OPINIONS: It’s time to change Somerset’s register of deeds to an appointed position


by The Somerset County Commissioners

On Tuesday November 7, voters in Somerset County will be asked to consider changing the position of Register of Deeds from elected to appointed. One quarter of Maine’s counties have already established the Register of Deeds as an appointed position. In Somerset, this position is currently unfilled.

In accordance with Somerset’s County Charter Section 4, the County Commissioners can ask for the change to be put on the ballot. The question will read as follows: “Shall the position of an elected Register of Deeds be abolished and replaced with a Register of Deeds appointed by the Board of Commissioners?”

The Commissioners unanimously agree the time is right for the Register of Deeds to be appointed for the following reasons:

Expertise and Qualifications: Land record management and legal aspects related to property transactions require specialized knowledge. Appointing the Register of Deeds allows for a more deliberate selection process, which can prioritize individuals with relevant qualifications, experience, and expertise in real estate, land records, and legal matters. This can lead to more effective management of land records while maintaining a high level of customer service.

Consistency and Stability: An appointed Register of Deeds may provide more stability in the office, as they are not subject to the fluctuations of election cycles. This can contribute to consistent management of land records and a smooth operation of the office. Furthermore, this stability will allow for implementation of technology and processes to improve accessibility, accuracy and efficiency in maintaining and accessing land records.

Reduced Political Influence: While the County Charter states that all elected positions are “non-partisan”, the fact remains that elected officials often have to engage in political campaigns and fundraising, which can lead to concerns about the influence of
special interests. Appointed Registers of Deeds are not susceptible to such political pressures, allowing them to focus on the technical and administrative aspects of their

The Commissioners believe appointing a Register of Deeds is the correct path forward to best provide for the needs of our communities. Please join with us in voting “Yes” to change the Register of Deeds from an elected official to an appointed one.

OPINIONS: Thoughts about high impact transmission lines through central Maine


by Thomas Bolen
Albion resident

Historically when the citizenry finds itself in a position where they perceive their elected officials have failed them in pursuit of a larger goal, citing “For the common good” common folks like me, regardless of political stripes, find themselves pushing back and asking for pause to reassess their decision. The proposed High Impact Transmission Line approved in a “bipartisan” vote by the Maine Legislature early this year is that inflection point. The T-line touted as “progress towards decarbonization” was approved by the MPUC and awarded to LS Power of New York earlier this year.

But is it progress? When I think of “Progress” relative to this issue I think of utilizing new proven and relatively mature technology that will mitigate impacts to the environment and socio-economic wellbeing of the people both directly and indirectly impacted by the line in addition to setting us up for future successes. LS Power proposed building out the High Impact Transmission lines prescribed in the PUC term sheets, at 345kv AC (alternating current) utilizing 140-foot towers. However, I may have missed it but nowhere in the statute or term sheets does it say specifically, Overhead or 345kv AC”.

It simply states in numerous places throughout the sheets and statute 345kv. With the understanding, identified in the LS Power Day Mark study on page 21, that these new lines WILL NOT CONNECT Northern Maine’s Grid administered by NMISA to the ISO NE Grid. Their energy will still come from New Brunswick for the foreseeable future.

Much of the T-line right of ways will be cut through forested lands, across organic farms and generational farms leaving Homes, Farms, Woodlots, Sugarbushes, etc… contending with an aftermath of avoidable consequences had our PUC been more mindful of total impacts and mitigation through the use of newer technologies. Consequences such as: lower real-estate values, organic farms/dairies and sugarbushes at risk of losing organic certifications, Apiary’s/pollinators (personal and commercial) being significantly impacted thereby further degrading the socio-economic infrastructure of this rural and poorer part of the state.

To be clear, I, nor the Albion, Me Transmission Line Committee which I chair, are opposed to the Aroostook Connect project. We are, however, opposed to the methodology being deployed! Buried HVDC requires approximately 5+ foot wide ROW vs. 150 feet wide for AC overhead.

Utilization of ROW’s of existing roadways in Maine is not new. Look at HP1274, LD 1786 of the 124th Maine State Legislature and you’ll find provisions for this. Why not look forward and amend this Statute to allow other road ROW’s beyond what is already outlined to better serve Maine and began to use them.

