April 30, 2021

Special volunteer crew cleans up Haven Road trash

A group of Air Force recruits joined local
residents and volunteers in removing a ton of
trash, litter and debris from the Haven Road
area of Windham on Saturday, April 24.
By Daniel Gray

On Saturday evening April 24, a small number of Windham neighbors and residents were brought together to clean up the Haven Road surrounding area. Unexpectedly, one of their peers brought in the big guns.

Haven Road, located off Route 302 and next to Highland Lake, has a small trash problem that one of the residents is adamant on fixing. Sue Turner has been living on Haven Road for 17 years after moving to Windham from Portland and said that there have been issues with people throwing trash and dumping unwanted items in the woods in that area. 

Because of COVID-19, this issue has mushroomed into a massive problem and, not to mention, an eyesore.

"There has always been a problem with people throwing trash, bottles and other debris next to the road or dumping things into the woods." Turner said. "But since COVID started, it became more noticeable to me as I walk the neighborhood more frequently than before."

The goal was not only to make the area nicer without the trash that was collecting on the side of the road, but for Turner to fully meet neighbors she had never chatted with before and had only given friendly waves to.

She had not expected SSgt. Alex Hutzley of the United States Air Force to be living so close by and fully willing to help out, along with him bringing some trainees with him to help in the process.

Hutzley, a member of the Air Force for nine years and a Staff Sergeant for the past three years, is the lone Air Force recruiter for all of Southern Maine. Despite this, Hutzley makes a big impact in the community and strives to get himself and his recruits doing various means of community service.

On April 24, there were 20 volunteers who were ready to start the cleanup process, including eight local residents and 12 U.S. Air Force recruits. It took them two hours to get everything done, but the clean result was well worth it.

"We picked up around two pick-up trucks worth of trash, including tarps, a grill, and other debris. Plus, we had two bags of bottles." Turner said.

Hutzley made an approximate guess as to how much trash that the crew removed from the area.

"My best guess for weight is 2,000 pounds of trash. We pulled over 300 cans and bottles, returning them as well," he said.

The Air Force recruits not only assisted in the cleanup, but also offered to dispose of it all as well. With the kindness from the trainees and the Haven Road community members who got their hands dirty, they can now proudly look out and no longer see trash littered outside their doors.

Hutzley said that the recruits volunteer for events like this often for southern Maine communities and charities, and last month cooked 600 meals in Portland for the homeless and spent time volunteering at the Florence House women's shelter.

"Southern Maine's future airmen will continue to be involved in the community and give back" said Hutzley.

Hopefully, Haven Road will stay clean from trash and debris for a long time. There are no future plans for another event of cleaning up.

However, Turner said that if another cleanup was needed in the future that she was willing to do it again. <

Saint Joseph's College commencement to be livestreamed this year

Erin Olson is the 2021 valedictorian for Saint 
Joseph's College of Maine. She is an elementary
education major with a concentration in
math and special education. SUBMITTED PHOTO
STANDISH – Due to pandemic restrictions and protocols, only graduates and two guests each will be allowed on campus for the 2021 Saint Joseph’s College of Maine Commencement at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 8. The event will be livestreamed for all additional family members, friends and those interested in watching at www.sjcme.edu/academics/graduation.

Each graduate will participate in a “grad walk” across the stage with their two guests present in a special viewing area nearby. All participants and guests will be masked. President James Dlugos and Michael Pardales, vice president and chief learning officer at the college, will be in attendance to greet the graduates as they make their way across the stage.

Commencement speeches will be pre-recorded and posted at the link above on Friday, May 7, including speeches by valedictorian Erin Olson, and Zachary Chase, a speaker representing online students at the college. Honorary doctorates of public service degrees will also be presented to Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, and Gerald Talbot.

A native of Stoughton, Massachusetts, Olson is an elementary education major with a dual concentration in math and special education. She has also been a member of the Saint Joseph’s College volleyball team for four years, a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and vice president of the Student Education Association of Maine.

Throughout her four years at Saint Joseph’s, Erin has participated in many different projects such as Operation Christmas Child, community reading days, and this past fall, Erin student taught in a remote fourth-grade classroom through the RSU 14 Raymond-Windham school district. Her success in that role led to a long-term substitute position as a remote fifth-grade teacher in the same district this spring. 

Following graduation, Erin plans to find an elementary school teaching position and begin working toward earning a master’s degree in child psychology.

Chase is earning a master’s degree in education in addition to serving as an assistant athletic trainer at the college, a role he has held since 2017. Prior to joining the college community, Zachary worked as an athletic trainer at the United Medical Gym as a clinical exercise assistant, evaluating client needs and prescribing medical-based programs.

He is also a certified strength and conditioning coach, and he serves as the assistant strength and conditioning coach to all of the athletes on campus. A member of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, Zachary, who is a native of Old Orchard Beach, currently lives in Biddeford with his wife Haley.

Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, is president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, which includes the continental United States, Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Pacific countries of Guam and the Philippines. She began her career teaching English, journalism, and religious education at the secondary level, which she continued for ten years before taking time off to complete her doctoral studies. 

Following this, she taught pastoral theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1999, Sister Patricia joined the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ leadership team prior to being elected to her current position as president in 2011.

A Bangor native, Gerald Talbot was the first president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP. In 1972, he became the first African American to be elected to the Maine State Legislature. During his three terms, he successfully led the passage of the Maine Fair Housing Bill, the Maine Human Rights Act, sponsored the first gay rights legislation, and fought to change the conditions and treatment of migrant workers.

