Friday, July 29, 2022

Afthim brothers cherish time spent playing together on same team again

By Andrew Wing

Less than 10 percent of all high school athletes go on to play a sport in college. From the workouts and time management to coping with the pressure to succeed, the demands of these athletes are tremendous but the Afthim brothers from Windham are taking it all in stride.

Brady Afthim, left, and 
his brother, Bryce Afthim,
represented the North
division in the 2022
NECBL All-Star Game
on Sunday, July 24 at
Martha's Vineyard in
Bryce and Brady Afthim are the sons of Phil and Shelly Afthim, and the family has called Windham home for the past 15 years. Both Bryce and​​ Brady graduated from Windham High School where they both played varsity baseball all four years.

Bryce, 21, is about to begin his senior year at the University of Southern Maine where he has a major in Business Analytics. He was recruited by a number of NCAA Division III programs, but he chose to continue his baseball career at USM under coach Ed Flaherty.

In his three years at USM, Bryce has been at the top of the rotation and some of the awards he’s garnered include being named to the NEIBA All-New England team, and this past season he was named a Second Team LEC Starting Pitcher.

Brady, 19, just completed his first year at the University of Connecticut where he appeared in 22 games out of the bullpen for the Huskies. He was the first baseball player from Maine to be recruited by UConn and coach Jim Penders, and he certainly showed why during his senior season at Windham High, which saw him garner awards such as Maine Gatorade Player of the Year and also the prestigious Winkin Award.

Although the two brothers haven’t shared the field since 2019, this summer they’ve had the chance to be back on the diamond together in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. They both played in the league last year on different teams, but this year they’ve been playing for the Sanford Mainers where they’ve both had incredibly successful seasons.

And while the two have been playing together their whole lives, both of them know at this stage in their baseball careers just how special it is to be back on the same team.

“It’s very special, it isn’t seen very often, and our teammates have enjoyed it just as much as us because of how rare it is,” said Bryce. “This summer’s been even more enjoyable because of how dominant we’ve been and it’s nice watching both of us succeed against high-level competition.”

“I think I got used to it growing up and I think it’s just something I took for granted at the time,” said Brady. “When he graduated high school, I thought that would be the last time we were teammates, so it’s cool to be able to play with him now not only on the same team but playing the same position too.”

There’s no denying that to be a successful athlete you must be extremely competitive and there’s also no denying that siblings can be highly competitive with one another, and that’s just the case for Bryce and Brady.

“I’d say growing up we were competing against each other in almost anything and everything,” said

Bryce. “But since we’ve both gone to college, it’s turning into more of a desire to watch the other succeed against other competition, rather than against each other.”

“We are both competitive, but the competitor in me thinks that I’m more competitive than he is,” said Brady. “I like to give him a hard time because my stats are a little bit better than his are this summer.”

Despite the two being highly competitive with one another, they are still both proud of the other’s success.

“I am very proud of Brady’s success,” said Bryce. “He set goals for himself in high school that a select few knew of and he worked harder than most to get there.”

His brother echoed that sentiment.

“I am proud of the progress he has made and his willingness to compete and battle on the mound,” said 

Brady. “I’m always going to push him and keep the compliments to a minimum, but if we had a must-win game tomorrow and I was the coach, he’d be starting that game.”

As of right now, the brothers are still in the midst of their season with the Sanford Mainers, and after that, they will turn their focus to their college teams, but both brothers definitely hope to be playing long after college.

“My main goal this past year was to get into better shape and I did that by losing 35 pounds, so my main goal for this upcoming year is to build more muscle and get my velocity higher,” said Bryce. “If I can do that, I might be able to keep playing after college which is my current long-term goal.”

Brady has a goal too.

“I try to stay in the present and not look too far into the future,” said Brady. “For now, though, I just want to keep getting better, have success at UConn, and hopefully be fortunate enough to make this game a job one day.” <

Recovering resident shares story of hope for those experiencing substance use disorder

After many years of substance misuse,
Brittany Reichmann realized that sobriety is
a lifetime choice for her. She works to raise
awareness that a life in recovery is possible
and that by telling her story, she hopes to
decrease the stigma about substance use
disorder among people of all ages..
By Lorraine Glowczak

Brittany [Fearon] Reichmann of Windham grew up in a loving home and was raised by two adoring parents and had a fun-loving brother. She was an avid soccer player who was very involved in extracurricular activities as a youth. She graduated from Windham High School in 2007 with honors and an above 4.0-grade point average. She had a perfect life – until a prescribed medication led to illegal substance misuse that robbed her passion for living the life of her dreams.

“I really had a wonderful life before I was introduced to a variety of mind-altering substances,” Reichmann said. “I started drinking around the age of 14 – when I was a freshman. It was a casual thing to do with friends on the weekends. It was here that it all began.”

During her sophomore year, however, Reichmann had her wisdom teeth removed. To relieve the pain, she was prescribed a small dose of the prescription opioid, Vicodin. This substance changed the trajectory of her life.

“The second I began taking that prescription, I really loved the way it made me feel,” Reichmann admitted.

Soon, her prescription ran out, and she longed for the ‘fix’ that Vicodin provided. A close friend mentioned that there were opioids easily accessible in medicine cabinets of various family and friends. They found and began helping themselves to this “medicine cabinet” substance.

“As soon as he told me how accessible opioids were, we found some and took them that day,” Reichmann said. “For him, it was just for fun, and the use didn’t have detrimental effects. But for me, that fun became a habit.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this habit was not a choice for Reichmann. NIDA maintains that substance use disorder is a genetic makeup that the individual cannot control. “As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a medical disorder that affects the brain and changes behavior.”