In 2022 the State of Minnesota DOT undertook a comprehensive feasibility study, entitled NextGen Highways (found here: https://nextgenhighways.org) conducted by NGI consulting of Seattle, Washington. A subset of the study findings are:

– Transmission and Fiber are being sited in the interstate and highway ROW across the United States
– Buried HVDC transmission can be compatible with interstate and highway ROW;
– Buried HVDC transmission is comparable in cost to overhead AC transmission while providing additional reliability and resilience benefits;

  • Historically Utilities have discounted the use of underground transmission citing the cost of AC transmission often at 7-10 times more than overhead AC transmission lines. Many utilities, including LS Power cite those numbers without considering the technological advances HVDC cable and Converter stations over the past decade.
    Notable study takeaways.
  • Buried HVDC transmission projects are cost competitive with traditional overhead AC transmission projects;
  • Buried HVDC transmission costs have fallen over the past decade.
  • Together, DOT ROW and buried HVDC transmission can deliver billions of dollars in societal benefits.
  • Buried HVDC transmission supports transportation decarbonization.

As we move forward in Maine trying to meet decarbonization goals we need to be mindful of how we do it. Negatively impacting the beauty of the State and the fragile socio-economic infrastructure is not my definition of progress.

Thank you Representative Scott Cyrway and Senator David Lafountain for your ongoing support and also the many other Senators and Representatives who are listening.

VETERANS CORNER: Don’t think you qualify for VA benefits? Check again

by Gary Kennedy

I become more and more surprised at how many Veterans in their 80’ and 90s who believe they aren’t qualified to use the V.A. system. I have hooked up with two such vets recently and many over time. The two veterans that I refer to were convinced by the system more than 50 years ago that they were not qualified for V.A. benefits. One I have worked with for a few months and not only was able to get him into the system but he is now in receipt of 90 percent disability. I am sure that will be a hundred soon. The other veteran I am just beginning with. However, I am sure he will do OK as well. When I am referred to veterans such as these I am heartbroken. Think of all the time they gave and when they gave it. They have gone all their lives struggling to get by and all the time this wasn’t necessary.

First contact with the V.A. system is where this life affecting belief has its origin. This is/has been mostly because of lack of training of the employees, “especially those of first contact”. This in my opinion is the first most important person a veteran will make contact with. This could be a front desk clerk to a Veteran Service Officer (VSO). They should not be addressing veteran issues they are not familiar with. This can and does affect the remainder of this veteran’s life. If he or she relies upon what they have been told at this point, then people like me will end up assisting a veteran in need 50 years later. That is sad as there is no way to get that time back, even if I am successful. The veteran may receive medical aid and even lots of money, but what is the quality of life at this point. It only takes a five minute conversation to effectively destroy one of America’s finest. I have seen, many heart breakers.

So, all that being said what do we do? A vet has a couple of choices. 1) He or she can visit a service officer; there are Veterans of Foreign Wars (V.F.W.), Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.), American Legion (A.L.) and other state and federal government agencies dealing with specialty disabilities located at Togus. Also, you can visit my personal favorite, V.B.A. which has career trained specialists who can help with any situation. In my opinion they are the best of the best. I don’t say this to demean the other service organizations but they are career Veterans Service Officers (V.S.O’s) who are forever in training to keep up with all the current legislation which they impart to the other service agencies. They are infact the in-house advocates for all veterans and programs. For the first four that I mentioned you would dial 623-8411 and when you get the computer generated person, push “0” and you will get a live person. When you do, just ask to be connected to whichever agency you are interested in. For V.B.A.’s direct line, you will dial 207-621-6938, state your purpose here and you will be directed accordingly. If you are a walk-in the outside door continues to remain locked. You will need to take the long walk.

By following this instruction you will receive all the information and help you seek and someone like me will not be waiting to correct the path you have been mislead to follow. You were here for your country so your country should always be here for you.

In closing I should mention a couple of things. The first is it appears that construction may have begun in earnest as Williams Construction Co. seems to have some iron workers laying rerod for columns and footings for the Community Living Center. Perhaps they will be pouring concrete for the new building soon. We are all anxiously awaiting.

