Vassalboro select board discusses changes in town operations

by Mary Grow

At their Sept. 21 meeting, Vassalboro select board members debated at length three changes in town operations they hope will benefit residents.

One they approved: changed town office hours, effective at the beginning of the next calendar year for a 90-day trial (see box).

Updating town office electronics and adding electronic meeting information and perhaps electronic participation will take longer, and will cost money.

Updating the transfer station will take still longer and cost even more.

Town Manager Aaron Miller has been interested in upgrading electronic systems since he took office in January. A recurring theme is making it possible to broadcast select board’s – and probably other boards’ and committees’ – meetings so residents can watch from their homes. (See the report on the TownCloud presentation at the board’s Sept. 7 meeting in the Sept. 14 issue of The Town Line, p. 2.)

Making it possible for residents to participate remotely has been part of the discussion. By Sept. 21, newspaper reports of people harassing board meetings in other area towns led to expressions of doubt about that aspect.

Board members and Miller want to make sure all town committees obey state open meeting laws. However, they also want to avoid confusing residents with incomplete information. For example, they debated, inconclusively, whether draft meeting minutes, which might be subject to correction, should be made public, or whether to publicize only approved minutes.

Resident Laura Jones, a technical expert who brought a large screen to the Sept. 21 meeting and displayed relevant documents on it, will record a demonstration from Town Hall Streams for board members to review before their Oct. 5 meeting. The Town of China is among Maine municipalities using this service to broadcast and record meetings.

On a related issue, select board chairman Chris French said a needed upgrade of the Vassalboro town office telephone system will require upgrading “the whole IT [information technology] system.” He suggested Miller be authorized to ask for price quotes for the job.

The proposed changes at the transfer station are aimed at providing a drive-through building. Two lanes of traffic could go through, with drivers emptying trash into hoppers on each side; and there might be outside lanes allowing access from both sides of each hopper.

Changes in office hours

Vassalboro select board members voted unanimously to change town office hours, effective at the beginning of January 2024. Their goals were to accommodate people who want time to do business before they go to work, as well as those who stop in on the way home; and to give town office staff a four-day work week.

The new hours will be as follows:

  • Mondays: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Tuesdays early opening: 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesdays: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thursdays late closing: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Fridays through Sundays closed.

The total hours the office is open to the public will increase from 38.5 to 39, Town Manager Aaron Miller said. There will be no effect on Monday holiday closings. Staff will continue to work another 15 minutes after closing as they do now.

These hours will remain in effect for a 90-day trial, during the first quarter of 2024, select board members said.

The plan is similar to one prepared some years ago and rejected as too expensive – during the Sept. 21 discussion, Douglas Phillips, who is on the Transfer Station Taskforce, referred to it as “the million-dollar plan.” Lesser changes have been made since, implementing some of the recommendations.

Miller is envisioning a 60-by-80-foot building, perhaps a large Quonset hut, on a concrete pad. After discussion, board members decided the first step is to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) inviting engineering firms to provide a cost for an engineering study of building needs and traffic design. Proposals will be due the afternoon of Nov. 16, before that evening’s board meeting.

The project is expected to include a new entrance from Lombard Dam Road, another issue that has been discussed at intervals for years.

Board members envision a two- or three-year project. Funding sources include the town’s transfer station reserve account, federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money, perhaps local TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money and, Phillips suggested, grant money once the town has a plan in place.

TIF funding is currently unavailable because Vassalboro’s 2014 TIF development program has a short list of TIF-eligible projects, not including the transfer station. French said the local TIF ordinance needs to be updated.

French would also like board members to consider changing transfer station hours to give employees two consecutive weekdays off. Currently, the station is open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Board member Frederick “Rick” Denico, Jr., said those hours were approved in 1980, while his father was on the select board.

In other business Sept. 21:

  • Board members held a public hearing on state changes in general assistance funds, with, as usual, no public comments. Miller told board member Michael Poulin Vassalboro overspent its general assistance budget two years ago and underspent last year; this year, voters at the June town meeting approved $3,000 (which state funds supplement) and so far only a little over $300 has been spent.
  • Board members unanimously authorized Miller to spend $8,487 (from $10,000 budgeted) to buy a new Canon copier for the town office, with a five-year maintenance contract. It will be the office’s first color copier, Miller commented.
  • They appointed Scott Wentworth to the Cemetery Committee. Wentworth explained that he is familiar with cemetery maintenance issues through his genealogical research and work in cemeteries in Winslow.

The next Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 5.


Responsible journalism is hard work!
It is also expensive!

If you enjoy reading The Town Line and the good news we bring you each week, would you consider a donation to help us continue the work we’re doing?

The Town Line is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit private foundation, and all donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Service code.

To help, please visit our online donation page or mail a check payable to The Town Line, PO Box 89, South China, ME 04358. Your contribution is appreciated!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *