Absentee voting notice

Note to residents of China:

Various organizations are sending absentee ballot request forms to residents of the town, with a return address of the Town Clerk’s Office. These notices were not sent out by the Town of China. If you have already submitted an absentee ballot request, you may disregard these forms. For any concerns please call us at 445-2014.

CHINA: Program at ACB Memorial Library

Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village.

by Mary Grow

“Maine Memories,” the second post-coronavirus outdoor program at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village, brought an interested audience to the library’s south lawn Sunday afternoon, Sept. 20.

Librarian Carla Olson Gade opened the program by reading a poem by Maine author and Vassalboro native Holman Day, and closed it by reading summer resident Richard Dillenbeck’s contemporary reminiscence of the China Village grammar school, which stood on the lot across Main Street from the library.

Marjeanne (Banks) Vacco said she, too attended the village school, four years behind Dillenbeck. Both transferred in the spring of 1949 to the new consolidated elementary school on Lakeview Drive, now China Middle School.

Vacco said her grandmother was her teacher. The building had two teachers, Dillenbeck wrote, one for the four younger grades on the lower floor, the other for the four upper grades on the second floor.

In the 1940s, China Village’s business district was at the south end of Main Street, around the intersection with Neck Road and Causeway Street, Vacco said. Because she lived just down the hill in the house at the corner of Peking and Causeway streets, she could stop at the grocery and spend a nickel for an ice cream cone on her way home from school.

Mention of Peking Street reminded former China resident Isabelle Wiand of a story told her by the late Louise Tracey, who lived at the intersection of Canton Street and Neck Road: Tracey once received her pension check months late, because it came via China in Asia. Several other people remembered similarly delayed mail, some in envelopes with markings in Chinese.

Neck Road resident Louisa Barnhart talked about her house, built around 1827, one of several on Neck Road built with bricks from a kiln in the area of Fire Road 9. When she and husband Michael Klein needed to repoint the brickwork, they found sand from a Fire Road 9 pit created an exact match for the original work.

On the back of the house is a 17-foot-square room that used to be a separate building. It was made from recycled timbers, with saplings for a roof, so Barnhart believes its woodwork is even older than the main house.

The house has been owned by three families in almost two centuries, Barnhart said. It was in the Ward family for many years and owned for about 10 years by Bill Rollins before Klein and Barnhart bought it.

Vacco, whose family was connected with the Wards two generations back, added that the former schoolhouse in front of the brick house was moved to Vermont. Lilacs mark the site of the former school privy, Barnhart said.

The afternoon’s other main speaker was Tom Parent, President of the China Library Association and an Eagle Lake native who will have lived in China for 37 years next month. Growing up in The County, he said, every fall schools would close for potato-picking month and his entire family would move to the potato fields around Fort Fairfield.

There they would live in what he called a shack and pick potatoes from sun-up to sun-down. Parent compared their situation to being a migrant worker today, except that the whole family took part.

Pickers had two choices, he said: most picked on their knees, and often developed knee trouble later in life, while those who chose to stay on their feet & bend down were likely to have back trouble. Many pickers wore braces on their swollen wrists.

When the weather was uncooperative Parent said poker was the indoor fall-back. “I earned more money playing poker than I did picking potatoes,” he claimed.

Pickers earned 12 cents a barrel when he first went into the fields, Parent said. The price had more than doubled, to 25 cents a barrel, by the time he was in his early teens. Each barrel held about 200 pounds of potatoes.

A good picker could do more than 100 barrels a day, Parent said. One of his brothers filled 165 barrels one day.

Money from the work paid the debt at the local grocery and provided school clothes and supplies. And, Parent said, children brought up in the potato-picking culture developed a good work ethic that lasted a lifetime.

He also mentioned that while towns like Eagle Lake were mostly deserted during potato-picking season, no one locked doors, and families would find their possessions untouched when they came home.

The next public event planned at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library is the annual candidates’ forum to introduce candidates in contested local elections to voters. This year, five people seek three seats on the Board of Selectmen: incumbents Ronald Breton and Janet Preston and Blane Casey, Brent Chesley and Jeanne Marquis.

The forum date is not yet set. In past years, it has been in late October in advance of local elections, which will be Nov. 3 this year. Plans are to have the forum available to the public over Zoom, Gade said. Notices will appear on the library website, www.chinalibrary.org, and elsewhere.

