China town to go back to stickers at transfer station; scuttle RFID

by Mary Grow

After another discussion of how to limit the number of unauthorized people trying to use the China transfer station, transfer station committee members voted unanimously at their Sept. 12 meeting to recommend that the town go back to a sticker system.

The town office used to issue stickers, good for a year, to be affixed to the vehicle whose license plate matched the plate number written on the sticker. With a grant, town officials changed to a radio frequency identification (RFID) system, which involved issuing each user a placard to hang on the rearview mirror.

The placard system has a major flaw: residents share their placards with non-resident friends and relatives who use the transfer station without paying the local taxes that support it.

The RFID system was supposed to provide information useful for evaluating transfer station service. In practice, the information has been only somewhat useful, committee and staff members said.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said a few residents object to stickers, either because they don’t want to advertise what town they live in, or because they don’t want their vehicle decorated. The new stickers will not have a town name on them, she said.

Previous discussions ran into a snag: Hapgood wants to charge a small amount for each sticker to cover the cost of buying, recording and distributing them, and she believes residents of both China and Palermo should be charged.

Palermo committee member Robert Kurek said under Palermo’s contract with China, Palermo residents should not incur any new charges. He believes the sticker cost should be taken from the annual $18,000 fee Palermo pays China.

Hapgood pointed out that $18,000 does not cover as much today as it did when the two towns’ representatives signed the contract in 2016. Kurek countered that Palermo officials have already agreed to an amendment (in 2022) allowing the price of Palermo residents’ special blue bags to be adjusted upward for inflation.

The issue was left unresolved, as were other questions, for example about stickers for part-time residents.

The recommendation to go back to stickers will be on the China select board’s Sept. 25 agenda, Hapgood said. If board members approve, she hopes to have stickers available at the China and Palermo town offices by early October and required to enter the China transfer station beginning Jan. 1, 2024.

In other business, transfer station manager Thomas Maraggio had good news: the price of recycled cardboard has gone up from $40 per ton to $77 per ton.

He reported that staff member Cheyenne “Cj” Houle is working on two grant applications, for a compost pad and for lighting in the free for the taking building. Committee member James Hsiang said he is experimenting with battery-powered or solar-powered lighting.

Transfer station committee members scheduled their next meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17.

China board meets new member, codes officer

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members met briefly Sept. 12, mostly to get acquainted with a new member and China’s new codes enforcement officer.

For their Sept. 26 meeting, they might have two applications for solar farms.

Board co-chairman Toni Wall introduced new member Elaine Mather, representing District 3. Mather was appointed by select board members Aug. 28, to finish Walter Bennett’s term, and on Nov. 7 is unopposed for election to a two-year term.

Codes enforcement officer (and health officer and licensed plumbing inspector) Zachary Gosselin was appointed at the Aug. 14 select board meeting and was attending his first planning board session. Wall and co-chairman James Wilkens welcomed both newcomers and encouraged Gosselin to reach out when he needed background information.

Wall distributed copies of a revised Planning Board Ordinance, thanking town attorney Amanda Meader for her suggestions. She asked fellow board members to be ready to discuss the draft on Sept. 26.

Wall said one application that might be presented Sept. 26 is from Perennial Renewables, for a solar farm in a former gravel pit on the west side of Route 32 South (Windsor Road), about opposite the Route 32 General Store.

A second application is from Noble Energy Systems, Wall said, for a community solar farm on an 0.3-acre lot the east side of Parmenter Road, in the section between the Mann and Western Ridge road intersections that is known locally as Moe’s Mountain.

Windsor select board deals with variety of issues

by The Town Line staff

At their August 29 meeting, the Windsor Select Board dealt with a variety of issues, and heard from some department heads.

Public Works Supervisor Keith Hall informed the board that culvert work on Coopers Mills Road has been completed, except for the paving. No date has been set for paving.

Hall, however, brought up some safety hazards that public works has been facing while doing the culvert work. A truck almost struck a couple of the workers. “It blew past road signs and a flagger,” Hall said, adding that these things happen more often than he’d like to admit. Hall explained that cones and signs are placed well in advance of the work area, allowing drivers plenty of time to slow down and be aware of the workers.

