February 23, 2024

Cooper declares candidacy for Maine House 107 seat

By Ed Pierce

Lifelong resident Mark Cooper has announced his candidacy for the Maine House of Representatives District 107 as a Republican and says he intends to be a strong voice for Windham voters if elected.

Mark Cooper of Windham, a local building
contactor and farmer, has declared his
candidacy as a Republican for the Maine
House of Representatives District 107,
serving part of Windham.
SUBMITTED PHOTO  
Cooper, 60, is a local building contractor and farmer, and has decided to harness his experience in farming and in business for the benefit of the community.

“I believe in a common-sense approach to legislation and fiscal responsibility,” Cooper said. “As a small business owner working for a living, I understand the financial implications of wasteful government spending policies. I enjoy working with others to obtain workable and sensible solutions. I firmly believe Maine should be taking care of Mainers as a priority.”

Along with his wife Gaylene, Cooper has operated his family farm and accompanying businesses for over 40 years on Chute Road and says in that time he has seen a lot of changes in Windham.

“I love that Windham has become a place where more people want to live. It’s a testament to our schools, our local businesses, and our community leaders that we are doing something right, but I do think we need to look at how we are approaching this growth,” Cooper said. “I talk to a lot of seniors that have been priced out of their homes. I know there are too many folks in town who have had to sell family properties because the taxes are just too high. I’d like to be able to be able to help the town government connect with the state government to see where we might be able to make things a little easier on folks that are struggling to stay in their homes.”

A 1981 graduate of Windham High School, Cooper went on to earn an associate degree from the University of New Hampshire. He and Gaylene are the parents of sons Craig Cooper and his partner Amanda Larrabee and Eric Cooper and his wife Lauren, and they are the grandparents of Brian and Reagan.

His family business interests include L C Cooper Co Inc., a building contractor operation now in its 54th year in business and third generation. The Cooper family farming businesses include Coopers Maple products, Coopers Greenhouse, Coopers Royal Heritage Farm miniature horses and American Aberdeen cattle. Mark and Gaylene also work with Mark’s parents’ farm, Cooper Charolais Farm & Apiary, including beef cattle and a beekeeping operation.

“Windham has been home to my family for three generations, and we take pride in being able to live and work in this community, to employ a fair number of folks in Windham, and to contribute to the economy” Cooper said. “Serving in the State Legislature feels like a way to bring our experience in farming and in business to the larger statewide conversation about where Maine is headed. Right now, I’ve got some major concerns. The Maine State Legislature currently needs a serious infusion of common sense and logical thinking.”

According to Cooper, the current Democratic-controlled government is running blindly unchecked and turning Maine into “California of the East.”

Through his years of farming, Cooper has been actively involved in several trade and industry associations, including serving as Director and Superintendent of the Cumberland Fair, Director for the Maine Maple Producers Association, President of the Maine Miniature Horse Club, President of the Maine Beef Producers Association, Cumberland County Farm Bureau, and a member of former Maine Gov. John R. McKernan Jr.’s Ag Advisory Committee.

Cooper said that the economy, inflation, and financial pressure are the major concerns Windham voters are expressing to him.

“Many of the working families are feeling the effects of rising inflation and cost of living increasing faster than income,” Cooper said. “Basic needs including food, electricity, heating, and property taxes are escalating rapidly. Maine residents should not have to make a choice between buying groceries, heating their home, or paying their taxes.”

He said he’s looking forward to the campaign and will work hard to represent the best interests of Windham residents if he’s elected.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new neighbors and reconnecting with old friends over the next nine months,” Cooper said. “I’m hoping to put together a big team, so if you’d like to be a part of the campaign, please send us an email at GMCooper81@aol.com. Yes, I still have an AOL account so please don’t hold that against me as you consider supporting our campaign.” <

Loon Echo Land Trust conserves 400-acre site in Casco

Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) is happy to announce the permanent conservation of 400 acres of undeveloped forestland in Casco, known as Rolfe Hill. After a multi-year fundraising effort, LELT purchased the property in late January from members of the Rolfe and Speirs families, whose ownership dates back to the 1790s.

