Town of Vassalboro
Select Board Meeting
6:30 P.M. Vassalboro Town Office
Thursday, October 5, 2023

Members Present: Chris French, Rick Denico and Michael Poulin
Others Present: Aaron Miller, Nate Gray, Laura Jones, Doug Phillps, Karen Hatch, Cathy Coyne, Thomas Richards, Melissa Olson, Vickie Limberger and Jason Lorrain.

1. Call the Meeting to order – The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. by C. French.

2. Pledge of Allegiance

3. Minutes: Review and approve the minutes of the September 21, 2023 meeting – M. Poulin motioned to approve the minutes, seconded by R. Denico; 3-0.

4. Nate Gray: Discussion on Webber Pond Dam –

N. Gray explained he met with the Town Manager, Maine Rivers and Webber Pond Association as part of a NOAA grant application to discuss a set of feasibility drawings of the Webber Pond Dam aimed at revamp fish passage. He said that the current design causes a significant amount of delay for fish passage into Webber Pond. The backup is so great that fish trail off by about 900 feet, which has an impact on survivability.
He showed three options, one of which included a $3 million nature-like rock ramp fishway and removal of the existing bridge. The other option calls for about $1.5 million for a “Pool and Weir fishway” similar to Togus Pond. The group decided to recommend the“Denil Fishway,” similar to the China Lake Outlet with estimated cost of $1 million. He added that they are looking for a letter of support of the Denil Fishway option and dedicate $50,000 from the town, helps put “skin in the game” for the application. He said this option will increase the run by double and revenues that the town receives should go up considerably.

C. French asked if there would be a pause in harvesting. Nate said that considering the timing, the town would be able to get “right back to it.” The Chairman asked if NOAA does not award the grant, is the town responsible for committing the $50,000. Nate said no. C. French asked if NOAA requires a match. Nate responded that NOAA is not seeking a match, however a letter of support due October 16 and a promise of money “is better.”

The Chairman said that since the town benefits from the fish harvest, he is in favor of supporting the upgrade, especially if money is coming from the Alewife fund. The town of Vassalboro owns the rights to the fishery. Technically the fishery belongs to the town and the management belongs to the State of Maine, according to Gray.

R. Denico motioned to accept the proposal and provide a letter of support and monetary amount of $50,000, second by M. Poulin; 3-0.

5. New Code Enforcement Officer Introduction – The Town Manager introduced Jason Lorrain as the town’s new Code Enforcement Officer and Local Plumbing Inspector. Jason has approximately seven years serving the Town of Boothbay as Head Code Officer. The Town Manager and selectboard welcomed Jason to the Town of Vassalboro.

6. Discussion on Town Website – L. Jones presented the results of a study panel that looked at website service providers Town Cloud, Revize and Civic Plus. The panel looked at the following categories: appearance; user friendliness; alerts/notifications; search, FAQ; fillable forms; payments for registration/licensing; security; training; management, number of administrators; calendar; ADA compliance; overall cost; and overall cost savings.

The Town Manager noted that he continues to recommend TownCloud based on his fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. L. Jones noted that fillable forms would be a cost savings for the town and would save people having to drive to the Town Office. She added that she sees the benefit of having more administrators who can empower boards and committees and avoid a “funnel-like” situation that the Town currently has.

C. French said that we are all trying to move the town forward with communicating with folks. Those changes come with having to consider policies so that the town doesn’t get into a situation where it could be sued.

D. Phillips said that searchability is also important to have on a website. No decisions were made on the town’s website and this will be revisited at a later date.

7. Discussion on Social Media Policy – The Town Manager presented two proposed social media policies. One allows public comment and the other limits public comment. After discussions with the Town Attorney, the Town Manager recommended not allowing public comment. This avoids potential erroneous, inappropriate and illegal posts which may be made by the public. It encourages people to attend meetings, call the Town Office or send emails regarding any concerns about Town business. M. Poulin motioned to adopt the policy that does not allow public comment, seconded by R. Denico.

L. Jones said that allowing comment might not be a bad thing.

C. French noted the Town Office has a staff of four and doesn’t have an infinite amount of manhours to police these comments. Selectpersons phone numbers are posted and any selectboard member can take questions from the public, he said. K. Hatch said that it’s one thing to ask questions, but its another when town employees are placed under attack, creating a hostile work environment. The motion carried; 3-0.

8. Discussion on Recreation Committee Bylaws – The Town Manager presented a draft proposal of the Recreation Committee bylaws. He suggested revisiting this matter after review with the Town Attorney language that refers to terminating those for just cause. This will be presented at the next meeting October 19.

C. French noted that traditionally the selectboard has not committed to being a member of outside committees, as presented.

9. Discussion on Marijuana Ordinance – C. French noted the Town is collecting fees for the eight licensees who are growing marijuana and the people who are renting the space as well. He proposed overhauling the ordinance that addresses those growing in spaces under 500-square-feet, adding that if the grower is a licensed medical care giver there is nothing the town can do. He said the town would need to hold a public hearing in February or March then vote at the annual Town Meeting. This will be discussed at a later meeting.

10. Discussion on Eagle Park – The Town Manager reported that on Wednesday, September 27 he met with a representative from the States Department of Environmental Protection along with Steve Jones and Brian Lajoie regarding proposed improvements to Eagle Park. We are looking to bring fill in to level off the area, extend a Department of Transportation culvert and build a gazebo and picnic tables. $20,000 was approved in the 2022-2023 budget under Capital Improvement/Reserves for this project. The Town Manager will contact Holly Weidner to discuss further.

11. Tom Richards: Discussion on Flag Pole – T. Richards reported that the flag pole at the former town office is full of water. He asked that when discussions begin about rebuilding Route 32 this matter be examined further.

12. Reports: Town Manager and Road Report – M. Poulin motioned to approve the reports, seconded by C. French; 3-0.

13. Other items as may be presented by the Town Manger or Selectboard – The Town Manager reported thanks to the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, Efficiency Maine, Eco Heat Maine and volunteers from the Vassalboro Conservation Commission, The Town of Vassalboro received about $95,000 worth of heat pump systems and service at the Town Office, North Vassalboro Fire Station and the Public Works Garage.

Due to a miscalculation by the vendor regarding Efficiency Maine Grant funding, the vendor has asked the town to pay $3,600 – or half of the amount miscalculated by the vendor – for the project to continue. C. French motioned to use ARPA funds for the heat pumps, seconded by M. Poulin; 3-0.

On another matter, D. Phillips asked the board if they are still considering a generator at the Town Office. The Town Manager will check on whether the quotes once solicited are still valid.

14. Sign Warrants – R. Denico motioned to approve warrants 19, 20, 21 and 78, seconded by M. Poulin; 3-0.

15. Adjourn – R. Denico motioned to adjourn at 8:59 p.m., seconded by C. French; 3-0.