He was appointed to the Maine State Board of Education in 1980 and became chairman in 1984. In 1995, he donated his vast body of photographs, papers, and material objects to the University of Southern Maine. The Gerald E. Talbot Collection serves as the foundation of the African American Collection of Maine.

In 2020, the Portland City Council unanimously voted to change the name of the Riverton Elementary School to the Gerald E. Talbot Community School in his honor.

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine is the state’s only Catholic college, based on a foundation of faith and academic excellence. For more information about the college, visit www.sjcme.edu. <

Free virtual water treatment facility tour nearing

A free virtual tour of the Sebago Lake Water Treatment Facility
in Standish will be conducted from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday,
May 4 on Zoom. Registration is required. SUBMITTED PHOTO  
National Drinking Water Week is May 2 to May 8 and to celebrate your drinking water, Portland Water District is hosting free virtual tours of the Sebago Lake Water Treatment Facility or exploring the new “Forests Forever for Sebago Lake” virtual Story Map.

The Portland Water District is a century-old company, rich in history and experience. That tradition forms a solid foundation for delivering quality products, while forward thinking provides innovative approaches to combat emerging issues within the industry. It is an independent quasi-municipality, serving nearly 200,000 people – 50,000 customers – in 11 Greater Portland communities. PWD delivers water service to Falmouth, Raymond, Scarborough, South Portland, Standish, and Windham, and provide both water and wastewater service to Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, Gorham, Portland and Westbrook.

The virtual tour of the Sebago Lake Water Treatment Facility runs from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 4 on Zoom. To register, sign up at pwd.org or call 207-774-5961 ext. 3336 by May 3.

During the virtual tour, visitors will learn about the treatment and laboratory processes used to transform Sebago Lake’s water into the high quality, safe drinking water you enjoy at the tap. The tour will include live discussions with PWD staff and is geared toward an adult audience. Registration is required and a Zoom link will be emailed to registrants.

Also in May, starting on Sunday, May 2, visitors to www.pwd.org will be able to explore the district’s “Forever Forests for Sebago Lake project” online.

For more than a decade, PWD has supported the purchase of forested land in the Sebago Lake Watershed. These forests filter your drinking water while also providing other benefits we can all enjoy, like hiking, birding, kayaking, and hunting. Explore conserved properties through the link online to “Forever Forests for Sebago Lake” Story Map!

The Sebago Lake Water Treatment Facility is located on a 10-acre site near the intersection of Route 35 and Route 237 in Standish. This facility began treating water in February 1994 using ozone, a powerful disinfectant that kills potentially harmful microorganisms and is 99.99 percent effective against viruses and Giardia.

Treatment includes screening, ozonation, UV light treatment, chloramination, and corrosion control. Also as a result of a citizen referendum, fluoride is added to the water at the plant to promote dental health.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act was amended in 1986 in response to concerns about drinking water quality throughout the country. The act required that drinking water from all surface water supplies be filtered. PWD applied for and obtained a waiver from this filtration requirement because of the exceptional water quality of Sebago Lake and the district's comprehensive watershed protection program. This saved customers about $20 million to $50 million in capital costs required to construct a filtration plant.

Many other aspects of drinking water quality were addressed by the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments including new standards for disinfection. Disinfection is the destruction of disease which causes organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and Giardia.

The District chose to switch from chlorine to ozone for primary disinfection to meet these requirements. Ozone works in much less time than required with chlorine. Using chlorine alone to meet the new disinfection requirements would have increased the formulation of chlorinated by-products which at high amounts are potential health threats to water consumers.

The Sebago Lake Water Treatment facility was the first free-standing ozonation plant to be built in New England and the first in the country to meet the disinfection requirement of the Surface Water Treatment Rule with ozone alone. A state-of-the-art laboratory is on site and conducts water quality testing for the lake, treatment process, and distribution systems.

A $12-million project to update the ozone disinfection process and install a new UV water treatment system was completed in 2014. This sustainable, forward-thinking process design incorporated a new UV system into the existing plant, allowing the district to receive a $300,000 competitive grant from the Efficiency Maine Trust Competitive Program. As a result of these energy efficient upgrades, an annual electricity cost savings of $150,000 is expected.

During the UV water purification process, water is sent through units equipped with UV lamps. As the water is exposed to the UV light, molecular bonds in the DNA of viruses and bacteria are broken down, rendering the bacteria harmless and unable to reproduce. Chloramines are added in the pipeline after UV treatment to provide long lasting disinfection in the water mains. Other additives are also used to help reduce corrosion. Treated water flows from the clear well into the transmission mains.

To avoid adding ozone pollution to the lower atmosphere, blowers draw air out of the enclosed contact tanks through special equipment which converts any leftover ozone back to oxygen. The "ozone-free" air is then discharged to the atmosphere.

UV disinfection is a purely physical process which is proven to be more effective, reliable and environmentally friendly than chemical disinfection.

Large electrical generators are located at the facility so that pumping and treatment can continue even when the power fails. <

In the public eye: Raymond Fire/Rescue Chief Bruce Tupper

Bruce Tupper started working as
a firefighter and dispatcher in 1981
and has led the Raymond Fire/Rescue
Department as chief since 2011.
 By Briana Bizier

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

Bruce Tupper has every child’s dream job; he’s the Chief of Raymond’s Fire and Rescue Department. However, being a firefighter was not Tupper’s childhood dream. He grew up in Cumberland, where his father was a state trooper.