Some 400 acres of undeveloped forestland in Casco known
as Rolfe Hill has been conserved by the Loon Echo Land
Trust. PHOTO BY MATTHEW TROGNER
Rolfe Hill has a long history of public access for recreation and hunting and hosts the “Que 5” snowmobile and ATV trail. Now owned by LELT, public access to the property for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other recreational activities is permanently secured.

“The Rolfe and Speirs families were stewards of this land for over 200 years, and we are grateful to them for allowing public use on the old farm roads and trails. We are thrilled that Rolfe Hill, enjoyed by many for snowmobiling, hunting, cross country skiing, and horseback riding, is now protected from development,” said LELT Board Member and Casco resident Connie Cross.

The Rolfe Hill area is identified in the Town of Casco’s Open Space Plan for its significant ecological and recreational importance for residents. The land is home to over 60 acres of wetlands, vernal pools, and a trout stream.

Located just half a mile from LELT’s Hacker’s Hill Preserve on Quaker Ridge Road, Rolfe Hill is an important addition to the region’s network of conserved lands.

“The Rolfe Hill property has been on LELT’s radar for a long time,” said LELT Executive Director Matt Markot. “Former Casco town manager Dave Morton was very aware of how important the property was to residents and was a big supporter of seeing the land conserved. We’re proud to be a part of the Casco community and work on behalf of its residents to make sure the lands they have used and loved will remain open for generations to come.”

LELT has plans to improve access to Rolfe Hill through the construction of a parking area and non-motorized trail network. The conservation organization will pay property taxes to the Town of Casco.

Located in an area of increasing development pressure, the 400-acre property plays an important role in safeguarding the water quality of Sebago Lake, which is the source of drinking water for over 200,000 Mainers and many Cumberland County businesses on a daily basis. Sebago Lake is so clean, thanks in large part to its forested watershed, that it is one of 50 surface water supplies (out of over 13,000) in the country that is not required to be filtered.

Rolfe Hill was identified by the conservation partnership Sebago Clean Waters (SCW) as a high priority for protection. SCW is a coalition of ten nonprofit partners, including LELT, working with the Portland Water District to accelerate the pace of land conservation in the Sebago Lake watershed to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat.

“This forestland is a vital community resource, not only for the recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat it provides, but also for its important role in keeping Greater Portland’s water supply clean,” said SCW Partnership Director Karen Young. “Working with LELT to conserve this property furthers our mission of protecting the watershed and building collaborative capacity across the region.”

The land is within the traditional and unceded territory of the Abenaki, a member tribe of the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Abenaki First Nations of Odanak and W├┤linak maintain reservations along the St. Francis and St. Lawrence Rivers in the Canadian province of Quebec, where they sought refuge following colonial warfare in the Saco, Presumpscot, and Androscoggin River watersheds during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The property was conserved with financial assistance from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program (MNRCP). MNRCP was created to manage the allocation of funds collected through Maine’s In Lieu Fee Compensation Program, and awards competitive grants to projects that restore and protect high priority aquatic resources throughout Maine. Additional funders for the project include The Nature Conservancy, Portland Water District, onX Maps, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Sebago Clean Waters, Davis Conservation Foundation, Ram Island Conservation Fund, The Conservation Fund in partnership with the Stifler Family Foundation, an anonymous foundation, and Lake Region community members.

More information about Rolfe Hill can be found at lelt.org/rolfe-hill.

Loon Echo Land Trust, founded in 1987, is a nonprofit organization that protects land, ensures public access to the outdoors, and builds and maintains recreational trails in Raymond, Casco, Naples, Harrison, Sebago, Bridgton, and Denmark. The organization currently conserves over 9,000 acres of land and manages a 35-mile trail network across the Lake Region. LELT protects many important local landmarks like Pleasant Mountain, Bald Pate Mountain, Raymond Community Forest, and Hacker’s Hill. For more information on LELT properties, upcoming events, or how to get involved, visit LELT.org or their Facebook page.

