Saturday, Sept. 18 – Harvestfest and Chowdah Cookoff on the Common; Bethel Historical Society Barn Tour - self-guided tour of a dozen or more local barns from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuesday, 6 p.m., Sept. 28th at the Bethel Town Office – public hearing on the project to recondition the Route 2 Bridge over the railroad - spring of 2011.
Monday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. - Bethel Selectmen’s regular meeting for October.
Locke Summit work in progress
Throughout August and continuing this month, excavation and road-grading work has been going on along the access road and future large retention pond for the Locke Summit development on the Sunday River Road. Nichols Bros., Inc. of Rumford is doing the work. Work on the access road should be completed during the next 30 days.
The entry has been redesigned by Kathy Ford Landscape Architecture. There will be two ponds, hopefully available for ice skating, perennial plantings, and evergreens. Masonry work has started on a natural-stacked stone sign kiosk.
The name of the subdivision has been changed to "Locke Summit" to reflect a simple, comfortable, and affordable mountain lifestyle. There are attractive buy and build options with outstanding local builders. Subdivision plans call for paved roads, underground utilities and two-plus acre lots for under $100K. Dream Reality is the project’s marketing center; their office is conveniently located in the Newry Post Office Plaza building.
Rail Feasibility Study
Wednesday afternoon at the Bethel Inn, about 70 from Bethel and other interested persons listened to a presentation followed by a Q & A session about a study to extend rail passenger service from the Downeaster terminal in Portland to Auburn and on to Montreal. Such a plan would pass by Bethel and use the Bethel railroad station. One of the study’s objectives, and a grant seeking inducement, is to improve economic development in rural areas, i. e., Bethel and western Maine tourism.
Maine DOT is the study leader and the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments is a cooperating agency. The current study is due for completion in December 2010. If the study says the next step is feasible, a decade or more years would pass before anyone got off the train in Bethel. A host of other hurdles would have to be crossed before a train whistle is heard.
The study group is not considering commuter trains but intercity trains with the first two cities being Portland and Auburn. One rule of planning thumb that came out - the more stops the fewer riders – sorry South Paris! Bethel is a likely stop because it has a station and it has established tourism. The studiers/planners are sticking to existing rail corridors at this point. (And we have working rails.)
An hour of the hearing was devoted to questions and comments. Maine is doing this on its own for now. (Earlier comments from MDOT have indicated that there is some Montreal interest in passenger service in our direction – Old Orchard Beach, of course.) Maine’s most probable reason for not involving New Hampshire and Vermont at this point is to avoid competition from the other two states. In the concept being studied, a new Auburn station would be built near the Lewiston/Auburn airport and near the inter-modal transfer yard. No one brought up the what-if of radically higher gas prices as incentive to switch to rail.
Grand Trunk/Canadian National passenger and mail service to Bethel ended in 1960.
The presenters brought up the point that the $55 billion being considered to boost the economy via national transportation infrastructure rebuilding is a favorable omen for Maine rail expansion projects. For more details about the study go to the following website: http://atrc.geekteam.com/public/index.cfm?fuseaction=articles.view&id=10358
Mill Hill Inn holds open house
Woody and Lee Hughes threw open the doors of their Mill Hill Inn to the public on Thursday evening. A flood of community residents came for a chance to see the inn’s makeover, socialize and nibble. It was only two weeks and a day since Gould Academy had held a reception that had attracted many of the same usual suspects. The crowd seemed to be more than enjoying themselves. The “new” inn on Mill Hill must have very favorably impressed all who toured the guest rooms; they exude an image of warm, country hospitality. If the innkeeper chooses to tend bar of an evening, the cozy placement of bar, sofa and fireplace allows him to fill the place that the legendary Claus Weise held for many years at the Norseman Inn back in the '60s. Guests love to feel that the owner is part of their company and the arrangement of this most important part of the inn is perfect for that role.
The new inn’s billboard – B&B Lodging, Casual Dining, Cocktails, Private Parties, Weddings.
Gourmet in a Pinch catered the event; the kitchen was busy and young men with trays of hors d’oeuvres were weaving through the crowd.
And where did this inn come from? Talking briefly with Amy Davis, she recalled that it was G.L. Thurston who had moved the building, then a barn, (in the early 1940s?) to where it is now. Recently Richard “Dick” Douglass chuckled over remembering how in the '40s the “Scarborough boys” who lived at the Philbrook/Roberts/Harrington farm rode their horses to school. Dick would hear the horses galloping along Bridge Street while he was waiting for the school bus. The boys stabled their horses in the “GL” barn during school hours. Then around 1948, Peter Schutt, who was Bethel Inn’s manager, bought the building and converted it into his home and inn. Guy Butler, who later owned the Bethel Inn, and had succeeded in keeping Mr. Schutt on as manager for a year, suspected Mr. Schutt of occasionally skimming away some of the Bethel Inn guests to his lodging place.
