China town manager presents budget to selectmen

by Mary Grow

Town Manager Becky Hapgood presented selectmen with the first budget she has prepared since assuming her new position in July 2020, at a special joint meeting with the Budget Committee on Jan. 11.

The manager compiled figures presented by town department heads and the usual other groups, like town committees, insurance companies who insure town employees, organizations of municipalities to which China belongs and charitable and similar groups hoping town voters will support their work.

There are no figures yet from the school department, whose annual budget makes up around three-quarters of town expenditures, nor from Kennebec County.

Hapgood emphasized other uncertainties that will be debated as selectmen and Budget Committee members prepare a final recommended budget. For example, they might recommend additional road paving to make up for work not done last summer as the pandemic created financial uncertainty; recommend only the work previously scheduled for 2021; or propose further postponements if the financial situation is still unclear.

Voters will approve the 2021-22 budget at the 2021 annual town budget meeting. At this point the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18, by written ballot.

After the Jan. 11 meeting, Hapgood reported that the scheduled executive session to review her job performance was postponed, because one board member had technical difficulties and could not log in.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19 (moved from the usual Monday evening because the town office will be closed Jan. 18 for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday). Chairman Ronald Breton plans to have board members meet in person so they can more easily share budget numbers. Others participating or watching will still do so via Zoom.

Erskine Academy first trimester honor roll

(photo credit: Erskine Academy)

Grade 12

High Honors: Brooke Allen, Philip Allen, Isabella Bishop, Abbygail Blair, Everett Blair, Jane Blanchard, Christopher Bourdon, Nomi Bouwens, Samantha Box, Trevor Brockway, Ethan Cates, Anthony Chessa, Ashley Clavette, Joleigh Crockett, Cody Devaney, Jacob Devaney, Amelia Evans, Addison Gamage, Margaret Gamage, Avril Goodman, Avery Henningsen, Nathan Howell, Emma Hutchinson, Delaney Ireland, Madyx Kennedy, Kaylah Kronillis, Sierra LaCroix, Isabela Libby, Colby Lloyd, Emily Lowther, Chiara Mahoney, Jonathan Martinez, Michael Nicholas III, Ian Oliphant, Brian Ouellette Jr, Olive Padgett, Courtney Paine, Annaliese Patterson, Aiden Pettengill, Anna Pfleging, Sydni Plummer, Harry Rabideau, Kristin Ray, Allison Roddy, Joshua Tobey, Mollie Wilson, and Dylan Wing.

Honors: Mara Adams, Nicholas Barber, Paris Bedsaul, Rylee Bellemare, Johnathan Blair, David Bourgoin, Hailey Brooks, Eleanor Brown, Zoe Butler, Joshua Cowing, Nolan Cowing, Abigail Dumas, Phillips Gidney, Hailey Haskell, Braydon Hinds, Paeshance-Rae Horan, Bryan Joslyn Jr, Keith Knowles, Marina Lavadinho, Logan Lee, Joanna Linscott, Eva Malcolm, Hailey Mayo, Isaiah Michaud, Gavin Mills, Daniel Page, Isabella Parlin, Hayden Rowe, Hailey Sanborn, Paul Slimm, Hunter St. Jarre, Aarick Staples, Riley Sullivan, Logan Tenney, Jackson Tirrell, and Samuel York.

Grade 11

High Honors: Isaac Baker, Julia Barber, Maylien Beermann, Jacob Bentley, Autumn Boody, Lilian Bray, Emily Clark, Liberty Crockett, Gugliemi De, Isabella DeRose, Kaden Doughty, Abigail Dutton, Emma Fortin, Josette Gilman, Samantha Golden, Grace Hodgkin, Emma Jefferson, Grace Kelso, Tanner Klasson, Mallory Landry, Aidan Larrabee, Shawn Libby, David Martinez-Gosselin, Calvin Mason, Abigail Peaslee, Devon Polley, Sarah Praul, Letizia Rasch, Paige Reed, Riley Reitchel, Parker Reynolds, Mackenzie Roderick, Abbey Searles, Andrew Shaw, Hannah Soule, Hannah Strout-Gordon, and Lily Vinci.

Honors: Elliott Atwood, Alana Beggs, Gabriella Berto-Blagdon, Jack Blais, Evan Butler, Jasmine Crommett, Colby Cunningham, Luke Desmond, Alexander Drolet, Chase Folsom, Wyatt French, Ciera Hamar, Trace Harris, Larissa Haskell, Isaac Hayden, Timothy Hinckley, Hannah Huff, Rachel Huntoon, Taidhgin Kimball, Lili Lefebvre, Madison Lully, Hunter Marr, Wes McGlew, Kaden McIntyre, Christian Moon, Rebecca Morton, Adam Ochs, Brady O’Connor, Kaden Plourde, Lilly Potter, Julian Reight, Ely Rideout, Kadince Rideout, Shawn Searles, Natalie Spearin, Lily Thompson, and Emily York.