Sebago Clean Waters is a partnership of 10 local, regional, and national conservation organizations and the Portland Water District working collaboratively to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat in the Sebago region through voluntary forest conservation and stewardship. Learn more at sebagocleanwaters.org. <

Road postings in place to avoid frost heave damage

By Ed Pierce

A total of 49 roads within the Town of Raymond have been posted for frost heaves this season by the Raymond Public Works Director.

Towns all across Maine begin posting roads
with vehicle weight limits when the ground
gets soft to avoid destruction of the 
pavement and subsurface.
COURTESY PHOTO  
The road restriction is for trucks weighing more than 23,000 pounds and is effective from Feb. 20 until May 1, 2024. Trucks exceeding the weight limit and not exempted by town ordinance must be cleared to travel over a posted road if conditions warrant.

Raymond Public Works Director Nathan White said that Routes 85, 121, 302 and Egypt Road in Raymond are exempt from the restrictions because they are state-maintained roads.

Frost heave damage to roadways is caused by an upward movement of pavement resulting from the expansion of trapped water beneath the roadway surface. Considerable frost heaves can produce permanent damage to roads and crack pavement surfaces with differing levels of severity. Distresses attributed to frost heaves can impact road surface quality and are unpredictable and costly for towns and municipalities to repair.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation, as spring temperatures warm and the ground thaws, the soil situated beneath roadway pavement becomes saturated with water, making it unstable and leaving many roads unable to support heavy loads and putting them at risk for damage.

Typically, a road that can easily handle a 15-ton weight truck in summer or winter months may only be able to handle a 5-ton load during spring thawing.

MDOT says a posted road’s maximum weight limit is 23,000 pounds and it’s a temporary measure that’s designed to protect roads in vulnerable conditions.

The costs pf repairing or rebuilding a road damaged by a frost heave can be substantial, running as much as into the tens of thousands per mile in some cases.

When the ground begins to thaw and materials beneath roadway surfaces are saturated with moisture, travel over these roads by heavy vehicles exceeding 23,000 pounds also can cause cracking, potholes, and rutting.

Roads in Raymond that have been posted include Ball Drive; Brown Road; Canal Road; Cape Road; Caton Road; Chapel Street; Conesca Road; County Road; Crockett Road; David Plummer Road; Deep Cove Road; Dolimount Road; Dyer Road; Elizabeth Avenue; Frye Road; Gay Street; Giselle Avenue; Gore Road and Harmon Road.

Also posted are Ledge Hill Road; Lloyds Lane; Lyn Court; Mailman Road; Main Street; Martin Heights; McDermott Road; Mill Street; Mountain Road; North Raymond Road; Panther Pond Pines; Patricia Avenue; Peterson Road; Pine Lane; Pipeline Road; Plains Road; Pond Road; Presidential View; Raymond Hill Road; Ridge Road; Salmon Run; Shaker Woods Road; Shaw Road; Spiller Hill Road; Tarkiln Hill Road; Tassel Top Drive; Tenny Hill Road; Valley Road; Wawenock Road; and Westview Drive.

The posted roads may have restrictions lifted earlier should weather conditions warrant. 

The Town of Windham has not yet announced their road postings for this season but is expected to release that information in the next few weeks.<

Nangle introduces bill to help communities protect local water resources

AUGUSTA – State Senator Tim Nangle, D-Windham, has introduced a bill to give municipalities more tools to enforce shoreland zone violations and protect local waters.

State Senator Tim Nangle
Nangle's proposal, LD 2101, called “An Act to Strengthen Shoreland Zoning Enforcement,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Maine Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on State and Local Government earlier this month.

“The support and insightful testimony we received at the public hearing show how necessary it is to equip our towns with the tools they need to enforce shoreland zoning standards effectively,” Nangle said. “This legislation is a critical advancement in empowering local governments and keeping our drinking water free of harmful chemicals. I was pleased to see folks from communities across our state make their voice heard on this vital issue.”

The LD 2101 bill would allow, but not require, municipalities to restrict, suspend, or revoke locally issued permits to property owners who violate shoreland zoning ordinances.

Under current and existing law, even with ongoing violations, municipalities are required to issue permits, limiting their ability to ensure compliance with state and locally established regulations.

