WINDSOR: Short, routine agenda at select board meeting

by The Town Line staff

Town Manager Theresa Haskell reported receiving a letter from Spectrum Generations asking if their letter to the town, requesting funding for an outside agency, could be included in the town report. Haskell suggested possibly putting the letter on the town’s website under Resident’s Services for outside agencies, so other letters can be displayed also. An informational page could be included in the town report to show where to find the letters on the website.

In other business, Road Supervisor Keith Hall reported there are approximately six loads of salt at the garage now with two more on order. He explained that because of delays in delivery, he immediately orders the next load as soon as the others are delivered so there would be no shortages. Currently, 50-1/2 hours of plowing time have been used of the contracted 250 hours with McGee Construction. He also reported the town trucks are running good, “and ready to go.”

Resident Tom Reed expressed his thanks to the public works department for keeping the roads clear and safe.

At the bake sale held on December 17, $1,157 were raised for the food bank.

Three candidates running locally for the state Senate and House of Representatives were present for the meeting. Abden Simmins in running for the Senate; Katrina Smith and Jennifer Tuminaro are both running for the House of Representatives, and state Rep. Richard Bradstreet was present to advise that his term of office for Windsor ends next year. He also informed those present the district he represents has been changed.

The next regular scheduled meeting of the select board was held on January 4.

China Broadband Committee (CBC): seven possible sources for expanded service

by Mary Grow

China Broadband Committee (CBC) members have a list of seven possible sources for expanded and improved broadband service to all town residents.

At their Jan. 6 meeting, committee members discussed what they know about the different companies; what additional information they need; what federal and state funding might be available, once distribution rules are developed; and possibilities of combining technologies from more than one company.

To help them collect and analyze the information they need, they agreed to ask again for money from China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund. The draft fund request had two pieces: $10,000 for consultant services and $30,000 to start work. If they are not ready to spend any of the $30,000 in the 2022-23 fiscal year, they expect it to carry forward for future use.

Committee Chairman Robert O’Connor and member Jamie Pitney intended to submit the request to TIF Committee members at the Jan. 10 TIF Committee meeting.

The next CBC meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18 (not the usual Thursday afternoon). A discussion with representatives of Consolidated Communications, one of the seven potential providers, is tentatively on the agenda.

Vassalboro board rules Priest Hill Rd. church is a dangerous building

by Mary Grow

In her 1971 history of Vassalboro, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote that the North Vassalboro Methodist Church was organized around 1850. Its members met in a Union Church (whose origins apparently are not recorded) until about 1875, when they bought an unfinished Winslow church and brought it to Vassalboro.

Fifty years ago, Robbins wrote, “This pretty little church stands to this day,…white, with a steeple pointing heavenward and a bell to ring on Sunday morning.”

Chad Caron told Vassalboro selectmen many residents would like to see the former Methodist Church on Priest Hill Road in North Vassalboro restored, not demolished. Some, he said, have helped him as he works on the dilapidated building.

People serious about preserving the church need to act fast, because select board members have given Caron 30 days to make progress in two directions.

After a public hearing that took more than an hour at the beginning of the Jan. 6 select board meeting, the two board members present voted that the church as it now stands is, legally, a dangerous building. The dangerous building order they approved directs that the building be demolished after 30 days.

However, select board members accepted Caron’s offer to get an engineer’s certification that the building is structurally safe; and they authorized new Codes Officer Ryan Page to extend the deadline if Caron can justify asking for more time.

Caron agreed Page will be invited to be present during the engineer’s inspection.

Just-retired Codes Officer Paul Mitnik reminded Caron and board members that Caron currently has no building permit and therefore cannot work on the building. However, board members expect Caron to continue to clean up the lot around it.

Caron has owned the former church for about two years. He explained that his first plan was to rebuild it as his own house.

He is using the property for his business, buying, selling and trading miscellaneous items. He stores things in North Vassalboro until he sells or reuses them; the collection in the yard changes, he said.

Mitnik and other residents said the unattractive “junk” reduces neighbors’ property values, could harbor rodents and includes bulky items so close to the road that they are in the way of town snowplows.

Mitnik said he has tried to get Caron to make improvements to the building and lot for 18 months, without success. Caron is hard to get hold of and does not meet deadlines to which he agrees, and overall the property is not improved. After too many missed deadlines, Mitnik said, he revoked Caron’s building permit – a year ago, Page added.

As the basis for their contention that the building is unsafe, Page and Mitnik supplied select board members with photographs that they said showed an inadequate foundation and inadequate support for the church’s steeple.

A solid foundation is essential, Mitnik said. He does not expect the building will fall down on its own, but is concerned about what might happen in a major storm.

