VASSALBORO: Policing in small towns facing changes; Sheriffs to take on increased responsibilities

by Mary Grow

The Feb. 20 Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting began with a discussion with Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason, who said that Vassalboro and other small towns in Kennebec, Franklin and Hancock counties are facing changes in law enforcement assistance.

Currently, personnel from the state police and the county sheriff’s offices take turns on rural patrol in towns that have no or limited local policing. Mason said the state police are pulling back on this coverage to focus on their many specialized units, like evidence collection and cybercrime.

Therefore the sheriff’s department will have increased responsibility and will need more personnel and more funds, from the state and from local towns whose taxpayers support the county budget. Mason described his plans to make the change without reducing coverage or burning out deputies.

He emphasized that in Kennebec County the transition is friendly. He and his state police counterparts communicate well, he said, and he appreciates the assistance from the specialized state police units.

Fire chief Eric Rowe retires; Audience shows appreciation for service

Vassalboro Fire Chief Eric Rowe has retired, after what his colleagues said has been more than 40 years with the volunteer fire department and more than 30 years as chief.

At their Feb. 20 meeting, selectmen, on department members’ recommendation, unanimously appointed Walker Thompson the new chief and Robert Williams assistant chief.

Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus said gently he wished someone had told him, so he could have had a chance to thank Rowe.

Don Breton replied that Rowe didn’t want any ceremony. But, he said, the department plans one, and selectmen will be notified.

The audience applauded.

The selectmen’s meeting ended after a review of the board’s 2020-21 proposed budget, in preparation for a March 5 meeting with the budget committee.

In between policing and budget, selectmen again talked about on-going projects.

They unanimously approved borrowing funds for a lease-purchase agreement on a new police vehicle.

Selectman John Melrose reported on potential bids for a solar array in town, or possibly two solar arrays, one at and for Vassalboro Community School and the other elsewhere.

Board members unanimously accepted an updated proposal from A. E. Hodsdon Engineers, of Waterville, to design potential changes at the transfer station, with the understanding action is likely to be postponed until voters weigh in on the expenditure at the June town meeting.

They continued discussion of the proposed new Gray Road culvert, including size and materials.

On Thursday, March 5, the selectmen are scheduled to meet at 6 p.m., half an hour earlier than usual, and the budget committee to meet at 7 p.m. Both meetings are at the town office, and both are open to interested members of the public.

Three needed expenses discovered; China selectmen review final, final warrant

by Mary Grow

China selectmen thought they approved the final warrant for the April 4 town business meeting at their Feb. 18 meeting (see The Town Line, Feb. 20).

Afterwards, Town Manager Dennis Heath discovered three needed expenditures that had been overlooked. The selectmen and budget committee therefore met Monday evening, Feb. 24, to approve the final, final warrant.

Both boards quickly accepted the revised figures, which added $35,500 to the amounts previously recommended. Heath explained that the figures were on the budget sheets selectmen and budget committee members reviewed, but the program that translates budget sheets into warrant articles overlooked them. Heath and town office staff spotted the omissions as they did one last warrant review.

The total municipal budget voters will approve or amend is well over $4.3 million, with the selectmen’s and budget committee’s recommended expenditures differing by a little over $2,000 and, Heath emphasizes, sources other than local taxation providing significant income.

At the Feb. 18 meeting, the other major action was approval of a new employment agreement with Heath, after a discussion in executive session. The vote to approve was 3-1, with Wayne Chadwick voting no.

Chadwick later explained he wanted more time to review the contract. He thinks it “has potential long lasting liability for the town,” and he would have liked to ask the town attorney questions about some of the clauses.

In other business Feb. 18, selectmen unanimously signed a new contract with town attorney Amanda Meader, retroactive to Jan. 1.

Heath said he used the new communications network to notify residents during a recent ice storm and during the Spectrum outage. The network has two capabilities, he said. Hyper-Reach sends messages to residents who have signed up, by the medium of their choice, all over town. Accu-Reach automatically calls people in a specific area affected by the emergency, both people who have signed up and people who have a landline with a listed number.

Selectman Donna Mills-Stevens said she has a landline but did not get any calls.

Residents who would like to sign up for emergency notifications should start by clicking on Emergency Preparedness on the left side of the town website and follow instructions under “Sign up for Emergency Alerts from the Town of China.” (Or click here to go directly to the sign-up.)

