Better communication between agencies topic of Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting

by Mary Grow

Communication was the theme at the Vassalboro selectmen’s Sept. 6 meeting, as board members talked with new Vassalboro School Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer and School Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur about better information-sharing between school and town officials and with Police Chief Mark Brown and audience members about Vassalboro’s law enforcement needs.

Pfeiffer, newly-hired as Vassalboro’s one-day-a-week superintendent, came to introduce himself to the board. He promised to return as his schedule permits; a former principal and superintendent, he now works as a consultant to the state education department and travels throughout Maine.

Selectmen Lauchlin Titus and John Melrose expressed frustration at hearing from school officials only while the annual budget process was underway. They would like more frequent information, especially now that dissolution of the regional school unit makes the school more clearly a town department.

Titus called for out of the box thinking to find ways to fund tuition, transportation, special education and other essentials without taking money away from elementary education programs at Vassalboro Community School.

Town Manager Mary Sabins brought Pfeiffer up to date on her efforts to have the school designated a Red Cross emergency center and equipped with a powerful generator.

Melrose raised the law enforcement issue. He pointed out that Vassalboro hired Brown for 15 hours a week, supplementary to his full-time job elsewhere, but gave him the title of police chief, implying, Melrose thinks, more policing than the town really provides.

Melrose recommends either using a more accurate job description or creating something more like a local police department, perhaps by contracting.

Brown told board members he works closely with state and county law enforcement and the state Drug Enforcement Agency. They take on the extended, time-consuming cases, he said; he focuses on local issues, including spending time with students at Vassalboro Community School.

Selectmen agreed to continue the discussion at their next meeting, which they scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 (instead of the usual 6:30 p.m. Thursday). Sabins asked Brown how the police cruiser is holding up. Brown, whose request for a new vehicle was shot down during spring budget discussions, said it is costing money for repairs, as he forecast.

In other business Sept. 6, selectmen agreed to offer for sale a tax-acquired lot on Harmony Lane, with a minimum bid of $5,000.

Road Foreman Eugene Field suggested additional road repaving if there is money available. Selectmen approved his suggestions and left decisions to him once he sees how much, if any, money he has.

Board members asked Sabins to send a thank-you letter to Steve Jones, of Fieldstone Gardens, for trees donated to the East Vassalboro park.

They approved a plan to provide enough water for the Sept. 8 Double Dam Ducky Derby, worked out by Kennebec Water District authorities, a representative of the Alewife Restoration Project (ARI) who is working on dismantling Lombard Dam and Vassalboro Days organizers.

Titus said he and Melrose plan to attend the Oct. 9 Vassalboro Historical Society meeting to discuss issues involving the society’s lease of the former East Vassalboro schoolhouse.

Notice of Webber Pond draw down

Webber Pond

Photo courtesy of Frank Richards, president of Webber Pond Association.

Frank Richards, president of the Webber Pond Association, has announced that as a result of the unanimous vote at the Webber Pond Association annual meeting on August 18, the 2018 drawdown is set to begin on Monday, September 17, at 8 a.m.

“It is advised to pull docks and boats on the weekend of September 15-16. The pool may go down faster than usual because of the drought conditions,” said Richards

Vassalboro planners approve lone applicant

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members took about 10 minutes to approve the only application on their Sept. 4 agenda, commend the applicant for well-done paperwork and congratulate themselves on a record short meeting.

David Tyrol has permission to tear down a two-story barn in the shoreland zone on his Dore Road property and use the material to build a one-story barn. The present barn, which Tyrol said is leaning enough so he fears it will collapse, is 24-by-24 feet and about 120 feet from Seven Mile Stream. The new one will be 24-by-36 feet and about 224 feet from the stream.

Tyrol plans a pole barn on concrete footings with a crushed-stone floor, to be used for storage. He does not intend to install plumbing or electricity or create a new driveway, he said.

Vassalboro Days 2018 schedule of events

Vassalboro Days 2018!

Double Dam Ducky Derby at High Noon 9/8!

KV Cap will provide free transportation to anyone wanting rides from North to East Vassalboro and back for the days activities! Simply flag the van down!

Gary Coull will serve as DJ from 10 – 3!

Double Dam Ducky Derby tickets will be for sale from 10-11:30. Blocks of tickets will be auctioned off from 11:30-11:45!

