Friday, January 5, 2024

Year in Review 2023 (Part Two)

2023: A year of collaboration, connection, and community


EPA unveils plan to clean up Keddy Mill site in Windham

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled its proposal and plan to clean up the Keddy Mill Superfund Site, located on Depot Street in South Windham.

Longtime businessman and community
leader George Bartlett died July 21
after a short illness. Bartlett will be
remembered for his dedication to
local charitable causes and his kind and
jovial nature. COURTESY PHOTO
The proposed plan details measures EPA will take to clean up the soil, sediment (inclusive of fish tissue), and groundwater at the site. This cleanup will be comprehensive and protective of human health and the environment. EPA will also accept public comments on the proposed plan for 30 days and will hold a public information meeting and public hearing on the proposed plan.

"This proposed cleanup plan reflects EPA's recommendations on how to best address contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater at the Keddy Mills site," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "This is an important step bringing the Windham community closer to an effective cleanup of the site. EPA is eager to get input from the community and other interested stakeholders on this proposed plan."

EPA's proposed plan summarizes risks posed by contamination at the site and presents an evaluation of cleanup options. EPA also identifies the agency's preferred cleanup alternative along with the other cleanup options considered.

The EPA's preferred alternative in the proposed plan, which would be implemented following the substantial completion of an EPA-authorized "Non-Time-Critical Removal Action" to demolish the mill complex and associated structures, generally includes excavation and off-site disposal of about 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil; targeted treatment of soil excavations with amendments in support of groundwater cleanup; groundwater treatment; excavation and off-site disposal of approximately 320 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the Presumpscot River; site restoration including riverbed, riverbank, wetland and floodplain habitat; land use restrictions (called "Institutional Controls" or ICs) to prevent exposure to site-related contaminants in groundwater and fish tissue until cleanup levels are met; inspections and limited operation and maintenance (O&M); monitoring of groundwater and fish tissue to evaluate the achievement of cleanup levels; and Five-Year Reviews to assess the protectiveness of the remedy. <

Windham mourns loss of business leader, community champion Bartlett

George H. Bartlett Jr., 84, the owner of the Busy Bee Laundromat in Windham for 38 years and someone who was heavily involved in the activities of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lake Rotary Club died Friday, July 21 after a short illness. Since the 1990s, he also served as an international ambassador for the Rotary Club, making numerous trips to Romania representing Maine and making treasured friendships with Romanians.

His father owned the Bartlett Radio Company and while helping at his father’s business after school, young George developed an interest in mechanics, and he went on to become a mechanical engineer and have a business of his own launching Busy Bee Laundromat in 1985.

“My father was in business for many years, and he gave me some great advice,” Bartlett said. “He told me that a business goes through ups and downs and the best way to keep a business going is to serve the people,” Bartlett said. “That’s exactly what we do here.”

According to Robin Mullins, the President and CEO of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Bartlett was well-liked by nearly everyone he met.

Mullins said that Bartlett was a member and huge supporter of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for years.

“The two things that stand out the most for me were first, he hosted many of the chamber’s After Hour events, or what we call Business Breaks,” she said. “During the Business Breaks we have 50/50 raffles for local charities. George would offer to squeeze himself into a dryer at the laundromat if folks gave extra dollars to the charities. We made lots of extra money for charity because of this. Second, George was a Rotarian who came to me and asked what I thought would be a great local charity to benefit from the Polar Dip, which was part of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club's Annual Ice Fishing Derby. I, of course, recommended the chamber's charitable trust, ‘Feed The Need.’ We started the Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip for Feed the Need in 2021 and have raised over $22,000 for the 12 food pantries in the Sebago Lakes Region thanks to George.” <

Equus Foundation honors MSSPA as 2023 Mentor

The Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals in Windham was recognized in July as an Equus Foundation 2023 Mentor.

The EQUUS Foundation is the only national charity in the United States 100 percent dedicated to ensuring the welfare of America's horses and fostering the horse-human bond. EQUUS awards Mentor status to its Guardian charities that have met the foundation’s highest standards for business and equine welfare practices.