Selectmen’s seat at stake Tuesday

On Tuesday, March 3, in addition to the state primary elections and referendum vote, China holds a local election to fill the vacant seat on the Selectboard. Candidates are Christopher Hahn, Janet Preston and Kevin Rhoades. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office.

The 2020 town business meeting begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 4, at China Middle School, with doors open for check-in at 8:30 a.m. A quorum of 118 registered voters must be present to open the meeting.

Revising earlier bookkeeping (see The Town Line, Feb. 6), Heath transferred expenditures for installing three-phase power at the transfer station from the contingency fund to the transfer station reserve fund. The result is that the $55,000 contingency fund, which voters authorized selectmen to spend for unanticipated expenses, has a balance of more than $46,000, instead of less than $4,000. Selectmen and budget committee members recommend voters approve the same amount for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The manager reported progress on two ongoing projects:

  • The state has donated 64 ten-foot planks to be used to upgrade the boat launch at the head of China Lake’s East basin, and the Tax Increment Financing construction subcommittee is preparing to solicit bids for work in the area.
  • The Broadband Committee continues to work on plans for a town-wide broadband survey.

At the Feb. 24 joint meeting with the budget committee, after swift agreement on the revised figures, selectmen spent another half hour discussing how the warrant articles should be written.

All but five ask, “To see what sum of money…,” so-called open articles that voters can approve, decrease or increase at the town meeting. Below each article the selectmen’s and budget committee’s recommendations are printed.

The other five – for town administration (Art. 3), fire and rescue services (Art. 9), social services (Art. 13), community support organizations (Art. 14) and Tax Increment Financing expenditures (Art. 19) – ask “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate” a specified amount. These articles are called capped; voters can approve or reduce them, but they cannot increase the stated appropriation.

Chadwick wants the five capped articles rewritten as open articles. He emphasized that he does not want more money spent, but thinks voters should have the option.

“I hope they don’t vote to raise any of them. I’d encourage people to vote lower numbers. But they ought to have a choice; it’s their money,” Chadwick said.

Breton objected to making the changes, fearing the minority who attend town meetings would increase expenditures enough to raise taxes substantially.

Budget Committee Chairman Robert Batteese observed that for the last 25 years all but one article have been open. Last year, he said, voters added $13,000 to recommended amounts – “That didn’t break the budget.”

After a sometimes acrimonious discussion among selectboard members, Chadwick’s motion to uncap the five articles failed on a 1-1 vote, with Chadwick in favor, Breton opposed and Mills-Stevens and Irene Belanger abstaining.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, March 2.

Dozens of people attend China selectmen candidates forum

Candidates for China’s vacant selectmen’s seat are, from left to right, Christopher Hahn, Janet Preston and Kevin Rhoades. (photo courtesy of Sandra Isaac)

by Mary Grow

All three candidates in China’s March 3 special election for selectman, and an audience of more than three dozen people, turned out for the Feb. 23 candidates’ forum at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village.

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Christopher Hahn, a specialty contractor who does skylights and is, since 2009, the owner of Three Level Farm (the former French farm), on Vassalboro Road, and therefore a farmer and maker of goat cheese. He serves on the China for a Lifetime Committee and talked about plans, not yet near implementation, to make it easier for people to continue to live in China as they age.
  • Janet Preston, Neck Road resident for 30 years, former school committee member and still school volunteer, former member of the Lake Access Committee and still active in the China Lake Association.
  • Kevin Rhoades, who cheerfully called himself “the dump guy” because he works at the transfer station, a China native who previously worked in construction. If elected a selectman, he said, he will recuse himself from any decisions that might affect his position as a town employee.

All three candidates plan to do their best to serve townspeople, and all three realize that the Selectboard cannot please all the people all the time. Hahn sees becoming a selectman as an extension of his committee service. Preston promised “thoughtful, informed decisions,” called for compromise and more than once declined to commit herself on an issue until she had more facts. Rhoades said he likes politics, likes people and likes a fight.

A major topic, referred to more than once, was whether China’s tax rate is too high and if it is, what to do about it.

Rhoades’ preferred solution is to expand the tax base by encouraging more construction in town. To do so he recommends loosening China’s land use and construction standards where they are stricter than state requirements.

Asked later if he was concerned about the tax increase in the proposed 2020-21 budget, he said no. “We’ve been behind,” and if residents want services they have to pay taxes.

