January 28, 2022

MDOT’s three-year plan reveals funding for local projects

Funding of $1.45 million from the Maine Department of
Transportation will pay for the installation of adaptive traffic
signals along the Route 302 corridor in Windham to alleviate
traffic congestion like this at the intersection of Route 302
and Route 115 at noontime earlier this month.
By Ed Pierce

The highly awaited update to the Maine Department of Transportation’s Three-Year Plan shows significant funding for road and highways safety improvements in Windham and Raymond for 2022 and extending through 2024.

According to state officials, the estimated overall value of work in the statewide plan totals $3.17 billion and includes more than 2,316 individual work items. This represents a substantial increase from last year for planned highway projects because of an increase in anticipated federal funding.

State Highway Fund revenue sources are derived from state per-gallon fuel fees and motor vehicle fees. In this new Three-Year Plan, that equates to an estimated $882 million and represents about 28 percent of the total value of MDOT Work Plan items. Article IX, Section 19 of the Maine Constitution requires that Highway Fund revenues be used for specific highway- and bridge-related activities and other road maintenance such as snow removal.

MDOT Commissioner Bruce A. Van Note said that approval of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in 2021 by Congress and the president has boosted funding for Maine’s highways.

“In short, once funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill begins to flow, it will be good for transportation in Maine and could be very good depending upon the rules and policies related to competitive discretionary grants, but it is not a panacea,” Van Note said. “MaineDOT is cautiously optimistic that with the continued help of our federal delegation, grant funding can allow us to make meaningful investments in our iconic New England villages, connecting corridors, modal options that support the people who need them, active transportation, and initiatives that support jobs and the environment including port investments to support a clean energy future.”

Van Note said MDOT is appreciative that increases in funding will benefit Maine’s highways and bridges. 

"Action at the federal, state, and local levels may mean that we may soon be able to transition from 'MacGyver' mode toward a more proactive approach," he said. “It's too early to tell; we need to know more about goals that affect the scope of our work, construction costs, and the extent and sustainability of new funding. Still, for the first time in many years, it feels like we can begin to consider moving from reactive patching to proactive planning."

For Windham in 2022, new projects funded by MDOT include:

** $450,000 for construction of a new off-road bicycle and pedestrian path running from Bridge Street in Westbrook to the Route 202 crossing in Windham.

** $1.45 million for the installation of adaptive traffic signals along Route 302 beginning at Route 115 and extending northwest 1.14 miles to Trails End Road.

** $525,000 for creation of a new bicycle/pedestrian on-road sidewalk with safety improvements on Route 202 from Depot Street north 0.23 of a mile extending to the Mountain Division trail crossing.

For 2023 and 2024, Windham projects funded in the Three-Year Plan are:

** $1.5 million for replacing Varney’s Bridge over the Pleasant River on William Knight Road.

** $3.1 million for construction of a new sidewalk on the west side of Route 302 from Shaw’s Access Drive extending 0.48 of a mile north to Amato Drive.

** $156,000 for making highway safety improvements to the Route 302 and Albion Road intersection.

** $85,000 for repaving and rehabilitation of the Route 302 and Route 202 roundabout.

For 2022 in Raymond, MDOT has funded an $850,000 project under the Municipal Partnership Initiative Program for highway rehabilitation from Main Street extending north 0.45 of a mile to Route 121.

For 2023 and 2024 in Raymond, funding of $37,000 and $124,000 has been designated for making capital improvements to the Frye Island ferry service between Raymond and Frye Island. <  

Lightning speed propels Cub Scouts to Pinewood Derby victories

Scouts Henry Bernard, left, and his brother,
Leo Bernard, show off cars while competing
in Windham Cub Scout Pack 805's Pinewood
Derby races at Windham Middle School
By Collette Hayes

Amid cheers and shouts by family and friends, members of Windham’s Cub Scout Pack 805 showed they had what it takes to earn the checkered flag during the annual Pinewood Derby races at Windham Middle School on Saturday.

As Cub Master Casey Melanson called racers to the track from among a large crowd that included 43 Cub Scouts, racers made their way to the competition, four at a time. With unbridled enthusiasm the scouts hopped up on a makeshift milk crate serving as a step, and with meticulous care and concentration, they placed their cars side by side on the track.

A starting lever was flipped and with smooth precision, miniature cars made from blocks of fabricated pinewood and powered by inertia and gravity only, raced down an inclined track to the finish line. At the end of the day, Cub Scouts who built the fastest and best-looking cars took home bragging rights, trophies and a chance to move on to the Cub Scouts District Pinewood Derby competition.

The Pinewood Derby is a traditional scouting event where each Cub Scout is given a block of pinewood and with an adult’s help, are challenged to design and construct a car that will be the fastest while meeting certain specified requirements.

According to Fourth Grade Webelo Scout Henry Bernard, building a Pinewood Derby car is fun but a lot of hard work.

Keeping cars within the required guidelines for weight, height, and length, some Cub Scouts can spend weeks designing, carving and painting a simple block of pine along with trying to develop a basic understanding of physics.

