Vassalboro News: Selectmen, budget committee look at initial budget

by Mary Grow

The Vassalboro selectmen’s March 9 meeting was followed by an initial 2017 Budget Committee meeting at which major department heads presented funding requests.
Selectmen and two cemetery committee members discussed a plan to find out for sure who is buried where in Vassalboro cemeteries, a plan set back by recent denial of a grant application for the project.

Town Manager Mary Sabins and Selectman Philip Haines know of a man with ground-penetrating radar they could hire to work on the project. Board Chairman Lauchlin Titus said two area women who call themselves grave-dowsers might help. Cost of the project is estimated at $50,000. Currently, Sabins said, the town has more than $12,000 in the fund that came with the Cross Hill Cemetery when it became a town-managed graveyard plus more than $5,000 in interest from the cemetery perpetual care fund. The principal in the perpetual care fund cannot be spent, she said.

Selectmen are likely to propose asking voters to contribute to the project. They did not have an opportunity to present the idea at the budget committee meeting.
Another issue at the selectmen’s meeting was the 2016 town report. Board members unanimously accepted Titus’s suggestion that the former mill superintendent’s house in North Vassalboro be the centerpiece, and talked about some of its history. Anyone with documented knowledge about the building or any of its owners or inhabitants is invited to get in touch with Sabins at the town office.

Budget committee members spent two hours hearing presentations from Transfer Station Manager George Hamar, Public Works Director Eugene Field and Sabins on 2017-18 budget requests for solid waste disposal, road maintenance and town government.

Sabins recommends three percent salary increases for town employees, except two percent for herself.

The transfer station budget shows increases in trash-hauling costs and equipment maintenance. The latter, Hamar said, is because the town’s old backhoe, which he used to borrow from public works, has been turned over to his department. Although he adds maintenance and fuel costs, he gains convenience.
Field said the past winter depleted the supply of road salt more than usual, and he is also low on culverts. The longest discussion was over paving and – mostly – repaving town roads. Field had asked for almost $900,000; selectmen recommend less than $400,000.

The selectmen’s March 9 list includes part of Taber Hill, Cross Hill and Cushnoc roads, Holman Day Road, Webber Pond Extension, Mill Hill and more of the Hunt Road. Titus said they deleted the Nelson Road and town buildings’ parking lots from Field’s list to save money.

Budget committee members asked questions, but made no decisions. Their next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 21. Sabins plans to invite representatives of two social service agencies applying for town funds for the first time and one whose budget request has been cut, and to notify other out-of-town agencies of the meeting. Also scheduled to attend are Police Chief Mark Brown to talk about replacing Vassalboro’s 2007 police car and a representative of Vassalboro Rescue to discuss that budget request.
On Thursday, March 23, selectmen will again meet an hour earlier than usual, at 6 p.m., leaving time for a 7 p.m. budget committee meeting.

Vassalboro News: 3-year lawn care contract awarded to Attention to Detail

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Public Works Director Eugene Field told selectman at their March 2 meeting that Darrell Gagnon’s work mowing town recreation fields and lawns around town buildings has been very satisfactory. Selectmen voted unanimously to renew Gagnon’s contracts for three years after the current year, Town Manager Mary Sabins reported after the meeting. Gagnon will be paid $15,600 in 2018 and again in 2019 and an additional $200 in 2020.

Field also joined in a discussion of 2017 road paving priorities as selectmen prepare to present their draft municipal budget to the town budget committee. The first budget committee meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9; topics committee members hope to cover include funding for the transfer station, public works, paving and town administration.

Selectmen again discussed conversion of Vassalboro’s streetlights to LED lights and asked Sabins to inform the budget committee that the idea is under consideration.

Other actions at the March 2 meeting, Sabins said, included:

  • A decision to advertise the 1984 fire truck for sale.
  • Agreement to let residents take the woodchips accumulated at the transfer station as the result of a vehicle accident at no charge, to get rid of the pile.
  • At board Chairman Lauchlin Titus’s initiative, a direction to the manager to inform the town attorney that the town intends to seek reimbursement for legal fees incurred in defending against “frivolous cases” filed by a resident.
  • Two more requests to Sabins, recommended by planning board member Douglas Phillips: to ask the Maine Municipal Association if it is appropriate for the school board to fill vacancies without advertising them and to look into arranging for Vassalboro residents to have use of a document-shredding service.
  • Scheduling the summer selectmen’s meetings for July 13 and Aug. 10, both Thursday evenings.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 9, an hour earlier than usual to accommodate the budget committee meeting at 7 p.m.

VBA offers scholarship

The Vassalboro Business Association has announced that it will offer $500 scholarships to at least three Vassalboro students who plan to attend a Post-Secondary Program of Study in the fall of 2017.

Students must have been  residents in Vassalboro for the past two years, provide evidence of community service in that same two year period, and be enrolled in a post-secondary two to four year program of education or training.

