Letters to the Editor: Support Alna’s citizens

To the editor:

I am writing as a longtime Alna resident to ask you, the people of the other towns in RSU #12, to approve the Alna Amendment when you vote on June 12. It will be on its own ballot.

After extensive analysis, the RSU board determined that this amendment will not affect any other RSU towns financially, or in any other way.

The amendment will end Alna’s current practice of taxpayer-funded private K-8 school tuition for children who become Alna residents after June 30.

Alna will, however, continue to pay private K-8 tuition for all children living in Alna as of June 30, for as long as they live here. This change harms no current Alna resident.

In addition, all current and future Alna students will have taxpayer-funded K-8 public school choice and public or private high school choice.

The townspeople of Alna voted overwhelmingly in March to end subsidy of private schools with public, taxpayer money. This policy, which we never chose, has made us a magnet for families who move to Alna just to access private school subsidy, because we are one of only two towns in Maine that have this benefit. As a result, we have the highest taxes in the RSU and in Lincoln County, and more children per capita than any other RSU town. Between 2013 and 2017, 33 children moved to Alna. Thirty of those children (91 percent) enrolled in private schools. Most of the children of our long-term families attend public schools.

We are a small residential town with no commercial tax base. We cannot afford to continue this policy. In addition, about half-a-million Alna dollars are now diverted from public to private education every year.

Please support Alna’s vote. Vote YES on the Alna Amendment.

Susan Marcus

Letters to the Editor: Please help your friends and neighbors in Alna

To the editor:

Alna is one of only two towns in Maine where children can attend private elementary schools and the taxpayers will pay the tuition. Alna citizens never chose this policy; it is a historic fluke that predates school consolidation. In recent years, as word of our unique subsidy has spread, many families have moved to Alna for the sole purpose of sending their children to private schools at the expense of the rest of us. Some people even fraudulently give an Alna address when they actually live in other towns. Landlords market Alna’s subsidy, like this internet ad: “available for school year rental, September to June. Alna is a school choice town. Children can go wherever they choose and the town will pay the tuition.”

Of the children who have moved to Alna in the last five years 91 percent attend private K-8 schools; we now have more children in private schools than public ones, more children per capita than any other town in RSU #12, and the highest taxes in Lincoln County.

In March, Alna citizens finally said enough is enough. With a record turnout, we voted by an almost 2-to-1 margin to petition the RSU school board to allow us to be free from forced payments to private K-8 schools for children who arrive in Alna after June 30. Even though the private school families now living in Alna are “grandfathered” and will not be harmed, this losing faction lobbied the RSU board to ignore our vote and force us to continue these subsidies for future arrivals. Your board representatives rejected this appeal and honored Alna’s wishes by a vote of 13-2. Now this same losing group will try to convince you – the voters of RSU #12 – to overturn the vote of their own town and force us to keep our doors open to a continuing migration by families who, like them, see Alna not as a community, but as a private school checkbook.

Please honor the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the average folks of Alna, young and old, parents and seniors, new arrivals and long-term residents alike and help us put an end to this by voting “YES” on the Alna Question on the RSU ballot on June 12.

Doug Baston

Letters to the Editor: Urges “Yes” on Winslow school budget

To the editor:

June 12 is coming up fast and the citizens of the town of Winslow will be given the opportunity to vote on an $8.1 million school bond to give us the final opportunity to move out of the long standing junior high and move into an updated and more efficient facility that will be built in a two-year period. I will be voting yes on the project and let me give you some background on this decision. Approximately two-and-a-half years ago I started to attend meetings on the recommendation of what to do with the Junior High.

At the time I thought the best process would be to have a K-8 program at the elementary school and just have a high school with an expanded auditorium. After attending these meetings, I was asked to join the building committee on the formation. During this long, time consuming process with 26-plus people from our community and countless hours of analysis, it became very clear that the best benefit for all programs in the school and for the existence of other outside programs such as Winslow Rec (and other sport programs), having the elementary school become a K-8 would not suffice. Field space would be lost, gym space would be limited, and even with an expansion to the K-8, the setup would not be best possible fit for the elementary school and more investment would be required even after the expansion was done, costing taxpayers even more money in the future.

