China to hold WindowDressers workshop this fall

Volunteers prepare window inserts at the 2019 WindowDressers workshop, two years ago, in Vassalboro. (photo courtesy of Vassalboro Historical Society)

by Eric W. Austin

The China for a Lifetime Committee is busy planning for a WindowDressers workshop that will take place this November 3 – 7. The initiative is a volunteer-led, “barn-raising” effort to construct low-cost “window inserts” to reduce residential energy bills.

The window inserts are constructed of pine wood frames, covered in thin plastic film and can usually be ordered in natural wood or painted white, however, because of pandemic-related difficulties in the lumber industry, they may not be available in white this year. (Please inquire at the time you place your order.) There is a maximum order limit of 10 frames, and no minimum. Orders are open to residents in China, Vassalboro, Palermo, Albion and Windsor.

The price of the window inserts will vary depending on the size of the frame requested, but generally range from $30-$70 per frame for natural pine, with an additional $5-$10 if painted white. There is financial help available for those who qualify.

The committee is working with the statewide WindowDressers organization, described on their website as a “volunteer-driven non-profit organization dedicated to helping Maine residents reduce heating costs, fossil fuel consumption, and CO-2 emissions by lowering the amount of heat loss through windows.” WindowDressers is based out of Rockland.

The China for a Lifetime Committee, a local group which supports community initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for residents, has been meeting for several months to discuss having a WindowDressers workshop in China this fall. Vassalboro hosted a workshop two years ago, and the China for a Lifetime Committee had discussed organizing a workshop in China last year before plans were scrapped because of the pandemic.

As the workshop will take place during the first week of November, orders should be placed no later than October 1. Committee volunteers will need to visit your home to take window measurements which will then be sent to the WindowDressers organization, who will cut the wood for the frames. All volunteers doing the measuring will be vaccinated for COVID-19, and can also wear a mask if the homeowner requests. Measurers need to complete their task and submit data to WindowDressers by mid-October, so to avoid “crunch time”, please make sure to get your order in and set up a measuring appointment as soon as possible.

There is a great need for local community volunteers in order to make this a successful WindowDressers workshop. It is requested that anyone ordering frames also sign up for a four-hour shift on one of the workshop days. The committee is also looking for anyone willing to supply food to the teams working during the workshop.

To submit an order for window inserts, or to volunteer, please call the China town office at 445-2014, send an email to the China for a Lifetime Committee at, or visit the WindowDressers website and fill out the form located at

For more information about the China for a Lifetime Committee, please visit their website at

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

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vassalboro selectmen review mass gathering ordinance

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other business July 14, selectmen:

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

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

China TIF committee hears financial reports

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transfer station to postpone revising fee schedule for special items

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China planners discuss ballot questions for November

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Downer and Stone are LakeSmart award recipients

Randy Downer

by Marie Michaud
LakeSmart Coordinator

Randy Downer and Judy Stone have over 14 acres of undeveloped property on the west side of China Lake. Randy took me on an amazing tour of the property, and I will share some of the experience with you in this article.

We started at the camp road where we saw a low area that in springtime pools water. It is home to 100 to 500 wood frog larvae and the water is called an “ephemeral pool”. Ephemeral means that the pool of water lasts only a short time. This undisturbed land is a bird sanctuary for local and migratory birds. While we were there, we could hear the songs of the American Kestrel, Wood duck and Spotted Sandpiper to name a few. I had never heard of a Veery Bird, but these birds breed here!

There are two streams that travel through this property. The land is heavily forested and has low areas to help slow down the flow heading to the lake. The tall, vegetated berm located at the waterfront is a good example of a natural barrier that can prevent any harmful pollutants from entering the lake. In the past 12 years, I have seen few properties that have such a berm.

The variety of natural plants on the property was amazing. It was truly uplifting just to walk among the trees, shrubs, understory, and the ground cover of various grasses. The red oaks and white oaks stood majestically.

This property is a good example of natural and wild. It welcomes wildlife. Sometimes it is good to just walk on such land to remember Mother Earth; natural and unbroken.

You too can help our land if you are willing. Feel free to contact China LakeSmart for some ideas and assistance at

LakeSmart Award earned by Peter and Sandra Nelson

Peter Nelson


by Marie Michaud
LakeSmart Coordinator

China Lake Association’s LakeSmart Volunteer Program has recently awarded Peter and Sandra Nelson the LakeSmart Award. On their property there is a wide row of flowers and shrubs lining one entire side of their lawn. This vegetation absorbs any sheet flow from heavy rainstorms that accumulate on the lawn. They also have low, uneven areas on the lawn that hold any rainwater headed to the lake. Their lakeside buffer is composed of shrubs, duff, ground cover that is framed with tall trees. The buffer vegetation prevents any pollutants from entering the lake during heavy rains without affecting their wonderful view of the lake!

If you are a lakeside property owner, would you like to invite our volunteers to offer ideas on how you can help our lake? We also have a Youth Conservation Program that can get any of the proposed ideas completed for you. They can plant shrubs, shade trees, and low growing vegetations. They also build infiltration steps, infiltration trenches, walkways, help with erosion issues at the waterfront like rip rap work and a host of other best management practices that you may be interested in adding to your lake buffer.

To contact LakeSmart you can call 207-242-0240 or email today! We are looking to accumulate work for the YCC’s 2022 season.

Three Mile Pond Association president presented with appreciation award

Tom Whittaker (contributed photo)


by Scott Pierz
President, China Region Lakes Alliance

As President of the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA), it was my privilege to be the keynote speaker at the Three Mile Pond (TMP) Association’s annual meeting held on Saturday, July 10, 2021. The TMP Association is comprised of residents of China, Vassalboro and Windsor, Maine.

An audience of around 55 people attended and information was presented about the programs offered by the CRLA, including its Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) program, the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) Program, as well as the statewide LakeSmart Program.

During the final portion of the meeting a formal presentation was made to the TMP Association President, Thomas Whittaker, for his leadership and commitment to the TMP Association.

Seen in the photo is Tom Whittaker receiving a hand-made woodcut of Three Mile Pond and its watershed created by George Gunning, a master woodcarver who, along with his wife Donna, have been members of the Three Mile Pond Association for over 50 years. Seen in the background is Bob Moore, TMP Vice President.

Congratulations Tom Whittaker and the rest of the TMP Association’s Board of Directors for their great work!