Friday, July 30, 2021

Work on Windham Middle School construction advancing

Portland's Lavallee Brensinger Company has been selected
as the architect of the new Windham Middle School
construction project and joined RSU 14 representatives at
a meeting in Augusta this week to discuss what needs to be
done to get the project started. The new school is expected
to be completed by the fall of 2026. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE

By Ed Pierce

The plan to renovate and build a new Windham Middle School remains at the forefront of RSU 14’s agenda this summer and an architectural firm has been chosen to lead the project.

In June, the RSU 14 Board of Directors voted 8-0 approving the Lavallee Brensinger Company of Portland to serve as architects for the project and this week, RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell, Bill Hansen, RSU 14’s Director of Facilities, Property Services and Special Projects, joined representatives of Lavallee Brensinger at a meeting in Augusta with the head of school construction projects for the state of Maine.

Howell said that the pre-design meeting in Augusta clarified how much in depth of a study that RSU 14 will need to complete for an analysis of potential renovation of the current WMS building and discussed the possibility of constructing the building on the current WMS campus across from Windham High School.

Since this is a state funded project, we will be working with the state to negotiate the project fees associated with the first two steps,” Howell said. “The fees for the final construction project are based on a percentage of the total cost of the project.”

He said Lavallee Brensinger architects will be working with the Windham Middle School Building Committee while RSU 14 works through the construction process.  

“Bill Hansen and I will be acting as liaisons between the committee and the firm,” Howell said. “The first step of the project will include a new versus renovation analysis of the current Windham School Building that will be completed by the firm. If the data points to new construction, which we are anticipating, we will work with the firm to complete a site analysis for a new building.”

According to Howell, the RSU 14 Board of Directors chose Lavallee Brensinger as the project architect based upon their extensive experience with high quality school construction projects and their proven ability to complete projects efficiently and economically.

“The firm has demonstrated an ability to work with clients to help them fulfill their visions for a school plant and has a reputation for completing high quality school buildings,” Howell said. “Most recently, the group completed Sanford High School and Morse High School. They are currently building a middle school that is similar to our project for the Oyster River School District in New Hampshire. They have a reputation for shepherding projects that are completed on time and on budget.”

Howell said the project remains on track to be completed for students by the fall of 2026.

After several years of being ranked at Number 5 overall among state-approved and subsidized construction projects, RSU 14 learned in March that the highly anticipated project was greenlighted by the state to move forward although how much actual funding for the project is yet unknown. The determining factor for funding depends upon whether the aging 44-year-old school will be rebuilt or renovated.      

Howell said that the original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has now grown to 636 students, with sixth graders housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in the 1930s.

“Over the years, the Field Allen School has had several minor renovations and has been incorporated into the programming of the school.  Most recently, two new classrooms were added to the building to accommodate a large sixth-grade class,” Howell said. “The building has served the district well over the years but is starting to show signs that it is reaching the end of its usable life cycle as a school building.  Aside from the inability to have all students in the building under one roof, the main middle school building has small classrooms, outdated science rooms, restroom facilities that do not meet modern requirements, a worn-out heating system, outdated windows, and a less than adequate electrical system.”   

During the 2020-2021 school year, more than 200 students had to transition back and forth from Field Allen School to Windham Middle School for classes in art, music, science, STEM, gym and other activities including the school cafeteria.

Howell said that RSU 14 originally applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and was ranked as the fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide each year before being greenlighted for funding in March 2021.

“The program is highly competitive as a positive rating in the process can lead to a significant financial savings for school districts,” Howell said. “A majority of construction costs for school projects selected through this program will be covered by the state.”

Once a district applies for funding, Maine DOE reviews and rates the project based upon need. The State Board of Education then funds as many projects from the list as available debt limit funds allow. Working with the State Board of Education, Maine DOE establishes both size and financial limits on projects.

Local school districts may exceed these limits at local expense through municipal bonds, but the state bears the major financial burden of capital costs for approved school construction projects. As such, Maine DOE first looks at the possibility of renovations or renovations with additions and new school construction projects are only considered in instances in which renovation projects are not economically or educationally feasible.

According to Howell, there are 21 steps in the school construction process for state funded projects.

“The first three steps are steps related to the application for a building.  The project started step 4 last week when an advertisement was completed for architectural services for the project,” he said. “Once an architectural firm is selected, the district will work with that firm to complete an analysis of new versus renovation and to conduct an analysis of possible sites in the district to construct a new building.”

He said specific work by RSU 14 toward developing a vision for the new school building started in 2019. 

“The district engaged the services of an experienced school planner named Frank Locker who has worked with teams across the world to design and build new school buildings,” Howell said.  “Frank has been working with a group of stakeholders through a process of examining middle level programming, student grouping, functionality and equipment, environment in the new learning space, future learning, and how the building can be used for all members of the RSU 14 community.  A final report from the work of this group will be presented this spring.  The document will be used by the architects to develop concept designs for the new building.”

This spring WMS Principal Drew Patin said he was thrilled that the project is now moving ahead.

“Not only will we be able to create a safe and welcoming school, but we will have the opportunity to design a building that meets the educational needs of our students in this current age and for generations of students to come,” Patin said. “We will create spaces that promote lifelong skills, such as collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and perseverance.” < 

Windham Center Stage Theater reopens with Edges: A Song Cycle

Cast members of Windham Center Stage Theater's production 
of Edges: A Song Cycle rehearse for their upcoming shows on
Aug. 6, 7 and 8 at Windham Town Hall.
By Elizabeth Richards

The stage lights will come up at the Windham Town Hall for the first time in over a year when Windham Center Stage Theater presents Edges: A Song Cycle on Aug. 6, 7 and 8.