 “I always swore I wouldn’t be in public safety because the phone would ring at dinner, and he would have to go,” Tupper said. “I was still making up my mind what I wanted to do when a friend of mine said, ‘Hey, let’s go up to the fire station and I’ll buy you dinner.’ So I went in, and it was the most welcoming environment I’d ever been in. I fell in love with it.”

That love has now stretched over four decades and several different towns. Tupper began his public service career with a dispatch position in Yarmouth and as a volunteer, or on-call, position with the Freeport Fire Department. He later moved to the Gray-New Gloucester Fire Department, where he would regularly call the Raymond Fire Chief.

“The chief in Raymond had been calling me for years, asking what I was doing, and he’d always say, ‘do you want to come and work for me?’” Tupper said. “One day I finally said yes.”

 Tupper now heads a department which includes full-time, part-time, and on-call staff. Fighting fires is only a small part of what the Fire and Rescue Department does for the town of Raymond every day. They provide education, review plans for subdivisions and commercial buildings, and run programs like risk mitigation. The department also serves as Raymond’s ambulance service.

“Emergency medical services is a huge part of what we do,” Tupper said.

These services have been especially crucial during the pandemic, as Raymond Fire and Rescue has transported COVID-19 patients to the hospital with the help of their on-call staff.

“We’ve got CFOs or scientists on our on-call staff who come home from their job, and they’re sitting down to dinner, and the call comes in, and out they go,” Tupper said. “They were risking COVID to transport patients.”

All of Tupper’s staff, from the full-time positions to the on-call team, require constant training and re-training.

“We’re always educating our own,” Tupper told me. “That’s a huge piece of what I have to oversee as components and parts of the department. I’m directing the operation, making sure everyone is trained, making sure everyone is equipped, making sure all the equipment is tested."

One of the major shifts Tupper mentioned is the transition to electric vehicles. Unlike a gasoline-powered car, responding to an emergency involving an electric vehicle poses risks like electric shock and exposure to different toxic materials. Another shift involves changes in home structure, design, and furnishings. Fires spread more quickly in modern, open-floor plan houses with features like cathedral ceilings and lightweight, combustible furnishings.

“In my career I’ve relearned how to fight fires,” Tupper said. "It’s not my grandmother’s couch anymore made out of wool and real wood. We’re always learning and changing how we do things.”

This is one reason Tupper urges everyone to err on the side of caution. “If you have it in your mind that you might need the fire department, please call us,” Tupper said. “We’d rather show up and have it be nothing than have a crisis. We can’t un-burn things that have burned if we’re too late.”

It’s also a good time to double check the fire safety of your own home. Please make sure that the numbers on your house are clearly visible from the road and haven’t been overgrown by bushes or trees.

“It’s fairly easy to find the place with smoke billowing out of it,” Tupper said, “but it’s not always easy to find the house with someone lying on the floor. Making sure your house is clearly marked saves time and saves lives.”

Other life-saving devices that may go overlooked are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Today would be a good day to change the batteries in your devices, or to replace them altogether if they are more than 10 years old.

Finally, Tupper urges anyone who is interested in joining the team at Raymond Fire and Rescue to please reach out.

“The on-call department is really an important piece of our department,” he said. “If people have the time and interest, please inquire at the local station. With everything that’s going on in our world today, with the pandemic, violence, and division, we still bring people together for a common goal.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Tupper said. “It really is. When someone’s having their worst day, you can offer them a ray of sunshine.”

Of course, a casual trip to Raymond Fire and Rescue could easily turn into a lifelong love affair.

“People have fallen in love with this,” Tupper said. “That’s how I ended up here. I fell in love with the whole of it.” <

Windham Chamber Singers to perform virtual senior concert in June

The traditional Windham Chamber Singers spring concert
honoring the group's seniors will be presented virtually in
June and will be posted on the Windham Chamber Singers'
You Tube Channel. FILE PHOTO   
By Elizabeth Richards

Every year, The Windham Chamber Singers presents a spring concert honoring the group’s seniors. This unusual school year will carry on that tradition with a virtual concert that will premiere on the Chamber Singers’ You Tube Channel in early June.

Typically, their final concert would have been on Thursday, May 27. Windham High School Director of Choral Music Dr. Richard Nickerson said that because it’s a virtual event, it will be pushed into June to allow for more time to edit the final product.

The 2019-2020 school year also ended with a virtual presentation. That event was a slide show since the choir didn’t have their own recordings. This year, Nickerson said, they’ve become more skilled at working as a virtual choir.

“What’s going to be different than last year’s event is that there’s going to be more actual singing from the choir than what we had to work with before,” Nickerson said.

In addition to meeting outdoors briefly in the fall, the Chamber Singers have been able to rehearse in person together since February. In person rehearsals came with many restrictions that pose challenges, including wearing masks and only being allowed to be in the room for 30 minutes before needing to vacate to allow the air to recirculate.  

Nickerson said he hopes this is the last time they’ll have to put on a concert virtually.

“I have learned a lot, but it’s not my chosen skill set,” Nickerson said. “That human interaction piece is so huge. And even when we get the kids together, they have to stay so spaced out that there’s this antiseptic quality to it.”

