by Mary Grow
Five members of China TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee continued discussion of plans to improve recreational access at the head of China Lake’s east basin at their Sept. 26 meeting.
Engineer Mark McCluskey of A. E. Hodsdon presented updated cost estimates that include:
• $387,500 to build a bulkhead and fishing platforms along the lake side of the causeway, expand parking and add erosion control measures, making the area safer for boaters and fishermen;
• $350,000 to replace the deteriorating bridge across the inlet with a new bridge including a sidewalk;
• $585,600 to build a new fire station for the China Village Volunteer Fire Department, which has no room to expand its present building just west of the head of the lake; and
• $210,000 for miscellaneous costs, including engineering, legal and permit fees.
Committee members unanimously endorsed the idea of a new bridge. McCluskey said the traffic lanes could not be widened much without significant environmental impacts. As planned, he said, the work will require an application to the state Department of Environmental Protection; he offered to schedule a pre-submission meeting with DEP staff as soon as possible.
Residents near the causeway are to be invited to a meeting to hear about project plans, either the meeting with DEP staff or a separate TIF Committee meeting. No definite dates were fixed until McCluskey reports back.
The first step in the committee plan for the causeway project is acquisition of a six-acre lot across Causeway Street from the boat landing. A Nov. 8 local ballot question asks voters to appropriate $10,000 from the TIF account for the purchase.
Landowner Susan Bailey has been reluctant to sell at that price, but at the TIF meeting Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said she might have changed her position.
Committee members talked briefly about two other issues, but with two members absent made no decisions.
First was the possible acquisition of the former Fairpoint building on Route 3. L’Heureux had an email from South China resident Rick Fischer asking if the idea had been abandoned. Committee Chairman Amber McAlister said no, just postponed.
Selectman Neil Farrington, in the audience Sept. 26, urged the committee to recommend buying it. His vision is a daycare that would serve both children and senior citizens; others suggested other uses for the large story-and-a-half building.
The issue of lake access has been on the committee’s agenda for several meetings. It was agreed that Irene Belanger, who is a selectman and a TIF Committee member, will ask the Board of Selectmen to create a new lake access committee.
A prior lake access committee recommended acquiring the former Candlewood property on the east shore of China Lake, but voters rejected the plan. At that time no TIF money was available.
TIF funds are taxes paid by Central Maine Power Company on its expanded power line through China; by state law the money must be used for economic development, including recreational development. A new China Village fire station is probably not eligible for TIF funds, according to the Sept. 26 discussion.
In addition to the request for $10,000 for the land at the head of the lake, the Nov. 8 ballot includes a request for $50,000 in TIF money for recreational trail maintenance. A public hearing on local ballot questions is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17.
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