China town building issues dominate select board agenda

by Mary Grow

The China select board’s June 3 meeting was mostly spent on building-related issues. Board members totally redesigned the plan for their long-discussed storage vault at the town office, and awarded bids for other town projects.

Over the past several years, board members, building committee chairman Sheldon Goodine and others have talked about adding a fireproof vault in a small building attached to the south side of the present office on Lakeview Drive.

At their March 25 meeting, board members awarded a bid to build the addition to the lower bidder, Ralph McNaughton Construction, of Corinna, for $267,489.20.

At the board’s May 6 meeting (see the May 23 issue of The Town Line, p. 3), Goodine and select board member Blane Casey proposed a different plan: convert part of the large garage behind the old town office into dry storage; move some of the papers from the back storage area in the town office building to the garage; and move miscellaneous items from the present fireproof storage area off the town office’s meeting room to make more space there.

Goodine prepared a draft plan for the garage before the May 20 board meeting, but wasn’t able to be there to discuss it.

At the June 3 meeting, he pointed out how much money the town is likely to save if this plan works. After inspecting the garage, board members voted to ask McNaughton and engineer Keith Whittaker, of B. R. Smith Associates, of Presque Isle, to make their own inspections.

Goodine was honored with a Spirit of America award on May 20, “for leadership in China’s Golden Agers senior program and service to the South China church, library, Masons and American Legion.” On June 3, Casey added Goodine’s 65 years with the South China Volunteer Fire Department.

Board members awarded the 2024 roadside mowing contract to Pierce Works, LLC, of China, for $10,300 for two mowings, plus $4,280 for roadside brush-cutting. Mileage is listed as 47.29 miles. Hapgood said the company has had the contract in the past and the work has been satisfactory.

Construction bids were awarded as follows.

To install a PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) water testing and water filtering system at Frank Soares’ near the China transfer station, EverClean Water & Radon Technologies, of Fairfield, $4,940, after a discussion of options with company owner Shane Reitze. State testing found Soares’ water contaminated, presumably from leachate from the closed landfill just north of the transfer station.
To reroof the barn near the town office, Williams Construction Company, of Brewer, for $16,630.
To reroof part of the town office building, again William Construction Company, for $23,560.

Williams’ figures are to be negotiated, since the company has two projects on the same site.

In other business, Hapgood read two letters. One was from someone having a new home built in China, praising the town office staff. The other was a letter of introduction from China’s new summer economic development intern, Gracie Stagnito.

The next regular China select board meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, June 17.

EVENTS: Vassalboro select board to hold public hearing

by Mary Grow

The Vassalboro select board will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 13, in the town office meeting room, to discuss allocating Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds to the Vassalboro Sanitary District.

For more information, contact Town Manager Aaron Miller at 872-2826 or email

The hearing will be followed by a regular select board meeting.

VASSALBORO: Sidereal Farm approved for expansion with conditions

by Mary Grow

After a long discussion at their June 4 meeting, Vassalboro select board members unanimously approved all but one piece of an expansion plan for Sidereal Farm Brewery, at 772 Cross Hill Road. They added two conditions to the approval, based on neighbors’ concerns.

Brewery owner James D’Angelo presented a nine-item plan. The ninth part, his plan to apply for a state restaurant license, is probably not a planning board issue; the board did not act on it.

Planning Board chairman Virginia Brackett explained that Sidereal’s current state license allows preparing food outdoors only; a Department of Health and Human Services restaurant license would allow an indoor kitchen. DHS will want input from “municipal officers,” a term Brackett thinks means select board members.

D’Angelo said the first four parts of his plan involve the entrance road off Cross Hill Road. First, he said, he already has approval from the E911 emergency numbering agency to have the road named Sidereal Way, so customers will stop mistakenly turning into nearby Glidden Lane.

He asked to extend the road; to add a cul de sac to provide parking and space for recreational vehicles to turn around; and to install downward-facing LED lights.

One of the planning board conditions is that parking be prohibited along the road. Board members also proposed a traffic pattern at the end designed to minimize headlights shining toward neighbors’ houses. D’Angelo was receptive to the idea.

