March 26, 2021

Proposed Windham budget could have lasting positive impact for town

Windham's town councilors will receive the town
manager's proposed 2021-2022 budget of 
$35,115,270 during a meeting on April 6. If
approved, the budget will be presented to voters
during the annual town meeting on June 12.
By Ed Pierce

For many town residents, there’s a lot to like about Windham 2021-2022 budget proposal as members of the Windham Town Council prepare to examine it closer when it is presented during the council’s scheduled April 6 meeting. 

Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts said the goal of this year’s budget proposal is to maintain services and programs while implementing capital improvements to improve the community. 

Potential capital projects for the year ahead for the town funded in the proposed $35,115,270 budget include paving and sidewalk work; work on rear access roads off Route 302; addressing North Windham wastewater treatment; completing the second phase of the Lowell Reserve parking lot; creation of three new playing fields behind Manchester School; a possible new community center; and addressing open-space property issues in Windham.

“In the proposed budget 2021-2022, we are looking to accomplish several objectives; hold the budget increase due to the COVID impacts on residents and businesses, continue with the paving and equipment replacement programs, develop recreational playing fields and playground while expanding parking at Lowell,” Tibbetts said. “The first item is to hold or limit any increases in the budget to the minimum based on the COVID impact to residents and businesses. The municipal budget increase is at 0.33 percent, or flat or no increase to the mil rate.” 

The new playing fields could be accomplished through a municipal bond and the use of town impact fees, Tibbetts said, and the parking lot at Lowell Preserve can also be paid for through town impact fees.

Longstanding wastewater treatment issues in North Windham may finally be addressed and potentially resolved following the Windham Town Council’s approval of two new Tax Increment Financing Districts and amendment of an existing TIF at its Jan. 26 meeting. Councilors agreed at that meeting to establish new 30-year TIF districts for North Windham and South Windham and voted to amend the current NW Roosevelt Trail TIF.

What that means is that the North Windham TIF could leverage taxes generated for a specific project such as wastewater treatment and use them to finance sewers or make other infrastructure improvements in the TIF district.

Savings for funding some other projects will be achieved by the retirement of existing town debt and obligations such as expiring leases on town vehicles and equipment and paying off an existing road bond of $148,625, Tibbetts said.

Roads to be repaved should the councilors approve, and then town voters agree at the town meeting on June 12 are Land of Nod Road; Depot Street; Common Avenue; Dunridge Circle; Page Road, Vance Drive; Varney Mill Road; Gosher and Gateway subdivison; Hillcrest Subdivision; Abby & Oak Subdivision; and Lantern Lane Cross Culvert.  

The budget proposal includes allocating up to $200,000 in capital funding for paving stretches of dirt roads on Hall Road; Gilman Drive; Old Country Road; a portion of Swett Road; Keene Road; Barnes Road; Read Road; Town Farm Road; Pendleton Ash Way; Peartree Lane; Craig Road; Claman Drive; Jones Hill Road; Hall Road where it meets Route 302; and Neighborly Way.

Under the budget proposal, Tibbetts said that Windham will add an assistant town manager and two new fire/emergency medical technicians.

If the budget is approved as proposed, town impact fees will be used to replace the playground equipment as Lowell Preserve and for a design and engineering study to improve Donna Lippman Park.

“We are maintaining our 16.67 percent unassigned balance reserve to meet Government Finance Officers’ Association three-month recommendation for operating revenues,” Tibbetts said. “This is important for any bonding we would be considering.”

Tibbetts said that the town will use about half of last year’s revenues increase for the coming year to provide a reserve for future unexpected variances in the economy.

“Those unanticipated revenues in the coming year over the new projections could be used on next year’s budget,” he said. “This is a conservative approach which will allow for better budgetary management in the long term.”   

For 2021-2022, Tibbetts said revenues are projected to rise overall about 3.2 percent.

“The expenditures are increased by 0.33 percent,” he said. “The county budget has increased by 3.1 percent. The end result of the mil rate, while holding the school overlay and new building and land valuations as static, would increase 0.02 cents based on the county budget.”     

The budget that Tibbetts is proposing includes $1.1 million for the lease/purchase of two plow trucks; a street sweeper; a trackless snow blower/mower; three new EMS stretchers; and three new cardiac monitors. It also allocates $550,000 to complete the purchase of Engine 7 for the town’s fire department. 

Although the RSU 14 has yet to be formulated, the budget Tibbetts will submit to town councilors for 2021-2022 is marginally higher than the 2020-2021’s budget of $35,048,303 approved by town voters and the town council.

With the mil rate of 4.4 unchanged from a year ago, the municipal tax rate for Windham will be flat, Tibbetts said. < 

Meals on Wheels continues to deliver food and social connection without fail during pandemic

By Lorraine Glowczak

The Meals on Wheels program delivers more than
just food. It also ensures social interaction and a
wellness visit to vulnerable adults in Maine. For 
those who are in  need of Meals on Wheels services or
for those who wish to volunteer, call 
207-396-6500. COURTESY PHOTO

The concept of the Meals on Wheels program began in the United Kingdom during World War II when many civilians were displaced by German bombings throughout England in 1939.

According to the website, History of Meals on Wheels, “the Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defense responded to this emergency by preparing and delivering meals to their disadvantaged neighbors. These women also brought refreshments in canteens to servicemen during World War II. The canteens came to be known as ‘Meals on Wheels.’ Thus, the first organized nutrition program was born.”

The website also stated that after the war, the United States embarked on its own experimental meal program and the first American home-delivered meal system began in Philadelphia in January 1954. From there, the program’s mission to provide home-delivered meals rapidly spread across the United States and Canada. 

Currently, in the U.S., the Meals on Wheels program provides food and social interactions for older adults and is financed and operated at the local level. Here in Southern Maine, including the greater Raymond and Windham areas, the program is managed by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging (SMAA). Their mission is to provide home-delivered meals to not only older Mainers but to their caregivers as well - even during the most challenging times, such as a year-long pandemic.