The high school option gives the taxpayers the best option of everything. An expanded gym, classroom space for junior high students, a cafeteria that will be able to serve the entire student body, and an auditorium that is less than what we have now but that barely exceeds the state minimum standards of state of Maine buildings. The efficiencies will provide savings to the school and in return, these savings will be passed onto the taxpayers in reducing the bond every year, for many years even after the bond is repaid.

Certain town council members have been giving the public incomplete facts and estimates, while using town resources to convey these inaccuracies. By voting no, taxpayers will be paying more in the future for school expansion due to the rising costs of materials such as steel and pure inflationary costs of raw material. Interest rates are increasing, and time is working against us in the existing junior high. Let us not delay, time is against us. Join me in voting yes to move Winslow forward and place our biggest investment into our infrastructure and our students that will continue to return dividends to us, the taxpayers, in the future.

Cory W. Dow

Letters to the Editor: Winslow council did not listen to the voters last time

To the editor:

Last fall, the voters of Winslow handily (54 percent to 46 percent) defeated a bond that, had it passed, would have have allowed for the construction of a Performing Arts Center (PAC) and add a seventh and eighth grade wing to Winslow High School. Unfortunately, the Winslow School Board did not heed the powerful message sent by voters. The board decided to make no changes to the membership of the building committee created to devise a plan of action and to retain the architect who designed the failed renovation. Unsurprisingly, the building committee school board, and architect have engineered a new plan (PAC PLAN II) that is essentially the same as the one soundly defeated in November. Despite the fact that the Winslow Town Council voted that PAC Bond II “ought not to pass,” the school board is asking the voters of Winslow to approve an $8.1 million bond (over $10 million when considering interest payments) to build a PAC and renovate the high school. There are many reasons why this is an idea the voters of Winslow should not embrace.

Since November, the building committee, school board, and town council have all been working very hard to come up with a solution to our school infrastructure issues. Regrettably, the members of the building committee and our school board appear far more concerned with doubling the seating in our Performing Arts Center than providing state of the art school security measures, Advanced Placement labs, seating in the renovated gym, technology and cafeteria improvements (to name only a few). These are major mistakes. Prioritizing seats in a PAC above needs that would improve education for the entire student population in Winslow is not the direction we should be moving in. We need a plan that supports ALL students in Winslow, not just a select few.

Many of us here in Winslow would prefer to renovate Winslow Elementary School and to create a K-8 school. This belief is based on the very different needs and stages of development of adolescent and pre-adolescent students. Young adults should not be attending the same school as seventh graders. The K-8 alternative is a viable opportunity that has been estimated to cost $12 million at one point and $9.7 at another point. In fact, architect Stevie Blatt even said “We probably could build a K-8 building for $7.83 million” at one one building committee meeting. Since none of these cost estimates were analyzed by an independent third party, we really have no idea what we could or could not do given the budget set by the town council. The K-8 option is an opportunity that needs to be explored in full but unfortunately has not been given a fair hearing due to the fact that it would not allow for the building of a PAC which is the driving motivation behind the current masterminds of this project.

One major difference between this bond and the one we voted on in November is that this bond allows the building committee and school board much more flexibility in spending the funds as they see fit. There is nothing in the PAC Bond II ballot question that forces the school board and building committee to spend the money on the building specifications the building committee has outlined to the voters. It is not a prudent idea to allow spending of this magnitude to be unchecked by the town council. A blank check allowing carte blanche to the building committee spending is a scheme far too risky for the voters of Winslow to endorse.