Hall also said that paving is behind schedule due to problems at the asphalt plant and the amount of rain this summer.

Town manager Theresa Haskell announced, on behalf of the town of Whitefield, that South Hunts Meadow Road will be closed until October 5, in order to replace the Joy’s Pond culvert. The closure will be from Rte. 126, Gardiner Rd., the last home before the closure is 104 South Hunts Meadow Rd., From Rte. 194, Pittston Rd., the last house before the closure is 154 South Hunts Meadow Rd.

The board also approved:

  • to accept and sign the Assessor’s 2023 Municipal Valuation Return;
  • the acceptance of three new road names, Tiny Cabin Road, Broken Ledge Road, and Bernier Lane;
  • appointing Richard H.Gray Jr., as a Conservation Commission Committee member.

It was noted that Haskell received a certificate of service “15 years” from Maine Town, City and County Management Association. Selectman Ray Bates added that while speaking with an official from Kennebec County, it was mentioned the town manager in Windsor, “was doing a bang up job!” Bates wanted folks to know that Haskell’s work was being noticed.

Haskell informed the board that the town’s auditor, Keel Hood, had recently passed away. She spoke with Keel’s son noting that he had worked with his father and helped him with his business. In a letter, Haskell said his son cordially has declined to keep clients or take over business affairs for his father. Haskell said the town will actively be looking for a new auditor, as will many other towns.

Selectman Tom McNaughton brought back to the board more discussion about the small community grant for a septic replacement that was discussed during a previous select board meeting. The select board, following more discussion, asked Tom to draft a letter to the resident letting him know the town is not at a place where they can take part in the grant request from the Department of Environmental Protection.

In other business, Hall informed the board that while working along the Coopers Mills Road, he took an opportunity to speak with a property owner about the small pond that often rises during heavy rains or long periods of rain, and can become a problem for road crews. After some discussion the property owner was happy to have the town drain the pond because he has small children. The pond has been drained.

The next meeting of the board of selectmen was scheduled for September 12.

Palermo selectmen schedule two public meetings

by Mary Grow

Palermo select board members have scheduled two public meetings to discuss and act on a proposed moratorium on high-impact electric transmission lines through the town, in response to the proposed LS power line from Aroostook County to Coopers Mills.

Select board chairman Robert Kurek said a public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, in the town office to discuss the issue. A special town meeting to vote on a moratorium is set for a week later, 5:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 22, also in the town office.

The proposed 180-day moratorium and additional information are on the town website,

Windsor select board discusses site plan ordinances

by The Town Line staff

At the August 15 meeting, the Windsor Select Board held discussions about Site Plan Ordinances. Present were two planning board members, F. Gerard Nault and Carol Chavarie. The select board has a goal of having a special town meeting tentatively set for November 8. On the agenda for this town meeting is a site plan ordinance. The select board has asked the planning board to investigate wording and create a site plan ordinance. Chavarie and Nault have asked that Selectman Andrew Ballantyne attend the planning board meeting on September 11. Ballantyne said he would be there.

Town Manager Theresa Haskell noted that the local road assistance program last year was $38,992. This year, there will be an increase of $5,976, bringing the total to $33,968.

There was discussion on the Maine Revenue Services 2023 municipal tax rate calculations. Windsor Assessor’s Agent C. Vern Ziegler suggested a motion on the assessor’s certification of assessment, 2023-24 municipal tax assessment warrant, certificate of commitment, and certificate of assessment to be returned to municipal treasurer state of Maine. The board approved unanimously.

Codes Enforcement Officer Arthur Strout explained to the board about questions lingering on social media about the town allegedly not allowing a tiny house to be placed on a property. Strout stated there are three criteria needed to have a home placed or built on any property – power, water and sewer. When the resident had placed the tiny home on the property, they had none of the three. He stated he wanted to use a compost toilet. He still would have needed a place for his gray water (water from the sink). He had nowhere for the gray water to go. He wanted to run a piping above ground from the tiny house and connect to his waterline at the main house. With much discouragement, due to it being unsafe, he wanted to run power cords from the tiny house to his home nearby for electricity. Ultimately, soon thereafter, the tiny house was moved to another piece of land in another town.