Gratefully, their delivery program did not stop during Covid-19. In fact, the need for nutritious food provisions for older adults and their caregivers increased.

"Prior to the pandemic, we were serving, on average 750 clients with 2500 meals per week,” SMAA’s Program Manager of Nutrition, Renee Longarini said. “When the pandemic hit, we saw those numbers increase to 1150 clients and more than 5,000 meals per week. Those new numbers have been consistent throughout the pandemic.  We began to offer clients 3 weeks of emergency meals (this was a combination of frozen and shelf stable) to have on hold in the event of an emergency or should their delivery be temporarily suspended as a result of COVID.  We also began offering up to 21 meals per week.  Prior to COVID, on average our clients received 5 meals per week.  With the decreased ability to get support from other services during the pandemic we wanted to ensure they had access to the meals they needed.  I believe all the adjustments we made certainly helped reduce food insecurity.

Perhaps just as importantly, the Meals on Wheels Program delivers more than just food. It also ensures social interaction and a wellness visit to vulnerable adults in Maine.

“We have a saying ,’it’s more than just a meal’,” Longarini said. “That’s because, often times, the visit from our volunteer is just as important as the meal itself.  Of course, this has become more difficult during the pandemic as we had to implement safety precautions at the time of delivery.  However, we have a wonderful Phone Pals program where we match clients with volunteers.  The volunteers make a friendly daily call to the client as part of a wellness check.”

The wellness checks have established connections between volunteers and the individuals they serve. This creates pleasant memories and heartwarming stories.

Nicole Parker, SMAA Nutrition Site Manager for the Sebago Lakes Region area stated that that she is amazed and lucky to have 22 dedicated volunteers who pack and deliver meals two mornings a week. Five of these volunteer delivery drivers have been providing food and social connection in the Greater Windham area for more than 10 years.

“Delivery is a check in and a connection,” Parker said. “If anything seems ‘off’ when the meals are delivered, like no answer at the  door, sick, confused etc.,  the driver calls me, and I check in with an emergency contact and if needed, a wellness check with the Police Department is initiated.”

Parker said they pay attention to the additional necessities that come up when the drivers are delivering weekly meals.

“Right before this last Christmas I had a driver come back and tell me a usual client of ours had given back her meals and asked to cancel the program,” said Parker. “I called right then to check in and she told me it was due to the fact her microwave broke and she had no way to reheat them. Money was a concern, and she was homebound and did not drive. One of the morning meal packers overheard my phone call, and then reached out to her high school aged daughter and together decided that this would be their Christmas tradition of giving this year!”

About an hour later the volunteer and her daughter had purchased and delivered a new microwave and brought the client to tears of gratitude.

“My family and I now seek out donated microwaves to always have on hand for future needs- any are welcome,” Parker said. “The bonds formed are heartwarming and mutual. I get calls from concerned clients if their usual driver is a tad late, or not in that day, or to ask me to pass messages along of updates or good wishes!”

Parker said that she has been told repeatedly that the Meals on Wheels delivery driver is the only person some of the Meals on Wheels recipients see for the week. “So, yes, I’d say a masked front door chat is just as needed as the meals themselves!”

Crucial times call for crucial  measures. Since its inception in the U.S., the Meals on Wheels program continues to serve both nutritional and social needs for older adults during challenging times, without fail. This year of a world-wide pandemic has been no exception.

For those who are in need of Meals on Wheels services or for those who wish to volunteer, please call 207-396-6500 for more information. <

American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 celebrates veteran’s coffee anniversary

By David Tanguay

Special to The Windham Eagle

Looking back, it is hard to believe that five years have passed since the American Legion Post 148’s service officer, Chuck Whynot, approached the post adjutant about starting a regular Veterans Social Coffee at the Windham Veterans Center. 

He had indicated that he visited four to five “housebound” veterans each week and found that some of them just needed a place outside the home that was safe for them to go.  Initially established and advertised as a drop-off for ambulatory veterans to get out of the house and possibly allowing the veteran’s caregivers a little free time, the Veteran’s Socials are held from 9 to 11 a.m. each Wednesday morning at the Windham Veterans Center. 

Windham veterans observe the fifth anniversary
of the American Legion Post 148's weekly 
veterans coffee gatherings on Wednesday, March
24 at the Windham Veterans Center. Left is 
Windham Veterans Association President
David Rendall and Legion Post Service Officer
Chuck Whynot, founder of the popular weekly
event as they cut a ceremonial cake. 
The first coffee social was held on March 23, 2016, with six new veterans in attendance. The gathering was considered a success and plans continued for the weekly event which grew over the following years to about three dozen veterans. Many came for the camaraderie and coffee, others developed other interests such as playing cribbage and other board games.

Each Year, on the closest date to March 23, an anniversary cake cutting ceremony is held to honor the time that the veterans have had together. 

Strong bonds of friendship have been formed with many of the members and because of the coffee, on average, some 15 new veterans have joined the Field-Allen post and many of them have become integral members of the organization.

In March 2020, just two weeks before the fourth anniversary of the coffee, everything was halted because of concerns about the COVID-19 virus spreading in the community. This ended a 203-week run of the Veterans Coffee gathering without ever missing a single Wednesday. 

But in early April 2020, an interesting thing happened. Several of the Veterans Coffee members started coming to the WVC on Wednesday around 9 a.m. and they set up chairs in the parking lot at appropriate social distances to spend some social time together. They brought their own coffee and face masks. Obviously, the Veterans Coffee was not dead.

When the WVC was cleared in early summer by the CDC to resume hosting limited functions at the WVC, the Veterans Coffees returned with about a dozen local veterans in attendance. Since then, the coffees have continued unabated under COVID-19 social protocols of social distancing, face coverings, hand sanitizer and temperature checks at the door.

The Veterans Coffee has also provided the opportunity to honor some of our veterans by recognizing their birthdays, and through the presentations of Eagle Canes and Quilts of Honor. Everyone is looking forward to the time when they can visit their fellow vets unimpeded. 

