April 29, 2022

Windham council approves sending proposed budget to town voters

Windham residents will be asked to approve or reject a
proposed town budget of more than $37 million during the
annual town meeting, scheduled for June 18.
By Ed Pierce

After two years of enjoying a flat taxation rate, residents of Windham will be asked to OK about a 6 percent tax increase for the coming year after members of the Windham Town Council unanimously approved a proposed budget of $37,238,051.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts reviewed the detailed budget proposal with town councilors during the meeting and explained that three specific items are responsible for the proposed increase and cited fixed cost increases resulting from inflation for electricity, fuel and municipal contractual obligations such as health care and dental care; the proposed addition of six firefighters/rescue personnel; and capital operational expenses such as bonding, several personnel additions and equipment leases as the basis for the possible tax increase. Residents will vote to approve or reject the proposed budget during Windham’s Annual Town Meeting on June 18.

Tibbetts told councilors that three significant improvements including the North Windham Wastewater Treatment Facility, the North Windham Mobility Project of creating access roads to alleviate traffic congestion along Route 302 in North Windham and conserving up to 750 acres for the East Windham Conservation Project will be covered by grants, TIFS, and town impact fees.

“It’s important to say that no residential monies are going into the access roads and because of a major grant from the state, there will be no tax hit for residents on the wastewater treatment facility,” Tibbetts said. “As far as the open space preservation in East Windham, that will be taken care of by impact fees.”

Other capital projects Tibbetts mentioned in his budget presentation for the coming year were for the Windham Municipal Building NW Fire Station preliminary engineering; sidewalks in South Windham along Route 202, installing smart traffic lights in the town, and Police and Fire Department renovations/additions and capital equipment.

The proposed budgets for RSU 14 and Cumberland County also show increases with the school district seeking a 4.34 percent increase and the county proposing a 4.18 percent hike from a year ago.

According to Tibbetts, Windham’s town revenues are up $1.5 million with Excise taxes, building permits and other revenues expected to be flat or down. He said revenue sharing by the state is expected to be about $2.5 million down from an earlier state projection of $2.7 million.

“This proposed budget addresses budgetary modifications, long term capital project investments, local access roads, the North Windham Wastewater Treatment System, the Open Space East Windham Conservation Project, manpower additions and adjustments and capital equipment investments,” Tibbetts said.

The proposed budget was reduced by $500,000 on the capital side from a draft that town manager shared with councilors in March.

As far as long- and short-term bond debt for the town goes, Tibbetts shared this information with councilors:

Long-Term Debt

Local Access Road (TIF 10 percent, Town, 10 percent, State/Federal 80 percent)

Open Space (East Windham Conservation Project and abutting land, Offset by impact fees)

South Windham Village Center, Route 202 Sidewalks, (Pacts 50/50)

Route 302 Sidewalk, Boody’s Corner, Pacts 50/50 Greater Portland Council of Governments)

Trash containers, (General Fund)

River Rd/Route 202 intersection, (MPI 50/50 MDOT)

NW Wastewater with PWD and SRF program via TIF/GF Short-Term Debt (heavy equipment and vehicles (TIF)

Short-term debt

Plow truck, ambulance, ACO truck, crime lab truck, fire crew cab 1/2 pickup truck, fire vehicle and two pick-up trucks), CPR compression units, $850,000 General Fund.

“A lot of work went into this, and I hope the public grasps what we’re doing,” said Windham Town Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield. “I hope folks see they’re getting something for it. We are getting something out of this. It’s an investment for the future of Windham.” <

Port Resources empowers people with autism to live full and meaningful lives

Rosemary Haibon graduated from Windham
High School in 2021 and conducted a
fundraiser and solicited donations from area
nurseries to help autistic residents of Port 
Resources group homes in Windham to plant 
gardens. She was diagnosed with autism herself
in sixth grade. COURTESY PHOTO
By Lorraine Glowczak

Windham is the host to two residential group homes for individuals diagnosed with intellectual developmental disabilities and/or autism.


The homes are operated by Port Resources, a non-profit organization based out of South Portland that has provided services across Southern Maine for approximately 40 years. In addition to the residential homes, the organization also offers additional living arrangements to meet the various needs of their clients.

“We also have three Shared Living homes in Windham,” said Misty Niman, Port Resource’s Director of Quality Assurance. “Shared Living is when an individual is supported in a private home with a Shared Living Provider, similar to the foster care system. We have Shared Living homes that have been happily part of Windham for 15-plus years.” 


Port Resources’ mission is to build a community where everyone is valued, accepted and empowered to achieve their full potential by offering various opportunities and activities within the greater Windham area.


“Individuals that we support access their communities just like you and I do,” Niman said. “They go to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the library, the movie theater - pretty much any place you and I might attend, they may attend. The only difference is that they may have a Direct Support Professional (DSP) supporting them to get there, help with communication, and provide guidance around decision-making and managing safety if necessary.”


Niman said that some individuals are independent and can easily participate in community activities on their own; they may be in a bowling league, have a job or a volunteer role, and they may like to spend time at the library or attend a local gym or social center. 

“Port Resources assists individuals to build on their independence so that they can make as many of their own choices as possible and enjoy their communities as they would wish to,” Niman said. “We love local resources like the library, adult education courses and community gatherings, like the Windham Summerfest.”


