Vassalboro selectmen set tax rate for 2020-21 at 14.35 mils

by Mary Grow

Newly-elected Vassalboro Selectman Barbara Redmond got an introduction to almost everything the board does at her first meeting on July 23. She participated in the on-going discussions of paying bills and overseeing town departments; in the annual ritual of setting the tax rate; and in the once-in-a-lifetime planning of a 250th anniversary celebration.

Selectmen unanimously set the 2020-21 tax rate at 14.35 mils, or $14.35 for each $1,000 of valuation. By town meeting vote, the first quarterly payment is due at the town office by the close of business Monday, Sept. 28. Town Manager Mary Sabins expects tax bills will be mailed out by the week of Aug. 10.

The 2019-2020 rate was 15.6 ($15.60 for each $1,000 of valuation), Sabins said. However, the lower rate will not necessarily mean residents get a lower tax bill for 2020-21, because, Sabins said, the assessor has increased all valuations by 11 percent, as required to bring local valuations closer to the state’s.

Sabins reported on two staff changes, one done and one pending.

Adam Daoust of Vassalboro has been hired as the new assistant at the transfer station, starting July 28. And the town is advertising for a successor to Deputy Clerk Debbie Johnston-Nixon, who is retiring from the town office staff effective Aug. 21.

The town is also advertising the old police cruiser, a 2007 Impala, for sale, Sabins said.

Selectmen had a memo from Engineer Al Hodsdon, of A. E. Hodsdon Engineers, in Waterville, on tentative plans for a transfer station redesign. They decided to invite Hodsdon for a discussion at their Aug. 20 meeting.

Board members reviewed Sabins’ draft bid specifications for a new metal roof on the snack shack at the ballfields and approved with one change.

The recreation committee oversees the ballfields and snack shack. Sabins said the committee plans to show a movie, to a drive-in audience, as a fund-raiser. The date is to be determined.

Public Works Director Eugene Field got selectmen’s approval to have Bog Road repaved this year instead of Lombard Dam Road, which he will add to the summer 2021 schedule. Preparatory culvert work on Lombard Dam Road has been delayed, he said. The Bog Road work will be 0.8 miles longer, but paving bids were low enough so the budget won’t be exceeded.

Selectman John Melrose, newly-elected board chairman, pointed out that Bog Road is closer to other 2020 paving work, an advantage. Having traveled the road, he agreed it could use resurfacing.

Sabins reported on an email from Scott Pierz, of China, President of the China Lake Association, proposing consideration of China assuming management of the China Lake outlet dam in East Vassalboro. China selectmen heard Pierz’s suggestion that China buy the dam at their July 20 meeting (see The Town Line, July 23, p. 3).

Melrose’s reaction was, “Leave it be for now,” and board member Rob Browne added, “See what happens.” Sabins said there is no rush; any decision to sell town property would need voter ratification, presumably at the spring 2021 town meeting.

Melrose has been heading planning for the 250th anniversary of Vassalboro’s incorporation as a town on Apr. 26, 1771, including superintending improvements at the park in East Vassalboro. Selectmen briefly discussed setting up an anniversary committee and suggested two residents they thought might be willing to head it.

Residents who are interested in the committee or have ideas for the celebration – as Browne pointed out, “This is a tough time to plan mass gatherings” – should get in touch with town office staff.

Selectmen left two other matters for a future meeting, either Aug. 20 or Sept. 3: public hearings on planned disbursements of previously-promised additional Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds to the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI) and the Vassalboro Sanitary District (VSD); and a presentation by the town’s auditor on the most recent completed audit, for fiscal year 2018-2019.

Vassalboro Capitol Hill Challenge team places third in nation

The Vassalboro Community School Capitol Hill Challenge stock market game team that finished third in the nation, and was the number one Middle School entry, clockwise from top left, JMG advisor Victor Esposito, Noah Bechard, Brady Desmond and Sofia Derosby. Most of the competiton was done online and through virtual meetings. (contributed photo)

Submitted by Victor Esposito
from SIFMA website

SIFMA and the SIFMA Foundation has announced the top 10 programs in the country for the 17th Annual Capitol Hill Challenge™ national financial education program, generously supported by the Charles Schwab Foundation, and announce the 10 teams who rose to the top of this rigorous investment competition.

Student teams representing public schools in every U.S. congressional district were invited to show their investing prowess by managing high-performing, diversified portfolios. Remarkably, in spite of school disruptions this Spring, there were 2,300 teams, with 8,400 students and their teachers who persevered to finish the challenge, demonstrating incredible commitment and achieving impressive results. Dynamic market conditions made for an exciting competition.

The Vassalboro Community School team, under the guidance of JMG master specialist Victor Esposito, finished third in the nation, and were the number one middle school.

According to Esposito, it was their first attempt at the National CHC Stock Market game.

“Congratulations to all the participants of this year’s Capitol Hill Challenge,” said Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr., SIFMA president and CEO. “For more than a decade, the SIFMA Foundation’s Capitol Hill Challenge and Stock Market Game have helped students from around the country become financially capable,” said Ken E. Bentsen, Jr., SIFMA President & CEO. “Our industry is committed to helping students learn the importance of saving and investing, while also providing them a solid foundation to achieve their future financial goals. SIFMA commends the Members of Congress who have visited their local schools virtually and engaged with students on financial education.”