Additionally, this new bill proposed by Nangle permits the placement of a lien on properties with violations to prevent the transfer of said properties, ensuring that municipalities have the financial support they need to enforce the laws that protect community waterfronts.

“In most cases, Maine’s shoreland zoning law is having a very positive impact on our lakes, but to prevent violations like those that occurred in Raymond on Sebago Lake, the law needs to be better enforced,” said Whitney Baker on behalf of 30 Mile River Watershed Association. “We now have an opportunity to empower our communities, and the local [Code Enforcement Officers] doing this important work, to stand up to shoreland violators, hold them accountable, and reverse the ethic of law-breaking behavior that has taken hold on many shorefronts throughout our state.”

According to Nangle, enforcing shoreland zoning law is particularly evident when towns attempt to uphold local- and state-mandated environmental standards.

“The current legal structure prevents towns from withholding permits for further development, even when property owners ignore these crucial regulations. This means an offending property owner can keep building and changing their property while ignoring the laws that protect our state's precious natural resources,’ Nangle said. “My bill, LD 2101, would allow a local municipality to restrict, suspend, or revoke any locally issued permit to the property and property owner where the violation has occurred. Notably, a town would not be required to impose these restrictions; it would be at the town's discretion. This would prevent the property owner from working to complete any renovations or continue work on the property until the violation has been resolved.”

Typically, when a shoreland zoning violation is resolved through legal remedies, the court assigns the cost of enforcing the violation and any applicable fines to the property owner. Then, in some cases, another struggle ensues between the violator and the town to collect those costs, which Nangle says places another undue burden on taxpayers in the town. The second part of LD 2101 allows the city or town to place a lien on the property’s title to prevent the transfer of the property until the court-determined costs have been paid.

Nangle’s bill will face further action in committee. <          

 

February 16, 2024

Windham Town Council discusses senior housing proposal

By Ed Pierce

Discussions between the Windham Town Manager and the developer of a proposed new senior affordable housing project off Angler’s Road may result in significant changes to the development and the creation of a special Tax Increment Financing District for the site.

Members of the Windham Town Council participate in a 
discussion about a proposed senior housing project behind
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church during a meeting on
Tuesday evening. From left are Councilors Bill Reiner,
Jarrod Maxfield, Mark Morrison, and Nick Kalogerakis.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 
During Tuesday evening’s Windham Town Council meeting, councilors and members of the public participated in a discussion regarding the project which is situated behind Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, which owns the site and has contracted with a developer who is proposing to build a 24-unit structure on the site. The potential development also led to an outcry of opposition from nearby residents, who say it is the wrong site for such a project because it sits on top of the aquifer.

The area also lies within Windham’s Farm Zone and to gain approval for the scope of the project, zoning and many other issues would need to be resolved such as building height, lighting, and water quality.

Barry Tibbetts, Windham Town Manager, told councilors that he became involved after hearing concerns from residents about the project.

“There are a number of issues to be addressed before anything could be done with that site,” Tibbetts said. “There’s the proposed building height, the setback, water quality, the impacts of lighting, noise concerns, traffic, and its architectural features.”

A compromise solution could be found by working within the framework of the existing Farm Zoning, creating a TIF and modifying the proposal by changing the building height to 35 feet and the setback to 150 feet in keeping with current zoning rules. The modification would also include creating 42 one-bedroom apartments instead of 24 duplexes.

“We looked at how this building fits within the neighborhood and showed the developer how creating a senior housing TIF would be beneficial,” Tibbetts said. “For us, this is really about the TIF and if we as a community want to put a TIF on this property.”

The project itself would take about two years to complete because of engineering, site evaluations, financing and approval from the Windham Planning Board, Tibbetts said.

Councilors also listened to the concerns of residents and abutters during the meeting.

Annie and Mike Swisko of Windham said they downsized a few years ago and sold their home to live in a townhouse. They said more senior housing is needed in town and like the idea of creating a TIF for senior affordable housing, but they thought that two-bedroom units would be better.

Several residents on Angler’s Road voiced concerns about development in the area in general, the aquifer, and said they wondered if this was the right type of project for that site.

