CHINA: Selectmen schedule special meeting for budget workshop

by Mary Grow

China selectmen have scheduled a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, to continue work on the warrant for the March 24 town business meeting.

At their Jan. 22 meeting, board members spent almost two hours going over the draft warrant Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux prepared. Major items they did not discuss, or did not decide on, include:

  • Almost $340,000 for transfer station operations, more than $30,000 higher than the current year’s appropriation. L’Heureux said the increase was mostly due to more demolition and debris; costs offset by demo and debris fees that are not reflected in the fund request.
  • Two other transfer station requests, recommended by the Transfer Station Committee: more than $56,000 for a pre-crusher and compactor, and more than $24,000 for a new forklift.
  • About $50,000 to reconstruct the north end of Dirigo Road and about $150,000 to replace a culvert on Bog Road.
  • Up to $20,000 for a water system and septic system – but not a toilet — at the former Weeks Mills school house. Selectmen were not sure whether the building could be connected to Weeks Mills Water Company’s line or whether a well would be needed. (ep)

Potential expenditures not yet presented as warrant articles include: (ep)

  • Possible purchase of the Bailey property at the head of China Lake as part of the Tax Increment Finance Committee’s plan to expand recreational opportunities there, a question on which TIF Committee member Ronald Breton said he intends to seek a vote when the committee meets at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29. The landowner is asking $120,000 for the land; Breton proposed offering $110,000, with the purchase conditional on the land being found suitable for a parking lot.
  • A request from the Planning Board to appropriate funds — $20,000 and $24,000 have been suggested – for a consultant to update China’s comprehensive plan, an item tentatively scheduled on the selectmen’s Feb. 5 agenda.
  • Possible purchase of land around the new fire pond on Neck Road, with no cost estimate. (ep)

The fire pond was the other major topic at the Jan. 22 meeting. China Village Fire Chief Tim Theriault and others involved described it as 10 or 12 feet from the shoulder of Neck Road; about 35 by 75 feet; and about 20 feet deep, with steep sides so that a person, animal or vehicle that went into it would not be able to get out.

Selectmen agreed they should have given more thought to safety before asking voters to appropriate up to $8,500 for the pond, money that has been spent digging it. They debated various options for half an hour – temporary fencing until the ground thaws? Permanent fencing now? Snow fence, guard rails, Jersey barriers, chain-link fencing?

A related issue was how much liability would be the town’s and how much the landowner’s if there were an accident. L’Heureux said so far there is no easement or other document defining respective rights and responsibilities.

Ultimately, selectmen voted 4-1 to direct L’Heureux to get bids on buying and promptly installing steel guardrails, with a maximum cost of $6,000 to be taken from the $55,000 contingency fund voters granted selectmen in March 2017. Donna Mills-Stevens voted against the motion on the ground that the cost was too high, especially since voters had been asked for $8,500 on the assumption that amount would cover the project.

A majority of the board informally recommended redesigning the interior of the pond to add a way for a person or animal to get out.

In other business Jan. 22, selectmen made three appointments: Milton Dudley as Planning Board member from District 2, until November 2019; Bill Van Wickler as chief of the Weeks Mills Volunteer Fire Department; and Linda O’Connor as a member of the Transfer Station Committee.

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