China selectmen approve $10,000 grant request from China Broadband Committee (CBC)

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent most of a short July 19 meeting discussing the China Broadband Committee’s request that they approve a $10,000 grant from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund. They ultimately approved the request on a 4-1 vote (see related story, this week).

Bi-weekly bills that board members paid included, Chairman Ronald Breton said, checks to the organizations approved for funding at the June 8 town meeting.

Deputy Clerk Jennifer Chamberlain, filling in for Town Manager Becky Hapgood, announced that the portable building behind the town office will host a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic on Saturday, July 24, from 8 a.m. to noon. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will both be available, she said.

Nomination papers for local elective office can be picked up at the town office beginning Monday, July 26. On Nov. 2, town voters will elect two members of the Board of Selectmen, three members each of the Planning Board and the Budget Committee and one representative to the Regional School Unit #18 Board of Directors.

Selectmen announced that China Community Days plans include closing Causeway Street at the head of China Lake’s east basin, between the China Baptist Church parking lot and the boat landing, twice:

On Saturday, Aug. 7, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the annual street dance (rain date Sunday, Aug. 8, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.); and
On Sunday, Aug. 8, from 8 a.m. to noon for safety during the annual fishing derby.

Next month’s selectmen’s meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2; Monday, Aug. 16; and Monday, Aug. 30.

Vassalboro selectmen review mass gathering ordinance

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen made decisions on two of the three major items on their July 14 agenda.

They spent three-quarters of an hour on the third, reviewing a draft Mass Gathering Ordinance, and decided they should continue working on it at their next meeting.

The ordinance is intended to make sure any such event is safe. It covers subjects like limits on attendance, provision of drinking water and toilet facilities, traffic management, parking and security.

Vassalboro’s draft is modeled on the Town of Readfield’s. It specifically exempts from the definitions of “mass gathering” and “mass gathering area” existing “established and permitted” facilities like athletic fields, auditoriums and “similar permanent places of assembly” that are equipped to handle crowds. Selectmen concluded it would not apply to places like Natanis Golf Course, St. Bridget’s Center or the old mill, in North Vassalboro.

Writing an ordinance was inspired by notice of a proposed country music concert in Vassalboro on July 20, 2022. Selectmen hope to present the draft to voters as a local ballot question on Nov. 2.

The second pending item July 14 was setting fees for medical marijuana establishments, as provided under the Marijuana Business Ordinance voters approved at the town meeting in June.

After discussing a range of figures, selectmen unanimously approved a compromise: a $500 annual license fee for each business, and if more than one business shares a building, the same $500 fee for the building owner and for each separate business owner.

Board members intend to monitor the amount of town employees’ time needed to administer the ordinance. They could change the fee, either up or down, depending on what they learn. They expect the town manager and the codes officer to be the people most involved.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik presented the third issue for the July 14 meeting, continued land use violations at the former church building at 14 Priest Hill Road, in North Vassalboro.

The deadline for the owner to clean up the lot was July 15, Mitnik said. If he failed to comply, town officials could take enforcement measures through the courts. They could be authorized to clean up the property and bill the owner; or, if the building is deemed hazardous, to have the building demolished and the property cleaned up, and to bill the owner.

Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize Mitnik to proceed with enforcement as he deems necessary.

In other business July 14, selectmen:

Heard Fire Chief Walker Thompson’s report on the broken-down fire truck, including the potential costs of repairs (variable, depending on whether a broken gear on the low-pressure oil pump damaged the engine) and the department’s ability to get along without the truck for a while.
Heard the good news that Vassalboro’s new fire truck might arrive by the end of the month, if back-ordered parts come in.
Planned next steps toward installing a new compactor at the transfer station, without undue optimism about the availability of needed parts there, either.
Confirmed their previously unofficial plan to authorize repaving the parking lots at the town office and the North Vassalboro fire station and adjacent food pantry.
Appointed Helen Devoe a member of the Conservation Commission.
Appointed Savannah Clark, currently the intern assisting with compiling cemetery records, a member of the Cemetery Committee.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12.