Eligible nonprofits include those that:

** Shelter and rehabilitate equines that have been subjected to mistreatment;

** Retrain and re-home equines in transition with careers as athletes, companions, teachers, and healers;

** Provide peaceful and humane retirement and end of life care for aged equines that ensures that they are able to live out their lives in comfort and with dignity;

** Provide mutually beneficial opportunities for people and equines to partner for the purpose of contributing positively to cognitive, physical, emotional and social well-being.

Mentor representatives also have the opportunity to serve as members of the EQUUS Foundation Equine Welfare Advisory Group, established to help identify challenges, long term goals, and emerging trends that could affect America’s horses, and explore ways that Mentor organizations can assist other organizations seeking to operate at the highest standards for business and equine welfare practices.

Based in Windham, the mission of the MSSPA is to provide refuge, rehabilitation, and placement of seized equines. MSSPA does not charge for its shelter services and seeks no reimbursement from any public source. Horses cared for by the MSSPA come from Maine law enforcement officials and most of them have been abused or neglected.

The MSSPA was originally formed in 1872 to protect the horses who pulled Portland’s streetcars and fire engines. It now offers shelter services for equines across Maine with access to veterinary medical care and maintains dozens of equines at its South Windham facility. <


Windham USOA Pageant contestant a champion for women's equality

Windham attorney Katie Winchenbach is not afraid to fail, but she is afraid not to try. That sense of self confidence and a champion for women’s equality has led her to become an official contestant in the 2024 United States of America Pageant in Augusta.

Winchenbach will represent the community as Mrs. Windham in the pageant which is designed to encourage women to strive to achieve their hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations, while making them feel confident and beautiful inside and out. The pageant’s motto is to empower women, inspire others, and uplift everyone and it focuses on women empowerment, promoting positive self-image and advocating a platform of community service, which allows contestants to rise by lifting others up.

She’s a corporate attorney and nonprofit leader who is a passionate advocate for women’s equality and is dedicated to finding ways to inspire and empower women across the United States. Winchenbach currently serves as the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women lawyers.

She said that the pageant will challenge her in new ways that she hasn’t experienced previously.

“I'm looking to be able to show up and support my community as the best version of myself,” Winchenbach said. “Upon starting this journey, I was surprised by how much it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and how many opportunities there were for me to grow as a person. Already, I've been able to become more confident in the way I carry myself and in the way I speak publicly. I work as a corporate attorney and a nonprofit program director, so these are skills that are going to help me immensely even once the pageant is over.”

She said empowering women will be the cause she will champion if she wins the state title.

“I believe in empowering and inspiring women to dream bigger and boldly pursue these dreams,” Winchenbach said.

She went on to win the USOA Pageant for Maine in October and advances to compete in the 2024 USOA Mrs. America Pageant this July in San Antonio, Texas.

RTT rider’s determination to overcome MS leads to 2023 Adult Equestrian of the Year award

Debbie Hutchinson has not let Multiple Sclerosis get her down and riding horses at Riding To The Top in Windham has improved her physical heath and her relationship with a horse at the facility has boosted her emotional well-being. Hutchinson’s efforts to overcome MS at RTT led to her being honored in July by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International as its 2023 Adult Equestrian of the Year.

Hutchinson has been dealing with MS for 30 years and has been a client of RTT for the past three years. She’s experienced struggles with balance and spasticity which affect her ability to walk, but something magical began to happen to her when she was partnered with an RTT mare named Paxton.

“When I’m riding Paxton, I don’t have MS,” she said.

According to Hutchinson, working with Paxton at RTT has not only helped her to deal with her MS more effectively and has also given her a new support network to deal with MS through the friendships that she’s forged with the staff and volunteers at RTT.

Multiple Sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease producing an abnormal response of the body’s immune system which attacks the central nervous system by mistake. The immune system attack damages the body’s myelin, the substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers and the cells that make it. Without myelin to protect nerve fibers, they are also damaged. This can lead to a range of unpredictable symptoms such as tingling, numbness, pain, fatigue, memory problems and paralysis.