Edges is the first live show WCST has performed since they closed their children’s show, Pinocchio, in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In early July, Edges ran for a weekend at the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston. Now, WCST is bringing it home.

Pinocchio ran for one weekend before they made the difficult decision to close.

“We put everything on pause,” said Laurie Shepard, co-chair of the WCST board, who was also the director for that show.  “It was hard for the community, the kids who had worked so hard…but safety came first.”

Although they couldn’t reopen the show as they’d hoped they might, they did hold a drive-by awards ceremony where Shepard took the time to thank each child and celebrate the work that they had put in.

While closed, WCST held a virtual Winter Wonderland performance, something they’d never done before.  Shepard said there was a learning curve, and they had to really step back and change their thought process a little. 

As they open their season, they are still thinking outside the box, and trying to do whatever they can to offer great theater to the community, she said.

Because WCST performs at the Windham Town Hall, they did not have a building to sustain through the pandemic. That allowed them to concentrate on providing whatever theater experience they could during the pandemic, Shepard said. 

“We did the virtual production, and it was just about serving the community, not about ticket sales,” she said. 

Rachel Scala-Bolduc, music director for Edges, said that was one thing that WCST was really fortunate for.

“We didn’t really have to worry about maintaining our own space and not having any revenue,” she said.

“Like everybody else, we’re charting a very different way of looking at things,” Shepard said. “We’re just plugging away and excited to be back on our home base stage.”

Director Darnell Stuart said that originally, the group had talked about streaming Edges online.

“Things started changing with Covid, and we were able to change our direction and be able to put it on the stage, which has been a great, great experience for all of us,” she said. “All of us are seasoned theater people, so it was a great thing to be able to come back and do something we all love so much.”

The show is quite different from a typical WCST production said Scala, who is also one of the four-member cast. Part of the appeal was the small cast, she said.

“From the very beginning safety was our number one concern, so just the fact that it’s a small cast and it’s just singing felt very safe to us,” she said.

Her husband, Jon Bolduc, her brother, Matt Scala, and Bryanne Miller, make up the remainder of the cast. 

Scala-Bolduc said the close relationships that already existed between much of the cast also helped them feel safe performing together.

The show is unique in that it’s a song cycle, not a traditional musical.  There’s no dialogue, but instead a continuous sequence of songs, and cast members don’t play just one character throughout the show.

“Each song is a different vignette,” Scala-Bolduc said.

Scala-Bolduc said Edges is a fun show, meant for an adult audience, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, well known for their work on Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, and The Greatest Showman. 

Though Edges is not a well-known song cycle, she said, it’s one of the first things written by those famous writers, and the audience may hear a familiar sound in the music. 

Stuart said the show is centered around college students and the choices and decisions they have to make upon leaving school.

“It’s about commitment, love, the meaning of relationships…” she said. 

Although the show was written about coming of age, Stuart said, “When I first started listening to the music, and really delving into the lyrics, I realized that we are all at point in our lives, with coming out of Covid. We are all struggling with commitments, and identifying ourselves, and the meaning of things…the expectations of life as it has changed in the last year and a half.

“For me a big part of this production was saying we’re at a starting point again in our lives and now we’re taking this journey,” she said. “It’s just been a really incredible journey and we are so excited to be back on our little stage in Windham,” she added. “We have a wonderful theater community, and we want to get back in the game and do what we love doing the most, and that’s theater.”

The remainder of the season for WCST will include the Great American Trailer Park (also meant for more mature audiences), the children’s show, Madagascar, in March, and Steel Magnolias to end the season in the spring.

“We’re very excited to start our children’s show back up,” Shepard said. “We’re excited to get that program up and running again serving youth in not just Windham but surrounding communities.”

Tickets for Edges: A Song Cycle can be purchased on the WCST website ( or at the door.  Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors/students.

Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday performance is at 2 p.m. <

Friday, July 23, 2021

Love of cinematography inspires Windham filmmaker

Windham cinematographer Filipp Kotsishesvkiy films in
the jungles of Reserve Zorzal in the Dominican Republic.
Moving to the U.S. from Russia, the acclaimed filmmaker
now lives in Windham. SUBMITTED PHOTO
 By Lorraine Glowczak

How can I, as a writer who is fascinated by local life stories, ignore the excitement of a neighbor as he approaches me after a job he has just completed and exclaims, “I got to meet and talk to Yo-Yo Ma at Acadia National Park this weekend!” (Ma is an internationally known American cellist who was highlighted in various local news sources recently for his impromptu performance at this very venue).

And then, after a few minutes of conversation, I also discover he is traveling to the Dominican Republic in a few days to film a documentary about rainforests and birds. He has captured my attention when I discover that this is a normal, everyday experience in his life as a cinematographer.

I could not pass up an opportunity to get to know this person and share his fascinating life story. Although his role as a successful filmmaker is important to note, his journey to become such needs a bit of recognition too.

The intriguing person in question is Filipp Kotsishevskiy of Windham and his account as a flourishing filmmaker begins at a very early age.

“As we were packing our bags to move to New York City; my mother asked me to look at everything in the attic to determine what I thought were the most important things to take with us to the U.S.,” Kotsishevskiy said.

As the then six-year old roamed the dark and dusty loft, Kotsishevskiy discovered two heavy leather cases that once belonged to his grandfather who died before he was born. He opened the containers made of rawhide and discovered metal cameras with rolls of film tucked neatly inside. Kotsishevskiy learned later that the still images captured family memories and stories that only the Kotsishevskiy family knew and loved.

“While I touched the cold metal of the camera and smelled the scent of the film, there was something that opened up in me. I knew at that moment that I would be working with cameras and film in some way – I just didn’t know how it would come about,” Kotsishevskiy said.