China TIF committee hears financial reports

by Mary Grow

China Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members heard reports on how some of the town’s TIF money has been spent and approved a new $10,000 grant at their July 14 meeting.

Four Seasons Club President Tom Rumpf reported his group spent more than $65,000 out of $75,000 allocated from TIF, mostly on trail improvements. His presentation was illustrated with before and after photographs showing stretches of bumpy mud replaced by either a bridge or a gravel trail.

The club spent $25,000 on the concrete slab for their planned equipment storage garage, Rumpf said.

Rumpf told the committee the guardrails along the roadway and sidewalks at the head of China Lake’s east basin, part of the TIF-funded causeway project, need extended rub rails to protect snowmobilers and four-wheelers. Committee members accepted his offer to have Four Seasons Club members install them.

Scott Pierz, president of the China Lake Association and the China Region Lakes Alliance, praised Rumpf for his “excellent presentation” and added, “I’m so sad that I have to go next.”

Pierz reported on three main projects the groups carry out, the Gravel Road Rehabilitation Program (GRRP), Courtesy Boat Inspections (CBI) and LakeSmart.

Working in cooperation with road associations, the China Lake Association has completed run-off controls on Fire Road 11 and begun erosion control work on Fire Road 37, Pierz said. Work on Fire Road 41 is in an early stage.

CBI program employees check boats being put in at boat landings for invasive plants. Pierz is pleased that some people return year after year, so they can mentor new team members.

LakeSmart is a state-wide program educating and encouraging shorefront landowners who want to minimize undesirable effects on water quality.

The prolonged and expensive causeway project, which started with a new bridge, is finished, Michaud said. He and Town Manager Becky Hapgood are among those who inspected it. His verdict: “I’m happy with the work.”

The China Broadband Committee’s request is for $10,000 in TIF funds to hire Hawkeye Fiber Optics (also called Hawkeye Connections) to survey existing broadband infrastructure, in order to estimate costs of additional construction to provide expanded service.

Jamie Pitney, who is a member of both the TIF and Broadband committees, and Hapgood explained the plans and their importance.

TIF Committee Chairman Tom Michaud and other members questioned spending $10,000 to get a cost estimate that’s often free. Pitney and Hapgood said that Hawkeye representatives will spend up to two months evaluating telephone poles in town, to determine how many new and replacement ones will be needed. They will also provide information on miles of fiber optic cable and other needs.

The accurate cost estimate will let committee members decide how much they should ask selectmen and voters to borrow to fund the project. The loan repayment is to be funded from broadband user fees, not from taxes.

After three-quarters of an hour’s discussion, the TIF Committee members present voted 4-0, with Pitney abstaining, to recommend selectmen approve the $10,000 grant.

The next TIF Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday evening, Aug. 23. Agenda items are likely to include two postponed from July 14: review of the grant application form and discussion of a schedule for grant requests; and election of committee officers, since Michaud wants to hand over the chairmanship and his wife Marie her unofficial position as committee secretary.

China Broadband Committee (CBC) members seek ways to publicize progress

by Mary Grow

China Broadband Committee (CBC) members spent their July 15 meeting planning more ways to publicize their progress as they seek expanded and improved broadband service for town residents.

The results include two more meetings: the committee will meet virtually at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 22, primarily to work on a video presentation that would give China residents a quick overview of the project; and a second public meeting is scheduled.

The public meeting is called “Brownies and Broadband” – there might be more varied refreshments, but committee members liked the alliterative title – and is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at China Middle School.

Committee members planned other opportunities for people to learn about their work.

CBC Chairman Robert O’Connor is to present a report on the 2021 loon count at the China Lake Association’s annual meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, July 31. He will include a broadband update.