Applications are available by emailing or calling 873-2108.  They should also be available in local guidance offices. The deadline to return the completed form is April 15, 2017.

VASSALBORO NEWS: 26 parcels due for foreclosure for unpaid taxes

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro has an unusual number of taxpayers whose taxes are seriously overdue, Town Manager Mary Sabins told selectmen at their Feb. 9 meeting.

With the foreclosure deadline for 2014 taxes – the date on which the town acquires the property if taxes are not paid – that night at midnight, Sabins said 26 parcels were on the verge of becoming town-owned. The blizzard that started as selectmen met that morning did not make her optimistic about people coming in at the last minute.

Town office staff made repeated efforts to reach people through mailings and telephone calls to make sure everyone was aware of the deadline, she said.
For the current tax year, the third quarterly tax payment is due Monday, Feb. 27, by town meeting vote. Voters also agreed to charge interest for taxes paid after the deadline.

In other business at a short meeting, selectmen again talked briefly about changing the town’s streetlights to more energy-efficient LED lights and agreed they need not rush to a decision. They have heard proposals from two private companies, but are waiting for information from Central Maine Power Company.
Selectmen were scheduled to begin discussion of the 2017-18 budget at a Feb. 13 workshop, but canceled it because of bad weather.

VBA offers scholarship

The Vassalboro Business Association has announced that it will offer $500 scholarships to at least three Vassalboro students who plan to attend a Post-Secondary Program of Study in the fall of 2017.

Students must have been  residents in Vassalboro for the past two years, provide evidence of community service in that same two year period, and be enrolled in a post-secondary two to four year program of education or training.

Applications are available by emailing or calling 873-2108.  They should also be available in local guidance offices. The deadline to return the completed form is April 15, 2017.

Vassalboro News: Selectmen OK letter to KWD seeking support for Alewife Restoration Initiative

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen heard two requests and one proposal at their Jan. 26 meeting. They granted one request and took the other two items under advisement.

Board members approved Frank Richards’ request that they write a letter to the president of the Kennebec Water District (KWD) Board of Trustees asking the district to support the project to restore alewives to China Lake, known as ARI (Alewife Restoration Initiative).

Richards is Vassalboro’s new representative on the board. One reason he sought the position, he said, was to try to get KWD to support ARI financially.
The current KWD position, as stated by General Manager Jeffrey LaCasse (see The Town Line, Jan. 19, 2017, page 8), is neither for nor against alewife reintroduction. KWD officials do not believe alewives are responsible for water quality improvements; neither do they believe the small fish will harm water quality.

Richards praised state Representative Timothy Theriault, of China, for introducing a bill, LD 55, co-sponsored by legislators from Winslow and Fairfield, that would impose a fee on KWD customers to go toward China Lake water quality restoration. (For another perspective on LD 55, see The Town Line, Jan. 26, 2017, p. 3. )

Selectmen agreed that board Chairman Lauchlin Titus and Town Manager Mary Sabins will draft a letter to KWD Board President Al Hodsdon.
The second request was from Holly Weidner, who asked selectmen as they prepare 2017-18 budget recommendations to reconsider the policy of flat-funding out-of-town social service agencies. Weidner argued that many of the agencies, like those dealing with sexual assault and domestic violence, perform valuable public safety functions and should be more generously supported. Selectman Phil Haines said selectmen and budget committee members constantly balance between the needs presented to them and the need to keep the local tax rate as low as possible.

Agency requests are included in the town meeting warrant, Sabins pointed out, giving voters the option to appropriate the full amount an agency wants when town officials recommend a lower amount.

Selectmen are scheduled to begin review of the proposed 2017-18 municipal budget at a workshop scheduled for 1 p.m., Monday, Feb. 13. The budget committee’s tentative schedule has social service agency requests to be considered the evening of Thursday, March 9.

The proposal at the Jan. 26 meeting, submitted by a representative of Maryland-based RealTerm Energy, was to replace current street lights with LED lights.

Paul Vesel, the company’s northeastern director of business development, gave selectmen and audience members a 33-page document describing plans for the change and projected cost savings.

In April 2016 selectmen heard another proposal on the same topic from Pemco & Company, LLC, of Florida.

In other business Jan. 26, Sabins reported on two initiatives from Vassalboro’s Senior Citizens Working Group. Members are still discussing provision of bus service in Vassalboro, she said, and they are planning a May 25 Senior Citizens Services Fair at which area organizations whose responsibilities include assisting seniors will be invited to distribute information about their services.

Selectmen approved a liquor license renewal for Natanis Golf Course, with board member and Natanis owner Rob Browne abstaining on the vote.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Feb. 9.

