China prepares for annual town meeting

by Mary Grow

Voters at China’s Saturday, April 6, town business meeting will have 31 warrant articles to consider, fewer than in previous years.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. at China Middle School, if a quorum is present. Selectman Irene Belanger will make the annual presentation of Spirit of America awards about 8:45 a.m., and any other presentations and speeches will be before 9 a.m., not during the meeting.

The quorum needed to open the meeting is 119 registered voters. Since more than 1,200 residents voted against abolishing the quorum requirement in a November 2018 referendum, Town Manager Dennis Heath expects no difficulty getting a quorum this year.

Voters will decide on the 2019-2020 municipal budget and on ordinance changes recommended by the planning board. The 2019-2020 school budget will be decided at a June vote.

This year’s warrant articles ask voters to approve funding for a category, like administration (Art. 3), legal costs (Art. 7), the transfer station (Art. 10) and public works (Art. 11), without listing details in the article. Redesigned articles include boards and committees (Art. 4), social services (Art. 13) and community support organizations (Art. 14).

A separate section of the 2018 town report, called Addendum Two, Annual Budget, lists the 17 boards and committees (not all requesting funds) covered by Art. 4, 13 social service groups and seven community support organizations, as well as detailed breakdowns of the other requested expenditures.

Selectmen and budget committee members disagree on two proposed expenditures, for stipends for volunteer firefighters (Art. 9) and for a pay increase for selectmen (Art. 23).

Articles 29, 30 and 31 ask voters to approve Land Development Code amendments. Each article includes a brief explanation of the changes the Planning Board recommends.

Voters will decide on the 2019-2020 municipal budget and on ordinance changes recommended by the planning board. The 2019-2020 school budget will be decided later this spring.

Two TIF fund questions to be on warrant; assistant codes enforcement officer introduced

by Mary Grow

After the April 6 town business meeting, China residents will vote again in June on a written-ballot warrant that already has two proposed articles.

At the April 1 selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Dennis Heath presented two questions:

  • To see if voters will authorize selectmen to spend $150,000 to buy the lot north of the Four Seasons Club on Lakeview Drive to provide public access to China Lake, with $125,000 to come from the lake access reserve fund and the remaining $25,000 from the TIF (Tax Increment Finance) fund.
  • To see if voters will authorize selectmen to spend up to $25,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance (surplus) for engineering plans for a new emergency services building on town-owned land on Lakeview Drive opposite the former Candlewood Camps. Voters approved up to $5,000 for preliminary studies in November 2018; Heath intends to have results on display at the April 6 business meeting.

Selectmen voted unanimously to put both proposals on a June ballot. Heath said the next day the budget committee will meet to review the questions at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 9.

The manager introduced Matt Rewa, who was finishing his first day’s work as China’s assistant codes enforcement officer. Rewa will work with CEO Paul Mitnik through 2019 while taking courses needed for certification. The plan is that he will succeed Mitnik in 2020.

Heath reported that the state legislature rejected China’s bill that would have allowed towns to opt out of collecting personal property taxes. A Maine Revenue Service employee told him there is no enforcement mechanism if towns ignore the requirement, but Heath said he believes public officials must obey the law.

Some of the selectmen would like to continue to pursue the issue. Board Chairman Robert MacFarland proposed sending a draft petition to other Maine municipalities to try to build support.

Selectmen Jeffrey LaVerdiere and Donna Mills-Stevens, who run, respectively, a general store and a farm, said the personal property tax discourages businesses.

In other business April 1:

  • Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton said in addition to the drug take-back day, Saturday, April 27, will also be a day when the transfer station accepts discarded fluorescent light bulbs without charging a fee.
  • Grotton also said the compost pile is ready for residents to help themselves.
  • Selectman Irene Belanger said China’s public hearing on the 2019-2020 school budget will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, at China Middle School. The annual vote on the school budget is scheduled for May 16 in Oakland, she said.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting will be Tuesday evening, April 16, because Monday, April 15, is a holiday. The town office will be closed April 15.

