Dubois, Grass and Veilleux on Dean College dean’s list

Dean College, in Franklin, Massachusetts, has named the students that have earned a place on the dean’s list for the Fall 2017 semester.

Cami Dubois, of Winslow; Madison Grass, of Vassalboro; and Joshua Veilleux, of Winslow.

Vassalboro board of appeals gives farm stand go ahead

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Board of Appeals members unanimously granted Parker Denico the variance from shoreland requirements that should let him open a farm stand in North Vassalboro.

Raymond Breton’s lot on which Denico has permission to put the stand does not extend far enough east from Outlet Stream to let Denico set the temporary building the required 100 feet from the water. He estimates it will be about 50 feet from the stream. He therefore needed a variance from the setback requirement.

Codes Officer Richard Dolby told the three board of appeals members at the May 15 meeting they are required by the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance to find that failure to grant the variance would create an undue hardship. There are four criteria by which “undue hardship” is measured, he said:

  • The “land in question cannot yield a reasonable return” without a variance.
  • The variance is needed “due to the unique circumstances of the property and not to the general conditions in the neighborhood.”
  • Granting the variance “will not alter the essential character of the locality.”
  • The “hardship is not the result of action taken by the applicant or a prior owner.” The ordinance gives the board of appeals the right to impose conditions on any variance granted. Board members added two conditions:
  • The only building allowed will be the planned seasonal farm stand, to operate between June 1 and Oct. 31.
  • The variance will be reviewed after one year.

Dolby was not sure that a temporary, reviewable variance would be accepted by state regulators who oversee variances granted by local boards.

Denico’s next step is to return to the planning board to get his shoreland permit. Since the next regular planning board meeting is not until June 5, a special meeting might be scheduled late in May.

Vassalboro auditor happy with town finances, but not the school’s

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro’s auditor is happy enough with the town’s financial position, but not with the school department’s.

Reviewing the audit for the year that ended June 30, 2017, with selectmen at their May 17 meeting, Ron Smith, director and managing partner of RHR Smith & Company, in Buxton, began by pointing out the inequitable distribution of the total Vassalboro budget, about $7.5 million in school funding and about $2.5 million in municipal funding.

Based on annual expenditures and depending on what time frame is used, a municipality with a $10 million budget should have an unassigned fund balance (also known as an unrestricted or undesignated fund balance, formerly called surplus) of at least $800,000 and maybe more than $2 million, Smith said.

Vassalboro was showing a surplus of around $1.2 million at the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year, or about enough to cover 45 or 50 days’ expenditures in the event of some kind of total national financial catastrophe.

But, Smith said, the surplus is masking a deficit in the annual school budget of more than $325,000 – about $70,000 in annual loss in the school lunch program and the rest in teachers’ salaries to be paid over the summer and not funded in the school budget. “You’ve got a healthy fund balance,” Smith assured selectmen, but if school funds were not counted in with municipal funds, the municipal surplus would be a healthier $1.5 million and the school would be visibly in deficit.

From an auditor’s standpoint, there are two ways to deal with the imbalance, Smith said: raise taxes to cover the school deficit, or ask voters to approve transferring town funds to the school budget. Neither can be presented to voters at the June 4 town meeting, since the articles for the meeting are already approved and being printed.

He recommended two prompt actions:

  • Town Manager Mary Sabins should call the AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 office and find out what the school’s current deficit is, and
  • Selectmen should meet with school board members.

Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus explained that as of July 1, 2018, the AOS will be dissolved, by the March vote of the member towns, and Vassalboro will have its individual school department. The school board’s plan is to hire a part-time superintendent and to contract with Waterville and Winslow for most of the services now provided by the AOS central office.

Selectmen concluded from listening to Smith that in addition to dealing with school-municipal relations, they need to revise the town’s investment policy, a one-and-one-half page document adopted in 2012. Smith agreed and offered to send Sabins copies of other municipal policies and help her craft one specifically for Vassalboro for selectmen’s review.

In other business, selectmen scheduled a public hearing on the Vassalboro Sanitary District’s application for Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds to help with the planned sewer connection to Winslow. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 31, during the selectmen’s meeting that begins at 6:30 the same evening.

Board members approved a liquor license for a wine and beer tasting event, part of the Save the Mill fund-raising series, scheduled for Saturday, July 7. Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus abstained on the vote, because his wife Linda heads the Vassalboro Business Association that is sponsoring the event.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute announces fall 2017 dean’s list

The following local residents were among 1,608 students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), in Worcester Massachusetts, named to the university’s dean’s list for academic excellence for the fall 2017 semester.

McKenzie Brunelle, of Sidney, is a member of the class of 2018 majoring in biomedical engineering.

Madison Michaud, of Vassalboro, is a member of the class of 2019 majoring in biomedical engineering.

Molly Silsby, of Augusta, is a member of the class of 2021 majoring in mechanical engineering.

Vassalboro Senior Services Fair set for May 23

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro’s second senior services fair is scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, in St. Bridget’s Center, the new community meeting space in the former Catholic church at 864 Main Street in North Vassalboro.