Still, keeping students involved in whatever way possible is important, Nickerson said. And having an activity that is a large part of the student’s lives taken away is of great concern.

For many students, the members of the choir are also their core group of friends. Being unable to see those friends has an incredible impact on mental health, Nickerson said.

“The first time we got together, I don’t really remember what it sounded like. I don’t think it was anything that would give you the goosebumps,” he said. “But what would give you the goosebumps was seeing their faces light up when they saw each other.”

While activities of the Chamber Singers are greatly reduced this year and they’re unable to be present in the community in traditional ways, Nickerson said he’s thrilled to be able to say they’re still out there.

“Most of what we are doing is for us, to keep the group going, keep those connections going, and keep them involved,” he said.

Nickerson is worried about the long term impact pandemic restrictions have. Music programs are elective and rely heavily on feeder programs in the younger grades which this year have not existed, he said.

“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that when kids that age drop out of something, they very seldom go back. That’s not just music, that’s true with everything – so we’re going to have to be extra vigilant in our recruitment efforts,” he said.

According to Nickerson, he is cautiously planning for what next year might look like, he said.

“When things finally open up, whatever that means, we really want to do something big, that will involve travel,” he said. While he doesn’t know where or how, he said, “We’re cautiously optimistic that things might look a little more normal next year.”

Nickerson has booked the American Family Holiday concert for the first Saturday in December as usual.

“Whether that’s going to happen and what it’s going to look like is out of my hands. I really hope it’s going to look like it has in the past, but if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me it’s not to take anything for granted,” he said.

One thing the group has done this year is to expand the use of their You Tube channel. A large library of old videos, some dating back as far as 30 years, is being consistently added to the channel for the community to enjoy.

Details of the spring virtual event will be posted on www.windhamchambersingers.com when available. A link to the You Tube channel is also available on the website. <

April 23, 2021

Age-Friendly Windham’s website is live; one step toward providing resources for town’s older citizens

By Lorraine Glowczak

In December 2018, The Windham Town Council opted to become an official AARP Age-Friendly Community. They voted to be among the other 65 municipalities in Maine after a presentation on the subject by Deb McAfee and Marge Govoni, members of the Town’s Human Services Advisory Committee (HSAC).

Being a part of the AARP Age-Friendly Community network simply means that the town will agree to help promote the areas’ health and economic growth. An age-friendly community also provides opportunity for individuals to age in place, making sure services are available so one can remain in their home, independently, as long as possible. And just as imperative, to provide a rich intergenerational experience for all residents.

Following the town’s approval to move forward on this initiative, the HSAC created an Age-Friendly Taskforce of interested volunteers. The taskforce applied for an AARP mini-grant to pay for the costs associated with a town-wide survey and meetings to assess the community’s needs and wants.

“From that survey, we discovered there were eight areas of major concern,” said McAfee, Chair of the Age-Friendly Windham Taskforce. “One of the most important things we learned is the need for a central location to find information for those who are elderly and those who are caregivers. We discovered there was a lack of support and resources for all involved. That is the reason why we have created the website as our first step toward all eight areas of concern.”

According to their new website, www.agefriendlywindham.org, the organization’s mission is to:  “Partner with local and regional organizations and volunteer groups, to increase services and programs that make it possible for residents of all ages and abilities to live and thrive in Windham.”

Now that the Age-Friendly Windham Taskforce has established and implemented the communication and information resources through the newly created website, the other areas of concern and focus that will be addressed are as follows:

** Civic Participation and Inclusion. “It would be great to have a monthly meeting at the high school or town hall during daylight hours where seniors can voice concerns, learn more about programs available and ask questions and provide feedback on what we think needs to improve,” as stated by a survey participant.

** Community Support and Health Resources. “My greatest concern as I age is whether our communities will have the health care providers for in home and assisted care facilities,” was another statement shared by a survey participant.

** Outdoor Spaces and Buildings. “Windham is not walking or biking friendly. Route 302 is a death trap and traffic lights cause a lot of unnecessary congestion.”

** Respect and Social Inclusion. “[Implement] ways to engage the elderly and youth in social programs, learning respect from each other.”

** Social Participation. “[There is a] lack of daytime cultural stimulation, programs and meetings for people who cannot drive at night but could in daylight.”

** Transportation. “My main concern is access to transportation once my husband and I are unable to drive, common pick up locations are not suitable for seniors who live away from the business district of Windham…”

** Housing. “ Windham needs more affordable housing for senior citizens. The planning board continues to approve subdivisions, but most are not one level housing.”

“Housing and transportation are the two most challenging issues we will face as a taskforce,” McAfee said. “But there is good news. What’s really exciting is the town council recently approved to earmark federal assistance, established by Rep. Chellie Pingree, to construct affordable senior housing at the former Andrews School site in South Windham. Hopefully, there will also be some neighborhood amenities and infrastructure that will be included such as the arts, recreation and small food/coffee markets in the area. Not only will that be a step in the direction of rectifying the transportation/housing issue but will also help to increase Windham’s economy and beautify the South Windham community.” 

McAfee also pointed out that the Windham Parks and Recreation Department offers transportation to and from shopping for those who are unable to drive or do not have another source of transport.

 "Those living in the proposed senior housing will have access to this form of transportation as well as living within walking distance to coffee shops, cultural centers and food markets. This will be a step in the direction of rectifying the concerns surrounding both housing and transportation,” she said.