Innovation and collaboration have always been two of the many guiding principles and values that contribute to Port Resources' success, and thus the success of the people they serve.  


“Port Resources aspires to continually evolve as an organization- to ensure we are providing services that are keeping pace with the desires of those we support,” Niman said. “Services look different today than they did twenty years ago- and they should. As we learn more, and as individuals who receive services are gaining stronger voices in the system of care, we want to make sure we are listening and responding accordingly. To achieve this goal, it takes innovation and collaboration- because the system of care is not always very nimble to the changing landscape.”


One example Niman shared was their Achieving Independence in Maine (AIM) program. This program addressed the gap in services for young adults on the Autism Spectrum who were ready to leave their childhood home but were not prepared to live entirely on their own yet. 


“We formed a think tank of community leaders to help us develop the concept of this program; then we worked with the State of Maine to determine how we could make existing funding sources support this program,” she said. “This supported apartment program supports young adults (typically between 18-24 years old) who are ‘launching’ into independent adulthood- who come live in our apartment building for up to two to three years and develop the necessary independent living, safety and social skills to give them the confidence to live on their own.”


As a result, individuals get jobs, go to college, volunteer, and are supported to live their own life. Once they move to their apartment, they will have some weekly and minimal staffing to continue to provide support, but their network of support is far more prosperous with the natural help of family and friends. 


Niman explained that in the past individuals might have remained with their families or may have moved to group homes. This model allows new opportunities for individuals to live productive, independent lives.


The organization has been very appreciative of the Windham community and all it has to offer those who have made this town their home, supporting individuals who are well-rounded and contributing members of society.


“Area businesses and community members welcoming individuals with IDD/Autism, who may have support staff to assist them, are greatly appreciated,” Niman said. “It is helpful when differences are accepted and celebrated- as it makes everyone feel safer and included.”


Niman said that opportunities within Windham and the surrounding towns are critical for a non-profit agency supporting individuals with minimal budgets, especially in today’s economy. 


“Traveling far, as we all know, is expensive these days. To live, work and play within the same community is a solution to and lowers the costs of travel.”


Niman said the financial challenges in managing an operation that assists the people they serve are tough.


“There are many challenges operating State-funded services as our rates are set by the system of care and they do not keep pace with what is happening in the real world (cost of goods and services, wages, etc.). The State revenue we receive only goes toward the cost of services and does not afford any funds to support community engagement- these funds must come from the individual’s own limited money, and from the fund raising we do specifically around community integration. We believe in the concept of a ‘village of support’ and so anytime individuals or communities step forward with any assistance, we are very appreciative.”

Small acts in which the Windham community can be a part of this “village of support” can include small gift cards to places like coffee shops, theater productions, movie theaters, etc. It opens opportunities for community engagement and connection.


“If any business or organization in Windham has community engagement ideas or resources to share, I would love to hear from them,” Niman said. “Anyone can reach out to me at mniman@portresources.org. Anytime individuals or communities step forward with any assistance, we are very appreciative.” 


For more information about Port Resources, peruse their website at www.portresources.org. For anyone interested in employment opportunities, call Jenn Dearborn at 207-828-0048 ext. 121 or email at jdearborn@portresources.org.  


For those interested in becoming a Shared Living Provider, please contact Dana Green at dgreen@portresources.org. <

Door replacement project spruces up Windham’s Little Meetinghouse

A project to replace the massive wooden front doors of the
historic Little Meetinghouse in North Windham is expected
to be completed within a few weeks. The new doors came
all the way from Kentucky  are are being sealed to
showcase the natural beauty of the wood.
By Ed Pierce

The Little Meetinghouse, a popular and historic gathering place on Route 302 in North Windham, is in the process of being upgraded and with any luck should now be able to host meetings and events long into the 22nd century.

According to Jerry Black, a member of the Little Meetinghouse Board of Trustees, the landmark facility’s massive front doors are being replaced after decades of exposure to the elements.

“The wood was starting to rot out on the bottom,” Black said. “A contractor is installing new doors, new framing wood and all new hardware with this project.”

Construction of the Little Meetinghouse originally began in 1871 with all funds for the project raised by subscription. It was the brainchild of Erastus Cram of Windham, who sought volunteer help in building a new free meeting house and church in town. Using $800 in donations from 43 individuals of various religious denominations, the building first opened in 1872.

It soon became a popular site for weddings and groups looking for a convenient place to conduct meetings. In 1914, the Busy Bees, a sewing and darning group, charged 2 cents to hold meetings there. That group later became known as the Ladies Aid of Windham.

In 1930, the facility was renamed as the nondenominational North Windham Union Church and in the 1960s the church became a United Church of Christ.

Black said that the original church steeple was replaced with a new one in 1975 although the original church bell remains in place to this day.

“It was ordered from Montgomery Ward and still says that on the bell,” he said. 

By the 1990s, a new church location was needed to house a larger congregation and the building was scheduled to be razed, but a group of residents stepped in to rescue the facility. In 1994, the church was moved to its current location at 723 Roosevelt Trail on town-owned land as Frances Manchester and her son David formed the Friends of the Little Meeting House, Inc. to save the building.

