Excise tax fees to increase; selectmen postpone decision on compactor replacement

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen dealt with a variety of issues and made several decisions at their Oct. 29 meeting, although they postponed the most expensive topic for further discussion.

By unanimous votes, the three board members:

  • Approved the state-allowed increase in motor vehicle registration fees, from $3 to $5 for a re-registration and $4 to $6 for a new registration. Town Manager Mary Sabins pointed out that the alternative method for renewing registrations is the on-line Rapid Renewal service.
  • Approved closing the north entrance onto Route 32 (Main Street) in East Vassalboro from the yard in front of the Historical Society building (formerly the East Vassalboro schoolhouse), in the interest of safety and to provide more parking.
  • Waived the purchasing policy’s bidding requirement and bought paving stones from Gagne and Son Concrete of Belgrade to create a new sidewalk around the Civil War statue in the park beside the Historical Society building. Selectman John Melrose, who first proposed park improvements, said staff from Fieldstone Gardens in Vassalboro will lay the stones and provide plantings.
  • Appointed Rebecca Lomey a member of the Board of Appeals through June 2020, finishing Gary Coull’s unexpired term. There is still a vacancy on the board, Sabins said; applications are welcome.
  • Approved annual renewals of junkyard and auto hobbyist permits presented by Codes Officer Paul Mitnik.

The item postponed was replacing the compactor at the transfer station. Sabins had quotes from two companies for different size compactors, with prices starting at over $25,000 She said the present compactor keeps getting repaired and continues to work, though she thinks it might be less efficient than in its younger days.

Sabins added that the tall building that protects trash from rain and snow needs repair.

There is a transfer station reserve fund, board Chairman Lauchlin Titus said, but its money keeps getting diverted for other purposes.

Selectmen postponed action to their next meeting to give themselves time to analyze the quotes. Melrose proposed adding possible building repairs to the discussion.

Melrose, a member of Vassalboro’s newly formed solar committee, said he is invited to the School Board’s Nov. 12 meeting to discuss the possibility of a solar project shared by the town and the school.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14. (The Oct. 29 meeting was moved from the usual Thursday evening because at least one board member had a conflicting Halloween obligation.)

JMG Students do planting at dam area

Pictured is a group of Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) core and hybrid students at Vassalboro Community School, who spent some time at the Masse Dam, in Vassalboro, on October 25, to plant the wild plants they had germinated last winter. With the students are Matt Streeter, who is in charge of the dam projects, in Vassalboro, and Elaine Philbrick, back to, a retired teacher from China. Students were hand planting throughout the dam area. (photo courtesy of Victor Esposito)

Reynolds observe 50th anniversary

Everett and Sandy Reynolds

Everett and Sandy Reynolds were recently honored at a surprise party on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary at the Old Mill, in North Vassalboro, given by their son Scott and daughter-in-law Jean, and daughter Shelly. Friends and family attended from North Dakota, Texas, Arizona, New York and neighboring towns.

There is still plenty of life – and afterlife – in the North Vassalboro Olde Mill

Building Two of the Olde Mill on Main Street in Vassalboro. (photo by Sandy Isaac)

Roof repairs are not the only thing that haunt the Main Street landmark

by Sandy Isaac

When asked, “What do you like most about the mill?” Ray Breton was not able to answer. In fact, he looked at me like I was crazy.

“The architecture, the history, the old writing on the windowsills. The Mill was the center of town for so many years, and still is. We have weddings and birthday parties, flea markets and craft fairs. Being around all the people, watching them have fun and smiling at these events…it’s all my favorite.” It’s safe to say that Ray Breton loves this Mill, and with all this activity, both physical and spiritual, you can understand why.

“The Tower” at the Olde Mill. (photo by Sandy Isaac)

The Olde Mill, located on Main Street, in Vassalboro, was originally called the American Woolen Mill. It was built in approximately 1850 with wings added for each year that coincided with a war: 1850, 1917 and 1943. It was the largest mill in New England. At the height of production, the mill employed over 500 people and won awards for the cashmere that it produced. At one point it housed an actual steam engine that helped power the equipment. The steam engine currently located in Owls Head Transportation Museum is said to be identical in size to the one used in the mill.