While Reichmann’s friend could easily experiment with opioids without harmfully changing his behavior, Reichmann’s brain reacted differently.

“We still do not fully understand why some people develop an addiction to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug use,” NIDA website confirmed.

Reichmann continued providing a successful persona to her family and friends during the rest of her high school years. Every college she applied to, accepted her. Finally, she decided on the University of New Hampshire.

“When I was attending college, everyone was partying, drinking and taking drugs – while at the same time also doing what they were supposed to be doing - going to class and studying,” Reichmann said. “During my freshman year, I was already incapable of doing those things without the use of substances. If I did not have access to opioids, I didn’t go to class. If I couldn’t find that substance, I would rely on alcohol. It was not uncommon for me to show up on a Tuesday morning class, already drunk at 11 a.m. in order to take an exam.”

It wasn’t until her second semester of college that things worsened. Three weeks into the spring semester, she experienced a mental breakdown.

“I called my family and told them that I couldn’t do this anymore - that college was not the right place for me,” she said. “Everyone understood that I was undergoing a sort of depression and were there to support me, but the thing is, no one knew I had a substance use disorder.”

She returned home to live with her family and enrolled in a local college. Unfortunately, being around a supportive family did not change her substance misuse, and she began buying opioids from dealers and thus surrounding herself with new ‘friends’.

“Things continued to get worse and worse – eventually, my parents noticed my substance misuse,” Reichmann said. “They would give me stipulations. ‘Get a job’, ‘Go to school’, they pleaded.”

After ten years of trying, and failing, to become sober, she experienced an epiphany.

I remember sitting on the porch at my parents’ house and asking myself, ‘How did I get here?’, she said. “This reflection brought me to my knees – it was the turning point after years of failed sobriety. I realized that this is a lifetime thing for me. I can never drink or take any form of substance, ever. My body and mind are different than others and will not be able to respond to substances in a healthy way.”

But by this time, family and friends asked her to hold herself accountable. They had had enough of helping her after multiple ‘failures.”. So, Reichmann took a chance and requested help from her employer.

“I asked them to loan me money so I could finally become sober,” Reichmann said. “I promised to pay them back, and they agreed. I got help, went to a sober living facility, and rebuilt my life. I’ve repaid the loan my employer gave me, and now I’m living a healthy and happy life of sobriety.”

Reichmann is now five years sober. She is a homeowner, a wife, and a mother of a 1-year-old son. She works as the Program Manager for Maine Association of Recovery Residences, assisting others in the life of recovery.

“I’m currently living my greatest passion, helping others to live a life of active recovery while also decreasing the stigma surrounding substance misuse,” she said. “But perhaps more importantly, by sharing my personal story, I am raising awareness that a life of recovery is possible. I am living proof that change is doable despite it all – believe me. I’ve been through a lot. I promise – there is not a challenge that a person cannot come back from. There is hope. Never give up.”

Resources are available for those who are experiencing substance use disorder and desperately want to make a change.

They include the following:

* Lakes Region Recovery Center in Bridgton, 25 Hospital Drive, Suite E, 207-803-8707.

* Portland Recovery Center in Portland, 102 Bishop St., Portland, 207-553-2575.

* National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI-Maine) in Hallowell, 52 Water St., 800-464-5767.

* Brittany Reichmann,

In an extreme mental health crisis, turn to the new crisis hotline to receive immediate expert care by dialing 988. <

Friday, July 22, 2022

Windham dedicates Public Safety Building for local first responders

Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield and Windham Fire
Chief Brent Libby cut the ribbon officially opening the 
renovated and expanded Windham Public Safety Building
during a dedication event on July 13. The project took a
year to complete and the facility now houses both Windham
police officers and firefighters. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE      
By Ed Pierce

When any facility is renovated or expanded and all the work has been wrapped up, the question then is whether the building can stand the test of time and become a functional part of the world. In Windham, the construction of the town’s new Public Safety Building on Gray Road has reached an end and the structure is now in regular use with its occupants saving lives and protecting the community around the clock.

During a special dedication ceremony on July 13, Windham town officials, construction crews and residents heard about what went into the decision to renovate and expand the building and celebrated its completion.

The construction work for the $4.3 million expansion and building renovation was performed by Great Falls Construction of Gorham and began with groundbreaking in July 2021. It added a 15,247-square foot renovation to the existing 17,000-square-foot Public Safety building which houses space for first responders for both the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Department.

During the project, workers finished a two-story 5,840-square-foot addition that houses five apparatus bays, a new public safety decontamination space, bunk rooms, kitchen, and offices for the Windham Fire Department, created a new 1,305-square-foot standalone three-bay space for vehicle and evidence storage for the Windham Police Department, and installed a second elevator for the building. 

Remodeling work was also performed throughout the entire building as workers installed HVAC and lighting upgrades to increase building efficiency and updated other areas during the project, including a revised locker room space; created an additional 10 new public parking spaces and addition of a new 1,305-square-foot, single-story secured evidence locker for police; additional employee parking; an outdoor patio space; a new dumpster area; and installation of a new generator for the reconfigured facility.

Back in 2020, Windham residents approved up to $4.9 million in bonds during the Annual Town Meeting for capital improvement projects, and that included funding the expansion for the town’s Public Safety Building. The additional funding for the building’s renovation was derived from town impact fees for new town residential developments and new commercial buildings.