Preston thinks taxes should be considered in relation to the services provided – higher taxes should provide more or better town services. She lives in a lakefront house and therefore pays comparatively high property taxes, but she does not think her taxes are excessive, especially because, in her opinion, China has an excellent school system.

Hahn expressed hope for “a realistic budget balancing taxes and needs.”

Law enforcement is a service that residents will be asked to vote on expanding at the April 4 town business meeting. The warrant includes the annual budget for part-time local police coverage to supplement county and state coverage, and two additional proposals: hiring one full-time policeman in addition to existing coverage, or contracting with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department.

Rhoades thinks China does not need a full-time policeman. Hahn leaned toward the same opinion but wanted more information; and Preston declined to commit herself without more information.

A question to Hahn about the China for a Lifetime Committee revealed a difference of opinion among the candidates. Hahn said nothing is likely to happen for years, and town resources would be welcome if voters so decide. Preston remembered prior discussions of building a retirement community, an idea she supports. Rhoades said making life safe and convenient for older people is an individual responsibility, to be entrusted to family members and neighbors, not to government.

Rhoades also disagrees over whether the town should provide public lake access. He says no; the other two say yes.

Several audience members wanted to argue about the multi-month dispute between town officials – specifically, the town manager and selectmen – and volunteer fire departments. No candidate was asked specifically which side he or she was on, and none volunteered the information.

Nor did any disagree with what seem to be three principles involved: town officials are obliged to do what voters direct them to do; town officials are obliged not to do anything that is or is alleged to be illegal; when these two obligations conflict, town officials have the primary responsibility to sort out the situation, including deciding when to seek new direction from voters.

This topic will also be on the April 4 meeting warrant. Selectmen have deleted $40,000 that was previously considered money for stipends – or recruitment and retention, as the firefighters call the account – from the fire and rescue appropriation. They have added $40,000 to the community support organizations’ budget for the fire departments and rescue to use as they please, subject to reporting requirements the town treasurer says are required by law.

Both those articles are written so that voters cannot increase the total amount. None of the three candidates approved of this “capping” expenditure articles.

The Feb. 23 discussion began and ended with the topic of communication, specifically how selectmen and other town officials can keep residents better informed of planned actions and collect input. To inform everyone of every significant action is impossible, the candidates agreed. They and audience members recommended the Town of China website; the town Facebook page that Hahn said the China for a Lifetime Committee started; watching selectmen’s meetings on line; The Town Line newspaper; the Tuesday school notices, which Preston said most parents read; notices at the transfer station (“We do that,” Rhoades interjected) and the post offices; and more frequent direct mailings, Hahn’s suggestion that others pointed out would be expensive.

China’s local voting March 3 will be in the former portable classroom behind the town office, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. As during last November’s election, the driveway from Lakeview Drive will be blocked; access will be from Alder Park Road.

Whichever of the three candidates is elected will serve only until November 2020, finishing Jeffrey LaVerdiere’s unexpired term. All three indicated they are likely to run again in November, whatever the outcome March 3.

China Budget Committee makes final budget recommendations

by Mary Grow

China Budget Committee members and selectmen have made their final recommendations on the warrant for the April 4 town business meeting, agreeing to disagree on two of the 28 articles.

Pay for three town employees was a major discussion topic at several meetings of each board. Town Manager Dennis Heath recommended making Town Clerk Becky Hapgood and Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton salaried managers rather then hourly employees, with upward pay adjustments.

He also recommended a substantial raise for Public Works Manager Shawn Reed in recognition of his managerial responsibilities. Because Reed incurs so much necessary overtime driving a plow truck, Heath did not recommend putting him on salary.

After discussion of appropriate pay, considering responsibilities and length of service with the town, the two boards agreed on compensation for Hapgood, which is included in the administration budget, and for Reed, in the public works budget.

They disagreed on how much Grotton should earn. Heath said at the Feb. 18 selectmen’s meeting the budget committee recommended a 10 percent increase in total earnings (including benefits) and the selectmen a 6 percent increase. The result is a difference of a little over $2,000 in recommendations on the transfer station budget.

The other question on which the two boards do not agree is Heath’s proposal to hire a full-time town policeman, whose work would supplement the current part-time coverage at an additional cost of more than $113,000. Selectmen recommend the new position on a 2-1 vote; the budget committee recommends against it on a vote of 1 in favor and 5 against.

