Legislative Update for Thursday, March 21, 2024

(photo by Eric W. Austin)

L.D. 2242, S.P. 964

An Act to Set a Debt Limit for the Anson and Madison Water District. (EMERGENCY) (Presented by Senator FARRIN of Somerset)
(Copies of the Bills may be obtained from the Document Room, First Floor, State House, Augusta, Maine 04333-0002 – Ph: 207-287-1408. Bill text, bill status and roll call information are available on the Internet at http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/search.asp. The Weekly Legislative Report is also available on the Internet at the House home page at http://legislature.maine.gov/house/house/ under the “Documents” tab.)

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.

EVENTS: Second annual Somerset Scrub Club connects Maine students with careers in healthcare

JMG, in partnership with Redington Fairview Hospital, Somerset Career & Technical Center, and Western Maine Area Health Education Center, is thrilled to announce the second annual Somerset Scrub Club, a transformative 4-day camp from Monday, August 7, to Thursday, August 11, aimed at introducing students to careers in healthcare. This career exploration opportunity is open to students entering grades 8 to 12.

Somerset Scrub Club Details:

Date: Monday, August 7 to Thursday, August 11, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Skowhegan Area High School (media check-in at the main office)
On-Site Contact: Katie Wood, Regional Director (kwood@jmg.org)

Throughout the four days of the Somerset Scrub Club, participating students will engage in hands-on activities, interactive workshops, and insightful seminars led by experienced healthcare professionals in careers that include athletic trainer, certified nursing assistant (CNA), dentist, medical assistant, EMT, phlebotomist, registered nurse, and more. Students will travel to Kennebec Valley Community College and Redington-Fairview General Hospital on Tuesday, August 8, to learn more about the programs and opportunities offered. On Thursday, August 11, students will hear from staff at Lifeflight of Maine, which will land a helicopter, weather permitting.

For more information, contact Katie Wood, Regional Director at JMG, kwood@jmg.org.

Somerset Public Health’s forum on rural opioid crisis held in Palmyra

photo credit: Palmyra Community Center

by Jeanne Marquis

Somerset Public Health hosted a forum on Rural Communities Opioid Response on February 5, at the Palmyra Community Center. One of the early questions from their audience of concerned citizens summed up the obstacles to addiction recovery in rural Maine: “By the time somebody realizes they need help, they’ve probably lost their job, their friends, the ability to drive and their insurance – so how do they get help?”

The panel of professionals was on hand to field these questions and gather community input. The panel included Kristen Plummer, an outreach coordinator at KVCAP; Carla Stockdale, LCSW, Clinical Director at Kennebec Behavioral Health; Dr. Ann Dorney, family physician at Redington Fairview General Hospital; Sheriff Dale Lancaster and Chief Deputy Michael Mitchell of the Somerset County Sheriff Office; Matt L’Italien, Director of Somerset Health and William Mathias, a community member in recovery.

The following themes were reinforced by the community discussion with the panel:

  • There are community members who want to help users and their families. Affected family members are also seeking support for themselves to cope with the stress of addicted loved ones.
  • The disease of addiction is multi-faceted and has many components to it that need to be addressed.
  • There is misinformation and social stigma that needs to be corrected by community education.
  • Community members may not know where to go to get help, and treatment is limited in the rural communities.

The public input from the panel discussion will be used in forming future solutions to ease the local opioid crisis. The forum was made possible with The Rural Communities Opioid Response Planning Grant, which is a one-year federal grant. As part of the grant, a rural communities needs assessment was created that can be found at the Somerset Public Health website at www.somersetpublichealth.org/oud.

Dr. Ann Dorney is part of Gordon Smith’s statewide opioid task force and continues to provide the Somerset Public Health group with feedback from the state level.

Golf for Kids raises $38,000

First place gross: Great Falls Marketing with players Mike Frautten, Steve Carrara, Mike Wilson and Mike McNaboe. (Photo courtesy of Monica Charette)

by Monica Charette

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s 20th Annual Golf Fore Kids’ Sake, held September 6, at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, with Invitational Partner Kennebec Savings Bank, raised over $38,000 to benefit school and community-based youth mentoring services for children in Kennebec and Somerset counties. Fifty-five golfers competed in the tournament.

2019 Golf Fore Kids’ Sake Tournament Winners:

First Place Gross: Mike Frautten, Steve Carrara, Mike Wilson and Mike McNaboe, (Great Falls Marketing).

Second Place Gross: Mike Latendresse, Tom Duffek, Blaise McDonald and Tyler Walsh, (Dead River Company).