After years of restoration work mostly performed by volunteers, in 2005 the nonprofit group opened the Little Meetinghouse facility as a public site for small weddings and community meetings and it is now being rented out on a regular basis to local groups. 

It is available for all types of events, including bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, anniversary parties and business presentations. It’s been rented for exercise classes, musical performances, bean suppers, lobster dinners, quilt and coin shows, storytelling events, antique appraisal shows and yard sales. The facility has a large open event space, a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave and double sink and a bathroom.

“We’re pretty much booked all the time,” Black said. “That’s why the Board of Trustees determined that we needed to replace those front doors now.”

With the board setting aside $5,000 for the upgrade work, the door replacement project started as soon as the weather warmed up after the winter months.

“These new doors came from Kentucky and are being sealed to show off the beauty of their natural wood,” Black said. “We’ve been told that once these new doors are hung, they are expected to last for quite a while and maybe even more than 100 years.”

Along with the installation of the new front doors, workers will also be applying fresh coats of paint to windows inside the Little Meetinghouse, Black said.

The project is expected to be completed within a few weeks.

“It’s really a great old building that has truly stood the test of time,” Black said. “Now with these new improvements our future generations will be able to enjoy this building for some time too.” <

April 22, 2022

In the public eye: Raymond’s Town Manager leads by example

Don Willard has served as Raymond's town
manager for more than two decades and is
responsible for the day-to-day management
of all municipal departmental operations
and staff and upholding local ordinances as
well as federal and state laws affecting

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

By Ed Pierce

They say a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. That pretty much sums up how much Don Willard approaches his duties as Raymond’s Town Manager.

Having served as Raymond Town Manager for more than 21 years, Willard has a great deal to be proud of in his work and he embraces his leadership role with enthusiasm and humility.

“The job of town manager is not confined to only in-office work hours. Most town managers also live in the town that they work for, so in a sense you are always on duty and available for questions, public input and emergency action,” Willard said. “With the advent of the digitally connected world, it is not uncommon to receive inquires via cell phone, email and texts 24-7, and 365 days a year. This has been a challenge for me as I tend to like to take care of business right away.”

Originally from Scarborough, Willard graduated from high school there and spent his first year of college at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham before transferring to the University of Maine at Orono where he graduated from the Public Management program.

He launched his career in municipal government in 1983 as the first Town Manager of the Town of Dixfield. In 1986, Willard became Town Manager of Rockport, a position he held until 2000. In December 2000, he joined the Town of Raymond as Town Manager and continues in that role today.

“With the birth of our son, my wife and I wanted to live closer to other family members and in a beautiful rural area with open space and waterfront access,” he said. “In my book, that was Raymond.”

“In general, I am responsible for the day-to-day management of all municipal departmental operations and staff. The job also involves upholding local ordinances as well as applicable federal and state laws,” he said. “I report to the elected Raymond Board of Selectmen. The selectmen establish policy directives and specific goals that I am charged with implementing. As the town's legislative body, which is composed of registered voters, the select board convenes both the annual town meeting and special town meetings as necessary. The legislative body establishes the overarching framework for municipal operations and related actions.”  

According to Willard, the best part of his job is serving in a position where he can marshal the resources of the town to make a small difference for the better in his community every day.

“I also like the fact that no two workdays are ever the same and that the job often involves helping people solve difficult problems,” he said.

The town manager’s job is not without significant challenges though.

“For the past two years a primary focus has been on protecting the health and welfare of our citizens, elected and appointed officials as well as our municipal workforce, while providing for continuity of government operations during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide pandemic,” Willard said. “An ongoing challenge has been finding creative ways to do more, while being cognizant of the need to keep local taxes as low as possible.”  

His most memorable moment of working for the Town of Raymond came on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was interrupted during a project meeting by the town’s public safety dispatcher, informing him that an airliner had just hit the World Trade Center in New York City. 

Among his many career accomplishments in Raymond, he cites the successful completion of the Route 302 Improvement Project, which transformed the appearance of the town's main business area while improving both pedestrian and motor vehicle safety.

“Later Raymond became the first new Portland Water District member town in 50 years by successfully extending public water from Windham to Raymond,” Willard said. “This project was funded in part by a large Community Development Block Grant.”

For Willard, every day he spends as Town Manager is an opportunity to acquire new skills.

Among the things he says he’s learned are the methods involved and ability to deliver high quality municipal services, while maintaining both a comparatively low and consistent municipal property tax rate. 

“More importantly, I’ve learned that success is not an individual endeavor,” he said. “If Raymond has been successful over my time here, it is because we have always had engaged and committed local government officials and a team of dedicated hardworking staff members.” <

East Windham Conservation Project continues to move forward

Windham's Town Council received a briefing about the status
of the East Windham Conservation Project during a meeting 
April 12. The town has partnered with the Presumpscot 
Regional Land Trust for the initiative, which will purchase 
and conserve about 661 acres and build a fire tower similar 
to the one shown. COURTESY PHOTO 
By Ed Pierce

Windham town councilors received an update at the April 12 council meeting regarding the status of the East Windham Conservation Project and significant progress being made by the partnership of the town and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust in moving the initiative forward.    

