TECH TALK: Does the future spell the end of local news?

Eric’s Tech Talk

by Eric W. Austin
Writer and Technical Consultant

In August of 1981, an upstart cable TV station began broadcasting these slick new videos set to music. They called it “music television.”

The first music video to air on the new channel was the Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It was supposed to herald the end of radio’s dominance and introduce the world to television as a new musical medium. Instead, nearly 40 years later, music can hardly be found on MTV and radio is still going strong.

The song’s theme, a lament about the old technology of radio being supplanted by the new technology of television, is playing out again with the Internet and traditional print journalism. Sadly, the Buggles’ song may turn out to be more prophetic this time around.

The newspaper industry is currently in a crisis, and even a little paper like The Town Line is feeling the hurt.

Advertising revenue, the primary source of income for newspapers the world over, has been steadily falling since the early 2000s. Between 2012 and 2016, newspaper ad revenues dropped by 21 percent, only slightly better than the previous five years where they dropped 24 percent. Overall, in the first 15 years of the new millennium, print advertising revenue fell to less than a third of what it was pre-Internet, from $60 billion to just $20 billion globally. And, unfortunately, that trend looks to continue in the years ahead.

On the positive side, circulation numbers are up for most newspapers, and public interest has never been higher, but income from subscriptions has not been enough to compensate for the lost advertising.

For small papers like The Town Line, which offers the paper for free and receives little income from subscriptions, this is an especially hard blow: more people are reading the paper, and there’s a great demand for content, but there is also less income from advertising to cover operating costs.

In the late ‘90s, The Town Line employed eight people: an editor, assistant editor, graphic artist, receptionist, bookkeeper and three sales people. Weekly issues often ran to 24 pages or more. Today that staff has been reduced to just three part-time employees, and the size of the paper has fallen to just 12 pages. There simply isn’t enough advertising to support a bigger paper.

People are more engaged than ever: they want to understand the world around them like never before. But as this business model, dependent on income from advertisers, continues to decay, without finding support from other sources, there is a real danger of losing the journalistic spirit that has played such an important role in our American experiment.

The reasons this is happening are fairly easy to explain. Businesses who once advertised exclusively in local papers have moved en masse to global platforms like Facebook and Google. These advertising platforms can offer the same targeted marketing once only possible with local publications, and they have the financial muscle to offer pricing and convenience that smaller publications cannot match.

This combination of local targeting and competitive pricing has caused a tidal wave of advertising to move from local papers to global corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter instead. In the last decade, thousands of newspapers all across the nation have closed their doors. Often the first to succumb are small, local papers that have a limited geographic audience and fewer financial resources.

Like The Town Line.

There’s also been a transition in media coverage, from local issues to ones that have more of a national, or even global, audience. Websites are globally accessible, whereas traditional papers tend to have limited geographic range. Most online advertising pays on a ‘per-click’ basis, and a news story about China, Maine, will never get the same number of clicks as one about Washington, DC.

That smaller newspapers have been some of the hardest hit only makes this problem worse, as the remaining media companies tend toward huge conglomerates that are more concerned with covering national issues that have broad appeal, rather than local stories which may only be of interest to a small, localized audience.

This means that local issues are receiving less coverage, and as a result average Americans have fewer tools to make informed decisions about their communities.

When local journalism dies, what rises up to replace it? I think the answer is pretty clear: whichever website is willing to publish the most salacious stories generating the highest click-count – with little regard to proper sourcing or journalistic ethics.

Essentially, we’ve traded journalistic integrity for clickbait content.

Only a few weeks ago, the Bangor Daily News ran a story about a recent local election that may have been decided by a local ‘news’ site with no problem running rumor as news, and political partisans only too happy to propagate the dubious links through social media. Examples like this will only become more common in the years to come.

If we don’t support the traditional values of honesty, integrity and unbiased reporting that have been the bedrock of American journalism for two centuries, we may not like what rises up to replace it.

With advertising revenues hitting all-time lows nationwide, and looking to worsen in the years ahead, newspapers increasingly must rely on support from their readers to make ends meet. Since advertisers have abandoned them, it’s now up to ‘us’ to support local papers like The Town Line.

