April 21, 2017

Windham Public Library awarded grant for Circulation Reconfiguration Project by Jennifer Alvino

The Windham Public Library is pleased to announce it is the recipient of a $30,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. The grant will be used to partially fund an estimated $338,000 project to reconfigure the library’s circulation desks. The project will combine two circulation desks into one, add two small meeting/study rooms upstairs, add a quiet reading area, and create a better defined teen area. The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation was created in 1986 to provide support for Maine communities. The Foundation is a private non-profit organization that promotes strengthening and supporting communities and draws upon the values and spirituality of the founders. The Foundation has a special interest in organizations and people who have fewer options to the usual channels of resources, focusing on community-based initiatives in the State of Maine only.

The Windham Public Library appreciates the generosity of the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and is looking forward to getting the project underway this summer.

2017 Windham Wellness Fair at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church by Bob Beane

"Evolving into a rebirth and a new way of thinking”

 Have you ever wondered about all of the stories that you have heard concerning Holistic Health Care and all of its different “strange sounding” names. 

Practitioners of Holistic Health Care are once again offering our annual Wellness Fair, to the Sebago Lake Area residents. For 2017 we are offering 18 vendors of Holistic Health Care. We are also offering numerous workshops and presentations about Holistic Health Care. 

We are coordinating this year’s Fair, with the Earth Day celebrations, and we are offering information of the environmental efforts by the Portland Water District.

Holistic Health Care is a non-invasive, no-drugs form of helping people to heal. It ranges from Therapeutic Massage to Reiki as well as Herbal solutions. It also includes meditation practices, psychic readings and many other practices of natural healing techniques. All of these methods have come down to us from the ancient cultures from around the world. All have been used and improved for many thousands of years. 

If you are curious and interested about natural health care modalities, please come by and talk to us. You may be pleasantly surprised by the gentle, inner peace that you will find here.

We are also offering an additional incentive. If you bring a non-perishable, non-essential home item, and donate it (These items are being gathered for the St. Ann’s Church Pantry), we will give you a free raffle ticket, to be used at any of the vendors’ tables.

It’s that time of year for new beginnings, a new growing season and a time of awakening. Join us at the Wellness Fair and perhaps you will experience one or more of those springtime gifts.     

This event is free and open to the public and will take place at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 40 Windham Center Road in Windham from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Windham resident serves as Honorary Page in the Maine Senate

AUGUSTA - Windham resident and Lisbon Falls Christian Academy student, Olivia Ground served as an Honorary Page in the Maine Senate on April 11, as the guest of Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham. Olivia had her picture taken with Sen. Diamond during a break in the Senate Session.  Sen. Diamond extends invitations to honor roll students from the area’s middle and high schools as a way to recognize their strong academic performance and foster an interest in civics.

The Honorary Page Program gives students an opportunity to participate in the Senate and interact with legislators. Honorary Pages see what it is like to work on the floor of the Senate and be part of a legislative session. Pages perform such duties as delivering messages to senators and distributing amendments and supplements in the chamber. Students from third grade through high school are invited to serve in the Senate Chamber as Honorary Pages when the Senate is in session. For more information or to schedule a visit, call Sen. Diamond at: (207) 287-1515.


Groundbreaking veteran honored with lifetime membership by Michelle Libby

Frederick Douglas Williams, Esq. became an honorary member of the American Legion Post 148 and the Windham Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643 last week in an informal ceremony at the Windham Veterans Center, with a large group of veterans in attendance. For over an hour, Tuskegee Airman Frederick Williams of Windham regaled the crowd with stories and opinions from his military experiences and fascinating life over his 95 years. 
“I wanted to be in a bomber, especially a B-17,” said Williams. 

Williams was one of the first African Americans to be trained as a World War II military pilot in the US Army Air Corps. They were named Tuskegee Airmen after the predominately black college, Tuskegee Institute/University. Although that made him unique in itself, he also was a Baptist minister, a professor of law at Saint Joseph’s College and district governor for Lions International. He isn’t more proud of one thing over the other. 

“It was democracy in action,” he told the crowd. “It is the brotherhood of man. I was the first Negro in the history of Maine to join the bar. That’s not a pride thing, that’s a sad thing.” 

Williams described the difference between one Army with two branches, one black and one white, and the difference now: “It’s one Army - one Navy.” After serving in World War II, he was recalled for the Korean War and served again. 