The project will dramatically expand and diversify recreational opportunities in Windham with the purchase and conservation of 661 acres of land, amounting to the largest block of unfragmented forest in Windham and one of the largest in the Greater Portland area. Currently less than 4 percent of Windham is conserved with recreational access.

The land for the project is about 99 percent forested and has 1,545 feet of undeveloped water frontage on Little Duck Pond, with 38 acres of wetlands and numerous headwater streams. Acquisition of this land will directly help protect the water quality for Little Duck Pond, Highland Lake, Forest Lake and the Pleasant River. The land also contains the 150-acre Deer Wintering Area, a traditional area for hunting by permission, and the 580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest hill in Windham.

When completed, the project will directly abut more than 1,000 acres of other conserved land in Windham and Falmouth, including Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve, providing 20 miles of interconnected trails and five trailheads for public access.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts told councilors that an application for a $1 million grant from the Lands for Maine Future organization was submitted April 1.

“They came out and walked the land with Planning Director Amanda Lessard and Rachelle Curran Apse of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust,” Tibbetts said. “We also had a representative of the Land for Conservation Program come out and walk the land. We have not applied for that grant yet but will be filing for that later this year.”

Tibbetts said that Windham will acquire all 14 parcels that compose the East Windham Conservation Project, and the town has designated two staff, Lessard, and Windham Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks, for the planning and implementation of the project.

Windham’s Open Space Plan identifies developing and maintaining open space partnerships and relationships as key mechanisms to grow conservation efforts in the town. When the council formally adopted the Open Space Plan, Windham reached out to the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust in 2021 to be an open space partner by holding a conservation easement and sharing responsibility for the trail management on the adjacent 308-acre Lowell Preserve.

Councilors were briefed that once Windham owns the land for the conservation project, it will donate a conservation easement on the full project area to the Land Trust. The easement formalizes the partnership between Windham and the Land Trust to steward and maintain the conserved land.

According to the briefing documents, Windham will also apply for Land and Water Conservation Funding for this project to help pay for infrastructure improvements such as trailhead parking areas, picnic areas, an observation tower, and other recreational amenities that are consistent with Land for Maine’s Future project expectations, Tibbetts said.

In addition to holding the conservation easement, the Land Trust will have a shared management agreement for the project land with Windham.  While the Town will take the lead on larger recreational infrastructure and amenities, the Land Trust will take the lead on building and maintaining approximately 10 miles of nonmotorized recreation trails that will connect to the 20 miles that exist through the conservation corridor.

Windham and the Land Trust are also partnering on the community involvement and fundraising for this project.

Tibbetts said Windham will put a bond request before voters at the Annual Town Meeting on June 18 in the amount of $1.8 million with the bond to be paid for with open space impact fees, so the bond will not impact the tax rate. He said that the Town Finance Committee and town councilors have unanimously expressed support for the bond amount, and that the bond will provide the Land for Maine’s Future matching funds needed to purchase the land and other expected project costs.

The project is expected to have a final appraisal and secured matching funds by the end of 2022.

To see a map of the proposed conservation area go to link: www.windhammaine.us/766/East-Windham-Conservation-Project <

Raymond author ready to film ‘haunted’ television segment

Author Cheryl Blanchard of Raymond signs
copies of her book '236 Cumberland Ave.
Portland Maine' during an appearance at
the Windham Public Library. She will tape
a segment of the televised series 'Maine
Ghost Stories' this weekend and she hopes
it will air sometime later this year.
By Ed Pierce

When Cheryl Blanchard of Raymond published her book “236 Cumberland Ave. Portland, Maine” nearly three years ago, she had no idea how much readers near and far would embrace her writing and it’s about to land her an appearance on television in “Maine Ghost Stories.”

Blanchard’s real-life tale of growing up with 10 brothers and sisters in an apartment building that was haunted connected with the public and caught the attention of Maine historian Herb Adams, who suggested that the website Maine Ghost Hunters might want to feature her in an upcoming segment. 

“Herb contacted me and said he had heard that I had lived in some apartments on Cumberland Avenue. That block and the building is gone now,” Blanchard said. “I explained to him about the building because it was haunted and how I was traumatized living there for five or six years.”

It turns out that Adams, a member of the Maine Historical Society, had read Blanchard’s book when it was self-published in 2019 by Newman Springs Publishing Co. of New Jersey and was aware of the house’s ghostly reputation.

He told producers of “Maine Ghost Stories” and they reached out to Blanchard. On Saturday Blanchard will revisit Cumberland Avenue in Portland along with Adams and representatives of the Maine Historical Society to film an upcoming segment of the television series.

“Although the building is not there anymore, I know they are going to be looking for a tunnel that used to run under the apartment house,” Blanchard said. “The tunnel was used by escaping fugitive slaves as part of the Underground Railroad long ago.”

She also will film some outdoor shots walking on Cumberland Avenue and do an interview with members of Maine Ghost Hunters about some of the supernatural occurrences she and her family experience living there more than 50 years ago.

In her book, Blanchard describes how she and her siblings would suddenly catch glimpses of silhouettes and shadowy figures looming on walls in their home without a human nearby to cast the silhouette or shadow. She also discusses in the book about finding the tunnel underneath the building she lived in, and many frightful memories associated with that.