Someone representing CBC will offer information at the ballfields during the Saturday afternoon, Aug. 7, part of China Community Days. Neil Farrington, a committee member and head of the Saturday afternoon part of the annual celebration, says he expects up to a dozen other organizations will be represented.

After the July 15 meeting, committee member Tod Detre completed the new CBC website, htpps:// By July 16 it already contained additional information about the July 15 meeting. The town website,, has a link to the broadband website under the Broadband Committee (which is under Officials, Boards & Committees).

Having gained a July 14 recommendation from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee for $10,000 in TIF funds for planning, CBC members O’Connor and Jamie Pitney asked for the appropriation at the July 19 China selectmen’s meeting, where another complication cropped up.

The money is be used to have Hawkeye Fiber Optics (also called Hawkeye Connections), of Poland, Maine, survey existing broadband infrastructure in town to help determine the cost of expanded service.

Committee members have a draft contract ready that authorizes payment of the $10,000 when the work is finished and a report submitted. However, Town Manager Becky Hapgood, who was not at the selectmen’s meeting, had noted the need for a second condition.

Funding for broadband is authorized in the revised TIF program (the Second Amendment) that voters approved June 8, and the state has not approved the revised program. Therefore TIF money cannot assist with broadband expansion until the appropriate official in the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) signs off.

Hapgood advised making payment conditional on DECD approval. After discussion, selectmen voted 4-1 to add the condition and to authorize Hapgood to sign the contract for the survey after board members re-review the final version.

The dissenter was Selectman Wayne Chadwick. Chadwick pointed out that the CBC has already received $10,000 (to pay consultants Mission Broadband) and was now asking for another $10,000, before selectmen had even decided whether to ask voters to approve the project.

Pitney explained that the survey was a useful step toward asking selectmen to ask voters to approve a construction bond issue on Nov. 2, because it will provide more accurate cost estimates than the committee has now.

When O’Connor offered selectmen posters advertising the July 29 Brownies and Broadband program, Selectboard Chairman Ronald Breton reminded him that CBC members needed to offer at least three kinds of brownies: regular ones with nuts, and, to allow for possible allergies, some without nuts and some without chocolate.

Transfer station to postpone revising fee schedule for special items

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members have postponed action on revising the fee schedule for special items – furniture, electronics, tires, fluorescent bulbs; the list is on the town website,, under Transfer Station – or adding a fee for brush disposal.

At their July 13 meeting, Palermo committee member Robert Kurek suggested fees should be based, as much as possible, on the amount of employees’ time each type of waste requires. Another potential criterion is how China’s fees compare to those in other Maine towns.

Committee member Ashley Farrington agreed to survey other municipalities’ posted fees for comparison. The issue is likely to be on the agenda for the committee’s next meeting.

Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois had no major issues to raise. The Free for the Taking building is open and is again accepting clothing; it is too small to accommodate everything residents want to leave for others, but there is no room to expand it, he said.

Committee members who suggested asking the public works crew to move out of the sand-and-salt shed so Free for the Taking could move in were not making a serious proposal.

The compost pile is also available for residents to help themselves. Because the compost is not screened, Marois and committee members suggested it not be used for vegetable gardens. They recommended it for lawn and tree planting and restoration projects and flower gardens.

Marois said work on the planed concrete slab on which to store freon units is awaiting a site recommendation from the state Department of Environmental Protection, as well as town approval.

Committee members created a subcommittee, chaired by Chris Diesch, from Palermo, to draft a vision statement for the transfer station.

The next Transfer Station Committee meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24. Barring emergencies, committee Chairman Larry Sikora suggested skipping a September meeting.

China planners discuss ballot questions for November

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members used their July 13 meeting to continue to work on planned questions to submit to voters on a Nov. 2 local ballot.

Board Chairman Randall Downer said the draft Solar Energy Systems Ordinance had been submitted to selectmen in advance of their July 19 meeting. Board members are asking selectmen to ask voters to approve it.