Craft Fair at the Mill from 10 – 3 FMI call Linda Ellis @ 649-3697

Yard Sale in and out of the Mill all day. FMI call Bill Whitman @ 416-4346

Scavenger Hunt 10 – 4 with prizes! Sign up at the VBA tent

Kora Karts Demonstration at 1:00 beside the former Doctor’s office

 *Face Painting from 11 to 1 pm

 From 10 AM to 3 PM:

*Speed Pitch & Challenge Course Inflatables
*Play pools of grain for the kiddies
*Touch a Truck
*Bubbles Galore
*Meet Our Local Policeman Mark Brown!
*Child Identification Program (Mason’s)


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Food Vendors from 10-3:

Hot Dogs/ Hamburgers/ Drinks by JMG

Build Your Own S’Mores by Cub Scouts

Cotton Candy & Waters by Masonic Lodge

The Library Book & Food Sale will be held at the Grange on 9/7 for members from 7-8 PM and from 9-3 on 9/8 and from 10-1 on 9/9 (Buck a Bag on Sunday!)

Cruise into Freddie’s Ride at the Town Office from 9-2. Great cars and raffles galore!

Historical Society Open Houses on 9/8 and 9/9 from 9-3. Concert featuring the Gawler Family Sunday at 4 PM at the Grange $5.

Coffee House at the Grange 9/8 at 7 PM. Free and bring an instrument– join in!

Sponsored by the Vassalboro Business Association, Maine Savings FCU, and the Town of Vassalboro!

Selectmen answer questions about recycling

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro trash hauler Tom Richards attended the Aug. 23 Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting to ask what he should tell his customers about the future of recycling as the town waits for the new Fiberight trash facility, in Hampden, to open.

Selectmen said tell them steady as you go until everyone figures out what’s going to happen. That means, board member John Melrose amplified, continue to separate and flatten cardboard and continue with single-stream recycling.

Town Manager Mary Sabins and Selectboard Chairman Lauchlin Titus were among municipal officials who took advantage of Fiberight’s invitation to visit the new plant. They agreed it’s big.

Opening date is still in question. So are recycling plans, especially since the international recycling market has tanked now that the People’s Republic of China has practically stopped taking recyclables.

Fiberight has not set final tipping fees for solid waste or for recyclables. Titus expects Fiberight will charge lower fees for recyclables, but because Vassalboro does not compact them, trucking will be less efficient and more expensive than for solid waste.

  • Some years ago, Sabins remembered, selectmen commissioned an engineering study on adding a second compactor for recyclable materials. They learned providing space would require an expensive redesign of the facility.

“We’re all in transition,” Titus told Richards, promising to share information his customers can use when the selectmen have any.

Audience member Melissa Olson suggested adding recycling instructions to the Vassalboro website. Transfer station Manager George Hamar thought it a good idea once Fiberight supplies information.

Hamar raised another transfer station issue, asking for and getting permission to sell two no-longer-used metal containers for $400 each. The income, he said, would cover the increase in the price of the new roll-off container voters authorized at the June town meeting.

In other business Aug. 23, Melrose had done research on the East Vassalboro park and adjacent lot with the former schoolhouse, in response to resident Steve Jones’ offer to donate Fieldstone Garden trees. He said the land once housed the First Baptist Church and the park had been a cemetery; the graves were supposedly moved years ago, but he recommended “some sensitivity about digging there.”

In consultation with the Vassalboro Conservation Commission, the China Region Lakes Alliance and the China head of the LakeSmart Program, Melrose came up with recommendations: remove the fence between the two lots, but not the fence along Outlet Stream; remove dead and dying trees; plant the donated trees between the two lots perpendicular to the road and shore, choosing canopy trees that won’t block the view of the water; and clean up the shoreline consistent with water quality protection rules.

No public money will be spent on the work, Melrose said. All three selectmen approved the project.

Olson and William Pullen are concerned about vehicles driving onto the town land. Selectmen doubted a fence would be an effective deterrent; Melrose suggested a curb and Pullen said trucks would drive over it. Olson also asked for road signs designating South Stanley Hill Road and Stanley Hill Road, to minimize confusion at the four-way intersection with those two roads, Priest Hill Road and Lombard Dam Road. Selectmen asked Sabins to ask Road Foreman Eugene Field to look into the issue. The Aug. 23 meeting was scheduled to begin with a public hearing on a dangerous building situation, because two of the mobile homes in Brock’s Mobile Home Park lacked adequate septic systems. Selectmen accepted Codes Officer Richard Dolby’s recommendation to cancel the hearing, because a new septic system had been designed and was being installed. (ep)

Selectmen expect a progress report at their next meeting, which is set for Thursday evening, Sept. 6.