“It all shows we are one nation. Greek American, Japanese Americans, that’s race, not Americans,” he said.  “Color is not a race. White is not a race. Black is not a race, it’s a beautiful color.”

When given the Certificates of Lifetime Membership, he said, “You guys honor me. You make me cry.”
He received the honor from Commanders Willie Goodman and Mel Greenier with mixed emotions.
“We Negros, Puerto Ricans, Spanish, we have all served this country in every war mostly in subservient roles,” he said. “Until Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘Franklin, come on let them go to school’.”
“It was hell getting in, but we were proud,” he added. 

“He served his country proudly and he’s an inspiration to us all. If you spend any time at all with Fred, you’ll leave with a smile and I guarantee you’ll learn something,” said Commander Willie Goodman, from the VFW Post 10643.

Williams is very critical of the new president and the possibility of a future war. “He doesn’t know when we were carrying 50 pound bags on our backs, knee deep in water so you can hardly walk coming on that beach. I turned back to see Jim and he had no head. He doesn’t know.” Williams described war as evil. He also demanded that everyone read the Bill of Rights five times. 

Williams is a part of Windham history as well, having served on the Windham Select Board, where he made $10 per meeting and joked about it with the veteran who served on the committee that set the pay rate. He has lived in Windham for 31 years. 

He is being honored later this month in Augusta for a Lifetime Achievement Award.

April 14, 2017

Public Forum on Affordable Care Act at Windham Public Library a success by Lorraine Glowczak

The warm spring weather did not stop the 40 plus individuals from attending the Wednesday, April 11, public forum and panel discussion on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) held at the Windham Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m.

The intention of the public forum was to inform, educate, and discover how one can be a part of the discussion and debate surrounding the ACA; what to expect in the future as well as what steps an individual can take to be an active participant in the development of affordable healthcare

Briefly, ACA - often referred to as Obama Care - is a law that was enacted in 2010 to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare. Since its inception there have been over 60 legislative and judiciary challenges. The Supreme Court has upheld it. Recently, the goal to repeal and replace the ACA failed in Congress.

With the expectation that the debate surrounding the various issues of ACA will continue, the public forum, with a panel of seven experts were available for questions and answers - as well as a lively and civil discourse with the community.

Genevieve Pluhowski was co-organizer of the event and moderator for the evening and she introduced the members of the panel. They included the following:

Dr. Jane Pringle, Board-certified in internal medicine, member of the Maine House of Representatives from 2012 to 2014 and past Medical Director at Unum Life Insurance Company. Dr. Linda Sanborn, retired physician in family medicine and member of the Maine House of Representatives, from 2008 to 2016 (Gorham).

Gordon Smith, Esq., Executive Vice President of Maine Medical Association since 1993 and leading expert in the field of responding to the opioid crisis in Maine.

Lori Parham, PhD, Maine State Director of AARP as well as past senior advisor to AARP's Executive Vice President in Washington D.C.

Kate Brogan, J.D., Vice President for Public Affairs at the Family Planning Association of Maine.
Ann Woloson, J.D., Policy Analyst for Maine Equal Justice Partners, former Executive Director of Prescription Policy Choices and past policy writer for Maine's Medicaid program.

Dr. Philip Caper, Board member of Maine AllCare and of Health Resources in Action as well as past staff member on Ted Kennedy's sub-committee on health.

Topics discussed included, but were not limited to, the issues faced before the ACA and how it has changed the healthcare landscape after its inception. The successes and failures were deliberated as well.

 “Before the ACA was enacted, 62 percent of the population found it difficult to obtain health insurance and 47 percent were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions,” stated Sanborn. “There was also no guard against medical bankruptcy.”

Benefits that are now covered include mental health, pediatric, prenatal, preventive care - to include vision and dental to name a few. 

Other unexpected benefits that were expressed by panel members included the fact that now a person can leave their current job that provides benefits to start their own business. Improved doctor/patient relationships was noted as a benefit, as well as how the ACA enables individuals to quickly return to a productive life after a health care crisis, becoming functioning and contributing members to society.

Issues that have been presented as disadvantages include, but not limited to, a gap in insurance coverage, often referred to as the Cliff Effect. High cost of insurance was also expressed.

The panel members also spoke about other subjects such as the Medicaid expansion, a widely popular viewpoint among Maine people that comes with bi-partisan support. Also discussed were single payer coverage, reproductive healthcare and cancer screening for both men and women at all 18 Maine Family Planning clinics, AARP’s support of the ACA, as well as the opioid addiction and crisis.

