Invasive plant patrol workshop on China Lake

Image Credit: chinalakeassociation.org

China Lake Association has announced it will be hosting an Invasive Plant Paddle this year on China Lake. The Four Seasons Club has offered us the use of their facilities for this event. The training will be taught by members from Lake Stewards of Maine (LSM) formally know as Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP).

This is a free three-hour workshop that takes place on the shore and on the lake. It is a great way to learn about Maine’s native aquatic plants and the invasive aquatic plants that threaten the beautiful lakes. Participants will each receive a free ”Quick Key to Ruling Out Maine’s Eleven Most Unwanted Invasive Aquatic Plants,” and will practice skills needed to spot suspicious plants while on the water.

The Plant Paddle will take place on Tuesday August 21, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Four Seasons Club, 570 Lakeview Drive, South China, Maine. To register and to find more information about the Invasive Plant Paddle go to : https://www.mainevlmp.org/invasive-plant-patrol-workshops/

Please register by August 14. There is a limited number of spaces but we also need at least 12 people to have the training. If you have questions message China Lake Association on Facebook or email Elaine Philbrook at esphibrook@gmail.com

Can you tell the Maine native waterweed from the invasive waterweed? Come to the Invasive Plant Paddle to learn the difference. Help keep Maine lakes safe from invasive aquatic species.

China throws retirement party for town manager

Dan L’Heureux tries out his commemorative rocking chair, presented to him by Select Board Chairman MacFarland. (Photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

On June 30, a crowd of grateful citizens, from the town of China and surrounding areas, gathered in the portable building behind the town office to wish luck to Dan L’Heureux as he enters retirement after more than 22 years of service as China’s town manager.

Dennis Heath, China’s new town manager beginning July 1, got the festivities started, saying, “One of the things I learned in my career in the military is that it’s important to acknowledge the service that somebody gives to their state, to their community, to their country. And 22-1/2 years given of Dan’s life in service to the community of China is nothing to shake a stick at. I wanted to make sure we honored that today.”

Bob MacFarland, Chairman of the Select Board, then spoke. “I’ve known Dan for 10 years,” he said. “He’s a great person to work with; very conscientious. He’s fiscally intelligent, which has benefited all of us, and he’s been nothing but good for the town.”

Maine State Representative Tim Theriault, of China, then introduced Matt Pouliot, a state representative from Augusta who will be running for Roger Katz’s state senate seat this fall. Representative Pouliot began by saying, “A lot of the good work that’s done in the state of Maine is done by the town managers and the town select boards and the members of town committees. The best decisions are made at the local level and they require really good local leadership.”

Pouliot then presented Dan with a Certificate of Legislative Sentiment for his more than two decades of service to the town of China. Reading from the certificate, Mr. Pouliot said, “Be it known to all that we, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, join in recognizing Daniel J. L’Heureux, of Waterville, on his retirement as China town manager after 22 years of service. We extend to Mr. L’Heureux our appreciation for his public service and offer him our congratulations on his retirement. And be it ordered that this official expression of sentiment be set forthwith on behalf of the 128th legislature and the people of the State of Maine. Signed by the President of the Senate, Mike Thibodeau, and the Speaker of the House, Sara Gideon. Sponsored by Representative Tim Theriault, Senator [Scott] Cyrway, Representative Tom Longstaff, and Representative Colleen Madigan.”

Theriault then presented Dan with a ceremonial flag. Reading, he said, “This is to certify that the accompanying flag was flown over the state capitol on June 28, in honor of Dan L’Heureux, of Waterville, on his retirement as town manager of China.” He then added, “I want you to remember us when you fly this at your home. Remember that the town of China really appreciates you.”

Retiring China Town Manager Dan L’Heureux, left, and new town manager Dennis Heath during retirement party. (Photo by Eric Austin)

Select board member, Neil Farrington, also said a few words. “I’ve had about 14 years on the board,” he said. “Dan has kept me honest, and when I get on my hifalutin dream ideas, he brings me back to reality … He’s the type of person you can go to with any idea you have, and he’ll listen to you and understand you, and sometimes reject you — but that’s a part of being in a manager’s position. He’s always been there, whether it’s professional or personal. I consider him a close friend, and we’re going to miss him here at the town office.”

Irene Belanger, a China select board member, then stepped forward to present Dan with a Spirit of America award. She said, “I am on the state board for the Spirit of America. Spirit of America honors volunteers. Although he’s had a paid position, Dan has also done a lot that’s over and above what he actually needed to do. On behalf of the Town of China, we have given you the Spirit of America award. It’s in recognition of your outstanding service spirit, and the timeless hours given for the benefit of the community. We congratulate you on the great things you have accomplished.”

Joann Austin, a South China resident who retired from the Select Board last year after more than 25 years of service, then addressed the group. “In all the years I’ve worked with him,” she said, “I’ve been astonished at, and thankful, for his ability to take stuff that comes into the town office — and it’s all different kinds of energy that comes in, some happy, some not — and he doesn’t take it personally, and he tries very hard to find a way to solve it.”

MacFarland then presented Dan with a locally made, wooden rocking chair as a memento of his time as China town manager. On the back of the chair is a plaque which reads: “Dan L’Heureux. Town manager, January 15, 1996 to June 30, 2018. In grateful appreciation for your dedicated service to the Town of China and with wishes for your lasting enjoyment of your retirement.”

Finally, Dan L’Heureux came to the front. He said, “I’m always mindful that ceremonies like this say as much about the energy within a community, and those people who are hosting it, as it does about the person they’re recognizing. So, I thank you very much. When I looked for employment in the past and decided whether I would stay for a long time, it depended on four criteria. One was that I had my family’s support, and that I did have. A second one was that I liked what I do. The vocation of a town manager is ever-expanding, ever-changing, and ever-challenging. And the third was that I hoped I would like the people that I worked with and they would like me. And the fourth was that I liked the people that I worked for, and that’s all of you. And you have been terrific to me. I’m very thankful and I think this community has tremendous fiber, and I will eternally miss … a lot of you.”

There was much laughter at this last, and someone from the crowd shouted, “Are you gonna run for mayor now?”

The speeches were followed by hors d’oeuvres prepared by the town office staff, cake, and a great deal of socializing.

Representative Matt Pouliot, of Augusta, presents Dan L’Heureux with a Certificate of Legislative Sentiment. Representative Tim Theriault, of China, stands on the right.

Dan L’Heureux’s retirement cake.

LakeSmart on China Lake now ready for inspections

LakeSmart crews at work!

Sponsored by the China Lake Association, the China LakeSmart volunteers have already started the 2018 season by visiting lakefront property owners who have requested a visit. We hope you will join our effort to protect China Lake from the effects of harmful storm water runoff. A volunteer visit lasts about one hour. In that time we will be able to provide you with ideas tailored to your property to promote a healthy lake.

The China Region Lake Alliance will assist to get the work completed with manpower provided by the Youth Conservation Corp. Project funds are available through the Kennebec Water District and the Town of China. The China LakeSmart Program is focused on educating the public about protecting China Lake and acknowledging the involvement of participants, recognizing them with a LakeSmart award. The volunteer visit is free!

To schedule your free visit, contact the China Lake Association‘s China LakeSmart team leader, Marie Michaud at ChinaLakeSmart@gmail.com or call (207) 242-0240.

China special meeting needed to settle final fiscal bills

by Mary Grow

China selectmen held a special meeting Friday, June 29, to deal with final bills as the fiscal year ended and to review and accept bids on two major culvert projects.

The bids were for new culverts to let Hunter Brook pass under Bog Brook Road and Pleasant View Ridge Road. Selectmen had six bids for Bog Brook Road and five for Pleasant View Ridge.

Prices for Bog Brook Road went from $111,217.50 from Ranger Contracting of Winslow to $380,000; selectmen unanimously chose Ranger Contracting. For the Pleasant View Ridge work, bids went from $153,000 from Nitram Excavation of Benton to $395,000; selectmen again unanimously chose the low bidder, Nitram Excavation.

At the March town business meeting, voters appropriated up to $150,000 for the Bog Brook Road culvert, approving a special article for major road work. The Pleasant View Ridge Road culvert is to come from the regular road appropriation plus a state grant of almost $100,000, with a local match that former Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said in the spring would probably not exceed 15 percent.

The only other major business June 29 was review and preliminary approval of a revised memorandum of understanding with China’s fire departments and rescue service, dealing primarily with the stipends for volunteers that voters at the March town business meeting approved for a second year.

Revisions are intended to make it absolutely clear that the payments are for services rendered; they are not wages and the volunteers are not town employees. New Town Manager Dennis Heath said the revised agreement, discussed with fire and rescue chiefs and drafted with legal advice, is consistent with state law, the Fair Labor Standards Act and Internal Revenue Service rules.