PAC Bond II does not provide the best path for us to move forward as a community. We need to go back to the drawing board, form a new building committee, hire a new architect, and take a fresh look at our school configuration options. These options should not include seating in a PAC at the expense of other, more worthwhile, educationally related items that enhance all students’ learning. The K-8 option should also be fairly and fully vetted by the new building committee and new architect. For these reasons, I urge the voters of Winslow to reject PAC Bond II on June 12. We can do better.

Phil St. Onge

Letters to the editor: Education decisions in Winslow

To the editor:

One ballot question asks if the voters will approve an increase in the school budget for the upcoming year that is $1,043,769 more than this year’s budget. This would be a 7.2 percent increase in spending and require property taxpayers to contribute an additional $601,417 resulting in a possible increase of 5.6 percent or $137 for the median household valued at $146,000.

Another ballot question asks voters if they approve borrowing $8.1 million to consolidate the junior high students to the High School and Elementary School thereby closing the Junior High School. It is projected that at a 3 percent interest rate for the 20 year bond, a total of $10,651,500 will need to be repaid by property taxpayers. Based on the average yearly debt service payment of $532,575, property taxes would need to be dedicated which could result in an increase of 5 percent or $121 more per year for the median household.

While it has been noted by the Winslow School Board that there will be ‘cost avoidances’ once the Junior High has been closed, the school board has chosen not to provide their forecast of what the complete financial requirements will be after consolidation in September 2020.

I would suggest that it is important for voters to have the information and facts they need to make an informed decision on June 12. There is more information available on the Town website provided in the “Possible School Budget Tax Impact’ posting.

Ken Fletcher
Winslow Town Councilor

Letters to the editor: Crap on our roadsides

To the editor:

To China residents, and everyone else. When China Selectman Irene Belanger’s article, recruiting town folk to volunteer to pick up trash along our roadsides in honor of Earth Day appeared in The Town Line several weeks ago, my wife Nan and I were excited. Accordingly yesterday, Saturday April 21, we headed to our rendezvous point, not knowing I’d messed up the timing; there was no one at the South China Community Church at 9 a.m. Not giving up, we drove up to the transfer station, got some trash bags and headed out. We decided to cover a stretch of the Alder Park Road from the entrance to the station down toward Lake View Drive, and ended up doing both sides between there and the house with the white picket fence – about three-eighths to one-quarter mile by my estimate. The results of this search were, literally, staggering.

In this distance, we filled two of those massive trash bags to the point where I could barely lift them into the back of our Ford Escape. The variety of garbage was incredible. We got broken bottles (almost exclusively Bud Light), crushed cans, cardboard, cigarette packs, plastic bags, styrofoam packing “peanuts” and food containers, milk jugs, “nip” bottles and interestingly, an exposed roll of 35 mm film; I wonder how long that had been there? Personally, I also disrupted a number of earthworm housewarmings as I extracted crap from the mud and wetland areas. And possibly most disturbing, was the huge amount of fast food residue. I don’t believe there are any McDonald’s or Wendy’s in town, although Dunkin’ Donuts was well represented. Fortunately, I guess, we found only one, capped, injection needle and no used diapers. So all of this again raises the question, “how can any human with a grain of intelligence and concern for our environment discard waste in this fashion?”

If you’re a regular reader of this publication, you may recall several of my previous letters about roadside trash from the perspective of being an enthusiastic bike rider who, thus, sees a lot of it as I tool about our local towns. Already this year, the Weeks Mills Rd., Rte. 3, the Dirigo Road and many sections of Rte. 32 are infested with junk. If you want some exercise and weight training, grab a couple of trash bags and take a walk in almost any direction. And, of course, this is not just true here in central Maine; it is a world-wide issue with very few exceptions. Something must be done to limit and deal with waste in all forms before we as a planet are totally destroyed by this “plague.”

I know, change can be hard – just ask my wife about me. But for the local situation I addressed above, a few additions or alterations can be easy as well. Keep a bag of some sort in your car for any waste you generate while driving. Keep your hands inside the vehicle when handling that stuff. When you get home, place the junk in your trusty waste basket or trash bin. For home owners. or anyone else really, police the roadside as you move around outside. It really isn’t that hard to be environmentally friendly and I hope you’ll feel better about yourself as well. If folks follow these simple suggestions, maybe the turnout for Irene’s request next April will see a marked reduction in the amount of waste they have to pick up. I’ve gotta think positively!