“The need for this was obvious,” said Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts during the dedication event. “This building needed to be worked on. We chose not to tear it down, but to remodel it and make it work for the future.”

Windham’s Public Safety Building at 375 Gray Road in Windham was originally 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 20 professional firefighters while the town’s police force has doubled in size to 30 officers.

Tibbetts said he was impressed with how the project turned out and how police and firefighters adapted to the challenges of the ongoing construction over the past year.

“I’m exceptionally proud of the team,” he said. “They put up with a lot to pull this off.”

To accommodate the renovation project, Windham firefighters were temporarily moved out of the building during the upstairs construction work, while the Windham Police Department continued to use the facility as the construction progressed.

According to Tibbetts, three good outcomes were derived from the construction.

“First, the project was on time. Second it was within budget. Third, it looks good inside. This is a great example of Windham investing in itself for its employees for the future.”

Windham Town Councilor David Nadeau told those attending the dedication event that the completed building highlights the spirit of cooperation between police and firefighters in the town.

“What this really shows me is the camaraderie between these two departments,” Nadeau said. “Hopefully we do get the time we need to get out of this building. We’re grateful to Fire Chief Brent Libby and Police Chief Kevin Schofield for bringing these two departments together.”

Jarrod Maxfield, Windham Town Council Chair, said when he was first trying to decide if he wanted to run for a town council seat six years ago, he took a drive with Nadeau and stopped outside the old Public Safety Building at this very same location.

“He talked about what the Public Safety Building was and what it could be,” Maxfield said. “It’s exciting to see what it turned out to be. This building will be a part of making all our lives better.”

Windham Fire Chief Brent Libby shared a timeline of the history of the Public Safety Building and talked about how a 2014 facilities study launched a discussion in the town about what to do with the aging Public Safety Building.

“We are now at the finish line,” Libby said.

Windham’s Police Chief, Kevin Schofield, said that Windham Police officers first started using the existing Windham Public Safety Building in April 1990, more than 32 years ago.

“This is a very exciting prospect for me personally,” Schofield said. “I now work on the second floor with a window in my office. This community has come a long way in the last 30-plus years. The new building is a greatly enhanced public safety facility to serve the town for years to come.”

Jonathan Smith, Great Falls Construction president, said that the company was grateful to the town for the opportunity to work on the project. He introduced construction managers and sub-contractors who worked on the building and recognized others who were instrumental in advancing the project, such as architect Mike Hays and project consultant Owens McCullough of Sebago Technics.

Also attending the dedication event were Windham Town Councilors Mark Morrison and William Reiner, Windham Assistant Town Manager Bob Burns, Windham Public Works Director Doug Fortier, Windham Economic Development Corportation Executive Director Tom Bartell, State Representative Mark Bryant and Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Robin Mullins.

Rev. Tim Higgins of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham offered a blessing for the facility before the ribbon was cut officially dedicating the building. <

Food pantries playing larger role as local economy tightens

Rising inflation and soaring gasoline prices have resulted in
an increasing number of individuals and families seeking
help from the Raymond Food Pantry and the Windham Food
Pantry. The need is compounded by RSU 14 not being able
to provide a summer lunch program this year. Food pantry
donations are being welcomed and more volunteers are 
sought to staff the facilities. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Andrew Wing

Over the last few years, there is no denying that we as a country have faced some incredible economic challenges. And in 2022, we are faced with another hardship, catapulted inflation resulting from soaring gas and food prices that are unlike anything our country has seen in decades. Many families in the towns of Windham and Raymond are experiencing trouble just putting food on the table for their children.

For the past couple of years, the RSU 14 Summer Food Service Program has been an outlet for many parents in alleviating some of the hunger children face because they did not have enough food when school was out for the school year. This was a great program that made a huge difference in our community, but unfortunately this summer there has been no RSU 14 Summer Food Service program.

According to Jeanne Reilly, RSU 14 Director of School Nutrition, there are a lot of reasons for this ranging from COVID-19 waivers that were set to expire to not having enough time to put a plan in place for summer meals, but she said a key reason was one that almost every business has been experiencing as of late, and that was not having enough staff to operate a summer meals program.

Despite not having the RSU 14 Summer Food Service program, Reilly said she is hopeful that the program will be back next year to deliver food to the hungry children in need in Windham and Raymond.

There are still a number of resources available to area families in need, the biggest one being town food pantries in both Windham and Raymond.

The Windham Food Pantry’s hours of operation are by appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, while Raymond’s Food Pantry is open from 4 to 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of every month.

As for donations to the pantries, this year has already been an incredible year following the “Feed the Need” initiative which raised more than $25,000 for distribution to the 11 food pantries in eight Lakes Region towns including Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Sebago, Standish, Raymond and Windham.

One of the big players in the “Feed the Need” initiative is Robin Mullins, the Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. Mullins has served as the chamber’s executive director for over two years now, and she works closely with our town’s food pantries.

She said that she believes that this summer’s rampant inflation and high gas prices are making the need for food larger than in past years.

"Starting with the pandemic, the need for food has been there,” said Mullins. “But now with inflation and high gas prices, I believe the need is greater than ever.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices across America are now 10 percent higher than in 2021 and that rapid increase is driving many who are food-insecure to visit food banks for help.

Another person who has witnessed a growing rise in food insecurity first-hand is Gary Bibeau of the Raymond Food Pantry.