In this New Year, make a resolution to support your local newspaper. If you’re a business, help to reverse the trend by advertising in local publications. If you’re an individual, consider becoming a member of The Town Line. A small donation of $10 a month can make a world of difference. Best of all, since The Town Line is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, private foundation, all donations are fully tax deductible!

To fulfill the American promise of an informed public, and fight the growing trend of clickbait sensationalism that has come to permeate much of the web, we must support local reporting more than ever. The time to act is now, before journalism loses another warrior in the fight for free expression.

Don’t let our generation be the one in which local journalism dies!

Eric Austin lives in China, Maine and writes about technology and community issues. He can be reached at

Obituaries, Week of January 4, 2018


OAKLAND – John W. Casey, Jr., 80, died Monday, December 11, 2017. He was born July 2, 1936, the son of John Casey, Sr. and Margaret Nugent Casey.

He was educated in the schools of Kezar Falls and a graduate of Porter High School. He later graduated from the University of Maine. He also did graduate work at Maine and the University of Wyoming.

John had a varied work career; always interested in new and different endeavors.

He served his country in Korea with the U.S. Army. Strong friendships were formed with fellow soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

Later in life John and his beagle friend, Ginger, spent many happy days at the family camp in Aroostook County. John loved the peace and quiet of the area. He loved nature and all its creatures. A favorite saying was, “the only creature in nature you have to watch out for has two legs.”

John never was a sports fan as such but he was a fair baseball player involved in Jr. Legion high school and town team ball.

John is survived by his wife of 50 years, Shirley Ledue Casey; two sons, Joel and his wife Kara and Daniel; four grandchildren, Kayla Casey, of Belgrade, Brooke Casey, of Winterport, Joshua and Nathan Casey, of Oakland; one great-granchild, Jacoby Joshua Stainevicz; granddaughter Maria Amrani, of Silver Springs, Maryland.; and several nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to Somerset Animal Shelter, PO Box 453, Skowhegan, ME 04976.


WINDSOR –– Nicholas D. Gowell, 40, died unexpectedly Wednesday, December 13, 2017. Nicholas was born September 21, 1977, to Cheryl Pease and Kurt Gowell.

In the past year Nicholas made every attempt at recovering from his addictions, helped mostly by the support of his great friend Peter Wahl. He loved reading, cooking and being around his favorite dogs at his grandparents in Windsor. He also loved watching scary movies, a passion he developed from an early age from Grammie Claire and shared with his sister Miranda.

Nicholas was predeceased by his uncle David Kenney; his grandfather Raymond Kenney and his grandparents Claire and Chestere Gowell, of Sabasttus.

Nicholas is survived by his mother Cheryl Pease, of Windsor; father Kurt Gowell, of West Gardiner; a sister Miranda Pease and a nephew, Aiden Partridge, of Windsor; sister Alicia Gowell, of Lewiston; his grandparents Mavis and Richard Pooler, of Windsor; aunt Linda and husband Reggie Merriam, aunt Sandy Averill, of Sabattus; Mike Kenney, of Wilton, Mario and Pat Gowell, Anthony and Mariann Gowell, George Gowell, all of Sabattus; Kerry Gowell, of Cape Cod, Massachusetts; as well as several cousins.

There will be a memorial service in the spring.

Memorial donations can be made to Tree Top Recovery, 293 Country Club Road, Oakland ME 04963.


ALBION – Carl P. Buitta, 90, of Albion, passed away on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, at Togus VA hospital.

Arrangements are under the care of Direct Cremation of Maine, 182 Waldo Ave., Belfast.


VASSALBORO – Normand R. Lapointe, Jr., 54, passed away, Tuesday, December 19, 2017, at his home following a long illness. Normand was born in Augusta to Normand Sr. and Theresa (Gregoire) Lapointe.

Normand married his wife, Lisa Lapointe, in April 1988. Together they shared 29 years of marriage and raised two sons, Roger and Andrew. Normand started working at the family business, Lapointe Lumber Co., in Augusta, at a young age. He eventually became a co-owner and managed the Gardiner store until he retired due to his illness.

Normand loved spending his spare time at his camp in Upper Enchanted Township. He was the trail master of Coburn Mountain ATV Club and served several terms on the board of directors for the road association for his camp road. He was an avid hunter (bear and deer hunting being his favorite). When his sons were younger, he also helped coach their baseball teams. Normand also enjoyed riding his Harley Davidson and enjoying his trips to Sturgis, Daytona Beach, and the Gaspe Peninsula, in Canada. He also enjoyed his snowmobile trips to Canada.