A Pinewood Derby car is a rare case in racing where aerodynamics have little effect in the race, but weight does make a significant difference. Therefore, heavy equals fast.

“First you have to think of an idea of what you want your car to look like,” said Bernard. “When you have your idea, you cut the wood with a jigsaw making it into a wedge, sand it down, paint it and put stickers on it. We put graphite on the axles to make the wheels spin faster. Another thing we did is to chisel out a little rectangle on the bottom of the car and put in a lead weight. Weight makes the car go faster but you have to be careful because the car can’t weigh more than 5 ounces.”

Cub Scouts repeated the Scout Law and Scout Oath at the beginning of the Pinewood Derby and were encouraged to keep both as the center focus of the competitive derby learning experience.

"Winners are based on time,” said Melanson.

She said that the top five winners advance to the Casco Bay District Pinewood Derby competition.

Scouts earn bragging rights as well as trophies, but they also gain an understanding of good sportsmanship, being supportive of each other and in all circumstances striving to do their best.

The Windham Pinewood Derby contained something for everyone involved. Parents, siblings and Boy Scouts from Troop 805 were invited to build a derby car and to earn awards as they competed in their own division in this year’s local competition.

Results of this year’s racing:

Pack 805 Pinewood Derby Winners

1st Place – Calvin Conant – Bear, 3rd - 191.28

2nd Place – Kaleb Spencer – Arrow of Light, 5th – 190.70

3rd Place – Eli Souther – Webelos, 4th – 187.89

4th Place - Colin Erde – Webelos, 4th – 187.87

5th Place – Brad Jorgensen- Bears, 3rd – 187.17

Calvin Conant set a track record at 192.42.

Best in Show

Evan Moulton, Lions, K

Oliver Wertanen, Tigers, 1st

Leo Bernard, Wolves, 2nd

Joseph McArdle, Bears, 3rd

Henry Bernard, Webelos, 4th

Byron Davis, Arrow of Light, 5th

Overall Best in Show

Cameron Beckwith, Bears

Parent, Sibling, Boy Scout Troop 805 Race Winners

Parent Race Winner was Tim Melanson, 188.16

Sibling Race Winner was Benjamin Conant, 187.94

Boy Scout Troop 805 Race Winner was Matthew Melanson, 190.07 <

Ice fishing open house and 'Learn To' event nearing

What: A “no cost” opportunity to learn all about ice fishing— how to dress, the equipment used, the techniques employed, the various baits, how and where to drill holes, etc. Everything you need to know and have to have a great time on the ice! Plus, some games to keep the little people engaged. 

Where: On the ice of Long Lake directly off Kent’s Landing, Naples. Look for the Veterans’ Ice Hut with the American flag.

When: Sunday, Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the event of bad weather, the event will be held Feb. 13.

Who: Naples Recreation Department—Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association and the American Legion Posts 148 and 155 are hosting the event.

Where do I park? Parking free of charge in either the Kent’s Landing parking lot or down off the boat ramp to the left on the beach where the snow has been plowed.

What should I bring? Dress warmly with good snow boots. Ice grippers with aggressive cleats recommended. Good gloves and hats and a scarf for wind. If you own your own ice fishing gear, feel free to bring it or you can use ours. A lawn or camping chair if you dislike standing for longer periods. This event is designed for folks new to the sport, but veteran fishermen and women are welcomed, particularly kids and veterans. Warming hut available; fire rings outside hut.

What’s to eat? We will be serving Hot Tea and Coffee, Hot Chocolate and donuts from the Village Donut Shop and Bakery from 9-noon; then Hot Dogs and Buns, condiments, bags of assorted chips, hot baked beans, corn chowder, soda and water, homemade cookies, brownies, and a sheet cake.

What will it cost me?  Nothing!  Donations will be gratefully accepted.

Who do I call for more information? Bob Chapin at 571-217-1700 or 207--655-1028. < 

Diamond introduces bill to prioritize prosecution of child murders

Bill Diamond

AUGUSTA – Senator Bill Diamond, D-Windham, has introduced a bill to prioritize the prosecution of child murders in order to help expose flaws in Maine’s child welfare system.

Diamond’s LD 1857, “An Act To Prioritize the Prosecution of Child Murder Cases,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

“Last year was a brutal reminder of the problem of child abuse in Maine, with so much senseless tragedy,” said Diamond. “Not only do we have a serious problem of children being murdered, but these problems are compounded by delays in scheduling trials. Most of the facts surrounding the death of a child, especially those who were under state supervision at the time of their deaths, are confidential in nature and not revealed to the public, media and legislators until the cases go to trial. Bringing this information to light as quickly as possible, while preserving the rights of the accused to a fair and speedy trial, is essential to improving the system and protecting Maine kids.”

LD 1857 would require Maine’s Attorney General to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of murder cases where the victim is younger than 18 years old and would require the Attorney General to formally request that the courts give priority in scheduling those cases. He introduced LD 1857 after learning that, because of a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, last June’s child death cases would take longer to go to trial than they typically would, thus delaying the revelation of critical information in these cases.

A longtime advocate for reform in Maine’s child welfare system, Diamond highlighted key pieces of information that have been brought to light only when past child murder cases have gone to trial.