Bibeau, the volunteer director of the Raymond Food Pantry, was honored with the 2021 Spirit of America award for his above-and- beyond dedication to the food pantry.He has been in charge of the facility since February 2021 and he says he’s has definitely noticed an uptick in the need for food this year because of rising inflation and higher gasoline prices.

“Yes, the rising inflation and soaring gas prices have had an impact,” said Bibeau. “I see more and more new people coming into the food pantry by the day.”

Bibeau suggests that any families in need of food for themselves and their children should simply come to the Raymond Food Pantry to get food provided they are Raymond residents and meet the state’s income levels.

He said that the biggest necessity at the food pantry currently is the need for additional volunteers to help, so if you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering, do not hesitate to reach out and call the Raymond Food Pantry at 207-655-4334.

The Windham Food Pantry, managed by Collette Gagnon, is also eager to receive more donations and volunteers, so if you interested in either, call them at 207-892-1931. <

Friday, July 15, 2022

Artist spreads hope through unique Maine sign campaign

Artist Charlie Hewitt has been spreading his 'Hopeful'
message to people in Maine and a few other states since
2019. His 'Hopeful' artwork is now displayed on Route 302
in Windham with his intention being to affect as many people
as possible in a positive way. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Masha Yurkevich

Hope – aspiration, desire, wish, dream – call it what you want it, but it is what gets us through life. Nearly every old proverb, popular saying or quote roots off hope. It is a part of our everyday lives that is often overlooked; hope is so important and so essential. Having hope is affected a lot by what you think and who you are surrounded by. What happens when we lose hope? Charlie Hewitt won’t let that happen and especially in Windham.

It all started on a dark December night in 2019 when artist and director of Speedwell projects in Portland, Jocelyn Lee, asked Hewitt if he would consider making a work of art for the roof of the Speedwell building in Portland. Hewitt agreed and instantly knew that this piece needed to be about light.

“Maine is a dark place in the winter, and I felt compelled to illuminate that corner of our world,” said Hewitt. “Just then I didn’t know how or what with.”

With some time and thought, creativity began to spark. Hewitt had been working with neon and enjoyed light and color, but he knew that to get something like that on the top of the Speedwell building would be a challenge. After yet some more thinking, he found the bright lights and marquee lights with which he would portray the message.

But how, a bigger question lay before him: what would the message be? 

After weeks of thinking through all the possibilities, Hewitt had an epiphany while in a discussion with his art dealer and friend, Jim Kempner.

“The word “hopeful” popped up somewhere in our conversation and right there and then I knew that would be the message,” said Hewitt.

The font that Hewitt chose with the help of David Wolfe fit perfectly with the message. It’s a retro automobile design and brought Hewitt back to a time when the highway was the frontier and when the car and road signs danced in harmony in a country excited by possibilities.

He says that it reminded him of a bright future illuminated by marquee road signs and littered highways, extolling the prospects of great meals, fine nights and adventures.

Hewitt was born in 1946 in Lewiston, and is a painter, printmaker and public artist. His works are part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, New York Public Library, Library of Congress and more.

From what started as bright billboards, “Hopeful” can be seen on paintings, bumper stickers and pins worn on lapels. Hewitt is now trying to expand the “Hopeful” message to other states and to a digital campaign across the country.

To date, the “Hopeful” message has been spread across seven states at many different sites, both public and private. It even included an appearance at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.

Since his first “Hopeful” project on top of the Speedwell building in Portland, Hewitt has completed more than 28 Hopeful installations. His work is not just limited to the state of Maine but has also appeared in other states like Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York and ranges from sculptures to billboards and to paintings.

Several of these “Hopeful” signs can now be seen in Windham on Route 302 when driving between Westbrook and Windham. The “Hopeful” images have been as large as 30 feet with light bulbs and electronic billboards as large as 20 by 60 feet.

There are also “Hopeful” messages in private homes and in public libraries such as The Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick. There are also bumper stickers and flags.

“Hopeful is presented in many mediums in the public and private domain,” said Hewitt. “I'm proud of all formats. It's not the medium that's important to me, it's the message.”

Hewitt’s public art focuses on the approach and creation of large-scale graphic art pieces that merge into existing public spaces to provoke community interaction, inspiration and discourse.

The Hopeful Project has also given Hewitt the opportunity to expand the platform to show support and raise funds for Ukraine.

Hewitt said every time people drive by or see the message, the word “Hopeful” serves as a reminder for people to strive for the best.

“Hopeful is not a passive work – it’s a challenge and a responsibility,” said Hewitt. “It’s a silent prayer, it’s a leap of faith you take that it’s going to be better. To be hopeful requires action, it requires commitment, it requires opening your eyes, it requires being part of something. It requires being passionately in love with your country, passionately in love with your family, and passionately in love with everyone in your community. That passion and that love I want back. I want a resurgence in my soul for that kind of life.” <

Windham Middle School potential construction sites narrow

A site at 61 Windham Center Road will be surveyed by SW
Cole engineers as a potential location for construction of the
new Windham Middle School. The school is expected to be
built and completed by the start of the 2026 school year.
By Ed Pierce 

An intensive geotechnical survey of a proposed site at 61 Windham Center Road conducted by SW Cole Engineering will begin in the next few weeks and it will determine if the location is suitable for construction of the new Windham Middle School.

The RSU 14 WMS Building Committee awarded the contract for the survey to SW Cole and because the survey is so in-depth and costly, committee members narrowed the field of potential sites for the new school to this one at 61 Windham Center Road.

RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools Christopher Howell said that the SW Cole engineers plan to be on site soon to begin their work.

