VASSALBORO: Final plans for transfer station upgrade come before board

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen heard a variety of matters, some with potential costs, at their Oct. 1 meeting, including near-final plans for a redesign of the transfer station, junkyard and auto hobbyists’ permits, the fire department’s repeater problem and the future of the town’s Conservation Commission.

Engineer Al Hodsdon, of A. E. Hodsdon, in Waterville, presented the transfer station plan. He explained that it is a “minor upgrade” to the existing facility, not the more expansive – and expensive – redesign selectmen reviewed with a different firm a few years ago. The main goal is to improve traffic safety.

Part of the plan is a new exit onto Lombard Dam Road. Hodsdon said abutter William Spaulding is willing to discuss selling, leasing or granting a right-of-way over his land to provide space.

Hodsdon and selectmen agreed that he, Town Manager Mary Sabins, transfer station Manager George Hamar and Spaulding will work out details for a final plan. Board members are looking at including funding in the 2020-21 budget and expect no action until after the 2021 town meeting.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik presented a list of seven auto graveyard owners and four auto hobbyists who need town licenses to keep unregistered vehicles on their property; but he believed one person had moved enough vehicles so no license is needed. After a public hearing and on Mitnik’s recommendation, selectmen approved permits for the following, some with conditions.

Auto graveyards: James Cogley, 510 Main Street (Ron’s Parts Inc.); Dale Clement, 471 Taber Hill Road (Bondo’s Garage); Bill Pullen, 163 South Stanley Hill Road (Freddie’s Service Center); Stanley Garnett, 1616 North Belfast Avenue (Garnett’s Motors); Olin Charette, 1499 Riverside Drive (Week’s Mills Garage); Voit Ritch, Route 3 (Autowerkes); Roger Pomerleau, 1702 Riverside Drive (RAP).

Hobbyists: Keith Lemieux, 79 Priest Hill Road; James Jurdak, 7 Baker Road; Robert Dore, 919 Church Hill Road; Mathew Farrington, 321 Holman Day Road.

Voting at school; 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Vassalboro’s Nov. 3 voting will be in the Vassalboro Community School gymnasium, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Town Manager Mary Sabins said voters will have access only to the gymnasium; the school’s front door will be locked. No public restroom will be available. Voters will be asked to wear masks and to observe social distancing.

No students will use the school Nov. 3 nor Wednesday, Nov. 4, when the gymnasium will be thoroughly cleaned, Sabins said.

Mitnik said anyone with more than two unregistered, unserviceable vehicles on his or her property needs a license. An auto graveyard or junkyard has to be a business, he said, and a hobbyist should be restoring vehicles. The annual fees are $50 for a junkyard and $25 for a hobbyist’s collection, he said.

Board Chairman John Melrose, and more vehemently Dore, said many residents have more than two unregistered and unused vehicles in their dooryards. Mitnik invited them to give him addresses, saying he is unaware of any, but does not have time to cruise around looking for them. Melrose recommended Mitnik and Dore follow up with Sabins.

Firefighter Michael Vashon told selectmen the repeater on Nelson Road is no longer working. Vassalboro and China bought it jointly about 20 years ago, he said. Its role is to forward calls from the Augusta dispatch center to individual firefighters’ phones or pagers.

For now, he said, a leased replacement is in use. He does not know how long it will be available. South China Fire Chief Richard Morse told him the South China department is experimenting using the facility at the China town office; therefore Vashon does not know whether China will again share the cost of a permanent replacement.

Nor does he have a firm replacement cost – he offered selectmen an estimate of $12,000 minimum, with another $7,000 or more in future software updating costs.

Vashon hopes to have additional information at the selectmen’s Oct. 15 meeting.

East Vassalboro resident Holly Weidner told selectmen the Conservation Commission is currently leaderless. A meeting is planned later this fall, she said, and she hopes enough interested volunteers will revive the organization. Melrose said it was created by town ordinance, so selectmen cannot eliminate it.

In other business Oct. 1, selectmen heard Susan Little’s request for a new streetlight in East Vassalboro. Sabins said she had called the town’s Central Maine Power Company connection, who would look into the situation once the chaos caused by the Sept. 30 wind and rain cleared up.

Melrose said work continues on the major Cross Hill Road culvert replacement. In-water work was completed before Oct. 1, as required by state regulations, he said.

On Sabins’ recommendation, board members plan to review Calderwood Engineering’s draft specifications for the Gray Road culvert work at their second October meeting, rescheduled to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Sabins announced a $5,000 election grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to help cover extra costs associated with coronavirus precautions before, during and after the Nov. 3 election.

The manager had two less happy reports.

The most recent quarterly revaluation is done, she said; assessors reviewed properties in one-fourth of Vassalboro to see where values should be lowered (for depreciation or removal of taxable property) or raised (for improvements and additions). The review had increased valuation by less than $70,000, creating a minimal increase in tax revenue. She suggested selectmen consider setting aside funds for a full town-wide revaluation.

Sabins also said Vassalboro children had shared transportation with Windsor children (and some from two other towns), and one Windsor youngster had tested positive for Covd-19. Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is on the case, she said. (The Oct. 1 issue of the Kennebec Journal included a report on Windsor school officials’ action.)

Melrose announced a ribbon-cutting for ReVision Energy‘s solar project at 135 East Ridge Road in Skowhegan, scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 12. The Town of Vassalboro and Vassalboro Community School have contracted to buy power from the solar panels, along with Dover-Foxcroft, Rangeley, Rockland and Topsham.

A ReVision press release says solar power will cover almost 85 percent of each municipality’s energy needs for town buildings. The panels are expected to last up to 40 years and, because the power cost will be lower than market prices, to start saving money for participants in 2021.

Selectmen rearrange schedules to work around holidays

Vassalboro selectmen have rearranged their meeting schedule for most of the rest of the year, primarily to work around holidays.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

The meeting that should have been the evening of Oct. 29 is rescheduled to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28. It is to be followed by a tour of Vassalboro’s two fire stations, arranged with Fire Chief Walker Thompson and scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

In November, selectmen will meet as planned at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, but will skip the second meeting, which would have fallen on Thanksgiving.

And they plan to meet only once in December, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, to avoid a Christmas Eve meeting.

Board members can always call a special meeting if they need to.


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