Webber Pond Association members tackle many subjects at annual meeting

Webber Pond

A “field” of weeds in the northwestern corner of Webber Pond. Photo courtesy of Frank Richards, president of Webber Pond Association.

by Roland D. Hallee

At their August 18 annual meeting, held at the Vassalboro Community School, members of the Webber Pond Association heard about various matters of interest, including water levels and clarity, bacterial infections, increasing the alewife harvest, changing the annual meeting date, and finally, a presentation on ways to deal with the increased amount of weeds in Webber Pond.

There was concern about the water level in the pond, which drew considerable dialogue. As of August 18, the water level in the pond was four inches below the spillway following the heavy rains of the previous two days. Prior to that the water level had been measured at six inches below the spillway by association president Frank Richards. Phil Innes, who monitors the dam, reported at the meeting the levels had risen. He had taken the latest reading the morning of the meeting. It is recommended the level be set at one to two inches below the spillway by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

All the boards are in the dam except for one which must be left open to allow the egress of mature alewives, who otherwise would have no way to exit the pond. Doing so allows more water to escape the lake than would be ideal. Failure to allow the mature alewives to leave the pond could possibly result in around 100,000 alewives trapped in the lake, eventually dying, creating even more problems in the lake, according to Vice President Charles Backenstose.

Richards mentioned conversations with the state that a specially-engineered egress channel could possibly be installed that would allow the fish to continue to exit the pond, but by releasing much less water. This method is now being used in new fish ladder construction, and has proven to be successful, according to Richards.

Backenstose, who monitors water clarity in the lake through Secchi Disk readings, reported that water clarity was typical from mid-May through late June at 14 – 15 feet. “This is pretty amazing, considering that last year at this time, visibility was about half that,” he reported in the group’s newsletter. “The dry weather may have contributed to clearer water.”

Although, at the meeting, Backenstose reported that as of the week of August 12, water clarity had diminished to about six feet.

Answering a concern about incidents of bacterial infections reported in the local newspapers at other central Maine lakes, Director Susan Traylor reported that Webber Pond has never appeared on the list of lakes where these types of bacteria, including e-coli, have been identified.

Traylor also made a presentation about the possibility of increasing the alewife harvest. In her research, she concluded the lake association should recommend to the town of Vassalboro that the town submit a revised alewife harvest plan to the Maine Department of Marine Resources for the 2019 season that would allow a change to the current harvest plan, which has been in place for over a decade. She concluded that no more than 240,000 alewives should be allowed to enter the pond.

In an article in the newsletter, Traylor states the 240,000 target allows for 100 alewives per acre in both Webber and Three Mile ponds. In 2018, 461,000 alewives entered Webber Pond. Of these, an estimated 38,000 went to Three Mile Pond (about 33 per acre). This left 423,000 (352 alewives per acre) in Webber.

This study came as a result of the issue having been raised at the 2017 annual meeting that maybe there were now too many alewives entering the lake, possibly creating an imbalance in nutrients being brought into the lake as opposed to what is removed with the fall egress of the young alewives.

Two options were presented to the membership by Traylor. Richards suggested the body give the president permission to use option #1 in his negotiations with the DMR. That option states: [The lake association] recommends that the town of Vassalboro submit a plan to DMR to harvest seven days a week once a target number of 240,000 alewives have entered Webber, with no further alewife entry to the pond. In 2018, following this practice with a target of 240,000 alewives would have allowed the boards in the dam to be replaced on May 30, rather than June 16.

Presently, the plan calls for alewife passage for three days a week and allows alewife harvesting the other four days. There is no limit on the number of alewives that can enter the pond.

Replacing the boards at the dam on the latter date in 2018 contributed, to some degree, to the lower water levels in early summer.

Jim Hart, director of the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA), warned against acting too quickly. In his address, he stated that alewives return to their place of birth. Therefore, alewives that are leaving Three Mile Pond, and returning to the ocean to mature, will be back in four years. They will most likely return to Three Mile Pond, and not stay in Webber Pond. That could affect the number of alewives that remain in Webber Pond, and vice versa. He suggested a three- to four-year trial period.

The motion to recommend increasing alewife harvest was the only item on the agenda that caused lengthy discussion, with the final straw vote being 17-8 in favor of the increase. The DMR has final say on the matter.

The final item on the agenda was a presentation by Nick Jose, a Vassalboro resident who is a third-generation resident of Webber Pond. He had seen a video on YouTube describing a piece of equipment that would literally mow the weeds on the pond.

