Budget committee accepts proposal to assume advisory role in investment decisions

China Baptist Church

by Mary Grow

The five (out of seven) China Budget Committee members at a special Sept. 26 meeting unanimously accepted Town Manager Dennis Heath’s proposal that the committee assume an advisory role in town investment decisions.

Part of the draft financial policy Heath has developed says that town funds will be invested as recommended by the budget committee and approved by the board of selectmen.

Budget committee members added, at Heath’s suggestion, a requirement that he make regular financial reports to them, to make their new responsibility easier. They agreed on quarterly reports, and further agreed emailed reports would not necessarily require a meeting to discuss them.

In the past, the committee’s only role has been to meet before any town vote involving appropriation of town funds and make recommendations on the proposed expenditures. Heath pointed out that under the Budget Committee Ordinance, the committee may also “make such other recommendations on fiscal matters as it may from time to time deem advisable.”

The new budget committee role is part of a more comprehensive fiscal rearrangement that Heath will present to selectmen at a future meeting.

2018 LOCAL TAX PAYMENT INFORMATION

TAX PAYMENT INFORMATION

CHINA

First half payment due Friday, Sept. 28.
Second half payment due Friday, March 29, 2019.

VASSALBORO

First quarterly payment due Monday, Sept. 24.
Second quarterly payment due Monday, Nov. 26.
Third quarterly payment due Monday, February 25, 2019.
Fourth quarterly payment due Monday, April 22, 2019.

WINDSOR

First half payment due Sunday, Sept. 30.
Second half payment due Sunday, March 31.

WINSLOW

First quarterly payment due Friday, Oct. 12.
Second quarterly payment due Friday, Dec. 7.
Third quarterly payment due Friday, March 8, 2019.
Fourth quarterly payment due Friday, June 7, 2019.

These compiled from the China and Vassalboro town reports (town meeting warrants) and the Windsor and Winslow websites.

Cony graduate completes basic training

Lilianne Nichols

Liliane Nichols, a 2018 graduate of Cony High School, in Augusta, recently graduated in the top 10 percent from B Battery, 1st Battalion, Third Platoon, U. S. Army Training Center, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

She is the daughter of Sara and Seth Nichols of Augusta and Dawn and Jason Bryant, of Fairfield.

On family day, Seth Nichols was invited to promote Soldier Nichols to Private Second Class (PV2) Nichols as Sharon Nichols, her grandmother, of Palermo, joined other families honoring the 20 soldiers receiving this honor. PV2 Nichols is the granddaughter of Gary Nichols, of South China.

PV2 Nichols is assigned to Sam Houston Joint Base, San Antonio, Texas, studying to be a combat medic.

Five questions, candidates on China’s November ballot

China Baptist Church

by Mary Grow

China voters have on their Nov. 6 ballots five referendum questions and in annual local elections one contest and two vacancies.

The candidate list provided by Town Clerk Becky Hapgood shows four candidates for three positions on the Board of Selectmen. Incumbents Jeffrey LaVerdiere and Donna Mills-Stevens each seek another two-year term; Ronald Breton and Wayne Chadwick would also like to be selectmen. Incumbent Neil Farrington is not seeking re-election. Instead, he is running unopposed for China’s seat on the Regional School Unit #18 Board of Directors currently held by Charles Clark. Dawn Castner is the town’s other representative.

For the planning board, incumbents Thomas Miragliuolo (District 4) and Toni Wall (District 2) seek re-election without opposition. There is no candidate on the ballot for the at-large position, elected from anywhere in town, currently held by Breton. For the budget committee, incumbents Timothy Basham (District 4), Jean Conway (secretary) and Thomas Rumpf (District 2) are unopposed for re-election. There is no candidate for the at-large position currently held by Valerie Baker.

The local referendum questions ask if voters want to:

  • Repeal China’s quorum ordinance;
  • Ask the Maine legislature for an exemption from the requirement that all municipalities collect personal property taxes on business equipment;
  • Appropriate up to $5,000 from Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds to explore building an emergency services building and perhaps a community center on the former Candlewood subdivision, almost 40 acres of town-owned land off the north end of Lakeview Drive;
  • Appropriate up to $26,000 from current-year sale of tax-acquired properties for additional salaries and benefits for transfer station staff; and
  • Authorize selectmen, on the recommendation of the TIF Committee, to spend up to $100,000 in TIF funds on projects not presented to voters at the annual town business meeting.

On Nov. 6, China polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office on Lakeview Drive.

TIF members hear about alewife restoration project

China Baptist Church

by Mary Grow

China TIF (Tax Increment Finance) Committee members heard a presentation on the China Lake alewife restoration project, or ARI (Alewife Restoration Initiative), at their Sept. 24 meeting, preliminary to an application for financial assistance expected at their Oct. 22 meeting.

Landis Hudson, of Maine Rivers, Frank Richards, president of the Webber Pond Association, and Nate Gray, of the state Department of Marine Resources, credited alewives for better water quality in area lakes, including Three Mile and Webber ponds and China Lake. The small fish have been trucked into China Lake in recent years; ARI is clearing obstacles in Outlet Stream so they can swim into the lake from the Sebasticook River.