For those who experience gap in insurance coverage, it was recommended they contact the 2-1-1 Maine Search Guide as a resource. Healthcare navigators are available to help find programs for those who need assistance with healthcare. Consumers for Affordable Healthcare was also suggested as a resource.

“Although [it’s] not perfect, there have been many good outcomes as a result of the ACA,” stated Pringle.
The next steps and strategies were discussed by all present. Various suggestions included: joining an advocacy group, contacting your legislative representative and sharing your personal stories, as well as volunteering were some of the ideas expressed.

Also on hand in the audience to answer any questions, were representatives from Senator Susan Collins’ office, Senator Angus King’s office as well as Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s office. Senator Bill Diamond (Windham), Representative Jessica Fay (Raymond), Representative Mark Bryant (Windham) and Representative Dillon Bates (Westbrook) were also present.

Debate continues over the tip credit portion of the Minimum Wage Law by Lorraine Glowczak

With the recent passage of the Minimum Wage initiative, Question 4 on the November ballot, restaurant owners and wait staff across the state, including those in the greater Windham area, have actively reached out to their law makers expressing concern regarding the tip credit portion of the legislation.

Becky Crittenden of Cole Farms Restaurant
In a recent, “Speak to your Legislator” public forum hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, owner of Cole Farms Restaurant and Pub in Gray, Brad Pollard, expressed his concern regarding the new law and its effect on his wait staff.  The Minimum Wage initiative that passed in November is having a harmful effect on the wait staff’s wages,” he began. “I am presently working with my staff as they discuss this issue with their legislators. This is going to continue to affect them in very devastating ways if things do not change.”

Briefly, when the Minimum Wage initiative passed in November, it raised the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $12 by 2020. This included a raise in the subminimum wage for tipped employees. This raises the minimum wage for service workers who receive tips from $3.75 an hour to $5 an hour in 2017. By 2024, service industry workers would be paid a minimum hourly wage of $12 under the new law.

The concerns among a vast majority of tipped workers say they often make above and beyond this hourly wage. “We are already beginning to see a decrease in our tips,” stated, Becky Crittenden of Cole Farms Restaurant and Pub, a 35-year veteran in the service industry and a single mother. “The other day, one of my customers thought I was already making $12.00 an hour.”

Other concerns include the ripple effect this will have on the customer. “Realistically, we have to change our prices to accommodate the minimum wage change,” explained Sam (Samantha) Clapp, manager, wait staff and hostess at Rose’s Italian Restaurant in Windham. “Although our portion sizes are huge and the high quality of our food remains the same, we will have to pass on the increase of costs required by the Minimum Wage Law on to our customers, which will make for a lot of unhappy Mainers.” 
Sam Clapp at Rose’s Italian Restaurant

Wendyll Caisse, owner of Buck’s Naked BBQ, reiterated Clapp’s sentiments. “In 2024, thanks to the removal of the tip credit, labor would be at 49 percent at full service restaurants, putting total expenses at 120 percent of sales in one of the most elastic, economic-demand industries there is,” explained Caisse. “No restaurant can continually operate at a loss. The prospect of cutting jobs or raising prices by 40 percent, are not good answers, but reinstating the tip credit is.”

Receiving a large amount of complaints, Senator Roger Katz has proposed a bill, L.D. 673, in an act to restore the tip credit to Maine’s minimum wage law. The law is co-sponsored by Senator Bill Diamond of Windham. 

Approximately two months prior to the election in November, Senator Diamond began to receive calls from those employed in the food service industry regarding the Minimum Wage Law. “The more I met and spoke with them, the more concerned I became about how the law would affect individuals in that industry,” explained Senator Diamond. “Most of the people I spoke to and who shared the most concerns with me came from single women.”

Through his own in-depth research on the Question 4 initiative, Diamond’s concern turned to action, at which point he decided to co-sponsor the bill, L.D. 673.

Diamond said that all the individuals who he spoke with, shared their own sincere and well thought out reasons as to why they want the tip credit reestablished.  In regards to studies that have indicated positive outcomes for raising the subminimum wage, their stories are all the same. “I am living the life. I can’t take the risk based upon someone else’s study,” Diamond said of their general responses.