The mill ceased operations in 1955, displacing 400 employees. The mill continued to remain active with various companies, such as the Ladd Paper Company and Kenne­bec Bean Company, purchasing parts of the mill to house their own products. Over 15 other companies, including Midstate Machine and Duratherm Windows, started their businesses in the mill before moving into their own facilities. Other companies, including Marden’s and John Julia, called this Olde Mill home at one time or another.

When it finally came up for auction in 2010, Breton was in attendance. The sale price was just under $35,000 for four acres and three buildings. However, after acquiring it, Breton had to spend over $100,000 just fixing up the first building. Maintenance of the buildings is the biggest challenge. Building One houses over 33,000 square feet per floor and has three floors, while Building Two boasts 10,000 square feet per floor and has five floors for a total of over 250,000 square feet.

During the hurricane force rain and wind storm in October 2017, the roof sustained heavy damage. Wind gusts hit the south side of Building One and peeled the front edge of the roof up. Building Two lost over 90 percent of the roofing, including fascia boards and decking. Afterwards, they were able to lay tarps down, but tarps are only made for temporary use and have to be replaced. They have sealed up the areas that they can, but with every storm, they have to chase the leaks, dump endless buckets of water and recover interior surfaces with poly-plastic covers and tape. The estimated cost to repair the roof ranges from $300,000 – $400,000, and increases as time passes. Despite all of the damage, the mill remains very active, and we’re not just talking about ghosts. Recently, the mill hosted Parafest Maine, a convention of sorts for paranormal and unexplained phenomena. Hundreds attended the event on October 11 and 12, which offered talks by professionals and vendors selling everything from T-shirts and books to equipment used for paranormal research. Some participants even braved staying overnight at the Olde Mill for a guided ghost hunt.

During the late night hours, those who bought tickets were split up into groups and sent to different areas throughout the mill. They set up to do research, record information and find evidence of ghosts.

One group used a “spirit box,” a type of radio scanner that allows intelligent energies to utilize radio frequencies to communicate. Members of the group ask questions and receive answers in the form of random words that come over the radio air waves. Photos are taken in a series of three consecutive shots in hopes that one of the photos would show a ghostly image. Electromagnetic frequencies or EMF(s) are also monitored. Spikes in EMF can mean anything from a water source, an electrical source, or another form of energy. During investigations, researchers ask questions to provoke a response. When the monitors spike after a question is asked, it is guessed to be caused by an intelligent energy source.

Many recorded the investigations with video or mini voice recorders. Each recorded session is reviewed for electronic voice phenomena or EVPs. EVPs occur when voices are recorded that are normally not heard during an investigation. Often times the recordings are reviewed later using audio software which separates evidence recorded from the background noise and investigators talking. The results are out of this world…literally. Answers come through to questions asked, often stating names, number of people present, or letting listeners know how they passed away. If you were skeptical before, you won’t be after spending an evening in the mill.

Mill owner Ray Breton has a huge amount of history and resources on events and happenings at the mill. Often, he is able to confirm evidence collected during the investigations. For example, if the name of an employee who passed while working at the mill happens to come through during an investigation, more than likely Breton has information on that person.

The Olde Mill owner Ray Breton, left, and “super volunteer” Samantha Lessard. (photo by Sandy Isaac)

In addition to Parafest, the Mill houses a plethora of other activities, including an indoor yard sale (with all items donated and proceeds go towards the mill), The Clothing Closet (providing items for those in need), an art studio, an indoor baseball and softball training area, an indoor mountain bike course, the Olde Mill Place shops, as well as warehousing items for people. The mill also hosts Halloween events where over 1,300 people come through. Other town-wide events include Vassalboro Days, rubber duck races, community Christmas tree lighting, equipment swap events, fishing derbies, Spring celebrations, and more. Wedding, birthdays, celebration of life events, anniversaries and retirement parties all happen at the Mill year round.

In an effort to continue accommodating all these activities, Breton and (as he puts it) his “super volunteer” Samantha Lessard, work tirelessly on these and other ways to raise money for the roof repair. Lessard helps Brenton schedule outside events, runs The Clothing Closet and Indoor Yard Sale, and is a member of the event committee, which helps to decide on fundraising events for the mill.