Hutchinson’s efforts to not let MS control her life drew notice and admiration from everyone she has worked with at RTT.

"I’ve had the pleasure of working with Debbie for several years. She performs her pre-ride warm up with tenacity, enthusiasm, and determination to assure a successful lesson,” said Susan Layton, RTT team member. “She deals with the stress of her condition daily, but when she is sitting high on her horse, her focus is on establishing a close connection with her horse, achieving horsemanship skills, and the pure joy of riding. Her constant smile says it all." <

State approves funding to complete final segment of Rail Trail project

The final pieces of the puzzle are coming together in the creation of a recreational rail trail from Portland to Fryeburg including a five-mile section passing through Windham, Gorham and Standish that has been underway for the past year.

According to Doug Smith of Windham, vice president of the Mountain Trail Alliance, once completed this section of rail trail will run from Route 202 in Windham to Westbrook and is part of several Active Transportation projects and legislation sponsored for rail trails in other parts of the state. In July, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill authorizing the Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner to construct a multi-use “Trail Until Rail” from Standish to Fryeburg.

“I am a long-time resident of Windham who bikes and walks the Mountain Division Rail Trail several times a week,” he said. “I joined the Mountain Trail Alliance organization to advocate for building out the rail trail from Portland to Fryeburg.”

Advocates for the new rail trail say that it is the least expensive method to expand recreational opportunities in Maine and will provide the most direct and lasting economic and health benefits for residents along the rail corridor.

Smith said that The Mountain Division Trail will spur economic growth and connect Maine communities with a safe, car-free, multi-use trail. The previously completed Eastern Trail, is arguably Maine’s most popular rail trail, and has spurred millions of dollars of economic impact, according to recent studies.

Once work on the section running to Fryeburg is finished, this Mountain Division Trail section in western Maine will be a continuous 40-mile, paved trail, running from Route 202 in South Windham to Fryeburg. Over time it will connect with trails from Portland to North Conway, New Hampshire.

The completed five-mile local section, created just over 15 years ago, runs about halfway through Gorham and halfway through Windham. This is the most used trail west of Portland because it is accessible to all, with a gentle grade, wide trail width and paved.

The next five miles east from Route 202 in Windham to East Bridge Street in Westbrook is in the planning phase. Funding provided by the Maine Department of Transportation, the Town of Windham, and the City of Westbrook has provided a year-long planning and design study. <


MTCCA awards recognize contributions of Windham Town Clerk, Deputy Clerk

It was a clean sweep for Windham as Town Clerk Linda Morrell and Deputy Town Clerk Judy Vance were honored for their exceptional service to the community during the Maine Town and City Clerk Association’s 28th Networking Day and Annual Meeting held at the Augusta Civic Center on Sept. 12.

Morrell was presented with the 2023 MTCCA Town Clerk of the Year Award while Vance received the 2023 MTCCA Deputy Town Clerk of the Year Award. The award program was established in 1991 to recognize excellence both in their contributions to their community as well as to the profession of the municipal clerk and deputy town clerk and are the highest honors awarded by the MTCCA.

Moving with her parents to Windham at age 14 while in her freshman year in high school, Morrell graduated from Windham High School in 1978. She started working as a deputy clerk for the Town of Windham and following seven years of serving in that position, she has spent the last 29 years as the Windham Town Clerk.

Among her duties as Town Clerk, Morrell serves as Windham’s Supervisor of Elections, be it municipal, county, state, or presidential elections. She also oversees two full-time and one part-time town clerk’s office staff members and she’s responsible for the town’s dog registrations; the sales of hunting and fishing licenses; officiating weddings; maintaining the town’s vital statistics; overseeing state boat and automobile registrations; providing notary service; swearing elected municipal officials into office; helping collect tax payments for the town; and serving as the secretary for the Windham Town Council.