Selectmen proposed minor changes to the draft memorandum, which Heath said he planned to review again with the fire and rescue chiefs.

As of June 29, selectmen planned to meet again Monday evening, July 9. One potential agenda item is review of bids for the new bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

China bridge contract awarded to local contractor

by Mary Grow

China selectmen unanimously awarded the bid to replace the causeway bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin to the low – and local – bidder, Jason Tyler’s Comprehensive Land Technologies, Inc., of South China.

At their July 9 meeting board members briefly discussed the four bids received, which ranged from Tyler’s $493,750 to almost $655,000. Joe McLean, of Wright-Pierce, said all the bids were higher than he had expected based on past history; but, he said, the construction picture has changed this year. Contractors are not searching for work, and many have trouble finding competent employees for the work they have.

Asked whether the new bridge was a large or a small project for his company, Tyler said it was “on the high end of small.” He has experience with similar projects and the necessary state certification to work in the shoreland zone and in the water, he said.

McLean said the next steps are paperwork: a formal notice of the bid award from the town, a contract, a schedule and plans for traffic control that he will review and finally a notice to proceed.

Tyler asked for a bid award notice promptly, saying he needs to order the precast concrete sections immediately to receive them early in October.

McLean said the project has a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. The state Department of Environmental Protection exempts bridge replacements from Natural Resources Protection Act permit requirements. Someone, perhaps a member of the Tax Increment Finance Committee subcommittee on the bridge, needs to apply to the China Planning Board for a town permit.

Work is to be done in late September and October. Part of the plan is to give area residents, including summer residents, ample notice of times the road will be closed.

In a related matter, a speed study is planned on the causeway, where the legal limit is currently 45 miles an hour. Town Manager Dennis Heath said China’s police force will do the study; he expects them to conduct it the week of July 16 and for another week three weeks later.

Former Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said if average traffic speed does not match the posted limit, the state Department of Transportation might adjust the limit.

In other business July 9:

  • Selectmen unanimously appointed Kimberly Bolduc-Bartlett to work with Peter A. Nerber as China’s animal control officers. Bolduc-Bartlett is Windsor’s animal control officer, Heath said. Each will be paid a monthly stipend plus mileage, he said.
  • After a 20-minute discussion, board members decided to proceed as in past years with sale of foreclosed properties, advertising for and accepting sealed bids with a 10 percent down payment, refundable if the bid is not accepted, and setting a minimum bid on each property that would cover town expenses. A public bid opening is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, at the town office, making the deadline for accepting bids 12:59 p.m. Aug. 16.
  • They accepted Heath’s recommendation to postpone repaving Parmenter Hill Road to the 2019/20 fiscal year, to stay within the 2018/19 paving budget.
  • They expressed interest in an email or phone notification system that would let town officials notify residents who signed up of events and changes, like the July 3 closing of the transfer station that Heath and Board Chairman Robert MacFarland said caught some residents off guard.
  • They unanimously renewed Wildwood Pawn’s pawnbroker’s license for another year.

According to the town website, the next selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, July 23. Heath prepared a financial summary of the fiscal year that ended June 30 and suggested board members review it in preparation for a July 23 discussion.

Road work scheduled in China

Site of culvert replacement on Rte. 3, in South China. (Photo by Roland Hallee)

Two road projects are scheduled for work this summer in China.

A large culvert will be replaced on Rte. 3 between Rockwood Drive and Fieldstone Quikstop, in South China. The contractor will be F. C. Work & Son, Inc., of Jackson. There will be an on-site trailer in place. Residents and property owners adjacent to this project may contact Lewis Benner, the consultant resident representing the state of Maine Department of Transportation, by calling 242-2047 or via email, LBenner@kleinfelder.com. In the event he cannot be reached, you may contact Thomas Stevens at 592-4508.

The other project will involve the installation of rumble strips in the centerline of Rte. 3, from China to Belmont, beginning at the island northeast of the intersection with Rtes. 9 and 202, to the 40 mph sign west of Rte. 131, a total of 25.07 miles.

Should you have any questions regarding this project, you may contact the Department of Transportation representative to rumble strips, Stephen E. Bodge II, assistant program manager, by calling 441-6850.