For example, the trial in the death of 10-week-old Ethan Henderson, who was killed by his father in May 2012, revealed the failures of mandated reporters to report Ethan’s injuries to the authorities.

The trial also revealed that DHHS caseworkers were in Ethan’s home to conduct a welfare check on him just days before his death but failed to follow through because Ethan was sleeping. Making failures such as these known has been critical as the Maine Legislature seeks to improve Maine’s child welfare system.

LD 1857 now faces further action in committee. <

January 21, 2022

Windham, RSU 14 agree to create new playing fields at Manchester School

An architect's design proposal is shown for the creation of
new playing fields at Manchester School. The Town of
Windham has formally entered into an agreement with RSU 14
for the project and expects to have work completed by fall 2023.
By Ed Pierce

If all goes according to plan, athletes could soon be using new playing fields about to be created near Manchester School in Windham. 

During a Windham Town Council meeting on Jan. 11, councilors unanimously voted to enter into an agreement with RSU 14 for the project, which also was approved by voters during the annual Windham Town Meeting last June. The RSU 14 Board of Directors have also voted to approve the agreement.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said that the total cost of the project is estimated at $1.35 million, to be funded through a general obligation bond paid for by Windham recreation impact fees.

Tibbetts said that the agreement mutually benefits RSU 14 and the town and the proposed project also includes creation of a new road connecting Route 302 and Route 115 that can be used by school buses coming and going from the school that could help alleviate some traffic congestion in the area.

“This is a great arrangement for the town,” Tibbetts said.

The agreement specifically calls for Windham to be granted an easement in designated areas on the Manchester School property for the town to locate and construct athletic and recreational fields for public access, and to provide field maintenance when needed and schedule events there.

Windham Finance Committee members reviewed and discussed the proposal in drafting the town’s 2021-2022 budget with the town manager and department heads prior to presenting the proposal to the town council at a meeting last May.

Under the proposal, Windham would reconfigure one of the two existing ballfields at Manchester School and then build two additional ballfields, one for softball and another for baseball, along with clearing a large wooded area as a separate recreational playing field that can be used for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, or other sporting events.

For the past year, Tibbetts has held discussions with RSU 14 Schools Superintendent Christopher Howell about developing the site, where games are currently played on the two existing fields by the Windham Softball Association and Windham Little League. During the meeting last May, Tibbetts said the project did not include plans to light the new fields, but that the Windham Softball Association and Windham Little League have expressed interest in raising funds to do that.    

The easement gives the town the right to locate, construct and pave a public road leading to the field from Tandberg Trail to the existing parking lots at the school.

According to Tibbetts, for safety purposes, the town’s use of the fields would be limited to “non-school hours” between the last bus departure from Manchester School and the next first bus arrival to Manchester School.

The initial term of the easement will be 20 years and will renew automatically every five years.

Windham agrees to design and construct the new fields and make improvements and maintain related facilities necessary for public use of the athletic and recreational fields. That includes clearing trees, installation of outfield fencing, safety fencing, irrigation systems, building baseball/softball dugouts and team benches, scoreboards, concession stands, equipment sheds, and rest rooms.

Tibbetts said with the Windham Town Council’s approval of the agreement with RSU 14, the town will now seek bond funding for the project and finish design work.

He said work will begin this fall and emphasized that Windham will require project contractors not to disrupt school or school activities with actual construction of the playing fields and road improvements to be scheduled during the summer when school is not in session.

“The field could potentially be in place by late summer or next fall,” Tibbetts said. <

Neighbors Helping Neighbors continues invaluable work for community

The Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors Board of
Directors present Bill Diamond and Mark Bryant with the
'Helpful Neighbor Award' during their monthly meeting on
Jan. 12. From left are Patrick Corey, Tommy Matthews, Deb
McKeen Matthews, Mark Bryant, Barb Hunt Maurais, Bill
Diamond, Tom Bartell, Gary Plummer, Sandra Tyler,
Linda Morrell, and Judy Vance. Not shown is Deborah McAfee.
By Ed Pierce

Putting forth positive energy connects us all with the basic human values which we all share and for the volunteers of Windham’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization, assisting others in need is indeed making a difference in the community.

Despite the pandemic, Windham’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors continues to be strongly supported by the community in its vital mission to meet the fuel assistance needs of Windham families and keep members of the community warm.

Along the way these past few years, Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors has experienced changes in leadership and new, talented members have joined its board of directors.

“Due to the pandemic, fundraising activities shifted from an in-person gala to an online silent auction and our annual appeal,” said Patrick Corey, president of Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “The generosity of individuals and businesses in Windham have made this transition possible.”

Both Bill Diamond and Mark Bryant left the Windham Neighbors Board of Directors in late 2020 after serving in various capacities since the organization’s inception in 2007.

During the board’s January 2022 meeting, Diamond and Bryant were honored with the organization’s “Helpful Neighbor Award” in recognition of their outstanding support of the Windham Neighbors’ mission.

“Their contribbutions have included leadership, fundraising, legacy planning, and many other nitty-gritty tasks that community nonprofits face as they begin their important work,” Corey said. “The Windham Neighbors Board of Directors is truly thankful for their years of service to the community.”