The library reopened Sept. 8 with coronavirus precautions and slightly changed hours. New hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

China resident recognized with prestigious Sages award

Jodi Blackinton, right, with fellow volunteer John Thunder, at the China Community Food Pantry. (contributed photo)

by Eric W. Austin

Jodi Blackinton, a resident of China, is a recipient of the 2020 Sages of Clinical Services award by her employer Optum, UnitedHealthcare and United Group Clinicians. The award is given out to employees that have demonstrated their commitment to the values of Integrity, Compassion, building trust in Relationships, Innovation, and Performance. This year, out of 49,000 clinicians, there were 1,280 nominations and 130 total winners. This is Blackinton’s second nomination.

“I work with a great team and this award is truly for my entire team,” said Blackinton. “Optum, UHC has been a wonderful employer and I am proud to be part of this organization.”

Blackinton was recognized not only for her work with UnitedHealthcare, but also for the way she gives back to the community in her off-hours. She is a part of the management team at the China Community Food Pantry, where she works each Saturday, and serves on the China for a Lifetime committee, a local group that encourages and supports community volunteering in China.

“I have been a nurse for 28 years,” Blackinton said. “I love people and I have always loved caring for the sick and promoting wellness.”

“Not only is Jodi a critical part of the pantry team,” said China Community Food Pantry director, Ann Austin, “whenever one of our patrons has a medical question, she’s the one we call. Her advice and experience have been indispensable in this time of COVID.”

Blackinton said she is happy she works for a company that encourages employees to give back to their communities. “I am grateful that UHC offers a giving opportunity to their employees all year and has matching of donations as well,” she said. “UHC has allowed me to give back to the food pantry since arriving here in Maine almost five years ago.”

Blackinton moved to China from Rhode Island with her husband, Barry, in 2015. They have one son, one daughter-in-law and one “fat and happy dachshund.”

Causeway work to begin in October

Construction on Phase One of the project in 2019. (Photo courtesy of the China Lake Association)

Submitted by China Town Manager Becky Hapgood.

China Residents & Causeway Road users,

The work on the China Lake Causeway Improvements project will be starting soon. We are very excited to finally be getting this work going and ready for a great season in 2021. The following is a tentative schedule for the work:

The contractor will mobilize to the site during the first week of October. Once the project gets started, the Causeway Road will be closed to the public. There will be signs and a detour set up for motorists that use the Causeway Road.

Part of the upgrades is to replace the existing boat launch with all new components including a much-needed new ramp. We will try to accommodate people by keeping the boat launch open during the first few weeks of the work. The launch will be completely closed after the second week of October to start the renovations to the ramp.

If you are planning to use the boat launch this fall to take your boat out, we recommend that you make plans to do this as soon as you are able. The boat launch in East Vassalboro will remain open as usual.

To accommodate phases of the work, we will be drawing the lake level down earlier than usual this year. The lake level has already started to drop this year due to the lack of precipitation and run off. We have coordinated with multiple agencies with an interest in the lake levels and have worked out a plan to minimize impact to everyone.

The actual drawdown will start soon at a reduced rate of flow to start the process. The drawdown order from the Maine DEP says that the drawdown is to take place between October 1st and October 31st. We will start dropping the lake level at the ordered rate at that time.

If you have any questions, call the Town Office at (207) 445-2014 or email info@chinamaine.org. We do not have firm dates at this time but will reach out again when we do.

CHINA: Rte. 3 local water source closed to public use

by Mary Grow

China selectmen discussed multiple ongoing issues and one new one at their Sept. 14 meeting.

The new issue was a letter asking if the town would provide a public water supply in South China. The spring in a Route 3 front yard from which area residents have taken water for years has new owners who closed it to public use.

The letter-writer said her well, and other wells she knows of, have water that is undrinkable. She used to take multiple jugs from the local spring and would like to avoid paying store prices. She would be willing to make a token payment for use of a town water supply, she said.

Selectmen were not in favor of the proposal. Wayne Chadwick said a public water supply would be highly regulated and expensive. Board Chairman Ronald Breton added that if something went wrong, the town could be liable.

Discussion turned instead to how to help people with unsafe wells. Donna Mills-Stevens, participating in the meeting via Zoom, suggested state or federal agencies might help. Breton said he would forward suggestions to the letter-writer.

In other business, selectmen reviewed Town Manager Becky Hapgood’s proposed 2021 town meeting dates and resulting timelines for starting budget preparations for the 2020-21 fiscal year. They did not want to hold the meeting so early they would be lacking financial information, nor so late that if voters rejected some or all of the budget they would be delayed moving into the new fiscal year.

Breton’s recommendation of Tuesday, May 18, was unanimously approved. Board members have already decided the meeting will be by written ballot, as in 2020, not an open meeting.

