by Mary Grow
China selectmen spent most of their Sept. 6 meeting on two committee-related topics, advice on transfer station affairs from the transfer station committee and a broader discussion of overlapping membership between the board of selectmen and town committees.
The latter topic generated heated argument between board Chairman Robert MacFarland and
Selectmen Joann Austin and Irene Belanger. MacFarland took the position that a selectman who serves on a committee should not vote in committee on monetary issues that will be presented to selectmen for their vote. Austin and Belanger saw no problem, as long as no personal benefit was involved.
The Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee, on which Austin and Belanger serve, has already recommended that selectmen endorse a $50,000 grant for China Four Seasons Club trail repairs and is likely to recommend future expenditures. Final decisions on TIF spending are made by China voters; the $50,000 request is among a long list that might appear on a November 8 local ballot (see below).
MacFarland said having two selectmen already on record biases the selectboard vote, a situation he considers unethical.
Ronald Breton sided with MacFarland, saying that as a matter of principle he believes selectmen should not serve on committees that report to the selectboard. Breton is a member of no town committee; he does serve on the Regional School Unit #18 subcommittee reviewing the district funding formula, a subcommittee that reports to the RSU #18 board.
Neil Farrington could see both sides of the question. However, he pointed out, the selectmen appoint the town committees, so the time to object to committee nominees was in June when appointments were renewed for the new fiscal year.
In response to a suggestion that the Maine Municipal Association be consulted, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said he did seek MMA advice after MacFarland requested the agenda item. MMA Director of Legal Services Susan Pilgrim replied that as long as the committees and the selectboard act in advisory capacities and voters make final decisions, there is no conflict or problem. MacFarland’s motion to prohibit selectmen from voting on monetary issues in town committees subordinate to the selectboard was then defeated with only MacFarland and Breton in favor.
MacFarland presented another, unrelated idea at the Aug. 22 selectmen’s meeting: to exempt local haulers bringing in household waste from the transfer station fee charged other commercial haulers. The suggestion was referred to the transfer station committee, which recommended against it with only Belanger opposed.
Belanger has long argued that since householders who use the haulers already support the transfer station with their taxes, charging the haulers a fee is double taxation. She said the other transfer station committee members had no specific reason for their refusal to support the change; they saw no reason to implement it.
After a discussion of ways to increase recycling among residents who use commercial haulers, MacFarland suggested scheduling a workshop with transfer station committee members and Palermo representatives (because beginning in January Palermo residents will use China’s transfer station). No action is likely until after the Nov. 8 local elections.
Transfer station committee member Linda O’Connor asked selectmen to act on a recommended change in the days the transfer station is open. Currently, the facility is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; so whenever it is closed for a
Monday holiday, residents have to wait from Saturday to Wednesday to dispose of trash.
However, there was disagreement over whether the recommended days were Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday or Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Selectmen postponed action until they get a definite answer from the committee, which was scheduled to meet Tuesday morning, Sept. 13.
In response to an earlier query from the selectmen, L’Heureux said Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said relocating and enlarging the free-for-the-taking building, aka the swap shop building, at the transfer station would not exceed allowable phosphorus run-off.
The manager announced two other trash-related issues, the annual household hazardous waste disposal day in Winslow Saturday, Oct. 15, and a drug take-back day at the China transfer station Saturday, Oct. 22. Selectmen unanimously authorized participation in the Winslow event, with a cap of $2,000 to cover charges for China waste. Pre-registration is required; more information will be available on the town web site. L’Heureux added potential Nov. 8 ballot questions to the list he presented Aug. 22 (see the Aug. 25 issue of The Town Line, p. 7). Possible issues include:
• A recommendation for – tentatively – up to $3,800 from TIF funds for a townwide needs assessment, focused on senior citizens, as a follow-up to the recently completed demographic survey.
• Conveying the former portable classroom the town just bought from RSU 18 to the South China Library Association, if the association wants it, probably at the town’s cost.
• Appropriating $100,000 from surplus to the capital reserve account.
Again, discussion was postponed.
The Sept. 6 selectmen’s meeting was preceded by an unattended public hearing on amendments to the appendices to the town’s General Assistance Ordinance. During the meeting, selectmen unanimously approved the changes.
The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Sept. 19.
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