SAD44 School Bus Drivers – continuous training and education
You could say that as society evolves a school bus driver's awareness and capabilities have to keep up with changes in human behavior. Today a new SAD 44 school bus driver applicant should plan on about eight weeks before he or she is qualified to drive a school bus.
To start, a new prospective driver is fingerprinted, given a physical exam which is followed up with annual physicals plus entering a drug and alcohol testing program. The new driver must have a commercial driver's license with an S/P (School Bus, Passenger) endorsement for driving school buses.
Training includes classes on leadership skills for tasks on the bus such as problem solving and decision making. Also a driver is trained in appropriate conflict resolution and public relations. There is a student management set of classes which focus on how to work with students of different grades - and most importantly, defensive driving training. The largest buses can carry up to 84 students.
School bus safety training for students is given at least twice a year; this covers how to wait for the bus, being a good student on the bus and how to disembark properly and safely.
Drivers also annually attend 30 hours of training with a combination of hands-on and a classroom setting, usually at Crescent Park School. Guest speakers at workshops may come from the Department of Education or in-house such as a workshop on suicide prevention.
With 16 daily bus routes to cover, it is necessary to keep 21 fully-qualified drivers available to cover gaps occasioned by illness or other emergencies.
Last week’s canoe extravaganza at Songo Pond raised a question or two about the pond’s having turned more private than the public place it used to be. During my school days it was "The" summer recreation place and there were different kinds of canoes and boats for very low rental fees. Norma Salway’s new book captures many scenes of what I remember from the 1940s and '50s. Just recently I talked with Norma on the phone about the canoes in her book’s photos. From the dress of the people in some of the photos their canoeing clothes date to at least the late 1920s if not earlier. If you haven’t read her book, “The Spirit of Songo,” get a copy; see what you are missing. When I checked at Books N Things on Saturday, they were out but the Bethel Historical Society’s gift shop/museum store has copies for sale.
A clean Androscoggin has cleared the way for canoes and kayaks to be a top seller for Bethel’s summer recreation. Gould Academy, Outward Bound, Sun Valley Sports and Bethel Outdoor Adventure keep canoe trailers on the go up and down the Androscoggin and to points north. Vacation-time canoe trips seem for the most part to take the easy way out – drifting or paddling leisurely downstream. You know folks; canoes were made for general transportation which included going upstream too – poling against the current with your gear, food and supplies in the canoe.
Two other good books to read if you are interested in heritage canoeing, wilderness adventures and the like are Henry David Thoreau’s “Maine Woods” circa 1857 and “Chasing Danforth, A Wilderness Calling” by Robert W. Cook. The former contains accurate detailed descriptions of wilderness canoeing, the latter has some excellent illustrations and photos; also it introduces the Rangeley Boat and the Magalloway Boat. My personal interest - the Danforth era was also the era when my great-grandfather, John Olson - who was also great grandfather to some of the Angevine family in Bethel - lived in Wilson Mills and was a well-known guide in the Danforth circle of sportsmen and Camp Caribou people. Both books cover the non-vacation/real life element of canoe travel known as portaging. Thoreau tells how his Indian guide prepared his canoe for carrying and the Danforth book has good illustrations.
Selectmen’s meeting September 13th
In brief: Sheriff Wayne Gallant gave a report on the first 75 days of Bethel coverage by his department. He said that the transition was smooth and they had received compliments from the schools for the coverage they had received. Note: whether or not school zone speed limit signs are posted the state speed limit for driving by a school when students are arriving or departing is 15 MPH. Jarrod Crockett was appointed to fill a Conservation Commission vacancy. Bethel’s schedule for fees charged for such items as sign emplacement and building permits will be reviewed and compared with similar fees charged by neighboring towns for consistency’s sake. FY 2011’s paving contract will go to the Bruce A. Manzer Co. The slightly lower cost warm asphalt will be accepted if its warranty matches that for hot asphalt. For the East Bethel Road: the town will send a request for consideration to MDOT to have the speed limit lowered from 45 to 35 MPH in response to a citizen request. The town manager and selectmen will consider forming a Parks Committee in particular to oversee the job of long-term and periodic sustainment of good conditions at Angevine Park, such as pond cleaning, dredging and beach work. Right now the Public Works Department takes care of seasonal maintenance and cleanup. Town Clerk Christen Mason reported that 127 lien documents were sent to the Registrar of Deeds compared to 131 last year. The low bid of two submitted for sale of a truck to the Department of Public Works was accepted but I missed the name of to whom the bid went. Another one for next week’s news pertains to Mason Street traffic on Halloween.
At a previous meeting the selectmen voted 4-1 to extend Town Manager James Doar’s contract for two years to 2014. (SunJournal news)
Currently the Town of Bethel website is up to date on selectmen’s meetings and planning board agenda. To quickly and easily find out about “new” business look at www.bethelmaine.org