Vassalboro speed limits, transfer station redesign topics of selectmen’s meeting

by Mary Grow

At their May 16 meeting, Vassalboro selectmen talked again about the speed limit on South Stanley Hill Road and about redesigning the transfer station, coming to no conclusion on either issue.

State, not municipal, officials set local speed limits. Town Manager Mary Sabins said she had an email from David Allen of the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) presenting two options for the South Stanley Hill Road:

  • Leave the speed limit as it is, 30 miles an hour driving east and north from the curve close to Route 32 (Main Street) and 45 miles an hour from the field beyond the Blumberg property; or
  • Lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour from the Route 32 intersection to the Friends Church and raise it to 35 miles an hour from there to the 45-mile zone.

Sabins said Allen, who was at a conflicting meeting that evening, recommends leaving the limits as they are. Residents who signed a petition bringing the request to selectmen and those who spoke May 16 want a longer 25-mile-an-hour zone, citing housing density and the number of blind driveways. Several also mentioned that the signs separating the 30 and 45 zones are not opposite each other, leaving a stretch with two different limits depending on which way a vehicle is traveling.

Selectmen postponed further discussion until Allen can join them.

Board member John Melrose presented a sketch of a possible new traffic pattern at the transfer station that would maximize one-way traffic and minimize the need to back up to drop off recyclables and trash.

Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus proposed a revision that Melrose thought sounded good. “I think anything is better than the way it is,” Titus commented.

Plans include a second entrance east of the present one. Melrose said Allen approved it as meeting state requirements for sight distance. His idea is that big trucks hauling trash would use one entrance, private cars and small trucks the other.

Public Works Director Eugene Field said adding an entrance might require relocating a drain pipe.

Selectmen postponed a decision until they have more information, including the location of the drain pipe and how often trash-hauling trucks come in during regular hours when they would overlap with residents’ vehicles.

Melrose also continued discussion of his proposal to revive Vassalboro’s Trails Committee. He presented a list of five conservation and sanctuary properties in town.

In other business, selectmen decided to meet only once a month in July and August, as in past years. They chose July 18 and August 15 as meeting dates.

Their next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, May 30. Vassalboro’s annual town meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 3, at Vassalboro Community School, and continues with written-ballot voting Tuesday, June 11.

Construction begins for alewives restoration at Ladd Dam in North Vassalboro

The Ladd Dam in North Vassalboro. (Photo by Roland D. Hallee)

by Landis Hudson

The Ladd Dam, in North Vassalboro, will soon have a technical fishway installed to allow alewives to move past it to their spawning ground. It’s not the final step in the overall project, but a critical one, and scheduled to start this summer following plans developed by the Department of Marine Resources, and US Fish and Wildlife Service, working with local engineers and dam owner Ray Breton. Maintaining the Ladd Dam impoundment will keep the swimming area, a favorite spot on hot summer days.

The work is an important step in the Alewife Restoration Initiative which will re-establish passage from the ocean to China Lake. The goal of the project is to restore an annual migratory run of 800,000 – 950,000 adult alewives (river herring). Two dams have been removed to date, the Masse and Lombard Dams. The Ladd, Box Mill and Outlet Dams will be fitted with technical fishways. The Ladd Dam is located just upstream from the Box Mill Dam. The work is part of a greater Kennebec restoration effort that dates back to the 1980s. It builds on the success at Benton where alewife numbers were estimated at just 400,000 in 2008, but jumped to a record 5.7 million last year.

In March, Town of China voters approved $25,000 to support fish passage work at the Outlet Dam which controls the China Lake water level but does not allow alewives to make their way into or safely out of the lake. Fish have been stocked in China Lake by the Department of Marine Resources and can be seen schooling in the lake in large numbers through the late summer and into the autumn. Some fish are able to make their way out of the lake but the remaining dams lack fish passage to ensure their survival as they make their way downstream to the ocean.

Voters from the Town of Vassalboro will be asked to support the project as well by approving the transfer of revenue received by the town from the current alewife harvest at Webber Pond to support the work at Outlet Stream.

Restoring alewife runs contributes to the health of the entire Gulf of Maine because alewives are forage fish for the larger species including cod, haddock, tuna, striped bass — and food for eagles, ospreys, otters, and raccoons.

The nonprofit organization Maine Rivers has been coordinating the project. Chuck Verrill, president of Maine Rivers, sees long-term value in river and stream restoration. “It’s our hope that this work will provide benefits to future generations who will grow up seeing the stream come alive with an annual migration of fish.” Locally, community members are hopeful that the restoration work will help improve the water quality of China Lake that has suffered from algae blooms. The historical presence of alewives was reconfirmed with the discovery of letters and documents in the Massachusetts Archives.