On Wednesday, March 24, the veterans gathered and celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Veterans Coffee. And this time, there was a cake to cut. <

March 19, 2021

In the public eye: Town of Raymond's Kaela Gonzalez

By Ed Pierce

Kaela Gonzalez has worked for the
Town of Raymond for five years and
wears many hats including assistant
to the town manager, assistant to the
town assessor, and assistant to the
town public works director, along
with duty as the town's communications
director. She says that her job keeps
her connected to the community and 
residents where she lives.

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

When looking at the attributes of an ideal employee, the human resources director for the Town of Raymond certainly hit the jackpot when hiring Kaela Gonzalez five years ago.

In her duties as assistant to Raymond’s town manager, assistant to the town assessor and assistant to the town public works director, Gonzalez also serves as Raymond’s communications director, a position that requires the utmost of tact and diplomacy. She exhibits characteristics employers dream of in an ideal employee such as dependability, honesty and integrity, a positive and proactive attitude, a wiliness to work hard and the ability to use her time productively.

Gonzalez lives in Raymond with her husband and four children, and her versatility working at town hall makes her someone many town departments seek out when they are trying to resolve difficult problems and issues. Among her many tasks on the job are gathering and assembling the town’s monthly newsletter, The Roadrunner, ensuring that the Town of Raymond’s Facebook page is updated frequently, and posting information and articles to the town’s website.

Originally from Owls Head in the mid-coast region of Maine, Gonzalez spent time in the service and hospitality industry as a waitress and then earned a degree in health sciences at the University of Southern Maine.

Moving to Raymond and starting a family, she had an epiphany that led to a career change and a desire to go to work for the town.

“Each time they had an opening, I applied for it,” Gonzalez said. “We had started a family and wanted to root here. I kept on applying and I told them at the time that I would continue to apply for openings until they hired me, and it must have worked because they did.”

She says that one of the best things about her duties gathering material for the town newsletter is that it keeps her in touch with what is going on in the community and the residents who make Raymond a great place to live.

“Working on The Roadrunner keeps me connected to the community for sure,” Gonzalez said. “You truly get to know more people from working for the town. It keeps me engaged in this community in a way that I wouldn’t feel if I didn’t work for the town.”

Her family are usually at community events right there with her, such as during last summer’s backpack program in Raymond, when her children joined Gonzalez in preparing meals for students in need living in town.

“My kids went with me and bagged bags of food right along with me,” she said. 

One of the drawbacks of her service to the town though is many long hours of being on-call.

“As communications director, I need to be available on weekend or at night and that can add up,” Gonzalez said.

But the experience of being able to help residents resolve issues courteously and with professionalism continues to be the guiding factor in how Gonzalez approaches her work each day she arrives for duty.

“I think that even over the phone, people can sense if you are smiling or not,” she said. “I try and handle everyone as if they are a friend. I work for the residents of Raymond and I try to convey that every time I speak with someone on the phone.”

When she does have free time, Gonzalez says she enjoys summer camping trips with her family, being outdoors every chance that she can get and participating in various health and fitness activities.

Gonzalez said she strives to treat everyone she meets in her duties with the town with respect and dignity and how she herself would want to be treated.

“I had a career in the service industry, and I understand the concept of being in the service of others,” she said. “I really feel that it’s important to end a conservation with someone in the community who has asked us a question on a positive note. That’s really why we are here, as I see it. It’s the mission of town employees to help the residents of Raymond.”

She said she’s aware some residents are not always going to be happy in their dealings with the town government, but it is a goal she constantly works at.

“I’m very appreciative to work here for the Town of Raymond and be provided with that opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “I really enjoy coming to work every day. I truly do and I’m proud to serve this town and this community.” <

Windham Christian Academy students excel in VFW essay contests

A contingent of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643 members
surprised student winners from Windham Christian Academy
with awards from the Voice of America and Patriot's Pen essay
contests for 2021. From left are VFW Post 10643 Post Chaplain 
Roger Timmons, Post Surgeon Jerry Black, Hunter Edson of 
Windham Christian Academy, VFW District Commander Willie
Goodman, Abigail Williams of Windham Christian Academy and
Past State VFW Commander Steve SanPedro.
By Ed Pierce

Patriotism is a core value of American democracy and as such isn’t restricted to age group or gender. These facts were evident as members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stopped by Windham Christian Academy in Windham to surprise student winners of the VFW’s annual essay contests on March 12.

A delegation of VFW Post 10643 leaders visited the school and recognized Hunter Edson and Abigail Williams for writing standout essays in the Voice of Democracy and Patriots’ Pen essay competition.

The Voice of Democracy competition was open to all high school students, grades 9 to 12, including those who are home-schooled. Students wrote and recorded a three- to five-minute essay on an audio CD on this year's theme of "Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?" The Patriot's Pen competition was open to all middle school students, including home schoolers, in grades 6 to 8. Students were tasked with writing a 300 to 400 word essay on this year's theme, "What is Patriotism to Me?"

Edson, a sophomore at Windham Christian Academy, was honored as the first-place recipient for the VFW district in the Voice of Democracy contest and was also informed by VFW Post 10-643 Commander Willie Goodman that he was chosen as this year’s winner for the entire state of Maine.

As a result, Edson will now advance to compete in the national VFW Voice of Democracy contest and for winning first-place in the Maine state contest, he earned a four-day trip to Washington, D.C.

In the national competition, Edson is competing for a $30,000 scholarship awarded by VFW.

For her entry in the Patriots’ Pen contest, Williams, an eighth grader at Windham Christian Academy, placed second in the district overall.

Both Williams and Edson were presented certificates, cash awards and backpacks, along with accessory items for their outstanding essays and contest entries.   

“The VFW is extremely proud of both Hunter and Abigail and we congratulate them for their achievements,” Goodman said.

The national VFW Voice of America contest will be conducted later this spring in Washington, D.C. and entries will be judged on content, creativity and delivery.

