Albion News: New books at Albion library

New books that recently arrived at the Albion Library include:

Maine Authors: Ghost Buck, by Dean Bennett; and Maine Sporting Camps, by George Smith.
Children’s: Finding Winnie, by Lindsey Mattick.
Adult: A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Backman; The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith; Driving Heat, by Richard Castle; and Warrior in the Shadows, by Marcus Wynne.

Vassalboro News: School board reaffirms existing policies

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members reaffirmed a list of existing policies at their Dec. 20 meeting, unanimously and without discussion.

Perhaps of most interest to town taxpayers is the policy entitled “Bidding/Purchasing Requirements,” which specifies when school officials must seek bids to buy things or have work done.

According to the policy, the school board expects all purchases to be “consistent with applicable laws and sound business practices.” The Superintendent of AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 is responsible for developing appropriate bidding and purchasing procedures.

The policy’s main provisions say that:

  • Under state law, the school board must seek bids for “property and casualty insurance; school bus and transportation contracts in excess of $4,000; school building construction, alterations and repairs over $100,000; and bond anticipation notes for state-subsidized school construction projects.”
  • In areas not required by law, the policy is “to competitively bid purchases of equipment, supplies, materials or services over $20,000 provided that it is practical and cost-effective to specify the materials or services with sufficient particularity to allow meaningful comparison of bids.”
  • Otherwise, the superintendent is authorized to seek RFPs (requests for proposals) for purchases over $20,000, letting prospective vendors define how they will meet the school’s need.
  • The superintendent may omit both competitive bidding and an RFP only with school board approval.
  • Bids, but not RFPs, must be opened in public. Generally, the school board is to award contracts to “the lowest bidder which the superintendent and school board deem can satisfactorily fulfill the contract.” RFPs “are to be evaluated based on criteria appropriate for the project,” and the contract is to go to “the vendor whom the superintendent and school board deem best able to meet the requirements of the school unit.”

Other policies cover animals in classrooms, service animals in school and services for home-schooled students, among other topics. Policies, and a great deal of other information, are available on the AOS 92 web site under the heading “Our District.”

In other business Dec. 20, school board members accepted Libby Mitchell’s resignation from the board, with regret and appreciation for her services, because her Nov. 8 election as Kennebec County Probate Judge creates the potential for conflict of interest. Former school board member and state Representative Lori Fowle was appointed to take Mitchell’s place until June elections.

Board members approved two new staff members at Vassalboro Community School, Educational Technician I Kyle Irvine and secretary Alison Lessard.

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Jan. 17.

China News: Selectmen call for special town meeting on marijuana moratorium

by Mary Grow

China selectmen decided at their Dec. 29 meeting they should call a special town meeting to see if residents want a moratorium on recreational marijuana activities in town, instead of waiting until the town business meeting late in March to ask for voter action.

Earlier in the month board members were ready to put off action to respond to the Nov. 8 state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana production and use. They assumed no China resident could get licensed to grow or sell marijuana commercially or operate a marijuana club until late 2017 at the earliest.

At the Dec. 29 meeting, however, consensus developed that a town resident could apply for and perhaps receive a local license before state regulations are in place, although the hypothetical businessperson could not open the business without a state license.

Since there are no current town regulations applying specifically to commercial marijuana operations, selectmen voted unanimously to ask voters at a special town meeting to approve a 180-day moratorium to give time to develop regulations.

Then they directed Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux to schedule the meeting at the earliest possible date, allowing time for publicity. A special town meeting cannot be held without a quorum; the number of voters to constitute a quorum will not be known until after Jan. 3, according to the Quorum Ordinance on the town web site.

The ordinance says: “A number equal to four percent of the residents registered to vote as of the first business day of January in the year in which the meeting is held shall constitute a quorum.”

Milton Dudley, the only planning board member who accepted the selectmen’s invitation to participate in the discussion of a possible local ordinance, suggested a public hearing to see if voters want to take any action before investing in the special town meeting. Selectmen thought it unnecessary, pointing out that public hearings seldom draw a large attendance.

Other topics at the Dec. 29 meeting included plans for the 2018 bicentennial of the incorporation of the Town of China and the planning board’s reconsideration of a controversial Neck Road application.