The year in his memory is 1996 while he, his mother and grandmother were preparing to leave Moscow. His mother advised that the cameras should remain in the family’s attic. His mother owned this home in Moscow and planned to rent it while living in New York. She feared the equipment that held relics of a country in turmoil would be confiscated at the airport but would remain safe in the dark crevasses of the family’s attic. She promised her son she would return someday to retrieve them.

New life

Kotsishevskiy’s story begins in 1990 when he was born to a single Armenian mother who moved to Russian from Baku, Azerbeajan as a young actor and dancer. Much like Millie Dillmount in the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” who moves from Salina, KS to NYC to seek fame and fortune, Kotsishevskiy’s mother moved to Moscow in the late 1980s with dreams of her own. Those dreams shifted when she gave birth to Kotsishevskiy. Her aspirations changed as she felt called to provide the best possible experience and home life to her new son during difficult times.

“I was born during the collapse of the Soviet Union and there was very little food available – including baby food,” Kotsishevskiy said. “My grandmother who lived with us waited in bread lines to feed the family and my mother relied on her friends who lived in Europe and sent baby food to feed me.”

Kotsishevskiy’s mother supported him and his grandmother by working as a VIP Restaurant Manager. This gave him the opportunity to make his own money and prepared him to meet ‘famous’ people that would obviously be a part of his future career.

“Instead of going to a day care, we all went to work with our parents. We were considered the ‘kitchen brats’”, Kotsishevskiy said, referring to the children of the kitchen staff. “We got to meet famous politicians and other big names of that time. We washed their big, fancy BMW’s, Mercedes, etc. and would get paid for it. For me, it was a fun adventure while hanging out with friends.”

As the political, social, and economic difficulties continued in what is now formally known as the Russian Federation, Kotsishevskiy and his family accepted the invitation by his mother’s sister to live with her in New York City. Kotsishevskiy began his American life in the Bronx when he was in the first grade.

Although he experienced many ups and downs during his first year, Kotsishevskiy quickly adjusted to American life, speaking, and understanding English by the second grade. He refers to his early and teenage year experiences as being a ‘typical American kid’.

By the time he reached sixth grade, his interest in the theater arts and cinematography expanded and took hold, first writing plays and casting his friends as the stars of the show and then eventually creating silent movies with a friend during his high school years.

But like almost all youth who enter the arts as a profession, he was persuaded and pressured by well-meaning adults in his life who encouraged a more steady and solid career path.

“In New York, a student must begin thinking about their future and choose a high school that accommodates their career choice,” Kotsishevskiy said. “I wanted to attend LaGuardia High School because its focus is on music, art and the performing arts. But because I was advised that a career in the arts would most likely keep me poor for the rest of my life, I decided to become a lawyer and choose the more prestigious Stuyvesant High School instead.”

Stuyvesant High School is a public magnet and college-prep school that groom students for ivy league education and a solid future that most often comes with financial success.

It turns out, Kotsishevskiy, who disliked all his classes, failed in almost every subject. As a result, he had to meet with the school’s counselor.

“After meeting with the counselor and my mother, it was decided that I should participate in a local theater group,” Kotsishevskiy said. “This is where I started to bloom and I as a student thrived.” 

Kotsishevskiy graduated successfully in 2008 from the elite Stuyvesant High School but his experience in the local theater group is where his ‘real’ education occurred and was the contributing factor to his success.

He applied to and was accepted by State University New York (SUNY)- Purchase, a liberal arts college and film conservatory. This gave voice to his true innovative and creative endeavors.

First documentary

“My first documentary [to be graded] was on homelessness in New York City,” Kotsishevskiy said. “The title of my film was ‘Out for Days’ and I lived the life along two individuals who chose homelessness as a lifestyle.”

His choice for a school assignment took notice by the professors which gave him the confidence as a student to keep moving forward professionally. After graduating from SUNY-Purchase with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and marrying a fellow SUNY-Purchase classmate who hailed from western Pennsylvania, Kotsishevskiy found his way to Maine to work for Maine Media Workshops as a cinematographer. This is where his journey as a filmmaker expanded exponentially.

“I was paid to learn from some of the world’s best photographers and cinemaphotographers,” Kotsishevskiy said.

After working three years fulltime as a news cinemaphotographer with WGME-TV and winning an Emmy for a News Historical Feature story on the Great Fires of Portland Maine, Kotsishevskiy set out on his own and now works for Peel and Eat, a video production company based in Boston. He is also a freelance film artist during his time off.

This experience, along with the experience of living in Maine with all its lakes and the ocean that sits along the rugged coastline, has captured his soul. He and his wife now live near the shores of Highland Lake, and he plans to continue his work in cinematography. One day it is quite possible that Windham will be able to claim the fame of Kotsishevskiy – who will be the equivalent of the next Yo-Yo Ma.

As for his grandfather’s leather bags filled with old film and heavy metal cameras that once sat in an attic in Moscow, Kotsishevskiy’s mother kept her promise. The artistic work of his grandfather that inspired Kotsishevskiy to pursue his current life journey - now lands permanently in his hands. <

Upcoming bridge work to detour Route 115 traffic into Windham

By Ed Pierce

For thousands of motorists who rely on Route 115 to get to their destination daily, the commute in and out of town is about to get a little trickier for a few weeks.

Last week the Maine Department of Transportation revealed the start date for a project to shore up the Narrows Bridge on Route 115, which spans Ditch Brook. Work on the bridge was originally scheduled to take place in the spring of 2020 but was postponed because of school schedules and resulting traffic delays and detours for school buses.