Interested students and/or teachers looking to participate in next year’s contests should contact VFW Post 10643 by phone at 207-228-4329 or write to the post at P.O. Box 1776, Windham, Maine 04062 for more information. <

Lost ring bands community together to produce a miracle

Windham Walmart employee Bernadette
Stevens displays a ring that was given to 
her by her late mother that she lost during
February prompting a desperate search.
Earlier this month she found the precious 
memento in some melting ice near her
driveway in Casco. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Daniel Gray

With a little over 50 square miles in Windham, finding an item that has been lost is no easy feat. Personal items are misplaced all the time, whether it be big or small. There are great cases where the items are found, but not every story has a happy ending such as that. To lose a priceless ring, for example, anything could happen. For example, finding the ring where you least expect it.

That happened to Bernadette Stevens, a Casco resident and Windham Walmart employee. In February, Stevens had noticed that during her shift that the ring from her beloved mother, Mary Stevens-Jellison, had somehow slipped off her finger and was lost.

The ring had been her own engagement ring and Stevens’ mother had recently passed away in August 2019. The ring was gold with three striking diamonds embedded in it, and though no matter the cost, it was a precious memento of her mother and losing it was a huge heartbreak to herself and her family.

Stevens recalls one fond memory with her mom and the same ring,

"I remember seeing the ring when I was younger, just looking at it, and my mother would tell me 'If you can get this ring off my finger, I'll let you have it.' She didn't think I would be able to get it off her finger, it was a challenge," Stevens said. "It took a while to get, but her ring means the world to me."

She was devastated looking down to see that she no longer had her mother's ring on her finger. Determined, Stevens looked high and low, even checking the plastic bags with Walmart's to-go carts that are used with pick-up orders. The hunt was on, but Stevens was not the only person searching.

Stevens had reached out to other Walmart associates, who made sure to keep an eye out for the ring. Stevens also took to Facebook in a desperate attempt to see if someone had found it in the store or the parking lot.

"I had cleaned so much to find the ring, hoping that it would just appear on its own,” she said. “Tore the couch apart, tore everything apart where it could have gotten stuck. I reached out to the community since maybe someone had found it in the parking lot or in the store. I didn't expect so many people would reach out and offer to help."

Instead, the opposite happened. The original post Stevens made on Facebook had more than 3,000 shares and wonderful comments to match. People across Windham gave their best wishes for Stevens to find the lost ring. There were even people willing to help search the parking lot if she needed help looking for it.

"I was just blown away. I had so many comments and shares, and a few guys wanted to search the parking lot with a metal detector once spring hit,” Stevens said. “I wasn't expecting so many people to lend support to me, and it really helped me get through the month knowing that I had people willing to help out in different ways."

February came and went, and then the snow and ice slowly started to melt in March. Still, no sign of the ring and Stevens had even gone to local pawn shops and jewelers to see if anyone had found the ring and sold it for a quick buck. 

As the days ticked on, she found herself losing hope of ever finding it. She was explaining her desperation to the Walmart store manager until something had clicked.

"I went to the store manager and I was talking about the ring, and she suggested that I ask my mom where it is," Stevens said.

Of course, she couldn't just call her mom up on the phone and ask. Instead, that night, Stevens spiritually asked her mother to help her find the lost ring or to give her a sign of where it would be, at the very least.

The next morning, nothing came of it. She continued doing this and by the third day, she was outside looking for something else and suddenly found the unexpected. 

There was her mother's ring, trapped under a bit of ice.

Stevens goes into detail of how it felt to find the ring there, of all places.

"I saw a glimpse of gold and looked closer at it. I kept repeating to myself 'no way' since I was surprised it was 3 feet away from my car, just under ice. It must have just slipped off my finger at some point in the colder days of February."

Excited and overjoyed, Stevens happily told her family, friends, and the community. Everyone was supportive that she had found it, glad that it wasn't in the parking lot and instead was found close to home.

Since losing the ring, Stevens has also had countless people recognize her at work and give passing words of encouragement upon finding the ring once more. Now, Windham residents are congratulating her on finding it.

"It just really goes to show how awesome Windham is,” Stevens said. “I grew up there and It's hard to find communities like that these days to root you on for the little victories."

To save this from ever happening again, Stevens said that she will be getting a guard on the ring that helps resize it without having to damage it in any way and prevent it from falling off unexpectedly when she wears it. <

Soil & Water Conservation District hosts Urban Runoff 5K during April

By Ed Pierce

Clean water remains an essential part of healthy communities and for the past decade, the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District has helped raise awareness of the importance of safe and drinkable water through its popular Urban Runoff 5K event.

Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the event that is intended to raise the awareness of stormwater pollutants and support the Soil and Water Conservation District’s clean water youth education program.

“We are celebrating the 10th annual race this year as a virtual event with 5K courses around the region,” said Chris Brewer, Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District Manager. “One course will be at our office in Windham featuring the Sebago to the Sea Trail and the Presumpscot River. This event is also part of the Town of Windham’s compliance with education and public participation of their stormwater program, required by the EPA Clean Water Act.”

Brewer said April was originally chosen for the Urban Runoff 5K event to tie in with Earth Day activities.

“In addition to celebrating Earth Day and other environmental events during the month of April, our remaining snow and ice becomes stormwater and can pick up pollutants as it travels to our local water bodies,” Brewer said. “The Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District uses this event to promote stormwater hero tips that provide simple steps to reduce stormwater pollutants. We want everyone to become stormwater heroes to protect the health and safety of our water.”

According to Brewer, the Cumberland County Soil & Conservation District is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

“The district was established in 1946 as part of a nationwide response to the Dust Bowl,” he said. “As Cumberland County’s land uses have changed over time, the district has worked to meet the soil and water conservation needs of both its rural and urban landscapes.”

He said that the district is a quasi-municipal entity of the State of Maine and is governed by a Board of Supervisors. The board is comprised of five supervisors and additional associate supervisors who meet monthly to identify conservation priorities and opportunities.

