CHINA: Comprehensive planning committee hopes to have final draft by year’s end

by Mary Grow

Three members of China’s Comprehensive Planning Committee, plus Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG) representative Joel Greenwood and Planning Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo, spent the last evening in July talking about the updated China Comprehensive Plan that Greenwood hopes to have drafted by the end of the year.

As a basis, there are the existing plan and a map designating areas proposed for development; a summary of results from the visioning session held earlier this year; and a summary of comments emailed in response to a questionnaire from the Tax Increment Financing Committee.

The July 31 discussion focused on designating development areas. Those present tentatively decided:

  • There is no need to designate separate areas for commercial development and for residential development.
  • Many of the areas designated for residential development in the current plan have been pretty well filled with houses – and an occasional small business – since the plan was prepared more than a decade ago.
  • Since, according to KVCOG data, more China residents commute to Augusta than to Waterville, Oakland and Fairfield combined, encouraging residential growth in the south end of town rather than the north makes sense.
  • The Route 3 corridor from the Vassalboro line to a point some miles east of South China Village seems to be already a growth area, as does Route 32 South past the Weeks Mills Road intersection, so encouraging more development in those connected areas should be appropriate.

Greenwood emphasized that designating growth areas and drawing lines on maps is “not prescriptive, just idealistic” and is not intended to restrict development opportunities in town. Looking at where development has occurred since the current plan was approved, he and Miragliuolo agreed the plan had not been influential.

Any resident interested in joining the Comprehensive Planning Committee is welcome. More information is available at the town office. The next committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 28, with housing and historic resources on Greenwood’s preliminary agenda.

CHINA: Mills-Stevens to take over excavator negotiations from public works manager Reed

by Mary Grow

The proposal to buy an excavator for China’s Public Works Department that has been on the selectmen’s agendas since June 10 is scheduled to appear again on August 19, under new management.

At the selectmen’s Aug. 5 meeting, board member Donna Mills-Stevens volunteered to renegotiate the proposed purchase with Chadwick- BaRoss, believing she can get better terms than Public Works Manager Shawn Reed did. Board Chairman Robert MacFarland expects her report in two weeks.

Reed hoped selectmen would approve the $172,850 price he had negotiated, including a trailer for the tracked Volvo machine and an extended warranty. He said Chadwick-BaRoss agreed to hold the price until Dec. 1, but not to guarantee the machine would not be sold to another customer while China officials debated (see The Town Line, July 25).

Mills-Stevens, a banker and co-operator of Stevens dairy farm, cited her experience in negotiating and in buying heavy equipment as she volunteered.

Selectmen rejected two other alternatives before letting Mills-Stevens take over. Ronald Breton’s motion to buy the excavator on the terms Reed presented received only Irene Belanger’s vote, with MacFarland, Breton and Jeffrey LaVerdiere opposed and Mills-Stevens unable to decide and recorded as abstaining. LaVerdiere’s motion to put the question on China’s November local ballot and let voters decide received his and Mills-Stevens’ votes, with the other three opposed.

After the final decision, Reed said he had “spent a lot of time and energy and effort on this,” trying “to do the best possible I could for the taxpayers.” His starting premise was that having a town-owned excavator instead of contracting for one would save money.

Now, he said, the selectmen could take over the project and he would focus on his other duties. Personally, he did not care what they decided; not owning an excavator would mean one less piece of equipment for which he was responsible.

On other public works topics, Reed reported most of the tools authorized to let new hire Josh Crommett do vehicle maintenance have arrived, and the work of removing beavers and their dams from the Bog Brook Road area continues.

The excavator discussion was interrupted by a parliamentary dispute. After Breton’s motion was made and seconded, Wayne Chadwick, the contractor whose excavator selectmen agreed to hire this year, asked to comment from the audience and MacFarland recognized him. Breton objected, saying by Robert’s Rules of Order audience members could participate in discussion until a motion was on the floor; then only board members could speak. Chadwick left the meeting.

When Breton returned to the topic before adjournment, Town Manager Dennis Heath said Breton was correct, and since the board adopted Robert’s Rules, members should follow them. However, he said, the rules are flexible: MacFarland could have asked the rest of the board to let Chadwick speak out of order.

