Vassalboro Conservation Commission minutes February, 14th, 2023 Tuesday 6:30 p.m. at the town office and Zoom.. 6:45 meeting began

Present: Steve Jones, David Jenney, Peggy Horner (on Zoom), John Reuthe, Paul Mitnik, Holly Weidner (chair)

Guest: Matt Pitcher, Vassalboro

Old business:

  1. Webber Pond water quality: John took new town manager, Aaron Miller for a tour of the Webber Pond dam and fish ladder. There was a joint meeting of Webber Pond Association, the select board, Aaron and Holly (representing VCC). This was mostly for the board and Aaron to get an intro on the concerns that WPA and VCC have concerning Webber pond as outlined in VCC minutes of January 11th. The board was concerned re: a precedent of the town paying for repairs of private property. A review of the town records by John showed that in the 80’s that the town gave money for dam repairs and new gates. Another issue raised by the WPA was that it hasn’t been clarified who is responsible for notifying lake owners of any health risks presented by a toxic algae bloom. Only about 2/3 of the owners are members of the WPA and those were notified by Facebook re: this fall’s toxic algae bloom. Shortly after the meeting the dam which had been raised to 20 inches above the lake level had water running over the spillway due to the warm weather and rain. In trying to fix the situation, one of the men fell in the water. Not mentioned in our last minutes was that, with the Whitehouse Road culvert repair , there may also be more water filling Webber Pond more quickly making the control of water levels more tricky. The good news is that more female alewives will make it through the Seaward Mills stream with an estimated increase in Alewives into Webber pond and hopefully more profits for the town from the sale of alewives at the dam.
    Action: the WPA will continue working with Landis Hudson of Maine Rivers and Nate Gray, Maine DEP/Alewives, looking for grants for funding; there will be continued meetings with the select board to discuss concerns for dam maintenance and fish ladder.
  2. China Regional Lake Alliance: The 2022 interim report on the CRLA funds was sent to select board and Town manager. There will be another meeting of the CRLA on the new 2023-4 budget. John and Holly plan to attend. It is anticipated that the CRLA will request $2000 more from Vassalboro in order to increase Lake smart evaluations and provide some funding for road repairs. Last year the Budget committee didn’t want any reporting from the VCC or CRLA on the budget request and there was a $2000 discrepancy between the proposed amount and what was passed. VCC agreed that this was not in the town’s interest to make changes on the floor of Town meeting.
    Action :1) John will check with Budget Committee chair to see if we might meet with them briefly to answer any questions about the requested funding. 2) VCC will review the request from CRLA for 2023-4 funding. 3) VCC will be working this year to have a better working relationship with the Three Mile Pond Association to try to prevent code violations through education.
  3. Eagle Park – Town manager checked with town attorney and the $20,000 that was appropriated for the park in June 2022 town meeting can be carried forward because “It appears that the intent for these appropriations was to treat them as reserve accounts for long-term capital acquisitions/improvements, and so I believe they can be carried over to be used for the same designated purpose.”
    Action: The ad hoc Eagle Park committee (Steve, Holly and Paul) will meet with public works and Aaron to move forward on the parking, path and picnic tables for this year.
  4. Project Canopy: Steve Jones will be attending the web-based grant writing workshop on Feb 15 9-11 am and review if there are any grants that might be applicable to the Eagle Park project, the town forest or to the town Monument Park. The workshop will cover grant writing, project development, sustainable community forest management and grant administration. Grant applications are due March 22, 2023. They require a 50% match in cash or in-kind.
  5. Meeting with new town manager: Holly met with Aaron to update him on the VCC work that is still in progress. He was very enthusiastic about the amount of community involvement that Vassalboro has.
  6. SWSC update: Since our last meeting and as a result of meeting with Aaron, the town has formalized a working group under the purview of the select board. Members will include at least 2 of the original proposed members. Since the last update on MRC, Revere Capital Investment did not meet the deadline for their exclusive bid and so the bid is open again.
    Action: VCC has asked for receiving minutes from the Transfer Station working group meetings so that we may be informed and add comments as appropriate.

New business:

  1. Window Dressers: The select board approved $11,400 toward a proposal for use of American Relief Program Act funds. This would include $6400 for 320 hours for a contract worker to oversee the implementation of Vassalboro’s Window Dresser build for 2023. It would also include $4000 to provide 10 Vassalboro Low income families max of 10 window inserts at $40/window and $1000 to pay for the rental of a facility to do the build.
    Action: Holly has met with Aaron and will write up a job description and timeline so that he can start advertising. If anyone is aware of someone who might be interested, they should contact the office to apply. VCC recommends to the town that an Energy committee be formed to study and give recommendations to the Select board.
  2. Newsletter from Maine Association of Conservation Commissions mentions what other municipal conservation commissions are doing around the state. One area that was interesting was that a number of towns have created a “Night Light ordinance” which protects the natural world from excess lights at night that may have deleterious effects on flora and fauna. If anyone has an interest in the town in pursuing this, they should notify the VCC.
  3. Lake Restoration and Protection Funds : Maine LD 164 An Act to Fund the Lake Restoration and Protection Fund (HP 105) asks for funding of $9million. We will pay attention to see if the funding goes through this legislative session. The funds would pay for half of eligible costs for lake restoration or protection or 100% of technical assistance, public education or research. The MEACC will be keeping an eye out on this.
  4. We talked informally to our guest and invite others who may be interested in joining the VCC to join us at our meetings.

Next meeting of the VCC is March 14, Tuesday at the town office and on ZOOM We will start informal gathering and review of old minutes at 6:30 and then formal start at 6:45 Respectfully submitted, Holly Weidner (clerk)