The other issue I get asked about a lot is; can any veteran gain access to dental care? The answer is no; you need to be a 100 percent disabled veteran for access to this benefit, or you need to have a service connected disability. Currently 92 percent of veterans are not eligible for dental care. However, like everything at V.A. there are exceptions to most rules. So, that being said, call and ask if you might be on exception. I wish I could say all vets are eligible as Dr. Jeff Walawender and crew are second to none when it comes to knowledge and care of our vets at V.A. It’s a friendly professional atmosphere staffed by the crafts finest. Dr. Walawender, DDS, graduated from University at Buffalo, New York, and completed his residency at the Togus VA. After years of experience he has become the Dental Chief of Staff. He also sits on several boards, community dental and also North East Delta Dental. We are/fortunate to have such talent at Togus.

See you next time. Stay safe, God bless and have a great summer.

OPINIONS: No more property tax stabilization program


by Katrina Smith
State Represenative
District #62
China, Palermo, Somerville & Windsor

What can our Seniors do now?

The popular state tax assistance for seniors entitled the “Property Tax Stabilization Program”, which allowed those over the age of 65 to freeze their property taxes, has been eliminated during this past legislative session. (A vote for the budget was a vote for this program to be eliminated. Personally, I voted against the budget for this and other reasons.) Many seniors are asking, “What now?” The good news is that several State of Maine programs have been expanded that will hopefully assist our Seniors with their finances.

The first program to be expanded is the Property Tax Fairness Credit. The property tax fairness credit provides that Eligible Maine taxpayers may receive a portion of the property tax or rent paid during the tax year on the Maine individual income tax return whether they owe Maine income tax or not. If the credit exceeds the amount of your individual income tax due for the tax year, the excess amount of credit will be refunded to you. The program increased the credit from $1,500 to $2,000 for individuals 65 or older. To take advantage of this program you need to file a ME1040 and a Property Tax Fairness tax form.

The second program is the Deferred Collection of Homestead Property Taxes. The State Property Tax Deferral Program is a loan program that can cover the annual property tax bills of Maine people who are ages 65 and older or are permanently disabled and who cannot afford to pay them on their own. The loan program allows Maine’s most vulnerable community members to age in place and ensures that property taxes are still delivered to municipalities, requiring repayment of the loan once the property is sold or becomes part of an estate. The program was updated to double the income threshold to $80,000 a year and also the liquid asset threshold limit to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. There are a few other guidelines for this program, but to see if you qualify you must file an application with your local municipal assessor between January 1 and April 1.

I hope this information is useful to our Seniors and helps them to afford to live out their golden years by relieving some of the stress involved with property taxes. I am happy to help direct anyone to other resources and can be reached at katrina.smith@legislature.maine.gov.

OPINIONS: Internet access for many may be at risk


by Kim Lindlof
President, CEO Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce

In response to our nation’s increased reliance on high-speed Internet, both the Trump and Biden Administrations have taken important steps to provide connectivity to those that need it, particularly in rural areas. An invaluable program that’s been created in recent years to enable this is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which over 18 million American households are currently enrolled in. The ACP enables eligible Americans to overcome the obstacle of affordability by providing a monthly voucher which can be used on the cost of an Internet subscription. When combined with the low-income offerings made available by many of the nation’s leading providers that participate in the program, the voucher can make the cost of a subscription free for qualifying low-income families. Here in Maine, over 82,000 households are enrolled in the ACP, while another 150,000 are eligible to enroll.

Unfortunately, the ACP faces an existential threat that could eliminate Internet access for the over 18 million American households that rely on the program – its funding will run out sometime in 2024. Extending its funding to ensure that the program continues to exist should be an urgent priority for lawmakers regardless of partisanship.

A CNBC poll earlier this year found that the significant majority of Republicans and Independents support the program, and its expiration would be a blow to constituencies of both parties, as data from the Technology Policy Institute reflects that enrollment is essentially equivalent for both Republican-represented and Democratic-represented Congressional districts.

Politics aside, an end to the ACP would set us back years in our effort to overcome the affordability gap, a barrier that accounts for two-thirds of our nation’s digital divide. By not having an effective solution in place to assist Americans struggling to afford an Internet subscription due to level of income, we will more or less be fighting this fight with one arm tied behind our back.  In Maine, 39 percent of households with income less than $20,000 have no connectivity. Closing the digital divide is an effort that we must be successful in, as analyses of the issue have indicated that allowing millions of Americans to continue to be without connectivity will have grave repercussions for the American economy at large. A 2021 study from Deloitte found that a ten percentage-point increase in broadband penetration in 2016 would have created more than 806,000 additional jobs in 2019.