Board and audience members and D’Angelo had a long discussion about additional screening to block headlights. After much consultation over maps, they agreed on the second condition, a 100-foot-long, six-foot-high cedar fence in a specified place, with trees planted 10 feet apart on the inside.

Once the trees grow enough to provide screening, D’Angelo is allowed to remove the fence.

Discussion covered the exact location of the screening; whether noise and light studies D’Angelo had done were adequate; and what kinds of trees grow best in different soils and how soon they should be big enough to be a buffer.

At the brewery building, D’Angelo proposed relocating a fire pit and bocce court from the front to the rear; extending the outdoor cooking area and adding a roof and curtains so it can be used in the winter; and using one bay in a nearby garage to store equipment used in the business.

His request to extend operating hours generated another discussion. Currently, the brewery is open from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m., Sunday.

D’Angelo asked to stay open until 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday. Board member Marianne Stevens thought the extension “as little unfair to the neighbors.” When fellow board member Dan Bradstreet interpreted the new hours as taking effect after the restaurant opens, Stevens proposed delaying a decision until that happens.

Brackett replied that longer hours would be necessary for a restaurant to be commercially viable. She disagreed when neighbor Peter Soule suggested the restaurant was getting preferential treatment.

Since Vassalboro has no zoning, Brackett said, commercial establishments can be located anywhere, and the planning board must in each case balance abutters’ needs with the needs of the business.
Board members unanimously approved the extended hours. The 11 p.m. deadline to have Sidereal’s lights off will remain.

In response to neighbors’ comments about a 24-hour light in the top of the building, D’Angelo said he will talk with employees about installing a timer that will darken the entire brewery at 11 p.m.

Neighbors Richard and Terry Dawson and Peter and MaryBeth Soule presented two main issues. First, they said, their peace and privacy have been lost, with traffic, noise, lights that shine into their houses and brewery customers who can, and do, watch them.

Second, D’Angelo failed to comply with buffering requirements on his original permit, granted in 2019. Soule said a town official, whom he did not further identify, agreed a year ago that what D’Angelo had done was inadequate.

Dawson and Soule asked what guarantee they have that this year’s buffer requirement will be met promptly and adequately.

D’Angelo offered two replies. He agreed to comply with “reasonable” planning board requirements, and did not object to any part of the board’s decision.

He defended Sidereal Farm Brewery as a valuable asset to Vassalboro. The business has a $280,000 payroll and five full-time and five part-time employees; it uses local food and local contractors and supports local charities, he said.

Before taking up the Sidereal Farm Brewery application, planning board members unanimously approved Robert and Clara Dyason’s application to add a covered porch to their existing building at 72 Branstrom Road, in the Three Mile Pond shoreland zone. The addition will be on the side away from the water, Robert Dyason said.

The next regular Vassalboro Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, July 2.

China TIF members continue talks on proposed changes

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee met May 29 to continue discussing proposed changes in China’s TIF document.

Focus was on the different projects for which TIF funds are appropriated, specifically which ones are not spending their full appropriations and which ones need more money.

Committee members got through five items before several members had to leave, ending discussion. Their recommendations are:

For expanding and improving broadband service, continue at $30,000 a year.
— For the South China boat landing, continue at $7,500 a year.
— For the cost of funding town-created economic development programs, a reduction from $35,000 a year to $25,000 a year. The program spends under $15,000 a year, mostly to hire a summer intern who focuses on economic development.

If the time town office staff spend on TIF-eligible work were charged to TIF, more money would be needed. Committee members discussed the additional record-keeping that would be necessary; when the town manager attended a two-hour TIF-related meeting, simple to note and prove, but what about brief phone calls spaced through the week?

For economic development events (mostly China Community Days and China Ice Days), increase from $15,000 to $25,000 annually, to allow for additional events.
For marketing China as a business location, delete the currently-scheduled reduction from a maximum of $25,000 annually to $5,000 annually beginning July 1, 2026; instead allocate $20,000 a year from 2026 through the end of the TIF in 2045.