Board members further intend to ask voters to decide a question that will become part of the ordinance, after it’s answered: how should solar panels be counted when calculating the percentage of a lot that is covered by man-made structures that impede or change the natural flow of rainwater?

They currently plan to ask voters to approve one of three choices, in a ballot question separate from the ordinance.

A solar panel counts entirely as an impervious surface diverting rainwater, allowing for the panel’s being tilted (to get more sunlight) so that it covers a little less ground than its actual dimensions.
A solar panel does not count at all; only its footings that cover a relatively small amount of ground are considered impervious surfaces.
A compromise proposed by planning board member Scott Rollins: divide the panel area by two, so that for calculation purposes it covers half the area it actually covers.

The point of limiting lot coverage is to allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground, rather than running into water bodies with whatever pollutants it picks up. China’s current ordinance limits lot coverage to 15 percent in shoreland, stream protection and resource protection areas and to 20 percent in the rest of town.

Solar developers have argued that because the ground under an array of solar panels is covered with grass and other low plants and is mowed no more than twice a year, it adequately absorbs run-off from the panels.

Board members figured that having panels count completely would allow a solar developer to cover up to 20 percent of a lot with panels. The compromise, counting half the panel areas, would allow up to 40 percent of the lot to be covered. If the panels did not count at all, almost an entire lot could be covered, except for setbacks from lot lines.

Board members postponed sending the triple question to selectmen until they have the opinions of two members who were unable to attend the July 13 meeting.

The other potential ballot issue is amending shoreland regulations in China’s Land Use Ordinance to meet state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requirements for state approval. This issue, too, turned out to involve lot coverage.

China’s current shoreland ordinance does not count driveways, parking areas and similar impervious (or non-vegetated, in DEP parlance) surfaces when calculating lot coverage. DEP says it should.

The change would increase the amount of lot coverage in many shoreland lots. Increasing the lot coverage, planning board members said, could limit future expansion, like applying to add a deck to a camp.

Resident Brent Chesley suggested from the audience that the increase could be offset if another amendment were proposed to increase maximum lot coverage to 20 percent in the shoreland (and the other two restricted areas). DEP regulations allow 20 percent, he said, citing Chapter 1000 in DEP guidelines.

Downer referred to China’s Phosphorus Control Ordinance, approved in 1993 to try to minimize the amount of phosphorus entering China Lake and feeding algal blooms, as a separate limit.

Board members postponed action to their July 27 meeting. In the interim they will ask to have the proposed amendments and, at Chesley’s suggestion, a link to the DEP guidelines posted on the China website,, for residents’ information and comments. Downer and Rollins also discussed looking at lakeside lots to see what effects the proposed changes would have.

CHINA: Sheriff’s office to provide reports on patrol shifts

by Mary Grow

China selectmen dealt with a miscellaneous agenda at their July 6 meeting, including meeting a representative of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department. Staff Sergeant Frank Hatch described the type of reports town officials can expect under their contract for 10 hours a week of KSO service.

Hatch said whenever a deputy finishes a shift in China, the deputy will file a summary report. Hatch will review the report and forward it to the town office.

Selectmen were pleased with the first report they had received. Hatch said reports can be expanded if selectmen decide they want more information on some topics.

China Broadband Committee (CBC) Chairman Robert O’Connor attended the July 6 meeting virtually to explain the committee’s request for $10,000 from the selectmen’s contingency fund. The committee needs to contract for a survey of current broadband infrastructure, to get an accurate estimate of construction costs to upgrade and expand service.

CBC members hoped to have a firmer figure by mid-August. They plan to ask selectmen to propose to voters a Nov. 2 bond issue to cover the costs, with the amount of the bond to be based on survey results.

A grant application to the State of Maine to fund the survey was rejected. CBC members now plan to repay the $10,000 from the bond – which, selectmen pointed out, voters might not approve. Meanwhile, the committee has learned that the survey will probably take two months, instead of the one month they had hoped would be enough.