Along with Corey assuming duties as the organization’s president, Tommy Matthews became Vice President, with Deb Matthews continuing her position as Treasurer. In early 2021, longtime community members Barb Maurais and Sandra Tyler were brought on board, and recently Sheila Corey was added to the organization.

“Considering the many challenges Windham Neighbors faces and the boards I’ve sat on over the years, I am continually impressed by this high functioning team of individuals,” said Patrick Corey. “There is not a problem within our stated mission we cannot solve.”

Pandemic fundraising has posed challenges for nearly every nonprofit organization and Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbor is no exception. The organization’s primary fundraising activity, its Annual Auction and Gala was not conducted in either 2020 or 2021.

Corey said that the board implemented an annual appeal and virtual silent auction to cover the shortfall.

“Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ goal is to bring back the Gala in 2022. Windham Neighbors is constantly impressed with the generosity of our community,” he said. “Area families and businesses have stepped up in amazing ways. Through the annual appeal, Giving Tuesday, bidding on auction items, and additional gifts, major funding gaps have been filled. Businesses have provided auction items, contributed to the appeal, and challenged other businesses to make matching donations.”

Maurais, who managed the auction, said the virtual auction that was hosted on Facebook provided the community with a way to participate, give back, and fund Windham Neighbors’ fuel assistance program.

“Seeing the community spirit and the friendly competition in action was inspiring,” Maurais said. “We will be having a PopUp auction just in time for Valentine’s Day. Watch for it at www.Facebook.com/windhamneighbors.”

Windham’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization is a 501 c3 nonprofit founded in October 2007 and is made up of Windham volunteers who have come together to provide one-time emergency assistance to those Windham residents who require immediate heating fuel.

Resources are focused for those who have fallen through the cracks and either don’t qualify or are in a bureaucratic process waiting for assistance from other entities.

Assistance from Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors is funded entirely through donations and 100 percent of funds received through donations go directly to people the organization identifies as in need of help.

To learn more about Windham Neighbors or to donate visit https://windhamneighbors.com <

MSSPA celebrates 150 years of helping horses

Tater Tot meets his new friend Windy River
at the Maine State society for the Protection
of Animals in Windham.
By Elizabeth Richards

This year, 2022, marks the 150th year of operation for the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA).

The non-profit organization was originally formed in 1872 to provide after care services for the horses that pulled fire engines and streetcars in Portland, said Assistant CEO Kathy Woodbrey. When the gasoline engine eliminated the need for horses to do that kind of work, the society had several years of relative inactivity, though Woodbrey said old correspondence shows that the society supported the Animal Refuge League during those years.

“In the 1970s, we had a re-energized effort from the modern-day founder Lawrence Keddy and Marilyn Gaudreau,” Woodbrey said.

Keddy purchased 124 acres of land in Windham from the State of Maine and gifted it to the MSSPA, where the society relocated.

“We’re very fortunate to sit on property that is owned by the non–profit,” Woodbrey said. The mission of the organization is “to protect the health and welfare of neglected and abused equines.”

Under the direction of a robust board, the MSSPA has continued to grow and thrive.  In 2018, a capital expansion led to the next big change: the building of onsite administrative offices and an indoor training facility. 

“In Maine when it’s icy, snowy, rainy, muddy, it really can hinder our ability to have consistent training for the shelter horses,” Woodbrey said.

The training the horses receive is an important component in preparing them for adoption. 

“The better behaved the animal is for both the veterinarian and a farrier, it makes them more appealing adoption candidates,” said Woodbrey.

The organization hopes to have an event to celebrate their history sometime this summer, Woodbrey said, which in light of the COVID-19 pandemic feels like the safest time of year to do so.  If that isn’t possible, she added, they’ll get creative in finding ways to include people in a virtual celebration.  Though that’s all still “to be determined,” the MSSPA has kicked off a social media campaign including historic photos and highlights of their 150 years of operation.

The organization is also tying the 150th anniversary to their Horse Heroes giving program, where donors commit to a regular monthly donation of any amount. 

“We would like to have 150 horse heroes to celebrate 150 years,” Woodbrey said.

There are many ways the public can support the MSSPA, Woodbrey said. 

Volunteering, networking on behalf of the organization to share the story of the work they do, and both financial and in-kind donations are some ways people can get involved. While some volunteers come to help clean barns and paddocks, others help by repairing fences and doing other projects, like building a “horse teeter totter,” Woodbrey said.

“People bring so many different talents and we’re happy to access that for the animals,” she said.

In the coming years, Woodbrey said, the organization will stay true to the core mission of serving at-risk and neglected/abused animals in the State of Maine.  They have recently developed a five-year strategic plan, which includes considering adding some walking trails on 30 wooded acres, sustained financial growth, and networking and advocating to raise awareness of the work they do. 

One important aspect of the organization is that when animals are brought in by law enforcement, whether through the state or municipalities, there is no charge for any of their services.

 “I think that speaks to why some of the individuals support the program,” Woodbrey said.