As part of raising awareness activities during April, the Soil & water Conservation District is hosting a Stormwater Hero Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 24 at the district office at 35 Main St. in Windham. During this event, the district will have experts available to answer questions about soil and water conservation topics and offer information and resources about how to incorporate conservation practices on local properties.

Urban Runoff 5K participants will be able to run or walk the equivalent of a 5K anytime during the month of April. Most courses are ADA compliant, and course maps are available online.

Participants can use one of district’s suggested courses or make their own. There also are many different activities and prize opportunities for participants, like Stormwater Bingo and sharing their adventures and heroic actions to the district’s Facebook and Instagram pages (@cumberlandswcd).

To register to participate, visit

Brewer said that the more money that is raised through the Urban Runoff 5K, the more that the Soil & Water Conservation District can invest into its youth education program that focuses on connecting students with their local environment.

“Through the district’s youth education program, we provide clean water education to over 800 students throughout the school year,” he said. “The lessons we use are hands-on to connect the students to their natural resources and encourage their future stewardship of clean water and healthy soil.”

Education is at the heart of the Soil & Water Conservation District’s mission, Brewer said.

“We provide educational resources for students and adults, ranging from the classroom to hands on workshops. The Urban Runoff 5K event focuses on preventing stormwater pollution, which is one of the many ways we can help conserve our water resources,” he said. “Additional district education programs include healthy lawn care, community agriculture, invasive plants, invasive forest pests, forestry management, gravel road maintenance, and many other community conservation topics.”

A current list of workshops available is on the district’s event page at <

March 12, 2021

Windham partners with GrowSmart Maine to expand energy efficiency initiative

Lead AmericCorps member Grace Sherman is 
eager to partner with Windham as the town grows,
making smart choices in energy efficiency that will
not only benefit the town and the environment, but
the individual's finances as well. A recent graduate
of Wheaton College with a bachelor's degree in
biology, Sherman not only gained experience, but
developed her passion in environmental sustainability
with her job shown here at Save the Bay, a Rhode
Island wet conservation effort.
By Lorraine Glowczak

The Town of Windham has recently partnered with GrowSmart Maine to work with two Ameri-Corps members from the Maine Energy AmeriCorps Program).

The overall goal is to improve residential energy efficiency and have on the ground actions in weatherization in Windham, with a focus on low-income households. This partnership will last through November 2021.

Lead AmeriCorps member, Grace Sherman will be working closely with the town’s Environmental and Sustainability Coordinator, Gretchen Anderson. Sherman will be assisted by a part-time AmeriCorps member, Phoebe Little.

“The projects that Grace and Phoebe are completing are in conjunction with Windham, Biddeford and GrowSmart,” Anderson said. “They will work directly with municipal staff and other partners to engage residents in tangible work to improve residential energy efficiency. The goal is to have 25 households impacted through work in two communities and the overarching goal is to have on the ground actions in weatherization in Biddeford and Windham, with a focus on low-income households, though all will be welcome to participate.”

According to its website, GrowSmart Maine “works to promote smart growth to give communities choices in how they respond to growth and change.” This includes municipal sustainability efforts as a simple initial strategy to address climate change. It is a goal as well to strengthen long term connections within and beyond the community.”

Sherman, a 2020 graduate of Wheaton College with a bachelor’s degree in biology, has a list of projects already prepared that she, along with Little’s assistance, will be implementing soon. The plans include creating and establishing a community advisory board for Windham and hosting educational events and campaigns to provide public awareness on energy efficiency in the home.

“We will assist homeowners in identifying ways to improve the warmth of their homes, lower heating costs, and reduce CO2 emissions,” Sherman said. “For this project, we will be working with WindowDressers – with the help of community volunteers – to build low-cost insulating window inserts for low-income families.”

Sherman also said they will hold a ‘Green Jobs’ Fair as a way to let both recent graduates and older adults know about all the career possibilities in the environmental sustainability field.

“A few of our other main goals is to get to know and meet people in the community,” Sherman said. “We also hope to educate and spark involvement in a variety of ways. The objective is to go above what is required of us and we hope by doing this, all of our efforts will be carried on by the community once our term and service is over in November.”

To help with their success, the two AmeriCorps members will be actively meeting and reaching out to Windham residents.

“The Town’s hope is the Energy Advisory Committee will provide Grace and Phoebe an introduction to the Windham community and help provide connections to complete these projects and achieve a successful energy efficiency campaign,” Anderson said.

As for the lead AmeriCorps member, Sherman, who is from Rhode Island but spends a few weeks out of the summer in Maine, is not new to the field of environmental sustainability. She said she will rely on past job experiences as she works closely with Windham on their energy efficiency efforts.

“First of all, I have always loved Maine and when this position was offered to me, I was very excited,” Sherman said. “In addition to that, I take climate change and environmental sustainability very seriously and this began with a summer job I had with Save The Bay, a wetland conservation effort in Rhode Island. It was here where I not only gained experience in conservation science but more importantly, this experience is where I developed my interest in the environmental field. This AmeriCorps position will provide for me an opportunity to help people too. Intertwining this outreach work with my passion is more than I could ask for – I am eager to help Windham as the town grows – making smart choices in energy efficiency that will not only benefit the town and the environment, but the individual’s finances as well.”

To learn more about the AmeriCorps efforts or to become involved in the Energy Advisory Committee, contact Grace Sherman at

To learn more about the WindowDressers organization, visit <

WMS to present movie production of ‘Singin’ In The Rain Jr.’ virtually

Windham Middle School students rehearse for
the upcoming production of 'Singin' In The Rain Jr.'
 which will be presented online on Saturday, March 13,
Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20.
By Elizabeth Richards

Live performances have been on hold for more than a year due to the pandemic, but the Windham Middle School drama program didn’t let that stop them.  Instead of live performances, the group created a movie of Singin’ In The Rain Jr., which will be available to watch online.

“We were faced with the option of either doing nothing at all or finding a new way to look at it,” said Suzy Cropper, drama director for Windham Middle School. “I know these drama kids love the theater and love to participate and create just like I do, so we started thinking outside the box.”