Although the excavator will not – at least as of Aug. 5 – be on a Nov. 5 local ballot, selectmen accepted Heath’s recommendation that they ask voters another question: “Do they want to allow retail medical marijuana facilities in China?” The question Heath drafted asks if the current local ordinance prohibiting marijuana businesses should be amended to make an exception for medical marijuana businesses. (The single-page “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Establishments in China” is on the town website under “Ordinances, Policies and Orders.”)

China has one medical marijuana store, established before state law changed. Heath said it is grandfathered and would not be affected by a November vote. Under revised state laws China voters must “opt in,” that is, approve a local ordinance allowing such businesses, before any more can open. The planning board has one application on which it cannot act unless voters approve (see The Town Line, July 18).

Local elections will also be Nov. 5. Nomination papers are available at the town office for positions on the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Budget Committee and for one seat on the Regional School Unit #18 board.

In other business Aug. 5, Heath announced that Tracey Frost, China’s part-time police chief, has resigned due to lack of time. Craig Johnson, a retired Clinton police chief, will succeed Frost; Michael Tracy and Jordan Goulet will continue to serve China, Heath said.

Selectmen unanimously appointed Amber McAllister to the Tax Increment Financing Committee.

Belanger and others commented on the success of the China Days celebration August 2, 3 and 4. Heath commended the police department, and audience member Tom Michaud praised town office staff member Kelly Grotton for her well-organized management of the event.

LAKESMART: Jeanne Marquis and dad, Carl J. Stenholm

Jeanne Marquis

Jeanne Marquis and her 94-year-old father, Carl John Stenholm, were recipients of the LakeSmart Award for their lake property on Fire Road 1, on China Lake. Marquis says their Maine property has been in their family since the late 1800s when her great-grandfather, John Benson Doe, returned from sheep ranching out west to purchase their red brick home on the Neck Road. China Lake continued to call this family back home for three generations just as it did for John Doe, even if it was just for the summers. Two years ago, Marquis and her father made a permanent move to their China Lake home as their year-round residence.

Marquis told us, “I am very grateful for the work the LakeSmart Program and the China Lake Association does to improve the quality of the lake and monitor the loon population. It’s encouraging to see the loons and the eagles return to this area for the generations ahead of us to enjoy.”

If you would like to schedule a LakeSmart visit please contact Marie Michaud at 207-242-0240 or by email at ChinaLakeSmart@gmail.com. The visit only takes around an hour. We will share lake friendly ideas for your property. We can offer Youth Conservation assistance to get any suggested lake-friendly ideas completed, too. Together we can help protect China lake for now and for the future.

See also:

LAKESMART: Geoff and Patricia Hargadon

China Town Office to have new hours beginning in the fall

Dennis Heath, China town manager, has announced that following approval by the board of selectmen, the China Town Office will have new hours beginning November 1, 2019.

The office will be open Monday, from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Tues., 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.; and the office will be closed Saturday and Sunday.

Alex Stewart builds shelter at Lincoln School in Augusta

Alex Stewart, center, with his scout troop.

by Ron Emery, committee member

On Saturday, April 6, Troop #479 honored an Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor held at the China Baptist Church for Augusta resident Alex Stewart. Family, friends and Scouts attended the ceremony marking the advancement of this young man to the highest rank in Boy Scouts.

Alex Stewart

Alex joins a group of 40 Eagle Scouts from Troop #479 who have completed community service projects with the help of fellow Scouts and other volunteers throughout Kennebec Valley.  Each Eagle candidate must plan and supervise an Eagle service project to demonstrate his capacity and willingness to exert his leadership ability in activities that are constructive and worthwhile in his community.

Alex used his Eagle Project to give something back to his elementary school, Lincoln School. He collaborated with Jonathan Stonier, director of buildings and grounds for the Augusta School Department, to build a covered outdoor area in an underutilized 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.

Also in attendance were Scoutmaster Scott Adams, to present the Eagle Scout Awards. Sean Stewart (Alex’ brother) gave the Eagle Scout Challenge and also asked Alex and other Eagle Scouts to reaffirm the Scout Oath.

Alex is a graduate of Cony High School, in Augusta, and lives with his parents, Greg and Kristina Stewart, in Augusta. He was on the Cony golf team. This summer he is working at Shaw’s, in Augusta, and will be pursuing a degree in engineering at the University of Maine in the fall.