Barry Bernard, who lives on Shore Road in Windham, said he’s happy to hear that the developer is open to modifying the plan which was first proposed last fall, and he realizes development at that site is going to happen eventually one way or the other.

“My preference is no development at all but I’m not a not-in-my backyard type of person,” he said. “I don’t want 24 duplexes going in there, that would be horrendous. I would much rather see the footprint of 42 single bedrooms going in there.”

Councilor Jarrod Maxfield thanked residents for expressing their concerns about the project.

“It’s great to see members of the community and the town work together to find something that will work,” Maxfield said. “I will support this TIF decision and believe it will help pave the way for a better project.”

Councilor Bill Reiner said he’s optimistic that addressing these issues now will result in a better solution for everyone concerned.

“This is a great compromise between residents, the town, and the developer to address a growing need in the community.” Reiner said.

A public hearing about creating a Senior Housing TIF will be conducted at a Windham Town Council meeting in March. <

In the public eye: Manchester School teacher inspires students to love reading

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Ed Pierce


Meg Sparrow believes that a great teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, wonder, and wisdom in her students and it’s what she does every day in her duties as a Fifth-Grade classroom teacher at Manchester School in Windham.

Meg Sparrow has taught fifth
grade at Manchester School
in Windham since 2017 and
shares her love for reading
on a daily basis with 
her students.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
Sparrow has taught at Manchester School since 2017 and says that sharing her love of reading with her students makes a difference.

“So many kids start fifth grade saying that they don’t like books,” Sparrow said. “I love that I can share my love of reading with them. Some of my favorite books we read are ‘ReStart,’ ‘Hoot,’ and ‘The City of Ember.’ I really enjoy getting students engaged and excited about reading. Students are always begging to read just a little bit more and at the end of the book I’m so happy to hear that they loved the book.”

Among her duties are reviewing important student data in areas such as academic, attendance, and behavior and student work to inform and create lesson plans, including intervention and enrichment. She also grades assignments, collects and shares evidence of student learning, accumulates data and perspectives, collaborates with Manchester School staff to develop and implement authentic, engaging units of instruction.

She also creates and promotes meaningful relationships with students and families while fostering a sense of belonging, engages in work that improves student academic learning and outcomes, communicates with families, and actively engages in professional learning communities.

The job is challenging, and Sparrow said that is because there are such varying differences among all her students.

“Each student has unique strengths, interests, and backgrounds. As a teacher, I want to make sure that I tailor every lesson in a way that every student feels engaged and can participate in a meaningful way,” she said. “This requires a deep understanding of each student, constant adaptation, and the ability to meet the needs of each individual student.”

According to Sparrow, the greatest misconception people may have about her work is that some think that teachers can just use the same lessons year after year.

“This is not true because students’ needs change from year to year. Modifying instruction to meet the needs of a diverse student body is a huge responsibility that I take seriously,” she said. “Teaching is not a one-size-fits-all profession and I’m not just a teacher imparting knowledge, but I act as a mentor and role model for my fifth graders, preparing them for the challenges of the future. Every day is different, and I always need to be able to think on my feet and adapt when necessary. As teachers, we’re always thinking about our students and teaching, and it doesn’t stop when the school day ends. The ongoing dedication beyond school hours are important aspects of the teaching profession that many do not understand. Teaching is a multifaceted and demanding profession.”

Sparrow grew up in New Jersey and went to college at the University of New Hampshire where she majored in Family Studies and minored in Education. After earning a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine, she worked as a preschool teacher for a few years after college.

“I was an Education Tech for a middle and high school in Cumberland and North Yarmouth,’ Sparow said. “I worked as a classroom teacher for grades 3-5 in Freeport for six years before I moved to Windham and took time off to have children. After I had children, I took a break from teaching to stay home and raise them. When my youngest was 2 1/2, I decided it was time to go back to teaching. I was really eager to teach in the same town that I live in because I wanted to be close to my children and an active part of the community.”

She said that her husband and kids are very supportive of her teaching career and her two daughters love that their mom is a teacher at school with them.