School administrators welcome the production.

“It’s important to offer students as many opportunities for creative outlets and challenge as we can,” said Kim McBride, assistant principal at WMS. “Students learn and grow from any opportunity to work toward a goal with other students,” she said, adding that drama offers some specific skills and benefits, including building self-confidence, developing empathy and tolerance for others, nurturing imagination, patience, focus and concentration, and appreciation for arts and culture.”

Cropper said she sees the struggle for students unable to participate in what they typically love.

“It’s been good to connect the students in this way. It’s not quite the same as being live and in the space together, but it does help,” she said.

Eighth-grader Molly Plati, who plays Kathy Selden in the show, said “It was really important to me because it’s my eighth-grade year.”  While things will be quite different, she said “I still get to be in a production.”

Lydia Marden, an eighth grader who plays Lina Lamont, said that although this isn’t the way they thought about having their final middle school production, “we’re still going to celebrate it. It is a lot different, but at least it’s better than nothing.”

Marden said that a lot of people who participated last year didn’t this year because they were worried about how it would go.  After participating, she said “of course it’s different, but it feels just the same.” Her advice to others, she said, is that if an opportunity like this comes up, take it. 

“It certainly is a different experience from the one they would otherwise have had, but we’re very grateful that Suzy was flexible and nimble and creative enough to make this happen, McBride said.

Cropper said the cast will have a chance to come together as a group, using appropriate safety protocols, to watch the final movie before it is available to the public.  “Many of them have only seen the parts they do, so it’s going to be a surprise to everybody. It’s pretty exciting,” she said.

Putting on a production this way wasn’t without challenges.  Marden said her biggest challenge was learning how to use the green screen.  “Everyone had to put up their own, and half the time they didn’t really work,” she said. 

For Plati, the biggest challenge was having to perform alone.  “When I act, I really like to have laughter and audience reaction,” she said. “I had no one to feed off of. I was home alone.” 

The students said there were also some positive aspects to working this way.  “When I was recording my songs, I got to record with a headset and microphone,” Plati said. “I felt like I was recording it professionally.” 

Marden said, “You have unlimited tries until you feel like it’s good. It took a lot of the stress part away.” 

Cropper said she even had students who told her that the only reason they participated this year is because they weren’t live on stage.  “I’m glad we’ve been able to provide that which they wouldn’t necessarily have experienced before.”

Cropper said there was less to practice, but a lot to learn, when working this way.  Students were working with very few props and had to master the music and dances on their own.

“I’ve definitely learned that over a screen you have to be a lot bigger than when you are on a stage,” Plati said.  When in a tiny box with an ensemble, she said, “You have to be really big if you want to be noticed, if you want to catch the audience’s eye.”

Marden said because her character didn’t talk in the beginning of the show, she had to use other tactics to show the audience she was there and interacting with people around her.

Ensemble members noticed that they can’t stay hidden, Cropper said.  In this format, every expression is seen, even in those without speaking roles.  “Just being aware of themselves in such an acute way has been a bit eye opening for most of our performers,” Cropper said.

Along with Cropper, music director Diane Hancock, and choreographer April Monte, a small group of high school students were a valuable part of the process.  Al Potter edited the production, taking all of the footage and putting it into one cohesive product, Cropper said. “I’m so grateful that I don’t have to do that all by myself,” she said. Maddie Hancock was the assistant music director, and Amy Cropper served as assistant director.

Singin’ In The Rain Jr. will be streaming online on Saturday, March 13 at 2 and 7 p.m.; Friday March 19 at 7 p.m., and Saturday March 20 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased for a specific performance time at  Ticket prices are $10 for a single viewer, $20 for a household ticket, and $30 for platinum contributors. <

Ground broken for new Paul’s Boutique cultivation facility in North Windham

Owner Shaw Dwight, left, and Cultivation Manager Michael
Tillman review blueprints for the new 12,500-square-foot Paul's
Boutique cultivation and manufacturing facility under
construction in the Enterprise Development District Zone of
North Windham. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
By Ed Pierce

It’s taken an extraordinary amount of preparation and patience to ensure that his business will be successful, but Shaw Dwight of Paul’s Boutique can see light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier this month, ground was broken for a new 12,500-square-foot cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility for Paul’s Boutique off Enterprise Drive in the Enterprise Development District Zone of North Windham.

Paul’s Boutique was established in 2015 by Dwight and his Julia and was one of two businesses to receive an adult-use retail marijuana license by the Windham Town Council in October 2020. After clearing numerous regulatory hurdles from the state and obtaining a license from the town council, Dwight felt investing in the new cultivation and manufacturing facility was the right step to move the company forward.

Once completed this fall it will join Paul’s other existing three commercial facilities and Dwight expects to hire additional employees from the local community, bringing the total number employed by Paul’s Boutique to 35.

In addition to the new facility, Dwight is in the process of remodeling his medical marijuana storefront on Route 302 in North Windham to better accommodate adult-use customers once the business launches retail sales.

“We could not be prouder to break ground on our new 12,500-square-foot cultivation/manufacturing facility located in the ED Zone of North Windham,” Dwight said. “This entire process for our new cultivation center has been both a challenging and rewarding task, from land acquisition/development to the construction phase that we are entering now.”

He said that the new facility will be a state-of-the-art, ‘zero waste’ facility for which Paul’s Boutique has spared no expense.

“While most cultivation facilities present major hurdles and impacts on the environment, my wife and I are extremely passionate about the environment and choose to lead by example by incorporating green solutions into our entire business model,” Dwight said. “This cultivation facility will be no different and will reflect our mission to keep our carbon footprint low.” 
To accomplish that, they are striving to reduce their electrical consumption at the new cultivation and manufacturing facility by working with EEM (Energy Efficiency Maine) to reduce their impact two-fold.