The restoration of alewives to China Lake has been a priority for the Maine Department of Marine Resources for many years, based on agency goals to restore historic runs of this native species. This past spring, the Department stocked 25,000 native alewives directly into China Lake to jump-start restoration efforts. “We know this kind of work takes long-term vision and great attention to detail over several seasons. We are pleased to see this progress,” said Patrick Keliher, Com­mis­sioner, Maine Depart­ment of Marine Re­sources.

The project relies on partnerships and is supported by the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, the China Region Lakes Alliance, the China Lake Association, Maine Rivers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Towns of China and Vassalboro.

Funding has come from sources including: Patagonia, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, The Nature Conservancy in Maine, MNRCP, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Davis Conservation Foundation, and the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.

VASSALBORO: Planners approve three applications

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members unanimously approved all three applications on their May 7 agenda, attaching a condition to one.

Permits were approved for:

  • Cornerstone Christian Fellowship on Riverside Drive to expand parking space, with work to be done in two phases.
  • Thaddeus Clark to put a mobile home on an existing slab, drill a well and later build a house on a Matthews Avenue lot that is in the shoreland zone along a small stream. None of the construction will be within 100 feet of the water.
  • Timothy Dowd to begin an indoor marijuana-growing facility in one of the old mill buildings in North Vassalboro, with the condition that Dowd will install an air filtration system that will prevent any odor from escaping the growing room.

Codes Enforcement Officer Richard Dolby said Dowd’s will be the fourth licensed marijuana-growing business in Vassalboro.

Selectmen sign warrant for June 3, 11 town meeting

by Mary Grow

At their May 2 meeting, Vassalboro selectmen signed the warrant for the June 3 and June 11 town meeting and discussed a proposal it includes asking voters to spend $1,000 to improve Soldiers Memorial Park in East Vassalboro (Art. 27).

Selectman John Melrose came up with the park plan as part of the 2021 observance of Vassalboro’s 250th anniversary.

The tall granite statue of a Civil War soldier on a field between the East Vassalboro boat landing and the former East Vassalboro schoolhouse, now the historical society museum, would remain the centerpiece of the park. The soldier stands on a platform listing names of Vassalboro’s Civil War veterans. Melrose still hopes someone knows where the soldier’s missing rifle is and will help the town reclaim it.

Melrose’s plan calls for a handicapped-accessible walkway from Route 32 to the statue, a circular walkway around it, gardens on both sides and storyboards commemorating Vassalboro residents’ service in wars from the Revolution to Vietnam.

The process of removing dead and diseased trees and planting new ones on the school and park grounds has started, with help from Fieldstone Gardens, the public works crew and volunteers (including local beavers). Melrose plans to continue to collaborate with interested town organizations, businesses and individuals.

There was a brief discussion of moving the two monuments in front of the old town office in North Vassalboro to the park, if North Vassalboro residents are willing. The older monument recognizes Vassalboro men who served in the War of 1898 and World War I (identified as “The World War 1914-1918”), with names listed. The younger and smaller, put up by Ronco-Goodale American Legion Post #126, honors “All veterans from Vassalboro.”

The other two selectmen support Melrose’s plan.

Discussion of the land encompassing the boat landing, park and former school touched on three related issues: state plans to rebuild Route 32, including the need to define road right-of-way boundaries before planting roadside trees in the park; ARI (Alewife Restoration Initiative) plans to install a fishway at the China Lake outlet dam; and boundaries between town-owned land and land owned by the Kennebec Water District (KWD).

The June town meeting warrant includes a request to authorize selectmen to approve modifications to the dam to restore passage for alewives into China Lake.

Town Manager Mary Sabins said she and KWD officials are still negotiating renewal of the agreement under which KWD has managed the dam in return for a $1,200 annual payment from the town. KWD, under new managers, now wants to double the payment and lessen its duties.

Vassalboro’s include accepting the KWD proposal, perhaps with modifications; taking over dam management and paying KWD nothing; or, as state law allows, abandoning the dam. The assumption is that if Vassalboro abandoned the dam, self-interest would require either KWD or the Town of China to take it over, the former to maintain water levels and quality, the latter to protect the taxes paid by shoreline owners.