Resident Tom Michaud said the test borings added to the causeway project have been done; the contractor, McGee Construction, is waiting for the results. He has asked McGee for an estimated timeline for this fall’s work, which is to install runoff controls and a walkway at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

Scott Pierz, president of the China Lake Association and the China Region Lakes Alliance, emphatically seconded the request. Work along the causeway will be correlated with the annual fall drawdown of China Lake’s water level, mandated by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The original purpose of the drawdown was to remove phosphorus that feeds algae in the lake; outflow down Outlet Stream also affects the Maine Rivers alewife restoration initiative (ARI). Pierz wanted to be sure construction needs did not override environmental goals.

Selectmen unanimously appointed Danny Boivin a member of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee. Breton said TIF Committee Chairman Frank Soares has resigned for health reasons and thanked Soares for his long service on the committee.

Hapgood reported Kevin Rhoades has resigned from the transfer station staff. The town office staff will be back to full strength when new part-time employee, Tammy Bailey, starts work Sept. 28, she said.

A new sign is to be installed at the transfer station. Grant money is paying for it, Breton said.

On the Nov. 3 local ballot, Hapgood reported there will be five candidates for three seats on the Board of Selectmen: incumbents Breton and Janet Preston, and Blane Casey, Brent Chesley and Jeanne Marquis. There are no contests for planning board or budget committee positions. Absentee ballot applications may be filed any time, she said; ballots will probably be available about Oct. 5.

The manager reported that finances for the current fiscal year are “looking good so far,” except for the elections budget. Because of changes in schedules and procedures caused by Covid-19, money appropriated for elections is more than half spent already, she said.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting will be Monday evening, Sept. 28.

Sept. 28 meeting to be preceded by public hearings

The Monday, Sept. 28, China selectmen’s meeting will be preceded by two public hearings, at 6 and 6:15 p.m. in the town office meeting room.

The 6 p.m. hearing will be on state amendments to the appendices to the town’s General Assistance Ordinance, an annual requirement. The selectmen will act on the amendments during their meeting after the hearings.

The 6:15 p.m. hearing will be on proposed amendments to the Solid Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Solid Waste Flow Control Ordinance. The amendments, which can be read on the town website under Elections, will be on the Nov. 3 local ballot.

Changing of the guard at Albert Church Brown Memorial Library

Carla Gade and Miranda Perkins, the new librarians at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village. (photo by Jeanne Marquis)

by Jeanne Marquis

On Tuesday, September 8, the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, 37 Main Street, reopened after closing as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The opening will be an important step of returning back to familiarity, yet with some new changes: two new librarians, additional hours and procedures to keep the community safe.

China’s library follows the safety protocols as advised by CDC, American Library Association, and Maine State Library. The protocols are similar to what the public is already accustomed to at other public facilities. In addition to wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, visitors are requested to use hand sanitizer upon entering and limit their handling materials. There will be a limit of three patrons or a family of up to six for a 30-minute period. To help facilitate access, China’s library has added two hours on Saturdays.The new hours are Tuesday and Thursday 1 – 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

After selecting their books, visitors will experience a safe check-out procedure. Curbside pick up will continue for those who prefer to utilize that service. Books can be ordered for pickup on the Maine State Library website https://www.maine.gov/msl/ or by simply sending an email to Albert Church Brown Memorial Library at chinalibraryacb@gmail.com. Returned books will be quarantined following the Maine State Library guidelines before they are returned to the shelved. These protocols are designed to maintain a safe environment so the community can continue to enjoy the library despite the pandemic.

The library itself hasn’t physically changed except for the installation of a black top circular drive out front. Inside, visitors will find the same inviting warm atmosphere of a vintage home in which each room offers a different genre of reading material. Visitors will be assisted by two new staff, Librarian Carla Gade and Assistant Librarian Miranda Perkins.

“Mary Grow, who has been our librarian for over 30 years, has just retired. She has been a wealth of knowledge for our community for all of these years. Her knowledge of the local history is astounding and she has written a number of local historical documents that will remain in our library indefinitely.”
– Tom Parent, China Library Association president

The community may know our new librarian by the books she writes under the name Carla Olson Gade. In total, she has 11 books in print. She writes inspirational romance stories, which she describes as “adventures of the heart with historical roots.” A native New Englander, many of her novels are set regionally. Carla is also a webmaster, blogger and genealogy instructor.

New Library Assistant Miranda has been a library volunteer for many years at the Albion Public Library. She is involved in her community and possesses exceptional organizational library skills. Both librarians have been busy preparing the library for the new safety protocols and learning the systems with Mary Grow. Carla and Miranda discovered their talents compliment one another and the division of responsibilities fell naturally under their preferences, but they know they have a big role to fill. Mary Grow has taken the reopening of the library as her opportunity to transition to retirement after decades of dedicated service.

