2019 Real estate tax schedule

2019 Real estate tax schedule

CHINA

Second half taxes due
Friday, March 29, 2019

VASSALBORO

Third quarter payment due
Monday, February 25, 2019

WINDSOR

Second half payment due
Sunday, March 31, 2019

WINSLOW

Third quarter payment due
Friday, March 8, 2019

SNHU announces fall 2018 president’s list

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), in Manchester, New Hampshire has named the following students to the fall 2018 president’s list.

Eligibility for the president’s list requires that a student accumulate an academic grade point average (GPA) of 3.7-4.0 and earn 12 credits for the semester.

The students include, Nicholas Howes, of South China, Taylar Lamontagne, of Waterville, and Noah Michaud, of Winslow.

Davis, Nicholson named chairman, vice chairman of Northern Light Inland Hospital board of directors

Tom Davis, chairman of the board of directors at Northern Light Inland Hospital, in Waterville.

Northern Light Inland Hospital is proud to announce two new officers for its board of trustees. Tom Davis of Winslow, begins a three-year term as chairman; and Jim Nicholson, of China Village, becomes vice chairman. Davis is owner of Are You Ready to Party?, in Waterville, and has been a member of Inland’s board for 10 years. He succeeds Mike Phillips as chairman. Nicholson is a semi-retired CPA with Nicholson, Michaud & Company in Water­ville, and has previously held roles as chairman for both the In­land board and the Northern Light Health system board.

Planning board to hold public hearing on ordinance changes

by Mary Grow

At their Jan. 15 meeting, China Planning Board members almost unscheduled, but then confirmed, their Jan. 29 public hearing on ordinance changes they would like selectmen to put on the warrant for the April 6 town business meeting.

There are three categories of changes. Board members put two of them in final form Jan. 15: proposed revisions to the definitions section of the Land Development Code and what they have called “the easy changes,” more formally described as “immediate changes to the Land Development Code to eliminate wording conflicts and ambiguities,” recommended by Codes Officer Paul Mitnik.

Later, Mitnik emailed to board members proposed amendments to sections on fees in the Subdivision Ordinance.

Planning board members are not asking voters to consider changes to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance that are required to bring China’s ordinance into conformity with state standards. Mitnik said the state will not approve the local ordinance until those changes, too, are made.

The result of the past months of board activity is many pages of ordinances with changes scattered throughout. Mitnik and board members plan to explain them to interested residents at the Jan. 29 hearing, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Since the board of selectmen and the comprehensive planning committee are tentatively scheduled to meet the same evening, meeting places remain to be determined.

Jean Conway, for the comprehensive planning committee, gave planning board members a brief progress report at the Jan. 15 meeting. The committee has reviewed about eight chapters of the town’s comprehensive plan and has obtained updated statistics in relevant areas, she said.

A public meeting to seek residents’ suggestions and recommendations is to be scheduled this spring.

In the only other business Jan. 15, Mitnik reported that no work had been done to develop The Pines at Hunter Brook subdivision off McCaslin Road, approved in 2008. Since work was not started, the subdivision permit expired in 2013 and is void. He and board members will send a statement to that effect to the Registry of Deeds.

The result of the past months of board activity is many pages of ordinances with changes scattered throughout. Mitnik and board members plan to explain them to interested residents at the Jan. 29 hearing, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room.

Selectmen presented with preliminary warrant

by Mary Grow

CHINA — The preliminary warrant for the April 6 town business meeting presented to China selectmen at their Jan. 17 budget workshop looks different from previous years’ warrants.

Town Manager Dennis Heath has reorganized expenditure requests into 18 articles (numbers 3 through 20 in the first draft). Some have familiar titles, like assessing, legal expenses, the transfer station and public works. Others are new combinations, like boards and committees and community support organizations.

Under each article are the usual lines for recommendations from the selectboard and budget committee. This year there is space to record each body’s vote so voters can tell whether it was unanimous.

More important, the warrant lists no details about the proposed expenditures. By contrast, in the March 2018 warrant, fire and rescue (Art. 13) took up most of a printed page, with the individual fire departments, China Rescue, stipends and dispatching listed separately.

Nor does the warrant list potential funding sources, like excise tax or unassigned fund balance.

Instead, a blanket statement before Art. 3 reads: “For Articles 3 through 20, please refer to the ‘annual budget’ included in the town report.” The town report is usually available at the town office and other public places a week or more before the town business meeting.