Vance is a Windham native who has worked for the Windham Town Clerk’s office for 26 years, serving as the town’s registrar of voters and a Deputy Town Clerk.

Among her many duties, Vance processes all vital records for Windham along with hunting, fishing, and business licenses, and administers two elections per year, with an occasional special election. Her department also helps as needed with processing registrations for motor vehicles, boats, ATVs, and snowmobiles, as well as processing taxes.

Raised in Windham and a graduate of Windham High School and the University of Southern Maine, Vance married her high school sweetheart, and they live in Windham, where they have raised two daughters. <

Togue Derby anglers post record hauls

The Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association successfully concluded their 8th annual Sebago Lake Togue Derby on Sept. 10, and the popular two-day event remains the largest open water derby in the state of Maine.

This year there were 97 individuals who had signed up for the derby and they caught 182 togue to receive a ticket for the Togue Lottery prizes.

The top fish was caught by Bruce Elliott from Naples and weighed 13.67 pounds. He caught it on the Saturday of the event, and it held up to win the overall first prize on Sunday. This is the second year in a row this has happened to the derby’s leading angler and it netted Elliott a $600 payday.

During the event, there were several nice-sized fish caught and lots of togue that fishermen brought in that they did not want to take home. These were distributed to a church and prepared for a fish fry. Other fish went home with SLAA club members, and no fish or entrails were left at Sebago Lake State Park.

The most abundant catches during the derby were turned in by Jesse Maltier and Lea Schwarz. On Saturday, they offloaded 57 fish and as if that wasn’t enough, on Sunday they brought in 33 additional fish for a total two-day catch of 90 fish. Many experienced anglers could not believe anyone could catch so many fish with just two anglers within the time limits of the derby, which ran from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Maltier was no amateur though. He cleaned up his boat and all his terminal tackle was placed out of sight before he came in. He did share the fact that he found a hole and fished it almost exclusively with a small jig (3/16 ounce) dressed with a sparse bucktail, and no bait as a sweetener, as several fisherman had said.

In all more than $2,300 in prize money was dispensed at the awards ceremony or winners were mailed their prizes. <

Longtime RWPA leaders to take on new roles

The dedicated Raymond couple Peg and Neil Jensen announced they will be taking on new, but perhaps less intense, roles on the Raymond Waterways Protection Association (RWPA) Board.

Peggy Jensen, outgoing President, first got to know Raymond’s waters as a child when her Sunday school held its annual picnic and swim every June at Camp Hinds. In later years, Peggy came to love Raymond as a seasonal resident, and finally, in 2008, as a year-rounder.

After earning degrees in math and counseling, Peggy welcomed opportunities to learn about lakes and watersheds from such great teachers as Charlie Turner, Phil Boissonneault, Prof. Holly Ewing, and the staff at Lake Stewards of Maine and Maine DEP. Convinced that understanding the science of our lakes helps visitors and residents want to take care of these resources, Peggy became active in the Panther Pond Association and in RWPA, taking on leadership roles and volunteering for projects -- from installing erosion control practices to identifying aquatic plants, from hand digging invasive milfoil to ferrying supplies to the RWPA divers working to rid invasives.

Neil Jensen, who has served as past RWPA President and Treasurer, and has been an active member of the Panther Pond Association as well, was born in Maine and has spent his summers on Panther Pond since 1950. Through the last decades, Neil has sampled water for testing, created a topographical map of Panther Pond’s bottom, correcting the state’s map, written grant applications, reports, and newsletters, trained as a milfoil diver, and helped lakefront owners install erosion control mechanisms. Neil has built websites for PPA and RWPA; managed the Courtesy Boat Inspection Program and the DASH program; designed and captained the DASH boat, deploying benthic barriers, and ridding waterways of invasive milfoil.