In cases where a project had a substantial unspent balance, committee members recommended putting left-over money back in the program development fund, the section that committee member Jamie Pitney called “the common pot.” The money would then be available for re-allocation to a project that has been spending all its TIF money and needing more.

The committee will meet again Monday, June 10, at 6 p.m., in either the town office meeting room or the nearby former portable classroom. Remaining topics include environmental improvements; the revolving loan program; job training; trails; and matching money for grants.

The list from which committee members are working is pages 28 through 36 of China’s 2021 Second Amended TIF Program. It is on the website, under the Tax Increment Financing Committee, which is under Officials, Boards and Committees.

KWD lake levels info now online

The China Lake Association has posted about monitoring China Lake levels, with historical levels, on Facebook: Kennebec Water District (KWD) recently added a China Lake water level information page to their website. You will find the current level of the lake, along with the most recent Department of Environmental Protection lake level directives.

The link is:

China voters to be presented with three ballots on June 11, 2024

by Mary Grow

China voters will be presented with three ballots at the polls on June 11: the annual town business meeting, the school budget referendum and a choice of state primary ballots. All ballots can be previewed on the town website,, under the Elections tab on the left side of the main page.

Voting will be in the portable classroom behind the town office on Lakeview Drive. After a moderator is elected at 6:45 a.m., polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The warrant for China’s annual town business meeting has 32 articles. Voters will act on authorizations to spend town money on listed purposes (and set the fall 2024 and spring 2025 tax due dates to collect some of the money); grant authority to select board members to carry out official functions; and accept or reject three amended or new ordinances (Arts. 29, 30 and 31).

There are no local elections. They will be held Nov. 5.

Select board and budget committee members debated many of the June 11 articles at multiple meetings, sometimes with input from audience members. A May 6 public hearing on the warrant was sparsely attended.

Some of the articles discussed were:

Art. 4, administration expenses, $1,184,525, which includes a 3.2 percent cost of living increase plus one percent merit raises (the same increases are in other budget lines that include town employees).
Art. 5, town boards’ and committees’ expenses, $84,220. For the second year, this article includes no compensation for select board members.
Art. 7, public safety, increased to $420,931, mostly because Delta Ambulance’s fee has risen from $15 per resident this year to $25 per resident in 2024-25.
Art. 9, public works, increased to $1.848 million, including planning for truck replacements, but no additional staff.
Art. 10, $74,000 for community support organizations (China Historical Society, two libraries, two lake associations, Golden Agers, China Rescue, supplemental funds for the three volunteer fire departments, veterans’ markers and Memorial Day expenses).
Art. 28, authorizing the select board to contract for ambulance services, in case the contract with Delta Ambulance falls through.
Art. 32, authorizing up to $155,489 from federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money for the long-discussed records storage vault at the town office and $70,000 from undesignated fund balance (surplus) for a broadband project, the latter to be spent only on (future) town meeting approval.

The budget committee recommends voters approve all proposed expenditures. At their April 3 meeting, budget committee members supported select board members’ plan to spend up to $296,715 for a new town truck, provided that the select board gets at least a second price quote before signing a contract.

* * * * * *

Three articles propose ordinance amendments. These, too, are on the website under the Elections tab.

Art. 29 asks voters to replace the current Planning Board ordinance, dated 2008.

If voters approve the new ordinance, the six planning board members (five regular, one alternate) will be appointed by the select board, instead of elected; and the four planning board districts will be abolished, so that a resident of any part of town can fill any vacancy.

Board members’ two-year terms, their compensation ($25 per meeting with a maximum of $700 per year) and their responsibilities would be unchanged.

Art. 30 asks if voters want to amend parts of three chapters of China’s Land Development Code. Two documents are on the website, one including explanations of the changes.

Substantive changes are mandated by the new state affordable housing law, known as LD 2003 and titled “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions.” China’s town attorney advised on wording.

Major changes include creation of a South China Development District and its description and regulations. Its purpose is to “provide for the siting and construction of affordable housing, and resources and services in a clustered (higher density) land area.”