Central Maine Power Co. asked to use the town hall outside or upstairs as a place to gather for community discussions. This would provide members of the community the opportunity to ask questions. The hours of operation would be between 1 and 3 p.m., and last approximately 90 minutes. No dates have been set. The board agreed and suggested weekend hours would be best. CMP had working hours in mind.

Haskell handed out the monthly transfer station report. July was up from last year by $1,858.35, making the overall total for the year ast $8,829.90.

In other matters, new animal control officer Ryan Carver was sworn in. Kim Bolduc-Bartlett was appointed back up animal control officer;

– Katherine Johnson was appointed tax collector.
– Tom McNaughton will be meeting with vendors to discuss heat pumps for the town hall over the next few weeks.

Antoinette Turner, not a Windsor resident, came before the board on behalf of a member of the community. She, on behalf of a resident on Ridge Road, is asking what is needed to submit a petition for medical marijuana. She went on to say the person that she is representing must sell in the parking lot because it is not his residence. Not being specific, questions were asked of her, such as what he would be selling, and for what purpose. Turner understood there are lots of layers when it comes to selling. Haskell let Turner know the petition needed to have specific wording. Turner thanked the board for the information that was given to her and answering her questions.

Finally, Haskell noted Emmett Appel has been mowing Greeley’s Landing boat launch area. He has done a wonderful job making it look nice and cleaned up. He had sent an email making mention of the area with the “white fence” alongside the road. This being Parke Property, owned by the town, he asked if he and some of his classmates could make some walking trails in that area. Haskell will ask Appel if he is interested in attending a conservation committee meeting.

China select board seeks residents’ help on two projects

by Mary Grow

China select board members are looking for residents’ help on two very different projects: investigating the proposed LS power line and building the planned vault storage addition at the town office.

For the first, they want people to serve on a committee to get more information, with some sort of town action as a probable outcome.

For the second, they want people willing and able to do the physical work of building the structure – “an old-fashioned barn-raising, if you will,” said town building committee chairman Sheldon Goodine.

The LS power line is planned to bring wind-generated electricity from northern Maine to Coopers Mills. Its route has not yet been established, but preliminary proposed routes run through parts of China.

Resident Fred Wiand said one possible route would take a large part of his property, a prospect that does not please him. He suggested the power line might also go through Thurston Park, the town-owned park in northeastern China.

Albion voters passed a six-months’ moratorium on new power lines at the end of August. China Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said Palermo is planning a similar vote.

Unlike those towns, China has a quorum requirement: a special town meeting would require at least 100 registered voters to take action. It is too late to add a moratorium question to the Nov. 7 ballot; the next regular voting will be at the June 2024 town business meeting.

Board member Blane Casey asked how much influence a town can have over a project that will be approved by a state agency. Jeanne Marquis said Albion voters seem to think they might be able to modify the power line to benefit residents.

People interested in serving on a committee to study the power line are asked to call the town office.

First half taxes due; openings on Nov. ballot

The first half payment of China local taxes is due at the town office by Friday, Sept. 29. Interest on late payments begins on Sept. 30.

On the Nov. 7 China local election ballot, there will be no contests and two openings for write-in candidates. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood reported for Town Clerk Angela Nelson at the Sept. 11 select board meeting:

  • Select board incumbents Wayne Chadwick and Jeanne Marquis are running for re-election.
  • Planning board incumbent Natale Tripodi and new member Elaine Mather (District 3) are running for re-election. There is no candidate for District 1 (northwestern China).
  • Budget committee incumbents Thomas Rumpf and Kevin Maroon are running for re-election. There is no candidate for District 3 (southeastern China).

The addition to the town office, discussed for some months, is currently at a standstill because no contractor replied to a request for bids. Goodine said he has heard that contractors lack time and employees, and that the $195,000 allocated for the work is not enough.

After discussing options, select board members postponed action to their Sept. 25 meeting. In the interim, Goodine will seek contractors to do various parts of the work – foundation, framing, electrical, mechanical, painting, whatever else is needed – and select board members Marquis and Janet Preston will look for grants that might help cover the cost.