“Our LED lighting requires less of an electrical load and less cooling,” Dwight said. “We are also using specialty dehumidifiers designed to run more efficiently, by adding cooling abilities, while heat generated is pushed outside with pad mount condensers.”

According to Dwight, water conservation is another factor that Paul’s Boutique has weighed given the taxing nature of water consumption in the cannabis industry.

“Our ARCS (Automated Reclaimed Condensate System) will recycle and treat more than 80 percent of water use, allowing us to conserve somewhere in the ballpark of a half a million gallons per year,” he said. “Nutrient run-off or leach water is laden in nitrates and phosphates. These fertilizers are usually flushed down the drain, leaving the municipal water districts to deal with them. In other cases, these fertilizers are flushed into a septic system which in turn ends up in the water table/groundwater. Our evaporator system will handle this by steam reduction, then a waste management company will pick up the ‘sludge’ quarterly or biannually to dispose of safely and appropriately.”

Larry Eliason, a commercial broker with Butts Commercial Brokers in Raymond, brokered the deal to bring the Paul’s Boutique cultivation and manufacturing facility to the Business Park ED Zone of North Windham.

“Frankly, I think Shaw Dwight, owner of Paul's, recognized an opportunity to expand his business and he took action,” Eliason said. “There have really been no commercial land sales in that business park for many years. The biggest reason for investment in the business park today is the Town of Windham Planning Department and the Windham Town Council designated the Enterprise Development District as one of two locations in Windham specifically Zoned for Growing, Processing and Manufacturing Adult Use and/or Medical Cannabis.”

Eliason said that the commercial lot that Paul's Boutique chose for the facility has been there for years, but recent zoning changes approved and implemented by the Windham Town Council in the past year have been instrumental in attracting new investment to this business park.

Dwight said that the new cultivation facility will allow Paul’s Boutique to continue expanding its company and bringing great jobs to Windham while infusing the local economy.

“We plan to hire 15 new employees prior to opening the doors while paying solid living wages to all our staff,” he said. “I was appointed to the Marijuana Task Force for Windham, in which we helped educate and navigate Windham’s Adult Use and Medical Cannabis Ordinance.”

Site work is well under way for the project with steel frames having been installed and extensive grading and leveling for the grounds continuing. John Bell of Patco Construction is serving as general contractor with civil engineering guidance provided by Craig Burgess of Sebago Technics.

“We are thrilled to be working with local builders and Jon Bell from Patco Construction to present this grand vision, a model for future cannabis cultivation,” Dwight said. Windham has a big place in our hearts, and we are very thankful to operate in this great town. Paul’s Boutique strives to set the bar high, respect the environment in which we live, give back to the community which we operate in, and patronize local business to fuel the Sebago Lake Region’s economy.” <

March 10, 2021

Raymond looks ahead to June town meeting

By Brian Bizier

It’s been one full year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended almost every aspect of our lives, and the novel coronavirus is still disrupting plans large and small. For the Town of Raymond, the pandemic changed the way the town discussed and passed its annual budget. For as long as Town Manager Don Willard can remember, Raymond’s budget has been presented, sometimes debated, and then passed at a Town Meeting in June. In 2020, however, the ongoing pandemic made the Town Meeting impossible, and the budget was presented to citizens on their June ballots.

“It hadn’t been done, that I could find, anywhere in Raymond’s history,” said Sue Look, Raymond’s Town Clerk. The unprecedented situation led to a very long ballot as each budget item got their own line with space for a “yes” or “no” vote. The final ballot presented to voters had a total of 34 questions, and it was a hefty eight pages long.

The final decision about the date for
Raymond's annual town meeting for 2021 rests
with the Raymond Board of Selectmen, who are
expected to either schedule the meeting for
June or vote to conduct summer balloting because
of the pandemic. FILE PHOTO 
“There was probably some level of voter fatigue,” Willard admitted, although he said the town did not receive any complaints from voters. “People understood what was happening,” he said.

In a normal year, Raymond’s Board of Selectman approves a warrant to call a Town Meeting. This warrant, much like the more-familiar arrest warrant, is like a statement of intention. It lists exactly what will be presented and voted on at the Town Meeting, and items that are not included on the warrant cannot be discussed at the meeting.

“Voters have the ability to look at the warrant, read through it, and decide if they need to go and vote on it,” Look said. “If they’re happy with what’s on the warrant, they usually don’t go to the Town Meeting.”

In 2020, of course, the COVID-19 virus cancelled Raymond’s annual Town Meeting. Look and the members of Raymond’s Town Office were then faced with the challenge of turning the 2020 warrant into an eight-page ballot. “It was a lot,” Look admits.

“When the ballots are printed, they aren’t printed in sets, so we had to take page one and match it with page two, then take page three and match it with page four. It was a lot of checking and double-checking,” Look said.

Look admitted that she would prefer to approve the town’s budget this June the old-fashioned way, in a Town Meeting, but she also saw a silver lining to last year’s process.

“By having the budget be on a ballot, more people did look at it than normally would, which is a plus for the democratic process,” Look said. “And if that’s what we need to do again this year, we’ll do it.”

Like so many other aspects of our lives in this strange time, the fate of Raymond’s 2021 Town Meeting now relies on what happens with the pandemic.

“If the pandemic continues without a resolution that would permit close proximity, in-person, consideration of the issues,” Willard said. “We’ll be back to a secret ballot this summer.”

The final decision about Raymond’s June Town Meeting for 2021 rests with the Raymond Board of Selectmen, who are expected to make their announcement later this spring.

Meanwhile, the proposed budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year is already available on the Town of Raymond’s website.

This budget lists five primary goals: First, maintaining or lowering the tax rate. Second, continuing commitment to improvement and maintenance of the Town roads. Third, undesignated fund balance can be utilized within existing policy to accomplish priority number one. Fourth, all budget areas are on the table for discussion and review. Fifth, core services driven budget.

“There’s nothing big or startling in there,” Willard said. “In view of the pandemic, we’re keeping existing programs going and not rolling out any big projects.” Don Willard also noted that questions are always welcome, and he goes so far as to list his personal cell phone number on the Town of Raymond’s website.