The most important thing she says she’s learned while working for Manchester School is that it truly does take a village to educate amazing kids.

“We all work together to create a safe, engaging, and nurturing environment for the student body,” Sparrow said. “It is a collaborative effort by all employees of the school district, the families, and community.” <

Altrusa celebrates six years of providing WPS kindergarten students with ‘Forever’ books

By Masha Yurkevich

Introducing children to reading is a very important step to their development. Unfortunately, not all children have access to books, which is something that International Altrusa of Portland wants to overcome.

Windham Primary School kindergarten teacher Lindsey 
Pettus and her students show off some of the books they
have received thanks to the generosity of the Portland
Altrusa Club and club president Wanda Pettersen of
Windham, right. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Altrusa is a social club that provides services to the community in the areas of literacy, fellowship and leadership development and the Portland club places a special focus on literacy.

As a non-profit organization, Altrusa focuses on community service and for the last six years, Altrusa volunteers have been coming to Windham Primary School kindergarten classrooms to read to the children and let each of them choose a “forever” book to take home.

Wanda Pettersen of Windham is the president of the Portland Altrusa Club. She recently retired and used to work for Cumberland County government and joined Altrusa through a friend of hers who is also part of Altrusa and suggested to Petterson that she should become part of the team. While Pettersen has been with Altrusa for more than two years, she is serving her second year as president.

“The kids are great, it’s so much fun to be with them,” says Pettersen. “It brings joy to know that this child has a book and that they can bring it home and can read it to their parents or siblings or show them the pictures. It’s very heartfelt.”

She fell in love with the program.

“Our focus at the Portland Altrusa Club is literacy, introducing books and stories to children who are just learning to read or just learning to look at books,” says Pettersen. “There are some children who have books at home and hopefully have someone who can read to them, but there are also children who don’t have any books at home. We hope to reach each and every child so that they can be curious about books.”

Pettersen works with WPS teacher Lindsey Pettus, who has been with Windham Primary School for 12 years where she is a kindergarten teacher and Team Leader.

“We were introduced to Altrusa about six years ago,” says Pettus. “Over the past six years that they have been coming to our school, they have given around 1,200 free books to our students. They also come in and read to the students before giving out their books, sharing their love of literacy. The students are always so excited to choose a forever book to take home and add to their collection. It is a great way to promote a love of literacy for our youngest learners.”

Pettus was introduced to Pettersen when they started collaborating with Altrusa because of Pettus’ role as a team leader.

Altrusa used to only ask volunteers to read for Portland and South Portland schools, but Pettersen, being a resident of Windham, spoke with Dr. Kyle Rhoads, WPS principal and then got in contact with Pettus.

“Together she and I have coordinated the visits for all of our kindergarten classes each year,” says Pettus. “During the pandemic we did a recorded ‘virtual visit’ and then distributed the books to the students.”

Altrusa has books donated at Books A Million and then schedules their guest readers who come and read to students and let them choose a book to keep.

“After the reading, we let the children go around a table and choose a book to take home,” says Pettersen. “We stress that this is not a library book, you don’t need to bring it back, it’s yours to keep. We started to call them ‘Forever’ books because some of the children were kept repeating that they get to keep the book forever.”

The Altrusa and WPS initiative remains strong.

“This has been a wonderful partnership for our school over the years,” says Pettus. “The kindergarten students love having guest readers to read them a story and they are thrilled with the beautiful selection of books and getting to choose one to keep.”

If there are any non-profits in the area that need books or would like more information on what Altrusa offers, Pettersen encourages them to reach out to her.

“We love giving books to non-profits. If anyone needs books, there is a form on our website — https://www.altrusaportland.org/request-books.html — which you can fill out,” says Pettersen.

Altrusa also partners with different food programs and pantries and partners with Cricket Comforts when they put together pillowcases for the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, which Altrusa has been doing for the past few years.

“We also put an empty bowl for Project Feed,” says Pettersen. “It’s a lot of different community service, but our main focus is literacy.”

The Portland Altrusa Club is celebrating their 95th birthday this year and hopes to reach many more local students and spark their interest in reading books. <