After discussing contingencies and possible other funding sources, including China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund, selectmen postponed a decision to their July 19 meeting.

The selectmen voted unanimously to accept a $1,750 grant from New England Grassroots Environmental Fund to support the China for a Lifetime Committee’s early-November Community Build by Rockland-based WindowDressers, a non-profit organization that helps residents build insulating window inserts.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said the point person on the WindowDressers visit is Christopher Hahn, chairman of the China for a Lifetime Committee. People seeking information can visit the committee website,, or email the committee at

The website says the WindowDressers program welcomes residents of China, Palermo, Vassalboro and Windsor.

By a further series of unanimous votes, Selectboard members:

Appointed Brent Chesley and Stephen Greene as members of the Board of Appeals. Greene succeeds Virginia Davis, who was not reappointed in June; Chesley succeeds Jeffrey LaVerdiere, who resigned.
Appointed David Ross to fill a vacancy on the Recreation Committee.
Appointed Hapgood as Human Resources Director, correcting an omission when they made appointments for the current fiscal year.
Approved a contract with Fowler’s Roofing, in Chelsea, to repair the roof of the barn near the town office for $1,800, with Hapgood to monitor any extra costs.
Approved a Remote Participation Policy to govern procedures at Selectboard meetings done partly or entirely remotely.

The new policy is on the website,, alphabetically under “Ordinances, Policies and Orders.”

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 19.

CHINA: Only half dozen attend first broadband committee information meeting

by Mary Grow

Only half a dozen residents came in person to the China Broadband Committee’s (CBC) first public informational meeting July 11, with three or four more watching virtually; but discussion was lively and varied during and after the committee’s slideshow.

The purpose of the meeting was twofold: to explain what the committee, created by China selectmen in 2017, is doing and plans to do, and to enlist support for the expanded and improved broadband service committee members hope to offer.

Sharing the explanations, committee members said their goal is to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to every China householder who wants it. They talked about the need for adequate bandwidth so students can do schoolwork while parents manage their office work from home, without computers slowing.

A main advantage of the plan, in committee members’ opinions, is that the town will own the fiber network. The committee has worked for months with Mark Ouellette, President of Machias-based Axiom Technologies, and plans to contract with his company to run the system.

Replying to questions from resident Brent Chesley, Ouellette said his standard contracts run for 10 to 15 years, with “kick-out clauses” at three-year intervals in case China officials become dissatisfied. Axiom will be the internet service provider, will be responsible for all needed repairs and will hire a local service technician to provide speedy customer service.

To make the system work, a new fiberoptic network needs to be built throughout the town. The first steps in building the network are surveying existing infrastructure, notably telephone poles, and obtaining construction money.

CBC members are ready to contract with Hawkeye Connections, based in Poland, Maine, to do the survey. The cost is estimated at $10,000. So far, an application for a state planning grant has failed, and China selectmen have postponed action on using town funds to their July 19 meeting.

Until the survey is done, the construction cost is a rough estimate: $5 to $6 million. Committee members intend to ask selectmen to ask voters to approve a bond issue on Nov. 2 to cover the cost – or maybe only part, if the CBC can get one or more construction grants, committee member Jamie Pitney suggested.

Grants are definitely a possibility, ex officio committee member and Selectman Janet Preston said, because “Broadband is the buzzword right now, with federal and state governments.”

Ouellette agreed. Municipally-owned broadband is “a movement” in Maine, he said, partly because of the pandemic increasing the need for reliable service and partly because many residents are tired of the inadequacies of their commercial providers.

Another point committee members made repeatedly is that their plan will not increase taxes. User fees will cover Axiom’s costs and profit and the bond repayment. After the first two years, fees will generate revenue for the town, which will increase when the bond is fully repaid (presumably after 20 years).

