Church owner pleads for more time to make repairs; board denies request

by Mary Grow

Chad Caron pleaded emotionally with Vassalboro select board members at their Feb. 17 meeting, asking for more time to work at the former church building he owns on Priest Hill Road in North Vassalboro.

They unanimously rejected his request, as advised by Codes Officer Ryan Page.

At their Jan. 6 meeting, board members had found the former church a dangerous building that should be demolished. However, they gave Caron 30 days to get an engineer to declare it structurally sound; and they authorized Page to extend the deadline if he found a reason (see The Town Line, Jan. 13, p. 2).

At the Feb. 17 meeting, Page reported that an engineer from the Waterville firm of A. E. Hodsdon visited the building and declared it structurally unsound. Since the Jan. 6 decision, Caron had not made progress that would justify recommending more time, Page said.

Caron argued that the engineer had not done a thorough inspection, and had not provided the plan he needs to make repairs; and that without a town permit he was not allowed to work on the building anyway.

He said he had a crane coming the week of Feb. 21 to take down the steeple, and asked for a 10-day extension, or even a five-day extension.

Select board members reminded Caron they have been waiting more than a year for him to clean up the property and stabilize the building. Former Codes Officer Paul Mitnik had worked with Caron for over a year previously, before coming to the board in January 2021.

At the Jan. 6 meeting, Caron had offered to demolish the building himself, labeling each piece and storing them for an eventual reconstruction. His plan is “not for me but for the town,” preserving an architecturally and historically valuable property, he said repeatedly.

When board members remained adamant at the Feb. 17 meeting, he told them he could not afford to reimburse the town for demolition. Bring in your wrecking ball, and put me in jail for non-payment, he challenged.

“I believe what you’re doing is cruel,” he added as he left the meeting.

Later, Town Manager Mary Sabins said the next step will be another discussion with the town attorney. Dealing with an unsafe building is new to her and to board members, she said, and they want to be sure they act correctly at all stages.

In other business Feb. 17, China Lake Association President Stephen Greene made a short presentation on the China Lake Watershed-Based Management Plan (see The Town Line, Dec. 9, 2021, p. 1, and Dec. 23, 2021, p. 2).

Vassalboro has nine percent of the China Lake watershed, and residents who are Kennebec Water District customers depend on the lake for their drinking water, Greene said. The management plan is aimed at improving water quality, by controlling run-off into the lake and by a proposed alum treatment in the north end of the east basin (in China) that would prevent accumulated lake-bottom nutrients from recycling into the water.

The outlet dam, which Vassalboro owns and which controls the water level, is an important part of the plan, Greene said.

Modifications to that dam, completed last summer, and to other dams on Outlet Stream will allow alewives to migrate from the ocean into China Lake. Greene said the small fish might improve water quality (by taking phosphorus with them when they leave in the fall), but evidence of their impact is not yet conclusive.

At this point, Greene said, he welcomes questions and ideas.

Vassalboro’s investment advisor, Senior Portfolio Manager Matthew Weaver, of The First, N. A., in Damariscotta, also made a presentation Feb. 17, telling select board members he thinks their investment policy and their investments are sound.

“I’m very pleased with how the portfolio performed” in the past year, Weaver said. Then he joked, “Someday, maybe, we have to talk about crypto.” He does not currently recommend cryptocurrency as a municipal investment.

Select board members voted unanimously to renew their investment policy without change.

They postponed decisions on their 2022-23 budget recommendations to their next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. – half an hour earlier than usual – Thursday, March 3. It will be followed by a budget committee meeting at 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, March 2, select board members will hold a 6 p.m. workshop at the town office on use of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, with representatives of town groups that are asking for money invited to present their cases.

Board members have emphasized they must use ARPA money in strict adherence to federal rules. The program requires a municipality to spend the money and apply for reimbursement; if federal officials find an expenditure wasn’t within guidelines, the municipality pays the bill.

Nomination papers available

Nomination papers for Vassalboro’s June 14 local elections will be available at the town office on February 28.

To be elected in 2022, for three-year terms, are one member of the select board (Robert Browne’s term ends) and two members of the school board (Kevin Levasseur’s and Jessica Clark’s terms end).

For a candidate’s named to appear on the June 14 ballot, a nomination paper with signatures of at least 25 registered Vassalboro voters must be returned to the town office by noon on Friday, April 8.


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