MDOT construction crews will begin work on the Narrows
Bridge on Route 115 in Windham starting on Monday, July 26.
The work will cause the reduction of traffic on Route 115 to
one lane eastbound. Vehicles entering Windham westbound from
Gray will be detoured onto Route 202. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
The $150,000 project will remove the east bridge joint and replace it with a new armored joint, removal of the west bridge joint and replace it with a new APJ asphaltic plug joint, applying sealer to wearing surfaces of the bridge, and extensive repair of the abutment over Ditch Brook. Work on the project will begin on Monday morning, July 26, and is estimated that the work will take about three weeks overall to complete.

The Narrows Bridge is located some 250 feet west of Running Brook Road on Route 115, also known as the Tandberg Trail and just west of the Falmouth Road intersection. Thousands of vehicles use Route 115 and cross the Narrows Bridge each day as it connects Windham to Gray, the Maine Turnpike and points beyond.

According to Maine DOT officials, work on the Narrows Bridge will force the reduction of traffic on Route 115 to one lane for the duration of the project.

MDOT says that vehicles entering Windham from Gray on Route 115 will be detoured onto Route 202 to either Falmouth Road or Route 302 to reach their destinations. Traffic on Route 115 will only be allowed to travel east away from Route 302 for the duration of the Narrows Bridge work. 

Traffic signs for associated project detours were put in place several weeks ago and will be uncovered Sunday, Maine DOT says.

Residents of the Running Brook, Collinwood and Wedgewood neighborhoods in Windham will be able to access Running Brook Road from both directions, according to Windham Public Works. A sign on Running Brook Road indicating “No Outlet, Residents Only” will be posted there at the entrance from Route 115 throughout the duration of the project.

Earlier this week, traffic on Route 115 in the area was limited to one lane briefly as Windham DPW workers repaired some erosion damage adjacent to locations the state project will tackle near Ditch Brook.

Because of the proximity to the Narrows Bridge, the Windham DPW erosion work was necessary prior to the Maine DOT project launch because of accessibility issues once the state begins work there, a representative of Windham DPW said in a social media posting.

In March. State Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, said that the three-year MDOT Work Plan from 2021 to 2023 would include seven different projects totaling more than $2.5 million.

Among the projects included in the three-year plan was the Narrows Bridge repair and numerous improvements to Route 302 in Windham such as rehabilitation and construction to the roundabout there as well as safety improvements made possible through the municipal partnership initiative program.

“MDOT Work Plan projects will benefit our local communities in many ways,” Corey said in a press release. “I am pleased to see several MDOT projects scheduled for the next three years in our area. They will make our roads safer and benefit the local economy.” 

According to Paul Merrill, Maine DOT public information officer, detours associated with the Narrows Bridge repair project will end by Friday, Aug. 13.

Some ancillary work, requiring an alternating single-lane traffic pattern, may occur after that date,” Merrill said. <

Friday, July 16, 2021

Raymond grandfather adopts and rebuilds an 'ordinary' family life for four grandkids

The extraordinary circumstance that has brought the 
Wallace family together has turned into ordinary
family adventure. From left are Jameson, Dylan,
Jaelynn and Aubriana with their grandfather, Mike
Wallace, as they celebrated becoming a legal family
on May 10, 2021. SUBMITTED PHOTO   
By Lorraine Glowczak

Imagine living in a 37-foot Silverton boat along the Florida’s gulf coast as a bachelor who is living the life of his dreams with no thought of abandoning the carefree and adventurous lifestyle that he’s established for himself.

Now imagine four young children who live in Maine who haven’t seen their mother and father for days and do not know where they are. The parents are missing due to their lifelong substance misuse. The children are left with their grandmother who is not capable of keeping them for an extended period. Texts from the oldest child, age 11, to her parents are returned with broken promises of their imminent return.

Within a week, the children are taken into custody by Child Protective Services and the bachelor receives a phone call he never imagined he would receive, ever.

“When I got the call that my grandchildren were in Maine state custody, they told me that if I didn’t come to get them, they would remain a ward of the state,” 58-year-old Raymond grandfather, Mike Wallace said. “I was called on a Wednesday and by Thursday morning, I was in Maine to give my grandchildren a family life they deserved.”

That was in 2018. In the past three years, these five individuals have experienced many unknowns, some ups and downs and loads of “ordinary” family fun that also includes the typical family quarrels.

Wallace, who grew up in the Gray/New Gloucester area, had been living in Florida for 14 years when he made his sudden and unexpected move back to New England. Longing for the warmth of winter months in the Sunshine State, Wallace considered returning to Florida with his grandchildren until his oldest grandchild, Aubrianna, who is now 14, reminded him of his promise.

“But grandpa – you promised we wouldn’t have to move again,” she said. Wallace remembered his pledge to the children and honored it by purchasing a five-bedroom home in Raymond on a piece of land that provides roaming adventures for Charley, the four-legged member of the family that moved with Wallace from Florida.

“There has been nothing about this that has been easy,” Wallace said. “But like I have always said, ‘Nothing in life is supposed to be easy – it’s just supposed to be worth it.’”

Wallace and his four grandchildren, who in addition to Aubrianna, include Jaelynn (13), Jameson (11), and Dylan (7) have rebuilt their lives together, and so far, all the work it has taken to do so, has been worth it in more ways than one.

Wallace shared some challenges they have faced as they came together as a new family and ways that they have made an adventure out of the life they were given.

“It is important to say that these children have never experienced a birthday, a Thanksgiving, a Christmas or any other holiday in the same place because there was never stability in their lives – they were always moving,” Wallace said. “Since we’ve been together, we have managed to establish a routine like any other ‘normal’ family, but it has taken us a bit to get to that point.”

The first challenge the family of five faced is the actual meeting of one another when Wallace arrived in Maine. It had been a while since Wallace had last seen his grandchildren. He said that due to his daughter’s chosen lifestyle and their personal disagreements, he had yet to meet Dylan and had only seen Jameson once when he was a baby. Both grandfather and grandson Jameson admitted the family reunion was a bit awkward.