Both Peggy and Neil will continue as RWPA members in the forthcoming years as liaisons to various state and local organizations, as volunteer consultants, and as an “institutional memory” for the board and the organization. <


Windham author realizes dream with publishing of new children’s book

For Donald Osborne of Windham, there was always something missing in his life. Growing up near Lewiston, he loved writing in school as a child and felt he had many stories that he wanted to tell, but life intervened and had other plans for him. He became a father, a stepdad and then a grandfather and his work as a lab processing technician kept him constantly busy. Somehow though, he found the time to write and publish poetry and that inspired him to try writing a children’s book, and the rest is history.

Osborne’s newly published book “The Turtle Who Wanted To Fly” is what he hopes is the first of many stories to come and many more books he will write.

“I have lived my whole life in Maine, so it was wonderful to be able to include some of its natural beauty in this book,” Osborne said. “I love reading stories to my five beautiful grandchildren. It warms my heart when they ask me to read them one of my many stories. I love the imagination of kids.”

The most challenging aspect of his work on the self-published book was working with the illustrator while attempting to match their artwork to his vision of what the story of “The Turtle Who Wanted To Fly” depicts.

“That wasn’t easy,” Osborne said. “It took about six months to get it exactly the way I wanted it while working with Amazon Publishing Pros. The story fell together quickly. We tried to make it imaginative but also factual and certainly wanted to highlight the beauty of Maine with it.”

“The Turtle Who Wanted To Fly” is the story of Smalls, a Maine turtle who dreams of flying. He imagines himself soaring across the sky with his friend, Talon, an eagle, who has told him many stories of adventure, secret places, and of the beauty and splendor of Maine. Smalls lives with his family in the small town of Monmouth, Maine and has many friends including a bunny, a squirrel and his best friend, Bare, the fuzziest little black bear you’ve ever seen. In the story, all of his Maine friends come together to make the dream of flying become a reality for Smalls. <

Maine Lab Rescue closing its doors after 11-plus years of helping dogs and cats

Seeing a need and taking it into your own hands is not something everyone can do, but it was something that Erlene LeBorgne of Windham, the founder, owner, and director of Maine Lab Rescue has devoted herself to. But because of many difficulties encountered in the last year, the shelter has decided to close its doors after 11 years of helping dogs and cats.

Maine Lab Rescue was a foster based rescue organization based in Windham and dedicated to helping prevent euthanasia of dogs and cats in kill shelters in the south. It was licensed as a shelter in both Maine and in Georgia, with fosters in both locations. It served as an all-breed dog and cat rescue, with a focus on labs and lab mixes.

“We would rescue dogs and cats from the kill shelters in Georgia and place them in foster care there,” said LeBorgne. “We then would see to any medical needs, provide core vaccination and heartworm and other testing if old enough, spay and neuter them and then transport them here to Maine. The animals would then be available for adoption once their import quarantine was completed. At times we would have more foster availability in Maine than in Georgia; when that happened, we would partner with other rescues in Georgia, as well as Mississippi and Puerto Rico to bring their pets to Maine for adoption.”

In the 11-plus years that MLR was actively rescuing, more than 5,500 dogs and cats were placed in adoptive homes in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. At one time, MLR was one of the state’s largest rescue groups, placing more animals than many smaller shelters.

Deciding to cease rescue operations for Maine Lab Rescue was among the most difficult decisions LeBorgne says that she’s ever had to make, particularly where it meant that she would no longer be helping medically needy animals.

“While the news of our closing will bring sadness to many hearts, please know that your stories, photos of adventures and the love that we have all shared as MLR family are a strong testimony to our shared love of animals and the desire to rescue and adopt those in need,” said LeBorgne. <

Windham’s cross country teams finish extremely strong in regional championships

Pouring rain did not stop the Windham cross country team from showing they were ready to compete in the Class A Regional championship on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Twin Brooks Recreation Area in Cumberland. The Windham girls’ team all qualified for the state championship and the boys earned a 10th place finish; just one team spot shy of going to the state championship.


“We knew it was going to be rough,” said Windham sophomore Sydney Broadbent, who finished second for Windham and 19th with a time of 21:56.44 minutes. “We knew that everybody was running in the same weather and conditions were going to be the same for everybody and in some ways, it could help us because we’ve worked so hard and prepared since July for this. We were ready for it, and we came and fought, and we did it.”