He was always more than willing to lend a helping hand to anyone he knew, regardless of the time or place, as helping others was always most important to him. He touched many lives; whether it was family, friends, or people associated with Lapointe Lumber. Normand was also known for his positive attitude and never complaining no matter how sick he was. Most who knew him never really knew how sick he was.

Normand was predeceased by his father, Normand Sr., his mother-in-law, Donna Nutting and brother-in-law, Ernie Warren.

He is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Roger Lapointe, of Augusta, and Andrew Lapointe and his wife Alexandria, of Vassalboro; his mother, Theresa Lapointe, of Augusta; sisters, Joyce Lapointe and partner Wes Kimball, of Augusta, Peggy Lord and husband, Tim of Augusta, Linda Lapointe, of Augusta, and Elsie St. Onge and husband Robert, of Augusta, brother-in-law Scott Nutting and wife Julie, of Oakland, sisters-in-law Brenda Short and partner Gary Towle, of Rye, New Hampshire, and Lynn Rodrigue and husband Scott, of Beavercreek, Ohio; several nieces and nephews.

Condolences, photos and memories may be shared at

Memorial donations may be made to theCrohn’s and Colitis Foundation, National Processing Centr, Attn.: Honor and Memorial Gifts, PO Box 1245, Albert Lea, Minnesota 56007-9976 or ACPMP Research Foundation, 6415 Granger Road, Independence, Ohio 44131.


OAKLAND – Nelson K. Reynolds, 52, of Oakland, passed away unexpectedly at home on Wednesday, December 20, 2017. He was born in Waterville on October 25, 1965, the son of the late Robert and Louise (Chamberlain) Reynolds Sr.

Nelson attended Waterville High School. From his high school days on, he diligently worked as an all-around handyman. He was an early rising, hardworking man that was appreciated by all his clients.

Nelson loved music, but most of all loved spending time with his grandchildren. He had a great sense of humor, and was loving, caring, and helpful to all who knew him. Besides his parents, he was predeceased by his sister, Irene Reynolds; and his nephew, Chris Doucette.

He is survived by his daughter, Reva Ashley Reynolds; his companion of 18 years, Faylene Poulin, and her children, Michael Robertson and his wife Ashley, and Michelle Coffman; his sisters Robin Doucette and her husband Huegh, and Louis Hayes and her husband Reggie; his brothers Ray Reynolds and his wife Brenda, John Reynolds, and Robert Reynolds Jr.; his grandchildren Chelsea, Sabrina, Patrick, Makayla, Jenna, Hanna, Savannah, John Joseph, and Jocelynne; and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Nelson’s life will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Oakland American Legion. Please bring your favorite potluck dish to share. Graveside services at Lewis Cemetery in Oakland will be held in the spring.

An online guestbook may be signed and memories shared at


FAIRFIELD – Lorraine J. MacArthur, 77, passed away on Wednesday, December 20, 2017. She was born in Gardiner on October 14, 1940, and was raised by her mother and stepfather, Beatrice and Joseph Pelletier.

Lorraine held numerous jobs around the country throughout her life until her retirement from Bath Iron Works.

Lorraine loved arts and crafts, she enjoyed sewing, needle work, and ceramics. At one-point Lorraine had her own ceramic shop where she taught ceramic classes. Lorraine was also a lifetime member of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary and the Disabled American Veterans.

She was predeceased by her mother and stepfather.

Lorraine is survived by her husband Robert C. MacArthur; three sons, Michael, Mitchell, and Robert, two daughters, Lillian and Valerie; sister Irene Bellows, brother Joseph Matthews, of Hawaii; 18 grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

An online guestbook may be signed and memories shared at:

Memorial donations can be made to Kennebec Federal Savings Bank in Lorraine MacArthur’s trust.


FAIRFIELD – William L. Cyr, 77, of Fairfield, passed away on Saturday, December. 23, 2017. Bill was born on September 28, 1940, in Waterville, the son of Romeo and Cecile (Richards) Cyr.

Bill was educated in local schools, graduating from Waterville High School in 1959.