In other business May 2:

  • Sabins reported replacement of Vassalboro’s streetlights with LED lights is tentatively scheduled for July, August or September of this year.
  • The manager said Central Maine Disposal, the company contracted to haul Vassalboro’s trash and supply porta-potties around town, has merged with Pine Tree Waste-Casella, effective May 1. She was told there will be no immediate changes.
  • Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Michael Vashon said the value of replacing the worn-out boiler at the North Vassalboro fire station with heat pumps is questionable. He reported that with help from J. J. Wentworth of the public works department, firefighters had their hoses and ladders tested; they need to replace some hose sections and repair their longest and least-used ladder.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting will be Thursday evening, May 16. The annual town meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 3, at Vassalboro Community School, where voters will act on the first 63 warrant articles, including municipal and school budgets. The last three articles – local elections, confirmation (or rejection) of the school budget and a decision on continuing the school budget ratification vote for three more years – will be presented for a written-ballot vote on June 11. Polls at the town office will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Vassalboro honors World War II veterans

Earl Brown (right) accepts his commemorative certificate from American Legion Commander Tom Richards (left). (photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

The fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral, in France, was still burning on Monday evening, April 15, as a small group gathered at St. Bridget’s Community Center, in Vassalboro, to celebrate the service of the soldiers who had freed that country from Nazi occupation 75 years earlier.

Legion Chaplain Pearley Lachance opens the ceremony in prayer. (photo by Eric Austin)

The devastation unfolding in Paris was clearly on the minds of everyone, as Pearley Lachance, American Legion chaplain for Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5, in Waterville, opened the ceremony in prayer. “We are witnessing, via television, the destruction by fire of Notre-Dame, in Paris,” the chaplain intoned solemnly. “Paris was liberated by our brave troops in 1944. Many of them came home with memories of having visited this holy site. To the remaining veterans of that great war, we are grateful, and pray that God protects them until their final hour. Amen.”

Later, Jim Kilbride, Adjutant for Vassalboro American Legion Post 126, explained the impetus for holding this celebration honoring local World War II veterans. “We were having meetings,” he said, “and realized that for a lot of our older veterans, it was getting harder for them to come to the meetings. We decided we needed to do something before they were all gone. When we originally started researching it, we thought we had seven [veterans of World War II], only to find out that two had passed away recently.”

Although the Legion eventually identified five Vassalboro World War II veterans still living, three of those men, James W. Gray (US Army), Roland Lapointe (US Army), and Robert Roux (US Navy), could not make it to the ceremony for health reasons. Earl Brown (US Army) and Willard Sleamaker (US Navy) were in attendance, however.

Willard Sleamaker (left), US Navy, accepts his certificate of recognition from Commander Tom Richards. (photo by Eric Austin)

Willard Sleamaker was only 17 when he joined the Navy, and was stationed on an island repair station in the Philippines during the war. “We maintained a little island that became the ship repair center for the Pacific,” he explained. “My job as a kid was to operate equipment, grease it and keep it maintained.”

Earl Brown was drafted into the Army right out of high school, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and served as a field medic in the 79th division. He remembers participating in the liberation of Paris in August 1944, and visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fighting ended. “That’s why I’ve been watching all day,” referring to the fire still burning in the Gothic church.

(Earl can usually be found at Bee’s Snack Bar, in Winslow, around 10 a.m. each morning, so be sure to drop by to say hello and thank him for his service.)

Richard Bradstreet, Vassalboro resident and state representative for District 80, also spoke briefly at the ceremony. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here,” he said. “We honor our people who served their country.” Then, referring to Tom Brokaw’s 2004 book, The Greatest Generation, which he had recently finished reading, he said, “It was really eye-opening to me what the Greatest Generation went through in service to our country. I appreciate all the work that you’ve done, and appreciate our World War II veterans especially. They are part of the Greatest Generation, and I’m gratified to be here. Thank you.”

Richard Bradstreet, State Representative for District 80, speaks at the commemoration ceremony. (photo by Eric Austin)

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening came when Post 126 Adjutant Jim Kilbride read a certificate originally sent by the State of Maine to the families of soldiers killed in World War I. “In 1920, the State of Maine sent this certificate to the families of those that passed away during World War I,” he told the audience. “I have never seen a statement that better covers what it means to serve your country.” He then read from the century-old document: “’War means sacrifice. Every man or woman who enters the service lays at the feet of his country his hopes, his ambition, and his life. This is fully understood and yet it lessens not but little the sense of loss when that supreme sacrifice is made.’” After a pause, he looked up at the audience again, his eyes tight with emotion. “That is what it means to serve your country — to put your life, your hopes, your ambitions, your dreams on the line for your country,” he said, and then asked for a moment of silence, “for the men and women who have passed away in war, combat or in active service, and to remember those who are serving now.”

