Selectmen choose to spend more than voters approved

by Mary Grow

At their Oct. 15 meeting, China selectmen approved spending more than voters authorized for two different town problems. They took the major over-expenditure, in the legal account, from the legal reserve fund set up for such situations, and the minor one from the $55,000 contingency fund voters gave them at the March town business meeting. Town Manager Dennis Heath explained that the town is involved in a lawsuit over disposition of foreclosed property. So far, he said, mainly because of the one case, legal expenses have exceeded $19,000, compared to the $10,000 voters approved in March for the fiscal year.

The case could be precedent-setting for every municipality in the state, he said, so he plans to pursue it to the Law Court if necessary. He recommended, and selectmen approved, using $9,000 from the $36,000 legal reserve fund for expenses to date.

Board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere suggested if the case could affect every Maine municipality, there should be a way to get others to help with costs. He also recommended advance discussion with the board before going so far over budget.

The second issue is replacing the roof on the red barn south of the town office, which board members said has three layers of old shingles on it. They sought bids for removing the old shingles, doing any necessary repairs and re-shingling, and got three, all over $9,400. In March, voters appropriated $8,000 for the work.

Deciding the job was too important to postpone, selectmen accepted a bid of $9,600 from P and P Roofing, in Gardiner, planning to take $1,600 from their contingency fund to cover the full cost.

Board members heard another request for a purchase, but postponed action to their Oct. 29 meeting. Public Works Foreman Gary Cummings wants a $49,223 highly versatile Ventrac tractor to plow South China’s sidewalks, sweep the transfer station grounds and road shoulders and mow difficult-to-access roadside areas, among other tasks.

Cummings said the John Deere currently used as a sidewalk plow is a residential machine, not commercial, and has had frequent problems. The Ventrac would save part of its purchase price by eliminating leasing some equipment, like a shoulder broom, every year.

Other town department representatives’ reports included:

  • From policeman Tracey Frost, a comment that September was a very busy month, with traffic complaints predominating, and October had not slowed down.
  • From David Herard of China Rescue, another request for more volunteers to join the rescue unit, especially younger people who are settled in China.
  • From the public works crew, an update on progress on rebuilding the fire pond on Neck Road, a report that the docks at the boat landing at the head of the lake have been removed for the winter and the good news that the rearranged town office water supply has provided drinkable water. Groundwater contamination from an old salt pile has been a problem in the past.
  • From Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton, a reminder of the Oct. 20 household hazardous waste collection in Winslow, for which pre-registration at the China transfer station is required, and the Oct. 27 shredding-on-site at the China town garage next door to the transfer station.

Contrary to the implication of an Oct. 12 notice in the Central Maine newspapers, free shredding of outdated private documents is available only to residents of China and nearby towns that have contributed to the cost of the program. As of Oct. 15, those towns were Liberty, Palermo and Vassalboro.

Heath had planned to film the Oct. 15 meeting and post it on the China website, but the camera apparently did not function. Once it is adjusted, future meetings will be available for public viewing.

 
 

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