Hudson said of six dams in the stream, one (Masse in East Vassalboro) has been removed completely; Lombard Dam, close to the intersection of Lombard Dam Road and Route 32 between East and North Vassalboro, is almost demolished; Outlet Dam in East Vassalboro and Box Mills and Ladd dams in North Vassalboro will have fishways installed; and the fate of the Morneau dam, between the Masse and Lombard dams, remains to be decided.

Creating fishways will be more expensive, and probably less controversial, than removing dams, Hudson said. The project has received state and federal grant money and $20,000 from China TIF funds approved at the March 2017 town business meeting.

All three proponents talked of the economic advantages of cleaning up China Lake, like higher taxes on lakefront property and a better fishery, perhaps including restoration of the salmon and trout that flourished before an overload of phosphorus led to a lack of oxygen in colder bottom water.

TIF Committee Chairman Frank Soares told Hudson the ARI application will be the first to be received for this year’s TIF funds. He anticipates a request for money for trail development from the China Four Seasons Club (which, he said, he no longer heads; Tom Rumpf is the new president).

In other business Sept. 24, Soares, committee member Tom Michaud and Town Manager Dennis Heath reported on the causeway project at the head of China Lake’s east basin. Replacing the old bridge with a higher cement culvert will require closing Causeway Street, beginning Sept. 27; conspicuous signs announcing the pending closure are posted at both ends of the street.

Anyone wanting to visit the project must sign in at the town office and must wear a safety helmet and abide by all other safety rules, Heath and Soares said. To help residents follow the work without getting in the way, Heath intends to post photos on the China website.

After the bridge is replaced, Michaud said the second phase of the project requires an initial inspection and recommendations from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Committee members have discussed new structures at the head of the lake to make fishing easier, sidewalks and perhaps a four-wheeler trail connecting to the new bridge and other not-yet-fleshed-out ideas. Until state regulators tell the town what can and cannot be done, the committee cannot make firm plans.

Heath will try to get a DEP staffer to look at the area soon.

Decisions postponed due to lack of quorum at planners’ meeting

Causeway Road in China.

by Mary Grow

CHINA — With only three of the six China Planning Board members present at the Sept. 25 board meeting, decisions were postponed on both topics discussed.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik recommends asking voters to approve amendments to the Land Use Ordinance, some merely clarifications, others more substantive. Board members will consider his suggested changes at future meetings and will decide whether to seek voters’ action at the March 2019 open business meeting or at the June 2019 written-ballot vote on the school budget and perhaps other town and/or state questions.

Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo and members Jim Wilkens and Milton Dudley agreed that an April procedural decision lets Mitnik and Miragliuolo prepare and sign the final document listing reasons – findings of fact – for a board decision without further action by the whole board, an interpretation since disputed among board members.

The document containing findings of fact cannot be signed as soon as a decision is made because Mitnik needs time to write it. A related question, also left unanswered, is whether the 30-day period during which a decision may be appealed begins with the decision or with the signing of the final document.

The planning board’s next meeting is currently scheduled for Tuesday evening, Oct. 9.

Erskine 5K Run/Walk 2018

(photo credit: Erskine Academy)

The 10th Fly Like an Eagle 5K Run/Walk will be held on Sunday, October 14, at 9 a.m., at Erskine Academy. Proceeds will benefit the class of 2019 as well as Erskine’s 2018 School Spirit Challenge. Participants who register by Sunday, October 7, will be guaranteed an official race T-shirt. In addition to runners and walkers of all ages, this is a dog friendly event so well-behaved and leashed dogs are welcome. Interested participants can register online at runreg.com (for a small additional fee) or by contacting Betsy Benner at bbenner@erskine247.com.

China projects to keep town crews busy

by Mary Grow

China selectmen’s decisions on bids for various projects around town will keep the town public works crew busy for the rest of the fall.

At their Sept. 17 meeting, selectmen took two major actions.

They accepted Bryce DeMerchant’s bid to dig a new Neck Road fire pond for $5,560, provided that the town crew do a lot of auxiliary work, like pumping out the current pond, moving needed rocks and gravel and the existing fire hydrant and managing erosion control.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said DeMerchant would do the other tasks, but if he does everything his bill would exceed $12,000. There is $6,000 on hand for the project, board members said.

Selectman Neil Farrington supported the plan, though he said he would still prefer to fill in the existing pond and forget about a new one. China Village Fire Chief Timothy Theriault proposed the pond a year ago, to provide a nearby source of water in case of fires on Neck and Stanley Hill roads.

Selectmen rejected bids for installing a bathroom in the former portable classroom behind the town office, building an entry roof over the basement entrance on the north side of the old town house and making repairs at the town office, instead assigning the jobs – except for plumbing and electrical work – to the town crew. Heath said he discussed the idea with foreman Gary Cummings before the selectmen’s meeting.

Board Chairman Robert MacFarland and Selectman Donna Mills-Stevens expressed concern that the board is asking too much of the small town crew. Heath plans to let them schedule the extra assignments as their other responsibilities allow.