Junior Tayla Peletier finished first for the team with an 18th place finish overall and a 21.56.32 time.

Sophomore Emma Fox finished third for Windham and 47th overall with a 23:40.61 time. Right behind her was senior Elizabeth Bearce with a 23.50.52 finish.

Sophomore Abigail Dumont finished fifth for Windham with a 24:09.41 time; she knocked off more than a minute from her 2022 Regional Championship finish time.


“It’s a good day to race, with the rain, it cools you off, it makes you feel fine,” said Windham junior Andrew Young who finished first for Windham and dropped over 20 seconds off his 2022 Regional Championship time with a 2023 time of 18:04.92. “Definitely a little slippery ... definitely a good race.”

Seniors Graden Joly, Jinqi Li and sophomore Gavin Lawler all dropped times. Joly finished second for the team and 35th overall with a time of 18:32.53. Li finished third for Windham with a 19:41.63 time.

Lawler finished fourth for Windham with a time of 19:42.76. He dropped an entire minute off his previous Regional Championship time.

Freshman Mason Bragdon finished fifth for the team in his first ever Regionals Championship race. He had a fantastic time of 19:56.47. <


Maine State Chamber honors Mullins as ‘Professional of the Year’

As the president and chief executive officer of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Robin Mullins believes passionately in what she does and never knowingly compromises her standards and values. Her determination to constantly strive for excellence has resulted in Mullins being honored as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 “Dana F. Connors Chamber Professional of the Year.”

The award is named in honor of Dana Connors, who is retiring this year after leading the Maine State Chamber of Commerce since 1994. It was created to recognize chamber professionals who exhibit exceptional service and have made a lasting impact upon their community.

The chamber leadership job is non-stop and highly demanding, yet Mullins makes it look easy.

“The most difficult aspect of my job is not overcommitting myself. This position can easily turn into a 24/7 job,” Mullins said. “I work days, nights and weekends. I am responsible for every aspect of the chamber from membership to marketing and event planning to strategic planning. I am often attending meetings, conferences, and seminars, and often asked to participate on committees, boards, and community events. Of course, the cell phone with instant access to texts and emails certainly doesn't help. I have had to learn not to overcommit myself, say no when needed and establish boundaries to ensure I do not get burned out.”

Her first thought when she was told that she was being honored with this award was how wonderful it was to just be recognized.

“We are not a large chamber. We do not have a lot of ‘big’ business in our region. We are mostly small, locally owned businesses,” she said. “We do not have a significant budget where we can have extravagant events, and we are not typically the chamber you see being interviewed on the news. Yet here we are being recognized by the Maine State Chamber. We are clearly making an impact and must be doing some pretty cool things in our small, beautiful part of the state to be recognized, and that means the world to me.” <

Election results matter to Windham, Raymond voters

After tabulating the results in Windham and Raymond from the Nov. 3 municipal and statewide election, Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell and Raymond Town Clerk Sue Look submitted the unofficial results for certification from the election.

In Windham, incumbent Mark Morrison tallied 4,204 votes to win re-election for a three-year term to the council for an At-Large position. Write-in challenger Zac Eklund received 947 votes. Also in Windham, Morrell was re-elected to a two-year term as Town Clerk and ran unopposed, picking up 5,324 votes. Incumbent Brett Jones also ran unopposed for a three-year Town Council position representing Windham’s East District. Jones received 4,335 votes.

Windham’s Citizen-Initiated Recall Ordinance referendum passed with 3,448 voters in favor of the measure and 2,524 voters opposed to it.

The new Windham/Raymond Middle School construction referendum was strongly supported by Windham voters with 3,769 voting yes and 2,257 voting no in Windham. Raymond residents cast 975 votes opposing the new Windham/Raymond Middle School construction, while 739 voted in favor of the referendum, which passed because of a plurality of voters in the RSU.