The persistence of the digital divide will continue to mean untapped prosperity for the American economy, and it’s not hard to understand why. Seemingly every industry stands to benefit by having access to high-speed Internet and all of the essential resources that come with it. This means not only capabilities for remote working, but also access to information, so those working in sectors that are more hands-on and less computer-intensive can still utilize the Internet to yield better results. An example of this could be a farmer in Clinton that relies on online resources for market prices, weather forecasts, farming techniques, and agricultural research, or a small business owner in Waterville that utilizes online platforms to advertise its product and grow its brand.

Overall, I am hopeful that federal policymakers understand that combatting affordability barriers is an integral part of getting Americans online, but I also hope that this understanding will translate into tangible action that specifically acknowledges the need to prolong the Affordable Connectivity Program. With the program set to expire next year, we need to find a funding solution in the near future that keeps this critical program intact.

OPINION: Until asked, solar company will not offer anything (Vassalboro)


by Jerry Hill
Vassalboro resident

The Maine Street Maine Coalition presents a fresh look at the current situation regarding Solar Inc. and the Vassalboro Site Planning – Solar Ordinance.

The community, landowners, and town representatives must demand that this unknown guest coming to live large in this house, having the expectation of being here beyond most of our lives, – to stay for decades – should arrive with a thankful heart and a gift for Vassalboro.

This community has an expectation – solar farms will be a contributing asset to the community. They must become a part of the larger family as a corporate citizen.

The rules of the “house” must be stated upfront. Until the “ask”, Solar Inc. will not offer anything for the community. Solar Inc. should show respect and arrive overflowing with gratitude for being allowed into this house and ecosystem.

The “Ask”

A board member asked, “What is solar doing for the town?” Consider the following answer: the solar farm has a buffer between the power plant and outer edge. That buffer is not used by the solar farm. The buffer is not available for other commercial use. The buffer should be made available to and for the community. The town should insist on using the property.

The buffer is 50 feet wide. The 50 feet could contain a rest area for passing snow mobiles. Ask for a food forest of blueberry and apple trees. Ask for a playground with a firepit and picnic tables. Ask for a charging station for electric ATVs. Ask for a dog park. People would appreciate an exercise circuit.

Result of “the ask” is a mini park is created for now and for future children. Elderberry might like a place to sit-down in the shade for a nap. Choose to opt-out of chain-link fence and three rows of trees.

It is our responsibility to help the solar industry become an even better citizen.

It is the Ask. Chicago style – a favor for a favor.

Expanding on the concept.

The complete buffer at each solar farm will be accessible to Vassalboro residents via the solar plant access road. Liability insurance is the responsibility of the solar park owner. Security cameras are included as are trash cans and porta-potties. Each 50-foot buffer access will be accompanied by a $25,000 allowance to be used toward improvements administered by Vassalboro’s Parks and Trails budget.

A 12’x12’ (+/-) gazebo shelter will be constructed with a picnic table, plus a charging station. A dog socialization lot will be provided. The mini park will be designed by a resident group and overseen by the Parks Committee for each solar park.

That is the “ASK”. Mini parks. Wonderful destinations for families.

Additional ideas include: an oasis for snowmobiles, a place for healing, a wildlife viewing stand. Places for: a garden, flowers, benches, meditation, a safe place to walk with a loved one (the dog). The buffer is really a part of the Vassalboro Park system for the “ASK”. “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” W. Dyer

Where is the quid pro quo?

A question proposed by a board member has not been addressed – “What is the contribution of solar farms to our community?” Question answered.

A 13-year-old once said “If I don’t ask, I don’t get.”

The action of writing this concept into the ordinance is for all the right reasons.

This ecosystem matters.

OPINIONS: A “yes” vote urged on broadband ARPA warrant article


by Bob O’Connor
China Broadband Committee

The China Broadband Committee was formed in 2017 to find a way to bring the best Broadband internet solution to China. Last year we chose Axiom Fiber to build that system. The selectboard and townspeople voted down our proposal last November because of the risk that it could potentially adversely affect property taxes due to repayment of the $6 million bond if not enough townspeople signed up for this service.

