CHINA: Breton appointed to planning board; protest filed by other candidate

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent almost half an hour of their Feb. 20 meeting debating whom to appoint to a vacant planning board seat – and the question might not be resolved, because the loser has questioned the process.

The planning board has five members, one chosen from each of four districts and one from anywhere in town (at large), plus an alternate member, elected (or appointed between elections) from anywhere in town and entitled to vote only in the absence of one of the five full members. The vacant seat is the at-large voting position.

Tom Michaud has resigned from the at-large seat. Former board member and chairman Ronald Breton and former member and chairman and current alternate member Jim Wilkens both asked to be appointed.

Neither man ran for planning board in the November 2017 election. Wilkens announced he was retiring, but was elected by write-in votes to the alternate position and accepted the post. Breton ran unsuccessfully for selectman.

Wilkens told selectmen after 14 years on the board, he would like to be a voting member again. Breton said he wants to continue to serve the town.

Selectman Irene Belanger suggested moving Wilkens to the voting position and appointing Breton the alternate member. Breton said he would not accept the non-voting position.

The four selectmen present agreed both candidates were qualified. They discussed procedure at length, ending with three motions on the floor, none seconded: Belanger’s to appoint Wilkens the voting at-large member, Jeffrey LaVerdiere’s to appoint Breton to the position and Chairman Robert MacFarland’s to table the issue until a full board was present.

At that point the missing selectman, Neil Farrington, walked in, surprised by the acclaim with which he was greeted.

After more discussion, MacFarland seconded LaVerdiere’s motion to appoint Breton, arguing that Wilkens should stay in the seat to which he was elected. Breton was appointed on a 4-1 vote, with Donna Mills-Stevens joining Farrington, LaVerdiere and MacFarland in the majority and Belanger opposed.

Later that evening, Wilkens emailed Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux, asking whether the at-least-occasional precedent of making the alternate member a full member when there was a vacancy should be followed; what the appeal process is; and whether Farrington should have voted on an issue discussed in his absence.

In other business Feb. 20, selectmen signed the official warrant for the March 24 annual town business meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. at China Primary School.

They unanimously authorized L’Heureux to sign a contract with A. E. Hodsdon, the Waterville engineering firm, to act as China’s representative overseeing the planned construction of a replacement bridge at the causeway at the head of China Lake.

In November 2017 China’s TIF (Tax Increment Finance) Committee had cost estimates from A. E. Hodsdon and Wright-Pierce, the contractor for the new bridge. Wright-Pierce’s proposed fee for the work was $23,475; A. E. Hodson’s was $21,172 for oversight.

Selectmen plan to invite landowners Tom and Marie Michaud to discuss the new fire pond on the Michauds’ land on Neck Road. They authorized L’Heureux to take “necessary and prudent” steps to continue development of the pond.

Resident Linda O’Connor responded to questions selectmen asked in January about the LakeSmart program, in relation to the March 24 warrant article asking if voters want to use up to $20,000 in TIF money for the program. After a discussion of the relationship among LakeSmart, the China Lake Association (CLA), the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA) and the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), O’Connor asked selectmen to send further questions and suggestions directly to CLA President Scott Pierz and CRLA President Jim Hart and “get me out of the middle.”

Selectmen unanimously approved a consent agreement recommended by Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, fining a contractor $150 for putting in a garage foundation without the inspections Mitnik is required to make under MUBEC (Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code).

The Feb. 20 meeting included an executive session discussion of legal issues with attorney Amanda Meader of Ellis and Meader, in Augusta. The session lasted almost an hour and a half; no action was taken afterward. L’Heureux said Meader has a contract to advise town boards when town attorney Alton Stevens is not available.

To accommodate board members’ travel schedules, the next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening, March 7, instead of the usual Monday evening. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Jim Dinkle, executive director of the Kennebec Regional Development Authority that runs FirstPark, plans to talk with selectmen.


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