Selectmen also rejected a bid of $9,600 for roof work on the red garage south of the town office, because it exceeds the $8,000 voters approved. MacFarland recommended they advertise for new bids.

In other business Sept. 17, selectmen accepted a request that town office staff administer the Heritage Tour Scholarship Fund, established by former eighth-grader Sarah Praul and inherited by her mother, Erika Matthies Praul, after Sarah graduated from China Middle School.

The fund provides assistance to China eighth-grade students who cannot afford the annual March Heritage Tour, which Erika Matthies Praul said now costs close to $1,000 per student. The main fundraiser is selling advertising space on students’ T-shirts to local businesses; individual donations are also welcome.

Heath said the fund will pay the town $100 annually toward administrative costs. Codes Officer Paul Mitnik brought a consent agreement to correct land use violations. Selectmen approved it.

Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood said residents may apply now for absentee ballots for Nov. 6. Ballots will be available a month before the election.

Selectman Irene Belanger and Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton said China residents will be able to participate in a hazardous waste disposal program in Winslow on Oct. 20, after registering at the China facility, and in a drug take-back program and a document shredding program in China on Oct. 27. More information is available at the transfer station or the town office.

On Heath’s recommendation, board members again postponed action on two documents, a tower use agreement with Hussey Communications, of Winslow, intended to improve wireless service in town and an internal financial controls policy.

Heath announced that work on the new causeway bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin is scheduled to close Causeway Street from the first week in October through the first week in November.

China budget committee approves three spending measures to be on Nov. 6 ballot

Image Credit: chinalakeassociation.org

by Mary Grow

China Budget Committee members have unanimously endorsed three spending measures selectmen will present to voters on Nov. 6.

Nov. 6 local voting includes elections and five referendum questions. The first two, which did not need action at the Sept. 5 Budget Committee meeting, ask if voters want to repeal China’s quorum ordinance (which sets a minimum number of voters required for any town meeting to be held) and if they want to send a resolution to the state legislature asking to authorize municipalities to opt out of collecting personal property taxes (paid on business equipment).

The issues the Budget Committee supported are: (ep)

– A request to appropriate up to $5,000 from Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds to explore possibilities of using the 39-acre former subdivision on Lakeview Drive opposite the Candlewood property for an emergency services building and a community center.

  • A request to authorize selectmen to use up to $26,000 from sale of tax-acquired property in the current (2018-19) fiscal year to pay for additional hours and benefits for transfer station employees, due to the new schedule that took effect Sept. 4 and an expected staff change.
  • A request to give selectmen continuing annual authority to use up to $100,000 in TIF funds, on recommendation of the TIF Committee, for economic development projects not presented to voters and approved at the March town business meeting.
  • On the first issue, Town Manager Dennis Heath emphasized the $5,000 would be used for a conceptual rendering only. The emergency services building he has in mind would house the China Village volunteer fire department and China rescue, provide office and vehicle space for China’s part-time police force and perhaps house a Delta ambulance.

Delta officials have expressed interest in keeping an ambulance in China if there were a place for it, Heath said. China Rescue is a first-responder unit not licensed to transport.

If voters approve the concept, and if the project goes ahead, Heath said other town managers have used TIF economic development money for fire department housing. The rest of the project would probably need other funding sources.

On the transfer station issue, Heath explained that the new schedule requires increasing hours for two part-time employees to the point where they are entitled to benefits. The $26,000 ceiling ought to cover the increases, and is less than China has already taken in this year from the sale of one tax-acquired property, he said.

As of Sept. 4, the transfer station is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, five consecutive days. Hours were sent out with tax bills and are posted on the Town of China web site, in recent issues of The Town Line and elsewhere in town.

Heath said transfer station employee Ed Brownell plans to retire in the spring, necessitating additional changes.

If voters approve the final referendum question, letting the TIF Committee and selectmen spend TIF money without town meeting authorization, projects that come up during the year can be funded without delay, Heath said. The TIF Committee, he reported, asked selectmen to postpone the question to a spring 2019 ballot, to give more time for consideration.

The five Budget Committee members present Sept. 5 endorsed all articles. Votes were 5-0 except on the last question, which was 4-0-1: Budget Committee secretary Jean Conway abstained, since she is a TIF Committee member. (ep)

On Nov. 6, China polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office.

Three arrested in China car burglaries

From right-to-left, Manuel O’Shea, Ashlee Suzor, Willie Golston

State Police charged three people from Massachusetts in connection with a number of car burglaries off the Neck Road, in China, over the weekend. Taken from the vehicles were a credit card, change and sunglasses. At least six vehicles, all unlocked, were entered late Saturday night and early Sunday morning along fire roads 15, 16 and 17.

Arrested Sunday were Manuel O’Shea, 25, of Methuen, Willie Golston, 21, of South Boston, and 25-year-old Ashlee Suzor, of Methuen. All were taken to the Kennebec County Jail, in Augusta.

O’Shea is charged with burglary, forgery and theft. Suzor was charged with forgery and Golston was charged with conspiracy. Troopers found the group had used the stolen credit card at the China Dinah and at the Circle K store, both in China. The trio was in the area over the weekend visiting a friend, who was not identified