Rémy Pettengill’s project benefits homeless veterans living at VA

Cabin in the Woods photo of those who helped Rémy Pettengill with his project. Front, left to right, Aiden Pettengill, Bryson Pettengill, Danielle Pettengill, Rémy Pettengill, Kevin (homeless vet) and Don Hill. Back, Michael Boostedt, Kevin Boostedt, Darren Corson, Cole Corson, Lee Pettengill and Ron Emery. (contributed photo)

Rémy Pettengill’s Eagle Service Project was to make 50 Hygiene Care Packages for distribution to the Togus veterans. These Care Packages consisted of a handmade zippered bag filled with items donated or purchased such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant, denture adhesive, shampoo and conditioner, soap, razors, shaving cream, mouthwash, and nail clippers. Each bag was labeled for a man or woman and the items were listed on a tag attached to each bag to help with the packaging and distribution.

During the project, one evening was set aside for older scouts and leaders to cut out the material using a pattern for the hygiene bags. Another evening was for sorting out the donated toiletry supplies and filling the hygiene care packages. Rémy provided the leadership and instructions.

On Sunday, July 21, the Scouts and leaders were invited to assist the wheelchair veterans in getting to the church service. After the service, Togus invited the group to have lunch prior to delivering the hygiene bags to each veteran residing in the Cabins in the Woods. Rémy distributed the bags to the Scouts for delivery with help from Dan Hill, the Ma­sonic Service Asso­cia­tion Rep­resen­tative for Togus.

Rémy first got involved with the veterans by way of the Masons. He went to Togus with the Masons to push the wheelchair-bound veterans down to their church service. While talking to Hill he learned that some of the veterans were not provided with the basic necessities to keep them healthy. Rémy thought he could help provide the toiletries for the brave men and women who served our country. With this in mind, he started planning his Eagle Service Project.

Rémy, 13, is the son of Lee and Danielle Pettengill, of South China, and will be entering the eighth grade at China Middle School this fall.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Find Resources For Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Who Want To Work

(NAPSI)—When Laura set a goal of becoming a certified orthotist and prosthetist to help people who, like her, experienced limb loss, she was concerned that earning the income she would need to afford the necessary training and education would affect her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from Social Security. But working with Social Security’s Ticket to Work (Ticket) program and using other Social Security Work Incentives helped her create a path to success.

Ticket to Work Program

The Ticket program supports career development for people age 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits, either SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and want to work. Through this free and voluntary program, participants select a service provider to help them prepare for and find a job.

If you, like Laura, have a career goal and receive Social Security disability benefits, whether it’s SSI or SSDI, you might have questions about how work will affect your benefits. The Ticket program can help you find the answers.

From the Comfort of Your Own Home

Free, monthly Work Incentives Seminar Event (WISE) webinars offer you the opportunity to learn from the comfort of your home. Each month, the Ticket program team discusses the supports and services that are available through the program and shares resources that can help you on the path to financial independence through work.

You will learn about Work Incentives and discover how you can transition to the workplace without immediately losing your Medicare and/or Medicaid and, in some cases, your cash payments from Social Security. Each month, presenters also explain how you can access free supports and services such as career planning, job placement assistance and ongoing employment support. You can also find information and ask questions about different types of work goals, including starting your own business, working for the federal government or planning for financial independence once you start earning income.

WISE webinars are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month. You can learn about this month’s topic and register online at https://choosework.ssa.gov/wise. Or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1 (866) 968-7842 or 1 (866) 833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

Learn more about Laura and others who have used the Ticket program to succeed by visiting https://choosework.ssa.gov/success-stories.

CHINA: Nomination papers available

China Town Clerk Becky Hapgood announced that nomination papers for local elective offices are available. Signed papers are due at the town office by closing time Sept. 6 for names to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

People whose terms end this year are Selectmen Irene Belanger and Robert MacFarland; Planning Board members Kevin Michaud (District One) and Ralph Howe (District Three, appointed in June to fill out an unexpired term); Budget Committee members Robert Batteese (chairman), Kevin Maroon (District One) and Wayne Chadwick (District Three). The Planning Board alternate at-large seat, currently vacant, is also due to be filled this year.

China TIF committe members discuss future plans

by Mary Grow

China’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee members discussed future plans, including the second phase of the causeway project, at their July 29 meeting, despite the absence of all three construction subcommittee members who have been most involved in the work at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said Phase I, which focused on replacing a large culvert with a bridge, is all done but the final paperwork. Phase II will involve replacing the current bulky guardrails with more attractive and less obtrusive ones; repairing the boat landing east of the bridge and providing more parking; creating a walkway and water access along the shoreline between boat landing and bridge; and installing lighting.