Breton is currently working on the paperwork – and there is a lot of paperwork – for the Olde Mill to be considered an historical landmark. They are hoping once this qualification comes through, it will enable Breton to file for grants and other moneys to help with the roof repair efforts. To this date, a little over $45,000 has been raised for the roof, a far cry from the $400,000 mark needed. Breton is not discouraged. Many groups still want to come and be part of the mill and are willing to donate some proceeds to the repair efforts, especially the ghost investigator groups. After all, everyone wants to talk to “the Captain.”

The “Captain?” The Captain can be seen in many photos, psychic sketches and recorded sessions. This photo was taken by Wendy McCusker, of Lincolnville, in 2006. The Maine Adult Education program offered a ghost hunting class taught by K&L Soul Searchers. As part of the class, they spent an evening at the mill where McCusker captured the image. In the photo, you can see a man wearing a cap, half in the shadows and standing on a staircase. There were no other members of the class in that vicinity at the time. This image was captured in the basement of Building Two.

One of the most famous people that often comes through during an investigation is “The Captain,” a seafaring spirit that seems to favor Breton and protecting children. The Captain can be seen in many photos, psychic sketches and recorded sessions.

Breton has been collecting documentation on all the ghost investigations that have come through the mill. At times, Breton has allowed certain groups to investigate his own home across the street from the mill, the Mill Agent House. Breton has had psychics, school groups, professional paranormal investigators and spiritualists alike come through, and often times groups have come back with results. He has copies of photos, recordings, drawings, etc., from many of the visitors, all of whom he requests to sign a guest book. To date, he has over 2,500 signatures in that book.

None of the community or family events are ever marred by the spiritual presences that lurk in the mill. In fact, Breton and Lessard think the spirits may even enjoy the laughter and fun that come from the merry occasions

If you happen to come out for one of Breton’s historic talks, afterwards, you might be brave enough to partake in a paranormal investigation. Maybe ask the Captain for a hello. You won’t be disappointed!

Breton truly loves the mill, and it’s safe to say, the mill loves Breton back. The mill continues to be the center of this town and with the efforts that are being made, it will hopefully come back to its full glory.

For more information on upcoming events at the mill, check out the Vassalboro Community Events and Announcement page on Facebook. If you are interested in helping out the mill with donations of either money, materials or skilled labor, please contact Samantha Lessard at 207-314-4940 or through email at samanthalessard@yahoo.com.

Please check out this video of the work being done on the Olde Mill:

VASSALBORO: CMP presents revised easement proposal; town counter offers

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen discussed an unusually varied list of issues at their Oct. 17 meeting, postponing action on most of them.

Keltie Beaudoin attended the meeting with a proposal from Central Maine Power Company (CMP) to revise its easement allowing a power line to cross town property near the Webber Pond outlet dam. After she explained how CMP arrived at a proposed $10,000 payment to the town for the revision, selectmen, encouraged from the audience by former town manager Michael Vashon, counter-proposed $12,500. Beaudoin will present the counter-offer to her superiors.

Beaudoin explained that the new document will clearly state that the easement is 100 feet wide. CMP will keep it cleared; part of it goes through the boat landing parking lot, and she pointed out that neither the town nor the company wants trees in the parking lot.

When she said some existing trees “would probably go,” Town Manager Mary Sabins reminded her of limits on cutting trees in the shoreland zone. When she said CMP planned to replace existing poles with taller ones, Vashon pointed out the need to consider Charles Cabaniss’ nearby private airstrip.

CMP will pay for deeds and any other costs associated with the easement revision, Beaudoin said.

School Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer told selectmen the school year has started well, with an enrollment of 419 students, an increase of nine. He and school board members plan to work with the town’s new solar committee on possibilities of a shared solar project, and with the selectmen and budget committee as school board members begin developing a multi-year strategic plan.

Sabins said Gary Coull has resigned from Vassalboro’s Board of Appeals because he is moving out of town. Other board members are also ready to resign, she said. Any resident interested in joining the board is invited to contact the town office.