L’Heureux said there has been no response to advertisements for a bicentennial coordinator, leaving Selectman Neil Farrington the de facto head of the project.
Farrington said he and resident Tom Parent are working with the digitized version of the China Bicentennial History, published in 1975 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the settlement of the area around China Lake and updated in 1984.

The manager said there are two applicants for the vacant at-large seat on the planning board, including Neck Road resident Tom Michaud. Selectmen would like to appoint a planning board member at their Jan. 9 meeting so he or she could attend the Jan. 10 planning board meeting.

A major item on the Jan. 10 agenda is likely to be Parris and Catherine Varney’s application for commercial use of their barn on Neck Road, sent back to the planning board by the board of appeals.

Michaud has said that his area should be represented, because Jim Wilkens, the district representative and board chairman, is a neighbor of the Varneys and therefore is recusing himself to avoid conflict of interest. Selectman Joann Austin asked if Michaud, too, would be obliged to recuse himself from the Varney case if he were appointed. L’Heureux said he would get an answer to her question by Jan. 9.

Marie Michaud reminded selectmen of the petition she submitted in November asking them to declare a six-month moratorium on new commercial development to give time to reconstitute the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee “in order to establish Land Use Districts in accordance with the goals and provisions set forth and prescribed by the China Comprehensive Plan,” adopted in 2008.

Selectmen voted Nov. 14 to reconstitute the committee, and board member Irene Belanger has been getting in touch with former members to see if they want to serve again. Michaud reminded the board of the moratorium, which they did not impose, and asked for a legal opinion on whether they can ignore part of the petition.

Board Chairman Farrington and member Ron Breton said the petition should go to the March town business meeting, doubting the selectboard’s authority to enforce it.

Police conduct 11th annual Cops Care for Kids program Fairfield’s finest trade stetsons for Santa hats

by Mark Huard

The Cops Care For Kids Program was created in 2006 by Detective Kingston Paul who started shopping all year for small stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons which he would deliver to struggling families within Fairfield. After several years, then Chief John Emery found out that the program was being funded solely by Detective Paul and challenged all officers to donate $5 per week to the program. He himself donated $10 weekly and now the program raises about $1,300 per year. Once the officers started donating, the list was increased to include as many Fairfield children as possible and has risen to as many as 250 children.

Front, dispatcher Jeanne Kempers. Front row, from left to right, Officer Casey Dugas, Sgt. Matt Wilcox, Officers Jacob Boudreau and Patrick Mank. Back, Officer Shanna Blodgett, Sgt. Matthew Bard, Chief Tom Gould, Officer Blake Wilder and Captain Paul St. Amand. Photo by Tawni Lively, Central Maine Photography staff

This year, members of the Fairfield Police delivered to about 90 households and they gave presents to around 200 children. They were able to get names of families and children in need with the help of the Fairfield Primary and Benton Elementary School staff. The schools handed out slips to Fairfield children and collect them for the officers. Fairfield officers then go to local stores and start shopping for gifts. This year, around 600 gifts were wrapped by about 15 people in the basement of the Fairfield Town Office. They were packaged with a small stuffed animal and a business card which was printed in memory of Kingston Paul who passed away earlier this fall. Some of Kingston’s family members attended the wrapping session as well as family and friends of the department’s officers and town office staff (who helped with wrapping most of the fall). Kingston retired as a captain in 2015 after serving 20 years with the town of Fairfield, and after his passing, we learned that he donated $20,000 to the program to ensure its existence long into the future.

Fairfield Police received gifts from many sources including local citizens, the VFW and the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, although the officers are most proud of the fact that they donate the lions share of expenses for the program. Chief Tom Gould said, “It’s hard to put into words the emotions involved in the delivery process because it creates a unique connection between our department and the children who live in town. We’re just as excited to see them as they are to see us.”
Fairfield Police thank Skowhegan Printing for getting their 2016 program cards printed the same day they were needed. Also thank you to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office for patrolling the town and covering calls while all of their cruisers were busy making deliveries.

Thank you Village Market and the Fairfield Family Dollar Store for their continued support to the program.