As a committee, we went back to the drawing board to look at all possible solutions again. We reviewed proposals from our incumbent providers, Spectrum Charter, and Consolidated Communications. We found the Spectrum bulk proposal too financially risky for the town. Consolidated was not interested in expanding into China because we are in “Classic” China Telephone territory. The company might consider expansion in the distant future, seven or more years from now.

Unitel, of Unity, Maine, has been in the telephone business since 1904, about the same time that the China Telephone Company got its start. Unitel first offered fiber internet to the home in a limited area starting in 2015. Late last year, Unitel was acquired by Direct Communications, a larger family-owned company that offers fiber to the home in a few rural areas in a few US states.

Our broadband committee started working with Direct Communications (DC) shortly after they acquired Unitel last year. Unitel/DC are looking to expand to towns around Unity with the help of the current grants and funds. These grant funds can be spent to cover areas of our town that the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) defines as “Least Served” and “Unserved”. This includes about 25 percent of homes in China that typically have DSL or no service.

MCA now classifies the rest of town as “Underserved”, meaning that their service does not meet the minimum speed of 100/100 Mbps. This includes those with cable service from Spectrum. All new internet projects funded by MCA must be built to the minimum 100/100Mbps standard.

Our currently proposed project with Unitel/DC is to build a fiber backbone in town that is strong enough, that is, has enough fibers, to serve the whole town while initially serving the Least Served and Unserved areas. After this project is complete, Unitel/DC will continue to expand to the rest of the town, the underserved folks.

Town funding from this project is from the TIF fund of $30,000/year for 10 years for a total of $300,000. This expenditure was previously approved by the voters in 2021. Also, we are requesting $70,000. from a part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that China has received.

Unitel/DC will match our $370,000 contribution to the project.

We are also applying for an MCA “Connect the Ready” grant for about $460,000. The total project is approximately $1.2 million dollars with the Town contributing 31 percent, Unitel/DC contributing 31 percent and the MCA grant covering the remaining 38 percent of the project.

We will only apply for this grant if the townspeople vote in favor of the $70,000 ARPA fund distribution on the Warrant Article on November 8, 2022.

The town selectboard unanimously (5/0) recommended a “yes” vote on this $70,000 Broadband ARPA Warrant article. The Budget committee also recommended a “yes” vote (5/1).

Neither the TIF nor the ARPA funds will raise property taxes, and Unitel/DC would fully own and operate this service with no requirement for involvement from town staff.

Fiber internet service by Unitel / Direct Communications will improve internet speeds and reliability, increase value of your home, encourage economic development in town, allow for online learning, education, work, telehealth, and entertainment at an affordable and competitive price.

We appreciate your support. Thank you.

Read more about China’s broadband initiatives here.

OPINIONS: Protecting a high quality and fully-funded public education system is vital


by Tom Waddell

The Supreme Court’s Casey vs. Makin decision all but forces Maine to fund private religious education. Now every state’s public school funding is under attack.

Bleeding public school budgets to fund alternative schools, such as private secular, religious, or for-profit charter schools, is often done through voucher programs that claim public taxes do not fund public school systems; they fund students, and the money follows the student to whichever school they choose.

Maine passed a bill last year requiring private schools that accept public funds to follow Maine’s Human Rights Act, the same human rights protocols that apply to Maine’s public schools. Those protocols ban harassment based on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. Students with physical or learning disabilities must also be accorded the same learning environment as public schools. The bill initially included financial oversight of the annual $56 M taxpayer support Maine gives to private schools but was subsequently removed. Why?

Maine used to have financial oversight of the taxes it uses to fund private schools. However, requiring state-funded private schools to report how those funds were spent was removed from the Government Oversight Committee in 2011. Why would Maine not want to know how the $56 M it gives to private schools, or over half a billion in ten years, gets spent?

The Supreme Court ruled Maine, and every state must fund private religious instruction if they fund private non-religious education but that ruling only applies to states that exclude religious schools. Legislation is moving through Congress that will allow all for-profit charter schools nationwide to bleed every state’s public school budget through a voucher system and receive federal grants without reporting their finances.