Carla Gade said, “The library has Mary’s unique imprint on it. We hope to honor her legacy through thoughtful management of the library’s collections and by continuing to connect to the community in meaningful ways. I admire her greatly.”

One of the unique offerings of the library under Mary Grow that will be continued are the community events. The two librarians realize they will need to be creative to bring events to the community during Covid, but they are up to the challenge. On Sunday, September 20, the library will host Maine Memories, an afternoon of reminiscing — featuring stories from our patrons. In October, they are considering an Antiques Appraisal Fair. Information about events will appear on the library’s website at chinalibrary.org and on the Friends of China Facebook page.

A note from Tom Parent, China Library Association President:

Mary Grow, who has been our librarian for over 30 years, has just retired. She has been a wealth of knowledge for our community for all of these years. Her knowledge of the local history is astounding and she has written a number of local historical documents that will remain in our library indefinitely. Patrons to the library often asked her if they had read specific books. Mary seemed to remember what everyone had read and possibly when. Mary has been helping us make a significant transition in how we provide library services. That initiative will continue with our two new staff, Carla Gade and Miranda Perkins. Our library board of trustees and our local community will miss having Mary function as our librarian, but we’re going to select her to be on our board of trustees, so she won’t be far!

PAGES IN TIME: Remembering China Village’s two-room schoolhouse

China Village two-room schoolhouse, 1888-1949. It was located across from the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library. (photo courtesy of David Fletcher)

by Richard Dillenbeck

I attended grammar school in a two-room schoolhouse in the village of China at the northern end of the lake. It had two rooms, each with four grades, the younger kids on the ground floor and the older children on the second, each room with its own teacher.

The rooms were arranged by rows of desks, each row having children in the same grade, and each row a different grade. The teacher would move from row to row while keeping an eagle eye on the other rows. In the rear left corner, there was a large wood-burning stove, the only heat source in winter; a bank of single pane windows on the right side of the room admitted light to the whole room, supplementing the bare light bulbs on the ceiling. The teacher’s desk was at the front, with a large blackboard behind it with the United States’ flag in one corner. Every morning, we children stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, to which “under God” had not yet been added. (Those two words were added in 1954 during a time when we were locked in a cold war with the Soviet Union and we wanted “them atheistic Russkis” to know we were a God-fearing nation.) In winter, the older boys would go down the back stairs and bring up a large “junk” (Mainer-speak) of wood to fill the fuel box.

Photo of students at China Village Schoolhouse sometime in the mid-1930s. (Contributed by Robin Adams Sabattus.) Picture includes: Carolyn James, Paul Boivin, Frances Black, Paul Fletcher, Muriel Harding, Richard Starkey, John McKiel and Donald Black.

On the first floor, attached to the school’s northern side, was a divided girl/boy outhouse with a built-in plank with three holes for the girls and a three-holed plank for the boys. In the dead of winter, no one enjoyed sitting there when the icy wind blew up through the hole, but when we had to go, we would raise two fingers and the teacher would either nod to us or signal for us to wait. (One raised finger meant we needed to use the pencil sharpener installed at the front of the room.) I don’t know how she did it, but Mrs. Stewart handled it all with aplomb and kept us in our places. We wouldn’t think of misbehaving.

That is until one day there suddenly was a loud commotion in the rear corner of the room and all heads shot up and turned in time to see Mrs. Stewart slam one of the biggest boys in the room up against the stove. She admonished him to, “Sit down and don’t do it again!” He meekly went back to his desk and sat down, and we didn’t hear a peep out of him for the rest of the school year. We never knew what he had said or done, but we sure knew how Mrs. Stewart, who probably weighed no more than 110 pounds, handled it. Our respect for her soared even higher.

The school day included a daily recess when we all had to go outside. Dodge ball and hide and seek were popular. Most of us, except the kids who lived in China village and walked to school, were transported by buses and everyone brought a lunch box. It was always fun to compare lunches with what others brought and to sometimes trade. My favorite sandwiches, a different kind made by my mother every morning, were either a baked bean sandwich or a Spam sandwich with lettuce and ketchup. It always seemed a long time since the small bottle of milk we received mid-morning.

At some point in the seventh grade, we started getting hot soup for lunch, at least those who paid for it did. It was made down the village street by a woman at her home, and two of the bigger boys would be sent to her house to bring back a bucket of soup between them.