A recent Facebook post highlighted key accomplishments of the MSSPA in 2021, which included providing services to 158 horses; adopting out 27 horses, including 9 members of the “neglected 20” herd the farm took in last July; raising over $838,000 in financial contributions and $65,000 worth of goods and services donated; over 7,000 hours of work from 142 volunteers; and participation by more than 1,750 individuals in programs, including scheduled visits and field trips.

For information about upcoming 150th-anniversary programming and events, follow MSSPA on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up for email updates at msspa.org/email-list. <

DSD acquires community solar project in Windham

DSD Renewables has acquired two community solar projects
in Maine, including one in Windham. COURTESY PHOTO
DSD Renewables of Schenectady, New York has acquired two community solar projects in Maine, including one in Windham.

According to a press release issued by the company, DSD purchased the solar projects from Maine-based developer Mainely Solar. 

Once completed, the sites are expected to generate 11.79 MegaWatts per hour.

One megawatt hour is about 1,000 kilowatts of electricity generated per hour and would power about 9,585 homes for one hour.

The site in Windham is expected to produce 6.55 Megawatts and the other site in Rumford anticipates producing 5.24 MegaWatts.

DSD Renewables expects to launch construction of the solar project sites by March. Once operational, the projects will generate an estimated 15,508,284 kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year, avoiding the equivalent of more than 10,990 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, helping Maine smooth the way to a clean energy transition.

By calculation, 10,990 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually equals roughly the same emissions caused by burning 1.2M gallons of gasoline each year.

The company will offer the commercial customers subscription opportunities as part of the Maine Net Energy Billing Tariff Rate program.

“Businesses in Southwest Maine can now reap the benefits of clean renewable energy and offset a portion of their monthly electricity bill,” says Jon Morton, Vice President of Asset Acquisitions at DSD. “This is only the beginning of an impactful partnership, and we look forward to working on future projects together.”

Mainely Solar worked in partnership with PPL Renewables to develop the projects which have already received permits and are ready for construction. Arcadia will be managing the commercial customer subscriptions for the projects. <

Attendance at state parks increases 8 percent, sets new record

Maine State Park camping reservations for 2022 open Feb. 1.
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands have announced an 8 percent increase in final attendance for Maine State Parks in 2021 compared to the previous all-time attendance record in 2020.

In 2021, Maine State Parks welcomed more than 3.3 million visitors, compared to 3 million in 2020. In addition, three of the last four years have reported record-breaking visitation across Maine's 12 State Park campgrounds and 48 State Parks and Historic Sites collectively.

By November 2021, Maine State Parks had already surpassed the 2020 record. Beginning with a tremendous turnout for annual First Day Hikes and regular visitation for winter park use, including hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, record-breaking camping and day-use visitation continued straight through summer and fall.

"It is great to see more people than ever enjoying our trails, campgrounds, beaches, and ponds. Our beautiful State Parks are go-to destinations for Maine residents and visitors as they look to find accessible and welcoming outdoor recreation opportunities," said Commissioner Beal, who greatly enjoys hiking in Maine's State Parks, having first summited Bradbury Mountain at age 5. "On pace with increased park visitation are the number of compliments for our State Park staff, which is well-deserved as they have worked diligently over the course of this busy year to ensure an enjoyable experience for visitors."

Bureau of Public Lands Director Andy Cutko agrees with Beal.

"Many of us have realized that the safest, healthiest, and most enjoyable place to be in the pandemic is outside," Cutko said. "In 2021 we welcomed back many out-of-staters who didn’t visit Maine in 2020, and we saw continued strong visitation from Mainers of all ages. I’m proud to say my family contributed to the camping numbers for multiple State Parks, and I'm thankful to our staff and volunteer campground hosts for running our operations so smoothly."

In 2021, best practices and key learning from 2020 ensured BPL staff were prepared to protect the health of coworkers and park visitors. Covid-19 sparked park amenity curtailments and temporary closures during the 2020 season. BPL continues to adapt its plans as new health advisories are issued.

Maine State Park camping reservations for the new year open Feb. 1.

State Park camping reservation details are as follows:

** Sebago Lake State Park ONLY - Tuesday, Feb. 1, 9 a.m. (storm date if Maine State Government is closed then is Wednesday, Feb. 2.)

** All Maine State Park Campgrounds - Friday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m.  (a storm date if Maine State Government is closed is Monday, Feb. 7.)

** Book camping reservations online @ CampWithME.com or reach the camping reservation call center by dialing 800-332-1501 from a Maine 207 area code; or 207-624-9950. Seasonal reservation call center hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, excluding holidays.

** Group Campsite and Picnic Shelter Reservations for all parks is Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 9 a.m. Please note that group and shelter reservations are by phone only and should be made directly with the individual parks. Find park phone lines, instructions, and fees on BPL's Group Camping webpage and the Group Shelters webpage.<


January 14, 2022

Windham adopts study proposing traffic solutions

Traffic headed south stops for a signal at the intersection of
Route 302 and Route 115 in North Windham on Wednesday.
The Windham Town Council adopted a traffic study Tuesday
that makes specific recommendations including creating
connector roads and installing a center median strip to alleviate
gridlock and reduce accidents along the Route 302 corridor.
 By Ed Pierce

Following a lengthy public discussion about the merits of proposals put forward in the North Windham Moves traffic study, members of the Windham Town Council unanimously adopted a final version of the report on Tuesday evening. As a result, potential solutions to alleviating gridlock and improving safety and mobility in North Windham are now a step closer to reality.