Caron agreed that he has “overpromised and underdelivered,” giving Mitnik unrealistic deadlines and being too embarrassed to admit he couldn’t meet them. He apologized to Mitnik, to his “great neighbor” who puts up with the mess and to town officials.

The building is not going to fall down, Caron said, nor is the steeple going to topple over. He explained how solid the basic post-and-beam construction is – the crumbling bricks on the ground are a façade, not building support, he said – and what he has done for run-off control on the lot and repairs underneath to remedy past damage and prevent future damage.

He also removed an outhouse that had been attached to the back, relieving stress on the back wall and eliminating any possible source of sewage contamination.

He did do some clean-up as Mitnik requested, he said, and he is arranging a different storage location on a small part of a friend’s property on South Reynolds Road.

Select board member Chris French pointed out that despite promises to clean up the lot, Caron keeps bringing in more things.

Acting board Chairman Barbara Redmond asked Caron when he would have the lot cleaned up. Caron invited her to stop by and watch him working, and said he intends to finish “by summer” – having learned not to promise impossible time frames.

Fire Chief Walker Thompson asked for an overall time limit. Caron said he originally thought making a livable house would take eight months. After a year and a half just getting the structure level, he figures he’ll need another five years if he continues working alone.

Caron said he could not afford the estimated $1,500 to have an engineer’s safety report done when Mitnik raised questions about structural integrity last year. Caron’s mother, sitting beside him at the hearing, immediately said she will pay for it.

Caron said he now plans to restore the church as part of Vassalboro’s history. The front columns that he took down are in Norridgewock being refinished, and he has not removed the old tin ceiling.

He offered to give the building to someone who could and would undertake restoration. Now that he intends a community project, he plans to consult with the Vassalboro Historical Society and community leaders and to ask for financial help.

If the building must be demolished, Caron said he will take it down piece by piece, number each piece and store them until he is able to reassemble them.

Because select board Chairman Robert Browne was unable to attend the Jan. 6 meeting, most other agenda items were postponed to the board’s Jan. 20 meeting.

Redmond and French approved the Conservation Commission’s letter asking the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to let the town take over maintenance of the trail to Spectacle Pond.

A brief discussion of the sunken Vassalboro Sanitary District manhole covers on Main Street in North Vassalboro led to no decision. Resident Tom Richards recommended putting money for repairs in the 2022-23 town budget. Town Manager Mary Sabins said one effort to fill in around them had failed when the fill promptly washed out.

CHINA: Hapgood: with budget time coming, short meetings have come to an end

by Mary Grow

With work on the 2022-23 budget not quite ready to start, China Select Board members had another short meeting with a varied agenda on Jan. 3.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood reminded them their brief meetings are about to end. She has tentatively scheduled a joint meeting with the budget committee for Monday evening, Jan. 24, and is likely to recommend weekly select board meetings in February.

At the Jan. 3 meeting, board members expressed their approval of the survey Hapgood is circulating. Available on the town website and Facebook page, and on paper at the town office, it is designed to get residents’ views on town office and transfer station hours and similar service-related issues.

Hapgood is collecting opinions to find out how residents’ use of town services has changed with the pandemic, and to seek their preferences on how to reduce hours at the office and the transfer station, if selectmen decide to do so.

In other business, board members unanimously approved spending $21,590 from the China Rescue Unit (CRU) reserve fund to buy a replacement 12 Lead electrocardiogram machine.

Rescue spokesman Thomas Alfieri explained that the current machine is so old it is unusable; that the equipment is essential, both as a requirement for CRU’s state license and to save lives; and that he and his fellow CRU members want to act now, not in the next budget year, especially because of the pandemic.

The $21,590, lowest of three bids he presented, was from Master Medical Equipment (MME) in Jackson, Tennessee. Alfieri said MME is also equipment supplier for Delta Ambulance; China’s unit will match Delta’s, making for a smooth transfer for a patient.

By other unanimous votes, select board members:

  • Gave owners of four properties on which the town has foreclosed for unpaid taxes another 60 days to pay in full; and
  • Formally dissolved the town police department, which has already been replaced by an agreement with the Kennebec Sheriff’s Office (KSO). The vote was requested by the assistant director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which oversees training of local police forces.

Board member Wayne Chadwick told KSO Deputy Ivano Stefanizzi that he, for one, is entirely satisfied with KSO coverage. When Board Chairman Ronald Breton asked if the 2022-23 budget should provide funding for more than the current 10 hours a week (in addition to China’s share of service as a Kennebec County town), Chadwick and fellow board member Blane Casey said no.

Because Monday, Jan. 17, is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the town office will be closed and the next select board meeting is postponed to Tuesday, Jan. 18. Hapgood said one agenda item will be the town personnel policy, which has been reviewed and revised by town attorney Amanda Meader.

