Town manager shares e-mail regarding RSU #18 bond issue

China Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux recently shared information by email with China selectmen and other interested parties on three issues: the proposed RSU (Regional School Unit) #18 bond issue to be voted on Nov. 7, China Lake water quality and post-2018 solid waste disposal.

RSU #18 Superintendent Carl Gartley sent L’Heureux a follow-up letter after he discussed the bond issue at the Aug. 21 selectmen’s meeting. The RSU is requesting approval to borrow almost $14 million for projects in Belgrade, China, Oakland and Sidney schools, including almost $4 million for a new athletic complex at Messalonskee High School, in Oakland. China schools would get about $2.46 million worth of work, the bulk at China Middle School.

At the Aug.21 meeting, not all China selectmen liked the idea of China taxpayers paying for work in other towns, nor did they approve of contributing to an athletic complex that few China students would use.

Gartley’s Sept. 14 letter says that since the RSU was formed, it has borrowed almost $1.3 million in revolving renovation funds. Of the total, almost $439,000, or more than one-third of the total, was spent in China. But under the RSU cost-sharing formula, China repaid only 19.5 percent of the loans, with the other towns picking up the rest.

China schools will receive 17.7 percent of the proposed new bond issue, a balance Gartley, who is a China resident and former China principal, called “very fair for our town.”

Cooperation and mutual support were “one of the reasons for consolidation,” Gartley said. He urged selectmen to think in terms of the RSU, not town by town.

He reminded them that after the state assigned low priority to funding the long-standing proposal to expand China Primary School and close the middle school, China residents decided to keep the middle school in repair instead of paying for a single school with town borrowing. The RSU and its predecessor, School Union #52, spent substantial sums on asbestos removal, floor and roof work, a new boiler, a new air handling system, a waterproof basement and other projects.

In Gartley’s opinion, the money already spent and proposed to be spent if voters approve on Nov. 7 is a benefit whatever happens. China Middle School will remain usable if the state does not agree to support a single school; should the state agree to help fund consolidation (an outcome not precluded by approval of the bond issue, Gartley said), the former middle school will be ready for its proposed alternative future as some kind of community center.

News about China Lake came from the minutes of a recent Kennebec Water District trustees’ meeting, at which the trustees learned that water quality in the lake has been exceptionally good this summer. July Secchi disk readings, which measure water transparency (and thus the absence of algae) were the best since 1982, the minutes said.

There were small algae blooms along parts of the shoreline, but overall, the minutes said, KWD Director of Water Quality Matt Zetterman was pleased. He hopes the improvement indicates that the work done to keep phosphorus out of the lake and the annual fall drawdown started in 2014 are beginning to have effects.

On a related matter, Town Manager L’Heureux told selectmen the planned removal of dams on Outlet Stream to allow alewives to migrate into China Lake will not affect KWD’s or Vassalboro’s ability to control the China Lake water level as required by the state. The state directive includes the fall drawdown.

L’Heureux forwarded additional good news about the Fiberight facility that is scheduled to take China’s solid waste beginning in April 2018, from Greg Lounder, head of the Municipal Review Committee overseeing the project on behalf of Maine towns.

Two recent communications from Lounder report that the site is cleared and concrete was to be poured beginning Sept. 18; funding is obtained, allowing Fiberight to start ordering the proposed building and recycling system; the entrance road, water and sewer are done; and initial steel deliveries are to start in October.

Lounder said Fiberight is “working closely” with state and town officials to make sure it stays in compliance with its permits. The company is using local contractors as much as possible, and the “vast majority” of the equipment is US-made, he said.

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