CHINA: TIF members postpone action on six items

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee postponed action on all six items on their Nov. 20 agenda. They scheduled another meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, hoping the chairman and three other absent members will be able to attend.

The seven members present Nov. 20 did not act on a subcommittee approval of proposed contracts with two engineering firms. Nor did they act on requests for TIF funds to buy land at the head of China Lake’s east basin and to supplement the LakeSmart program. A preliminary proposal for a building in the China School Forest was reviewed and will be followed up. The final two agenda items, involving internal committee matters, were postponed without discussion. The contract proposals are from Wright-Pierce Engineering, of Topsham, for engineering design and permitting services for the proposed new causeway bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin and from A. E. Hodsdon of Waterville to provide engineering oversight on behalf of the town. Wright-Pierce’s proposed fee is $23,475; A. E. Hodson’s is $21,172.

After a short discussion of the town’s freedom to use data Wright-Pierce collects, an issue Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said he will clarify, L’Heureux moved on the proposal to use $120,000 to buy Susan Bailey’s land nearby.

The Bailey land consists of about six acres, mostly wetland, where people using the boat launch now leave their vehicles, and approximately 32 acres across Route 202. L’Heureux said the two lots are a single parcel with a mortgage.

Buying the smaller lot has long been on the TIF Committee’s agenda, to provide more parking at the head of the lake. The larger parcel, L’Heureux said, would provide parking for people using the snowmobile trail that crosses it as well as overflow parking for the boat landing, and might in the future become the site for a new China Village fire station.

Most of the committee members present were ready to recommend that selectmen present the proposed expenditure to voters. H. David Cotta was the most vocal dissenter. He pointed out that the 33-acre lot would need considerable fill along Route 202 to make the area usable, and the fill would probably require permits. He questioned the need for the purchase and suggested if someone else bought the Bailey land, the new owner might be willing to sell the town the six acres close to the lake.

Irene Belanger suggested that L’Heureux ask the mortgage-holder if the two parcels could be separated. Newly-appointed committee member Ronald Breton said the town values the entire property at $88,900 for tax purposes.

By consensus, action was postponed to Dec. 4. Meanwhile, L’Heureux will get in touch with the mortgage-holder.

China Lake Association President Scott Pierz asked committee members for $20,000 in TIF funds to assist China’s Youth Conservation Corps with run-off controls and other measures aimed at protecting China Lake’s water quality.

The state-wide LakeSmart program, coordinated locally by Marie Michaud for the China Lake Association with assistance from the China Region Lakes Alliance and the Kennebec Water District, involves assessing shoreline properties and suggesting and implementing measures to limit run-off, usually by installation of buffer strips. Pierz said the Youth Conservation Corps does the work and the China Lake Association provides plants and other materials. Eight buffers were installed in 2016 and 21 in 2017, he said; more money would mean more buffers.

When Belanger proposed postponing action until additional committee members were present, Pierz offered to return Dec. 4. Former China teachers Elaine Philbrook and Anita Smith presented contractor Blane Casey’s plan for a building in the school forest, to be used as a program space, visitor center and almost-outdoor classroom. They were not yet asking for money, they said, especially since the building came with a price tag of almost $300,000.

The school forest is located behind China Primary School on town-owned land.

Committee members suggested possible sources of financial and technical assistance to reduce the project cost. They agreed the committee would get in touch with Philbrook and Smith again.

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