Board chairman Wayne Chadwick thinks it is essential to have all cost estimates before work begins, to make sure the project stays within budget. People with skills and time for any part of the job are invited to contact Goodine or the town office.

In other business Sept. 11, by a series of unanimous votes:

  • Board members added Licensed Plumbing Inspector to new codes officer Zachary Gosselin’s titles; Hapgood said he has received his certification.
  • They accepted the only proposal for the electrical work needed to connect the town-donated generator at the Community Forest building behind the China schools, from Finley Electric, of Windsor, for $3,515.
  • They refused to help Albion pay for repairs to Libby Hill Road. Even though it is China residents’ access to Thurston Park, they could not justify spending China taxpayers’ money on a road in Albion.
  • After a discussion with contractors Tyler and Peter Bragdon, of Brag’s Sewer and Septic, of Augusta, they reaffirmed the $5,000 fine for violation of town ordinances during work at 42 Pond Road.

One item on the agenda for the Sept. 25 select board meeting will be a Sept. 12 recommendation from the Transfer Station Committee to go back to the system of requiring stickers, instead of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, for admission to the facility.

Vassalboro residents air anger over drivers on town roads

by Mary Grow

Some Vassalboro residents are fed up with people who do not drive safely, legally and respectfully on local roads, and they brought their complaints to the Sept. 7 select board meeting, not for the first time.

After a half-hour public hearing, Vassalboro select board members responded by creating a new committee to deal with one issue, the four-way intersection in East Vassalboro. Residents complained drivers going straight through on Route 32 exceed the 25-mile-an-hour speed limit, endangering pedestrians and local drivers trying to get out of their driveways. A nearby homeowner reported seeing vehicles ignore the stop sign on Bog Road and cross Route 32 at speed.

Town Manager Aaron Miller said the speed recording sign set up on Route 32 in July and August showed average speeds were not excessive, but occasionally drivers were recorded at 60 or more miles an hour. Residents Holly Weidner and Laura Jones questioned the accuracy of the result, suggesting that many drivers slow down when they see the sign.

Weidner and Jones urged select board and committee members to review the 2010 report on the East Vassalboro intersection, copies of which they distributed. Many of its recommendations appear to be still valid, they said.

Select board member Frederick “Rick” Denico, Jr., asked why nothing was done to implement the 2010 ideas. Weidner blamed a lack of collaboration and follow-through, including cost calculations.

The new committee, which Miller christened the East Vassalboro Village Project Team, will be asked to evaluate ways to slow traffic on Route 32. An initial proposal for four-way stop signs had little support Sept. 7. Other suggestions include a flashing light or speed bumps.

The committee’s suggested membership includes East Vassalboro residents, Miller and representatives of the planning board and the public works department. Anyone interested should contact the town office.

The second repeat complaint appeared on the meeting agenda as “Burnout Ordinance request,” referring to a request for a town ordinance to penalize drivers who deliberately burn out, annoying residents and leaving tire marks on the pavement (see the Aug. 24 issue of The Town Line, p. 2), including across the newly-painted stripes on Cross Hill Road.

Select board chairman Chris French referenced Title 29A, section 2079, of Maine law, which says, “Braking or acceleration may not be unnecessarily made so as to cause a harsh and objectionable noise.”

The concerned resident objected that the problem is less noise than damage, claiming rubber on the road wears out the pavement and reduces adjoining property values.

French said a local ordinance on a topic already covered by state law is not necessarily useful; and a local ordinance would have to be enforced locally, by Vassalboro Police Chief Mark Brown.

Lack of enforcement was the major problem with all the traffic offenses being discussed, board and audience members agreed. Denico reminded the group that at Vassalboro’s June 5 annual town meeting, voters rejected a chance to increase Brown’s weekly hours from 15 to 20 (see the June 8 issue of The Town Line, p. 2).

French said Brown does some traffic control, as his time permits. He listed some of the chief’s many other duties, a list Jones said she intends to put on the town’s Facebook page that she manages as a volunteer.

The other major agenda item Sept. 7 was a presentation by partners in TownCloud, the Maine-based company Miller recommends to take over design and maintenance of Vassalboro’s town website. Their business cards identify them as Christopher Haywood, Chief Amazement Officer, and Dennis Harward, Wizard of Light Bulb Moments.