First Place Net: Eric Gosline, Geoff Houghton, Jake Coan and Ron Trahan, (Gosline-Murchie Insurance).

Second Place Net: Peter Labbe, Nicole Labbe, Patrick Phair and Adrian Phair, (Cives Steel).

Contest Winners:

Longest Drive (Men’s): Eric Gosline, (Gosline-Murchie Insurance); Longest Drive (Women’s): Danielle Marquis, (Higgins & Bolduc Agency Inc).

Closest To Pin: Jessica Smart, (Century 21 Surette Real Estate).

Chipping Contest: Jeff Willett.

Golf Fore Kids’ Sake’s Annual Invitational Partner is Kennebec Savings Bank with support from major sponsors G & E Roofing and Gosline-Murchie Insurance and lunch sponsors SAPPI and Kennebec Valley Federal Credit Union.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine creates and supports one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth in Androscoggin, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Penobscot, Somerset, and Waldo counties.

By partnering with parents, volunteers and organizations, children in the program have higher aspirations, greater confidence, develop better relationships, avoid risky behaviors and achieve educational success.

For more information about Golf Fore Kids’ Sake, enrolling a child or becoming a volunteer or mentor, please call 236-BBBS (2227) email info@bbbsmidmaine.org, or visit www.bbbsmidmaine.org.

First place net, Gosline-Murchie Insurance, with players Eric Gosline, Geoff Houghton, Jake Coan and Ron Trahan. (Photo courtesy of Monica Charette)

Community comes together to surpass fundraising goal

These Lawrence High School students, in Fairfield, were helpers during the fundraiser road race, with proceeds going to law enforcement scholarships. (Photos by Mark Huard, Central Maine Photography)

by Mark Huard

On August 19, more than 1,000 runners and walkers came together for a half marathon and a 5K in honor of Corporal Eugene Cole. Just four months ago Cpl. Cole was slain in his line of duty as a Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy. Following a four-day massive manhunt, his alleged killer was located, thanks to the efforts of the entire state and even some out of state law enforcement officers. In a situation that could tax an agency, and even a profession, to its limits, the community came together and said “We will.” There was an energy and cohesiveness in the community that hasn’t been felt by the masses in a long time. The family and the community sent the message that for Cpl. Cole, “we will rise up and show our strength.”

Race organizer Jessica Gleason, left, with Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster.

Just weeks after the corporal was murdered, six community members began organizing this 5K to raise money in Eugene Cole’s name. Over 1,000 people attended for what was regarded as a worthy cause. Jessica Gleason was one of the main organizers of the event, and she reports that enough money was raised to put several recruits through the academy as well as start a scholarship fund that will sustain itself. Those involved attribute the upwards of $45,000 earnings to the fact that this tragedy touched everyone in all economic statuses, all professions and all circumstances.

The runners consisted of law enforcement agencies, local businesses, professionals and community members that were all sending a consistent message once again, which was we will rise up in the face of this tragedy and do what is right and necessary. The community was greeted at the starting line by Cpl. Cole’s wife, Sheryl Cole, and their efforts were duly noted and recognized by her. This community has really set an example for the nation with their efforts to band together in the face of tragedy for Cpl. Cole and the thin blue line to proudly announce “we will.”

Road races to benefit Cpl. Eugene Cole’s family

Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole

Sunday August 19, communities will join together to support the family of Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was killed in the line of duty in April, to pound the pavement in a 5K or half-marathon road race. The half-marathon starts at 7:00 am with the 5K following at 8:00. Both races will start and finish at the Mill Stream Elementary School, 26 Mercer Road, Norridgewock Maine.

The course will include a few hills, country roads with shade trees, scenic views, and inspiration along the way. Every single day Law Enforcement Officers face an uphill battle as they serve to protect our communities. These hills signify that uphill battle and the realization that it’s not going to be easy but it will be worth it.

Runners, walkers, strollers, and well-behaved dogs are welcome to join the 5K race. While the half-marathon is open to runners both elite and novice.

Corporal Cole’s call number was 1312. The half marathon will be exactly 13.12 miles in respect of Corporal Coles call number. For all of those that have ever thought they wanted to run a half- marathon, this is the one! This race will be filled with encouragement and motivation throughout the course route. Every mile will be marked at 1.12 miles again incorporating Corporal Coles call number. Signs with words like, husband, son, dad, friend, 1312, will be displayed along the route to remind us of Corporal Cole and of the loved ones he still impacts. Quotes from Mrs. Cole will be incorporated throughout the course encouraging runners to dig deep and hold their heads high. Mill Stream Elementary School has been working on art projects which will be displayed along the route.