Sponsored by FAVOR (Friends Advocating for Vassalboro’s Older Residents), the fair will take advantage of the larger space – last year it was held in the town office meeting room – to offer something for almost everyone.

Twenty-two organizations are listed alphabetically on the posters advertising the fair, starting with AARP Maine and the Alzheimer’s Association and ending with Waterville Area Habitat for Humanity and 47 Daisies, the educational farm on Webber Pond Road.

Those attending the fair will be able to get information from representatives of those groups and a variety of other educational, medical and social service agencies.

Admission to the fair is free. There will be door prizes, and from 11:30 a.m. on, students in Vassalboro Community School’s JMG (Jobs for Maine Graduates) program will sell hot dogs and other refreshments. More information is available from Debbie Johnston at the Vassalboro town office. According to the 47 Daisies website, the farm is sponsoring a community potluck at the mill in North Vassalboro beginning at 6 p.m., Friday, May 18. Residents are invited to share food, listen to live music and learn about the farm’s mobile food access program.

Vassalboro board of appeals schedules two meetings; Denico veggie stand, Welch permit

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

The Vassalboro Board of Appeals has two meetings scheduled, one tentatively on May 15 and one on May 22, both at 7 p.m. in the town office meeting room.

On May 15, board members plan to hear Parker Denico’s request for a variance from shorefront setback requirements, if Denico submits his application soon enough. He seeks to open a seasonal vegetable stand in North Vassalboro less than 100 feet from Outlet Stream, and learned at the May 1 Planning Board meeting that he cannot get a Planning Board shoreland permit unless the Board of Appeals first grants him a variance.

The May 22 meeting, a continuance of the board’s May 8 meeting, is to hear Jonathan Blumberg’s appeal of a permit granted by the codes officer to Bernard Welch. At the May 22 meeting Blumberg objected that the required notices in a newspaper and to abutters had not been given.

Owners of properties sharing a boundary line with the Welch property at 78 South Stanley Hill Road were notified, but not those across the road. Attorney Kristen Collins said if South Stanley Hill Road is a state-owned road, across-the-street residents are not abutters. Since no one knew whether the road is owned by the state, the town or perhaps the property-owners on either side, Collins advised sending additional notices.

Vassalboro school recognizes most improved students

From left to right, front to back, Peter Giampietro, Ryder Neptune-Reny, Braiden Crommett, Zoey DeMerchant, Noah Rau, Lukas Blais, Sovie Rau, Baylee Fuchswanz, Tyler Clark, Mason Lagasse, Andrew Maxwell, Mylee Petela, Tallulah Cloutier, Addyson Burns, Paige Littlefield, Kaiden Morin, Echo Hawk, Kayden Painchaud, Principal Dianna Gram, Tabitha Craig, Lexi Allen, Hunter Brandt, Lara Stinchfield, Nathalia Carrasco, John Nutting and Joshua Bonsant. Absent from photo, Cameron Willett, Emily Paetow, Hailey Fongemie, Kazlynn Davidson and Owen Pooler. (Contributed photo)

Students at Vassalboro Community School were recently recognized as most improved students by the Portland Seadogs baseball team and Next Gen. Students were selected by their teachers.

Vassalboro selectmen appoint Conservation Commission member; award bulk waste contract

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

In addition to approving the warrant for the June 4 and 12 town meeting, Vassalboro selectmen dealt with two other issues at their May 1 meeting.

They appointed Laura Jones as a new member of the Vassalboro Conservation Commission for three years.

On Town Manager Mary Sabins’ recommendation, they awarded the bid for hauling bulky waste – mattresses, furniture and similar items – to low bidder Central Maine Disposal, also for three years.

Sabins is not optimistic about trash disposal in the near future. With the opening of the new Fiberight facility postponed from April to at least September, many communities are landfilling trash; and prices for most recyclables have dropped dramatically, she said.

All three Vassalboro selectmen are philosophically opposed to landfilling on environmental grounds, but they accepted it as a temporary measure.

They agreed that they will not abandon Vassalboro’s single-sort recycling program, regardless of current financial effects. They hope they or larger recyclers can store materials until prices rebound.

Sabins said Public Works Department head Eugene Field reported the town’s cemeteries and lawns have been cleared of winter debris and are ready to be mowed.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 17.

Vegetable stand gets site approval in Vassalboro; still needs shoreland zoning permit

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members were able to give Parker Denico one of the two permits he needs for a seasonal vegetable stand in North Vassalboro. For the other, he needs to go first to the Board of Appeals.

Denico said he would like to build his stand on Ray Breton’s Main Street lot, near the gazebo. Planning Board members found he needed a site review permit for the business. They went through the site review criteria and unanimously approved that permit, finding the new business would have no adverse impacts on the neighborhood.

Denico also needs a shoreland zoning permit to put the temporary building less than 250 feet from Outlet Stream. He estimated the distance to the stream at 50 feet or maybe a little more, well within the 100 feet where no new building is allowed without a variance from the setback requirement.