So, while the future may still feel uncertain, citizens of Raymond will certainly have a chance to voice their thoughts on the proposed town budget for 2021-2022, whether in person at the traditional June meeting or through another secret ballot. <

March 5, 2021

Be The Influence seeks parent advisors

By Briana Bizier

We have all faced incredible challenges in this past year. From work to school to our social lives, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted almost everything we once took for granted. One constant, however, is that it still takes a village to raise a child. In these uncertain times, the youth of Windham and Raymond need our help more than ever.

Be the Influence is part of a Drug Free Communities grant working with all sectors in our community to reduce youth substance use. Before the pandemic, Be the Influence created and implemented many youth engagement events in schools, local libraries and both communities including a community mural, a theatre group, PSA contests, media campaigns and changing policies by meeting with local legislators to discuss concerns about the effects of drugs on brain development, just to name a few.

As Be the Influence adapted to our new socially distant era, many of these events have moved online. A recent meeting with Maine State Senator Bill Diamond and area Representatives to discuss vaping happened over Zoom.

This spring Be the Influence is teaming with Windham’s and Raymond’s Departments of Parks and Recreation to co-host a Family, Fun, Fitness and Film Festival, as well as partnering with other health agencies. Be The Influence is also currently co-hosting a series of webinars on mental health resources with the EmpowerME Health Series for parent, youth and community prevention and resources.

Yet, as the community’s needs continue to shift over the course of the pandemic, Be the Influence wants to make sure they are offering programs that help the greatest number of children, parents and families. To that end, Be the Influence is seeking input from Windham and Raymond parents.

How can Be the Influence support your family? What programs, activities, and resources do you need? What concerns are parents and children facing as you navigate a hybrid school schedule, remote learning, an increase in substance misuse, and the mental health challenges of this unprecedented time? Most importantly, what can we do to help and to give you the tools you need to ensure your child lives a heathy life?

If you are interested in joining Be the Influence’s Parental Advisory Board, please contact Laura Morris at or Lorraine Glowczak at <

In the public eye: Windham Public Library’s Jennifer Alvino

By Elizabeth Richards

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

Jennifer Alvino, the library director for the Windham Public Library, has been working in libraries since high school. She became the director of the WPL a little over seven years ago and since then, she’s smoothly navigated the library through a renovation, providing services through a pandemic, and building community connections.  

The library is committed to meeting community needs. “I really appreciate being able to hear from and work with the community to determine what services they want from us, and to be able to turn that around and meet that need. That’s exciting and interesting for me,” she said.

Being a library director also involves a lot of customer service, she added. “I enjoy working with people. Librarians in general are a good group of people to work with. It’s nice to come to work every day,” she said.

Jennifer Alvino has served
as Windham Public Library
director for more than seven
years and is credited with
navigating the library through
a renovation, finding solutions
to continuing to provide services
during a pandemic, and building
and sustaining positive community
connections. FILE PHOTO
Libraries fill an important need in communities as gathering spaces, Alvino said. The WPL meets a lot of needs in the community, she said.  They provide access to broadband and help people find good, accurate information in a place that welcomes everyone. Libraries also don’t require any kind of payment, which is especially important right now, she said.

Serving as a community gathering place is currently a challenge due to the pandemic, Alvino said. “Over the last year we haven’t been able to gather. Our services are really limited in that we can’t communicate and welcome people the way that we used to,” Alvino said. For instance, they used to have an active group of middle school students who came to the library after school, which hasn’t been possible this year.

Space can also be a challenge to meeting community needs, Alvino said. Going back to the teens, she said, they need to consider whether they have enough space for them to gather.

When it comes to funding, she said, “The town has done a wonderful job giving us the resources that we need to provide our services. That’s really been helpful. Even through a tough last year we still were able to do what we needed to do.”

Alvino’s first goal for the immediate future is getting back to normal hours. Currently, the library is not open on Saturdays or weekends. They are working on hiring more staff which will allow them to return to pre-pandemic hours, she said.

Alvino is proud that the WPL was the second library in the state to re-open after everything shut down last spring. They reopened to the public at the end of May and have remained open for limited browsing and services since then. With some libraries in the state still not open to in person browsing, she said, she feels fortunate that they have been able to remain open with proper precautions in place.

Currently, visits are limited to 30 minutes. Computer services are available, and they recognize that sometimes people may need a little more time to apply for services or jobs, she said. “We are trying to accommodate as much as we can while still making sure that we’re interacting with people in a safe way,” she said.

The library also offers broadband internet that reaches to the parking lot. People often bring devices and work there, Alvino said. When the weather turns warmer, there will also be picnic tables around the building where people can use the broadband internet connection.

Another goal that Alvino has for the future is to get out into the community more, expanding outreach services like dropping materials off to homebound community members. She wants to find other community organizations to partner with, like they do with the Parks and Recreation department and local childcare facilities, she said.

A couple of years ago, Alvino said, the library had a table at the farmer’s market. She’d like to be at more community events like that, registering people for cards and checking items out. “I’d love to really be able to be out where the community is,” she said.

Alvino said she’s also proud of the renovation to the library that happened two years ago, which gave the space a much-needed facelift and allowed the library to move forward.

Her staff also makes her proud. “My staff is really, really amazing in terms of being flexible, especially this last year. They’ve really done an outstanding job keeping things running. I’m very proud of that,” she said.

Alvino wants people to know that the library staff is very approachable. “If there are needs people identify that we can help with we are certainly a place where people can approach us and talk about it,” she said. They’re looking forward to getting back to being able to hold gatherings and do in person programming, she said. While virtual programming continues, it’s just not the same, she said.

What people expect from the library has changed over time, Alvino said.

“I think we do strive to be all things to all people. When people walk through that door, they have a certain expectation of what they’re going to find. We’re always trying to meet that need,” Alvino said. “As expectations change, we need to make sure we’re flexible enough to do that.”