“The survey will include multiple bore holes being done on site. The purpose of the boring is to determine soil types and to determine the location of any ledge on site,” Howell said. “This information will be extremely helpful as potential building locations and foundation plans are determined for the location.”

Along with the geotechnical survey work, the school district’s civil engineering company has launched conversations with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department as well as the Maine Forestry Service about the 61 Windham Center Road site. Howell said that opening lines of communication with these two agencies is intended to help with the identification of any possible rare botanical or animal species that may inhabit the location. 

Last fall, the RSU 14 Board of Directors entered into an option-to-purchase agreement with the property owner of 61 Windham Center Road in Windham. The owner agreed to take the property off the market for a period of up to two years. The cost of that option is $110,000 in the first year and if the board votes to move forward with a purchase of the property, $100,000 of the payment would be applied toward the purchase price. The option to extend in the second year is $10,000 per month but none of the funds from the second year would be applied at closing.

Lavallee Brensinger Company of Portland is serving as architects for the project and Howell said the school is being designed to accommodate teams of two to four staff members.

“The teaming structure will give students the feel of being in a smaller school within the larger school. Each team will have spaces that are dedicated to each of the core subject areas,” he said. “In addition, the building will be structured to allow for the integration of some of the applied arts within the team. The development of the team structure will serve to bring the best possible facilities to each team. In contrast, the original Windham Junior High School, now Windham Middle School was built as a departmentalized Junior High School.”

According to Howell, within the current teaming structure, only some classrooms have access to lab classrooms as part of science.

“At Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond, the building was originally designed as an elementary school. When the building was repurposed as a middle school, two science labs were created to serve students in four different grades,” he said. “The new building will also incorporate the newer state guidelines for room sizes. Many of the classrooms at WMS are significantly undersized when compared to current standards.” 

The original Windham Middle School was built in 1977 and intended for a capacity of 483 students. That number has grown in the last year to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949.

RSU 14 first 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 eventually gaining approval in March 2021.

Once a district applies for funding, Maine Department of Education reviews and rates the projects 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.

“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.”

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.

More than 132 potential 35-plus acre sites were originally identified for review by the RSU 14 WMS Building Committee and then ranked according to transportation accessibility, utility availability, environmental impact, and a range of other factors.

“Once we have all of the geotechnical data and reports on the property at 61 Windham Center Road, the committee will make the final recommendation on a possible site for the new school,” Howell said. “The recommendation will be accompanied by a public forum and a straw poll vote on the site. I am anticipating that the straw poll will take place later this fall.”

Howell said that the referendum for the new school project won’t take place until next spring at the earliest.

“The referendum will be the final approval that ultimately determines how much will be spent on the project as well as the approval for the purchase of property for the new site,” he said. “Thanks to the guidance from our architectural firm and the Maine Department of Education School Construction team, there have not been many surprises in the process. Both entities have done an outstanding job of leading our local team through the steps required in the school construction process. The process provides opportunities for due diligence for each and every step that we take.” <

Friday, July 8, 2022

Project relocates blacksmith shop to RCHS museum

Workers disassemble the old Watkins Blacksmith Shop in
Casco for transport, reassembly and restoration at the
Raymond-Casco Historical Society Museum. The blacksmith
shop is among the oldest in Maine and will be used for public
demonstrations and instruction once the project has been
By Andrew Wing and Ed Pierce

If ideas shape the course of history, then generations to come will soon be able to relive part of Maine’s heritage that a team from the Raymond Casco Historical Society has disassembled and will restore at the society’s museum in Casco.

Steeped in history, the Watkins Blacksmith Shop is quite possibly the oldest blacksmith shop still in existence in Maine, and a project to resurrect and preserve this precious piece of Maine’s history is a massive undertaking for the historical society. The blacksmith shop first opened in the 1850s by William Watkins and was in use right up until the 1940s.

Footage of the blacksmith’s forge and shop was included in a 1922 silent movie called “Timothy’s Quest” and it once was part of a thriving rural community in Casco, but over the past eight decades, the building has slowly become a crumbling relic of Maine’s past. That is, until an idea about moving the building was pitched to Frank McDermott, president of the historical society.


“For the first time in nearly two hundred years, those traveling across Quaker Ridge in Casco will no longer start their journey with the familiar view of William Watkin’s Blacksmith Shop sitting on its knoll overlooking the village,” McDermott said. “Sitting at the intersection of the busy Bridgton-Portland Road, the Blacksmith Shop was literally at the center of local commerce and transportation. Today, the site sits empty, the result not of fire or neglect which claimed so many buildings of its era, but of a carefully planned move by the Raymond Casco Historical Society and a handful of experienced advisors and volunteers interested in preserving one of Maine’s historic treasures.” 
According to McDermott, the project was launched last fall when Steve Linne, the owner of the blacksmith shop, offered to give it to the Raymond-Casco Historical Society if it could be moved by Aug. 1 of this year.

McDermott, the former Raymond Schools superintendent, who has led the historical society for the past four years, immediately saw the potential of moving the blacksmith shop to the society’s museum on Watkins Farm in Casco, restoring it and using it for live demonstrations for the public.

“I haven't been as enthusiastic about a project in many years as I am about this,” said McDermott. “I see this as the reincarnation of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, and the reason I say that’s because I see us moving from a static museum where you go and stand and look, to rather a place where you go to both do and learn something.”

He pitched the idea to the historical society’s board of directors, and they liked the idea of relocating and turning it into a working blacksmith shop.