Leaving no stone unturned the best of the best have been secured for this day with Back 40 Events providing timing, chipped bibs, live announcements, and Central Maine Photography supplying race day photos with Mark Huard at Centralmainephotography.org.

Every element of this race involves support from the community, a local artist has created four awards for the first male and female lw enforcement officer across the finish of each race. While another artist is working on additional awards with supplies donated by Staples Gun Shop. Amber Lambkee is donating organic granola, Drink Maine Milk will provide chocolate milk to all runners, Gifford’s has donated ice cream and Road ID is giving every participant a $10 gift card. RFGH and Hights are just a few of the race sponsors. Race Day T-Shirts are being designed by law enforcement officer’s at the Somerset Sheriff’s Department and can be purchased on the race registration page: White T-Shirts are $15 while Blue T-Shirts are $100.

Race Committee includes J.P. Kennedy, Theresa Howard, Everett Flannery III, Samantha Delorie, Brandy Mills-Cain, and Jessica and Zoey Gleason.

In closing and in the words of Mrs. Cole “His shoes may never be filled, but his footsteps can be followed.” We will cap this race at 1,000 participants, register now to begin following Corporal Eugene Cole’s footsteps and lead your team and community in showing support to the Cole family and L.E.O.’s long after the bagpipes stop playing. All proceeds go to the Corporal Cole Memorial Scholarship Fund. Volunteers are needed and can e-mail Jess at CorporalColeMemorialRun@gmail.com.

Registration: https://runsignup.com/Race/ME/Norridgewock/CorporalColeMemorial
Facebook: Corporal Cole Memorial 5K & Half Marathon

Cpl. Eugene Cole’s wife leads a charge for community

Some of the hundreds of placards along the motorcade route to Cpl. Eugene Cole’s funeral at the Cross Insurance Center, in Bangor. (Photo by Tawni Lively, Central Maine Photography staff)

by Mark Huard

On April 25, there was literally a shot fired in the heart of Somerset County. Corporal Eugene Cole is a 13-year veteran of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, and on that date his life was viciously taken from him, his family and his “Brothers in Brown.”

This county is used to its share of tragedy, but this hit like none other. Corporal Cole was a real person that epitomized country life and honest living. He was professional and kind to all those he came into contact with.

In many ways, this act took an icon in the county and brought the residents to their proverbial knees. What happened next is a charge, a charge led by those seemingly the most impacted. The wife of Cpl. Cole, and Sheriff Dale Lancaster stood up, and with a battered heart they found the courage to lead a charge. Mrs. Cole picked herself up and she brought a community together by speaking calmly and with the wisdom and benevolence that her husband lived each day of his career.

At this point, something magical began to happen. The people of Somerset County stood up, grabbed a hold of their emotions and followed the lead of Mrs. Cole and Sheriff Lancaster until the capture of the man that took Cpl. Cole from us all occurred. Community members brought food, gifts, supplies and whatever else was needed. The law enforcement officers worked tirelessly and selflessly to continue to protect the community. Law enforcement from all over New England and the state came to assist.

As the capture of the suspect occurred, the community didn’t stop. They began working on the next task at hand, which was to honor Cpl. Eugene Cole. This charge was again led by his wife, who pledged to forever remain his wife and never be called a widow. She showed more courage and grace than imagineable and she rallied her family together. She ensured they held their heads high as the patriarch of the family would have wanted, because after all if you hang your head then you better be praying.

Cpl. Eugene Cole

The day of the funeral was a day of closure for many closest to Cpl. Cole. The streets of the county were lined with officers, firemen, security guards, business owners, students and concerned citizens. A flag hung in the center of town and evoked through this sadness a sense of pride. Pride to be a member of this county, built on hard work and a genuine desire to be better today than yesterday.

So while this was a day of closure for Cpl. Eugene Cole’s family, perhaps it was a day of new beginnings for the community. This county came together in a way that was virtually gone in recent days. It’s apparent that Cpl. Cole’s work was not done, it was just done here on earth. His last call on earth, but certainly not his last call. His family and the close to 4,000 people in attendance at his funeral paid their respects to a law enforcement officer that gave his life to protect others. His family conducted themselves with dignity and respect and again led the charge for the rest of community to follow.

SOLON & BEYOND: Somerset County 4-H Leaders Association to hold auction, activities on May 5

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

Was very pleased to receive the following very interesting news about Somerset County 4-H Leader’s Association 2018. Officers for this are Eleanor Pooler, president; Sherry Grunder, vice president; Lori Swenson, secretary and Karen Cornell, treasurer.

