CHINA: Town manager, selectmen set warrant for town meeting

by Mary Grow

By the end of the China selectmen’s Jan. 29 special meeting, board members and Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux were satisfied they had the warrant for the March 24 town business meeting in final form.

Selectmen plan to sign it at their Feb. 5 meeting. By email, L’Heureux invited budget committee members to find a meeting date later in the week of Feb. 5 to review proposed expenditures and make their recommendations.

Selectmen’s recommendations were unanimous on 4-0 votes, with board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere absent due to illness. Items discussed and decisions made resulted in several proposals that will be new for town meeting voters.

For example, Art. 14, dealing with annual appropriations for emergency services, asks voters also to implement a new state law allowing the town to give each volunteer fire department its appropriation as a lump sum from which the department pays its bills, rather than having the departments submit bills to the town for payment.

Selectmen established that the law applies only to the China Village, South China and Weeks Mills fire departments, not to China Rescue.

Voters will be asked in Art. 18 to appropriate $80,613 to buy a pre-crusher/compactor and a new forklift for the transfer station, taking the money from a reserve fund and the town’s unassigned fund balance (commonly called surplus).

Art. 26 asks for up to $20,000 from surplus to provide a septic system and water system for the former Weeks Mills schoolhouse.

In Art. 41, voters are asked to appropriate up to $100 from surplus for purchase of the Branch Mills Union Church, adding another historic building to town ownership. The amount is intended to cover transaction fees; the article also requests authorization to use up to $80,000 from grants, donations and Tax Increment Finance funds to restore the building.

Art. 43, requested by the planning board, proposes using up to $22,000 in TIF funds to develop and implement a new town comprehensive plan.

Selectmen made final decisions on two local service organizations’ fund requests they debated inconclusively at their Jan. 22 meeting. They recommended a $3,000 appropriation for The Town Line newspaper as in past years – the item was debatable this year because the newspaper is renting the old town house basement for a nominal fee. And they recommended a $4,500 appropriation for the South China Library and a $100 appropriation for the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village, basing the difference on the growth of the latter’s endowment fund.

The possibility of reappearance on a June local ballot. One would have requested up to $10,000 to buy the land around the new fire pond on Neck Road; the other would have requested up to $110,000 to buy the Bailey property at the head of China Lake, as part of the expansion of recreational opportunities there.

The fire pond was again discussed at some length, and selectmen reaffirmed their Jan. 22 decision to get some kind of barriers around it as soon as possible.

Engineer Rick Pershken, attending the meeting at board Chairman Robert MacFarland’s request, gave his professional opinion that the steep sides of the pond would gradually erode into milder slopes, cutting away the edges including toward Neck Road. Selectmen agreed to ask someone from the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for advice on stabilizing the pond.

The Feb. 5 selectmen’s meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. The Budget Committee meeting, when scheduled, will be posted on the town web site. Both meetings are open to the public.

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