Bob Bennett
South China

Letters to the Editor: Thanks, Pray for Jacob’s success

To the editor:

I know I’m late getting this letter written but it’s needing to be done. The fundraising 3-on-3 basketball “extravaganza” was just fantastic. So many people put so much time and effort into that day at the China Primary and Middle schools and at Erskine Academy where it went all day. Amazing!

Teams came from Brunswick, Rumford and other towns to contribute to the fundraiser and paid $5 a head to play and be a part of such an amazing fundraiser.

Many helped cooking, selling food, tickets, etc. Plus, all the refs and announcers, etc.

As Jacob’s great-grandmother, I just have to say how impressed I am to have witnessed such an event. To observe so many supporting, caring, loving and fantastic people who came to participate or just watch and be a part of it.

I did participate in the entertainment and Dan (my son) and Terry (the grandparents) and I played against Joe, Joe’s brother, Achiva and Bella (sisters of Jacob), and I made a basket, which was a miracle! Great fun for the fundraiser and one of the men from the Brunswick team called mine “The Granny Dunk.”

Many thanks to all who participated in any way, especially the China Primary and Middle schools and Erskine Academy for sharing their facilities. To those who put this all together and all those who worked many hours on it, your efforts and generosity were noted and the family is sincerely grateful. God bless you all and keep praying for Jacob, he’s going through a lot.

Nancy Seigars

Letters to the Editor: Are we on a path to national suicide?

To the editor:

I must preface this letter by acknowledging most are not my words or thoughts, but those of a Mr. Patrick J. Buchanan, but will close with my words.

The following headlines appeared in a Washington newspaper above the article written by Buchanan as follows: Race Matters in Immigration Debate, and “Trump’s recent remarks about Haiti, not really so delusional as seems.”

Agree that Trump should not have called Haiti a ***hole country, but for some interesting history on Haiti. Please peruse the following concerning the Haitian Massacre of 1804. After enslaved Africans defeated the French military in 1804, and established Haiti as the first black country in the Western Hemisphere, a mass killing of all non-blacks occurred. The ethnic cleansing of all whites was ordered by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the first ruler of independent Haiti. Through the entire territory of Haiti, from February to April, 5,000 people of all ages and gender were massacred. Today, Haiti is considered one of the most violent places in the Caribbean where assaults, street muggings, even bank robberies, are commonplace. Trump was not wrong, just vulgar.

Now, something to think about. In U.S. presidential elections, persons of color whose roots (no pun intended) are in Asia, Africa and Latin America voted 4-1 Democratic. And against the candidates favored by America’s vanishing white majority. Not for the first time, liberal ideology comports precisely with liberal interest.

Mass immigration means an America in 2050 with no core majority, made up of minorities of every race, color, religion and culture on earth, a continent-wide replica of the wonderful diversity we see today in the U.N. General Assembly. Such a country has never existed before. Are we on the yellow brick road to the new Utopia or on the path to national suicide?

My closing thought or observation is to ask ourselves the following question: What did immigration do for the Native Americans? Looking forward to your answer.

Frank Slason

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Letters to the Editor: Is the Legislature Serious?

Is the Legislature serious?

To the editor:

Is the the Legislature seriously considering imposing property tax on nonprofits, educational institutions, and hospitals? How about churches? What part of “tax-exempt” don’t they understand?

All of the above organizations and institutions provide services to the people of the community, which are beyond the scope of governmental responsibility, but which are still necessary. Nonprofits also allow people and businesses with taxable assets to invest in our communities without penalty, or without the risk of the stock market. Besides, the federal government has delineated which organizations and institutions are tax-exempt, and it’s not up to the state to change that.

Thank you.

Connie Bellet