webber Pond Association takes on three controversial issues

Frank Richards, of Vassalboro, has been president of the Webber Pond Association for 20 years.

Postpone proxy balloting and voter restrictions to 2020

by Roland D. Hallee

This year’s edition of the Webber Pond Association annual meeting took on the feel of meetings from the past. Where in recent years they have been somewhat quiet, especially in regards to the lake drawdown, this year’s version produced additional controversy, with much discussion about the drawdown, and questions about proxy voting and voting restrictions.

Many different views were presented in regards to the drawdown date. In their June meeting, the board of directors had recommended Monday, September 16, as the proposed date. The third Monday in September has been the norm for the last five years or so. The directors came to that conclusion by trying to determine a date that would pass on the first vote.

However, this year, there were other dates mentioned at the annual meeting, mainly October 28 and November 30. The two latter dates never came up for a vote as the September 16 date passed, 33-29, a far closer vote than in years past. Over the last 10 – 12 years, votes in favor of the third Monday have been more one-sided, with few dissenters.

The common thought for the September 16 drawdown was that it has “been beneficial” to lower the water level in September as opposed to later in the year, even though DEP recommendations are for a mid-August drawdown. Association Vice President Charles Backenstose, a strong proponent for early drawdown, said that the September date is a compromise that is still useful at exporting phosphorus, while enabling people to use the lake longer. “Who wants to pull boards [at the dam] in July?” he asked.

Association President Frank Richards noted that the November 30 date coincides with the end of duck season. “I don’t think we’ll get any more water quality benefit by setting the winter level on October 28. There’s just no reason to not wait until November 30, if the membership favors a later draw down.”

Attendees at the meeting also brought up the possibility of implementing proxy voting for members unable to attend the meeting because of work, or other, commitment. Discussion on this topic drew the most heated exchange of the meeting, with some in attendance insisting that the by-laws provided for them to present the question to the membership for a vote at this year’s meeting. It was moved and approved to put the question on the agenda for the 2020 meeting.

Also, a motion to change the by-laws to restrict voting rights to lake property owners only was ruled out of order by Richards. It was the president’s opinion it was too big a change to be put on the agenda without any prior notice. A motion was made to overturn Richards’ ruling, but was defeated, although 16 people did vote to support the motion.

It also was moved and approved to place the voting membership question on the 2020 agenda.

In other business, Bob Nadeau, Webber Pond Association’s representative on the China Region Lakes Alliance, reported that the reason that more shoreline work is being done on China Lake than Webber Pond and Three Mile Pond is because of the fact that China provides significantly more funding to the CRLA than do the other two lakes. Both Webber and Three Mile ponds are located in Vassalboro.

“Alewives continue to be a much-discussed topic as a water quality management tool and as a restoration effort,” said Nadeau. “There is no doubt that the water quality has improved since their introduction into both Webber and Three Mile ponds.”

Nadeau also noted that, as of his knowledge, there are no invasive plants in Webber Pond. The Webber Pond Association voted to give $1,000 to CRLA. In total, according to Nadeau, it costs about $6,000 a year to provide boat inspectors at the three lakes.

In his vice president’s report, Backenstose said the water clarity in the pond has doubled over the last three weeks, to 3.7 meters (approx. 9-1/2 feet), an improvement from less than two meters on July 13. He also has seen no collection of the scum that accumulates when a severe algae bloom is present.

Backenstose has taken Secchi disk readings on the pond for the last 15 years. He also takes phosphorus samples that are analyzed at the state level. There is no data available for Secchi disk readings in October or November, as Backenstose, a Pennsylvania resident, returns home in September and is not available to produce readings for those months, which have increasingly become part of the discussion as far as the annual drawdown is concerned. A member of the audience volunteered to take those readings in order to be able to build a data base for those two months in regards to water clarity. The offer was enthusiastically accepted by Richards.

In his president’s report, Richards said, “Webber is on track to have a really good summer with respect to keeping the lake at a good level.” They have been able to keep levels at the spillway despite several years of drought conditions.

Gov. Janet Mills, left, tries to lift a net full of alewives during the May run. Phil Innes, a Webber Pond Association director, helps the governor. (photo by Jeff Nichols)

The association has been using a management plan for Webber Pond that was drafted in 1990 by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. That plan is in the process of being updated and will be posted on the Facebook page as soon as it is available, according to Richards.

From a question posed by Richards, no one in attendance has caught, nor heard of anyone else on the lake having caught, a northern pike. A good sign.

Richards also noted that in May, Gov. Janet Mills visited the fish ladder at the Webber Pond dam. It marked the first time a Maine governor had ever visited a fish ladder anywhere in the state of Maine. Another landmark appearance was the presence of the directors of the Department of Marine Resources and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to the Vassalboro dam.

Members returned all officers, Frank Richards, president; Charles Backenstose, vice president; Rebecca Lamey, secretary; John Reuthe, treasurer. Also elected were directors Robert Bryson, Scott Buchert, Mary Bussell, Darryl Fedorchak, Roland Hallee, Phil Innes, Jennifer Lacombe, Robert Nadeau, Stephen Pendley, Pearly LaChance, John Reuthe, Susan Traylor and James Webb.

Local students on University of New Hampshire’s dean’s list

The following students have been named to the Dean’s List at the University of New Hampshire for the spring 2019 semester, in Durham, New Hampshire.

Matthew Murray, of Augusta, earning highest honors.

Madeline Lewis, of Augusta, earning highest honors.

Cody Short, of Fairfield, earning high honors.

Bradford Wilbur, of Fairfield, earning honors.

Carly LaRochelle, of Fairfield, earning highest honor.s

Elijah Caret, of Oakland, earning highest honors.

Hannah Duperry, of Oakland, earning highest honors

Adam Bovie, of Vassalboro, earning highest honors