China selectmen re-discuss Neck Road fire pond

The Neck Road Fire Pond, in China. Photo by Roland D. Hallee

by Mary Grow

After an executive session that lasted more than an hour, China selectmen spent most of the rest of their March 7 meeting re-discussing the fire pond on Neck Road.

The executive session was called to consult with counsel and on a personnel issue. No action was taken afterward.

The fire pond was proposed by China Village Fire Chief Tim Theriault and endorsed by landowner Tom Michaud to give firefighters a source of water close to the end of Neck Road. After voters in November approved $8,500 for the project, an existing pond was enlarged, with the original plan amended to limit the work to Michaud’s land.

The almost-completed work was criticized sharply in late 2017 and early 2018. Selectmen and others said the steep sides, which made it impossible for a person or animal who fell in to get out, were dangerous; they were also unstable and would erode, perhaps threatening the shoulder of Neck Road.

Board members discussed fencing, redesign and other possible fixes.

They had also failed to get a written agreement with Michaud, leaving the town’s right to be on his property and any liability issues that might arise in doubt. The result was that at the March 7 meeting selectmen described the project as “out of whack” (Jeffrey LaVerdiere) and “somewhat of a real fiasco” (Chairman Robert MacFarland) as they discussed a draft memorandum of understanding with Michaud.

The non-final draft they asked Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux to forward to Michaud proposes that the town and Michaud agree on a sale, lease or easement giving the town the right to build and maintain the pond, if voters approve and if voters appropriate more money for additional costs. The additional costs are estimated at a minimum of around $25,000, not including paying a general contractor to oversee future work, as suggested by Selectman Donna Mills-Stevens.

The warrant for the March 24 town business meeting does not include any article related to the fire pond.

The warrant does include, with the annual appropriations for the fire departments and China Rescue, a request that voters authorize lump sum payments to the fire departments, as allowed under a new state law sponsored by Rep. Theriault.

L’Heureux said if voters approve, each department’s treasurer should be bonded. China Village department treasurer Dale Worster told selectmen he had submitted his bonding application; board members asked the manager to remind the other two departments.

L’Heureux asked selectmen’s permission to buy a new copier with money from the current year’s budget. They asked him to look into leasing instead of buying and postponed action until they have comparative prices.

China’s town report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, was available at the meeting. Selectman Irene Belanger praised the committee reports, which she said should save time at the March 24 business meeting by answering many of residents’ questions. Budget committee member Wayne Chadwick objected that the town report includes too few details, especially on expenditures.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 19, with the Broadband Committee scheduled to meet simultaneously. Recently, however, China selectmen have repeatedly changed their announced meeting time, usually moving it earlier.

The board of appeals meeting postponed from March 8 due to snow is rescheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22. Ralph Howe, owner of Bio Renewable Fuels on Dirigo Road, has asked board members to reconsider their Feb. 15 dismissal, on procedural grounds, of his earlier appeals of actions by Codes Officer Paul Mitnik.

 
 

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