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 (for a small additional fee) or by contacting Betsy Benner at

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:

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

Road Warriors

Tom Lefferts (left) and Richard Dillenbeck (right)

China native and currently summer resident Richard Dillenbeck, has been spearheading an effort to clean up the roadside along Lakeview Drive, in China, along with side roads.

He and Tom Lefferts, Killdeer Point resident, were out along the road on August 26, picking up trash. Dillenbeck also wants to recognize and thank all who are already picking up trash in front of their respective homes. This will allow the volunteer teams to focus on the areas in between where most of the litter is tossed. He is still recruiting teams of people who are interested in helping where they can focus on the open distances between where most of the litter is found. His goal is to have teams on most of the roads in China.

Teams will be heading out again on Saturday, September 15. Those interested in taking part in the project can reach Dillenbeck at 445-8345. Also, with adult supervision, the school has offered to support the program along school property.

Photo by Roland Hallee

How to take great pictures on your cell phone

Palermo Community Center (Photo by Connie Bellet)

Your cell phone goes everywhere with you, right? It’s compact and useful for talking with people, texting, and even figuring out where you are, but it can also take surprisingly good pictures. Be sure and bring it with you to the Palermo Community Center, on Turner Ridge Rd., on Friday, August 31, at 6 p.m., when Ray Sheely will share his expertise in cell phone photography.

Sometimes the best pictures are serendipitous, but most are not. Knowing how to take these pictures will encourage anyone to notice more of the real beauty in our surroundings. So don’t just smell the roses! Capture them digitally. As an experienced photographer, Sheely can share tips on lighting, composition, and use of color, as well as capturing character and just plain seizing the moment.

Please join the potluck supper prior to the presentation. For more info, please call Connie at 993-2294.

Letters to the Editor: Thanks for China Lake water quality

Brian Audet with a recent catch on China Lake.


I have been enjoying China Lake at my family’s camp my whole life. Spending the summers fishing, boating, and just floating around on those hot summer days. I have been following the alewife initiative since they were introduced into the lake a few years ago and I just wanted to give my thanks to everyone involved. The fishing this year has been the best I have seen in my 20-plus years on the lake. The lake is super healthy and the stocked game fish have been catchable in the hot summer months for the first time ever. They also seem to be staying in the lake and growing. I will attach a picture to show the quality of the fish I have been catching.

Again, I just wanted to send a thank you out to anyone involved and show them proof of what their hard work is doing for the lake. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

Tight lines.

The Audets – Fire Road 12

Augusta’s Lincoln School benefits from Eagle Scout project

Alex Stewart’s Eagle Scout project at Lincoln Elementary, which he hopes will become an outdoor learning center. (Contributed photo)

Alex Stewart, of Troop #479, in China, used his Eagle Project to give something back to his elementary school. He collaborated with Jonathan Stonier, director of buildings and grounds for the Augusta School Department, to build a covered outdoor area in an under-utilized space near the school. He received assistance from adult leaders and older scouts as well as Custodian Brian Bolstridge the first two days of construction. He also received help from the younger scouts on the third day to spruce up the grounds around the project with mulch, landscape rocks, and several flower beds. He hopes the teachers and students will be able to use the structure as an outdoor learning station.

TIF committee continues discussion on purchase of Bailey property

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee spent half their Aug. 27 meeting discussing again whether to recommend the town buy Susan Bailey’s land at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

They agreed they lacked information to make a decision and set themselves a deadline for getting the information and deciding: their October meeting, which was moved from the usual last Monday of the month to Oct. 22 to avoid conflicting with the China selectmen’s meeting.

The Bailey property consists of a small parcel on the north side of the causeway, opposite the boat landing, used unofficially by boaters, and a larger lot with a house on the east side of Routes 202 and 9. In November 2016, China voters approved buying the small piece for boat landing parking for up to $10,000; but Bailey’s mortgage prohibits dividing the land.

Voters have not been asked to appropriate the $120,000 she is asking for the entire acreage.

Meanwhile, state officials responsible for boat landings have told town officials land across the busy highway from the landing is not suitable for parking, for safety reasons. Without more parking, the state will not make improvements to the landing.

At the Aug. 27 meeting, attorney Joann Austin volunteered the information that if someone were willing to pay for a survey, an appraisal and perhaps other requirements, the Bailey lots might be separable. Committee members are also discussing with China Baptist Church officials use of the church parking lot.

The other decision committee members made Aug. 27 was that if selectmen ask voters on Nov. 6 to authorize them to make appropriations from the TIF fund without town meeting approval, but with TIF Committee endorsement, the committee will not support the idea. (See related story, p. 3 )

Committee members might later support such a plan, but for now they would like time to think about it, more specific information and a standardized application form, among other things.