In a previous interview, Govini said that 40 percent of Windham’s residents are age 50 and over.

“We have received feedback that many individuals in this age bracket are feeling misplaced and Windham is not a home for them. It is our goal to change that,” she said in 2019.

Fast forward to 2021 and Age-Friendly Windham is well on its way to address the concerns of the town’s older citizens, making Windham a place that feels like home. And as Govoni also stated, older citizens are not the only ones being affected in a positive way by this age-friendly initiative.

As far as the other 60 percent of Windham residents who are less than 50 years old, Govoni offers this reminder, “We all end up in this age bracket eventually, so it is wise to be involved in this effort as much as possible. It is your future you are preparing for.”

For more information about Age-Friendly Windham, check out the website or call 207-892-4649. <

Donation supports group connecting students with Maine businesses

Lanet Anthony, left, RSU 14's Director of Community 
Connections, accepts a donation of $500 from Diana Doiron,
Life and Career Ready Specialist at the Maine Department
of Education and Cary Olson Cartwright, Assistant
Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility at UNUM
to help Windham and Raymond students explore
non-traditional learning experiences. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Elizabeth Richards

As the Director of Community Connections for RSU 14, Lanet Anthony helps students explore non-traditional learning experiences.  The Maine Community Coordinators Collaborative (Maine C3) connects Anthony with others in similar roles so she can do her job more effectively.

Diana Doiron, Life and Career Ready Specialist at the Maine Department of Education recently received a donation of $500 from UNUM due to participation in the Education Leaders Experience through Educate Maine. 

This year-long program, Anthony said, brings superintendents, principals, and other education leaders from across the state together to learn about local business economies, such as lobstering, ship building, broccoli farming and more. 

The goal, Anthony said, is to connect school leaders with commerce and careers available right here in Maine.

UNUM donated $500 to each participant to use in their schools.  Because Doiron does not work for a school district, she chose to donate the money to a group she was connected to that works within schools, “and that’s C3,” Anthony said. 

“The Maine Community Coordinators Collaborative’s (Maine C3) entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to ensuring every student in Maine has access to career exploration is clearly evident in the scope of the statewide ME Virtual Career Fair that Maine C3 is hosting in partnership with ACTEM and Educate Maine,” Doiron said. “This kind of commitment aligns well with the mission of both the Educator Leaders Experience and the intent behind the charitable gift from Cary Olson Cartwright, Assistant VP, Corporate Social Responsibility at UNUM.”

Members of Maine C3 are working in school districts with students participating in Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO). 

“Anything that has students learning outside of the classroom or brings experiences outside of the traditional classroom into the schools is what people in these roles are doing,” Anthony said.

In RSU 14, Anthony said, she brings speakers to schools, brings students to visit businesses, and creates individualized courses, among other things. 

“There’s people in similar roles all over the state. Most of us are the only person in our role in the district. C3 is a chance for a bunch of people who have similar roles to get together and learn from each other,” she said. The group offers professional development opportunities, conversations about what is and isn’t working, and shares a wealth of resources.  For instance, the group can be very helpful, Anthony said, in finding a connection for students with highly specific interests.

While positions like hers are not standard for districts across the state, Anthony said, they’re growing exponentially right now.

“I expect the number of schools with an ELO coordinator or something like my position will grow significantly in the next year.” 

The donation will be used to either fund scholarships for the Maine Virtual Career Fair that Maine C3 is hosting in partnership with ACTEM and Educate Maine to help schools who can’t afford the small fee, or to fund professional development activities.

Anthony said that people in ELO roles are eager to connect with anyone interested in being involved in the schools.  “Anyone who wants to be engaged, we would love to hear from them,” she said. <


New projects under way to upgrade Tassel Top Park in Raymond

The old wooden changing rooms and the Port-A-Potties behind
the Snack Shack are now gone at Tassel Top Park in Raymond,
and have been replaced with a large, open field space. Raymond
Recreation officials say that the new field will serve as a picnic
area and an event space and eventually  maybe even a new
playground for the park. PHOTO BY BRIANA BIZIER
By Briana Bizier

If the recent warmer temperatures and longer days have you making plans for the summer, you’re not alone. In Raymond, a team of committed town employees are working hard to bring exciting changes and upgrades to the beloved beach and rental cabin at Tassel Top.

Tassel Top Park, located just off Route 302, includes 35 acres of woodland, a meandering one-mile walking trail, and 900 feet of beautiful, sandy beach along Sebago Lake with a large swimming area as well as picnic tables and outdoor grills. The entire property is part of the Land for Maine’s Future program, which seeks to preserve public lands for generations to come. Tassel Top Park, which offers discounted day passes and season passes to Raymond residents, is beloved both in Raymond and beyond. However, that enduring popularity can bring challenges.

“Even before COVID, the beach was very crowded,” said Joseph Crocker, Raymond’s Recreation Director. “There was no overflow area for kids to play or to eat after visiting the snack shack,” he finished.

This spring, Crocker and his team have overseen several new construction projects to alleviate those problems. The old wooden changing rooms and the Port-A-Potties behind the Snack Shack are gone, and they have been replaced with a large, open field space. This new field will serve as a picnic area and an event space. Hopefully, once the building permits are approved, this field will also be home to a new playground. “That’s the big one I’m still waiting on,” Crocker said.