The district, described in an appendix, is the area around South China Village and along Route 3 and Route 32 South (Windsor Road) that was recommended as a development district in China’s 2020 comprehensive plan. It goes west to the Vassalboro line and south on Route 32 just past the Weeks Mills Road intersection.

A map titled Future Land Use Map, page 14 of appendices to the China Comprehensive Plan, shows the area. This map is found on the town website under Ordinances, Policies and Orders, named Comprehensive Plan Appendices – March 2022.

A second major change allows for accessory dwelling units on residential lots. Provisions allow a house-owner to add a separate unit or a separate building to provide additional housing.

A third provision required by the state amends the subdivision ordinance in the Land Development Code to add what are named affordable housing developments.

Art. 31 asks voters to accept the long-discussed Solar Energy Systems Ordinance as a new Chapter 8 in the Land Development Code.

This ordinance, if approved, will set standards for large ground-mounted solar energy systems. Large means any system with more than an acre of panel area; some requirements – height limit, setback and screening requirements — apply to systems with more than 5,000 square feet of panel area.

The ordinance includes requirements for decommissioning a system after its useful life ends, with a required pre-construction guarantee of decommissioning funding in the form of a “surety bond, letter of credit or other form of financial assistance.”

The select board and the planning board recommend that voters approve all three ordinances.

* * * * * *

A separate ballot has only one question, asking if China voters want to approve the Regional School Unit #18 budget that was adopted at a May 16 RSU meeting.

Information on the RSU #18 website says the proposed 2024-25 school budget totals $44,377,494.71, an increase of $1,459,447.19 over the current year’s budget.

The income section of the budget shows how much each member town is asked to contribute. For China, the amounts are: under “Local EPS” (Educational Programs and Services), $3,487,526.34, an increase of $216,273; and under “Local Additional,” $2,166,576.72, an increase of $228,274. China’s total share is $5,654,103, an increase of $444,547 over the current year.

In addition, RSU 18 Superintendent Carl Gartley said in an email, there is a $10,716.20 assessment for the adult education program.

The EPS figure, Gartley explained, is the amount “the state deems necessary for all students to achieve Maine’s Learning Results.” State officials calculate each EPS based on the municipal valuation, population, number of students and other factors. Each municipality must raise the amount the state calculates to be eligible for its full state subsidy, Gartley said.

Member towns in RSU 18 are Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

* * * * * *

In China’s June 11 primary voting for the state and national legislatures, the only contest is on the Republican ballot for the District One Congressional seat. Andrew Piantidosi, of Cape Elizabeth, and Ronald C. Russell, of Kennebunkport, seek the nomination. The winner will run in November against Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree, of North Haven, who has no opponent on the Democratic ballot.

There is also a Green Independent ballot, with no candidate’s name.

In the Maine State Senate primaries for District #15 (Augusta, Belgrade, China, Mount Vernon, Sidney, and Vassalboro), Republican Richard T. Bradstreet, of Vassalboro, and Democrat Raegan French LaRochelle, of Augusta, are unopposed.

In House District #62 (China, Palermo, Somerville, Windsor and Hibberts Gore), Republican incumbent Katrina Smith and Democrat Pamela Swift are unopposed. Both are Palermo residents.

State law says voters enrolled in a party may vote only on that party’s ballot; but unenrolled voters may request any one of the three party ballots. All primary ballots have a line for a write-in candidate.

Vassalboro select board seeks ways to relieve VSD financial crunch

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro select board members began their May 30 meeting with a discussion with Vassalboro Sanitary District trustees about ways to relieve the VSD’s financial crunch. Auditor Ron Smith, of Buxton-based RHR Smith and Company, joined the discussion virtually to offer his advice.

A major problem for the VSD is interest payments on the loans the district took out to fund connecting the original in-town treatment system to Winslow’s sewers, whence waste goes to Waterville’s treatment system. Winslow’s recent rate increase has added to the need for funds.