“I see us offering lots of things. For kids, we will offer crystal radio building workshops, or we will set up a telegraph system and teach kids about the telegraph,” McDermott said. “For adults, they can come and take blacksmithing lessons or metal casting lessons from the professional blacksmith that will be there so they can be doing things like they used to do.”

McDermott spent a good a part of last winter putting together a team of advisors that included Dr. Robert Schmick, Museum Director of 19th Century Curran Village in Orrington and a veteran of several blacksmith shop moves and Ed Somers of Bridgton, a specialist in preservation and restoration of buildings of this era. Somers agreed to take on the job of stabilizing and sectioning the building for transport and overseeing its reassembly.


Kerry Tottle of Limington devised a plan for lifting sections of the building over an adjacent building on the cramped worksite and led these experts. McDermott said that a small group of volunteers from Bangor, Hollis and several new members of the RCHS spent much of June preparing the building for relocation and helping load it on trailers.

Disassembly work was completed last week and now the shop sits in large pieces in a field at the RCHS’s Watkins Farm Museum site a few miles west of its original location awaiting reassembly. Work has begun on a modern foundation for the building designed to preserve it for future generations without detracting from its original appearance.

Over the next several months, new rough-cut hemlock flooring will be installed, the unique split stone foundation will be painstakingly reassembled on its own frost wall, and the ox lift will be hoisted back into place to await further restoration, McDermott said. Repairs will be made to several wall and roof sections using period materials being collected for that purpose and other structural repairs will be made.

He said that once the building has been made weather tight, work will commence to recreate the interior of the shop.

“Anyone who has ever been in an old workshop or barn has seen the shelves, brackets and old nails that appear everywhere on the walls. We needed to remove all those before we could move the building sections and reinstalling them will take time,” McDermott said. “It is also at this point that the side draft chimney will be rebuilt. The chimney collapsed a few years ago, but the bricks remain. Fortunately, a record exists of what it looked like from the silent movie of 1922.”


The shop is historically significant and believed to predate the separation of Casco from Raymond and is likely one of the oldest existing commercial buildings in the area, Schmick said.

“These kinds of trade buildings are few and far between in the State of Maine in general, and this is probably one of the earliest I have seen,” Schmick said.

The historical society has financed the move and foundation work thanks to several generous private donations and by borrowing from endowment accounts earmarked for maintenance and society operations. Casco voters agreed at town meeting to give up to $25,000 to assist the move, with the provision that it would only match the amount if the Town of Raymond agrees to contribute.

McDermott said RCHS’s initial matching $25,000 appropriation request was made too late to be considered as part of Raymond’s town meeting warrant this spring, but in reviewing Casco’s appropriation, Raymond Selectmen agreed to schedule a special town meeting on Aug. 9 to consider it. He said the project deserves the public’s support.

“We really need to get people to understand their history, the history of where they live, and how that relates to what we’re doing today,” said McDermott.

To make a donation for the project, call 207-310-3040. <

WHS Quiz Show Team exhibits a true winning attitude

By Lorraine Glowczak 

Members of the Windham High School Quiz Team are,
from left, Al Potter, Greta Paulding, Kaitlyn Farrin and 

Although the first-place winning team for Season Five’s PBS Maine High School Quiz Show went to Brewer High School, with Bangor High School coming in as the runner-up, that does not signify defeat to the members of Windham High School’s Quiz Show Team.

The team demonstrated their intellectually competitive edge against 15 other Maine high schools and, at the same time, revealed their attitude regarding true triumph and success. Their positive winning mindset was exhibited at a private screening of the team’s last competition against Brewer at Pat’s Pizza before it aired for public viewing on June 24.

“It’s certainly not the results we wanted, but we got further than we had hoped,” said WHS math teacher and co-advisor John Ziegler.

Although they did not make it to the finals, WHS Quiz Show Team members shared their thoughts on what a true win means to them. 

“We have gained genuine friendships that will last a lifetime,” said Team Captain Greta Paulding, a senior for the 2022-23 school year. “That means more to me than anything.”

Team member Victoria Lin, who will also be a senior next school year, said that belonging to this group was one of the highlights of her school experience last year.

“We laugh a lot and have so much fun together,” she said. “Joining this team is one of the best things I have done.”

After the private screening, the students shared with their parents, who were unaware of the show’s outcome, about their experiences in this academic rivalry which brought the room to laughter.

“The van rides to the competitions are always very full of energy,” said Al Potter, a senior next year. “Conversations often include discussion about the quiz show itself and random stuff like traffic patterns, video games and movies. In addition, our group discussions are always exciting and fun. This happens naturally when you put a bunch of witty-outgoing teenagers in a van together.”

Potter also said that the taping at PBS was very professional, providing a learning experience for everyone.

“I think one thing we did not expect when arriving for the first time at PBS is the television process,” he said. “For example, everything is prerecorded and some of Todd's [Quiz Show's host, Todd Gutner] parts are scripted. If something goes wrong, they will stop and restart. This often meant waiting around, in the middle of rounds, sometimes for 15 to 20 minutes until taping resumed.”

Potter also shared another unknown fact about the taping process.

“Before the show starts, the crew points the camera at our whole team and tells us to dance with really high energy for 30 seconds. That is way more awkward and difficult than one would expect. I think we all high-fived each other 50 times because we were all out of 'high energy' dance moves.”

As the story telling ended and the laughter subsided, co-advisor and English teacher Nicole Densmore explained to the parents that being a part of this group also takes a lot of hard work, pointing out how proud she was of their perseverance and enthusiasm.