This playground has been several years in the making. Teresa Sadak, a member of Raymond’s Board of Selectmen, said that Raymond has had a large climbing playground for several years. That equipment’s location, however, was never finalized. It was originally intended for the park on Mill Street, but that location presented several muddy challenges.

“Nathan White and I felt it wasn’t practical to put a new playground unit back in the corner of Mill Street if it was going to be swampy there most of the year,” Sadak said.

Now, that playground unit will hopefully find a permanent home at Tassel Top.

“It was a blessing in disguise that we stalled the project to put the playground equipment up,” Crocker told me. “Now, we think patrons using the Tassel Top area will love having a place to go that isn’t on the beach.”

The new field will also help to relieve some of the complications brought about by COVID-imposed occupancy limits at Tassel Top. Last summer, state safety regulations required park staff to limit the number of patrons allowed on the beach. Unfortunately, these new restrictions led to some beachgoers being turned away at the gates after all the spots on the beach had been filled. At the moment, Crocker explained, Tassel Top is planning to operate the same way this coming summer. With the extra space in the newly constructed field, however, Tassel Top will be able to admit more visitors each day.

While the old changing rooms and bright blue Port-A-Potties are gone, Crocker assured me that park patrons will still have clean, comfortable changing and restroom options at Tassel Top. Last year, visitors to the beach were able to use a sleek metallic restroom trailer as an alternative to the occasionally fragrant Port-A-Potties. This year, Tassel Top will have two top-of-the-line restroom trailers with flushing toilets and air conditioning.

“People won’t want to leave them,” Crocker said.

The new field isn’t the only part of Tassel Top receiving an upgrade this spring. “We’re looking at lunch and dinner options at the Snack Shack,” Crocker told me. The Snack Shack just added a hot dog cooker, and The Beacon has offered the use of a pizza warmer.

“We’ll order pizzas to offer for lunch and dinner,” Crocker said.

Several Raymond residents got a sneak peek at Tassel Top’s changes over Easter weekend when the Town of Raymond hosted an Easter egg hunt on the sandy beach. About 25 families participated in the egg hunts, which were offered at three different times to allow for safe social distancing. The Easter egg hunt on the shore of Sebago Lake was the first of what Crocker, and area children hope will become an annual tradition.

Another tradition in the making is Tassel Top’s partnership with Be The Influence, a Windham and Raymond community coalition committed to keeping youth healthy. Last year, Be The Influence hosted a Family Fun and Fitness Night at Tassel Top that featured resources for staying healthy, a scavenger hunt, and an outdoor showing of the perennial classic The Princess Bride on Tassel Top’s outdoor movie screen.

This year, Be The Influence’s Family Fun and Fitness night at Tassel Top will take place on August 26. The festivities will include vendors, games, and other healthy activities. Also, because the event is taking place in August instead of October, the outdoor movie showing should be significantly less chilly.

“I’m planning to do some additional movie nights in the park as well,” Crocker said, “but I’m waiting on the Maine CDC’s capacity limits before announcing any plans.”

With all these additions and upcoming events, it might prove difficult for visitors to actually leave the park. If a day trip to Tassel Top just isn’t enough, beachgoers will be glad to know that the rental cabin is also receiving an upgrade.

“Our facilities maintenance manager for Tassel Top, Barry Alden, has been pivotal in improving the park, making it more functional, and giving it a state park feel. He’s also completely upgraded and redecorated the cabin,” Crocker said. “It’s going to be a complete transformation.” The Tassel Top cabin is available for weekly rentals throughout the summer, and available dates can be found on the Town of Raymond’s website.

Finally, for those visitors who have truly fallen in love with the towering white pines and golden, sandy beach at Tassel Top, Crocker told me that there is another event the park will be offering this coming summer. “We’ve gotten approval to host weddings,” he said.

More information about Tassel Top park can be found on the Town of Raymond’s webpage at

https://www.raymondmaine.org/ or on Tassle Top’s Facebook page @TasselTopPark. <

Diamond introduces bill to honor fallen Maine troopers

AUGUSTA – Last week Senator Bill Diamond, a Democrat from Windham, introduced a bill to honor fallen Maine State Troopers by dedicating a mile of Interstate 95 to troopers who die in the line of duty.

LD 537, “An Act To Dedicate Sections of Maine's Interstate Highway System to Fallen State Troopers,” was the subject of a public hearing in front of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. 

The Maine State Police was first formed 100 years ago, and since then we have tragically lost 12 Maine Troopers in the line of duty,” said Diamond. “Dying in the line of duty, selflessly giving their utmost to protect the rest of us, deserves our unbridled appreciation and acknowledgement. Losing a loved one is always heart-wrenching to family, friends and colleagues, but the added grief of having a life taken suddenly in a violent way is even more devastating. We owe these troopers our gratitude, and we’re obliged to remember them in a way that distinguishes their service.”

LD 537 would dedicate one mile of Interstate 95 to each of the 12 Maine State Troopers who have died in the line of duty, and to each trooper who dies in the line of duty moving forward.

As currently drafted, the bill would require markers to be placed on the northbound and southbound lanes of the one-mile stretch as near as possible to the site of the trooper’s death.

Future amendments to the bill may be required to align the bill’s intention with federal regulations for signage on interstates.

The bill is co-sponsored by a group of bipartisan legislators, including retired state trooper Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville. The bill is supported by the Maine State Police, the Maine State Troopers Association, the Maine Retired Troopers Association and the Department of Public Safety. Several family members of Maine State Troopers who died in the line of duty also submitted testimony in support of the bill.