In his early years, he was employed by Ford Garage, Maingas, and Smiley’s Dairy. Bill retired from SAPPI Fine Paper in 2001, after many years of service. He was a volunteer firefighter in Fairfield for 25 years, a deputy sheriff for Somerset County, and also served as bail commissioner for the State of Maine.

Bill was very passionate for law enforcement, and loved receiving and collecting hats, T-shirts and anything to do with police work. He was also an avid coin collector. Bill enjoyed watching old war movies and playing on his iPad. He always kept up with technology.

Some of the fondest family memories were the yearly family trips to Popham Beach every third week in July, rain or shine!

Bill was very clever and witty. He loved salt on his food, and when it was recently removed from his diet, he found a way to stash some in a medicine bottle he kept by his bed! Ha ha!

Bill is survived by his wife of 56 years, Theresa (Breton) Cyr; his daughters, Patricia (Cyr) Philippon and husband William, of Topsham; Cindy (Cyr) Mills and husband Joseph, of West Gardiner; Laura (Cyr) Higgins and husband Michael, of Winslow; and Robin Cyr, of Benton, who was like his own daughter; his grandchildren, Melissa (Philippon) Nevers and husband Jeromy, of Topsham; Hannah Mills and Tailah Mills, of West Gardiner; Melinda (Philippon) Young and husband Joshua, of Durham; Derek Philippon and wife Emily, of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Alicia Higgins, of Farmington; his great-grandchildren, Zoey Nevers, and Elliot and Hazel Young.

An online guest book may be signed and memories shared at:


SOUTH CHINA – Lona L. Newcomb, 85, of the Kidder Road, died Sunday, December 24, 2017, at MaineGeneral Rehabilitation and Nursing Care at Gray Birch Drive, in Augusta, following an extended illness.

She was born in Winn on July 31, 1932, the daughter of Howard Keith and Margaret (Mccue) Keith.

Prior to her retirement, Mrs. Newcomb was employed by the State of Maine as a payroll clerk for many years. She was previously employed by Erskine Academy, in South China, and Country Manor Nursing Home, in Coopers Mills.

Lona enjoyed doing a number of crafts along with reading.

Her husband, Wandell Newcomb, predeceased her, along with Herman Althenn, Kenneth Ingraham, daughter Dianne Lane and step-daughter-in-law, Gail Newcomb.

Surviving are three sons, David Althenn and wife Terri, Daniel Althenn and wife Becky, Russell Althenn and wife Patty, and step-son David Newcomb; grandchildren, Crystal Davidson, Heather Gehosky, Sarah Marsh, Christopher Weston, Hubert Weston, Alicia Lane, Autum Althenn, Leanne Veilleux, Gregory Althenn, Melissa Althenn and step-grandson Clinton Libby. Lona also had seven great-grandchildren and three step-great-grandchildren.

Condolences, photos and stories may be shared at

There are no public visiting hours scheduled. A committal service will be held Wednesday, January 3, at 9 a.m., in the chapel at Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 163 Mt. Vernon Road, Augusta, ME.

Memorial donations may be made to Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, 361 Old Belgrade Road, Augusta, ME 04330.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Plummer Funeral Home, 983 Ridge Road, Windsor, ME.


FAIRFIELD––Marlene L. Philbrook Foster, 80, wife of the late Robert W. Foster, died on Sunday, December 24, 2017, at her home. She was born to the late Kennith and Annie Elston Philbrook of Etna, on November 9, 1937.

Marlene was predeceased by her brother, Ralph Philbrook; brother-in-law, Keith Damon; son, Ralph Spence; daughters, Mary Spence and Leslynn Maniscalco; and granddaugthter, Nateesha Hernandez.

She is survived by her uncle, Fred and Doris Elston, of Etna; sister, Lucille Damon; sister-in-law, Carol Philbrook; brothers, Kennith and wife Norma, Robert and wife Marie, Don and wife Nancy Philbrook; herchildren, Louanne and husband Duane Smith, Anna and Betty Spencer; daughter-in-law, Palma Spencer; two grandchildren, who lived with her, Storm and Bella; children with her second husband, Lyneete, Luranna, Lawseen, Loleeta, Leeanne, Susanne, Robin, and Robert Foster Jr.; 20 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

An online guestbook may be signed at


WINSLOW­­––John Howard McQuillan, 87, of Winslow, passed away on Wednesday, December 27, 2017, at his home. He was born on October 11, 1930, in Waterville, the son of Verna (Abbey) and Arthur McQuillan.