For the Jan. 17 selectmen’s workshop Heath had a detailed breakdown of each article that allowed board members to review proposed spending item by item. During the more than three-and-a-half hour meeting selectmen approved most items and recommended small changes in others.

Changes in spending Heath suggested included setting aside $25,000 toward the cost of a future town revaluation (the last one was in 2008, he said); increasing expenditures for dispatching emergency services in anticipation of the much-discussed regional change; appropriating $50,000 to rebuild the transfer station capital reserve account, depleted by the new precrusher-compactor and forklift; and appropriating a similar amount to rebuild the accrued compensation fund, depleted by departures of two long-term employees, former Town Manager Dan L’Heureux and public works head Gary Cummings.

The two longest discussions of the evening were with South China Fire Chief Richard Morse, China Village Chief Timothy Theriault and other firefighters and with Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers.

Selectboard Chairman Robert MacFarland wants the fire departments to give selectmen the stipend amount each volunteer receives, by name, for responding to calls. The firefighters saw no need to provide such detailed information, but reluctantly agreed to have it for the selectmen’s next budget meeting, scheduled for Jan. 29.

Hudson asked the town for $100,000 for two years’ work on the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI), aimed at reintroducing migratory alewives into China Lake. The money would be used toward the planned fishway at the Outlet Dam in Vassalboro, she said.

Selectmen would prefer a smaller request, perhaps for one year’s work. The issue was left open.

Currently the state trucks alewives into China Lake in the spring and they make their way out in the fall. Some of the groups involved in area lake restoration work credit them for helping improve water quality in China Lake and Three Mile Pond.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting was set for Tuesday evening, Jan. 22, with the budget committee to meet the following evening and the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28. After the budget committee and TIF Committee make their 2019-2020 recommendations, selectmen will have the information they need to approve the town meeting warrant. They have scheduled a meeting for that purpose for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Board denies reduced valuation to ReVision Energy

The solar farm located on Rte. 32 North, in China. (Photo by Roland Hallee)

by Mary Grow

On a 2-1 vote, the China Board of Assessment Review denied a request to reduce the valuation on ReVision Energy’s community solar farm at Three Level Farm on Route 32 North.

Four board members heard three hours of argument on the subject at a Dec. 18 meeting (see this article from Jan. 3). Three met again Jan. 10 to make a decision (the fourth person was out of state).

Chairman Dale Peabody began by establishing that no board member had a conflict of interest in acting on the project. He then reviewed the criteria for a successful appeal: the burden of proof is on the appellant (ReVision Energy in this case), who must prove the assessment was “manifestly wrong” in that it was either completely unreasonable or fraudulent, dishonest or illegal.

In addition, Peabody said, the appellant is required to provide an alternative valuation supported by credible evidence.

Peabody and fellow board member Harold Charles did not believe ReVision Energy met either requirement. They questioned the company’s figures on depreciation and on the end-date for the project and its final value; and they found the company’s belief that taxes should equal to no more than five percent of income unsupported.

Peabody added that the local board’s task was difficult, because there are not yet established criteria for making decisions about the value of community solar farms. He recommended companies and assessors get together and try to agree on some basic elements.

Meanwhile, he said, he found no evidence in ReVision’s presentation that assessor William Van Tuinen’s valuation was manifestly wrong.

Board member Sheri Wilkens voted against rejecting the appeal. She agreed that ReVision’s proposed cap on taxes was not adequately supported, but wanted a scientific basis for the varying figures presented on depreciation and final value.

Van Tuinen had never before valued a community solar farm, she pointed out, while ReVision brought an expert to the December meeting to defend its figures, Chief Counsel and Director of Development Steve Hinchman.

Expert, Charles agreed, but also “the guy who’s selling the thing.”

The difference in valuation is significant: Van Tuinen valued the community solar farm at about $275,000, while working backwards from ReVision’s five percent tax rate gives a valuation of less than $91,000.

Kristin Collins, ReVision’s attorney, said at the end of the Jan. 10 meeting that her client would wait to see the written document denying the appeal, with its statement of facts, before deciding whether to continue to court.

Manager presents proposed 2019 budget at meeting

by Mary Grow

At a Jan. 11 meeting, China Town Manager Dennis Heath presented selectmen and budget committee members with proposed municipal budget articles for the April 6 town business meeting.