Among them was the Rev. Dr. Kate Braestrup, Chaplain to the Maine Warden Service and widow of Trooper James Andrew “Drew” Griffith, who died in the line of duty in 1996.

“My husband’s name is among those that would be memorialized if this proposed measure is enacted, and it was my privilege to have been acquainted with several others, and to have come to know their families,” wrote Braestrup. “Maine’s troopers, motivated by love, continue to serve. The citizens of Maine can recognize and, in some small way, reciprocate and honor that love, by acknowledging the very real risks of such service, and in honoring the fallen, affirm their support for the living.”

LD 537 faces further action in committee. <

April 16, 2021

In the public eye: Windham’s Planning Director Amanda Lessard values community input, open communication

Amanda Lessard has worked in planning for 12 years, including
five years as a planner for Windham before becoming the town's
Planning Director two years ago. COURTESY PHOTO
By Elizabeth Richards

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

The varied nature of her position is what Amanda Lessard, Planning Director for the Town of Windham, likes most.  “Essentially, the planning department is working to help the community address issues and priorities,” she said, including both short and long term goals.

In addition to reviewing subdivision plans and commercial building to determine what’s best for the community in the short term, she said, the department works on the long range vision for what the community wants to be in 10 or 20 years.  “Windham is a fast-growing community, and the Greater Portland area has lots of things happening related to that growth,” Lessard said.  The planning department is working on some large projects, such as transportation and wastewater in North Windham, to help guide where growth will happen and how it will be managed, she said.

Last year, Lessard said, the department focused on the open space plan. “We recognized that being able to conserve and preserve some of these rural parts of Windham that are important to people are something that we need to clearly identify and articulate what the community wants to see happen,” she said.  The council adopted the open space plan in February, and a committee is now working on implementation.

In the next year, Lessard said, the department will work with the Town of Gorham on a master plan for the South Windham/Little Falls Village to bring more focus on what the future of that area of Windham will look like.

She said the numerous decisions and viewpoints on how to use the land in Windham – including environmental science, community, and economic viability and impact – are of great interest to her.  “When you start talking to people about it, people really care about how the land is being conserved,” she said.

Lessard came to community planning after working for the Maine Department of Transportation. With an undergraduate degree in geography, she said, “I always studied that intersection of people and the environment.”  Her specialty in GIS mapping led to her first job at the DOT. While working there, she had an opportunity to take community planning classes at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, which sparked her interest in working at a municipal level, she said. She’s worked in planning for 12 years, including five years as a planner in Windham before becoming the Planning Director two years ago.

The planning department is constantly striving to find better ways to communicate issues and encourage discussion, Lessard said.  While this past year has been difficult for interactive processes, they’ve tried to move forward and find ways to keep engagement up.  Open communication between members of the community is important to her, she said, so that people understand what is really happening in town government.

A mapping function has been added to the planning department’s web page, Lessard said, to show where projects are under review. This is just one more resource to let people know what’s happening in the town.  Often, she said, people don’t know about a project until construction begins. They speak up when they see new construction or are immediately impacted by proposed development near them, she said.

“I think it is in everyone’s best interest to be able to have residents be able to understand what the process is and how to participate in a meaningful way to shape what a development will look like,” Lessard said.  This includes engagement in the big picture topics as well as site specific development, she said.  

As the planning director, Lessard said, she helps articulate what she hears from the public and a planning perspective to the town council.  In order to do so, feedback is essential.  “I want people to feel like they can call the office and talk to a person about what their concerns are about what’s happening. There’s a lot happening in Windham but we’re very accessible to talk about what’s going on,” she said. “I certainly appreciate feedback on how we can be more accessible.”

Lessard lives in Westbrook with her husband and son.  When not at work, she said she enjoys spending time at their family camp on an island. She and her family also kayak often, as well as participating in other forms of outdoor recreation.  Her professional and personal interests led to her becoming a volunteer water steward with the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. <

Riding To The Top celebrates volunteer contributions

Trish and David Vaughn have been honored
as Barn Volunteers of the Year by the Riding
To The Top organization. 
The pandemic and associated restrictions did not stop volunteers from contributing time and talent to Riding To The Top in 2020. Despite being closed for nearly four months and needing to modify lessons once the farm was able to re-open, volunteers still collectively donated more than 5,500 hours of service in 2020.

Volunteers at RTT worked in the barn, in lessons with clients, exercised horses, repaired and maintained the facilities and trails. Volunteers also served on the Board of Directors. RTT is celebrating the significant impact their volunteers make on the organization during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 18 to April 24.

“RTT is fortunate to have many committed and passionate volunteers,” said RTT Executive Director Sarah Bronson. “We truly would not be where we are today without the hearts and hands of so many individuals who are at the farm each and every day. In our eyes, all of our volunteers are our heroes, but each year we recognize volunteers in certain categories.”

Bronson said that this year’s RTT recognizes the following individuals:

Pat Niboli (Volunteer of the Year); Maddie Hurley (Youth Volunteer of the Year); Janis Childs (Administrative Volunteer of the Year); Sue Smith (Rookie of the Year); Trish and David Vaughn (Barn Volunteers of the Year); and Lisa Fink (Volunteer Schooler Award).