Most budget committee recommendations were unanimous, with more abstentions to avoid conflict of interest than dissents. The town meeting warrant records votes on each article, so voters will have a chance to ask who disagreed or abstained and why.

China’s 2020 town business meeting opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 4, at China Middle School on Lakeview Drive.

Vassalboro selectmen discuss TIF spending for next year

by Mary Grow

The major topic at the Vassalboro selectmen’s Feb. 11 meeting (rescheduled from the previous Thursday evening due to bad weather) was how to spend Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds next year.

Vassalboro’s TIF document lists the Alewife Restoration Project (ARI) and the Vassalboro Sanitary District (VSD) connection to Winslow as two major economic development projects eligible for TIF dollars. Those dollars come from taxes paid on the gas pipeline that runs north-south through the town.

ARI asked for $43,000 for 2020-2021. Matt Streeter from ARI attended the public hearing that preceded the Feb. 11 meeting to describe their need for money to continue removing the dams on Outlet Stream that block alewife access into China Lake.

Several residents, mostly from North Vassalboro, expressed concern that dam work would use up all the money available for 2020-21. They want the VSD to get a share, especially to assist residents who will now have access to the public sewer to hook on.

After the hearing, selectmen decided they need more information from both parties before they approve 2020-21 TIF expenditures. Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus told Streeter they were for the moment neither denying nor approving ARI’s application.

In other business, Selectman John Melrose said he expected five solar companies to visit Vassalboro’s potential solar sites Feb. 12 and to submit notices of intent to bid on the project (see The Town Line, Jan. 30). The town office lot seems to be the preferred site, he said, and he asked the rest of the board if he should begin looking for cost estimates for clearing north and west of the building. Titus and Robert Browne said yes, he should.

Town Manager Mary Sabins recommended postponing purchase of a new water heater for the town office until the old one quits (see The Town Line, Jan. 16). Selectmen agreed.

They unanimously approved revising the price previously agreed for an easement for Central Maine Power Company near the Webber Pond boat landing, after Keltie Beaudoin from Avangrid, speaking for CMP, said a newly-discovered boundary agreement reduced the acreage involved.

The next Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the town office. Agenda items include a discussion with Kennebec County Sheriff, Ken Mason, on patrol coverage in Vassalboro and preliminary discussion of engineering for two projects, a replacement culvert on Gray Road and a transfer station redesign.

Solar farm group reveals plans for Windsor Road project

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members heard more information about the proposed solar development off Windsor Road, plus comments from neighbors, at their Feb. 11 meeting. They scheduled a Tuesday, Feb. 25, public hearing on the proposal to let more residents weigh in; the hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. in the town office.

Spokespeople for SunRaise Development explained the plans. They included project manager Joe Harrison; Joe Marden, of Sitelines, a Brunswick engineering and surveying firm; attorney Tom Federle, of Federle Law, in Portland; and Lisa Vickers, Senior Project Manager with Atlantic Environmental, in Woolwich.

The solar array will consist of 17,800 panels, about 3-by-5 feet each, slanted to catch maximum sunlight, with spaces between them. They will occupy a leased portion of Michael Willette’s 51-acre lot accessed from Windsor Road. The lot is mostly meadow; about two acres of timber in one corner will be clearcut. The field under the panels will be mowed no more than twice a year.

An access road will run through the middle of the solar array, seldom used, because the facility is unmanned and needs inspection and perhaps repairs only a few times a year. There will be 10-foot buffers around the edges of the property, and a high fence will keep out unauthorized people.

The solar array is expected to produce about seven megawatts of electricity and to have a 20-to-30-year lifetime. After its lifespan is complete, the panels, supports and other structures will be removed.

The developers and some planning board members have a major disagreement that was not resolved: whether or not solar panels are structures. If the panels are considered structures, then under China’s land use and phosphorus control ordinances, they must conform to lot coverage and phosphorus runoff limits.

Planning Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo said by China’s ordinance definition, and according to planning board precedent (the 2015 approval of the smaller solar array at Three Level Farm, on Vassalboro Road), he thinks the panels are structures. SunRaise has been dealing with state Department of Environmental officials; Federle, Harrison and Marden all said by state rules, only the concrete footings count as impervious surface.

Miragliuolo reminded them they need to meet local ordinance requirements as well as state rules.