The present plan is for tiered levels of service at different prices. Ouellette and committee members have repeatedly said they hope to price the lowest tier, 50 over 50 (50 megabits download and 50 megabits upload), at around $55 a month and the highest tier, gig over gig (one gigabit down and one gigabit up), at no more than $200 a month.

The construction phase is expected to last up to two years and to include free connections and hook-ups for all immediate subscribers. People who build a new house or decide they want broadband later are likely to be charged to connect; but grants, broadband revenue or some other source might control costs.

The system will have excess capacity to accommodate growth, Ouellette said.

Committee members did not ignore the uncertainties in their projections and plans. One unknown is how many China residents will sign up for Axiom’s service. Revenue projections are based on an initial rate of 35 percent, or 835 households – conservative, committee members said – and a five percent a year increase.

Construction costs are another unknown, not only because of lack of information about current facilities, but also, committee members said, because growing interest in broadband expansion could lead to higher materials prices, supply bottlenecks, contractors’ delays or all three.

Committee member Tod Detre pointed out that if voters approve the bond issue on Nov. 2, selectmen can postpone acting if too few residents have signed up, prices have gone too high or other unforeseen difficulties have arisen.

Committee members and audience member Paul Blair, a Winslow native who now lives in Silicon Valley and vacations on Three Mile Pond, hope all will go smoothly. They listed some of the benefits if China had one of the best broadband systems in the state, including offering gig over gig service:

Part-time residents like Blair could spend more time – and money – in town, because they could work from their vacation homes, visit their doctors via telemedicine and generally be geographically more independent.
Full-time residents, especially those currently poorly served or not served at all, would have faster, more reliable internet for work, education, socializing, entertainment and other on-line activities.
New businesses, especially high-tech businesses, might consider locating in China, making the CBC plan “an investment to develop the community,” Pitney said – but not to turn China into a city, Blair and fellow audience member Jeanne Marquis added.

The July 11 community meeting was recorded and is available for viewing on the town website,, under the Live Stream heading on the left side. The Live Stream page includes lists of previous and future meetings.

Detre has the assignment of developing a CBC website on which information can be posted between meetings. He invites anyone with website experience who would like to help to get in touch with him at

CBC members scheduled their next virtual committee meeting for 5 p.m. Thursday, July 15. One topic on the agenda will be planning future informational events.

Windsor selectmen make appointments at short meeting

by The Town Line staff

The Windsor Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the contract with Vern Ziegler in the amount of $19,080 at their abbreviated June 7 meeting, attended by a handful of residents.

The selectmen also unanimously agreed to write off personal property taxes for 2020 in the amount of $573.92 for David Choate, Inc., because he has not been in business for quite a few years.

Also, Deputy Clerk Tammy Bailey submitted her resignation letter to town manager Theresa Haskell, because she has been hired as a full time deputy clerk in the town of China.

Selectmen also authorized chairman William Appel Jr. to sign a release deed regarding 53 Barton Road, which has shown old tax liens going back to the 1980s that were not discharged. Haskell, acting as tax collector, said the town does not have any liens on this property at this time and she was unable to find the old files to see why these were never discharged. The vote was unanimous.

There were several certificate of appointments approved: Theresa Haskell as tax collector, treasurer, General Assistance administrator, Emergency Management Manager and health officer, Kelly McGlothlin as the MOSES licensing agent, MOSES registration agent and BMV municipal agent, Arthur Strout as the Emergency Management manager, and Kim Bolduc-Bartlett as the animal control officer and Peter A. Nerber as back-up animal control officer. All were approved unanimously.

The selectmen were updated by the town manager regarding Avery Glidden Construction finishing work at the town garage and shoulder work being completed on the Maxcy’s Mills Road.

The next board of selectmen meeting was scheduled for July 6.

Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting rescheduled

by Mary Grow

The Vassalboro selectmen’s July meeting has been rescheduled to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 14. It had been planned for July 15.