She said that RTT also recognizes the following individuals and organizations for outstanding volunteer contributions:

• IATSE Local 114 – Maine

• Elizabeth Holmstrom of Mindful Employer

• The Platz Family

“We missed our volunteer picnic last year but hope to have an outdoor gathering later this summer,” said RTT’s Volunteer Coordinator Nick Doria. “Meanwhile RTT plans to post thank you signs and distribute goodies to show their appreciation of its volunteers. This year a number of RTT volunteers will receive Presidential Service Awards and will be recognized on the Maine “Roll of Honor.”

Since 2003, the President’s Volunteer Service Award has recognized the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. This award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities and inspires those around them to take action, too. The PVSA has continued under each administration, honoring the volunteers who are using their time and talents to solve some of the toughest challenges facing our nation.

This year 13 RTT volunteers received The President’s Volunteer Service Award:

Bronze Level Awardees

(Adult 100-249 hours/Young Adult 100-174 hours)

Clayton Peters

Diane Powers

Elizabeth Wood

Fran Maxwell

Maureen Mathieu

Stacie Hamilton Waldron

Silver Level Awardees

(250 to 499 hours/Young Adult 175-249 hours):

David Vaughn

Trish Vaughn

Janis Childs

Patty Shaw

Gold Level Awardees

(500 or more hours/Young Adult 250 or more hours:

Dan Morabito

Lina Jordan

Pat Niboli

Lifetime Award

(4,000 or more hours)

Pat Niboli

The Maine Governor's Awards for Service and Volunteerism celebrates and recognizes the role of citizen volunteers in the success and vitality of Maine communities. At the same time, the awards seek to inspire others to be active in civic life and follow in the footsteps of those recognized.

This year, six RTT volunteers made the Maine Honor Roll:

Adult Roll of Honor

Dan Morabito

Pat Niboli

David Vaughn

Trish Vaughn

Youth Roll of Honor

Maddie Hurley

Lina Jordan

Founded in 1993, Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center’s (RTT) mission is enhancing health and wellness through equine-assisted services.

RTT is a PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International). Located in Windham, RTT is the state’s only year-round PATH International Premier Accredited Center solely dedicated to serving people with disabilities through equine-assisted services.

It is a community-based nonprofit, receives no federal or state funding and provides scholarships to over 60 percent of its clients. Currently visitors at the farm are limited due to COVID.

For more information about client services, volunteering, or making a gift, please visit us at www.ridingtothetop.org or call 892-2813. <

Spring clean-up disposal site opens Saturday in Windham

Windham's bi-annual lead and brush disposal service area opens
at the end of Enterprise Drive in North Windham at 7 a.m. and
runs through May 9. COURTESY PHOTO
By Daniel Gray

With the snow melted, it's time to work on our yards. That means Windham residents have access to dispose of brush while getting spring yard work done.


Starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 17, the bi-annual leaf and brush disposal services are offered to any Windham resident who needs to get rid of spring clean-up of brush, leaves and grass from their yards. The location for the drop-off is the end of Enterprise Drive in North Windham. 

To use the service, load up your vehicle and go behind the self-storage units. It's open 24/7 to residents and will be open for three weeks, closing at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 9.

There are no requirements other than leaving with bags or containers used along with not dumping inorganic materials such as trash. Leaves, grass clippings, branches, stumps, etc. are allowed. However, any brush must be less than a 12 inch diameter.

While Windham's Public Works department once handled both spring and fall brush disposal services, the recent expansion of their headquarters required the help from R.J Grondin and Sons, a family-owned construction company.

Larry Grondin, vice president of Grondin and Sons, said that it was a "good fit" in regards to offering a hand helping out with brush disposal for the town.

"After we helped with Public Works' new building, the initial plan was to just help out while construction was taking place,” he said. “Though we settled on us taking over with the brush disposal entirely since they no longer had the room for it. It's worked out so far for us both and we like working with them."

Doug Fortier, Windham’s Public Works Director, recalls the history behind the brush disposal services.

"We had been doing it for around 20 years," Fortier said. "And it all started when around this time people would start fires to get rid of their branches and leaves. This would affect residents with breathing problems, so then the Public Works Department took it over to make everyone happy."

All materials gathered during the spring and fall brush seasons are given new life through Grondin and Sons.

Instead of burning them like residents in the past once would, Grondin and Sons instead repurposes the organic materials. The leaves are composted, and wood-based materials go toward creating heating materials. 

It's great knowing that Grondin uses the materials gathered instead of having it all go to a waste facility. The plant life gains a new purpose, and it allows residents to clean their own yards.

According to Grondin, they get around 400 to 500 yards in cubic feet in disposed brush and leaves. “It is amazing how much shows up after three weeks," he said.

According to Grondin, it's hard to fully analyze how much is gathered each year, but it's noted that it's at least a few dump trucks full to give people some perspective on the size of seasonal drop-offs from Windham.

On weekdays, there will be at least one person tending to the piles and turning the leaves when needed. Workers also stop by on weekends to maintain piles and to keep the service open.

All residents need to do to use the service is to unload their brush and place it within the correct piles.

If you're cleaning out small trees or need a place to get rid of your lawn clippings, stop by the brush disposal anytime, Grondin said.

He said to be sure to double check and make sure that anything you would like to drop off meets the few requirements asked by the Public Works Department.


For any further information regarding this season’s brush disposal, contact the Public Works department by calling 207-892-1909 or visit their website at www.windhammaine.us. <