November 28, 2014

Loon Echo Land Trust announces Environmental Education Grants

BRIDGTON - Schools and libraries in the towns of Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Harrison, Naples, Sebago and Raymond have the opportunity to receive small grants from Loon Echo Land Trust for environmental education programs. Applications are to be downloaded from Loon Echo’s website at (under the Programs tab) and returned by the deadline on January 15, 2015.
Funds for the educational grants are made available through Loon Echo’s Educational Endowment and since 1998, hundreds of children have benefited from programs that teach about the natural world. The endowment was developed as a memorial to two teachers, Helen Allen and Polly Bartlett. Helen Allen granted Loon Echo a conservation easement to forever protect her beautiful hilltop farm on Quaker Ridge in Casco. After her death at the age of 94, Helen’s bequest to Loon Echo allowed the Trust to create a fund to support yearly programs in local schools and libraries. 

Polly Bartlett was one of the original Board members of Loon Echo. Each year she treated her third grade students at Sebago Elementary School to a winter walk with Maine Audubon. When she died in 2000 at the age of 48, the Trust created a fund in her memory to ensure that third graders at Sebago Elementary would always take their winter walk.

Past recipients have included Bridgton, Casco and Raymond public libraries as well as the Lake Region High School and Sebago and Harrison elementary schools. We will once again offer a “Mayberry Hill Forest Field Day” at Loon Echo’s 160-acre Mayberry Hill Preserve in Casco where students learn about forestry, tree types, wildlife, and much more as a way to gain an understanding of local forests, their complex nature and importance to our region. The field day is sponsored by Loon Echo, the Maine Forest Service and Maine Project Learning Tree. This special field day opportunity does not accept grant funding applications; instead Loon Echo works with a carefully selected middle or high school class that is highly engaged in outdoor and forest studies.

Loon Echo Land Trust protects land in the northern Sebago Lake region of Maine to conserve its natural resources and character for future generations. Currently nearly 6,000 acres of land are protected and seven land preserves are available for public use. Loon Echo relies on the support and generosity of public and private contributions to conserve more land and to care for the lands already under protection.
Please contact Loon Echo at 207-647-4352 or with questions about the grant program or their land protection efforts. Again, grant application materials can be downloaded from Loon Echo’s website at and click on the Programs tab.

Gray Town Council hears presentation on potential apartment complex - By Tracy Scheckel

The Gray Town Council met on November 14 with only three action items on the agenda, but a full slate of presentations and discussion items. The council has been asked to consider educational impact fees for residential development. Chair Matt Sturgis provided an overview of research he’d done regarding how to implement and administer such fees. The Council will conduct a workshop with the Planning Board on December 9 to discuss the potential for the fees and other related items.
With the public’s direction to dispose of Stimson Hall, the council discussed its next move regarding the three town-owned properties on Shaker Road. During public comment, prior to the discussion, Colette Tweten spoke and asked the council to meet with Christopher Closs of Maine Preservation of Yarmouth in order to learn about some resources and options where the preservation of Stimson Hall is concerned. Maine Preservation is a non-profit whose mission – according to its website – “is to promote and preserve historic places, buildings, downtowns and neighborhoods, strengthening the cultural and economic vitality of Maine communities.” The organization offers several services including a revolving loan fund to assist with the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings. During the subsequent discussion, the agreed to a presentation from Closs at its December 2 meeting, but also charged Town Manager Deborah Cabana to develop an RFP for real estate services and to get budget pricing for the demolition of all three buildings. Cabana had already done some research on demolition pricing and reported that it would probably be in the vicinity of $100,000 for all three buildings. 

The council discussed the recent Route 26 corridor study conducted with the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) and is considering seeking funding under the Municipal Partnership Initiative (MPI) for the 2016 fiscal year to make the suggested improvements at the Libby Hill intersection. If approved, the MPI program would provide a 50 percent match of the $110,000 estimated cost for the project. MDOT has placed both the Libby Hill and North Raymond Road intersections at the top of its priority list and will pay for both projects completely, but not until 2018 when the funds are available. The council will take the item up on its December 2 agenda to consider whether to expedite the Libby Hill intersection ahead of the MDOT schedule with local funds and the MPI match. 

Pam Wilkinson of the Little Sebago Lake Association (LSLA) gave her annual report regarding the lake and the organization’s 13 year effort to keep variable milfoil under control. Wilkinson reported that during the past eight years, 98 tons of milfoil has been removed, but that in the past year, only one ton was removed – indicating that the efforts have been paying off. She also reported that in 2014 nearly $44,000 dollars had been spent on their efforts in addition to $13,000 worth of in-kind volunteer hours. Gray allocated $8,000 in the current budget, Wilkinson thanked the town for its support and asked that the LSLA be considered again as the council prepares its FY 2016 budget.