Legion Adjutant Jim Kilbride speaks at the gathering to honor WWII veterans. (photo by Eric Austin)

After the ceremony, Adjutant Jim Kilbride and Commander Tom Richards spoke about the current state of the American Legion. “We don’t have that many members,” Richards admitted sadly. Younger veterans aren’t joining the Legion as they have in the past, and he is worried the Legion won’t be around for the next generation.

Kilbride thinks the Legion is a victim of its own success. Because of the important work of the American Legion, the VFW and other organizations, veterans’ benefits, as well as the public perception of returning soldiers, has improved tremendously – a marked contrast to the days after the Vietnam War. But, he warns, those gains were only accomplished through strength of numbers. “What we try to get younger veterans to understand is, without their membership, we have a very hard time working with Congress and the Senate on veterans’ issues,” Kilbride said.

Waterville American Legion Post 5 chaplain, Pearley Lachance, who was recently named 2019 Legionnaire of the Year, is also doing his part to keep the memories of local veterans alive. For years he has collected the names of area veterans, particularly from the first two world wars. “What happened with this project,” he said, “it just got out of hand. I now have over 8,000 names of people from central Maine.” Lachance began compiling the list by poring through more than a thousand newspaper articles saved in an old scrapbook by a local teacher from the 1940s, which is now archived at the Waterville American Legion. Then, two or three years ago, he realized, “Those [names] are just words on a page.” He then began tracking down photos to go with every name. He’s gathered 400 pictures so far, 15 of which are from Vassalboro.

If you have a grandfather or grandmother who served in either world war, and a photo you’d be willing to share (he’ll scan it and get it back to you), you are encouraged to contact him at 873-0358 or through the American Legion Post 5, in Waterville.

Each veteran honored at the ceremony was presented with two certificates, one from the State of Maine, thanking them for their service during World War II, and the other from the American Legion, thanking them for their years of service with the American Legion.

The American Legion Post 129 meets every other month at St. Bridget’s Community Center, in Vassalboro.

Quilts for the children

Photo courtesy of Rachel Kilbride.

Ladies from Rachel Kilbride’s Sew for a Cause group, in North Vassalboro, that meets at St. Bridget’s Community Center recently presented 30 quilts to Project Linus, a nonprofit that donates blankets to disadvantaged children. Marlene Sanborn, from Project Linus, spoke to the group about the program when she picked up the quilts.

Vassalboro budget committee, selectmen agree on suggested expenditures

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Budget Committee members went through most of the proposed 2019-2020 municipal budget at their April 11 meeting, agreeing with the selectmen’s suggested expenditures. There was no dissent on any recommendation.

Before any votes were taken, Lauchlin Titus, chairman of the board of selectmen, explained some of the issues selectmen had discussed as they reached their recommended figures, issues like what to do about the elderly town grader, whether the police officer needed a vehicle and to what extent the town should assist the Vassalboro Sanitary District’s costly connection to Winslow and Waterville.

The last issue remains up in the air, Titus said. Selectmen intend to provide Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money to the Sanitary District, as they have done in the past; residents might also add by petition a request for tax dollars, or a rejection of using TIF money for the Sanitary District, or both.

After the voting, Titus introduced additional topics. Budget committee members unanimously endorsed matching funds in case grant applications were successful and establishment of an accrued compensation fund. The latter would cover costs if an employee retired with the town owing him or her compensation for unused vacation pay or other benefits.

With the committee’s usual two-hour deadline exceeded and Titus prepared to add five or six more items, further discussion was postponed to an April 16 meeting.

Vassalboro selectmen are scheduled to review the draft warrant at their April 18 meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office. Voters will make the final decisions on 2019-2020 expenditures at the June 3 town meeting.

Vassalboro library annual meeting scheduled


The annual meeting of the Vassalboro Public Library Association will be held on Wednesday, April 17, at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend this meeting. If you are interested in joining the association, dues are $10 for an individual and $20 for a family. Please contact the library for more information at 923-3233.

Maine Author Laurie Graves will be at the Vassalboro Public Library on Wednesday, April 17, at 2 p.m. Laurie will be reading from the her book Library Lost on the topic of “Heroes and Villains. Library Lost is the second book in The Great Library Series. She will offer a sneak preview of the third book in the series as well.