Grade 10

High Honors: Carson Appel, Andrew Bentley, Abigail Beyor, Eve Boatright, Angel Bonilla, Katherine Bourdon, Breckon Davidson, Nicole DeMerchant, Lillian Dorval, MaKayla Gagnon, Loralei Gilley, Alivia Gower, Cooper Grondin, Elizabeth Hardy, Grady Hotham, Grace Hutchins, Olivia Hutchinson, Hallie Jackson, Beck Jorgensen, Kaiden Kelley, Meadow Laflamme, Dale Lapointe, Dinah Lemelin, Brenden Levesque, Malachi Lowery, Lily Matthews, River Meader, Nabila Meity, Angelina Ochoa, Timber Parlin, Kayla Peaslee, Jonathan Peil, Gabriel Pelletier, Casey Petty, Kathleen Pfleging, Sophia Pilotte, Kaden Porter, Ingrid Ramberg, Alexis Rancourt, Cadence Rau, Samantha Reynolds, Ally Rodrigue, Noah Rushing, Emmalee Sanborn, Aidan Tirrell, Mackenzie Toner, Emma Tyler, Lauren Tyler, Katherine Williams, and Damon Wilson.

Honors: Hailey Acedo-Worthing, John Allen, Molly Anderson, Zane Boulet, Samuel Boynton, Alexis Buotte, Emma Charest, Nicholas Choate, Courtney Cowing, Kayleen Crandall, Elijah Crockett II, Tianna Cunningham, Grace Ellis, Jacob Evans, Myra Evans, Hailey Farrar, Alyssa Gagne, Brianna Gardner, Reiana Gonzalez, Carson Grass, Ronald Haskell Jr, Kassidy Hopper, Acadia Kelley, Casey Kirkpatrick, Matthew Knowles, Emmet Lani-Caputo, Zephyr Lani-Caputo, Joseph Lemelin, Gwen Lockhart, Emily Majewski, Brady Mayberry, Brooklyn McCue, Gage Moody, Ethan Ouellette, Ezra Padgett, Maddison Paquet, Angelyn Paradis, Hannah Patterson, Michael Perez, Karen Potter, Sarah Robinson, Jarell Sandoval, Sophie Steeves, Daniel Stillman, Emma Stred, Jacob Sullivan, Paige Sutter, Hannah Toner, Colby Willey, and Joseph Wing.

Grade 9

High Honors: Abigail Adams, Isabella Boudreau, Robin Boynton, Elizabeth Brown, Kaleb Brown, Nolan Burgess, Eva Carlezon, Makayla Chabot, Elise Choate, Brielle Crommett, Noah Crummett, Hailey Estes, Ciara Fickett, Kaylee Fyfe, Caleb Gay, Nathan Hall, Tara Hanley, Stephanie Kumnick, Mackenzie Kutniewski, Sydney Laird, Kiley Lee, Aidan Maguire, Richard Mahoney III, Alexia McDonald, Holden McKenney, Austin Nicholas, Jazel Nichols, Jeremy Parker, Nathan Polley, Keith Radonis, Shae Rodrigue, Giacomo Smith, Kinsey Stevens, Lara Stinchfield, and Reese Sullivan.

Honors: Tristan Anderson, Austin Armstrong, Duncan Bailey, Lyla Bailey, Leah Bonner, Heather Bourgoin, Nathalia Carrasco, Timothy Christiansen, Simon Clark, Connor Coull, Thomas Crawford, Caleigh Crocker, Gavin Cunningham, Keira Deschamps, Hunter Foard, Cole Fortin, Brayden Garland, Aleigha Gooding, Bo Gray, Natalie Henderson, Bella Homstead, Hallee Huff, Kameron Kronillis, Carol Labbe, Logan Lanphier, Sophie Leclerc, Brody Loiko, Jack Lyons, David McCaig, Madison McCausland, Carlos Michaud, Cami Monroe, Royce Nelson, Hannah Oakes, Alejandro Ochoa, Alyssa Ouellette, Remy Pettengill, Evelyn Rousseau, Ryan Tyler, Baruch Wilson, and Brandon Wood.

China Lake’s east basin iced over later than usual this winter

Photo by Harold Charles

by Mary Grow

Many years, China Lake is frozen by mid-December. Former China Middle School teacher SueAnn Charles says she and her husband Harold, who live on the east shore, frequently went ice-skating during the after-Christmas school vacation.

Former resident Susanna Jacob lived year-round beside the lake until the early 1960s. She says her friend Theresa Plaisted, now 97 years old, used to skate by Thanksgiving; and one year when Jacob was in her teens, the two celebrated Christmas by skating from one end of the east basin to the other.

Jacob remembers one other time in this century, probably 10 or 12 years ago, when the lake didn’t freeze completely until Jan. 18.