Ted Blum 4-H Center

The Somerset County 4-H Leaders Association is holding a fundraising effort: a “Luck of the Draw” Auction on May 5, in Skowhegan.

4-H is the largest youth organization in the world. Our 13 local Somerset County 4-H clubs and independent project volunteers/ members learn life skills and participate in community service activities. Research studies document that 4-H youth are more likely to go on to college than youth engaged in other out-of-school programs. We provide funds to enable youth to participate in programs like Engineering Day, the 4-H @ UMaine Conference, summer camps and various county educational activities along with awarding county scholarships to youth who attend college. In an effort to reach more youth, we are coordinating with local schools and teachers to establish afterschool programs.

Would you be so kind as to help by donating an item or gift card? Many people love gift certificates for services or fun events. We are collecting new items or gently used things; no used clothing please. Your cash donations may also be used to purchase gas cards, a popular item in the auction for much needed help to many local residents. Items may be dropped at the Skowhegan Cooperative Extension Office.

Your donation will help further the leadership skills developed and demonstrated by many youths participating in our county. We would love to acknowledge your contribution by listing your name or organization. The above letter was signed by Lori B. Swenson, Secretary, Somerset County Leaders Association, UMaine Extension Office, 7 County Drive, Skowhegan, Maine 04976. (207) 474-9622

Now for the monthly news from Solon’s Pine Tree 4-H Club from leader, Eleanor Pooler: The Solon Pine Tree 4-H Club met at the Solon Fire Station with three leaders, nine members and seven visitors in attendance.

Plans are being made for the club to do flowers for Mothers Day at the Solon Congregational Church. Several members are planning to attend to pass out the flowers.

The Somerset County Leaders Association is planning to have a “Luck of the Draw” auction on May 5 at the American Legion Hall, on Route 201, in Skowhegan. Anyone wanting more information can contact Eleanor Pooler at 643-2305.

Five members gave their demonstrations. This is something that members are asked to do each year.

After the meeting the members enjoyed doing a craft project. The next meeting will be on Saturday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m., at the Solon Fire Station.

Several columns ago, I shared a letter I received from the Somerset Woods Trustees. This is just a reminder that they would appreciate volunteers to help clear the Kennebec Banks Rest Area on April 22. Please bring whatever tools you may have to dig, cut, and trim. We should dig out the Japanese knotweed and honeysuckle. Please bring your gloves. We’ll supply the doughnuts and hot chocolates.

And so for Percy’s memoir entitled, “Life’s Adventure”:

Life is a great adventure,
Each day a new surprise,
So sweep the cobwebs from your heart,
And open up your eyes.
Sorrow flees the sunlight,
So throw the windows wide,
And watch the brightness flooding in,
Warm everything inside.
Life is a great adventure,
For those who would explore
The road winds upward and the wind
Taps lightly at the door.
And should the day be cloudy,
No reason to complain,
When trees along the avenue,
Are singing in the rain.
Life is a great adventure,
Each day that passes by.
A dazzling panorama
As broad as it is high.
Beyond all comprehension,
The wonder of the spheres,
When one by one the hours make
A ladder of the years.

(words by Grace E. Easley.)

Somerset County: Fallen state trooper remembered

From left to right, retired Maine State Trooper Mark Nickerson, Sen. Paul Davis, Maine State Trooper Seth Allen, Maine State Trooper Tyler Harrington, Maine State Police Lt. Jackie Theriault and Sen. Scott Cyrway. Contributed photo

On Monday, December 11, Senator Paul Davis (R-Piscataquis) and Senator Scott Cyrway (R-Somerset), joined retired Trooper Mark Nickerson, Trooper Seth Allen, Trooper Tyler Harrington and Lieutenant Jackie Theriault at Brown Cemetery in Benton to visit the grave of Trooper Thomas J. Merry, a hero who died in the line of duty in July of 1980, in Palmyra.

Trooper Thomas J. Merry

Senators Davis and Cyrway, both now retired, were law enforcement officers at the time. Senator Cyrway was a classmate of Trooper Merry’s and Senator Davis was one of the first responders on the evening of the incident.

In visiting Merry, both are reminded that, even in a safe place like Maine, law enforcement can be a dangerous line of work, and that officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us, anyways.

Trooper Merry was killed on July 12, 1980, in Palmyra, when struck by a car involved in a high speed chase. Merry had parked his cruiser as part of a roadblock and was attempting to seek safe cover when struck by the fleeing car. He joined the state police in 1977.