Books will be available to purchase and she will sign books as well. This program is free and open to the public. If you have questions please contact the Vassalboro Public Library at 923-3233.

Vassalboro nomination papers deadline is April 12

In preparation for Vassalboro’s June 3 annual town meeting and June 11 local elections, signed nomination papers for positions on the board of selectmen and the school board are due at the town office by noon Friday, April 12.

Selectmen are scheduled to review the proposed warrant for the June 3 open meeting at their April 18 meeting and to sign the final warrant at their May 2 meeting.

If residents intend to put a question on either ballot by petition, the signed petition must be in the town office by the respective deadline.

Selectmen to ask MDOT for new sidewalks

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen decided at their April 4 meeting to ask the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) to include new sidewalks in North Vassalboro as part of the Route 32 (Main Street in North and East Vassalboro villages) rebuilding project.

Lauchlin Titus and John Melrose voted yes; Robert Brown abstained. Only Titus lives on Main Street (North Vassalboro), and the sidewalk no longer reaches his house.

The reason for hesitation is that although the MDOT will pay for the sidewalks, the town is obligated to plow and sand them. The same rule applies to the existing sidewalks, which are at least 50 years old, audience members said, and have not been a high priority for maintenance.

Melrose, a former MDOT commissioner, said state law allows the state to plow sidewalks when a town doesn’t and to bill the town – but he never heard of the state invoking the law. Later in the evening, he told Budget Committee members that as far as he knows, no other Maine town has turned down state-funded sidewalks.

Before voting to sign the agreement promising to maintain state-provided sidewalks, Titus asked, “Can we in good faith sign something that says we’ll maintain them when we know we might not?”

Reasons for including new sidewalks are that state highway officials and some residents think curbed sidewalks are safer for pedestrians than a paved shoulder, and if Vassalboro decides after the Route 32 project is done to add them, the town will pay construction costs.

Since the project is scheduled for two or three years in the future, Titus said town officials have time to decide whether winter maintenance should be done by the town public works crew or contracted out.

North Vassalboro residents also raised again the issue of increased Vassalboro Sanitary District (VSD) fees.

The VSD needs money to complete its connection to the Winslow-Waterville sewage disposal system. Users have proposed a town meeting warrant article asking taxpayers for money; selectmen declined to add the article and advised on the procedure for putting an article before voters by petition.

Two other funding sources are in the works. Melrose said a decision should be made soon on a state Department of Environ­mental Protection grant; and Titus and Town Manager Mary Sabins said part of Vassalboro’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) money is likely to be recommended for the VSD by the time the Budget Committee finishes pre-town-meeting deliberations. Almost $300,000 in TIF money has gone into the expansion project already, Titus said. When a resident said Sanitary District officials told him the district’s client list is not public information, Sabins suggested filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

In other business April 4, selectmen agreed to create a small working group to join discussion of rearranging the transfer station. Interested residents should contact town office staff.

Sabins said selectmen agreed to add to the June warrant an article concerning a solar array to generate electricity, without designating a location.

They asked her to seek legal advice on what new arrangement, if any, the town should seek concerning the Riverside fire station, currently used under an old agreement by which it would revert to the lessor – deceased, town officials believe – if the Riverside Hose Company no longer needed it.

Selectmen followed their April 4 regular meeting with an April 8 budget workshop. Melrose proposed three topics: reconsidering the appropriation for solid waste hauling in the transfer station budget; considering additional uses for TIF funds; and making the Public Works Department request for money for grader repairs more flexible, since the grader’s condition and therefore what to do about it are unknowns.

After more than an hour’s discussion, selectmen voted unanimously:

  • To recommend $10,000 less for solid waste hauling, based on the contract price for the service and manager George Hamar’s updated information on the number of trips;
  • To ask Sabins to find out what kinds of town activities and projects are eligible for TIF money; and
  • To ask Sabins to draft a town meeting warrant article asking voters to appropriate money for grader analysis, with anything left over to go toward paving as much as possible of the town garage driveway.

Sabins presented a new proposal, to share membership with China in ITN (Independent Transportation Network), at a cost of $1,000 to $1,250 per year. The organization relies on volunteer drivers to provide rides to senior citizens, with, apparently, freedom for participating towns to set some of their own rules and standards.

Sabins said Christopher Hahn, head of the China for a Lifetime Committee, proposed the joint project to Friends Advocating for Vassalboro Older Residents (FAVOR). Selectmen are interested but would like more information before recommending funds.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, April 18.