“It didn’t take long for us to get to know each other but it didn’t come without our arguments and misunderstandings,” Wallace said. “We had to get to know each other in unusual circumstances. First, I had a difficult time finding a place to rent. No one wanted to rent to a single grandfather with four grandchildren and a dog in tow.”

The first living arrangement was in a RV that Wallace purchased and parked in his brother’s yard. A handy man among many of his professional skills, Wallace worked as an estimator for his brother’s roofing company. Ironically, that job led him to the house he purchased in Raymond when the company was hired to replace the roof.

But perhaps the greatest challenge for the family occurred in March 2020, when the schools closed due to COVID, and it was up to Wallace to act as a home-school teacher.

“Here I am a high-school dropout teaching my grandchildren their assignments from home,” Wallace said. “But somehow, we made it through, and the children are doing quite well in terms of their education. I don’t know how it all came together, but it did. There is one thing for sure that I am proud of, they definitely know their fractions.”

Wallace is referring to the fun family summer project they began last year when they embarked upon an entrepreneurial adventure, building and selling picnic tables.

“We decided that we wanted to make extra cash to have fun as a family during the summer,” Wallace said. “We made enough money last year to purchase a grill and other outdoor picnic items. This year, we made enough money to purchase a pop-up tent and we are going camping in the next couple of weeks.”

Wallace said that the picnic building venture has proven to be successful, selling 120 tables this year with only Facebook posts and word of mouth as their marketing strategy.

“We’ve sold picnic tables to individuals across the state as well as to the Raymond Library, Raymond Parks and Recreation – and even the Raymond Town Manager purchased one!”

The new family of five became official when Wallace signed the adoption papers on May 10 this year. “Can you spell Wallace for me?”, Wallace asked his grandson Dylan during this interview. “W-A-L-L-A-C-E,” Dylan said without hesitation, spelling out his new last name.

It does seem that all five individuals have faced their share of trials and difficulties as they have come together through extraordinary circumstances to become what most humans desire, a simple and an ordinary family experience. 

But like Wallace always says, “Nothing in life is supposed to be easy – it’s just supposed to be worth it.” <

Christmas in July Boat Parade nears in Naples

The 2nd Annual Christmas in July Boat Parade will be held
on Brandy Pond and Long Lake in Naples on Saturday,
July 24. The number of colorful decorated vessels expected
to participate could top last year's total of 65 boats.
By Ed Pierce

In the event you haven’t started your countdown yet, as of July 16 there are only 162 days left until Christmas. To keep the holiday spirit going throughout the year, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the town of Naples and the Naples Marine Patrol to bring the 2nd Annual Christmas in July Boat Parade to Brandy Pond and Long Lake in Naples once again this summer.

This year’s Christmas in July Boat Parade will be held on Saturday, July 24 and anticipation is building among lake residents and businesses who are already starting to decorate for this year’s event.

The annual parade is a Naples Marine Safety Patrol-created event that was first conducted in 2020 with a total of 65 boats participating.

“Naples Christmas in July Boat Parade was started in 2020 by Mark Maroon and Jim Stark of the Naples Marine Patrol as a way to get folks safely out and having fun in the midst of COVID-19,” said Robin Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “They were assisted by community volunteer Joanne Jordan.”

Mullins said that given that volunteers only worked on the event for about three weeks prior to the parade, the turnout of boats was amazing considering pandemic restrictions of the time.

“Boats, captains and the crews were all decked out for the holidays,” Mullins said. “The town selectpersons judged the winning boats, as prizes were given for the best decorated watercraft.”

Leading efforts to promote this year’s Annual Christmas in July Boat Parade are Committee Chair Mark Maroon, Naples Town Manager John Hawley, and Jim Spark and Joanne Jordan, who are handling the sponsorships and logistics for the event.

“Mark Maroon approached me this year to see if the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce wanted to partner and look at making this an annual event,” Mullins said. “Our hope is to make it a destination event for Naples. Of course we said, yes. Naples is an important part of the Sebago Lakes Region, and like all of our eight towns including Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham, we want to support them in any way we can.”

To participate in this year’s boat parade, all boats must be registered prior to the event. Registration is available online at

Boaters who register will receive specific parade details and a map when they sign up. The lineup of boats for the parade starts at 8:30 p.m. near Jackson Cove on Brandy Pond.

“Once again we hope boats come all decked out with tons of holiday decorations,” Mullins said. “There will be prizes for the three top decorated boats, once again voted on by town selectpersons.”

She said that the town of Naples is encouraging nearby businesses and residents of Brandy Pond and the lower end of Long Lake to decorate.

Event organizers say they are grateful for all sponsors for this year’s parade, which helped to pay for lighted buoys for the event and prizes. 

Sponsors include:

Captain's Club Sponsors ($500):

Brother Flecker's

Causeway Gifts

Dingley's Wharf

Freedom Cafe


Naples Marina

PM Boat Covers

Rick's Cafe

First Mate Sponsors ($250):

Causeway Marina

Gary's Olde Towne Tavern

Long Lake Marina

Maine Real Estate Choice

Moose Landing Marina

Sun Sports

According to Mullins, those who do not own boats are welcome to visit the Naples Causeway to get in the holiday spirit and ready to view the festivities.