“They worked really hard meeting two days a week - every Monday and Friday,” she said. “They worked above and beyond what is expected of them and did so with a lot of gusto.”

The Quiz Show Team members explained that one does not need to be exceptionally clever or affiliate with Mensa to participate as a WHS team member.

“It’s not about being smart enough – that is not what matters,” said Potter. “It is about building confidence in yourself, taking a risk, and building friendships. Everyone’s contribution and knowledge are recognized and appreciated.”

Current members suggest a few ways to gain factual knowledge, especially for those students who might want to be a part of WHS Quiz Show team.

“Any reading you do helps,” Paulding said. “From my library, I recommend books such as ‘Jane Eyre’ or any books from classical literature.”

Other suggestions by team members include watching educational YouTube videos such as Wendover Productions, John Green’s Crash Course, or Oversimplified to gather random fun facts.

The 2021-22 WHS Quiz show team members were Greta Paulding (captain), Kaitlyn Farrin (alternate captain), Al Potter, Victoria Lin, Francesca Lomonte, Will Stuart, Rosie Lydon, Ralph Leavitt, Bryce Vance, Lee Bowman, Alex Pooler, Browin Dieumegard, Owen Gaulrapp, and Logan Alcott.

Densmore said that the WHS Quiz Show team's support throughout the year contributed to the members' attitude toward success.

“Everyone from siblings, guardians, and parents contributed to the team’s accomplishments,” she said. “I especially want to honor our two leaders, Greta and Kaitlyn, for their organizational and leadership skills.”

As Paulding said in a previous interview, their greatest success lies in teamwork and individual strengths. She applauds the work of the whole team and the co-advisors for their dedication and a job well done.

“I can’t thank my team enough,” she said. “Their astounding knowledge base, support and sense of humor keep me going through wins and losses. I am privileged to stand by their side. Our coaches, Mr. Ziegler and Ms. Densmore are incredible. Thanks to them, we continued to practice over Zoom last year when other teams stopped meeting altogether. We are so blessed to have such dedicated leaders.”

Although the competition did not go as hoped, the WHS Quiz Show team has a winning attitude evident through their hard work, enthusiasm, persistence, and most of all – the ability to have fun while making deep and long-lasting friendships.

After a month-long recess, the WHS Quiz Show team will begin working hard on sharpening their intellectual prowess to prepare for next year by meeting every Friday this summer until school starts this fall, where they will begin meeting twice weekly once again. <

Friday, July 1, 2022

Windham racer Kneeland revs up NASCAR career

Windham auto racer Derek Kneeland owns his own Super
Late Model car and has been competing in racing since he 
first climbed into a go-kart at age 8. He now works for 
NASCAR racing teams as a spotter for drivers such as
Tyler Reddick, Austin Hill, Corey Heim, Daniel Dye,
and Kyle Busch. COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

Derek Kneeland’s passion for auto racing runs deep and it not only has become his career; it’s led him to places he’s never been before and experiences he wouldn’t have had otherwise like the Daytona 500.

Kneeland, 36, grew up in Windham in a racing family and the need to compete on the racetrack is in his blood.

“My dad Jeff raced back in the 1970s and my grandfather used to be the general manager of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough back when it was clay,” Kneeland said. “My family worked the ticket booths and concessions, so I was pretty destined to get involved somehow and we started racing go-karts when I was 8 years old.”

He currently owns his own Super Late Model racecar and tries to race as much as he can when he has free time from his work with teams in NASCAR races. That career began as a spotter during a race in Pennsylvania 14 years ago and has evolved to jobs in the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series.

“Each year is a little different on how much I can race due to my NASCAR schedule and obligations,” Kneeland said. “This year I will race three or four times. I travel around to race kind of wherever I can when I’m able. I race with Pro All-Stars series and the Oxford, Granite State Pro Stock Series. I’ve won a few heat races but my best finish in a feature/main event is fifth last year at Oxford.” 
He currently works for Richard Childress Racing spotting for the #8 car of Tyler Reddick. Kneeland also spots for RCR's Xfinity team with Austin Hill in the #21 car, and in the truck series he spots for Kyle Busch’s Motorsports #51 truck shared by Busch, Corey Heim, and Buddy Kofoid. In the Arca series, he spots for the #43 car of Daniel Dye. 

As a NASCAR spotter, Kneeland relays information to the driver of the team he works for, keeping them alert of what is occurring on the track. To get a complete look at the racetrack, he is usually positioned on top of one of the grandstands or support buildings.

“For me I think the hardest part is I don’t get to race weekly like most do because of traveling around the country working my NASCAR duties, so there are a few things I need to clean up to figure out such as how to go faster and be better as a driver as a whole. And money obviously, it takes a lot of money to race these cars and be competitive.”

According to Kneeland, the toughest track he’s raced on was a track he competed at during the “Money in the Bank” event at the Berlin Raceway in Michigan on June 8.

“Both ends were different,” he said. “One end was long and sweeping and one was tighter, and I had to slow down more. It was challenging to find the balance needed to be fast.”

His biggest fans are his family, including his wife, Carley, two stepsons Kolby and Logan, his parents Jeff and Kelly Kneeland, and his sister, Tasha.

“Everyone is super supportive. My dad and my cousin Rusty Poland and my good buddy, Nick Brown, all work together on my car and Rusty’s,” Kneeland said. “It’s definitely a family sport. My parents and my wife every weekend tune into the NASCAR app to listen to me spot for my drivers as well. They love it all whether it’s getting to watch me behind the wheel or listen to me do my job on a weekly basis.” 