Board members told Denico only the bard of appeals can grant variances. The variance, if approved, would go with the land, not with Denico’s business, Board Chairman Virginia Brackett said, so Breton would benefit as well.

Breton tore down a house that had been even closer to Outlet Stream, and local ordinances say such a non-conforming building can be replaced within one year, board members said. However, they and Codes Officer Richard Dolby found the house was torn down more than a year ago and Breton’s application to replace it had expired. Denico plans a stand that would be a maximum of 10 by 20 feet, he said. He would like to open in June and plans to close no later than the end of October. He grows cucumbers himself and intends to sell produce from other area growers, starting with strawberries from Benton if he can get the stand approved and open early enough.

The board of appeals already had a May 8 meeting scheduled. Dolby said he would ask members how soon they could meet again to hear Denico’s variance request.

Vassalboro proposed budget shows 0.90 mil rate increase

source: http://www.vassalboro.net/

by Mary Grow

After hours of meetings, Vassalboro school and town officials have come up with a budget to present to voters on June 4 that pleases few if any of them.

The major problem is that if voters approve the expenditures proposed by the school board and selectmen, they will increase their tax rate by 0.90 mils (90 cents for each $1,000 of valuation), from the current 14.55 mils to a projected 15.45 mils. According to figures Town Manager Mary Sabins prepared for the May 2 selectmen’s meeting at which the town meeting warrant articles were approved:

  • The proposed $2.061 million municipal budget for 2018-19 has gone up a little more than two percent over the current year, but because non-tax revenues are expected to increase, the municipal budget will require over $27,000 less in taxes.
  • The $335,327 Kennebec County tax, which the town is obligated to pay, is up four percent, adding close to $13,000 due from taxes.
  • The $7.731 million school budget, by far the largest of the three, will require well over $328,000 in additional tax revenue, by Sabins’ calculations.

The town meeting warrant consists of 56 articles to be decided June 4 and two more that voters will act on at the polls on June 12, ratifying or rejecting the school budget approved June 4 and electing local officials (one selectman and one school board member).

The June 4 open meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Vassalboro Community School. In addition to budget issues, voters will elect budget committee members, set various policies and approve or reject amendments to Vassalboro’s Building Permit Ordinance. There are currently two vacancies on the budget committee, and Elizabeth Reuthe said she does not intend to serve again.

After long discussions, the budget committee voted to differ with selectmen on one expenditure article and with school board members on another.

The selectmen propose setting aside $37,500 from taxes for two reserve funds, $25,000 to go toward a new plow truck and $12,500 as half the estimated cost of a new metal roof on the Riverside fire station. The budget committee recommends the same amounts, but advocates taking the $37,500 from the town’s surplus (also known as unassigned or undesignated fund balance) instead of from taxes.

In the school budget, the school board recommends for Vassalboro Community School administration $329,119.48, a 14 percent increase from the current year, primarily because the incoming principal will command a higher salary than the outgoing one. The budget committee recommends $279,119.48, or $50,000 less.

Several budget committee members said their goal is to make sure there is a debate over school spending on June 4. In recent years, voters impatient to end the meeting have approved voting on all the school budget articles as a group, an action that has had the effect of limiting discussion.

The school board approved its budget recommendations at a special meeting on April 25, after earlier discussions in March and April. The vote was not unanimous; Susan Tuthill was absent and Jessica Clark voted against the budget request, explaining afterward that she believes the resulting tax increase is “too much for the town.”

School board members have repeatedly revised the budget downward. At the April 25 meeting, AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 Superintendent Eric Haley and Finance Director Paula Pooler presented what they consider the final cuts and rearrangements they can safely recommend.

They hope for state approval for two new buses this year. They could ask for one, Haley said – and risk student safety. Similarly, they could assume one fewer home-schooler will enter high school at town expense in 2018-19 – and risk a major hole in the budget.

School Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur and retiring Principal Dianna Gram urged support of the budget request. Gram said Vassalboro Community School is dealing with the difficult task of accommodating special-needs students without shortchanging regular students. The number of very expensive out-of-district placements has declined during her tenure, she said, especially since the school’s student support center opened.

Gram said 29 percent of VCS students need some kind of special help. School board member Jolene Clark Gamage expects the number will increase, primarily due to Maine’s drug problem.

If voters reject the budget, Pooler said the only way to get a meaningful decrease would be to cut personnel, a move Haley said “would decimate the school.”

Budget committee members are distressed at the tax increase, and also unhappy with the school board’s decision to sign a three-year contract to continue using Waterville’s central office services despite the dissolution of the AOS. Several committee members suggested school board members had accepted Haley’s advice to stay with Waterville without adequately researching alternatives.

Budget committee members pointed out repeatedly that school choice – allowing Vassalboro high school students to go wherever they want – is a costly option. Eliminating choice and requiring town-supported students to attend only one high school would need voters’ approval, and they are aware that school choice has wide support among residents.