Fire departments dominate China selectmen’s meeting

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent another 40 minutes at their Nov. 27 meeting talking with representatives of the three town fire departments about new ways of distributing the annual stipends from town voters.

For many years the town has kept the departments’ money and paid bills as they’re submitted. This year, two changes overlap:

  • On the state level, the legislature created a new law proposed by China Village Fire Chief and state Representative Timothy Theriault that allows towns to hand over annual appropriations in a lump sum and let each department pay its own bills. Departments are required to submit an itemized budget with their fund requests.
  • Locally, in November, voters approved a referendum question requiring all non-profits receiving town funds to submit a current financial statement as a condition for being considered for funding. Selectmen, some of the firefighters who have attended recent discussions and other residents did not realize that “all nonprofits” includes China’s fire departments and China Rescue. As a result, selectmen and emergency services personnel have had two meetings to try to clarify what information the emergency services need to provide and when. They are still not clear whether the itemized budget the state requires is the same as the financial statement the town requires.

The goal, as phrased by board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere, is to provide the accountability required by auditors and by selectmen representing taxpayers. Discussion of asking voters to clarify requirements at the March town meeting led to no conclusion.

One issue has been resolved: firefighters have devised acceptable forms for applying twice a year for the annual stipends voters funded at the March 2017 town meeting. Application dates are around Dec. 1 and June 30; officers receive fixed amounts, other personnel a per-call or per-training-session stipend.

In other business Nov. 27, China Region Lakes Alliance President Jim Hart made a short presentation on CRLA’s work around China Lake, including physical labor to provide buffers, improve gravel roads and otherwise control run-off into the lake; support for the Alewife Restoration Program (ARI), intended to let alewives migrate into China Lake instead of being trucked in; and the courtesy boat inspection program aimed at preventing milfoil and other invasive plants from getting into the lake.

This year, Hart said, China Lake’s water quality was the best since 1981. There is no milfoil in the lake yet, although he fears its appearance is only a matter of time.

Challenged by former Selectman Ronald Breton about the bass tourneys on the lake, Hart said out-of-town bass fishermen do an outstanding job of checking their boats for unwanted plants.

Selectmen made four appointments: Breton as a member of the town Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee and as one of China’s representatives on the Kennebec Regional Development Authority; Wayne Chadwick as budget committee member from District 3; and Selectman Neil Farrington as a member of the Kennebec County Budget Committee.

They approved a renewal of China’s emergency services dispatching contract with the City of Waterville. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said the price has gone up three percent, to $11,701.83 per year, and will hold at that level for the three years of the new contract.

South China Fire Chief Richard Morse and Weeks Mills department representative William Van Wickler said the Somerset County/Waterville arrangement provides good service. Neither recommended switching to the alternate dispatching service available from Augusta.

The agenda for the Dec. 11 selectmen’s meeting includes a discussion with the Transfer Station Committee. Selectmen are likely to meet with committee members at 6 or 6:30 p.m., rather than the usual 7 p.m. New board member Donna Mills-Stevens tried to start the discussion Nov. 27, saying she has been “flooded” and “bombarded” with calls about the fee charged to commercial haulers. The fee, originally intended to cover the cost of the scales installed primarily to weigh commercial loads, was not eliminated after the scales were paid for.

Linda O’Connor, a Transfer Station Committee member, repeatedly asked that the discussion be postponed to Dec. 11, saying the committee has looked into the issue. After 15 minutes, the issue was tabled on the ground that everything being said would be repeated in two weeks.

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