The machinery would cut the weeds two feet down from the water surface, gathered into hoppers, brought to shore and loaded into trucks by conveyor belt, to be hauled away to a composting facility. Presently, he states, weeds are being cut by boat propellers and float to the surface. The wind carries the weeds to various locations on the lake, where they eventually sink, decay and begin the reseeding process that multiplies the weed infestation.

The equipment, which he said he was willing to invest in, carries a price tag of $200,000. Negotiations would have to take place to find a way to fund this project on both Webber and Three Mile ponds. He estimated the process would probably have to be repeated twice a year. He also stated the practice is ongoing throughout the country, and that DMR would be receptive to this program as long as the lake association was on board.

The question of whether there is milfoil present was answered by Richards, stating the weeds in the pond are native aquatic vegetation.

In other business, officers were elected: Frank Richards, president; Charles Backenstose, vice president; Rebecca Lamey, secretary; John Reuthe, treasurer.

Directors elected were returning directors Robert Bryson, Scott Buchert, Mary Bussell, Darryl Federchak, Roland Hallee, Phil Innes, Jennifer Lacombe, Robert Nadeau, Stephen Pendley, John Reuthe, Susan Traylor and James Webb. Pearley LaChance was named as a new director.

The annual drawdown of the pond, which historically has been a contentious subject, was set for Monday, September 17, at 8 a.m., by a unanimous vote of the membership.

Richards posed a question to the membership on the possibility of changing the date of the annual meeting to earlier in the summer. The straw vote showed the majority present preferred retaining the current date of the third Saturday in August.

Richards’ annual question as to whether anyone has caught, or heard of someone catching, a northern pike in Webber Pond was met with no response from those present.

The association also voted to contribute $1,500 to the CRLA.

Selectmen set tax rate at 0.01545 mils

by Mary Grow

As anticipated, Vassalboro selectmen have set the 2018-19 tax rate at 0.01545 mils, or $15.45 for each $1,000 of valuation. The new rate is an increase of 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation over the 2017-18 rate. At the Aug. 6 special selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Mary Sabins said she expects tax bills will go out in mid-August, probably around Aug. 16. By town meeting vote, the first quarterly payment is due Monday, Sept. 24.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is Thursday evening, Aug. 23, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. public hearing on conditions at Brock’s Mobile Home Park, as required by dangerous buildings regulations.

Vassalboro selectmen to hold special meeting

Vassalboro selectmen will hold a special meeting at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6, in the town office, primarily to set the 2018-19 tax rate. Board members have the option of discussing other matters.

Their next regular meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23. The agenda begins with a public hearing, as required under state law concerning dangerous buildings, to hear an update on conditions at Brock’s Mobile Home Park.

Fishy Photo: Nice trout caught at “hush-hush” pond

Kayden Painchaud, 11, of Vassalboro, shows off a 24-inch brown trout he caught on July 14, at a pond he did not want to reveal.

Vassalboro public hearing planned for Brock Trailer Park

by Mary Grow

After another discussion with Codes Officer Richard Dolby at their July 12 meeting, Vassalboro selectmen have scheduled an August 23 public hearing on Brock’s trailer park off Webber Pond Road. The hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. in the town office.

Dolby said a septic system serving two mobile homes has failed, and the park owner has not made repairs or taken other action because, Dolby said, he does not have the needed money.

Selectmen issued a notice of violation in June. Now they have at least two options, Dolby said: they could ask the town attorney to prepare another notice of violation that would go to court, eventually; or they could declare the two mobile homes unsafe and if repairs were not made in a reasonable time order the tenants evicted.

The second course, declaring the two homes dangerous buildings, requires a public hearing. Selectmen first planned to hold it late in July, but Dolby learned that state law requires a three-week notice, leading selectmen to reschedule the hearing as part of their August 23 meeting.

Dolby has reported the situation to the Maine Manufactured Housing Board.

In other business July 12, selectmen discussed at length board member John Melrose’s proposal for long-range planning. He and the other two selectmen suggested a variety of possible topics, including energy use, public safety, public works and education.

They agreed now that Vassalboro Community School is a town school, not part of a larger organization, selectmen and school board members need to share information more regularly. Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus was authorized to contact School Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur about a joint meeting.

On another long-range planning issue, China Selectman Neil Farrington reported on China’s effort to expand and improve internet services, suggesting the two towns might cooperate at some point.

Titus announced that this year’s Vassalboro Days celebration will be Sept. 8, the Saturday after Labor Day weekend.