Two candidates representing Windham for three-year terms on the RSU 14 Board of Directors were elected from a field of four candidates vying for the positions. Marge Govoni received 2,803 votes to win one of those positions while Joe Kellner tallied 2,574 votes to win the other remaining position. Justin Whynot received 2,306 votes and Dawn Miller received 2,084 votes.

Among state referendums, Question 3, Do you want to create a new power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine did not pass. In Raymond, 1,245 voted no, 485 yes. In Windham, 4,457 voted no, 1,586 yes. Statewide, the measure was rejected with 69 percent voting no and 31 percent voting yes.

Another state referendum, Question 4, Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities passed. In Raymond, 1,489 voted yes, 238 no. In Windham, 5,002 voted yes, 1,008 no. Statewide, the measure passed, 84 percent voting yes and 16 percent voting no. <

Town welcomes new pavilion at Windham Community Park

Though Maine summers are not very long, Windham strives to make them as enjoyable as possible. With the new pavilion addition to the Windham Community Park next to the Community Gardens on Gray Road, the park is now more accessible and gather–friendly.

The park is the site of two basketball courts that are also lined for pickleball, two sand volleyball courts, the skatepark and is also adjacent to the Community Gardens. To celebrate the newly constructed pavilion, an open house was held on Monday, Nov. 6.

“We have been adding picnic pavilions to our various park locations in the past few years, and we always intended to add one or two at the Community Park as we continued to add other elements to the park,” says Linda Brooks, Windham Director of Parks and Recreation. “Following a survey administered by the Age Friendly Windham Committee in October of 2019, an action plan was developed that included a goal to increase access to outdoor spaces by providing accessible amenities at our parks. It made sense to design the Community Park pavilion with this goal in mind.”

The process to make the pavilion a reality started in the Spring of 2022 with a group of volunteers from the local community organization PowerServe, who did the preliminary site work and preparation for the pavilion's foundation.

“In June 2022, our project was one of the sites chosen by the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing, with volunteers biking across the country volunteering to assist in projects around the community that benefit senior citizens and veterans,” said Brooks.

Over the course of the summer, volunteers from the local chapter worked to complete the pavilion.

“In May 2023, we were awarded a $10,000 Community Challenge grant from AARP to be used toward the purchase and installation of accessible pathways to the pavilion and three ADA compliant picnic benches, and this final part of the process was completed by employees of the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments,” Brooks said. <


East Windham Conservation Area opens

The East Windham Conservation Area opened to the public on Saturday, Dec. 2.

Land at the site is 99 percent forested and includes 661 acres with 1,545 feet of undeveloped water frontage on Little Duck Pond, some 38 acres of wetlands and numerous headwater streams. Through its conservation the area will directly help protect the water quality for Little Duck Pond, Highland Lake, Forest Lake, and the Pleasant River.

About 10 miles of new multi-use trails have been built at the site by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and the land also includes a 150-acre Deer Wintering Area, a traditional site for hunting by permission, and the 580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest spot in Windham.

With its completion, the East Windham Conservation Area directly abuts more than 1,000 acres of other conserved land in Windham and Falmouth, including Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve, providing 20 miles of interconnected trails and five trailheads for public access. It is part of the largest wildlife habitat and trail access corridor in the Greater Portland area, providing 2,000 acres of conserved land and a 30-mile trail network connecting Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve.

Funding to create the area was about $3.7 million and included a $1 million grant from the Land for Maine’s Future initiative. In 2021, voters from Windham approved a $1.8 million conservation bond using open space impact fees and another $400,000 raised privately from public donations. A Land and Water Conservation Fund federal grant for $500,000 was obtained to pay for the infrastructure improvements at the site.

Windham reached out to the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust in 2021 to be an open space partner by holding a conservation easement and sharing responsibility for the trail management on the adjacent 308-acre Lowell Preserve.

