February 23, 2018

Preparation for Highland Lake Public Forum by Dennis Brown

There is no question that the picocyanobacteria blooms over the past four years initiated the Highland Lake Association (HLA) to explore what has been done in the past and what can be done now to address the problem. The following is information that may help with informed participation in a Public Forum Discussion, with the Town of Windham, which is set for Wednesday, March 7 at the Windham High School auditorium.

In reviewing a 2003 Phosphorus Control Action Plan for Highland Lake, it was noticed that the action items called for biannual meetings of the key stakeholders including the two Towns of Windham and Falmouth, the Highland Lake Association as well as the Maine DEP, citizens, and the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD.) It was researched, and no one remembered ever having a meeting of those stakeholders; so the HLA approached Windham Town Council first, since the Association had already begun a relationship with the them, and then scheduled a combined meeting with both Windham and Falmouth Town Managers to discuss the concept of getting together to improve and protect the water quality.

The HLA expected to be met with professionalism, and that’s what we got, as well as very willing, responsible town leaders who were happy to spend the time on forming the Highland Lake Leadership Team (HLLT), and being active participants. 

The HLLT has formally met just three times, but the enthusiasm from all members has been noticeable. All the committees have made great strides in outlining their specific charge and jumping into the efforts required of each. The two towns are working well together in identifying ordinance differences as the Ordinance Committee looks to both towns and surrounding areas for the best practices that will protect the lake. From the trends that the lake has experienced, it is obvious that the existing ordinance and resident practices are not preventing greater concentrations of phosphorus from entering the lake.

This rise in phosphorus is very concerning, because phosphorus is the base of the food chain within the lake and once the level gets above 10 parts per billion, the likelihood of algae blooms is high; and while we don’t know if it is directly related to the picocyanobacteria blooms or not, we do know that higher levels of phosphorus will exacerbate the blooms.

The Education and Outreach Committee is working with all the other committees to help communicate their information, needs and results to the general public. 
This includes the upcoming Public Forum which is reaching out to road associations to provide guidance on best practices on roads and individual home landscaping to minimize phosphorus exports to the lake.

The Watershed Committee is in the process of identifying the many steps and tasks involved with a Watershed Survey to be held on May 19. This effort will look at the entire watershed to identify sources of phosphorus and nitrates into the lake; then will prioritize, and make recommendations of what should be done to address the problems.

There will be about 50 volunteers involved in the one long-day survey. This will be the basis used to show what problems we have, and what we need to do to address existing conditions that are detrimental to the lake. Once this is completed, a new Phosphorus Management Plan will be developed. Both of these efforts are precursors to being able to apply for EPA Grant Funding, which will be necessary to address many of the identified issues. A portion of the funding, like in the 2005-2008 timeframe, will come from matching funds from the community including residents and contractors.

The whole process of reducing phosphorus export to the lake, finding the causes of the picocyanobacteria blooms and addressing those causes likely will take about five years to get things back in control, and then hopefully it will be much more of a maintenance issue. The improvements will come in steps as we are able to eliminate the problems. 

Keeping up the vigilance on the water quality through appropriate testing will tell us if we made the progress we hoped or whether there is still much more work to do. It is clear from the 2003 through 2008 effort, that the real danger is complacency in not staying on top of all the threats the lake is facing.

Please join us for the Highland Lake Association Public Forum held on Wednesday, March 7 at the Windham High School Gymnasium at 7 p.m. For more information, please contact Rosie Hartzler, President of the HLA through the HighlandLakeMaine.org website.

Senator Diamond appointed to Attorney General's law enforcement task force

AUGUSTA —Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, has been appointed by Attorney General Janet Mills to serve on a task force to analyze police officers’ use of deadly force in Maine and find ways to reduce these incidents.

The 13-member group of experts is tasked with looking for trends in police shootings in an effort to find ways to prevent fatalities. Often these incidents involve drug abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues and other complicating factors. The task force will meet regularly and analyze police files in order to determine how to better prepare police for situations that may turn deadly.

“I appreciate the Attorney General’s thoughtful  approach to this issue,” said Sen. Diamond. “Police officers have an incredibly difficult and dangerous job. As a member of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, I am eager to do anything I can to better protect our officers and the people they serve. I look forward to beginning this important work.”

There have been 53 officer-involved shootings in Maine from 2012 through 2017. The task force will meet for an undetermined length of time in order to develop and present recommendations to the Attorney General. Other members include Rep. Patrick W. Corey, Lt. John Cote of the Maine State Police, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, and Debra Baeder, a state forensic examiner.