Gifted Sisters

Josette (left) and Lydia (right) Gilman

Sisters Josette and Lydia Gilman were each recipients of $250 in talent scholarship money from the Alfond Youth Center (AYC). For the past three years, the AYC in Waterville has been hosting its talent show at the Page Com­mons on the Colby College campus. Each year, the AYC solicits talented youth from the Kennebec County/ greater Waterville area to compete for 10 slots available as part of its ‘Annual Appeal’ (Dinner and Talent Show). Scholarship money can be used by the awardees to further their performing talents.

Lydia, a second-time scholarship award recipient, is a high-honors student at Erskine Academy, in South China, and will be a junior this year. She enjoys singing, playing the piano and dance.

For the 2018 competition, Lydia was joined by her younger sister, Josette. Josette, an honor student from China Middle School, enjoys singing and art. Josette will be a freshmen next year and attending Erskine Academy with her sister. The two performed “Royals” by Lord as a singing duet.

Lydia and Josette Gilman are the daughters of Lance and April Gilman, of China, and the granddaughters of Judi Gilman, also of China.

Robbery at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust in South China

Surveillance camera image of bank robbery suspect. (Photo courtesy Maine Department of Public Safety)

by Eric W. Austin

On Thursday, July 5, about 2:30 p.m., a man entered the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust in South China and demanded money. The suspect is described by police as a white male, about 5 feet 3 inches in height, of slim build, with dark hair and dark eyebrows.

During the robbery, he wore a blue bandanna covering his lower face, Ray-Ban style sunglasses, and a black and white baseball cap with a red bill. Based on the photo released by the police, he may also have a scar across the knuckles of his right hand, and since he was wearing a long-sleeve shirt on one of the hottest days of the year, he may be trying to hide tattoos or other identifying marks on his arms.

The spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety, Steve McCausland, said in a statement that the suspect may have fled the scene in a vehicle parked nearby.

China police officer Craig Johnson, Maine State Troopers from Troops C and D, and nearby game wardens and forest rangers responded to the call.

The Morning Sentinel is reporting that a woman and two small children were seen at the bank around the time of the robbery, but police have stated that no customers were inside when the incident occurred. Three bank employees were present; however, no one was injured, and no weapon was displayed by the suspect during the robbery. The amount of money taken has not been publicly disclosed, but sources report it may have been around $1,000.

Branch manager Nicole Lee would not comment as it is an on-going investigation.

Police have several leads they are following up, according to Public Safety spokesman McCausland.

If you recognize the individual or have any information related to the incident, law enforcement is asking that you call State Police in Augusta at 624-7076.

This is a developing story and the information is still preliminary. We will be updating the story as we receive more information.

Suspect running away from the incident at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust in South China on Thursday. Photo from surveillance video. (Courtesy of Maine State Police.)

China town manager retires after 22 years service

Retiring China Town Manager Dan L’Heureux poses for a portrait at his desk at the China Town Office. His retirement became official on July 1, 2018. (Photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

When Dan L’Heureux was hired at the start of 1996, the China Select Board had two primary goals for the new town manager. First, they were looking to foster more economic development in the town. Second, they wanted someone who could achieve a stable mil (tax) rate that could be maintained even during tough economic times.

Based on just these two criteria, Dan’s tenure as town manager has been a huge success.

“If you plan long-term, and you work that plan, you can’t go wrong,” Dan told me when I asked him the secret to his success. “You plan for the bad times during the good times.”

This philosophy is apparent in every decision he’s made as town manager. Whether it’s the establishment of the TIF (tax increment financing) fund that will finance more than eight million dollars in economic development over its 30-year lifespan, or the purchase of snow plows that might cost more upfront but will save the town money in the long-run, Dan’s always thinking long-term.

The result is a town that’s in better shape than perhaps any time in its history. With no debt, capital assets that are in good shape, and a surplus that will see the town through any unforeseen emergencies, Dan is leaving the town in an enviable position for his successor.

“Dan knows finances,” Selectman Irene Belanger told me. But Dan’s financial savvy isn’t the only reason he is so beloved in the town of China. “Dan is compassionate,” Irene also said.

Recently retired selectman Joann Austin explained further. “He takes all that stuff that gets thrown at the town office, at the town government,” she said, “and he responds and listens, but he doesn’t react. He’s warm and he listens. He’s really quite heroic.”

Perhaps part of it is Dan’s humility. He defines his role as town manager as a supportive one. “The Select Board steers the ship,” he told me. “As managers, we provide the support. We do the research – meticulous and comprehensive research – that allows them to make the best decisions for the town.”