The manager’s draft rearranges expenditure requests into what he sees as logical categories. One result is fewer articles.

For example, instead of a warrant article asking voters to appropriate funds for insurance (Art. 15 in the 2018 warrant), insurance costs are listed as part of each department’s expenses, as a line item in requests for the police department, public works, fire and rescue services and transfer station.

Town boards and committees are together in one proposed article. It includes a new parks committee, based on Heath’s recommendation to rename the Thurston Park II Committee and give it jurisdiction over both Thurston Park and the school forest behind China Primary School.

Out-of-town social services are combined in one article, in-town “Community support organizations” in another.

Street signs and street lights, which had a separate article in past years (Art. 20 in 2018), are listed under public works. Heath said a proposed increase in street light expenses from $7,200 to $10,000 is in anticipation of additional lights on the causeway at the head of China Lake’s east basin and in “other parts of town where appropriate.” Heath also advises changes in both the use of TIF (Tax Increment Finance) money and the presentation of TIF warrant articles. One article deleted after many years is the request to give part of the snowmobile registration tax refund from the state to the China Four Seasons Club (Art. 21 in 2018). Heath said since town money is not being appropriated, he thinks the article is unnecessary.

In an introduction to the budget document, Heath explained that he asked heads of town departments to help develop it.

He predicted the effect of the proposed municipal budget on the tax rate will be a small increase, about 35 cents for each $1,000 of valuation, but quickly added that until the school and county requests are known, no accurate prediction is possible. The town meeting warrant is also likely to include proposed ordinance amendments presented by the planning board. A public hearing on the changes is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Future budget discussions include a selectmen’s workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, and a budget committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23. The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Selectmen and budget committee members discussed two other changes in the town meeting warrant.

They agreed the selectmen’s and budget committee recommendations that follow articles will give the number of votes in each group – instead of saying simply “Select Board recommends yes,” the line will add the number of board members voting yes and no.

They are considering eliminating or moving to the end of the warrant the speeches and presentations that delay the start of voting and often duplicate information in the annual town report.

Selectmen discuss public works, transfer station at length

by Mary Grow

Much of the China selectmen’s Jan. 7 meeting was devoted to discussion of public works and the transfer station.

Town Manager Dennis Heath and public works employee Shawn Reed announced that Gary Cummings is leaving this week after 18 years of service to the town. Heath showed selectmen the certificate of appreciation to be presented to Cummings.

Board members unanimously authorized purchase of a new roll-up door for the lower level of the transfer station hopper building, replacing a 25-year-old door Reed said is beyond further repair. The cost is just under $7,000.

They authorized Heath to get a second price quote on a new generator for the town garage on Alder Park Road to power the diesel pump, lights and doors during power outages, and to buy the lower-priced.

Reed asked for a plug in the sand shed so the town’s portable generator could be used to power that door when needed.

He told selectmen the new Ventrax tractor is here and “looks good.”

Board members and Reed held a lively discussion of the relative merits of salt and sand for winter road maintenance. Reed said the town crew uses salt; the contractor responsible for one route uses sand, because his trucks are not calibrated to measure salt distribution.

Salt is expensive to buy, hard on vehicles and potentially damaging to China Lake, selectmen said. But, Reed said, money is saved in the spring when sand doesn’t have to be swept off roads and dug out of ditches. He believes salt makes safer roads, too, except when the temperature is too low for it to take effect.

In other business, selectmen postponed action on Heath’s proposal to change the Thurston Park II Committee to the Parks Committee and give it jurisdiction over the town forest behind China Primary School, as well as over Thurston Park. Selectman Irene Belanger wanted the current committee to consider the change.

Heath said China’s 2019 town business meeting is scheduled for Saturday, April 6. Voters will be asked to approve the municipal budget for 2019-2020.

The manager was dismayed to learn from RSU (Regional School Unit) #18 Superintendent (and China resident) Carl Gartley that school officials cannot begin budget work until the state legislature sets state funding in April or perhaps later. The manager suggested selectmen ask China voters to move post-2019 town business meetings to June.