Vassalboro select board to meet January 6, 2022

by Mary Grow

The Vassalboro Select Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in the town office meeting room. The advance agenda is the same as for the Dec. 22, 2021, meeting that was canceled due to treacherous roads, including a public hearing at the beginning of the meeting.

The hearing is to determine whether the former church on Chad Caron’s property at 14 Priest Hill Road, North Vassalboro, meets the definition of a dangerous building.

Vassalboro Select Board agendas are posted on the town website,, usually by the Tuesday afternoon before a Thursday evening meeting.

Vassalboro school board approves raising hourly wage for substitutes

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members had the usual variety of issues on their Dec. 21 agenda, with more discussion than decision-making.

One decision board members made, unanimously, was to raise the hourly wages of substitute food service personnel, educational technicians and teachers to meet the new state minimums effective Jan. 1, 2022.

Board members, Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer and an audience member suggested offering substitutes minimum wage is not enough to attract personnel. Since Vassalboro Community School (VCS), like many other schools nation-wide, is struggling with staffing issues, board members are likely to consider further pay increases as they develop the 2022-23 budget request.

Pfeiffer reported that VCS has conditional approval from the state Department of Education to expand the pre-kindergarten program in the 2022-23 school year, if there are enough interested families.

The additional early release days approved at a previous board meeting started in December. Assistant Principal Greg Hughes said teachers found them useful.

Two early release days a month are planned for the rest of the school year. They are listed on the calendar on the school website,

Hughes thanked the Parent-Teacher Organization for supporting school staff, and Pfeiffer thanked the many donors who made the VCS Christmas giving program a success.

Board members accepted the resignation of school social worker Tabitha Sagner. Pfeiffer said she has accepted a job closer to her home. “We will miss her,” he said.

As at previous meetings, board members continued review of school policies, approving an updated policy on public participation at their meetings, reaffirming the policy titled “Magnet School Program,” and beginning review of policies on dropout prevention and student conduct on buses.

Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said he did not know of a VCS student enrolling at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, in Limestone, in recent years.

School policies are available for public viewing on Under the heading “Main Office” is a subheading “Superintendent’s Office,” and one of the 10 items under that heading is “Policies.”

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. There will be no school on Monday, Jan. 17, in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

January’s early release days are Friday, Jan. 14, and Thursday, Jan. 27.

China planners settle three issues

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members settled all three issues on their Dec. 14 meeting agenda.

They approved a revised subdivision plan for Fire Road 19, updating records to show a relocated road.

They agreed the former subdivision on the Lakeview Drive lot that Brent Chesley recently bought from the Town of China had expired before the town sold the land, and the town is therefore responsible for notifying the Registry of Deeds that the land is no longer subdivided.

They voted that the new owner of Little Learners Child Development Center, 166 Tyler Road, needs to file a new application to continue the business, even though she plans no changes.

The next China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28.

China TIF committee receives first 2022-23 application

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee received their first applications for 2022-23 TIF funds at their Dec. 13 meeting. They postponed action until more applications are in, they hope by the Jan. 3, 2022, deadline.

Scott Pierz, executive director of the China Region Lakes Alliance, talked about plans for the rest of the current fiscal year and next year and about longer-range plans, which might involve an expensive alum treatment for part of China Lake (see The Town Line, Dec. 9, 2021, p. 1).

China Lake Association President Stephen Greene intends to submit a complementary application for funds to pay for additional analysis of bottom sediments in the north part of the lake’s east basin, a preliminary step toward determining whether the alum treatment is a good idea.

Greene said he has no firm cost estimate yet. He hopes to have one in time to meet the Jan. 3 deadline.

Four Seasons Club President Thomas Rumpf is asking for 2022-23 TIF funds for trail work and for the annual ice fishing derby, now expanded into China Ice Days and scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 18-20, 2022.

In addition to reviewing the applications, TIF Committee members discussed the program in general: how much money they have and how it is budgeted, what types of projects are eligible, whether they can legally create an emergency fund and similar topics.

They are currently operating under the TIF Second Amendment, approved by China voters in June 2021 and by the state Department of Economic and Community Development in November. Changes in project types or fund allocations would require a third amendment, with the same approval process, Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said.

The next regular TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10, 2022.

China transfer station committee agrees to budget $1,500 for travel expenses

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members used their Dec. 14 meeting to discuss, and in some cases re-discuss, a variety of waste disposal questions.

They made two decisions.

They will reduce the 2022-23 budget request for the committee from the $2,500 agreed on at their November meeting to $1,500. They will meet again at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

The funds requested from the town are intended to cover registration and mileage when committee members attend meetings, training sessions and similar relevant events. Committee Chairman Lawrence Sikora thinks $1,500 should be enough.