Windham Town Council update by Lorraine Glowczak

The Windham Town Council met on Tuesday, February 20 at the Windham Town Hall in the Council Chambers at 6 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss strategic planning, with a vision of three to five years in the future. A reiteration of 2017 strategic goals and plans were also discussed.

Town Manager, Tony Plante provided a recap and review of the 2017 plans which included, but were not limited to, the following:

·         The hiring of a new Code Enforcement Officer has been completed as well as work continuing forward on the 21st Century Downtown Plan.

·         Wastewater planning is still in the works with targeted tasks to be completed by spring of 2018.

·         The improvement of the Windham Public Library is under construction at the present with plans to be completed by April.
·         A comprehensive strategy is still in process regarding community and civic engagement.

·         Age friendly communities has not been completed yet. 

Directors of each town office and department also provided a summary and briefing to the Council.
Highlights of the reports included, but were not limited to, the following:

·         Police Chief Kevin Schofield shared the fact that it takes a total of 32 weeks to train a police officer. Since there are expected retirements due to happen in the future, an increase in staff will help fill in the shortage as retirements occur. Schofield also stated that there has been increased officer enforcement on River Road.

·         Fire Chief Brent Libby reported that two full-time paramedics will now always be available this year. With the additional staffing response time has improved. “From time of call to a truck on the road is now about 90 seconds,” Libby said.

·         Linda Brooks, Parks and Recreation Director informed the Council on the added summer/seasonal staffing and the work that has taken place on plans for a community center. She also spoke about various on-going programs that include the Family Cultural Series such as the Arts in the Park event that occurred last fall.

·         Library Director, Jen Alvino explained that restoring the position of Circulation Supervisor has been instrumental in providing services, especially since the library became a part of the Minerva Library System.

·         Code Enforcement Officer, Chris Hanson reported that the position of Administrative Assistant has not been filled. He also announced that code enforcement is adopting 2015 codes but staying with the 2009 energy codes.

·         Ben Smith, Planning Director stated that the addition of a staff engineer has been instrumental and a good resource for projects underway as well as with project review.

After a review of the past strategic plans was completed, discussion moved forward for the 2015-2018 strategic goals. Discussion included:

Additions of a Compliance Officer

Increasing transportation services to the South Windham area with services provided by Regional Transportation and the Lake Regions Explorer.

The 2018 Priority A Goals includes water resource protection, shared maintenance facility update, community center concept design, and wastewater improvement to South Windham.

The 2018 Priority B Goals include community and civic engagement, establishing community events as a way to bring people together, age-friendly community efforts, as well as establishing a grant writing position as a way to increase access to funds.

The meeting ended at 8 p.m.

For a full account on all department reports as well as goals accomplished, and goals set for the new year, contact the Town Manager’s office at 892-1907 or go to the town website at www.windhammaine.us. All Council meetings are recorded and can be viewed on Facebook live.

February 16, 2018

Calling all juniors to attend Dirigo Boys State by Dave Tanguay

Third in a series of Boys and Girls State

Attention all Junior Boys in the Windham-Raymond High School area. The 71st Annual Dirigo Boys State will be convening at Thomas College, in Waterville, Maine, June 17-21, 2018. This is a great opportunity for motivated young men to immerse themselves in a week of comradeship and an opportunity for those junior candidates to learn how to campaign for state office and carry out the functions of state government.

The Field-Allen Legion Post 148 of Windham is again sponsoring candidates for this unique program and will pay the tuition cost of $300 for each selected candidate. Selected candidates are, however, responsible for their own transportation to Waterville. Last year over 250 junior boys from all over the state attended Dirigo Boys State. The goal this year is to have an even greater number. 

The selection process is as follows: Junior boys interested in attending Dirigo Boys State can make their intentions known by contacting the school’s guidance office prior to the end of March. A general briefing will be held in early April for all candidates, followed a week later by interviews by the legion staff. 

All applicable forms must be completed and submitted by the interview date. Following the interview, those selected will be designated as either a primary or alternate candidate. If a primary candidate is unable to attend, then an alternate will take his place. Participants must commit to attending prior to their application being submitted to Dirigo Boys State. 

For further information, contact your Guidance Officer or Field-Allen Post 148 Commander, Mel Greenier (207 892-7449) or Post Youth Chair, Wally Clark (301-318-5299).

Future articles will address: Boys and Girls State and how local business can support or sponsor candidates.