Blanchard’s family eventually moved away from the building and the trauma and bad memories she experienced living there. A few years ago, one of her friends asked her to write down her memories about growing up and that led to the creation of her book.

Once her book was published, Blanchard was interviewed on the television chat show “207” and she also received a note from renowned Maine author Stephen King, who is a master of telling “haunted” stories.

In 2019, she even was a guest of groups meeting at public libraries in Augusta and in Windham to discuss her book, which is available at those facilities.

And despite being subjected to what she calls “paranormal occurrences” while growing up on Cumberland Avenue in Portland decades ago, Blanchard has gone on to lead a happy and productive life otherwise.

Married, and a mother and a grandmother, Blanchard is now retired from a career in the nursing field. Many people know her from her time as a substitute teacher in Windham schools or for creating the first cheerleading squad for Windham Youth Football.

Once the book came out, many people told Blanchard they had no idea how scary her life must have been living in the haunted building as a child.

“People have been very supportive and nice to me and so many of my friends have asked me about the filming of this ‘Maine Ghost Stories’ segment and when it will air,” she said. “The answer is I really don’t know that, but I suspect it may be some time later this year, maybe around Halloween. Everyone I talk to asks me about that and they’re waiting to watch me.” <

Public can help recognize Windham teacher, staff contributions

By Ed Pierce

It’s said that every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, and someone who understands the power of connection and insists that they grow up to become the very best that they possibly can be. Members of the Windham Parent Teacher Association believe that the teachers and staff members working in Windham schools are those champions and deserve recognition for their efforts. 

To that end the Windham PTA is eager to spread love and gratitude to more than 600 teachers and staff working in public schools in Windham during the upcoming “Staff Appreciation Week” and they say they need the public’s help to do that.

“The staff in Windham has been unwavering in their dedication to help each and every student in our community feel safe and cared for, said Windham PTA president Ernesta Kennedy. “They have demonstrated so much resilience, grace and flexibility throughout a very difficult year and this a small way to show them how much they are valued.”

Kennedy said that this year the events for “Staff Appreciation Week” are scheduled to run during the first two weeks of May and will include recognition for workers at Windham’s four public schools, the bus garage and at RSU 14’s central office.

According to Kennedy, the kickoff for the celebration begins May 2 with “National Teacher Appreciation Day” that includes a letter of recognition to the staff and highlights of the scheduled events.  

“Over the years we’ve learned that teachers really enjoy food. It’s an easy way to show our gratitude for everything they do for our kiddos,” Kennedy said. 

The “You’re Wonderful Wednesday” event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 4 for both Windham Middle School and Windham High School and on Wednesday, May 11 at Manchester School.


Another part of the celebration will be “Muffin Monday” consisting of a variety of simple breakfast foods which will be served May 9 at all four Windham schools.


Thursday, May 12 will feature “Grab & Go” snacks available for staff members at the school district’s bus garage.


Planned activities wrap up on Friday, May 13 with “You’re Fabulous Friday” with a special lunch provided for staff and teachers at Windham Primary School.


Kennedy said that throughout the two weeks of the celebration and activities, door prizes consisting of a variety of gift baskets and gift cards will be drawn. All staff, including teachers, bus drivers, custodians, kitchen personnel and administrators will be entered into the random drawings and announced each morning at their school.


She said that those staff who are also PTA members get an extra chance to win door prizes.


“It’s a special way for us to give back for their commitment,” Kennedy said.


The Windham PTA also has additional activities planned for the two- week celebration, but Kennedy said the organization wants some things to remain a surprise. 


“This celebration could not be possible without the help and generosity of the community and parents,” she said. 

To sign up to contribute or make a monetary donation visit windhammainepta.org. <

Free grief group forming in May

By Elizabeth Richards

Starting in May, retired CNA/Hospice Aide Rhonda Forbes will hold a free, informal community grief support group to help people who have experienced the loss of a loved one make connections and form lasting supportive friendships. 

“I don’t have much family myself, so I understand loneliness,” said Forbes. She recently lost two family members, unrelated to COVID, and joined an agency sponsored grief group via Zoom. When those meetings ended, many of the participants wanted to stay in touch, finding comfort and healing in sharing their grief with others who understood.

Through her work in hospice care, Forbes said, she’s been around many families who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

“There’s a certain loneliness that comes when you lose a loved one. A lot of times people don’t feel that they can talk about it, because people don’t want to hear it. I just want them to have a safe environment where they feel they can express their grief,” she said.

The group will be an informal place where people can strike up new friendships and start a new chapter in their lives, Forbes said. “Their life has changed greatly as a result of losing their loved one.”

The group will meet at Mountainside Community Church at 8 Mountain Road in Falmouth. The church has offered free meeting space for this group; Forbes will be the volunteer facilitator.

“It’s a pilot project. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I just keep bumping into people who have lost somebody,” Forbes said. “It seems like I’m supposed to do this.”

The first meeting will take place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, May 15. From there, Forbes will talk with participants to see what the best time for members would be. Meetings will be held every two weeks for three months.

The first meeting will feature Donna Hugh, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, as the guest speaker.

Forbes said her goal is to help people by offering a place to share their grief and potentially meet new friends with common interests.