Haywood said the seven-year-old company specializes in designing websites for small towns all over the country, including, in Maine, Bethel, Denmark, Livermore, Norway, Solon and St. Albans. Their goal is to make the sites simple, inexpensive, user-friendly, responsive and secure, to meet residents’ needs and minimize costs and staff time.

He demonstrated a sample website for Vassalboro, built using information imported from the current site. One example he showed was the agenda for the Sept. 7 meeting with the packet of accompanying documents, like the police report Jones proposed sharing on Facebook.

TownCloud’s proposal would cover the website and meeting agendas, not just the select board’s but other committees’. Haywood said some towns post agendas for up to 15 committees.

Miller said TownCloud was the least expensive of options he explored, at $3,754 for three years’ service.

Jones urged creation of another committee to collect residents’ input on what a website should include and how it should work. She promised a list of committee volunteers on Sept. 8.

Despite Harward’s reminder that the website can be modified any time, select board members postponed a decision to their first meeting in December (currently, Thursday, Dec. 14), to give more time for public input and a recommendation from Jones’ “Tiger Team.”

In other business, Vassalboro librarian Brian Stanley thanked the town’s public works crew for their help with ongoing renovations and asked about ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for several projects, like improved ventilation and new rugs.

Because the library is a nonprofit organization, not a town department, select board members were unsure what kinds of work ARPA money could cover. They unanimously allocated $3,975 for a new front door that will be controlled by a push-button and thereby comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Miller’s recommendation, board members appointed Andrew Vear as an alternate member of the planning board.

They renewed the cemetery mowing contract with Scott Bumford, whose work was praised at the board’s Aug. 17 meeting.

The next regular Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21.

VASSALBORO: Lack of information postpones project action

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members discussed two proposed projects at their Sept. 5 meeting, but lacked information to act on either one.

They had an incomplete application from Ronald Weeks to add what the agenda called “an Amish building” on a lot on Dam Road, on the southeast side of Webber Pond.

Weeks was not at the meeting. Board members postponed the application to their Oct. 3 meeting.

Darrell and Jessica Field were present to explain why they needed to clarify land titles as they prepare to subdivide a lot on Gray Road and Katie Drive in northern Vassalboro.

After reviewing the history of the 2001 Norman and Diane Bailey subdivision and the 2015 division of the original Field lot between family members, board members agreed the Fields, with the assistance of the original surveyors (K & K Land Surveyors, in Oakland, the Fields said), should prepare a major subdivision application for the Oct. 3 board meeting.

Board chairman Virginia Brackett assured them the task should not be too difficult, because with K & K’s original records most of the necessary information will be at hand.

The only other topic discussed, briefly, is another possibility for the Oct. 3 agenda. Board member Marianne Stevens reported that Kassandra Lopes, whose retail store on Main Street, in North Vassalboro, was approved by the board on June 6, has moved her business into the building next door.

The two single-story buildings on the east side of the street – years ago, the credit union and the post office, Brackett said – are owned by Raymond Breton and have frequently housed short-lived small businesses. Brackett said Lopes’ relocation is a change of use for the previously-empty building and should have planning board approval.

Vassalboro school board members hold responsibility workshop

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Before the Aug. 29 Vassalboro school board meeting, Steven Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association (MSMA), led a workshop on board members’ responsibilities, including reminders of what they should not do.

Although school board members are elected by town voters, their roles and responsibilities are defined by state law, Bailey said.

Individual members cannot act officially, unless the full board has so authorized in a specific case. For example, if someone brings an educational concern to a board member, the member can listen sympathetically, but the next step is a referral to the full board or appropriate administrator.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said he tries to offer an initial response to public complaints and concerns within 24 hours, understanding that resolving an issue will often take longer.

Bailey emphasized the respective roles of the board and the administration. Board members are not supposed to be “down in the weeds” dealing with daily operations; they are supposed to set goals and policies, which direct the superintendent as he delegates implementation to school staff.

In summary, Bailey said, the board’s responsibility is not to operate the educational program, but to see that it is well operated.

