Vassalboro recreation committee, selectmen talk about reorganized programs

by Mary Grow

Members of Vassalboro’s Recreation Committee joined Vassalboro selectmen at their June 24 meeting to talk about a reorganized, post-pandemic recreation program, policy changes needed, town ballfields and related topics.

Town Manager Mary Sabins said she attended the recreation committee meeting earlier in the week at which committee members discussed issues to be brought to selectmen.

In the past, the committee has had a single chairman who received a small stipend. Talk of hiring a recreation director has so far gone nowhere because of cost considerations.

Sabins referred to Brian Stanley, who attended the selectboard meeting, and Becky Jenkins, who was not present, as the committee’s two point people. Stanley had a list of concerns and questions selectmen discussed, with assistance from committee members Mary Presti and Melissa Olson.

The first issue was providing security cameras at the ballfields, to deter or identify unwanted users. Selectmen and committee members came up with numerous options they will explore.

Committee members are also concerned about parents who smoke while their children play. Joe Presti said state law bans smoking in children’s recreation areas; his wife asked if the committee therefore cannot designate a smoking area.

Dogs are a lesser problem. Committee members asked about liability if a dog present during recreation-sponsored activities were to bite someone.

Stanley and Presti said ballfield signs banning smoking and dogs were stolen months ago.

The committee owns a gazebo, bought by the prior director as an auxiliary refreshment building. Current members said they do not share her purpose and have no plans to use the structure. They will send Sabins more information as they debate whether it could be part of the proposed streamside park on Route 32, should be returned if possible or might have another use.

The main financial issue Stanley mentioned was easy to resolve. Committee members want to save money by buying equipment and supplies at a variety of different places. They proposed a committee credit card; Sabins suggested instead opening committee accounts with more suppliers, and Presti promised an updated list of the places they shop.

Selectman Chris French asked Stanley to keep track of the hours he and Jenkins spend on recreation program business, to give selectmen an idea of hours and compensation for a future paid director.

One advantage of a paid director would be that he or she would presumably work for more than one year, providing continuity for the program. Presti suggested amending the committee by-laws to provide for directors elected for staggered multi-year terms, instead of a year at a time, would have the same benefit.

The director Sabins envisions would provide programs year-round for residents of all ages. Recreation committee members have lots of program ideas, Presti said; they need someone to implement them.

Their summer program, listed on the town website, includes three movie nights beginning at dusk at the ballfields. Twelve was presented June 25; Sonic is scheduled for July 16; and Jumanji: Next Level is scheduled for Aug. 13.

In addition to the recreation program discussion, selectmen heard an update from Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, with supplementary comments from Fire Chief Walker Thompson, on an ongoing construction project at the former church on Priest Hill Road, in North Vassalboro.

As the fiscal year drew to a close, selectmen reappointed board and committee members for 2021-22 and approved the additional lists of appointments made by Sabins and other town officers. French declined to be reappointed to the Conservation Commission.

Now that voters have approved Vassalboro’s Marijuana Business Ordinance, selectmen need to set licensing fees for existing marijuana businesses in town. After discussing the wide range of fees other area towns charge, and the amount of time they estimate Mitnik, Sabins and other officials will need to administer and enforce the ordinance, they postponed a decision to their July 15 meeting.

Mitnik said the deadline for owners of existing businesses to apply for a town license is Aug. 7, 60 days after voters approved the ordinance. He has developed an application form and notified those who need to apply.

Mitnik, who retired for the third time this spring, only to be rehired when his successor left after a week and a half, is working only two days a week. Sabins said she had received one application for the position so far.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 15.

On Thursday, July 1, the town office staff host a public retirement party for bookkeeper Jean Poulin; residents are invited to stop in that afternoon. Selectmen agreed on an appropriate retirement gift.


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