TIF members discuss final details of revolving loan fund

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee and its Revolving Loan Fund subcommittee spent much of the March 25 TIF meeting discussing final details of the revolving loan fund they hope will soon be accepting applications. No final decisions were made.

The loans are intended to provide small amounts local businesspeople need when their own funds and commercial loans do not entirely cover costs of a new business or an expansion. Committee members mentioned loans between $5,000 and $25,000. Town Manager Dennis Heath said one China businessman has approached him about a small loan.

The manager, who oversees TIF finances, said $25,000 was appropriated for the loan fund in each of the first two years and $30,000 in the next two years. No money has yet been loaned out. Committee members debated whether the loan fund should continue to grow or whether at some point its funds should be reallocated to other TIF purposes.

Assisted by Kennebec Valley Council of Governments community planner Joel Greenwood, committee members also talked about what they need to do to complete defining the application process; whether they should try to meet soon after an application is received or schedule regular meetings twice or four times a year to review applications; what interest rate should be charged and whether it should be variable depending on factors like collateral offered or length of the loan; and planning to deal with delinquent borrowers.

Heath said China’s state-approved TIF plan allocates $900,000 for loans over the 30-year period of the TIF. Committee members accepted his offer to talk with state officials about amending China’s plan to allow more flexibility in allocating money among needs.

TIF money comes from taxes paid by Central Maine Power Company on its transmission line that runs north-south through China and its South China substation.

Heath and committee members see two ongoing community-wide projects eligible for TIF funding, snowmobile trails managed by the China Four Seasons Club and the annual China Days celebration. One-time projects so far include the causeway work at the head of China Lake’s east basin, now beginning its third year, and perhaps a future application to provide a building in the China School Forest behind China Primary School.

Pending work at the head of the lake includes applying for a state permit to improve the small parking area across Causeway Street from the boat landing, now that Susan Bailey has agreed to sell it to the town; putting the final coat of paving on the new bridge; and designing and building improvements to the shore between the bridge and the boat landing.

If the parking area is approved, Heath expects it will make China eligible to seek a state grant to improve the boat landing. Also, he said, Central Maine Power Company will be changing China’s streetlights to LEDs and adding lights, including one or more along the causeway.

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for Monday evening, May 6, skipping the usual last Monday of the month because Heath said selectmen will meet Monday evening, April 29.

Area Eagle Scouts perform over 6,000 hours of community work

China Troop #479’s Assistant Scoutmaster Ron Emery described Eagle Scout Nivek Boostedt’s ceremony, above, as an occasion for pride and joy, as well as a time of reflection. (Contributed photo)

The Kennebec Valley District finished 2018 with 36 Scouts attaining the highest rank – the Eagle Scout. The Scouting district covers five counties (Kennebec, Lincoln, Knox, Franklin and Somerset) sweeping from the Canadian border to the rocky coast. In 2018, there were 141 Eagles from the State of Maine and 52,160 young men across the nation earned Scouting’s lofty award. If all of those class of 2018 Eagle Scouts wanted to gather to watch the Red Sox at Fenway Park, they would fill up all of the 37,731 seats and spill out onto Yawkey Way.

Locally, churches and charities from Jackman to Camden and from Wilton to Albion saw Scouts providing more than 6,000 hours of service just through projects led by teenagers hoping to earn their Eagle Scout rank. “This is absolutely amazing,” said Kennebec Valley District Chairman Bruce Rueger, of Wateville. “When you think of all the good that our Scouts are doing in the community from building handicap ramps to restoring forgotten veterans grave markers to making life easier for seniors and the needy and building trails and so much more- I am truly impressed. It really is heartening in this day and age to see a program where young people are taught that they have a responsibility to help other people at all times. I am so proud of our Scouts.”

The fact that a boy is an Eagle Scout has always carried with it a special significance. The award is a performance-based achievement whose standards have been well-maintained over the years. Not every boy who joins Scouts, BSA earns the Eagle Scout rank. This represents more than 2.25 million Boy Scouts who have earned the rank since 1912.