This 14-week challenge organizes teams of public middle and high school students by congressional district and state and teaches the importance of saving and investing, while simultaneously promoting a better understanding of our government. Teams invest a hypothetical $100,000 in listed stocks, bonds, and mutual funds and learn the value of the capital markets as they work together to diversify across asset classes and maximize the return of their portfolios.

Since, the Capitol Hill Challenge began in 2004, the program has reached more than 125,000 students through more than 5,000 matches of U.S. representatives and senators with schools. Public middle and high school students from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, participated in this year’s challenge.

Esposito lauded the local students for their dedication, “I wanted to just add that these kids did an amazing job considering a good part of it was online. They stayed focused and made some big moves and great choices.”

“Now more than ever, we need to inform and prepare young people for their financial lives,” said Melanie Mortimer, President of the SIFMA Foundation. “Through public-private collaborations like the Capitol Hill Challenge, the SIFMA Foundation, every US Member of Congress, and Charles Schwab are delivering financial capability to public schools nationwide. Together we are ensuring young people across America experience the capital markets and gain insights that lead to long-term success,” added Ms. Mortimer.

As their advisor, Esposito said, “I am super proud of their accomplishment, and I also thank their parents, who truly helped by keeping them on track, and a special thank you to Rob Picard, one of my parents who gave us a great boost at the start and kept following up throughout the game.”

The competition uses the SIFMA Foundation’s curriculum-based Stock Market Game program, which features a high-tech, online investment simulation of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and ESG investments, to give students a better understanding of capital markets, global economic trends and fiscal policy. It is proven to advance students’ performance on math and economic tests and improves students’ and teachers’ personal financial behavior.

2020 Capitol Hill Challenge: Top 10 schools and their representative:

Ravenna High School, OH, Rob Portman.
Springbrook High School, MD, Jamie Raskin.
Vassalboro Community School, ME, Chellie Pingree.
Mat-Su Career & Tech Ed High School, AK, Dan Sullivan.
Burbank High School, CA, Adam Schiff.
Saline High School, MI, Debbie Dingell.
West Orange Stark High School, TX, Brian Babin.
Cosby High School, TN, Phil Roe.
Sunnyvale Middle School, TX, Lance Gooden.
Lubbock-Cooper High School, TX, Jodey Arrington.

To learn more about the program, visit the SIFMA Foundation’s website at: http://www.stockmarketgame.org/capitol-hill-challenge.html.

Elvis fundraiser in Vassalboro

American Legion Post #5, in Waterville, will be holding an Elvis Concert fundraiser, on Sunday, July 26, from 2 – 4 p.m., at the St. Bridget Center, 864 Main St., in North Vassalboro. For tickets, call Craig Bailey at 313-8865, or Pearley Lachance at 873-0358. Advance tickets are $15, and they will be $20 at the door. It is recommended that you bring your own lawn chairs. (The  event  is  being  held  outside.)

LongRoad Energy to hold public informational meeting

by Mary Grow

LongRoad Energy Management sponsors a public informational meeting on a proposed solar project at 2579 Riverside Drive (Route 201) in Vassalboro at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, in the gymnasium at Vassalboro Community School. See The Town Line, July 16, for more information on the project for which Longroad is seeking state and local approval.

Vassalboro selectmen to set tax rate

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen intend to set the 2020-21 tax rate at their Thursday, July 23, meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m., in the town office meeting room.

Two other agenda items are suggesting ways to celebrate the town’s 250th birthday in 2021 and reviewing the Recreation Department’s proposed bid specifications for a steel roof on the snack shack at the town ballfields.

Interested residents are welcome to attend the selectmen’s meeting. Masks are strongly recommended; social distancing will be observed.

Vassalboro school board makes five decisions at meeting

Vassalboro Community School. (source: jmg.org)

by Mary Grow

At a short July 20 virtual special meeting, Vassalboro School Board members took five important decisions, without dissent.

They accepted the almost $7.97 million 2020-21 school budget voters approved at the annual town meeting June 22 and confirmed at the polls on July 14.

They approved two-year contracts with bus drivers, custodians, food service workers and secretaries. Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said each provides three percent annual pay increases.

The contract with educational technicians is still under discussion, Pfeiffer said.

The next regular Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 18, in the cafeteria, at Vassalboro Community School.

Vassalboro voters confirm school budget

Voters had two questions remaining from their June 22 open town meeting to answer at the polls July 14, local elections and the annual school budget referendum.

Town Clerk Cathy Coyne reported the results of uncontested elections were as follows:

  • Barbara Redmond got 694 votes for a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. She will succeed Lauchlin Titus, who retired.
  • For three-year terms on the School Board, incumbent Erin Libby Loiko was re-elected with 582 votes and newcomer Zachary Smith got 557 votes. Smith will succeed Susan Tuthill, who did not run for re-election.