“In my opinion, technology will never replace a warm smile or a friendly hello, especially in a time of grief,” said Forbes on her meeting flier. “The isolation of the pandemic taught many of us the value of friendship.”

Pre-registration is required to help with planning and assure appropriate seating is available for the meeting.

The space will accommodate up to 30 participants, Forbes said.

To pre-register, call 207-310-0576 or those interested in attending can register online at www.mountainsidecc.org/grief. <

April 15, 2022

State honors Raymond employee as ‘Parks Professional of Year’

Barry Alden, maintenance manager at Tassel Top Park in 
Raymond, center, receives congratulations from Raymond 
Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Crocker, left, and
Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, for winning the Maine
Recreation and  Parks Award as 'Parks Professional
By Andrew Wing

The employee that ensures that Raymond’s Tassel Top Park is a clean, safe and family friendly destination prefers to work behind the scenes, but on Monday afternoon Barry Alden received well-deserved recognition for his work.

Alden was honored by the Maine Recreation and Parks Association as the organization’s “Parks Professional of the Year.”

For nearly two decades now, Alden has displayed a work ethic second to none while keeping Tassel Top Park a place visitors and residents of the Lakes Region want to go.

An awards committee of the Maine Recreation and Parks Association selected Alden for the honor which is presented annually to municipal employees in the state who work in recreation. Alden is just the fourth recipient of the award since its inception in 2018.

Alden’s wife Karen, who serves as the Operations Manager for Tassel Top Park, Raymond Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Crocker, Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, and the current Chair of the Raymond Select Board, Teresa Sadak, attended the award ceremony at the park.

This summer will mark Barry Alden’s 17th year working at Tassel Top Park. His official title is maintenance manager for the park but his diligent efforts and the pride he takes in his job have endeared him to thousands of park visitors through the years.

Keeping the park in great shape is no easy task. Tassel Top itself is a 38-acre park with a 900-foot sandy beach with a secured swimming area, and includes a popular snack shack, and a hiking and nature trail situated on Jordan Bay of Sebago Lake.

Alden said he was humbled by the surprise awards ceremony staged in his honor.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” he said. “I’m excited, I’m honored, and I never expected anything like this to happen. I just do my job and I enjoy doing it.”

Crocker, who is entering his third year as Raymond’s Parks and Recreation Director, first nominated Alden for this award two years ago, and then Linda Brooks, the Parks and Recreation Director for Windham, renominated him again this year for the award.

According to Crocker, Alden goes above and beyond expectations for his work and pays attention to details.

“Barry has been here for a long time, and he has really just taken the planning piece of it and run with it,” said Crocker. “He shared his vision, which is the same vision I have, which is to create almost a state park feel for Tassel Top by making it cleaner and more usable. He has been really forward thinking when it comes to changing how this park operates and he has made the park a lot better.”

During the awards ceremony, Raymond officials were able to check out some of the newly refurbished cabins at Tassel Top Park and Raymond  Town Manager Don Willard said he is amazed at how much the park had changed and been transformed during Alden’s time working there.

“You’ve really made a difference,” Willard told Alden. “You’ve made a lot of improvements and it really shows.”

Willard said without Alden’s hard work and devotion to the park and his job, Tassel Top Park would not be what it is today. <

Windham establishes sewer vote as ballot item

By Ed Pierce

During a lengthy Windham Town Council meeting on Tuesday night, councilors approved putting a measure for voters to approve a proposed North Windham Sewer project on the ballot in June.

Rather than have the proposal determined by residents at the annual Windham Town Meeting on June 18, councilors decided to have it come before voters by paper ballot on Maine Primary Day on June 14.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts briefed councilors about the proposed project during the meeting saying that the community explored the possibility of installing sewers in the area for the last 15 years.

Tibbetts told councilors that a previous $40 million bond was rejected by voters some 10 years ago and the cost of doing that same project has now risen to more than $100 million, making it too costly for the town.

He said the intent of this new proposal, which is a joint project with the Portland Water District, is to safeguard public health by protecting the environment and that in doing so, a residual effect would create an estimated $60 to $80 million in new investment in the North Windham area along the Route 302 corridor.

According to Tibbets, because of a lack of an effective sewer system over the years contaminants are polluting the aquifer, affecting surrounding ponds and lakes with increasing nitrate and phosphorous levels threatening local water resources including Sebago Lake.

“If we do nothing more contaminates will flow into the aquifer,” he said. “This is an opportunity to clean up a significant part of the environment.”

The plan also calls for the construction of a public wastewater system and result in the creation of a collection and pumping system over three miles in length to connect businesses and residents to the system and treat wastewater through an advanced micro-filtration system.

The proposed system would also create a new pumping station near Windham High School and RSU 14 that would service from the high school campus to a new treatment facility in North Windham. It also would establish a wastewater treatment facility on the grounds of Manchester School and a new pumping station at Windham Middle School.

Tibbetts said the project would not disrupt traffic in North Windham and also said the project is good for all Windham residents as 17 percent of the tax base in Windham comes from the North Windham area.

The overall estimated cost of the sewer project is $46 million and Tibbetts told the council that the proposal has the blessing of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which has authorized giving Windham a loan of up to $40 million at 1.5 percent interest and no payments have to be made on the loan until the system would be operational.