Two couples living close to the site had a variety of questions about possible impacts, from groundwater pollution risks (very slight, Vickers said) to the effect on property values (no data available, Vickers and Harrison said; Harrison added some people would welcome such a neighbor, others wouldn’t).

In the only other action at the Feb. 11 meeting, planning board members agreed unanimously that the planned Phase Two of the causeway project at the head of China Lake’s east basin is a separate project from Phase One and will need a new application. Phase One was construction of the new bridge; Phase Two involves shoreline work, mostly east from the bridge.

China resident is Maine’s Conservation Officer of the Year

Maine Game Warden, David Ross

by Eric W. Austin

David Ross – China resident, local game warden, and Maine’s nominee for Conservation Officer of the Year – is worried. Fewer Mainer’s are enjoying the great outdoors, especially the younger generation.

“The youth – they’re not out there. It’s my age and up,” says Ross, who is in his mid-30s. “Whether that’s parents not passing down traditions, or kids not wanting to be outdoors – too many distractions? – I don’t know what the answer is.”

Traditional pastimes like hunting, fishing and trapping in particular have seen a slow decline in recent years. That’s a problem because much of the funding for Maine’s conservation efforts comes from the sale of licenses for those activities.

On the other hand, extreme vehicle sports, including snowmobiling and riding ATVs, are increasing.

Ross, a native Mainer who grew up in the Wiscasset area and went to Unity College, spent three years as a Maine Marine Patrol Officer before moving to the warden service ten years ago. In 2012, Ross and his wife, who works for Maine’s Attorney General office, relocated to China. They have two children, six and four, who attend St. Michael’s parochial school, in Augusta. As a game warden, Ross serves six towns around central Maine: China, Windsor, Palermo, Liberty, Montville, and Freedom. His territory also includes the lakes of China, Sheepscot, and St. George.

Although Maine game wardens are law enforcement officers with the power to arrest, investigate and enforce the law, Ross sees his job as different than the typical police officer.

“[On] the direct law enforcement side, they’re primarily reactive. They get a call and they go,” he says. “I’m a pro-active law enforcement officer. I like to prevent things from happening.”

Many of the calls Ross receives are a response to residents’ interactions with local wildlife, but sometimes people panic for no reason. “Seeing a fox during the day – that’s not a big deal,” Ross advises. “You’re looking for the behavior. If you see a fox during the day that’s running in circles, chasing its tail, falling over for no reason, running into trees – aggressively attacking you – that’s cause for alarm. But seeing a fluffy-tailed fox siting on a rock, sunning itself – not a problem. That’s wildlife in Maine.”

Still, if you ever have a question, Ross is easy enough to contact. Just call the state police non-emergency dispatch at 624-7076 and ask for Warden Dave Ross. He’ll call you right back.

If you need to have a wild animal removed from your property, such as a raccoon that has gotten stuck in your garage, your best bet is to call a certified Animal Damage Control Agent instead of a warden. You can find a list of them, fully licensed by Maine’s department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, by searching Google for “Maine Animal Damage Control Agents.”

Ticks are also a growing problem in Maine and they are having a detrimental effect on residents’ ability to take advantage of the state’s best asset – the Great Outdoors.

“I’ve talked to a few hunters [about] turkey season in the spring,” Ross says. “They’re not going to go, just because of the ticks.”

The milder winters we’ve had the last few years have been a boon to the tick population. Usually, Maine’s harsh winter cold is enough to kill off the ticks each year, forcing them to reestablish their population the following spring, but as the climate warms, that’s not happening, which means we can expect ticks to become a worsening danger in the years to come. On the plus side, the milder winters mean we’re seeing other animal species expand their range into central Maine, such as opossums, which feed on ticks.

Ross deals with the tick menace by treating his clothes with Permethrin before venturing out into the woods.

When he’s not roaming the woods of central Maine looking for poachers or lost hunters, Dave Ross is at home on his hobby-farm in China where he raises chickens, pigs and tends bees.

China selectmen do semi-final review of warrant articles prior to April 4 town meeting

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent almost two hours Feb. 10 doing a semi-final review of the warrant articles for the April 4 town business meeting. Their work was to be submitted to the budget committee on Feb. 12 for its members’ final review and recommendations.

The selectmen intend to sign the warrant at their Tuesday, Feb. 18, meeting (moved from the usual Monday because of the Presidents’ Day holiday).