“They can enjoy the decorations, shopping and food before viewing the parade,” Mullins said. “The parade should be making its way over to the bridge between 8:45 and 9 p.m., we hope. We ask spectators to be patient. We will have music, and yes, there will be Christmas music starting at 8:30 and running until about 10:30 p.m.” <

Friday, July 9, 2021

Windham's Public Safety Building renovation and expansion officially under way

Members of Windham's Town Council, construction officials,
town public safety members and first responders, and Windham's
town manager gathered at the Windham Public Safety Building
at 375 Gray Road on July 2 to officially break ground for
expansion and renovation of the 33-year-old public safety
facility. Great Falls Construction of Gorham will work on
the $4.3 million project and expects to complete construction
in about 10 months. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Ed Pierce

It’s been a long time coming, but ground has finally been broken on the $4.3 million expansion of Windham’s Public Safety Building at 375 Gray Road.

In a special groundbreaking ceremony conducted on July 2, members of the Windham Town Council joined Windham’s Police Chief and Fire Chief and construction officials in celebrating the start of the highly anticipated project.

When construction work is finished, the existing 17,000-square-foot building will add a 15,247-square foot renovation including joint space for both the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Departments. The project features a two-story 5,840-square-foot addition that will house five apparatus bays, a public safety decontamination space, bunk rooms, kitchen and offices for the Fire Department and an additional 1,305-square-foot standalone three-bay space for vehicle and evidence storage for the Police Department, along with the creation of a second elevator for the building.

Construction work will be performed by Great Falls Construction of Gorham, that has worked on four other projects for the town of Windham and many public safety buildings throughout southern and central Maine.

“We’ve looked at the needs of our police and fire departments for a while and this is a much-needed expansion of Windham’s Public Safety Building,” said Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts. “We thank the voters for their support and to the Windham Town Council in moving this forward.”

Renovation will take place throughout the entire building and will include HVAC and lighting upgrades to increase efficiencies and updating finishes throughout the building, to include a revised locker room space. Work on the facility during the project will create an additional 10 new parking spaces and a 1,305-square-foot, single-story secured evidence locker that will be located on the corner of the property, along with additional parking, patio space, a dumpster area and a new generator for the building.

Jon Smith, the owner of Great Falls Construction attended the groundbreaking event, as did Architect Mike Hays of Grant Hays Associates of Falmouth, and Owens McCullough of the civil engineering firm Sebago Technics of South Portland and representatives of the structural engineering company Allied Engineering of Portland.

Smith said the entire project team is based in Maine and it’s a great way to give back to the Maine community and support Maine’s workforce.

To accommodate the renovation project, Windham firefighters have temporarily moved out of the building for the duration of construction work, while the Windham Police Department will continue to use the facility as the work progresses.

In 2020, Windham residents approved up to $4.9 million in bonds during the Annual Town Meeting for capital improvement projects, including funding the expansion for the town’s public safety building. Additional funding for the building renovation is derived from town impact fees, which typically run about $300 to $3,500 for new residential developments, with fees for new commercial buildings figured based on purpose and overall square footage.

The current Public Safety Building on Gray Road was built in 1988 at a time when none of the town’s firefighters were full-time staff members and Windham only had about 15 or so police officers on duty. Through the decades as Windham has grown, the town now employs eight professional firefighters and the town’s police force has doubled in size to 30 officers.

Windham Fire Chief Brent Libby said that firefighters have adapted the best they could to the current public safety facility but welcome and appreciate the new expansion.

“It’s a great transition,” Libby said. “There was no room in the current building for future expansion and now we’ll have more space and room to grow. It will provide us with a classroom for training and bathrooms. This project is huge for us and this location is very important for us allowing us to reach wherever we are needed in the town in a short period of time.”

Windham Police Chief Kevin L. Schofield said police officers are grateful for the extra room created from the expansion.

“It’s nice to see that the town and the community has invested in itself,” Schofield said. “It will result in a more modern professional workspace for us as our staffing has doubled in size. It will be adequate space for them for the foreseeable future.”

Police officers first started using the existing Windham Public Safety Building in April 1990.

Mike Hays, the architect who helped create the final design for the building expansion, said he’s humbled to be part of such vital work.

“It’s a great day for Windham’s first responders and I’m excited to be part of such an exciting project. It will be home base for first responders who serve all of the residents of this town.”

Owens McCullough said Sebago Technics is thrilled to work on the project and everyone involved with the renovation and expansion work is eager to get going.

“It’s really a team that makes this happen,” he said.

Construction work is expected to take about 10 months to complete, Tibbetts said. <

WEDC plans informational workshops about upcoming commercial improvements

The Windham Economic Development Corporation will host
several free workshops on Thursday, July 15 to discuss
upcoming infrastructure projects in North Windham, Route 302
corridor traffic and roadway network improvements, and the
North Windham Wastewater Collection and Treatment Project.
By Ed Pierce

Commerce is booming in Windham and to keep business owners, real estate brokers, bankers and commercial property owners informed about opportunities ahead, the Windham Economic Development Corporation will host several free workshops next week to discuss upcoming infrastructure projects in North Windham, Route 302 Corridor traffic and roadway network improvements and the North Windham Wastewater Collection and Treatment Project.          

According to WEDC Executive Director Thomas Bartell, workshops will be conducted in two sessions on Thursday, July 15 at the Microtel Hotel, 965 Roosevelt Trail, Windham. The morning session runs from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and will cover Retail Market Analysis for the town, while the afternoon session runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. and covers upcoming Downtown North Windham infrastructure improvements.

Bartell said interested participants can attend one or both sessions of the workshop.

“Business owners, commercial brokers, commercial bankers, and property owners are all encouraged to attend,” he said. “The first workshop starts at 8:30 am and breakfast is included with the Retail Coach covering the Windham Retail Market Analysis. Their research and analysis can help your business thrive and identify further opportunities in the Windham market.”

He said that the Retail Coach is a national retail consulting, market research, and development firm that combines strategy, technology, and creative expertise to develop and deliver high-impact retail recruitment and development strategies to local governments, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations. 