The major news from the meeting was that Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood and other town officials are considering – nothing is definite yet, Hapgood emphasized – reducing hours at the town office and the transfer station.

Currently, she said, China’s hours are among the most generous in Maine: the town office is open 45.5 hours a week and the transfer station 42.5 hours a week. Because of after-hours work, staff illness and other factors, overtime pay is frequent.

One suggestion is that the transfer station be open four days a week instead of five: Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday and Saturday. She again emphasized that the whole idea is in the conversation stage only; there has been no discussion at a select board meeting.

Other topics discussed Dec. 14 included:

  • The still-not-operating waste recycling facility in Hampden which China and many other Maine municipalities support. Hapgood repeated town attorney Amanda Meader’s advice not to try to get out of the contract.
  • How much the fee charged to Palermo residents for trash bags should be increased. Consensus was China has enough bags on hand for the next few months, and the earlier decision to wait for early 2022 information on bag prices and the consumer price index was sound.
  • Updating the five-year plan for transfer station equipment and other needs: no need to act immediately, committee members said.
  • Non-residents using China’s transfer station with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to which they have no right. Committee members considered, without making any recommendation, checking each vehicle as it enters, or going back to the vehicle sticker system.

China Lake association president lays out 10-year plan to select board

by Mary Grow

China Lake Association President Stephen Greene is thinking in millions of dollars these days – but not to be spent immediately.

At the Dec. 20 China select board meeting, Greene updated board members on the draft 10-year China Lake Watershed-Based Management Plan, which he expects the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to approve early in 2022 (see The Town Line, Dec. 9, p. 1).

Stephen Greene

The goal is to continue improving water quality in China Lake, for environmental and economic benefits. The plan has six components, Greene said: reducing internal loading, the excess nutrients (especially phosphorus) already in the lake; reducing external loading by controlling run-off; preventing future external loading; informing and educating area residents; raising funds, locally and from other sources; and monitoring progress and results.

Absent specific plans, cost estimates are crude. Greene expects the external work to cost about a million dollars and the internal to add another $1.4 million.

One possibility for internal work is an alum treatment, a process in which aluminum sulfate would be added to the north end of China Lake’s east basin. The alum carries phosphorus in the water to the bottom of the lake and creates a barrier above phosphorus that is already in the bottom sediments.

Alum has been used in other lakes in Maine, including East Pond, in Smithfield, and in other states. Greene said more study, including more bottom sampling, is needed before a decision is made on whether a treatment would help China Lake.

He told selectmen the China Lake Association has turned over its ongoing programs – LakeSmart, Courtesy Board Inspectors, Youth Conservation Corps and Gravel Road Rehabilitation Program – to the China Region Lakes Alliance, so the Lake Association can focus on the management plan. He intends to ask for town funds in the 2022-23 budget.

Greene listed numerous cooperating groups and potential funding sources, from local organizations to state and federal governmental agencies. Asked if he had contacted the Town of Vassalboro, which surrounds part of China Lake’s west basin, he said no, but Vassalboro should be included.

Greene did not ask selectmen to take any action at the Dec. 20 meeting.

Other issues did require action, including voting to:

  • Appoint Trishea Story a full member of the Tax Increment Financing Committee, on which she has been the alternate member.
  • Appoint Stephen Nichols China’s Emergency Preparedness Director, with approval from Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood, who has had the position with Nichols as her deputy.
  • Maintain the present employees’ health plan for another year, with four board members in favor and Blane Casey dissenting (see The Town Line, Dec. 9, p. 3).

Hapgood called board members’ attention to the DEP’s Dec. 15 notice that PFAS testing will be conducted in China, to see if any land is contaminated with the “forever chemicals,” (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

The letter says DEP staff are working with Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry staff to locate any farmland in China where sludge or septic waste might have been applied. A state law that became effective in October prescribes and describes the investigation.

A copy of the letter is on the Town of China website,, under the sub-heading “Public Notices” under the “About” tab.

As part of 2022-23 budget preparations, Hapgood asked whether the current police services are satisfactory. China is now paying $65 an hour to the Kennebec Sheriff’s Office for 10 hours a week extra coverage, in addition to the service provided by KSO and the state police.

Select board members are satisfied. Wayne Chadwick asked whether a contract could be signed, to help with longer-range budgeting.

Deputy Ivano Stefanizzi said coverage is provided 24 hours a day; there is no change-over gap between shifts. He and his colleagues continue to stop many speeders between 4 and 7 a.m., he said.

If select board members decide not to revive the town police department, they are likely to ask voter’ permission to sell the town-owned police vehicle.

Hapgood said no bids had been received on the Harley-Davidson motorcycle the town has taken as part repayment of a loan from the Tax Increment Financing Revolving Loan Fund. She recommends trying again in the spring.

The next regular China select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.