Selectmen had invited planning board members and a representative of the Central Maine Growth Council to the Oct. 17 meeting, but schedule conflicts changed the plan. Now, Sabins said, a Growth Council representative intends to come to the Nov. 12 planning board meeting (postponed from the usual first Tuesday of the month because of Election Day).

The manager announced that Police Chief Mark Brown and the Vassalboro Fire Department have received grants to buy most of the new radios they need and are looking for funding sources for the rest.

Selectmen made two decisions during the Oct. 17 meeting. After a very short public hearing that brought no comments, they approved amendments to the General Assistance Ordinance appendices, adjusting aid levels. And they approved a catering permit for Robert Laster, doing business as Crostini’s Catering, in Winthrop, for an Oct. 26 retirement dinner at St. Bridget’s Center, in North Vassalboro.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting would have fallen on Halloween. It has been rescheduled two days earlier, for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Vassalboro public works director cited for service

Vassalboro Public Works Director Eugene Field (Photo by Mary Sabins)

At the October 3 meeting of the Maine Chapter of the American Public Works Association, in Bangor, at the Maine Municipal Association Convention, Vassalboro Public Works Director Eugene Field was presented with the 2018 Public Works Leader of the Year Award. Gene was chosen after nomination by the Vassalboro Selectmen and the Town Manager for his nearly 40 years of dedicated and commendable service to the residents of the town of Vassalboro.

Vassalboro selectmen’s October meeting rescheduled

Vassalboro selectmen have moved their next meeting from the usual Thursday, which would be Halloween, to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, so that board members can fulfill any Halloween obligations.

MDOT to do pavement preservation work on Rte. 202

The Maine Department of Transportation is planning pavement preservation, including guardrail improvements, beginning at Route 202 and extending west 6.14 miles to Route 137B, then extending north 1.04 miles to Route 201.

The Department of Transportation in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is seeking information from consulting parties that would likely have information/knowledge of, or concerns with historic properties adjacent.

Under Section 106, the town is considered a consulting party and will receive National Register Eligibility and the Determination of Effects on historic properties within the project area for review and comment. If the town knows of any party or person interested in becoming a Section 106 consulting party for review of effects on historic properties, please have them fill out and return the Consulting Party Request Form (available at the town office.)

If you have any information, comments or concerns in regards to historic properties, please contact the point person at Julie.Senk@maine.gov or at 16 State House Station, Environmental Office, Augusta Maine 04333.

This is intended to obtain information and concerns regarding historic properties. If you have any questions or concerns about the project, please contact the Project Manager, Douglas Coombs at Douglas.Coombs@maine.gov.

Vassalboro planners approve two shoreland expansions

by Mary Grow

At their Oct. 1 meeting, Vassalboro Planning Board members unanimously approved two applications to expand buildings in shoreland zones.

Bryan Moore may make an addition to his year-round home at 152 Park Lane, in the Three Mile Pond shoreland; and James and Karyn Darby may add a new bedroom to their Webber Pond camp.

Each building is less than 50 feet from the respective lake. Neither addition will decrease the distance to the water.

Planning board members complimented both applicants on their thorough applications.

Review of Moore’s application took more time, because the building has a complicated history in relation to the town’s shoreland ordinance. He explained that he intends to remove an addition by a former owner, under different regulations, to make his proposed change meet current requirements.

The allowable expansion depends on the size of the building, and the rules for establishing the size have changed, from floor area (which includes a second-story floor) to footprint (the area of ground covered). Calculators appeared as Moore and board members subtracted and added square footage.

Board members briefly discussed trees cut to make room for the addition – more than expected, Moore said, because the arborist found rotten ones. They decided Moore does not need to replace the trees.

The Darbys’ proposal to add a room on the back of their camp was uncomplicated and took less time to gain approval.

Vassalboro FAVOR group seeks volunteers

Vassalboro’s F.A.V.O.R. group will be holding a Window Dressers Build from November 16th – 21st. We are looking for volunteers to assist with measuring, frame building and completing the inserts. Now is also the time to request and purchase frames for your winter insulating needs. Please call the Town Office – Debbie 207 872 2826.