According to the China website, the next selectmen’s meeting is Monday evening, Jan. 21. The town office will be closed that day for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Erskine tops school spirit challenge, again

Erskine Academy students celebrate by showing off their trophy for winning the School Spirit Challenge Tournament of Champions by raising a record-breaking 196,969 pounds of food. (Contributed photo)

Beginning in September, Erskine Academy, in South China, committed to a challenging mission to once again to collect food and funds to support the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine (GSFB) by participating in WGME13/Fox23’s School Spirit Challenge Tournament of Champions. The School Spirit Challenge (SSC) is a friendly competition between schools to show school pride and spirit, all while helping the community, according to a news release from Erskine Academy Headmaster Michael McQuarrie.

The program is designed to promote the school community and good stewardship with students of high schools in central and southern Maine through an eight-week food drive to benefit the Good Shepherd Food Bank and local food pantries.

This was the second time Erskine participated in the School Spirit Challenge, the first being two years ago, an event which they won handily over the other participating schools thanks to the efforts of many students, parents, alumni, businesses, and friends.

In 2016, Erskine was the School Spirit Champion for having raised nearly 85,000 pounds of food, an amount exceeding the total raised by the second and third finishers combined. Given this accomplishment, the school entered this tournament of champions with confidence. However, since the other competing high schools, also past champions, were all south of Erskine and have larger school enrollments, the collection goal was set at an ambitious 100,000 pounds of food.

Always up for a challenge and a worthy cause, the campaign was kicked off during the school’s homecoming in September. In attendance were WGME 13 anchor Jeff Peterson and representatives from the GSFB and the sponsors of this year’s SSC. The morning kicked off with students arriving at 5:30 a.m. for a tailgate breakfast served in exchange for their food donations.

The campaign continued until November 2 and was a bigger success than the academy ever imagined. The Erskine community pulled together collecting food and monetary donations and supporting the many activities to support the Challenge. Events included “Fill the Bus” with returnable containers, the Fly Like an Eagle 5K Run/Walk, Trivia Night, Trunk or Treat, Open Mic Night, and a dodgeball tournament. Off-campus activities included an EA Parents Food Drive Challenge. An online appeal went out on social media, and many generous donors gave through the Good Shepherd Food Bank’s virtual food drive.

Though initiated by Erskine’s students and faculty, they led what was a broader community campaign, supported substantially by many area businesses and organizations. The academy is grateful to its partners including Albison’s Printing, Augusta Emblem Club #233, B & B Septic Service, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Borislow Insurance, Brian Reay Plumbing & Heating, Central Maine Pyrotechnics, Darling’s Ice Cream For A Cause, Dutil Enterprises, Fieldstone Quickstop, G & E Roofing, Glidden Construction & Foundations, Harvest Time Natural Foods, Hussey’s General Store, Jackson’s Lawn Service, Kempton Tobey & Son, Kennebec Savings Bank, Knowles Mechanical, Legacy Home Improvements, M.A. Haskell Fuel, MC Disposal, Mid-State Machine Products, Natanis Golf Course, O’Connor GMC-Buick-Chevrolet-Cadillac, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Tobey’s Grocery Store, TRICORP Federal Credit Union, William H. Brewer & Co., and United Insurance Agency. Erskine’s Student Council representatives will soon visit key contributors as part of their “Gratitude Tour.”

Erskine Academy won the competition handily by far exceeding its goal. Erskine raised a record-breaking 196,969.25 pounds of food for The Good Shepherd Food Bank, which is over twice the amount that any of the 60-plus competing schools has raised in the five years and ten seasons of this competition.

About this accomplishment, Headmaster McQuarrie says, “The School Spirit Challenge was for a great cause, and through it, our community engaged in collective problem-solving and activism as we made a significant difference, at least for a time, in the fight against hunger in Maine. We demonstrated, and others witnessed, the dynamism of EA’s values—stewardship, leadership, and relationships—at work. The work ethic, inspiration, and idealism of our young people, in particular, are humbling and heartening.”

In the coming weeks, the school will continue to recognize and thank the many individuals, including alumni from across the country, businesses, and organizations for their generosity and goodwill that aided the effort, strengthened the school community, and fed many hungry people in Maine.

Area residents graduate from UNH

The University of Hampshire, in Durham, New Hampshire, has announced the following area students who graduated in May 2018.

Rebecca Grenier, of South China, BS in BiomedSci:Med & VetSci, Cum Laude, and Bayleigh Logan, of Windsor, BS in Health Management & Policy.