CHINA NEWS: Thurston Park work awarded to Palermo company

by Mary Grow

China selectmen took care of miscellaneous business at their May 31 meeting, including:

  • Finishing the awarding of bids for work on the north entrance road to Thurston Park, started at their May 15 meeting, by awarding the bid for road improvements to S. D. Childs, of Palermo. On May 15 selectmen were not sure his bid and Robin Tobey’s covered the same work; after Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said they did, the board voted 4-1, with Joann Austin opposed, to accept Childs’ low bid. Board members expressed appreciation to Tobey for assistance he has given the Thurston Park II Committee.
  • Approving a $300 appropriation for trapping out the beavers whose debris under the bridge on the way to the park has flooded the road. Thurston Park II Committee member Jeanette Smith said a public tour of the park is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, so restoring access was imperative. • Appointing Sheldon and Joyce Goodine as members of the China for a Lifetime Committee, which is scheduled to meet Thursday evening, June 22.
  • Seeking volunteers for other positions, including budget committee secretary (who can be chosen from anywhere in town), members of the committee to plan and supervise China Community Days Aug. 4-6 and people to do trail work in Thurston Park.
  • Approving a liquor license renewal for the China Dine-ah, on Lakeview Drive. • Agreeing to give the owner of a foreclosed property additional time to redeem it by paying all back taxes and fees, after L’Heureux explained that the bank holding the mortgage had been expected to pay the town but had not.

Approving a consent agreement, including a fine, recommended by Codes Office Paul Mitnik to allow a resident to use the addition to his house even though the resident failed to comply with state-required inspection rules.

Board members did not proceed with plans for administering the stipends for emergency services personnel approved at the March town meeting, because they were waiting for advice from Town Attorney Alton Stevens. They had an estimate for repairs to the Weeks Mills schoolhouse, now a town-owned historic building, but took no action. They heard resident Dale Worster’s repeat request that they activate the town’s Economic Development Committee and assigned the task to L’Heureux.

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee member Tom Michaud said the committee hoped to have an RFP (request for proposals) ready for review and recommendation at a June 5 meeting, so selectmen can begin choosing a contractor for planned recreational improvements at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

The May 31 selectmen’s meeting was attended by members of the Greater Neck Road Neighborhood Association, who asked selectmen to ban parties in Parris and Catherine Varney’s barn at 701 Neck Road. The town planning board denied the Varneys’ application to use their barn for commercial events in October 2016; the Varneys appealed to the board of appeals, who in December 2016 remanded the issue to the planning board to redo with clear explanations for its decision. Before the planning board could act, neighbors, including Greater Neck Road Association members, filed an appeal with Kennebec County Superior Court, which had not acted as of May 31.

Association members alleged the Varneys are holding events in the barn without the needed permit and in violation of state Fire Marshal’s regulations. They asked selectmen to enforce the town ordinance. Selectmen, L’Heureux and Mitnik declined to act at the May 31 meeting, on four grounds: • Board Chairman Neil Farrington did not want to discuss the issue without advance notice (it was not on the May 31 agenda), in the absence of the Varneys and before the court acted. He expects the court to return the question to the planning board, not to the selectmen.

  • Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere questioned whether the Varneys’ activities constitute a business; if they do not, he defended residents’ right to use their own property as they choose.
  • L’Heureux said after the town received a request for enforcement action from the association, he sent it to attorney Stevens to determine the proper legal response. Until he has Stevens’ reply, he said, the issue should not be on the selectmen’s agenda. • Mitnik said from what he has been told, the barn parties are for Varney friends and family and are non-commercial. “If you have to have a planning board permit to have a party for friends and family, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs,” he commented.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, June 12.

On Tuesday, June 13, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office for voting on the RSU (Regional School Unit) #18 school budget for 2017-18 and a state bond issue.


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