And he isn’t shy about spreading the credit around. “The Select Board and budget committees have been excellent stewards,” he said. “And you can accomplish a lot with good employees. Ours are superior!”

Finding just one thing that defines Dan’s legacy as town manager is not easy. One could point to the transfer station. A well-oiled machine and the envy of neighboring towns, China’s transfer station has maintained a nearly flat budget over the years despite numerous improvements and additions.

One could point to the many ways Dan has saved the town money. His talent in applying for grants has saved residents more than a million dollars over the last two decades. Those grants have funded everything from the building of the salt/sand shed and recycling center at the transfer station, to the sidewalk project in South China; the restoration of the historic one-room schoolhouse in Weeks Mills, to the tree cleanup after the 1998 ice storm. Dan knows how to get more done with less.

At Dan’s final selectmen’s meeting on June 25, Neil Farrington invited him to offer a few words. In response, Dan related how he’d had four criteria when considering whether to take the town manager’s position back in 1996: he was looking for a job that had the support of his family; he wanted to like the work he would be doing; he hoped to find a team he’d enjoy working with (and hopefully would like him in return); and finally, he wanted to like the people he was working for (the Select Board and the residents of the Town of China). His job as China town manager, he said, had fulfilled all four of those criteria. The past 22 years had been exceptionally rewarding for him, and he hoped that feeling was mutual.

On Saturday, June 30, the China Select Board presented Dan with a Spirit of America award for his more than two decades of service to the town.

What’s up next for the new retiree? “People say you shouldn’t make any decisions for six months after you retire,” he responds with a laugh.

Although he now lives in Waterville, wherever life takes him next, Dan L’Heureux will always find a home in the Town of China, Maine.

Eric W. Austin lives in China, Maine. He writes about technology and community issues and can be contacted by email at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

China selectmen revisit fire pond issue

by Mary Grow

At their June 25 meeting China selectmen revived the Neck Road fire pond they killed at their June 11 meeting, when they voted to fill it in. New Town Manager Dennis Heath presented cost estimates – not bids, he emphasized – for three options: filling the pond, re-configuring it with sloped sides and digging a new properly designed pond farther from Neck Road.

The existing pond was dug last fall with steep sides that Heath said are caving in. It is close enough to Neck Road to make selectmen worry about damaging the side of the road. Estimated cost of filling it is $14,400, including material and labor. Re-configuring it would cost about as much just for material and would create a pond too small to be useful, Heath said.

The proposed new pond would be farther from the road, 12 feet deep in the deepest part, with sloping sides and a capacity of 240,000 gallons. Estimated costs, from three people, ranged from $14,400 downward.

Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize Heath to get necessary legal documents prepared and signed by the landowners involved and town officials, and to reallocate $6,000 intended for guardrail to work on the new pond.

In other business, selectmen paid numerous almost-year-end bills and scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Friday, June 29, primarily to pay any more bills that come in as the fiscal year ends June 30.

Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee member Tom Michaud reported that the subcommittee he heads expects bids on the new bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin at the end of the week. After the bridge work, scheduled for late September and October of this year, plans for phase two, a walkway along the shore, are indefinite and plans to improve the boat landing are blocked by lack of parking.

Selectmen have approached resident Susan Bailey about selling her small lot on the north side of the causeway where boat-landing users now park. Bailey told them she will sell her entire property, the small lot plus a larger one across Lakeview Drive, but not the small piece separately.

Selectmen unanimously directed Heath or departing Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux or both to tell Bailey the town is still interested in acquiring her land. Voters have approved spending up to $10,000 from TIF funds for the causeway lot, but have not been asked about the larger property.

Board members voted unanimously to buy a new one-ton pick-up truck with a V plow for $36,990, to be taken from the capital equipment reserve fund. They decided not to trade in the town’s 2012 pick-up, figuring it will still be useful.

As selectmen reviewed the many committee and other appointments that they need to make for the new fiscal year, the town managers said Animal Control Officer Peter E. Nerber plans to resign unless he can get an assistant, since his son, Peter A. Nerber, no longer works with him. Heath said he is looking for someone to help the senior Nerber.

The China town office will be closed Saturday, June 30, in preparation for the 5 p.m. reception in the portable building for retiring Town Manager L’Heureux. The office will also be closed Wednesday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day.

According to the town website, the next regular selectmen’s meeting, after the June 29 special meeting, is scheduled for Monday evening, July 9.