Part-time curator sought by Vassalboro Historical Society

This position requires experience in grant writing, and membership development and/or volunteer recruitment and supervision. In addition the curator will:

  • be responsible for accessioning, storing and displaying of Museum holdings, including documents, photographs, books & three dimensional objects.
  • Provide advice to Building and Grounds Director regarding storage and display needs.
  • Carry out research requested by individuals who contact the museum.
  • Using Past Perfect museum software, enter description and photos (if available) of all accessioned items and backup software regularly.
  • Direct volunteers in a variety of tasks including cleaning, accessioning, etc.
  • Work with the President and the Board of Directors to continue maintenance and development of the Society and its programs

If you are interested please contact Jan Clowes, VHS President by e-mail at or by leaving a message at the museum at 207-923-3505.

Vassalboro News: Selectmen to look into addressing speeding through East Vassalboro

by Mary Grow

With the local marijuana referendum behind them – voters on Jan. 9 approved banning commercial non-medical marijuana businesses in town – and 2017-18 budget work not beginning until February, Vassalboro selectmen had a short and routine meeting Jan. 12.

Town Manager Mary Sabins has not forgotten the discussion of speeding through East Vassalboro on Route 32. She showed selectmen a solar assisted battery light borrowed from the state Department of Transportation and proposed buying two to go atop new warning signs at each end of the village.

Total cost for two lights and two signs would be less than $500, and, Sabins said, if the lights proved ineffective or annoying to neighbors, the town public works crew could use them to warn of construction work, downed trees and other temporary issues.

Selectmen unanimously approved. Because of Dig Safe requirements and frozen ground, the new warnings might not be installed until spring.

Board members renewed the agreement with Kennebec Water District for management of the China Lake Outlet Dam and approved a slightly revised contract with the town assessors and a minor revision to the town personnel policy.

They approved reports from Sabins on town finances; Road Commissioner Eugene Field, listing a lot of overtime plowing and sanding; new Police Chief Mark Brown; and the Vassalboro First Responders.

The First Responders’ report included concern about the high price of EpiPens, a tool members like to carry with them for immediate treatment of allergic reactions and similar conditions. They fear they will have to limit themselves to keeping an EpiPen in each Vassalboro fire station.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Jan. 26. Board members adjusted their February schedule to avoid meeting during school vacation week; at this point, they plan a meeting Thursday evening, Feb. 9; a budget workshop Monday afternoon, Feb. 13; and a meeting Thursday afternoon, March 2.

Vassalboro News: Voters overwhelmingly approve ban on recreational marijuana facilities

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro voters lopsidedly approved a ban on recreational marijuana facilities in town at their Jan. 9 special town meeting. With more than the required quorum of 125 voters in the Vassalboro Community School cafeteria, the “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Establishments and Retail Marijuana Social Clubs in the Town of Vassalboro” was debated for almost half an hour. Although speakers divided fairly evenly for and against the ordinance, when Moderator Richard Thompson called for a show of hands, 100 or more people voted for the ordinance and only about two dozen voted against.

The new town ordinance, allowed under the state recreational marijuana law approved Nov. 8, says: “Retail marijuana establishments, including retail marijuana stores, retail marijuana cultivation facilities, retail marijuana products manufacturing facilities, and retail marijuana testing facilities, and retail marijuana social clubs, are expressly prohibited in this municipality.” The ordinance does not apply to “any lawful use, possession or conduct pursuant to the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.”

Jim Pfleging, a former California law enforcement official, was the first and one of the most vehement supporters of the ban. He called marijuana shops and social clubs “attractive nuisances” that would promote money-laundering and theft, lead to more instances of impaired driving and increase demands on the town police chief.

Because the business has to be conducted in cash, he said, there would be no records and therefore minimal tax benefits to the town.

Pfleging was later challenged by a medical marijuana caregiver who said he was able to use banks and credit cards. Medical marijuana is different, state Rep. Richard Bradstreet said; he agreed with Pfleging that banks “won’t touch” recreational marijuana dealing as long as it’s illegal under federal law.

Most of those opposed to the ordinance wanted to see what regulations the state creates before closing off what could be an opportunity for new businesses in town. They felt a ban was too hasty, given the lack of knowledge about what effects the new state law will have.

Bradstreet was among critics of that point of view, saying his support of the ban was motivated “by what I do know about marijuana, not by what I don’t know.”

Selectman Lauchlin Titus’s motion that the vote be by written ballot “because some people are going to be uncomfortable” voting publicly was overwhelmingly defeated. After the ban was approved, voters passed over the second ballot item, which asked for a moratorium on marijuana facilities and, selectmen explained, was included as an alternative if the ban were rejected. The meeting adjourned less than an hour after it started.

Girl Scouts bake pies for dinner


The Arnold Trail Girl Scouts gathered on November 22 to  bake 188 pies for the Messalonskee High School Thanksgiving dinner.  The troop donated all the supplies to make the pies. Approximately 1,000 people attended the dinner. The following troops were represented: #1783 Belgrade, #2204 China, #9, #15 and #906 Oakland, #375, #376, #1523, #1776 and #1785 Sidney, #2044 Vassalboro, and #1254 and #1557 Waterville.

Contributed photo