Mike Tipping, Communications Director at Mainers for Fair Wages, an organization that is a proponent of the Minimum Wage law and raising the subminimum wage for tip workers, states that there is unfortunate fear and misinformation surround this issue. “Voters approved the change overwhelmingly, it’s phased in slowly over the next decade with lots of time for evaluation, the preponderance of evidence shows it will help workers and the restaurant industry and it deserves time to be allowed to work.” Tipping said.

According to the Fair Maine Wage website, the raise in subminimum wage works well in seven other states (Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) where wait staff make the regular minimum wage, plus tips and the menu prices are no higher than in other states. The website also states that there are many reasons to end the unfair subminimum wage for workers who get tips. These include unpredictable earnings and sexual harassment.

A recent letter editorial published in The Portland Press Herald mentioned that the tip credit initiative is not a good deal for everyone, reminding the reader that not all servers work in high-end eateries where tips are based upon more expensive entrees. www.pressherald.com/2017/04/09/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-study-tipped-wage-not-cut-it/

Obviously, there are always two sides to every story, each a valid perception to be considered. The trick is finding the position that works the best for everyone. Diamond stated it more succinctly, “[Finding a way] to support the greater good that doesn’t

The Evergreen Credit Union takes its name literally by Stephen Signor

On April 7, 2017, a ribbon cutting ceremony took place at 785 Roosevelt Trail, Windham, where the old Evergreen Credit Union building previously served its members since 200; and this is where the institution’s new building now stands. The newly constructed, environmentally friendly, energy efficient facility is the first of its kind in Windham and is the flagship of the other branches. Listed as a qualified LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) structure, it also stands as a testament to Windham’s vision for infrastructure redevelopment and a benchmark in keeping with the 21st Century Downtown Plan. 

Using geothermal and green energy, LED (light emitting diode) lighting and planting with adoptive landscaping, are just a few of the highlights and solutions for the new branch’s sustainability. “There are different LEED certifications and they are classified as silver, gold and platinum. We are going for the silver because there is a lot involved in achieving the others. There are a lot of other things we would need to do to qualify for that and we felt it wasn’t prudent at this time. It is quite expensive also because it involves installing technology,” explained Senior Vice President of Retail Branch Administration & Operations, Tim Verreault

Jason Lindstrom, the new CEO replacing interim CEO Verreault, has had a lot on his plate; not only with having just moved here from Virginia but also overseeing the financing of the new building since his hiring in November. With 23 years of credit union experience he is up to the challenge. “The building was constructed to specifications to meet LEED certification criteria, a process that can take up to three months. There is a whole long process after we open, where they come in and utilizing a checklist, make sure that we meet the standards,” he explained.

In addition to being green, there are some added modern conveniences for members. There is a coin counting machine which will count coins and then issue a ticket that can be taken to tellers for deposit. It can also be used by non-members, in which case a seven percent fee will be applied to the total amount of the ticket. In addition to this, tellers will be using much more technologically advanced cash machines called cash recyclers. “What that allows us to do, for example, is to take a deposit from a member and feed it into the machine where it will be automatically counted. The same happens when a deposit is made. Mixed denomination bills can be placed in the machine and will be counted with a100 percent accuracy. It also distributes coins. This will cut down on long lines and increase efficiency”, shared Lindstrom. 

This facility, which was completed on time and on budget, is much larger than the old building - coming in at 4,000 square feet, to accommodate its approximate 23,000 members. This is an increase of the square footage of the old building by more than half. To further increase efficiency, two additional drive-through lanes were added making a total of three, with room for a fourth if necessary down the road.

John Murphy, President and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League, who oversees 58 credit unions and 685,000 members state-wide stated, “It’s built the way people want to do business today: no cattle lines. People also want to come in and get problems solved within a comfort level while being provided the assistance they are looking for. So it designed to do both”.
As for any changes in personnel, things will basically remain the same. “Actually we will have some of the part-time help go full-time, to be sure we have coverage and then evaluate to see how busy it gets and then go from there,” explained Lindstrom.

Branch Manager for five years, Patty Ross could not readily find the words to describe her new environment - but managed eventually to state, “This is absolutely breath taking! It’s over the top and I’m pretty proud.” 

Before the cutting of the ribbon, Tim offered accolades to, among others, the builders and the architects. Also included was the appreciation of Windham Mall owner Ray Wise, for providing space on the parking lot to allow for a temporary facility so that the credit union could continue providing uninterrupted services to its members during construction.