He was educated in area schools, graduated from Maine Maritime Academy, in Castine, where he played football and went to work for Columbia Gas and then American Export Lines. In 1952 he married Shirley Mercier and together they had two children, lived in Ohio and New Jersey before moving to Maine where he worked for Scott Paper Co., in Winslow, as a supervisor.

John enjoyed woodworking, was very handy and on many occasions readily helped out his neighbors. It’s always good to have a neighbor who knows which end of the hammer to use. A quiet and unassuming man, John was gentle, kind and considerate. Win or lose at playing cards or golf it was never a competition for him. When it came to Patriot’s football, he never missed a kick-off.

John’s priorities in life was his relationship with God, his family and others. He was a man who was cut from the finest cloth and he will be greatly missed.

He was predeceased by his grandchild, Maisie Charles Knowles and his twin sisters, Kathleen Lord and Elaine Marston.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Shirley McQuillan, of Winslow; his son David McQuillan and wife Elaine, their daughter Becky, all of New Hampshire and their son Capt. Ryan McQuillan, USAF; his daughter Michelle McQuillan Knowles, of Vassalboro and her sons Drew and David; his brother Robert McQuillan, of Sidney; as well as nieces and nephews.

Please visit to view some photos of John’s life and to share condolences, memories and tributes with his family.


WINSLOW––Carmel Aa. Fredette, 72, of Winslow, passed away Thursday, December 28, 2017. She was born in Killaloe, County Claire, Ireland, on July 18, 1945

At 10 months old, she and her mother traveled by boat to Ellis Island to join her World War II Soldier father. Her name was added to the wall at Ellis Island along with her mother’s.

Carmel met her true love, Randall, at the Sydney Fair in 1959. She was the glue that held the family together. Her proudest moments were spent supporting all her grandchildren in their activities and sports, traveling anywhere to watch them. Even when she was at the hospital, she would inform the staff that she had to be out a certain time to attend these events. She was well known for being the Winslow wrestling assistant coach from the sidelines.

A familiar figure in the Winslow community, Carmel was employed by the school district for 44 years as a bus driver. During her time of driving she touched many lives and made a positive impact on their futures.

She was predeceased by a daughter, Sara Rose; and her parents, Alfred and Kathleen Philbrick.

She is survived by her husband, Randall E. Fredette Sr.; and six children, Randall Emile Fredette Jr., Kevin Fredette and wife Carol, Eileen Richards and husband Bruce, Todd Fredette and wife Lori, Tara Fredette and fiancé Mike Fredericks, Donald Demers and wife Marsha; sister, Eva Whitney; a great-aunt, Pearl McMahon; 14 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Please visit to view a video collage of Carmel’s life and to share condolences, memories and tributes with her family.

Memorial donations may be made to Arthritis Foundation National Office, 1355 Peachtree St. NE, Suite 600, Atlanta GA 30309


VASSALBORO ––Althea Louise Henderson, 95, of Vassalboro died on Friday, December 29, 2017. Althea was born in Sherman Mills on January 15, 1922.

Althea worked for A.M.H. I. for 27 years as an occupational therapist, and continued to work after retirement as an activities coordinator at nursing homes.

Althea had a way of making everyone she met feel special. She would light up a room with her infectious smile and contagious personality.

She wrote poems and songs that continue to touch the hearts of many, and it seemed at times her talent was endless. Althea made countless quilts, enjoyed painting, and every grandchild could count on mittens for Christmas. She loved to entertain in every sense of the work. Whether she was baking blueberry cake and apple pies, or singing, she made it known her heartbeat was her family. Her love of family was preceded only by her love for God. From teaching Sunday school, community outreach, and her mission trips to Taiwan, her life was a beautiful example of the heart of a servant.

She was predeceased by her husband of 43 years, Lyle Henderson; and grandchildren Peter, Timothy, Matthew, and Rebekah.

Althea is survived by her eight children, Walter and wife Terry Henderson, Bonnie and husband Peter Stetson, Lorna and husband Sherwood Bumps, William and wife Teresa Henderson, Dana and wife Robbie Henderson, Dora and husband Peter Hickey, Wade and wife Michele Henderson, Joyce and husband Dick Roach; 26 grandchildren; 43 great-grandchildren; and 13 great-great-grandchildren; siblings, Beryl, Joyce, Helen, and George.

