2019 Real estate tax schedule

2019 Real estate tax schedule

CHINA

Second half taxes due
Friday, March 29, 2019

VASSALBORO

Third quarter payment due
Monday, February 25, 2019

WINDSOR

Second half payment due
Sunday, March 31, 2019

WINSLOW

Third quarter payment due
Friday, March 8, 2019

Coulombe named to dean’s list at Becker College

Brandon Coulombe, of Vassalboro, has been named to the dean’s list at Becker College, in Worcester, Massachusetts, for the fall semester. Coulombe is pursuing a bacherlor of arts degree in interactive media design, development and programming.

Vassalboro town manager new MMA president

Vassalboro town manager Mary Sabins, new MMA president

Mary Sabins, town manager in Vassalboro, recently ascended to the position of president of the Maine Municipal Association’s Executive Committee. Christine Landes, city manager in Gardiner, is MMA’s new vice president.

Sabins took over her duties of MMA president effective Dec. 3, 2018, leading the 12-member committee that steers MMA on operational and budgeting priorities.

Upon her swearing in, Sabins reaffirmed MMA’s commitments to restoring the Municipal Revenue Sharing Program, increasing education funding from the state and improving local and state infrastructure, from roads, highways and bridges to broadband Internet capability.

Sabins noted that a new governor and Legislature in Maine provide an opportunity to cement a positive municipal-state partnership.

“We hope that eventually leads to the re-establishment of the Municipal Advisory Council,” which could work closely with Gov. Janet Mills and her administration, Sabins said. “The council will give a voice to the needs of Maine municipalities of all sizes.”

Sabins, of Vassalboro, previously served as MMA vice president. In that role, she led MMA’s 70-member Legislative Policy Committee, which directs the organization on legislative issues and priorities. As a matter of succession, Landes, of Gardiner, will lead the LPC this year. Landes is scheduled to become MMA’s president in January 2020.

Sabins’ municipal experience is extensive. Before taking the position of town manager with Vassalboro in 2008, Sabins previously held various municipal positions in the towns of Chelsea, Windsor, Union and Hope. She also worked as facilities and food director with the former Maine School Administrative District #40 in Warren. Sabins is a University of Maine graduate with a degree in business administration.

Landes was first appointed to the MMA Executive Committee in 2016.

She became the city manager in Gardiner in August 2018, having previously served as Bethel’s town manager from 2014-2018. She previously was a deputy city clerk in Brewer, deputy town clerk in Veazie, deputy tax collector in Orange Park, Florida, and town clerk in Warren.

Landes recently earned a master’s of business administration degree from Southern New Hampshire University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine at Augusta.

Remembering Katiebug: A short, bright local light

Katie with her older sister, Julia, at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, in Portland, during one of Katie’s many hospital visits this past year. (Contributed photo)

by Eric W. Austin

A child’s death, even when expected, is never easy.

“We’ve always lived with the idea that it could happen,” Sarah Watson, of Vassalboro, tells me. It’s November 6. Outside, the rain is coming down in torrents. It’s been two weeks since the death of Sarah’s daughter, Katie. She was 19.

“Even though you live with the possibility, it’s still shocking when it does happen,” she says. “We thought we had gotten past everything this summer, so even though we were prepared for it, we weren’t.”

Katherine Grace Christina White – Katie or Katiebug to everyone who knew her – was a fighter from the moment of her conception. She had to be. While still in utero, doctors diagnosed her with acute spina bifida, a condition where the neural tube in the developing baby, which later becomes the central nervous system, does not form properly, resulting in part of the spinal cord growing outside the bony canal which normally protects it. The result is often full or partial paralysis.

Further, little Katie suffered from another fetal developmental defect that is commonly associated with spina bifida, Arnold Chiari Type II malformation, which occurs when the lower part of the brain, the cerebellum and the brain stem, extend beyond the base of the skull, impeding the flow of excess spinal fluid, leading to a build-up of fluid on the brain.

She wasn’t expected to live beyond the age of five.

“It was bad,” Sarah recalls. “She had paralysis. Along with that is, usually, hydrocephalus – which is fluid on the brain.”

Katie’s first year of life was touch and go. The surgical shunts inserted to drain the excess fluid and relieve pressure on her brain became infected. The trauma that resulted caused damage which stunted her cognitive development. “So,” her mother explains, “she was kind of stuck in that Sesame Street stage.”

But woe to anyone that might suggest these tragic beginnings should dictate the rest of her life. Through all her struggles, Katie displayed an infectious optimism which often lifted up the rest of her family.

“Even when she was in pain, even when she had an infection that would make any of us miserable, she was always smiling, saying ‘Hi!’ and giving everyone hugs,” Sarah remembers. “Her ability to be happy through the worst stuff was ridiculous. We would look at her and think, ‘I have no reason to be in a bad mood, because look at everything she’s dealing with, and she’s happy.’ That always taught me so much, because it’s so easy to get into the mentality of ‘Poor me! Why me?’ – all those things. But when you see this kiddo, who’s fighting for her life and still happy as hell, you think, ‘I need to check myself.’”