At the Feb. 10 meeting, selectmen again discussed pay increases for Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood, Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton and Public Works Manager Shawn Reed, the three town employees Town Manager Dennis Heath has designated as managers. Selectmen agreed on different levels of increase for each, based on amount of responsibility and length of service with the town.

Looking at the annual article setting tax due dates and authorizing interest charges on late payments, they unanimously recommended reducing the interest rate from the state maximum of 9 percent to 4.5 percent.

Two public hearings scheduled

Two public hearings on budget requests in the April 3 town meeting warrant are scheduled for Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village, and Wednesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at the town office on Lakeview Drive.

The warrant includes two articles that deal with Heath’s proposal to hire a full-time town policeman.

One asks if voters want to establish the position and fund it at over $113,000 for 2020-21. The new officer would work in addition to the present part-time people, and China would continue to run its own vehicle.

If voters defeat that article, they then decide whether they want to contract with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office for police services. In that case, Heath said about $81,000 of the current police budget could be applied to the estimated $114,000 first-year cost, because China would no longer need part-time patrolmen or a vehicle.

Selectman Wayne Chadwick voted against recommending either proposal. He was surprised to find them presented as definite plans with price tags, since in his opinion much more discussion is needed.

The warrant Heath read aloud and selectmen approved has several articles that are capped, that is, written so that voters cannot legally increase the amount to be appropriated. Among them are fund requests for:

  • China’s fire and rescue departments;
  • Social services (out-of-town agencies like the Red Cross, Senior Spectrum and public radio);
  • Community support organizations (in-town groups like the libraries, China Lake water quality groups and historic buildings, and this year including appropriations for fire and rescue that replaces the much-debated stipends); and
  • Recommended spending from China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund.

There were no capped articles in the warrant for the 2019 town business meeting.

The Feb. 18 selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room.

Vassalboro planners OK replacement of power poles

by Mary Grow

Central Maine Power Company’s plan to replace power poles and lines between McCoy’s Substation, in Vassalboro, and the Augusta East substation got approval from the Vassalboro Planning Board at a Feb. 4 meeting, but still awaits state action, company spokespeople said.

The map accompanying their presentation to the planning board shows McCoy’s Substation, on Cross Hill Road, north of Webber Pond (local maps show McCoy’s Crossing as the intersection where Cross Hill, Taber Hill and Bog roads meet). The power line runs southwest along Bog Road, the west shore of the pond and beside Church Hill Road to North Belfast Avenue (Route 3).

Seventeen of the 65 poles are in Resource Protection districts and therefore require local approval, according to the board agenda.

Both current and planned poles heights vary, but engineer Gary Emond, of Power Engineers, said on average, the new poles will be 15 to 20 feet higher than existing ones.

CMP personnel have discussed construction plans with abutters, Project Manager Nicole Harbaugh said. Deborah Turcotte said she spoke with the owner of a private airport who was concerned about higher poles and lines interfering with flight paths. A consultant recommended slightly shorter poles and colored marker balls on the lines; CMP concurred and the airport owner is satisfied.

The CMP representatives said there are no plans to move poles any significant distance, nor to expand the company’s right-of-way, nor to ask for additional easements or do additional clearing along Webber Pond.

Discontinued poles are cut off at ground height, Harbaugh said, and either given to abutters (if they want them and if they plan to use them in environmentally harmless ways) or hauled away. Pole stumps are left in the ground except in agricultural fields.

Electrical service will not be disrupted during construction, Harbaugh said. The tentative – she emphasized tentative – schedule has work beginning in May and ending sometime in the fall. However, she said, the Maine Public Utilities Commission is still reviewing new legislation that might be relevant, and Emond is still working with Department of Environmental Protection staff.

After unanimously approving CMP’s proposed work, board members also approved Codes Officer Paul Mitnik’s revised shoreland zoning permit application.

The next Vassalboro Planning Board meeting will be March 10, the second Tuesday of the month, because their usual first Tuesday evening will find the town office meeting room set up as a voting room for presidential primary elections and one state referendum question.

Meet the candidates session before special election for vacant China selectmen’s seat

Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village.

A meet the candidates session is scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village, in advance of China’s March 3 special election to fill a vacancy on the Selectboard. Candidates are Christopher Hahn, Janet Preston and Kevin Rhoades.