This division of labor does not mean that board members cannot join the parent-teacher organization, or volunteer services, though Bailey cautioned they should avoid taking leadership roles.

Another important task is to keep communications open with school staff and with town residents. State law requires that board meetings be open to the public (with exceptions for executive-session discussions) and that each meeting agenda include a public comment period. But, Bailey added, board members must make sure public discussion does not distract them from doing their job, which is to deal with the business on their agenda.

He reminded board members that emails about school business are public records. They should use their official school accounts for school-related emails and should avoid including confidential information.

And he summarized some of the laws passed or amended during the recent legislative session. Some of the state changes may require amendments to school board policies, an on-going process with Vassalboro board members.

Bailey congratulated VCS on having only “a few” open positions; other Maine schools have many staff vacancies, he said.

Gaga pit installed at school

One of the summer projects at Vassalboro Community School was construction of a Gaga pit on the school grounds, Principal Ira Michaud reported at the Aug. 29 school board meeting. He added a photo of the pit to his report.

A Gaga pit is an enclosure in which to play the game called Gaga. Wikipedia says the name is from the Hebrew word for “touch, touch” and calls the game “a variant of dodgeball.”

Players in the pit slap a ball, trying to strike another player below the knee (rules vary, but below the knee seems to be most common). The ball is soft, foam or rubber or similar. A player hit below the knee is out and leaves the pit; a player whose ball hits another player above the knee is out; the winner is the last person still in.

Michaud said the VCS Gaga pit is a 22-foot-diameter wooden-walled box. It can accommodate two dozen players, but is more suited to a dozen at a time. He planned to try it out the day after the meeting; Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said later that the games were postponed for a day because of rain on Aug. 30.

VASSALBORO: Board updated on school summer improvements

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members began their fall/winter meetings on Aug. 29 with the usual updates on summer improvements; approval of new staff and other appointments for the coming school year; and financial report.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer summarized the work done on the exterior of Vassalboro Community School (VCS) by Standard Waterproofing, of Winslow: a complete power-washing (“You could just see the difference,” interjected assistant principal Tabitha Brewer), resealing joints, repairs where needed and a silicone spray that should last six years.

The superintendent called the work “long overdue.” He had not received a final bill, but expected the cost to be around $195,000.

Pfeiffer praised the VCS custodial crew for their work on the building interior over the summer, and thanked principal Ira Michaud, Brewer and special education director Tanya Thibeau for the many hours they’ve put in since classes ended in June.

Michaud’s report to the school board listed multiple training sessions for teachers, showing that they, too, have been working over the summer. He mentioned successful pre-school events already held, and thanked Don and Lisa Breton and the people who donated school supplies to the drive the Bretons organized.

School board members approved new hires, including a school nurse and two sixth-grade teachers. VCS still needs a part-time Spanish teacher (to succeed Monica Fallaw, who resigned to accept a high-school position, Pfeiffer said), and there are a few openings for educational technicians.

Finance director Paula Pooler summarized unaudited year-end balances for FY 2022-23, which ended June 30. Of Vassalboro’s $8.722 million in proposed expenditures for last year, all but $5,421.88 was spent, she reported – very close budgeting, but still in the black.

Revenues were lower than expected, so the school department had to use some of the funds allocated from the undesignated fund balance. The undesignated fund still totals more than $1.2 million.

The VCS food service program, which ran a deficit for many years, showed an excess of revenue over expenditures in 2022-23 for the second year in a row, Pooler said.

For the new fiscal year that began July 1, Pooler sees no budgetary problems so far.

School board members re-elected Jolene Gamage board chairman and Jessica Clark vice-chairman, and reappointed members of board committees.

The only item of new business on the Aug. 29 agenda was review of proposed updates to the document called “Vassalboro Community School Strategic Plan Goals.” Pfieffer asked board members to be prepared for discussion at their Sept. 19 meeting.

He offered two other items for that meeting agenda: the 2023-24 school board meeting schedule, including tentative 2024 dates for reviewing the 2024-25 budget with the budget committee; and preliminary discussion of cooling upstairs classrooms at VCS.

New staff members will be invited to meet board members at 5:45 p.m., on Sept. 19, at VCS, and the board meeting will begin at 6 p.m.