When the federal Charter Schools Program proposed new rules that would prevent private, for-profit charter schools from receiving public grant money and require them to report their finances if they receive any public funds, the lobbyists for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools opposed those regulations.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools wants for-profit charter schools to get public grants and state taxpayer funds and not have to report how those funds get spent. This will leave each state with zero financial oversight of what state-funded charter schools do with public tax dollars.

This is the same as Maine having no financial oversight of private school funding extended to every state and every public school system in America. As a result, public school budgets everywhere will be cut, and the quality of public education across the nation will suffer.

Two congressional candidates and one gubernatorial candidate in the November election support a fully funded public education system. The other congressional and gubernatorial candidates support an unregulated private education system funded by taxpayer school vouchers.

Two congressional candidates and one gubernatorial candidate support financial oversight of private schools and the other candidates do not see the necessity for the Maine Government Oversight Committee to oversee the $56 million Maine currently gives away to private schools every year or over half a billion over ten years.

Your vote will help determine if Maine continues to fund private schools, thereby requiring Maine to fund private religious schools. Your vote will also determine if Maine controls how the half a billion it gives away to private schools over ten years gets spent.

I urge you to make your vote count to protect a high-quality and fully funded public education system that all of Maine’s parents and students expect and deserve. Parents, students, and school faculty are counting on you.

OPINIONS: Let’s move as quickly as possible to renewable energy


by David Jenney
Vassalboro resident

Vassalboro will have a ballot item in November asking residents if they would like a 180-day, with conditions, moratorium on commercial solar arrays. I urge fellow residents of Vassalboro to vote no on the moratorium.

1.) Climate Impact

To me the one of the biggest and most profound issues facing us as residents of Vassal­boro, the state of Maine and the world as a whole is Climate Change/­Global warming. One of the ways to slow down the pace of this change (in my opinion) is to move as quickly as possible to renewable energy sources which do not pollute in their operation and do not contribute to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. We are already way too late to address this problem as a species. To me postponing commercial solar array development in Vassalboro is similar to Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. The world is on fire – literally and figuratively. I think sometimes we don’t understand the urgency of this issue due to it at times not being directly in our face.

2.) Inconsistent regulation

Of course there are issues related to where the “best” place is to site commercial solar arrays as well as what to do with them at the end of their life. I would point out the same issue exists for any source of energy production – oil, wood, wind, natural gas, coal, etc… To me placing a moratorium on commercial solar arrays in Vassalboro is “having the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Our current standards for where to place them and how to deal with their waste when they reach the end of their useful life certainly can be improved. However, a moratorium on commercial solar arrays in order to have time to create some type of ordinance to address those issues is similar to telling a fire to stop burning, because we don’t have the perfect hose.

We don’t have town ordinances regulating gravel pits, or other extractive mineral operations. We don’t have town ordinances on the placement of gas pipelines, we don’t have ordinances on the placement of cell phone towers, power lines, phone lines, wind turbines, trailer parks, so what’s so special about commercial solar arrays? Please note that I am not ignoring state and federal regulations – just pointing out that we do not have local ordinances related to any of those.

So what’s so different about commercial solar arrays? My best guess is that now people can actually see them, and some people find them unattractive. That’s about the only thing I can think of that is really different. We are so used to seeing telephone poles, power lines, etc., that we almost don’t realize that they are there. With new commercial solar arrays they are often near roads. This makes sense because they are then close to power lines where they can send the electricity that they produce. Only one relatively smaill commercial solar array has been built in Vassalboro. That is the one on Main Street. In reviewing planning board minutes since 2020, it appears that about four to five additional projects have been approved. None of them is in operation, or have starting being built.

3.) Not in my backyard (NIMBY)

I’m guessing that people here in Vassalboro are reacting to something new that is a change which they instinctively don’t like. When I see commercial solar arrays, I see hope and progress. It’s so easy to think that gas which we use for our vehicles as coming from a gas station, because we don’t make gasoline in Maine. Or we may think of heating oil as something that comes from trucks (heating oil is the biggest energy source of winter time heating in Maine) rather than a fracking operation elsewhere in the United States, or a drilling operation in any part of the world.

We all drive or use vehicles that use oil and gas. We are all guilty of contributing to climate change and global warming, but when we are presented with a choice to be part of the solution, which commercial solar arrays are part of, we get upset. I think it’s because we can see the source of the electricity, while we can’t see it with other electricity sources.

