CHINA: Historic preservation, infrastructure needs top town meeting warrant

by Mary Grow

China voters will have an unusual number of specific decisions to make at their annual town business meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 24, at China Primary School (off Lakeview Drive behind China Middle School).

A quorum of 120 registered voters is required to open the meeting.

Most of the new issues involve historic preservation and local infrastructure needs. With 2018 the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of China, Selectman and Bicentennial Coordinator Neil Farrington and others organized a Feb. 5 celebration, have plans for more activities in the summer and are trying to arouse interest in preserving tangible reminders of China’s history.

The town has already lost at least one historic church and one Masonic Hall; most of its one- and two-room schoolhouses and the two buildings that housed China Academy, one after the other; the tracks and most of the buildings associated with the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railway; and recently the Dinsmore mill in Branch Mills. The once-active China Historical Society has not met regularly for years.

At the March 24 meeting, voters will be asked to hear a report from Farrington and to appropriate funds for his work, for continued maintenance of the old town house and Weeks Mills schoolhouse and for two specific projects: installing water and septic systems in the Weeks Mills schoolhouse to make it useable for community purposes, and buying the Branch Mills Union Church. The schoolhouse project (Art. 25) is expected to cost up to $20,000. The price for the church is $100; the belief is that town ownership will make it easier to get grants and donations – Art. 41 asks that up to $80,000 be authorized – to preserve the building.

The proposed infrastructure projects are the purchase of a precrusher/compactor and a new forklift for the transfer station, at a maximum cost of $80,613 (Art. 17) and two specific road projects, repaving the north end of Dirigo Road and replacing a large culvert under Bog Road, at an expected cost of up to $200,000 (Art. 19).

Voters are also asked to appropriate up to $20,000 in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds for the LakeSmart program, which helps lakefront landowners control run-off (Art. 34), and to appropriate up to $22,000 from TIF funds, if applicable, or Unassigned Fund Balance (surplus) to update China’s comprehensive plan (Art. 43).

Selectmen and budget committee members recommend approval of all proposed expenditures, not always unanimously. Budget committee member Wayne Chadwick dissented on requests for up to $50,000 in TIF funds for administrative work (Art. 6); the transfer station purchases in Art. 17, joined in dissent by Tom Rumpf; and the schoolhouse waste and septic systems in Art. 25. Chadwick also opposed the $4,500 request from the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, but endorsed the article (Art. 26) because it includes the same amount for the South China Library.

The budget committee splintered on the proposal to buy the Branch Mills church: Chairman Robert Batteese, Valerie Baker and Secretary Jean Conway voted to recommend it, Chadwick and Rumpf voted not to and Tim Basham and Kevin Maroon abstained.

The March 24 decisions do not include the 2018-19 school budget, which will be voted on later in the year.

Download the China Town Warrant from the Town Office website or click here!



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