Once a week, we were allowed to go to the China library, which was directly across the street. I got hooked on the Tarzan books and read every one in the library, enjoying the description of the jungle, Tarzan’s animal friends and enemies, and his exciting adventures. I can still recall how thrilling it was to later see Tarzan come to life in movies starring Johnny Weissmuller, the former Olympian swimmer, who portrayed Tarzan in the movies for many years, even long after he had aged and lost his svelte shape. His jungle-call in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels could carry for miles through the jungle and was used when he needed to exult about some kill or to summon help from his animal friends. Each movie managed to put that jungle call in every movie more than once. I was amused to hear it recently on the internet – just look up “Tarzan yell.”

In 1948, we learned a new combined community school would be built for the Town of China, halfway between the villages of China and South China. Construction of the first classrooms was completed by the spring of 1949. We were all excited and perhaps a bit anxious because attending a bigger school with kids we didn’t know led to much discussion. Mrs. Stewart gracefully handled it by letting us ask questions and verbalize our feelings, and she assured us the new school would be much nicer and would have real bathrooms – with running water, real toilets and a real furnace for heat. The school in China Village was converted to rearing chickens rather than children and then it burned down. (No one seems to know how the chickens fared.)

LETTERS: Rejection is correct

To the editor:

The People’s Referendum to block using Ranked Choice Voting for President was recently ruled, by a lower court, to be put on this November’s ballot even though the Secretary of State, Matt Dunlap, ruled the signature collectors did not have enough valid signatures. “Just under 1,000 signatures had been rejected because they were collected by circulators who were not registered to vote when they were collecting signatures, which is required under the Maine Constitution.”

This rejection is correct. From a logical point of view, say you went hunting or fishing without a license and were caught by a Maine Game Warden. You’d say, “Wait, while I run up to the town office to get my license.” Ha! The warden would laugh at you and give you a ticket. I hope the supreme court in their wisdom sees the logic of this and reverses the lower court ruling. Full Disclosure: It was a cold day in January a few years ago that I collected signatures outside our transfer station in favor of ranked choice voting.

Bob O’Connor
South China

Volunteers sought for watershed survey

photo by Eric Austin

A watershed is the area of land that drains to a water body. The China Lake Watershed covers approximately 26 square miles of land in China, Vassalboro, and Albion. Changes to the land in a watershed can affect the water quality of the lake.

What is a Watershed Survey?

A watershed survey helps identify and prioritize current sources of soil erosion and stormwater runoff on developed land in the watershed. This includes shoreline properties, state, local and private roads, stream crossings, agriculture and forestry, and commercial properties. The last watershed survey for China Lake was conducted as part of the previous 2008 watershed-based plan. Current information is needed to develop long-term planning strategies that will improve the water quality in China Lake, which is currently listed as an “impaired lake” in Maine and has had annual algal blooms since 1983.

Watershed Survey Benefits:

• Raises public awareness about the need to protect China Lake from stormwater runoff and soil erosion.
• Documents current problems that affect water quality.
• Provides landowners with information about how to reduce or eliminate soil erosion and polluted runoff from their property.
• Provides the means by which to acquire state and federal grants to fund future projects that will improve water quality. Volunteers are needed for this monumental event!

For more information or to register:

Call the China Lake Association at (207) 968-1037, or call Dale at Kennebec County SWCD at 621-9000. For more information: www.ChinaLakeAssociation.org

A watershed survey for China Lake will take place on Saturday, October 3, 2020.

Become a Survey Volunteer!

Attend a free two-hour training presentation to learn about watersheds, how to identify erosion and other sources of polluted runoff, and ways to help improve the water quality in China Lake. Then, join us on Saturday October 3rd to walk the watershed and document erosion.

The China Lake Watershed Survey is a community effort to improve the water quality in China Lake now and for future generations.

Project partners include: China Lake Association, China Region Lakes Alliance, Kennebec SWCD, Maine DEP & Ecological Instincts. This project is funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under Section 604(b) of the Clean Water Act.

Two contests on China’s local ballot

by Mary Grow

China voters have two contests on the Nov. 3 local election ballot.

For three seats on the board of selectmen, there are five candidates. Incumbents Ronald Breton and Janet Preston seek re-election, and Blane Casey, Brent Chesley and Jeanne Marquis also are running for a seat. Donna Mills-Stevens is not a candidate for re-election.

On the planning board, Chesley is challenging incumbent James Wilkens for the at-large seat. Toni Wall is an unopposed candidate for the District 2 seat she now holds; there is no name on the ballot for the District 4 seat held by Tom Miragliuolo.

For the budget committee, there is no candidate for secretary. Thomas Rumpf, District 2, and Timothy Basham, District 4, are unopposed for re-election.

Voters also have ordinance amendments to accept or reject, to the Solid Waste Flow Control Ordinance and the Solid Waste Disposal Ordinance.

China’s polls will be open Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office. Absentee ballots are now available.