Select board approves trail at Spectacle Pond; postpones decision on background checks

by Mary Grow

VASSALBORO, ME — Vassalboro select board members approved four of the varied items on their April 14 agenda, one formally; rejected one request; and postponed other decisions for more information.

By a unanimous vote, they approved a trail agreement with the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) for maintenance of the Spectacle Pond Trail, a loop trail off Cross Hill Road across state-owned land to the east shore of Spectacle Pond.

John Melrose, speaking for Vassalboro’s Trails Committee, said the agreement codifies existing arrangements. The trail will remain a “primitive hiking trail” for “walking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing,” but no motorized use; and IF&W can close the trail or terminate the agreement at any time for any reason.

Vassalboro is to maintain the trail and oversee its use and condition. The town may put up an informational kiosk at the road with a map and trail rules, and Melrose intends to discuss with IF&W officials putting markers at trail intersections and providing roadside parking.

Because of the steep descent, Melrose doubts the Spectacle Pond Trail will be heavily used.

Without voting, select board members approved Town Manager Mary Sabins’ first draft of the warrant for the June 6 (open meeting) and June 14 (written ballot) annual town meeting.

They added a non-binding question to the written ballot asking if voters want a new town ordinance that would govern solar development in town. The advisory question was suggested because town officials spent time drafting a Mass Gatherings Ordinance that voters rejected in November 2021.

That ordinance was presented in anticipation of a country music festival on Nelson Road this summer. Some audience members said they believe the festival is still scheduled, for July.

Also approved without a formal vote was Sabins’ proposed job description for a new town employee whose responsibilities would include running the recreation program. Given the more extensive duties listed, the job was retitled Community Program Director. Sabins said she had received no negative reactions from people currently heading recreation activities.

The town manager had a request from the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), the body representing the Maine municipalities that invested in the closed Fibreright trash recycling plant in Hampden, for financial support as the MRC looks toward buying the facility. Selectboard members agreed with her recommendation that they ignore the request.

Select board members put off a decision on Codes Officer Ryan Page’s recommendations for higher permit fees until Page talked with planning board members (their next meeting is May 3, he said) and until they hold a public hearing on the proposed increases.

The decision on adopting a salary schedule was also postponed. Board member Chris French was ready to act, but Chairman Robert Browne and member Barbara Redmond wanted to wait until after town meeting voters act on salaries proposed in the 2022-23 budget.

A proposed background check policy was postponed for rewriting to limit it to employees and volunteers who are not already covered and who work with children. One suggestion was to add requirements to individual boards’ bylaws, where appropriate, instead of creating a town policy.

Sabins and others said employees, firefighters, first responders and other groups already have background check requirements. Sabins said she did not think it appropriate to ask people who have served for years on committees like the planning board or the budget committee to undergo background checks.

The April 14 meeting was delayed for almost an hour as select board members met in executive session with town attorney Kristin Collins. During the wait, audience members talked in the town office lobby about drug dealing in town, the condemned former church building in North Vassalboro and other issues.

They brought up the church building with select board members near the end of the meeting. The church has been condemned as a dangerous building, and town meeting voters are asked to approve $25,000 for demolition.

Residents who spoke want faster action. People are living in the building, they said, although it has no electricity, running water or sanitary facilities, creating a potential fire hazard as they use a stove to keep warm.

Browne told them the situation is being addressed.

The next regular Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28.


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