We can often engage in black and white thinking – such as all our Maine farmlands are going to be converted to solar arrays, which is utter nonsense. I have yet to see a commercial solar array placed in Vassalboro take over a farm. I have seen a coexistence of a commercial solar array and farm in China at the Three Level Farm. A commercial (community) solar array was placed on the other side of an active farm. The commercial solar arrays that I have seen in Augusta and Waterville (and it’s quite possible I’ve missed some), have been placed on vacant land that wasn’t being used for farming.

4.) Regulating what individuals can and can’t do with their land, without a comprehensive plan

For the most part I do not want the town to make it more difficult for relatively large land owners in Vassalboro to be able to choose what they want to do or not do with their land, especially as it relates to commercial solar arrays. I own about 140-150 acres of land. I like to believe that I am a good steward of the land, the vast majority of it is in tree growth with a forest management plan. I have two hay fields that are used by my neighbor and a wild blueberry field that is rarely used for picking blueberries. If the town decides to say what large land owners can or cannot do with their land, have it done in a planned manner, rather then a reactionary one.

As a town we do not have a comprehensive plan or zoning. To me trying to define where commercial solar arrays can be placed is a backwards approach to zoning. If we are going to pick and choose how we go about deciding on how land is going to be used, then do it right. Look at the town as a whole, not as bits and pieces.

5.) Protecting our Natural Environment

I think our main responsibility in terms of the natural environment is to focus on air, land, soil and water – all of which are impacted by climate change and global warming. I think while we might like some type of regulation placed on commercial solar arrays, that commercial solar arrays be recognized for the positives that they provide for Vassalboro. The regulation/ordinance should not impede the implementation of new commercial solar arrays. I don’t see any compelling need to implement a moratorium on commercial solar arrays as there are so few (if any) active projects in Vassalboro, and I will oppose the moratorium related to commercial solar array development in Vassalboro.

OPINION: A few suggestions about being litter free


by Richard Dillenbeck
China resident

Hello…let me share an update on efforts to create a Litter-Free China! Twenty years ago, I started picking up roadside litter on Lakeview Drive. The satisfying undertaking was combined with my habit of long-distance walking. Today I remain puzzled why so many drivers feel the best way to get rid of trash is to throw it out car windows.

Four years ago, an appeal was made for others to join the effort, and, at its peak, some summers over 50 volunteer were involved. That was greatly reduced by COVID and now remains low. Most people live busy lives and one’s enthusiasm is easy to lose when the litter is back within a week. To illustrate a portion of what was picked up this summer, I retrieved over 700 cans and bottles on Lakeview Drive, plus bags of other litter. Efforts were supported by the town manager’s purchase of bags and gloves, also volunteers provided their own. I would place the level of littering to be somewhat less than previous summers but still considerable, which unfortunately means little change in the habits of litterers.

I would like to make three suggestions if you feel this effort is worth continuing:

  • Town office make occasional plea in the town’s weekly newsletter for property owners to please pick up litter on their own roadside frontage. It would certainly help our volunteers and the overall effort.
  • A few years ago, I asked our own China police officer had he ever ticketed anyone for littering, and he said “no”. Perhaps the Kennebec County Sheriff could be requested to do so.
  • Some of the larger pieces of litter may have blown out of trucks enroute to the Transfer Station, although I observe an equal amount on roadside shoulders leading away from the Station. Occasional reminders to the citizenry to tie down/cover transported trash would be helpful.

I want to publicly thank the following persons/organizations for picking up litter:

Mark Jandreau, Ann and Eric Austin, Doug Sukeforth, Jeanne Marquis, Bob Bennett, Katy McCormac, Lori Poulin, Don Matheson, Gary Nichols, Joe Karter, Don Poulin, Sandra Boyce Isaac, Kara Carlson, Don Rice, Jane Golden, Central Church members and Church of LDS members. Also, The Town Line for its support. I suspect there are others who remain either unrecognized or are unknown.

This is being shared with members of the community who serve in official capacities soliciting their support for this effort. Let me close with this memory: when I used to occasionally walk home from Erskine Academy from 1949-1953, our country roads were litter-free. Everyone is invited to be involved in their own helpful way and let’s look forward to next summer.