“The Retail Coach also brings to Windham their “SmallBiz360” Program,” Bartell said. “SmallBiz360 works with new and existing small businesses to better understand their customers and the Windham Retail Market and provides these businesses with the opportunity to develop or improve their website and to develop e-commerce platforms to extend their businesses online.”

The WEDC has contracted with the Retail Coach to evaluate the Windham Market place and Bartell said that the WEDC would like to share that knowledge with participants. 

“The Retail Coach has been able to analyze the market for our local retail clients and capture data that is important to help our local businesses reach new potential clients and better serve their current clientele,” Bartell said. “We are excited to get together in person to share this data with local business owners and brokers, and banking representatives.” 

The second session includes lunch and will address Downtown North Windham sewer and traffic improvement projects and resulting real estate commercial opportunities.  

“Through its 21st Century Downtown plan, the town of Windham has been working on two transformative projects in the North Windham Downtown for a number of years,” Bartell said. “The North Windham Moves transportation project looks to add to the road network throughout the commercial district which will open additional commercially zoned property to development. 

In addition, Bartell said that the session will share details about the North Windham Wastewater Collection and Treatment project which will provide the first public sewer system in the commercial district. 

“This new wastewater project will allow for increased density throughout Downtown North Windham,” he said. “We will share the next steps and how it could benefit current and new commercial real estate opportunities. Anyone in the commercial broker/real estate/banking field or other interested local business owners should attend this workshop to learn more.”

The mission of the Windham Economic Development Corporation is to encourage economic growth and development in a manner that provides a welcoming atmosphere for business while protecting the town’s rural characteristics and natural resources. It strives to encourage economic growth and development in a manner that supports increased prosperity in Windham and improves the quality of life for all residents.

For more information or to register to attend one or both free workshop sessions, contact Bartell at 207-892-1936 or send an email to < 

Friday, July 2, 2021

All in the family: Sense of service to community inspires five generations of Windham firefighters

For the five generations of men in the Nichols family, being a
firefighter was and is more than a job, it is a passion and a desire
to serve the community. Shown are three of those five generations,
from left are, Ernest, David and Timmy Nichols.
By Lorraine Glowczak

It began in 1913 when a South Windham undertaker, John C. Nichols, assisted with the founding of the South Windham Fire Department, as it was officially named at that time. What John didn’t know then is that his calling to serve the community as a volunteer firefighter from 1913 to the 1930s would influence and inspire the choices of his son, grandson, great-grandson, and great- great-grandson – all of whom followed in his footsteps.

“What people may not know now is that in my grandfather’s days, it was a badge of honor to volunteer for the fire department,” Ernest (Ernie) L. Nichols said of John. "There would be a long list of people waiting to be called in order to serve and my grandfather and father [Donald O. Nichols who served from the 1920s to 1945] were among them – and it seems us three remaining Nichols’ men all caught the bug, too.”

Ernie, a retired machinist from SD Warren who is now 85 years old, worked tirelessly as a volunteer firefighter beginning in the 1950s. He recalls memories growing up in a family of firefighters and shares the way volunteers knew where a fire was located, prior to the days of advanced communication technologies.

“There wasn’t the communications we have today to let firemen know where a fire was,” Ernie said. “Back then, an alarm would be sounded at the paper mill to alert the volunteers. There would be a specific code assigned to each area of town that would indicate where the fire was. For example, if an area was assigned the number 25, there would be two sounds from the alarm, and after a brief pause, five sounds would follow. And, from that, the volunteers knew where to go.”

Although his father retired in 1945, Ernie remembers his dad being called back to service two years later due to the Great Fires of 1947, a series of forest fires in Maine that destroyed a total area of 17,188 acres of wooded land from the Waterboro and Shapleigh areas to the ocean.

“My dad got a call from the then Fire Chief Harland Freeman,” Ernie said. “There simply were not enough firefighters to keep up with the devastation. My dad, as with all firefighters, did what they had to do to help and serve a great need.”

Ernie’s dad and others did, indeed, serve a great need. It has been written in several historical articles that, “with the exception of Shapleigh and Waterboro, most town centers were saved through the tireless work of firefighters.”

Ernie officially retired from firefighting in January 1982 as a Deputy Chief.

“The only reason why I became a Deputy Chief, is because my son [David Nichols], wanted me to when he was about 10 years old.”

In an article written by The Windham Eagle’s Staff Writer, Matt Pascarella in 2018, it was stated that Ernie’s son started in the family business in August of 1984 at the age of 15 as a junior member in South Windham Fire Company (as it is known today). By the age of 18, David had become a lieutenant. In 1993, he moved to North Windham and became a captain shortly after, beginning his role as Deputy Chief approximately 10 years later. He retired from the Windham Fire and Rescue Department in 2018.

David became a member of the Portland Fire Department in 1999 where he continues to work today.

David’s mother, Sue, shared the moment she knew Ernie’s and her son was going to continue in the family’s career of choice.

“Ernie was called to a house fire and when he left, David, who was about six years old at the time begged me to go,” Sue said. “After some hesitation and taking time to explain how firefighters need to focus on safety, I agreed to take him. So, we got in the car – it was a station wagon and there was this big hump in the center of the floor in the back that was common in cars back then. When we arrived, David stood on that hump and looked out the window with a look on his face as if we had given him the most expensive Christmas gift possible. With eyes as wide as saucers, he said to me, ‘Oh, mom. I love this!’.”

Fast forward to today and now David’s son, Timmy, who will be a senior at Windham High School in the fall, is following in the family tradition. He is now a junior member of the Windham Fire and Rescue Department. This past school year, Timmy took firefighting courses at the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center and will continue his studies this fall by taking emergency medical technician courses.