He says that sponsors are tough to come for his own racecar, but each year it seems like he’s been lucky enough to have a few that stick by him for the select races he competes in. His sponsors include Sumerian Irrigation, Bonang Concrete, SOS towing, One Stop Earthworks, Logan Oil, Drew Excavation, and Pierson Heating and Cooling, along with some family and friends that step up throughout the year. 

So far Kneeland has raced his own car at tracks in Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan and North Carolina, and he plans to race in Florida at the end of this year. He says the biggest race he’s been in behind the wheel himself is the Oxford 250, where he raced against NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski.

“My next race is Friday July 15 at Lee Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire,” Kneeland said. “It’s also the same weekend that NACSAR is racing at Loudon, New Hampshire, so I’ll be coming over to Lee after we have practice at Loudon that afternoon.”

As far as the future goes, Kneeland said he’d really like to get a Feature win on the racetrack before he’s done whether it’s a weekly race or a touring race.

“I don’t really have a timeline on when I’m going to get done,” Kneeland said. I’m just enjoying it for now and I try to help my cousin Rusty Poland as much as possible, so I think when I’m done racing myself, I’ll probably have Rusty race for me some.” <

Student sendoff moves retiring school secretary

By Briana Bizier 

Known to generations of children and their parents as 'Miss
Mindy,' longtime Raymond Elementary School secretary 
Malinda McKinney will retire at the end of August.

Raymond Elementary School looked a little different this month as students, faculty and staff prepared to end the school year with flocks of pink plastic flamingos decorating the grounds outside the school and the walls of the front office. These flamingos even made it onto the heads of the elementary school students, who wore handmade pink flamingo hats to an event on their last day of school with the flamingos and a special ceremony meant to honor “Miss Mindy” Malinda McKinney, the beloved longtime school secretary, as she prepares for her retirement.

Originally from Wilmington, North Carolina, McKinney fell in love with Maine at a young age. Her family vacationed in Nova Scotia when she was growing up, and on those trips, they passed through Camden. The Pine Tree State made a big impression on her.

“I decided at age 12 that I wanted to move to Maine,” McKinney said. “So 30 years ago, I picked my kids up and moved to Maine not knowing a single solitary soul.”

She held several jobs before accepting her current position at Raymond Elementary, where she has greeted students and staff for 16 years.

“She’s the first person you see at the school,” RES Principal Beth Peavey explained. “She’s the gatekeeper, making sure the right people are in the building, and she’s so welcoming and helpful.”

Peavey has worked with McKinney for five years and, like many Raymond residents, she’s known her since her own children were students at RES.

“We’re going to greatly miss her,” Peavey said. “Her unique personality just brings joy to those around her.”

Peavey’s sentiments were echoed by Deborah Hutchinson, the former Assistant Principal at RES who worked closely with McKinney for seven years.

“Miss Mindy always put people at ease with her southern hospitality and her accent,” Hutchinson said. “She’s a wonderful, welcoming presence when you first come into the building, and she takes her responsibility very seriously. She would be like a mother bear if someone came to get a student who wasn’t supposed to, even to the point of chasing them down the hall to make sure they were supposed to be there. No one gets past Miss Mindy.”

During the last week of classes, McKinney’s front office was decorated with sparkling fairy lights and dozens of hand-drawn illustrations of flamingos from the students, including one bright pink flamingo with tears in its eyes and a speech bubble reading “We will miss you!” These colorful sketches shared space with three computer monitors, one laptop, two telephones, and a walkie-talkie.

“And I use them all,” McKinney said, gesturing toward the vast array of screens and buttons on her desk. “The end of the day is priceless. You’ve got phones ringing, the walkie-talkie going off. It’s organized chaos, and it’s so much fun.”

Fun seems to follow “Miss Mindy” wherever she goes. Her love of flamingos, the color pink and flamboyant outfits brings a welcome dose of levity to the school’s front office. 

“I act silly,” she said. “I wear my pink tutu and my headband. You’ve got to bring some oomph to it.”

This silliness is also accompanied by a genuine concern for the students that shines through each of her 16 years at RES. 

When she first accepted her current position at RES, McKinney said that she was given some advice: If you don’t know a student’s name, just call them sweetie. It was advice that “Miss Mindy” carefully disregarded.

“I said, I’m going to learn all their names,” she said and according to Principal Peavey, McKinney knows more than just the students’ names. “She knows all the names, and she also knows all the families,” Peavey said. “She’s a wonderful asset because she knows how to connect with the families. They trust and respect her, and for many families, they love her.”

This love was reflected in the many celebrations for her retirement. During the last weeks of school, there was a retirement celebration at RES’s Frog Pond Pavilion where parents and other members of the community were invited to celebrate “Miss Mindy” as well as a surprise school-wide assembly where students sang a song written by music teacher Patricia Gordon honoring her time at RES.

McKinney said that leaving her position at RES has been emotional.

“I’ve been crying,” she said. “It’s really bittersweet, I’ll miss the kids, my babies. And they really are my babies. Even the ones that can be a little naughty, every single one of them are precious.”

After moving to Maine decades ago and not knowing a single solitary soul, it’s safe to say that “Miss Mindy” has become a part of every family in Raymond. She will continue to work at Raymond Elementary School through August, and then she plans to enjoy her retirement in the state she first fell in love with at age 12. <