The North Windham Moves, Regional Mobility, Local Access Transportation Planning and Feasibility Study was commissioned last year as a joint venture between the Town of Windham and the Maine Department of Transportation, with the study conducted by Gorrill Palmer and North Star Planning. The study recommends transportation improvements along Route 302 in North Windham area through the phased creation of three connector roads, addressing access management along Route 302 such as limiting left turns through deployment of a center median, and making corridor and intersection improvements in the area.

Heavy traffic during peak travel times remains a problem along Route 302 from the intersection of Route 115 to Franklin Road and causes congestion, motorist delays and a high accident rate for motorists.

Don Ettinger of Gorrill Palmer said the study was presented to the Maine Department of Transportation on Dec. 20 and state transportation officials were supportive of its proposed recommendations.

“They are supportive of improvement and supportive of phases for the improvement work,” Ettinger said. “State and federal funding is possible, to what extent we do not know.”

Councilors attending Tuesday’s meeting said they have read and received numerous comments and concerns raised about the study’s recommendations.

“I want to reiterate that what we are adopting tonight is not a final plan down to the minuscule mechanisms,” said Windham Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield. “We are adopting the plan potentially to move forward with the work going on for the last year to move North Windham forward. We here to work with everyone in North Windham, businesses, residents, and whatever matters. We can make any changes as painless as possible.” 

A total of 12 speakers addressed the council before the study was adopted, raising concerns about the proposed creation of center median strip extending north from the Boody’s Corner intersection of Route 302 with Route 115 to the signal light for Shaw’s Supermarket.

Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said the center median idea came discussions with MDOT and Ettinger, Gorrill Palmer’s traffic engineer.

Gregory Williams of Dunkin’ Donuts told councilors that he doesn’t think putting a barrier in front of the business preventing customers from turning left into the Dunkin’ parking lot will alleviate traffic congestion on Route 302.

Williams said if that happens to access Dunkin’ Donuts driving north on Route 302, a driver will have to go through the traffic light and then find a place to turn around and have to go through the traffic light a second time.

Heather Weber, representing KFC/Taco Bell said she’s not in favor of the center median recommendation of the study.

“We do think that something needs to be done, however we think you should look at other alternatives,” Weber said. “Reconsider that median strip.”

Jim Doherty, representing Irving Oil at 746 Roosevelt Trail, said that installing a median strip along Route 302 would hurt the business.

“Customers will go through the intersection several times,” he said. “We think making right turns only will hurt our sales significantly. The impacts on business will be very significant.”

Stephen Napolitano of Dairy Queen told councilors a median strip will make it challenge for his customers.

“There’s a big price to pay and we’re going to lose a lot of revenue,” he said.

Tibbetts said that adoption of the study means a path forward for solutions to traffic congestion had been advanced, but it will be years before any improvements for Route 302 will be put in place and connector roads need to be created before that work could happen.

“The town will sit down with businesses over the next six months to have discussions,” Tibbetts said. “We want to hear how we can take your suggestions ands put them into the plan. Let’s work together so we can find solutions to help you with your business.”

Maxfield urged the business owners wary of any proposals to know that the town will do everything it can to hear their concerns and take action on behalf of the community.

“We need to see the whole opportunity,” Maxfield said. “Nobody wants to hurt businesses. “This is an investment from your town for your business. I fully support this.” <   

WMS Drama Club presents ‘Disney’s Frozen Jr.'

Windham Middle School Drama Club, under the direction of
Suzy Cropper, will stage 'Disney's Frozen Jr.' at the Windham
Performing Arts Center this weekend and next. Tickets will
be available at the door. PHOTO BY COLLETTE HAYES  
By Collette Hayes

Windham Middle School Drama Club is proud to present “Disney’s Frozen Jr.,” a production that promises to thaw the coldest of hearts.

Princesses Elsa, Anna, and the magical land of Arendelle will come to life, onstage at the Windham Performing Arts Center on Jan. 14, 15, 21, and 22. “Frozen Jr”. is based on the 2018 Broadway musical production and features the unforgettable songs from the animated Disney film, Frozen. A story of true love and acceptance between sisters, the production will definitely be a night of enchantment and wintery adventure for those attending.

Suzy Cropper, Windham Middle School’s Drama club director, chooses and casts the plays for the drama club months in advance. Following COVID guidelines and the unpredictability of the pandemic, this year’s entire cast for the performance of “Disney’s Frozen Jr.” is double cast in the event a student cannot attend the night of the performance. Cropper’s rehearsals are well scheduled and planned and through the extensive use of technology, accommodate for those students who cannot attend practices due to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

Cropper is a master at what she does. She has been extensively involved in musical theater for the last 30 years and for the last three years has shared her skill and talent as Windham Middle School’s Drama Club director. 