A major problem for the VSD is interest payments on the loans the district took out to fund connecting the original in-town treatment system to Winslow’s sewers, whence waste goes to Waterville’s treatment system. Winslow’s recent rate increase has added to the need for funds.

The May 30 group discussed uses of Vassalboro’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money to help cover some VSD expenses. They said $100,000 was previously allocated from the TIF fund to the VSD to help fund the connection to Winslow, but was not used.

As at a prior discussion, Town Manager Aaron Miller said he needs to know what money was spent in Vassalboro (and is therefore TIF-eligible) and what was spent across the Winslow town line. And to make proposed use of additional TIF funds legal, Miller needs more information on other expenditures.

VSD Treasurer Rebecca Goodrich promised figures as soon as she can assemble them from records, perhaps in time for the June 13 select board meeting.

In addition to money questions, Smith agreed with earlier recommendations to amend the VSD charter. Goodrich said a revised draft is already with the VSD’s attorney.

After Smith signed out of the discussion, select board member Frederick “Rick” Denico, Jr., asked if the group had done anything to bring rate-payers immediate relief. There was no affirmative answer.

The other time-consuming issue at the May 30 select board meeting was, again, the town’s personnel policy (see the May 30 issue of The Town Line, p. 3). Half a dozen town employees contributed to the discussion. The topic will be continued.

Select board members signed a proclamation honoring Vassalboro sixth-grade student Sarina LaCroix, a state winner in the Elks Club’s Americanism Essay Contest (see the April 25 issue of The Town Line, p. 1).

They continued consideration of keeping part of a foreclosed property adjoining the transfer station on Lombard Dam Road, to enlarge the transfer station property.

Miller said two pending projects should be done by the end of June, rearranging the fuel pumps at the public works garage and repaving the parking lot at the former East Vassalboro schoolhouse.

Board members accepted Miller’s preliminary recommendation to close the town office at 3 p.m., Thursday, June 27, so staff can do necessary end-of-year bookkeeping before the fiscal year ends Sunday, June 30. The closing time might be changed at the board’s June 13 meeting.

Vassalboro residents take care of 41 of 45 articles at town meeting

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro voters at the June 3 part of the annual town meeting took care of 41 of the 45 articles in this year’s warrant. The remaining four will be decided by written ballot on Tuesday, June 11, with polls open at the town office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Of the 41 articles, 39 were approved as written. One was defeated, with David Trask, the voter who made the motion presenting it, urging everyone, “Vote no!” Another was amended, on the recommendation of Town Manager Aaron Miller.

The defeated article, Art. 12, asked voters to eliminate the quorum requirement for a special town meeting, which, since 1991, has said that 125 registered voters must be present to open a special town meeting. Select board members have therefore called very few special meetings; and, Miller said, sometimes an emergency might require one.

Former select board member Lauchlin Titus remembered two special meetings under the quorum ordinance. One was to deal with marijuana growing. The other was to deal with Vassalboro’s topless coffee shop – a reminder that drew chuckles from the audience. Titus agreed that the topic “kinda drew folks in.”

However, former select board member John Melrose said, the 1991 quorum was established by the state legislature, as a private and special law, and he doubted a town meeting could repeal it. Former state representative and state senator Elizabeth Mitchell, who sponsored the law – at the town’s request, she said – agreed with Melrose.

Other voters wondered if eliminating the requirement was a good idea anyway. They pointed out that a small group with an agenda might be able to impose their policy on the whole town.

The amended article was Art. 26, which had two parts: voters were asked to appropriate $110,475 for ambulance service, and to authorize the municipal officers to make agreements for such service. Miller pointed out that $110,475 for ambulance service had already been approved in Art. 5, as part of a 15-item, $2.9 million list of town departments and functions.

Voters approved an amendment to delete the duplicate funding, and then approved the article as amended. The money is intended to pay for Delta Ambulance’s service for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

All other articles were approved as presented, by show of voting cards. Where the select board’s and budget committee’s recommendations differed, the select board’s figure was moved and approved.

As the first few articles dealing with the 2024-25 municipal budget were discussed, former town manager Michael Vashon and others asked for a summary of the effect of decisions on the 2024-25 tax rate, information they said had been available at previous town meetings.