Katie loved the PBS children’s program Sesame Street. “She loved Elmo,” Sarah says, with her first real smile of the interview. “Gawd, this kid! She could literally mimic his laugh – it was so funny. She was just so happy all the time. So easy to please. People would say, ‘Oh, but her quality of life’ – and I’m like, are you kidding me? This kid was happy all the time. She had people that loved her; she was well-cared for. She really had the best quality of life.”

The last year of Katie’s life was a difficult one though. “I could have lost her years ago,” Sarah says quietly, almost to herself. “She’s been fragile all her life. We’ve been really lucky to have her as healthy as she was, to have kept her out of the hospital.”

It started with a bowel obstruction last fall. That quickly led to a blood infection which in turn led to a shunt infection. She was in and out of the hospital all year. Then in October, on another mad ambulance dash down to Portland’s Maine Medical Center, she suffered a seizure and became unresponsive. She hung on just long enough for her sister, Julia, who is attending college in New Jersey, to rush home to hold her hand and say good-bye.

The night of Katie’s passing, Sarah and her husband, Tyler, grabbing a quick dinner after an exhausting day at the hospital, talked about how to honor Katie’s memory. Sarah’s first inclination had been to donate her daughter’s organs. She hoped in that way some of the happiness Katie had brought into the world would continue after her. When the doctors told her it would not be possible because of the blood infections Katie had suffered in the last months of her life, Sarah was crushed. That night at dinner, the couple searched for another idea.

“I want to start a foundation to fund medical equipment for sick kids,” Sarah said suddenly. Tyler smiled. “That’s a great idea,” he agreed immediately. “Let’s do that!”

One of the on-going struggles of Katie’s life – and that of her parents’ – was the constant fight with insurance companies to cover needed care. For the past two years, the family had been trying to gain approval for the purchase of a new hospital bed for Katie. The bed she had was nearly as old as she was and, according to her mother, “being held together by zip ties.” It was so ancient, in fact, that the parts needed for repair could no longer be ordered.

Sarah and Tyler decided the best way to honor Katie’s memory was to help other parents avoid those same kinds of stressful encounters. They set up a GoFundMe webpage to begin raising money and scheduled an appointment with an attorney to get to work setting up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The response to her GoFundMe campaign was surprising and swift. Friends and family, neighbors and co-workers rallied behind her. A tweet she sent out around election day went viral. It was retweeted nearly 3,000 times (including by actress Patricia Arquette) and garnered more than 12,000 likes. As of this writing, they have raised $8,820 of their initial goal of $10,000, with another $5,000 promised by a private donor once the foundation is set up.

The meeting with the lawyer, on the other hand, was a bit of a wake-up call. “Honestly,” Sarah told me afterwards, “the process is daunting and expensive. I have to form a board of directors if I want to have tax exempt status, and it has to be non-familial, which makes it more difficult than I expected.”

But one thing parents of disabled children have in abundance is determination. “Katie overcame obstacles every single day of her life and she did it with a smile,” Sarah Watson insisted fiercely. “For me to give up because it got tough would be the opposite of what she embodied.”

The Watson family aims to have the Katherine G. White Foundation up and running by the end of the year. Local parents of disabled children looking for financial help, those wanting to donate to the cause or get involved are encouraged to contact them by email at KGWFoundation@gmail.com. They are also currently looking for conscientious community members to serve on the foundation’s board of directors.

After spending nearly 20 years raising a disabled child of her own, I asked Sarah if she had any advice to pass on to parents in a similar situation.

“Don’t ever give up,” she tells me. “If you run into a wall, get a sledgehammer. If there isn’t a way, if it doesn’t exist, create it. Nurses are your best friends, and nobody has your best interests at heart more than you do. Learn to question. Demand a second opinion. Be your own advocate.”

Where does Sarah Watson get the determination and strength to keep on keepin’ on in the face of so much adversity? Why, from Katie, of course. “Her determination and happiness,” Sarah says, “even when she was sick, were such an inspiration.”

Eric W. Austin writes about technology and community issues. He can be reached by email at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

Unusual tree

An unusual Christmas Tree has been put up at Freddie’s Service Center, Rte. 32, in East Vassalboro. (Contributed photo)

Bill Pullen, owner of Freddie’s Service Center, Rte. 32, in East Vassalboro, built this Christmas tree from old tire rims, a steering wheel, alternator, plug wires, chains, tools, etc., and, of course, a fan for the tree top. Do you have an unusual Christmas tree? Send it to us at townline@fairpoint.net.

Where’s the gun?

A similar statue in Winslow with the gun in hand (left), and the statue in Vassalboro missing the gun (right). (Photos by Isabelle Markley)

Where’s the gun on the Civil War statue in Vassalboro?

The white granite statue dedicated to the memory of soldiers from Vassalboro who lost their lives in the Civil War, 1861-1865, stands in Monument Park on Route 32, between the China Lake boat landing and the old Vassalboro School, now a town museum.

The soldier’s hands are seen gripping the muzzle, but the stock end of the gun from the statue’s belt to the ground where it should be resting at his feet is missing. Compare the Vassalboro statue to a similar model in Winslow’s park at Halifax and Monument streets to see where the rifle would have been. If you have any information please contact The Town Line (townline@fairpoint.net).