After closing the doors in 2019 to her musical theater training studio, Main Stage Academy, Cropper was hired as the Windham Middle School Drama Club director where she had been serving as the music director for the drama club for eight years.

She brings extensive background in musical theater to her position as drama club director. She was a music, dance and theater major and received her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Brigham Young University. While attending BYU, Cropper was a member of the prestigious Young Ambassadors song and dance team performing contemporary music and dance for a fast-paced showcase of American musical theatre. Performing in 67 nations of the world, the Young Ambassadors audiences have included the prime minister of India, queen of Thailand, and the king and queen of Jordan.

Windham Middle School Drama Club is one of the few places that real world life skills such as communication, self-confidence, self-evaluation and creative thinking are still taught.

According to Cropper, students have the opportunity to interact with each other and learn to express themselves using these valuable life skills on stage and in real world settings.

For many middle school students, social life proves to be a challenge. Students begin to form cliques and many students lack a sense of acceptance and association.

“Drama club students are encouraged to explore and identify what their gifts and abilities are,” Cropper said. “They come to know who they are and why they are important. They develop a sense of belonging.”

Cropper says that she would like to thank the many parents and Windham high school student volunteers that are making this year’s production a success. Parents and high school students are volunteering their time in all areas of the production from sewing costumes to helping students memorize their lines.

“There is a sense of community and kindness being shown by the volunteers,” Cropper said. “Parents are spending so many hours trying to make something great happen so their kids have something they can be proud of. The students have to be in masks through the entire performance creating a significant challenge for students trying to project their voices and articulate their words.

“Lucy Hatch, a Windham High School senior and my assistant producer, has been instrumental in helping to create exercises to help students learn to project their voice through a mask,” Cropper said. “Also, we have high school students volunteering on the tech crew and helping parents to sew costumes. We truly couldn’t make this production happen without their help.”

Performances of “Disney’s Frozen Jr” will be at the Windham Performing Arts Center located at Windham High School on Route 202 in Windham. There are two matinees scheduled at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 22. Weekday performances are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door. <

School nurses face extraordinary challenges as COVID-19 cases increase

School nurse responsibilities have doubled, even tripled, 
due to the required COVID protocols all Maine schools
must follow. Windham High School nurse Karry Joly,
left, and Windham Middle School nurse Gail White are two
of eight RSU 14 nurses who work with administration around
the clock to make sure students are safe and healthy.
By Lorraine Glowczak

There has always been a misconception that school nurses’ duties simply consist of placing band-aids on minor wounds or letting a student who is feeling a bit under the weather rest in their office. But that has never been the case – even before the COVID virus hit our shores.

“Before the pandemic, I would see between 40 to 50 students per day for various injuries, illnesses, medication administration, emergencies, and social/emotional issues. I also work closely with students with chronic health conditions like diabetes and epilepsy,” Karry Joly, an RSU 14 nurse who works at the Windham High School, said.

As with all healthcare workers whose tasks have increased exponentially during the pandemic, school nurse responsibilities have doubled, even tripled, due to the required Covid protocols all Maine schools must follow. Joly said that all district nurses and administrators have worked many extra hours, including weekends, holidays, and evenings - a time that was once dedicated to re-charge and spending time with family and friends. However, since March 2021, those free time hours have been spent working long into the night doing the mandatory contact tracing.

To help eliminate the spread of the virus, students and staff who are symptomatic are asked to stay home and not return until they have a negative COVID test and are feeling better because normal and/or mild flu-like symptoms could be an indication that one has COVID.

“I have been a nurse for a long time, and I am not able to tell you which student with a stuffy nose just has a stuffy nose or has COVID,” Joly said. “We all want to think that it is just another cold but unfortunately we are in a pandemic and sometimes a cold is COVID.”

Joly explained that all schools in Maine must follow the standard operating procedure that is put together by the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Centers for Disease Control.

“This consists of a set of protocols that have to be followed when we have a positive student in our school,” Joly said. “This is where we follow the algorithm of which students have to quarantine. RSU 14 has universal masking and with the new guidelines this has allowed for more students to stay in school.”

Jolly described what is entailed in testing procedures and following the mandated SOP.

“When we either test a positive student or are notified by a family that a student has tested positive for COVID, we have a series of questions that we ask,” she said. “Sample questions include: When did symptoms start and what are they? When was the test taken and what type of test was it? When was the student last in school and do they have any school-aged siblings?”

“We have to submit all positive tests (other than home tests) to the CDC. I then work with WHS Principal Ryan Caron and our other covid support team members to determine who was a close contact. Once we have that list, Principal Caron notifies families of close contact. Depending on how many days the student was in school during their infectious period determines how many days we have to contact trace. At the high school level, this could be up to five different classes a day so the number of close contacts adds up. We then have to see if the positive individual participates in any extracurriculars or athletics to determine if there are more close contacts. I work closely with our athletic trainer who works with coaches to see which athletes will need to be notified. Needless to say, it is a time-consuming process and when we have as many cases as we have been having it feels quite overwhelming.”

Clearly, the additional, around-the-clock responsibilities create many challenges and Joly revealed that the greatest challenge is not having enough time to do all that is being asked of the school nurses.