They were not pleased when Miller replied that until the assessment of town property values is complete, he cannot calculate possible tax rates.

Under Art. 2 of the warrant, voters re-elected budget committee members Richard Bradstreet, Nate Gray, Douglas Phillips and Frank Richards and elected Laura Jones to fill a vacant seat.

Holly Weidner asked whether the five nominees thought they need additional help, for example a separate committee, to fulfill their responsibilities. None did, though Gray and Richards agreed they deal with complex issue. Phillips praised select board and school board members for their “due diligence” as they prepare annual budgets.

Spirit of America award winner Melrose was recognized with a certificate from the town, presented by select board member Michael Poulin, and another from the Maine legislature, presented by Rep. Richard Bradstreet.

Chris French, select board chairman, recognized members of Vassalboro’s First Responder Service, to whom the annual town report is dedicated.

Moderator Richard Thompson told voters this would be his last year as a town meeting moderator. He estimated he had been elected to serve at 17 Vassalboro meetings, and thanked voters for their cooperation and help.

About 85 people were in the Vassalboro Community School bleachers, and another 18 residents – budget committee, select board and school board members – sat at the head table. The meeting lasted less than two hours, thanks partly to Trask, who repeatedly made motions to consider multiple articles in a single discussion and vote.

On June 11, voters coming to the polls will act on:

Art. 42, to amend the town’s Solid Waste Ordinance;
Art. 43, to amend the town’s Marijuana Business Ordinance;
Art. 44, to re-approve the 2024-25 school budget that was approved at the June 3 meeting; and
Art. 45, local elections, with two unopposed candidates for re-election, French for the select board and Jolene Gamage for the school board.

Summaries of the proposed ordinance changes are on the opening page of the town website,, titled “A synopsis of proposed changes to two ordinances.”

Memorial Day in China Village (2024)

submitted by Linda Morrell

It was a bit rainy, but a small crowd gathered to honor our veterans who gave their lives for our freedom. The American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary, the Boy Scouts, the Fire Dept, and the Children from China Baptist Church (thanks to Lemieux Orchards for the use of their farm wagon) were all represented. The veterans did the gun salute, the auxiliary honored those who died at sea, Kevin Maroon played Taps and Pastor Ron Morrell offered a prayer of remembrance. The gathering ended with the playing of the National Anthem. It was a brief time of remembering and honoring the memory of those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

If you didn’t attend this year please find somewhere next year to honor these veterans, one hour out of your year doesn’t seem too much to give to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Vassalboro school board meeting routine

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members’ May 21 meeting featured monthly reports and routine decisions.

Vassalboro Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer and Vassalboro Community School (VCS) Principal Ira Michaud presented written reports on past and pending activities, including numerous end-of-school-year field trips.

Pfeiffer announced that the new Director of Maintenance and Grounds for VCS and Winslow schools will be Cory Eisenhour, formerly with Regional School Unit #71, in Belfast. Eisenhour succeeds Shelley Phillips, who is retiring at the end of June.

The VCS grounds have received their annual treatment for ticks, from a licensed applicator using approved chemicals, Pfeiffer said.

The superintendent had prepared a summary of work done on VCS buildings and grounds from 2005-2006, when the original (1992) windows were replaced, to the current year. This year’s major projects included cleaning, repointing and, where necessary, repairing the exterior brickwork; installing ceiling fans in classrooms; and improving playground equipment.

Vassalboro residents will check out the new speaker system in the VCS gymnasium when they assemble there for the Monday, June 3, open town meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

School board decisions May 21 included paying bills; approving the 2024-25 school calendar; and re-appointing returning teachers and educational technicians as they move up a step on the ladder from probationary to regular employees.

The next Vassalboro school board meeting will be Tuesday evening, June 18.

By then, voters will have acted on the 2024-25 school budget at the June 3 town meeting and again on June 11, and presumably will have re-elected school board member Jolene Clark Gamage, who is unopposed in her bid for another three-year term.