Engineer Mark McCluskey of A. E. Hodsdon brought preliminary plans for Phase II. An early step, he said, is getting a Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA) permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

His tentative timetable, which he said might slip, calls for a preliminary design to be presented to the committee in August, a final design approved by the committee and a final DEP permit application by December, bidding out the work in the spring of 2020 and construction next summer.

The current guardrails have been criticized as “ugly,” “overkill” and unsafe rather than safe because they are so awkward to get over. McCluskey said the boulders that lined the edge of the lake for years were apparently adequate, but now that supposedly safer rails have replaced them, town officials need to be careful not to back off too much.

McCluskey’s preliminary plan shows 14 parking spaces for boaters, the largest 50 feet long. Despite earlier reports that state officials would no longer support the boat landing due to limited parking, Heath expects state funds and materials to help with repairs. McCluskey’s plan does not envision enlarging the landing.

Two other uses for TIF funds discussed July 29 were the revolving loan fund (RLF) and the list of other projects currently funded.

Amy Gartley, RLF coordinator, said information is on the town website under the TIF Committee. Now that application forms have final approval, she and Heath plan to put information and applications in a more conspicuous place on the website.

TIF money has been helping organizations like the China Lake Association, China Region Lakes Alliance and Four Seasons Club. Committee members decided their Aug. 26 meeting will be a workshop session at which any group seeking TIF funds from the 2020 town business meeting should present its request.

Heath would like to have a list of requests submitted to selectmen by October for consideration in November.

Under state rules, TIF money is to be directed toward economic development projects, including recreation, and spent in designated TIF districts in the town. Income is from taxes paid by Central Maine Power Company on its north-south power line through China and its South China substation.

China’s comprehensive planning committee to consider revising land use ordinance

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have a request from the Comprehensive Planning Committee to consider revising China’s land use ordinance to clarify requirements for a commercial use permit. They started discussion at their July 23 meeting, but came nowhere near a decision, partly because the issues are complicated and partly because only three of the five members were present.

Three main issues were presented, the ordinance sections that require an applicant to show that:

  • “The proposed use will not have a significant detrimental effect on the use and peaceful enjoyment of abutting property as a result of noise, vibrations, fumes, odor, dust, glare or other cause;
  • “Adequate provision has been made to handle storm water runoff or other drainage problems on the site;
  • “The proposed water supply will meet the demands of the proposed use or for fire protection purposes.”

The Comprehensive Planning Committee would like ways to measure compliance – for example, when do noise and the other things listed interfere with neighbors’ enjoyment, what runoff control provisions are adequate and how much water is needed for fire protection?

Board members and Codes Officer Bill Butler agreed on the second issue: state and town site protection regulations adequately control run-off.

They also agreed that determining detrimental effects is complicated, with the possible exception of controlling lighting by requiring downward-facing shielded bulbs.

Butler talked about ways to measure individual volunteers’ sensitivity to odors and send out teams to evaluate odor complaints. There are a variety of noise standards, state and local, he said, but to use them the applicant – or some other person or entity – would first need to do a study to establish the background noise level.

Butler and board members said there are many exemptions to standards in state laws and regulations, especially for farming and construction.

Some of the questions about fire protection and water supply should be referred to the state fire marshal, Butler said. He pointed out that “the demands of the proposed use” could be highly variable, giving as an example a water bottling operation like Poland Spring’s.

Development can affect supply, he added. He cited an area where the groundwater level was measured before a proposed subdivision. When trees were cut, the level dropped; when roofs and driveways created impervious surfaces, groundwater rose to a level higher than before the subdivision.

Further discussion was postponed to the board’s Aug. 6 meeting. Butler said the board hopes to have recommended changes on the Nov. 5 local ballot.

There was no action on the pending application for a medical marijuana facility on Route 3 in South China (see The Town Line, July 18). Butler said Clifford Glinko would probably present a revised application in September.

Board member Ralph Howe reported on his independent research on one of the questions raised about Glinko’s application, applicability of regulations separating marijuana facilities from schools. He said a Department of Education staffer told him Grace Academy across Route 3 is a school. The required 500-foot separation is between property lines, not between buildings, he said.