“School nurses are nurturing by nature and want to be there for our students in any way they need, but somedays it feels like that is hard to do,” Joly said. “Our phones ring off the hook, our e-mail boxes are full.”

Joly expressed that all RSU 14 nurses work really hard at having good relationships with their families and unfortunately COVID has strained that relationship.

“We tend to be the bearer of bad news like their student has to quarantine or miss school due to illness, or we have to tell an athlete that they can’t participate in their game, this is the worst part of our day. We do not make these rules; we are just charged with following them and doing the best that we can to keep our students and staff as safe and healthy as possible.”

Making sure that each student remains as healthy as possible also includes their social, emotional, and mental well-being. Since the pandemic, everyone's daily life has been affected in unforeseen ways. Health experts state that outbreaks such as Covid can cause emotional distress and anxiety as a result of feeling overwhelmed or powerless.

“Stress and anxiety are at an all-time high,” Joly said. “I feel very fortunate that WHS has very dedicated teachers and administrative team as well as two full-time social workers and four school counselors to support our students. We all want to make connections with our students and never want them to feel like they don’t have someone who is there for them.”

To address these issues, Joly suggests finding things in life that make you happy and that you are grateful for. “If we can recognize that we are all under stress and going through a difficult time then maybe we can all be a little more understanding and kind,” she said.

But what about the caretakers themselves - the school nursing staff members who are stretching themselves thin. It is imperative that those who take care of others remain healthy too. How does Joly take care of herself?

“I try to eat well and get plenty of sleep and just look for some quiet time to relax,” she said and then added, “But I would like to add that our school board and superintendent see the value in having a nurse in each of our schools. The district has hired a health secretary, a covid support tech, and an additional RN to help support the needs of the schools. We have a very dedicated nursing team and work to help each other out as best we can and this has made all the difference.”   

Joly has been a nurse for 23 years, 13 of those as a school nurse. She graduated with an associate’s degree from Southern Maine Community College, eventually receiving her Bachelor’s degree in nursing from USM. She and her husband Don have been married for 23 years and they have two teenage children, Graden, a sophomore, and Grace, a freshman who are students at WHS.

During her limited downtime, Joly enjoys spending time with family and friends while camping, being outdoors, reading, relaxing, and watching her children participate in their sporting events. <

Windham Parks and Recreation encourage community to enjoy outdoors

Windham's Parks and Recreation Department has detailed
information about where to go cross-country skiing, ice
skating or snowshoeing in town, including a color-coded
map that indicates the conditions on the trails.
 By Elizabeth Richards

During the long Maine winter, cabin fever can quickly set in, especially during a pandemic when indoor recreational activities are limited.  The Windham Parks and Recreation Department has several programs designed to encourage people in the community to embrace the season, get outside, and enjoy the parks and trails in the area.

One program that has been gaining attention in the past couple of years is their snowshoe loan program, said Deputy Director Kelsey Crowe. Windham Parks and Recreation has both adult and youth sized snowshoes available to borrow at no charge, and reservations are not required. 

Snowshoes can be checked out at the Parks and Recreation office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Groups are encouraged to call ahead to check availability. 

Crowe said the snowshoes can be borrowed for a few days to a week at a time. 

“If someone wants to borrow them a little longer, we ask them to call us and let us know, so we know where our snowshoes are,” she said.

Another popular destination is the outdoor skating rink on Chaffin Pond at Lippman Park. 

For some old-fashioned fun, the department hosts a couple of “S’mores and Skate Nights.”  These are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 28 and Feb. 22 this winter.  No registration is required, and there is no charge. The evenings include fire pits, lights and music, along with s’mores supplies and hot cocoa. 

“Usually, we have a pretty good group come, Crowe said. “It’s a fun outdoor activity to do at night at our park.”

Winter Adventure Bingo was created during the pandemic to help get people outside and active.  Although there wasn’t a lot of participation last winter, Crowe said, she’s hoping that it’s an event that can grow. 

Bingo Cards detailing a variety of winter experiences such as sledding, ice skating, finding animal tracks in the snow, having a snowball fight, building a snowman, and much more can be printed or picked up at the Parks and Recreation office. 

Participants should take photos of their activities as they complete the Bingo squares. Upon completing five activities in a row in any direction, people can return the card and photos to Parks and Recreation and receive a small bag of winter items, such as hot cocoa mix and hand-warmers, for their efforts. Bingo cards must be returned by March 4 to receive a prize.

“It’s just a fun thing to do, with your family or friends, where you don’t have to be inside and you can check out our trails around town,” Crowe said.

The Parks and Recreation website also details groomed trails and has information on where to skate, cross country ski or snowshoe in town, including a color-coded map that indicates the conditions on the trails, Crowe said.

Many of these programs have been offered before, she said.

“We do them year to year because people enjoy them,” Crowe said

Their goal as a department is to promote the parks and trails available in the community so people can get outside and have fun with their families. 

“That’s all we’re looking for. We want families and kids to have fun,” Crowe said. “We want to provide stuff for them to do so they’re not stuck at home inside.” <