Selectmen OK purchase of new police cruiser; ask transfer committee to reconsider

by Mary Grow

At their Aug. 8 meeting, China selectmen voted unanimously to buy a new police vehicle, after an hour-long discussion with two of the town’s part-time police officers that segued into a third discussion of speeding in China Village.

Selectmen then spent another hour rediscussing the relocation of the swap shop, aka free for the taking building, at the transfer station before reversing their July 25 decision on the issue.

Oakland Police Chief Michael Tracy and Sergeant Tracey Frost, two of the officers working part-time in China, attended the meeting to explain the need to replace China’s current police truck.  Because the 2012 truck has a trade-in value of $21,000 and the town has a $20,000 grant for a police vehicle, Frost said selectmen can buy a 2017 Ford Explorer through law enforcement sources for $22,000, have it custom painted and equipped and have money left for additional equipment.

Frost called the Chevrolet pick-up “a great truck, but not a great police vehicle.”  The planned new one would have a heavy-duty transmission for sudden deceleration and acceleration (for example, when a policeman meets a speeding vehicle and turns around to chase it) and a heavy-duty electrical system to accommodate radar, a radio, computer and lights.
He plans better lights that will make the new vehicle more visible and include capacity to illuminate a wide area.  The Explorer will have four-wheel drive for winter camp checks and other back-road work.

After Frost’s presentation, China Village residents requested another discussion of speeding problems in the village.  They said nothing had been done after the two earlier discussions; selectmen and Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said there had been increased police patrols.

Selectman Ronald Breton said in six hours two Oakland officers observed 200 vehicles, found 44 miles an hour in the 25-mile-an-hour zone the highest speed, stopped four vehicles and issued two warnings and two summonses – all to Neck Road residents.

Chief Tracy said he could borrow and post an inconspicuous radar device that would record speed.  Selectmen and residents asked him to do so.

Other board and audience members and the two Oakland policemen mentioned other town roads on which drivers routinely exceed speed limits.

Selectmen then returned to the police car issue and unanimously approved buying the new cruiser.  Frost estimated delivery will take a couple months.

Frost added that he enjoys working in China, even after a 40-hour week in Oakland, and praised Tracy as an excellent chief.

Transfer Station Committee members asked selectmen to reconsider their July 25 decision to reject the committee recommendation on relocating the swap shop.  Committee Chairman Frank Soares and members told the board having the swap shop close to the waste hopper causes major traffic congestion, especially on busy Saturday mornings.

The proposed new site would be south and east of the current one and would create additional paved parking space.  The committee recommends a 12-by-20-foot building.

Past and future committee member Linda O’Connor and planning board member Tom Miragliuolo, in the audience, said most towns offer some kind of free for the taking area.  Selectmen Irene Belanger and Joann Austin, the two supporters of the committee plan at the July 25 meeting, believe Palermo residents look forward to the service when Palermo begins using China’s transfer station in January 2017.

Selectman Neil Farrington insisted the building needed more consistent management – O’Connor offered to head a volunteer management group – and Breton and Board Chairman Robert MacFarland remained concerned about the source of funds and the regulatory requirements for putting up a larger building in a different place.

Ultimately, a motion authorizing the new building, setting the total price at no more than $12,000, with $6,000 to come from the selectmen’s $45,000 contingency fund approved at town meeting and the rest from the transfer station budget, and making construction conditional on necessary approvals (from the China Planning Board, the state fire marshal and/or any other relevant agency) was approved 4-1, with MacFarland still opposed.

In other business Aug. 8, selectmen made three appointments: Todd Dunn to the recreation committee, Tom Michaud to the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) committee and O’Connor to the transfer station committee.      After 40 minutes’ discussion of handicapped access to the portable classroom behind the town office with Fairfield contractor Kevin Violette, they ended up where they intended to be two weeks earlier, authorizing Violette to build an ADA-compliant ramp for no more than $9,000.

They authorized board member Neil Farrington to have the doors on the old town house repaired at a cost not to exceed $1,800, from the maintenance budget approved at town meeting.

L’Heureux said he expects to be able to recommend a 2016-17 tax rate at the board’s Aug. 22 meeting.  By town meeting vote, the first half payment is due by Friday, Sept. 30.

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