While a Life Scout, a Scout plans, develops, and gives leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, school, or the community. In addition to providing service and fulfilling the part of the Scout Oath, “to help other people at all times,” one of the primary purposes of the Eagle Scout service project is to demonstrate or hone, or to learn and develop, leadership skills. Related to this are important lessons in project management and taking responsibility for a significant accomplishment.

Eagles scouts from each central Maine counties:

Kennebec County:

Mathew Dow, Jr., of Albion – Albion Troop #446 – 26 hours of service restoring the Albion Historical Society train for educational purposes.

Alexander Steward, of Augusta – China Troop #479 – 202 hours of service building an outdoor classroom at Lincoln Elementary School, in Augusta.

Matthew Allarie, of Sidney – Sidney Troop #401 – 45 hours of service building a trophy case for the high school music department.

Nicholas Shelton, of Winslow – China Troop #479 – 98 hours of service at Waterville Creates building pottery studio shelves.

Jaxon Roan, of Oakland – Waterville Troop #417 – 358 hours of service building and installing cat climbing and exercise structures at PALS no kill animal shelter.

Maverick Lowery, of Vassalboro – Vassalboro Troop #410 – 208 hours of service building and improving trails at the Annie Sturgis Sanctuary including installing bridges where needed.

Michael Littlefield, of China – China Troop #479 – 50 hours of service building shelves for the China Food Bank.

Jack DiGirolamo, of Belgrade, Troop #401 Sidney – 93 hours of service building mountain bike bridges for Quarry Road Trails in Waterville

Lucas Eric Lenfest, of Smithfield – Troop #453 in Belgrade – 176 hours of service constructing a Veterans Memorial in front of the Smithfield Town office including walkway and granite bench.

Tieran Croft, of Sidney – Waterville Troop #417 – 162 hours of service building eight benches for the town of Oakland.

Nivek Boostedt, of China – China Troop #479 – 132 hours of service building an outdoor classroom for the China School Forest.

Adam DeWitt, of Sidney – Troop #401 in Sidney – 270 hours of service putting on and promoting a benefit concert to raise awareness for Travis Mills Foundation.

Joshua Robert Hoffman, of Augusta – Troop #603 in Augusta – 132 hours of service building a small playground at St Michael Roman Catholic School.

Dawson Poulin, of Sidney – Troop #401 in Sidney – 568 hours of service building helmet and baseball bat racks for the Sidney Athletic Association and then rebuilding them after vandals destroyed them a day after they were installed.

Kai McGlauflin, of Sidney – Sidney Troop #401 – 114 hours of service building an awards cabinet and work bench for the Messalonskee High School and Middle School Robotics Teams.

Tucker Leonard, of Palermo – Troop #479 in China – 112 hours of service constructing an outdoor classroom at the Palermo Consolidated School.

Eric McDonnell, of Augusta – Troop #603 Augusta- 177 hours of service built three benches and picnic table for the Kennebec River Rail Trail for Augusta age Friendly.

Travis John Nickerson, of Augusta – Troop 6#06 in Farmingdale – 81 hours of service gathering items and raising awareness in the community to help those who need help through the Bridging the Gap Center for Resources, Essentials Pantry & Clothing Bank, in Augusta. In total, 1,218 items were collected for those in need of essential items.

Somerset County:

Nathan Bloom, of Skowhegan – Skowhegan Troop #431 – 97 hours of service collecting photos and uploading them to help make it easier for those looking for loved ones or working on genealogy.

Lucas Eric Lenfest, of Smithfield – Troop #453 in Belgrade – 176 hours of service constructing a Veterans Memorial in front of the Smithfield Town office including walkway and granite bench. (Note, Lucas is listed in both Somerset and Kennebec as he is a member of a troop in one county while living in the other.

Austin Wright, of Madison – Troop #481 serving Madison/Anson/ Starks – 78 hours of service to demolish and old ramp and build a sturdy handicap accessible ramp at the fire station.

Jackson Dudley, of Fairfield – Skowhegan Troop #431 – 80 hours building three new picnic tables at Mill Island Park from materials he solicited In the community.