Al Palmer of Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers made a presentation of behalf of the owners of Tee ‘Em Up on Portland Road. Owners, Mike Cobb and Rob Cook are seeking a zone change for the property that would allow them to construct as many as 54 rental units. Current zoning for the site allows for about half of that density. Palmer cited cost of infrastructure and a shortage of rental property as the driving factors for the request. Of the five councilors, the only one who indicated any positive interest in the proposed project was Matt Doughty, although he qualified his interest by suggesting that the developer consider condominium ownership rather than rental units. After the discussion, Palmer thanked the council for its input and suggested that the developers would probably reconsider and adjust the proposal. 

The council voted unanimously to enact the voter approved charter amendment immediately and to conduct one regular meeting on December 2 since the volunteer award reception will be held on the 16th and would conflict with the second December meeting.

Holiday happenings in GNG - By Tracey Scheckel

With no less than three snow falls since Halloween, it’s difficult not to think about the holidays. And, by the way, Thanksgiving is here!  As you settle back after the big meal and prepare for the hustle and bustle of baking, shopping and decorating, don’t miss the chance to join in some simple holiday celebrations and, more importantly, don’t miss the opportunity to pay it forward as you reflect on what you’re thankful for.
Caring Community of Gray and New Gloucester continues its effort to see that no GNG family goes without some Christmas cheer.  The group is always seeking sponsors to supply a needy family with gifts and a meal for Christmas, as well as general donations of goods and cash to insure that even needy families who have not been sponsored, are taken care of for the holiday. Anyone wishing to contribute can contact Kathy George either by phone at 657-5659 or by visiting the Gray Public Library where she is the children’s librarian.

In support of the efforts of Caring Community, BJ Carter and Joe Bedard of Gray host an Annual Day of Giving. This year’s event, the third annual, will be held at the Spring Meadow banquet facility on December 13 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. This year’s goal is to raise $15,000 and assemble 75 gift baskets. Visitors to the event can expect light refreshments, crafts for children, cookie decorating and caroling. For additional information, stay tuned to BJ-Joe-Day-of-Giving on Facebook.

The Gray Recreation Department is also working to help Caring Community through its Shoebox Giving Program.  Citizens can pick up shoeboxes at the recreation office at Town Hall, shop and fill them with small items for children ranging in age from toddler to teen, and return them filled by December 11. The shoeboxes are then forwarded to Caring Community for distribution. For more information on the Shoebox Giving Program, contact the Gray Recreation Department at 657-2323. 

Now for the celebrating…the Pennell Town Hall complex in Gray at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday November 30, the town’s folk gather for caroling, a visit from Santa, and refreshments and craft making with the big man and his elves after he does the honor of lighting the tree.

New Gloucester has two tree lighting ceremonies, the first is on Saturday, November 29 at 5 p.m. in the Upper Village adjacent to the public works garage, and then at the New Gloucester Town Hall on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

REAL School receives endowment grant from the Next Generation Foundation of Maine - By Elizabeth Richards

An exciting award from the Next Generation Foundation of Maine will assist RSU14s REAL School in continuing to provide a meaningful and positive educational experience to their students. Last week, the school learned that they had received a $100,000 endowment grant through the foundation’s Large Grants Program.
A team of dedicated professionals from the school put together the grant last spring, with the hopes of setting up an endowment fund to support the schools ongoing service learning projects and Teen Aspirations Program (TAP), said Principal Pender Makin. 

Never having requested this type of funding previously, and not knowing what the upper limits might be, they were dreaming big, said Makin, submitting a request for $1,000,000. “We were delighted when they agreed to fund us at all, for a very generous $100,000,” said Makin.

This award will create an endowment fund, and the proceeds from this fund each year will support activities such as the annual Dominican Republic medical relief and clean water expedition and the sea turtle conservation project. These more expensive service learning opportunities require ongoing fundraising, and are an essential element of the REAL School experience. 

Makin said that one of the concerns that prompted the application is that while the school is funded to provide the basics of education, all of the things that make the school a one of a kind educational community require constant fundraising, grant writing, soliciting private donations, and even selling their expertise to other agencies and school districts. “It takes almost an additional full time job to keep a funding engine going,” said Makin. 

TAP is another program that will be supported in part by the proceeds of the endowment fund. This is a curriculum that allows students to think about their strengths, interests and hopes for the future. 