The East Windham Conservation Area’s Phase Two opening will take place in the fall of 2024 once the remaining five miles of trails are built, including a universal access trail, which can be navigated by those with limited mobility and will lead to the scenic overlook and pond views. A third phase of the project is planned for future years and will include an observation tower. <

Windham’s new Town Assessor committed to equitable assessments for properties, businesses

Windham’s new Town Assessor Joshua Houde is responsible for the valuation of all taxable property in Windham, both real estate and personal property.

“We have a powerful computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) program called Vision that stores the property data for each parcel and allows us to compare and contrast similar properties,” he says. “The ability to run reports in Vision allows us to obtain data such as how many properties we have in the Shoreland Zone, what properties have sold on a specific street, or the total number of parcels in Windham. We also have an AXIS GIS mapping system that allows me to click on parcels in a map view to see its assessment data at a glance.”

Visiting a property in person gives Houde concrete, tangible knowledge of the factors that affect its value.

“My responsibilities include reviewing our assessments for accuracy, responding to property owner inquiries, meeting state requirements on reporting, and providing information to other town departments as needed,” says Houde. “This fall, I have really enjoyed working with individual property owners who had questions about their assessments. By listening to their concerns, and analyzing our sales data, I was able to ensure fair assessments for our residents. For some of them, that resulted in a reduction in their assessed value. For others, it didn’t result in a reduction but did entail a clear explanation of what factors went into their assessment that made it fair.”

Houde works with a great team that includes Assistant Assessor Kara Taylor, and appraisers Patrick Mulligan and Teresa Konczal. Taylor records transfers of ownership, manages the business personal property accounts, and processes exemption applications among other things.

“I enjoy analyzing the data and noticing trends and patterns that I can then apply to create fair assessments,” says Houde. “I enjoy working with individual property owners to answer their questions and ensure fair assessments for their property. I enjoy visiting properties in person to understand the factors at play in their assessment. I enjoy collaborating with my assessing staff and with the other staff here at Town Hall. I appreciate that the overarching objective for my department in the end is very simple: to establish fair and equitable assessments based on market value.” <

Windham’s Katahdin Program a state finalist in 'Solve for Tomorrow' STEM competition

Samsung Electronics America announced Dec. 10 that Windham High School’s Katahdin Program is among six state finalists in the 14th annual “Samsung Solve for Tomorrow” national STEM competition.

Representing the best of more than one thousand competition entrants, each state finalist has won a package of $2,500 in technology and school supplies. The finalist schools now advance to additional stages of the competition that will culminate in three schools being selected in May as National Winners and receive $100,000 prize packages.

The annual Solve for Tomorrow competition challenges public school students in Grades 6 to 12 to explore the role science, technology, engineering, and math (the core STEM subjects) can play in addressing some of the biggest issues in their local communities. The competition is designed to engage students in active, hands-on learning that can be applied to real-world problems, making STEM more tangible and showcasing its value beyond the classroom.

“As a company and as individuals, STEM is incredibly important to Samsung – we depend on STEM-savvy people to envision, implement, and engage with innovative STEM-dependent products and services,” said Michelle Crossan-Matos, Chief Marketing, Citizenship and Communications Officer for Samsung Electronics America. "Between 2019 and 2029, the number of STEM jobs are predicted to grow 8 percent, a higher rate than non-STEM jobs."

She said the Solve for Tomorrow competition was designed to provide schools and teachers with an innovative, problem-based learning approach to STEM education to boost student interest, proficiency, and diversity in STEM.

"This fresh crop of impressive State Finalists is proof that we’re succeeding,” Crossan-Matos said.

The Katahdin Program uses the classroom, the outdoors, and the greater community and provides alternative education programming for students in Grades 9 to 12 attending Windham High School.

Windham’s Katahdin Program joins Camden Hills Regional High School, Falmouth High School, Fort Fairfield Middle High School, Saco Middle School, and South Portland High School as this year’s state finalists for Maine. The Maine State Winners will be announced in mid-February 2024.

State winners will receive a prize of $20,000 in technology and supplies and advance to the next phase of the competition. Each state winner will also be given a video kit to help document their project in action. <

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