Through North Windham TIF funding, grants from the federal government, the Economic Development Association of New England, Cumberland County, Tibbetts said he expects Windham would fall about $500,000 short to fund the project which could then go out for a bond.

Preliminary engineering reports have been completed, and a project budget was established April 1 with the town applying last Friday for preapproval of a groundwater discharge permit on April 15.

Councilors Nicholas Kalogerakis and David Nadeau said that they disagree with social media postings they’ve recently seen about the town “trying to sneak things through” at the town meeting, including this proposal.  They both said the project has been written about in The Windham Eagle newspaper and posted on the town’s website and over the past two years the mil rate for Windham taxpayers has remained flat after the town’s annual budget amounting to millions of dollars has been voted upon by less than 40 voters at the Annual Town Meeting.

Town Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield said that he agrees that the Annual Town Meeting is sparsely attended yet remains a meeting open to public participation, but he preferred to have as many residents involved in the approval process for the sewer proposal as possible.

“I personally think it’s only fair to give the public full opportunity to push this forward,” he said.

The council voted to send the proposal for voter approval at the ballot box on June 14. <

'Willy Wonka Junior' production wows JSMS audience

The cast and crew  of 'Willy Wonka Junior' gathers backstage
before a production of the musical at Jordan-Small Middle
School in Raymond earlier this month.
By Briana Bizier

On a cool April night last week, eighth grader Corey Brackett’s powerful vocals rang out across the Jordan-Small Middle School stage. “Come with me,” she sang in the role of Roald Dahl’s unforgettable character Willy Wonka, “and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.”

It was an invitation that had been delayed for two long years. In early 2020, students at Jordan-Small Middle School began preparing for their big theatrical production: a musical of Willy Wonka Junior. By mid-March 2020, the sets were built and painted, the dances choreographed, and the lines mostly memorized. And then the pandemic hit.

“You guys remember the pandemic?” Director and Production Designer Tyler Costigan asked the audience before Saturday night’s performance to much laughter.

The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered theaters across the world, including in Raymond, and it closed JSMS’s theatre program for two years. However, in early 2022, the program opened once again with a return to Willy Wonka Junior. Several of the students who had been part of the original production returned in new roles, including Corey Brackett, who played Willy Wonka this time around, and Casidhe Madsen, who played Charlie’s grandfather Joe Bucket.Most of the cast and crew, however, were theatrical newcomers.

“This is the youngest cast we’ve ever had,” said choreographer and former JSMS teacher Patricia Valley. “And they’ve picked it up really quickly.”

JSMS Principal Randy Crockett, along with several teachers, attended Thursday’s final dress rehearsal, which included a new complication: microphones. Windham High School student Al Potter joined C.J. Payne, the high school’s auditorium coordinator, as they volunteered to attach microphones to the actors, turn on the sound system, and then to ask if anyone had any questions.

One young actor raised his hand. “What if we don’t know what we’re doing?” he asked.

Directory Tyler Costigan shook his head, and the show went on. Backstage on Thursday afternoon was a flurry of costume changes, from candy kids to Oompa Loompas to squirrels. The young cast and crew moved like professionals; they knew where they had to be and when they had to be there, and they handled everything from costume changes to moving set pieces large and small on and off stage with no complications.

Under the direction of stage manager Clay Perron, a JSMS student who repaired Oompa Loompa costumes with a needle and thread during rehearsal, the backstage crew of Natalie Hayes, Fenix, Bella Doyon, Julia Doyon and especially Maci Sonia, in charge of the many props for the play, kept the show running smoothly behind the scenes. There were a few backstage tears, as is to be expected of both theatrical productions and middle school, but the students ran the show, and the parental volunteers only had to pick up the costume hangers strewn about the cafeteria floor. Director Costigan, Musical Director Ben Roberts, and Choreographer Valley had clearly done their job well.

Opening night arrived on a breezy Friday. Volunteers, including JSMS alumnus and recent theatre school graduate Allison Kisel, styled hair and applied stage makeup for the actors, some of whom were nervous about wearing makeup for the first time. The directors hung black fabric over the cafeteria windows and asked the actors not to leave once they were in costume.

Several young actors clustered around the cafeteria windows as the curtain call approached, peeking through the blinds to watch their audience arrive. Another actor ventured on stage to peer through a gap in the curtains. He returned with a breathless announcement: “There are people out there!”

“Don’t worry about the people!” Costigan responded before offering several techniques for combating last-minute stage fright jitters. Musical Director Roberts then led the students through vocal exercises and a calming meditation. With five minutes to go before the curtain rose on their production, Costigan called the cast and crew together, thanked them for their hard work, and said his job was now over.

“It’s your play now,” he announced. “Go and enjoy it!”

The production began with a spotlight on Willy Wonka, played by a whimsical Corey Brackett who really captured the mercurial candy maker’s character, as Wonka announces his retirement from the candy business. The action then followed the trials and tribulations of young Charlie Bucket, played by theatrical newcomer Madeleine Huff, who brought a sense of wide-eyed innocence and optimism to the role, as Charlie and his struggling family learn of the golden tickets hidden inside five of Wonka’s candy bars. Charlie’s four grandparents, played by Casidhe Madsen, Jaysen Lewis, Addy Madsen, and Alyssa Dismore, had the audience chuckling, while Charlie’s parents, played by Henry Fitzgerald and Sage Bizier, and his friends Matilda and James, played by Maria Rosetti and Anthony Mateo, delivered convincingly empathetic performances.