Condolences, memories, photos and videos may be shared with the family on the obituary page of the website at

Erskine to hold parent/teacher conferences

Erskine Academy has scheduled Parent/Teacher Conferences on Wednesday, January 17, from 3 to 7:30 p.m. (snow date will be Thursday, January 18). Progress reports will be emailed to parents by January 16. For those parents who have not yet submitted a primary email address, please stop by the Guidance Office for a printed copy of your student’s progress report. No appointments are necessary as teachers will be available to speak with parents in their respective classrooms. Refreshments will be available in the library and the Sports Boosters will be selling Erskine apparel and other merchandise during the evening.

In addition, a representative from the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) will be at the school to present information on paying for college. Soup and salad will be served in the cafeteria from 5 – 5:30 p.m., for attendees. The FAME presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the cafeteria and will end at approximately 6:20 p.m. In addition to financial aid information, the Guidance Department will provide information about course offerings and dual enrollment opportunities.

Please feel free to contact the Guidance Office at 445-2964 with any questions or concerns regarding this information.

WATERVILLE: Care & Comfort workplace cited

Care & Comfort, a leading provider of Home Health and Behavioral Healthcare, was recently recognized as one of Maine’s best employers for workers over the age of 50 for 2017 by the Maine State Workforce Investment Board’s Older Workers Committee.

The Silver Collar Employers Award honors Maine employers whose policies and practices match the needs of mature employees, valuing their skills and experience, strong work ethic, flexibility, and enthusiasm.

The agency which is locally owned and operated was founded in 1991 and employees over 400 people – a significant percentage of whom are over 50. Services for individuals and families are provided in 13 counties thus providing employment opportunities close to home for most workers.

“Care & Comfort is pleased to have employees spanning several generations choosing to work with us, and we are truly honored to be recognized for our commitment to employing those over 50,” said Mike Stair, COO. “Age is never a factor from the time we begin our hiring process, but experience, confidence, vitality, and reliability are.”

According to the Maine Department of Labor, Maine is the oldest state in the nation, with a median age of 44.5 years. “Nearly one-quarter of the state’s labor force is age 55 and over,” remarked Susan D. Giguere C & C’s CEO, and Founder. “As one of those, I know first-hand that most of us enjoy working and we are good at what we do!”

AUGUSTA: Kennebec Historical Society to hear Joey Kelley

Come for a ride through 150 years of history in Waldo County. Chartered in 1867, the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad has survived two world wars, the construction of highways, the collapse of the poultry industry in Waldo County and survives today as a tourist railroad and historic relic of days gone by. This presentation by author and railroad historian Joey Kelley outlines the history of this unique railroad and gives you a summary of his book on the subject – the very first book ever written on the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad.

Joey Kelley

The speaker, Joseph T. “Joey” Kelley, is a railroad historian, photographer and volunteer with the Brooks Preservation Society. He has been involved with the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad on and off since 2004 and was once a paid employee of the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad Preservation Society. His other passions include photography, motorcycles and restoring antique equipment.

The Kennebec Historical Society January Presentation is co-sponsored by the Maine State Library and free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. at the Maine State Library, located at 230 State Street, in Augusta.

CHINA: Short agenda leads to variety of discussions

by Mary Grow

China selectmen turned a short agenda into a variety of discussion topics at their between-holidays meeting on Dec. 27.

Called primarily to pay biweekly bills, the meeting included updates on the road crew’s work in the Christmas storm and on the new Neck Road fire pond; proposals to record selectmen’s meetings and to change the meeting time; ways to find a successor to Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux, who is retiring at the end of June; and plans to look into increased police service.

L’Heureux said the town road crew put in more than 50 hours during the Christmas storm, with satisfactory results. The new plow truck, which cost $77,000 plus trade-in, was in service, he said.

Board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere asked about progress on the fire pond, for which voters appropriated up to $8,500 in November. L’Heureux said the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the project, and digging to enlarge the existing pond started.

He doubts it will be possible to build a parking area for fire trucks to load water until spring. Also, he said, the town needs to get land and water easements from the two landowners involved.