The $7.97 million school budget approved June 22 for fiscal year 2020-21 was confirmed by a vote of 624 yes to 124 no. Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said before the June 22 meeting that the new budget, which is barely higher than the 2019-20 budget, will have no significant effect on the tax rate.

VASSALBORO: Energy application incomplete; action postponed

by Mary Grow

At their July 7 meeting, Vassalboro Planning Board members found that Longroad Energy Management’s application for a solar farm at 2579 Riverside Drive (Route 201) is incomplete. They therefore postponed action.

Longroad spokespeople David Kane and Kara Moody, who had also presented a preliminary application at the board’s May 5 meeting, said they will include more details about grading the site as part of their application for state Department of Environmental Protection permits. The grading, Kane explained, is not to level the sloping field, but to even out the slope where necessary. Since grading is expensive, Longroad will make as little change as possible.

However, Planning Board Chairman Ginny Brackett said, Vassalboro’s ordinance says an application shall include current and proposed contours, and board members do not skip over mandatory requirements.

Brackett also asked Kane and Moody to add information about planned buffers along the boundaries of the project.

Abutter Peter Ditmanson raised another issue: he said a pond on his property connects to a stream that runs through the proposed solar farm and eventually feeds into the Kennebec River. No stream is shown on the map prepared by Longroad’s consultant. Planning board member Betsy Poulin found one on a Vassalboro shoreland map, however.

The Longroad representatives said they intend to have the state submission ready this summer and hope to return to the Vassalboro board with additional information before November.

Kane said state review can take up to 195 days. The tentative schedule is to start construction in July 2021 and have the solar farm operative by the fall of 2021. The 4.6 megawatts of power to be generated are already sold to a Maine firm, he said.

Longroad’s solar farm differs from ReVision Energy’s on Main Street, approved by the board on June 2 (see The Town Line, June 11), in two ways.

First, it will cover more than 20 acres – around 26 to 30 acres, Kane said – and therefore requires state environmental permits, as well as local approval.

Second, it is a different type of installation. ReVision’s, and others approved and pending in Central Maine, have what are called fixed tilt panels, facing south, in north-south rows.

Longroad’s panels are single-axis trackers. The rows run east and west, and small motors move each panel to follow the sun from east to west daily. Kane described the movements as “sort of a wave motion,” not the whole field turning in unison.

Tracking panels are lower than fixed ones, five or six feet high versus up to 10 feet high for fixed. They need more ground space, Kane said. Mowing requirements are the same as for fixed panels: only two mowings a year and the first one delayed until ground-nesting birds have fledged their young.

Kane said Longroad does not plan snow clearance, on the panels or on the ground. Should the snow get deep enough to interfere with the panels’ motion, Longroad can shut the field down, he said.

Brackett asked how long-distance control works. Kane replied that Longroad, which has offices in Boston and Portland, has remote control over some 800 solar developments, including in Hawaii. Its affiliated firm First Wind operates eight wind power generators, from northern Maine to the mid-West. A Utah windfarm, he said, has a bird scanner that tracks and identifies birds flying nearby; if a bird appears to be in danger, that sector can be shut down remotely.

Vassalboro Business Association (VBA) announces 2020 scholarship winners

From top left: Cole Leclerc, Adam Bonenfant, Benjamin Reed and Lily Roy.

The Vassalboro Business Association has announced the recipients of its four $500 scholarships. Much of this money was raised by Freddie’s Cruise in, an annual event organized by Bill and Roxanne Pullen.

The winners are Cole Jefferson Leclerc, Adam Bonenfant, and Benjamin Reed, all from Erskine Academy, in South China, and Lily Roy who attended Waterville High School.

Cole Jefferson Leclerc plans to study business at Thomas College, in Waterville, and graduate early with an accelerated program. He loves to play baseball, has volunteered helping other athletes learn and improve their games. Much of his volunteer tasks were with the Future Business Leaders of America.

Lily Roy plans to major in graphic design or marketing. She has worked as a Junior Church teacher assistant for the last two years. She also helped with Red Cross blood drives and helped serve food at the homeless shelter.

Adam Bonenfant completed his community service working on his Eagle Scout Project. He will attend Kennebec Valley Community College, in Fairfield, in the new sustainable construction association degree program.

Benjamin Reed will attend the University of Southern Maine, in Gorham, and study Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Counseling. His community service was as a Junior Camp Counselor. He served on the student council and as a student ambassador.

Vassalboro School Board approves amendment to interlocal agreement

Vassalboro Community School. (source: jmg.org)

by Mary Grow

At a very brief – less than five minutes – virtual special meeting, Vassalboro School Board members approved an amendment to the interlocal agreement among the former members of Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) #92.

The effect of the change is to make Paula Pooler, former AOS finance officer, the financial director for the Vassalboro school system.

Amanda Dunn, who had been Vassalboro’s finance director, will take the same position for Winslow. Vassalboro Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said Winslow Superintendent Peter Thiboutot was presenting a parallel motion to the Winslow School Board.

The change is probably the first of several, as Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow school officials review the three-year interlocal agreement that succeeded the AOS, dissolved by voters in the spring of 2018.

The goal, Pfeiffer says, is to determine which sharing arrangements work well and to revise those that should be improved.

The next regular Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Aug. 18.