“Sadly, many of the kids come to our school without much in the way of aspirations,” said Makin. “It’s very difficult to engage a person in the level of self improvement we’re asking our kids to engage in here when they don’t really see a positive, bright future for themselves.” TAP not only allows them to explore their interests, but also matches students with mentors and internships so they can experience these activities first hand. Currently, the program is funded by a private donor, and provides for a diverse range of needs, including such things as clothing for a job interview or scholarships for post-secondary education. 

The endowment award won’t eliminate the need for fundraising, but Makin anticipates that it will bring a couple thousand dollars per year to put towards these programs. “It will alleviate some of the pressure and it will make more opportunities available to our kids,” she said. 

One of the goals now is to leverage the generosity of the Next Generation Foundation to encourage other organizations to match the award or contribute to the endowment fund, Makin said. “We think of it as an incredibly good start on something that can get bigger each year.”

Makin said they are incredibly grateful for the time the trustees spent visiting the school and for the award. She added that it’s a great feeling to know that the team who put the grant proposal together has created something with lasting impact. “We’re giving a gift to the REAL School and all of the REAL School kids who are going to come along in the future,” she said.

GNG business summit - it takes a community - By Tracy Scheckel and Michelle Libby

The Gray – New Gloucester Development Corporation (GNGDC) hosted more that 70 Gray and New Gloucester business owners, elected officials and town staff at a business summit on November 12. Charles Lawton of Planning Decisions in Portland, and Governor LePage’s chief economic advisor John Butera were the keynote speakers for the event.

During his presentation, Butera emphasized that government cannot create jobs or economic development, but that its place is to assist the private sector toward those goals.  He said “There are three ways to get more private jobs. Attract a new business, create a new business or help existing business to grow. Attracting new business is the easy one.” He added that attracting new businesses is hardest and the one that locals have the least amount of control over. 

With Maine being 49th in the US for business, according to Forbes. Butera recommends that we set policy, lower taxes, lower regulation at the state level and lower energy cost. “What is the compelling reason to get somebody to come here?” he asked. He called for businesses to be advocates for its employees and when it comes to policies. 

“Businesses are customers too. They pay the people who buy from businesses,” he said. 

 Lawton presented recent demographic research regarding age and race for Cumberland County, and suggested that the communities embrace and work to accommodate the change in population demographics in order to grow the local economy and increase the skilled workforce.

“Where will the work force come from?” Lawton asked. He used the analogy of economic gardening. “It’s good to sit here in the winter and look at our seed catalog to decide what to plant. If we don’t have the seeds, they’re not going to grow.” The people moving to Gray and New Gloucester need to be of child bearing years and if not, those people need to be persuaded to move here. 

“They’re going to come from people who don’t look like us. We’ll have to welcome and integrate ELS and set training programs for the parents. If there’s a brand that can provide for the next 20 years, be the community that brands themselves as welcoming to people of color and other races,” Lawton said.

Other jobs that will be necessary in the upcoming years are things like electronic instrument repair, diesel repair and composite application. Employees will need the ability to communicate, work in teams and collaborate.

“Gray-New Gloucester can escape the demographic of being the oldest and whitest state in the nation,” Lawton said. 

Also participating in the program were several local presenters. Kirk Hill and John Moore shared information about the Maine Top Gun mentoring program for new businesses and shared their stories about their desire and efforts to be able to conduct their businesses in Maine. The Top Gun Prep program is a 12-week online class to prepare students for the Top Gun program. (
“Great ideas are a dime a dozen. It takes dedication, dedication, dedication,” said Moore. 

Eric Klein, principal at Gray– New Gloucester High School spoke about having a mentoring program for the high school. He noted the number of students going on to a 4-year college is 54 percent. That means for 46 percent of students there are no business opportunities that have been cultivated. Klein encouraged businesses to talk to him about providing students with a broader view of career options through a mentoring or job shadowing effort.

The presentations ended with a panel discussion led by questions and comments from the audience.
“If you are always cutting to make the expenditure bottom line, you need a job coach,” said Butera.
Using the Internet is a good way to get businesses a broader market base. If businesses are not reaching the “digital natives” (the teens and younger of today), “You’re behind the eight ball.”

Although the GNGDC sponsored and coordinated the summit, in his remarks, GNGDC President Leo Credit emphasized that the cooperation and coordination with both Gray and New Gloucester staff and volunteers was integral to the success of the evening. Volunteers from NGTV 3, New Gloucester’s local access TV channel were on hand to record the summit and will air it once the editing is complete.

In addition to conducting the annual GNG business summit, the GNGDC is gearing up to publish its 2015 edition of the GNG Local Magazine, and hopes to develop a small business incubator grant program within the next year. Visit for more information about the GNGDC and its current and future initiatives.