Selectman Donna Mills-Stevens asked for further clarification from the state DEP on an old unresolved issue of alleged dumping on nearby land. The letter approving the fire pond does not appear to address the question, she said.

Mills-Stevens was the board member who proposed recording meetings. Board Chairman Robert MacFarland asked L’Heureux to look into the idea. Based on experience with written records, the manager doubted many residents would ask to hear recordings if they were made.

L’Heureux intends to present the draft 2018-19 budget at the board’s Jan. 8 meeting – he is still waiting for a small number of requests to arrive, he said. To allow time to begin budget review, board members agreed to start the Jan. 8 meeting at 6 p.m. They then discussed whether to change the meeting time permanently. Mills-Stevens said people tell her the meetings start and end too late; Irene Belanger said starting before 7 p.m. would not leave much time for working people who wanted to attend to eat supper first. No decision was made.

LaVerdiere told the board he knows an area resident with experience running offshore drilling rigs who might be interested in the manager’s position. His comment sparked discussion of ways to advertise the position. After the meeting, L’Heureux asked the Maine Municipal Association, of which China is a member, what assistance its staff can provide.

MacFarland reported that he and L’Heureux plan to meet with Oakland Police Chief Michael Tracy and Sergeant Tracey Frost, two of the Oakland officers who serve China, to talk about possibly increasing hours of coverage.

The China Board of Appeals is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, to hear two administrative appeals from Bio Renewable Fuels Corp. on Dirigo Road. On Saturday, Jan. 6, the Four Seasons Club sponsors a rabies clinic from 11 a.m. to noon. More information on these and other meetings and events is available on the town website.

With winter settled in, ice fishing success increases

brook trout

by Frank R. Richards

Ice fishing on Webber Pond can be really good, particularly in January and March. I’ve learned a few things over the years and I’d like to pass them on.

Usually, fish are most active just after the ice forms and in March as the snow melts, bringing oxygenated water into the pond. February can be slow.

The yellow lines indicate prime ice fishing spots on Webber Pond right after ice in and in March. Illustration courtesy of Frank Richard

When a lake is frozen, the wind can’t oxygenate the water. By late January, in a relatively shallow, mostly clay bottomed lake like Webber, there is often very little oxygen left in water that is deeper than 15 feet. Without oxygen, fish are not moving around much or feeding aggressively.

They will seek relatively warmer water with higher levels of oxygen. Locations may vary according to differences in individual years. However, generally the optimum seems to be about 8 feet for bass and crappies; about 4 feet for stocked trout.

Either jigging or tip ups will produce fish. I prefer to jig when I am alone. I like tip ups better when I am fishing with friends. Waiting for flags is a great time to socialize.

With tip ups, I think it is easiest to set the bait about 18 inches under the ice. In water as shallow as eight feet, fish will come up to it from where ever they may be located in the water column.

To go with the article, I have prepared a map and drawn yellow lines to indicate good places. Over the years, I have had my best results off Birch Point. However, the area off the Green Valley Campground has also been productive recently.

Stocked trout may be caught in shallow areas all over the lake. However, by far, the best trout hole is the “Two Rocks” area on the northern shore. Also, I have been told that there is a spring near Church Island. If anyone ever gets an exact location, it will be extremely productive because of the highly oxygenated water.

chain pickerel

Please practice catch and release on bass weighing more than three pounds. Large fish play a very important role in promoting the overall health of the total fishery. If the hook is deep, simply cutting the line is far safer for the fish than trying to disgorge a hook that is embedded deep down.

I believe the size of bass taken through ice has increased significantly compared to 20 years ago. I suspect it is because of the additional forage provided by juvenile alewives during the summer.

Crappies have also evolved as a popular fish on Webber, both through the ice and open water. They came down Seaward Mills Stream from Three Mile Pond and then proliferated. They were evidently not illegally introduced by a self-appointed bucket biologist. They did not come up the fish ladder from Seven Mile Stream.

Crappie are an excellent eating fish and so prolific that there is no reason to practice catch and release. Also, there is no reason to practice catch and release on stocked trout. If the bass don’t eat them, they will die as the water warms up during the summer. White perch, yellow perch, and pickerel are also frequently caught on Webber; and are good to eat.

Good fishing. And enjoy the winter.

Frank Rich­ards is president of the Webber Pond Asso­ciation.

largemouth bass

brown trout