Their unanimous vote was to recommend postponing a vote to the March 2019 town business meeting. Robert MacFarland, chairman of the Selectboard, said he would prefer a vote in November or June when more voters are likely to participate than in March.

Three selectmen attend workshop with town manager

by Mary Grow

China Town Manager Dennis Heath and the three selectmen who attended the Aug. 24 workshop meeting came up with five local referendum questions the board might put to voters on Nov. 6.

No decisions were made at the meeting, except that Heath is to draft possible ballot questions. Selectmen will decide whether to ask them at their next regular meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4 (because the usual Monday evening meeting would have fallen on Labor Day).

The potential questions are:

  • Whether voters approve in principle building a new emergency services building;
  • Whether voters approve in principle building – or buying, Selectman Irene Belanger suggested – a new community building;
  • Whether voters want to repeal China’s quorum ordinance, which requires a minimum number of registered voters in order to conduct a town meeting;
  • Whether voters will authorize selectmen to spend part of the annual Tax Increment Finance (TIF) income each year without specific town meeting authorization, on recommendation from the TIF Committee; and
  • Whether voters support sending a resolution to the state legislature requesting exemption from the requirement to collect personal property taxes (taxes charged on business equipment, from computers used in a home office to farm and construction equipment).

Heath proposed the first two questions, about the new buildings. He emphasized that they do not include a specific location, design, cost or other details for either building. If voters approve either or both in principle, then selectmen or an appropriate town committee can develop details; if voters reject either or both ideas, planning would be a waste of time.

Belanger reminded those present that the quorum ordinance was approved in response to complaints that before its adoption, the few people who came to town meetings made decisions for the whole town. The suggestion to ask voters to repeal the ordinance came from town office staff, Heath said, because of the effort required to collect a quorum (currently 120 voters) so the March business meeting can be held.

If China residents do not want to attend town meetings, Heath said, perhaps it is time to ask another advisory question: would they prefer a town council form of government? Selectman Neil Farrington thought selectboard members should give the idea more consideration before perhaps presenting it to voters.

Under China’s current regulations for TIF spending, voters at the March business meeting authorize using the funds, collected as property taxes on Central Maine Power Company’s transmission line and South China substation, for purposes related to economic development. If during the following 12 months someone presents another project, it cannot be funded until voters approve it at the next town meeting.

Again, selectmen see the question as asking for a yes or no reaction. If voters approve, board members will work out details, like whether they can allocate a certain dollar figure or a certain percentage of the TIF fund, and seek more specific authorization in March 2019.

Farrington asked whether the town can grant exemptions from personal property taxes, about which he says he receives complaints. Heath and board Chairman Robert MacFarland said state law requires towns to collect them, although they agreed some towns do not and are not penalized – except, MacFarland said, real estate taxes are slightly higher to make up for the uncollected personal property taxes.

Heath said if China collected all personal property taxes owed, it would take in about $316,000 a year. He pointed out that if people with taxable equipment fill out the proper reporting form, they are entitled to exemptions on most newer items, and the state reimburses the town for half the exempted revenue.

Selectmen need to decide which questions will be submitted and how they will be worded at the Sept. 4 meeting, because the deadline for the ballot, including referendum questions and candidates’ names for local office, is Friday, Sept. 7.

In other business at the workshop, Farrington asked about ongoing plans to add three-phase power or otherwise update the transfer station’s antiquated electrical service. Heath said the Transfer Station Committee considered options at its Aug. 21 meeting.

One possibility is using part of the transfer station reserve fund to bring in three-phase power. Heath said a Central Maine Power Company site advisor estimated running a three-phase line from Route 3 could cost up to $60,000. Converting equipment, hooking up the new compactor and similar services could cost at least $20,000, maybe twice that. At the March 2018 business meeting voters authorized up to $200,000 for the reserve fund.

Heath does not expect to have a recommendation ready for the Sept. 4 selectmen’s meeting.

The manager shared personnel and staffing issues he had discussed with town staff. He is considering seeking two new employees, one to be assistant to Codes Officer Paul Mitnik and take over when Mitnik is ready to retire and one for the road crew to work as a mechanic, maintenance person and driver.

MacFarland, referring to the Aug. 20 meeting he missed at which the rest of the board approved Mitnik’s revised permit fee schedule, said his intention was to end up with lower fees, not higher. Mitnik proposed and selectmen approved lower fees for a few permits, but higher fees for many, to allow for inflation since the schedule was last reviewed.