Manager directed to continue talks with CMP over LED street lighting

by Mary Grow

For the second meeting in a row, Vassalboro selectmen were able to take care of one of the recurring items on their agenda, leaving others for future discussion (see The Town Line, Nov. 8).

After analyzing options for switching to LED streetlights, board members unanimously directed Town Manager Mary Sabins to continue conversations with Central Maine Power Company about converting the lights without changing companies. Other companies offer LED conversions, and Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus said Vassalboro could have asked for bids. However, dealing with another company would require buying the lights from CMP and would make maintenance a town responsibility.

Left to be re-discussed at one or more future meetings were the police chief’s job description, emergency services dispatching, possible acquisition of the Riverside fire station and renewal of Vassalboro’s cable franchise.

The job description for the police chief, currently Mark Brown, has become increasingly controversial, with Selectman John Melrose focused on the reality of a 15-hour-a-week policeman having limited time and therefore, he recommends, limited duties and others, including Brown, preferring more flexibility.

Brown and Sabins prepared a draft description that Brown defends and Melrose wants changed. Titus said he could accept either version.

For example, Melrose does not want Brown to spend time on traffic duty, which he envisions as sitting by the roadside waiting for speeders. Selectman Robert Browne wants Brown to be able to respond to residents’ complaints about persistent speeding on certain roads. First Responder Peter Allen added that there have been complaints on social media about vehicles passing stopped school buses; he doesn’t think state police or sheriff’s deputies have time to trail buses.

Melrose also wants court appearances deleted from the job description. Sometimes, people pointed out, the local police officer has to go to court.

The discussion ended with suggestions about dividing the draft document into a mission statement, a policy statement and a job description before presenting it to a future meeting.

Selectmen sought information on the future of emergency services dispatching from Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason and Cliff Welles, head of the state’s Regional Communications Center (RCC) in Augusta. As of June 30, 2019, Welles said, the RCC will discontinue dispatching law enforcement personnel, although it will continue to serve area fire departments and rescue units.

Mason said the sheriff’s office has two options. He could help support an expansion of the city of Augusta’s dispatch center, which now serves Augusta and Hallowell, and contract to use its services; or he could invest in equipment and personnel to set up a KSO communications center, but only if every area town on a list he compiled joins. In addition to a communications center, Vassalboro and other municipalities need a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) where 911 calls are answered and referred to the appropriate center.

Vassalboro selectmen did not attempt to decide what to do. Whatever they choose, Titus concluded, will be more expensive than the current system.

The Riverside fire station belongs to the Riverside Hose Company, which firefighter Mike Vashon said exists only on paper, under a deed that says the land reverts to the prior owner if it is not used by the fire department. Town officials have said the prior owner is probably long dead and his or her heirs are unknown.

Selectmen are considering asking voters to buy the property and lease it back to the fire department. Vashon said firefighters attending the department meeting earlier in the week voted unanimously in favor, and further authorized having the property boundaries surveyed. Rowe and Wendell, of Waterville, will do the survey at an expected cost of $1,500 to $2,000, he said. Selectmen agreed the cable franchise renewal process seems to be confusing. Sabins said she is waiting for a reply to queries. Vassalboro’s current contract expires in March 2019.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Dec. 6, a gap of three weeks instead of the usual two weeks.

Vassalboro’s Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG Program) does it again!

At left, JMG students take part in an ice cream social. (Contributed photo)

The JMG Program in Vassalboro, under the direction of Victor Esposito, continues to support the Vassalboro community. On October 27, the group worked with and supported the Vassalboro Grange to put on a very special Harvest Supper. Proceeds from the event cover the insurance costs for the Grange building.

The students set the tables, decorated the space with floral arrangements made by Fieldstone Gardens, coordinated the cooking of the roast beef (with help from Meredith Cain and Mr. E), professionally serve the meal, and assisted with clean up!

Old items, new one, on selectmen’s agenda

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen are slated to continue discussion of four items and add a new one at their Thursday, Nov. 15, meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room.

The continuing items are options for emergency-services dispatching, as the state prepares changes that will be effective next summer; the possibility of the town acquiring or leasing the Riverside Fire Station, now owned by the volunteer fire department; the police chief’s job description; and information on the pros and cons of converting to LED streetlights.

Also on the Nov. 15 agenda is discussion of the cable franchise renewal process.

Interested residents are welcome at all Vassalboro selectmen’s meetings.

Rabies clinic benefits food pantry

Area dog and cat owners are invited to participate in Vassalboro Food Pantry’s annual rabies clinic from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 10, at the food pantry located at 679 Main St.

This annual event is one of the pantry’s important fundraisers, allowing the pantry to purchase critical food and hygiene items for community members in need. Rabies vaccine for dogs and cats will be administered by Windsor Veterinary Clinic for a $15 fee per animal. New this year, nail trims will be offered for $10 for qualifying animals. Animals that are aggressive or typically require sedation for nail trims will not be serviced. Animals must be leashed or in carriers. Dog licenses will also be available.

For more information, call 873-7375 and leave message, or email vassalborofsp@gmail.com.