As the five golden tickets were found, the five winners and their families performed their hilarious musical numbers. Augustus Gloop, and Mrs. Gloop, played by Patrick Kerr and Nadine Daigneault, received lots of laughter for their memorable performance of the song “I Eat More,” while Lucy Payne absolutely shone in her performance of spoiled brat Veruca Salt with her father Mr. Salt, played by Layla Martin in a convincing mustache.

Julianna Vassoler, playing Violet Beauregarde, got another round of laughs for her interactions with her mother, played by Evie Behnke, and with reporter Phineous Trout, played by Dean Dufour. Rounding out the batch of bratty golden ticket winners was Lillianna Noble, who brought infectious energy and a perfectly sarcastic attitude to the role of Mike Teevee, with Emma Horowitz as Teevee’s somewhat beleaguered mother.

Once inside Wonka’s factory, the audience was introduced to the Oompa Loompas, played by Rain Thomas, Dylan Handlon, Flynn Kamba and Liza Powers, as well as several cast members who had previously filled the roles of the Bucket family and Charlie’s friends and who had just performed quick costume changes backstage. Rounding out the chorus of Oompa Loompas were Alita Sargent and Zoe Woodbury, who also played the role of squirrels escorting Veruca Salt to the trash chute.

As the play progressed, each of the golden ticket winners met their just deserts inside Wonka’s factory with creative special effects and splashy dance numbers. Eventually, Charlie was the last child remaining; he made a heartfelt confession to Wonka at the end of the show, earning the candy maker’s trust and control of his magical factory. The performance ended with a grand finale featuring every member of the cast, from Charlie’s grandparents to the Oompa Loompas, and more than a few tears from the cheering audience.

“It’s like I don’t even recognize my daughter,” one mother in the crowd said. “I mean, who is that confident kid up on stage? She looks so grown up!”

As the crowd came to their feet to give the cast and crew of JSMS’s Willy Wonka Junior production a standing ovation, the actors raced backstage, and the audience’s applause was momentarily drowned out by joyful cheers from the cast and crew as they tossed their hats and props in the air.

“We did it,” Oompa Loompa actor Dylan Handlon cried. “We actually did it!”

There was another round of cheering and a few high fives, and then the actors and the crew all raced out of the cafeteria to meet their adoring fans. <

Priest announces candidacy for House District 106

Jonathan Priest of Windham is a Democratic 
candidate for the Maine House District 106 seat
representing Windham. The seat is currently held
by Mark Bryant who is term limited.
Democrat Jonathan Priest of Windham has announced that he is running for the Maine House of Representatives in District 106 for the seat formerly held by Mark Bryant, which includes part of Windham.

Priest says he’s running for the seat to bring his positivity, energy, and open-mindedness to Augusta, and that his diverse background and work history will serve him well, allowing him to look at both sides of an issue.

“I’ve done a lot and seen a lot, and I’m eager to put my shoulder to the wheel and push,” says Priest.  “I care a great deal about my town and my State, and the people who live and work here.  I want this community to thrive, and we can make some of the amazing things I’ve seen my fellow residents accomplish here in town happen on a grander scale.  The key is to find common ground and work from there.”

Priest grew up on a 40-head dairy farm in the small town of Madison, and was milking cows, haying and running equipment at a young age. 

“I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything,” he says, “It was hard work, but it taught me responsibility and gave me a real work ethic.”  Growing up in a rural setting is part of what brought him to Windham after college.  “It reminds me of my childhood,” he says.  “Open space is something that should be respected and treasured.  My father said something about that which will stick in my head forever; It’s nice to be able to see the weather coming.”  

Priest says that the farm life also taught him the importance of a clean environment, which would be part of his focus in Augusta.  “PFAS chemicals (the “forever chemicals” that have been in the news lately) are a big issue for me.  This waste sludge that came from paper mills across the State was touted as free fertilizer for farmers, and only now are these chemicals receiving the notoriety that they deserve.”

Priest worked two jobs for years and understands the efforts of people trying to make ends meet. 

“I think we need to keep more of our young folks from moving away and attract people from out of state to work at stable, well-paying jobs,” he said.  “We need infrastructure improvement; not just roads and bridges, but high-speed internet across the state.”

Priest attended the University of Maine at Farmington and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with an English concentration.  He worked for State Farm for 12 years and then moved to Allstate.  He was there for almost four years before he was recruited by MetLife Auto and Home to start his own agency in Windham.  The MetLife brand was recently acquired by Farmers, and Priest made the transition as well.

“I love the direction my career took,” says Priest.  “I was able to come in on the ground floor of the industry, and I was constantly learning something new.”  He also says that the degree he earned ended up serving him well.  “I really see myself as an educator first,” he says.  “Yes, I’m a salesperson, but I don’t want to sell anyone a policy if they don’t understand what they’re buying.”

Priest has been a Board Member and active volunteer with the Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce since 2019.

He is married to his wife of almost 23 years, Kary, and has two sons, Griffin and Curtis. <