“I want to make a career out of this,” Timmy said. “I grew up surrounded by larger-than-life heroes who I looked up to. My earliest memories were going to the station with my dad and grandpa, and I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. It is a unique environment to grow up in and I am part of a family in more ways than one. Being of service to my community is in my blood.”

Timmy’s dad agreed about being a part of a family. “Firefighters are all a close-knit group and sometimes we are required to spend more time with our family of service than our own individual families.”

Being a firefighter does come with some challenges and the three Nichols men shared some ways in which bravery and commitment is required.

“You set a high standard for yourself,” Timmy said. “And it is important to live up to that standard and not disappoint your family, friends and the community.”

Balancing family and work are also among some challenges, David said.

“You often miss out on sporting events, family meals, birthday parties, etc. Also, when you live in a small town, you know a lot of people and there are times when you are called to a tragedy, and you must help someone near and dear to you without bringing emotions into it – to remain calm and professional.”

Ernie said that when your children become teenagers and adults, you always wonder when you go to a call if they may be there – among those who are injured.

But as David pointed out, the good always outweighs the bad. “You get to save people and, like I stated previously, your coworkers are your family. Not just among the company you work with but on a national level. No matter where you go in the U.S., if you visit a fire station, you are welcomed as if you are one of their own. It’s a great experience to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”

For those who are contemplating a career in firefighting, the Nichols all agree that a level of commitment is needed. But most importantly, they stressed the following:

“It’s more than a job – it is a calling. It’s about service to your community. You’ll either like it or you won’t. There is no in-between.”

There certainly has been no ‘in-between’ in terms of passion with the five men in the Nichols family. Although it is too early to know, a sixth-generation firefighter may be inspired by their ancestors to serve with the same fervor as the five dedicated men before them. <

Family operated hot dog stand thrives in Windham for 40 years and three generations

Corinna Jackson, right, the daughter of founder John Bennett,
joins her daughter, Audrey Jackson, in operating John's Hot Dogs
in the parking lot of Planet Fitness off Route 302 in Windham.
The seasonal hot dog stand recently celebrated its 41st year in
business in Windham and offers lunch Tuesdays through Fridays.
By Ed Pierce

For the past 41 years, generations of Windham residents have made one family’s dream of the perfect lunch a bonanza of extraordinary taste and value while enjoying great conversation with cherished friends.

It was in May 1980 that John Bennett of Windham, a retired inspector for the city of Westbrook, launched a simple seasonal hot dog business near what is now Aubuchon Hardware on Route 302. John Bennett is no longer with us, and the stand’s location has changed, but John’s Hot Dogs may be even more popular today than when he started slapping mustard onto Kahn’s hot dogs decades ago.

John Bennett’s family continues to follow in his footsteps and operate the stand using his old converted 1974 Mazda pickup truck to pull it to its spot for the past 15 years in the parking lot of Planet Fitness off Route 302 in Windham.

John’s widow, Joyce Jaynes, ran the stand for many years right up until she was 79 and still offers guidance and input about the business, but the daily operations of John’s Hot Dogs today are managed by John and Joyce’s daughter, Corinna Jackson.

“It was always my father’s dream to have a hot dog stand once he retired and it’s hard to imagine that here we are all these years later,” Jackson said. “We’re even still using his old truck to bring the stand here. Originally, he used a pushcart but then he stripped his old truck down to the frame and built the cart into it. He was quite ingenious.”

Jackson started helping her mother with the business after John Bennett died 30 years ago.

“When John passed away, my mother had never run a business before,” she said. “I had been in the restaurant business for much of my life and I was able to help her along the way. I taught her simple things like how to order ice and other goods in bulk instead going to the store to buy it every day.”     

Depending on the weather, John’s Hot Dogs can be found between 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and they only serve lunch. They offer inexpensively priced Kahn’s hot dogs, an array of condiments, chips, bottled water and sodas. For some longtime customers, Jackson is a beloved friendly face serving up an affordable meal and a laugh.

“All of our ingredients are made fresh daily,” Jackson said. “Of everything we sell, the most requested item is a hot dog with onions, relish and mustard.”

Business at the stand ebbs and flows. According to Jackson, on some days they sell out and other days are slower, but after 41 years of summertime operation for John’s Hot Dogs, that’s par for the course.

“You just never really know what people are craving that particular day,” Jackson said. “Some days everyone wants sauerkraut, on other days they’ll want a chili dog. We try to prepare as best we can, but you just never know.”

Jackson started helping her mother Joyce at the stand when she was 15 and now her daughter, Audrey Jackson, assists in running the business. Her son Nathan worked at the stand when he was younger and now Audrey’s 6-year-old daughter helps on occasion too.

“It takes a lot to keep the stand running,” Jackson said. My husband, Warren Jackson, is a key part of the business too. He does all of our maintenance, works on the truck and keeps our freezer at home working and the refrigeration and warming systems.”

Preparation for next day’s lunch at John’s Hot Dogs typically begins the night before with cleanup of the cart, onions being chopped, mustard, ketchup, chips, water, and sodas being replenished, and a pot of homemade chili cooked on the stove using Joyce’s original chili recipe.

Customers of all ages continue to flock to the stand.

“I think that people came originally because there just weren’t very many good places to have lunch in Windham,” Jackson said. “Through the years that has changed a lot, but many of those same people continue to visit us for our hot dogs. They have brought their own kids here for lunch and now those kids are bringing their grandchildren here. We’re hoping this little family business goes on indefinitely.”

She said about 85 percent of her customers are repeat business and come back time and time again because the food is good, they can get their lunch quickly, it doesn’t cost a fortune and they can either take it to go or eat it right there.    

“We’re original to say the least and are true to the day this business started,” Jackson said. “Everything is exactly the way it was on the day my father first opened John’s Hot Dogs.” <