This winter, Killdeer Point resident Bob O’Connor describes China Lake’s ice-in as follows.

On Dec. 19, O’Connor says, the lake was frozen. After the heavy rain on Christmas, there were two oval stretches of open water in mid-lake, one north and one south of Killdeer.

O’Connor says the north pond was smaller by Jan. 10 and both were frozen by Jan. 11, after a calm night when his thermometer recorded a low of seven degrees.

O’Connor explains that the wind keeps the water in the center of the lake from freezing, even when the air temperature is below 32 degrees. Ice forms when the water is cold and not moving.

China Lake’s example shows why people need to be careful about assuming any iced-over lake is safe to walk or snowmobile on. And given O’Connor’s evidence of two ice-in dates this winter, perhaps it explains why The Town Line runs an ice-out contest in the spring – for which Jacob sends in an annual guesstimate, though she lives 600 miles away – but no ice-in contest.

STUDENT WRITERS: Negative Effects of Toxic Masculinity

This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Autumn Boody
(from Washington, Maine)

“The constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.” That is the definition of toxic masculinity used by Journal of School of Psychology, but it is noted that this definition can change due to the complexity of the issue. Toxic masculinity is a phenomenon that plagues our culture and society. Toxic masculinity is negative because it can lead to aggression, repressed emotions, and psychological trauma.

Aggression in males is not an unusual phenomenon. Men and boys of all ages can demonstrate different types of aggression including: physical aggression, verbal aggression, and sexual aggression. Toxic masculinity is a large contributing factor to this. Part of the stereotype of masculinity is being strong and unemotional. Trying to keep up with both of those can lead to bottling up your feelings and becoming aggressive.

Similar stereotypes are being dominant and assertive, which can easily lead to sexual aggression. When in a relationship, specifically heterosexual relationships, the male may feel that he cannot have emotions and that he has to be the dominant figure in the relationship. There are direct ties from this to sexual assault and harassment. Promundo, an organization that focuses a lot of their work on toxic masculinity, says, “Young men who believe in these toxic ideas of manhood most strongly were most likely to have ever perpetuated sexual harassment.” Some examples the young men said were, “Guys should act strong even when they’re scared or nervous,” and even said things like, “Real men would never say no to sex.” These extreme ideals have led to aggression in all forms, proving their toxicity.

One of the aforementioned stereotypes was suppressing one’s emotions. This has many side effects of its own. Not allowing yourself to feel and cry when necessary can lead to higher amounts of stress, larger depression rates in men, and substance abuse. While substance abuse is more visible, with about 9.4 percent of men over the age of 12 struggling with it, depression isn’t so easy to see. Men with depression are four times more likely to commit suicide. Along with the oppressive symptoms of depressions, suppressing your emotions can make it harder to deal with stress. When you never let out what you’re truly feeling it’s easy to let things bottle up. When you have all these things bottled up you implode much quicker.

The last of the effects of toxic masculinity is psychological trauma. The influence of toxic masculinity can not only come from society but also inside the home. Many men experience their first struggles with toxic masculinity from their parents or relatives. Fathers telling them to toughen up and not “act like a girl” or encouraging degrading words and ideals. This can be damaging to their mental health as they get older. They are faced with the conflicts of what they’re feeling and what they’re told to feel. As many studies and therapists will attest, it’s incredibly difficult to undo that damage that has been done. Once you’ve grown up with the pressure and toxicity it isn’t easy to reverse.

Toxic masculinity is a negative, oppressive phenomenon that not only affects men but also everyone around them. Toxic masculinity is negative because it can lead to aggression, repressed emotions, and psychological trauma.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, we think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line,

China selectmen say no to hiring Portland attorney

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent the most time during their Jan. 4 virtual meeting on two issues, one of which was on the agenda.

That issue was the request from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee to hire a Portland attorney to assist with preparation of China’s proposed revised TIF document (see related story, linked here).

Board Chairman Ronald Breton made a motion not to hire the Portland attorney. He said town attorney Amanda Meader also has experience with TIF documents, her hourly rate is lower and she is familiar with China.

Board members Blane Casey and Janet Preston thought the attorney could be paid from TIF funds. Breton said no; the money would come from the town’s already-overspent legal account.

Town Manager Becky Hapgood confirmed the $20,000 voters approved in March 2020 for legal expenses is gone, and $1,522 more. The legal reserve fund, saved from inexpensive years to cover expensive ones, has about $9,000 in it, she said.

Selectmen voted unanimously not to contract with the Portland attorney. Breton then made a motion to ask Meader if she would work on the TIF document. At Casey’s suggestion, he added the provision that she would be paid no more than is in the legal reserve fund. But, he said, the selectmen’s contingency fund, approved in March 2020 at $55,000, could provide back-up money if needed.

Meanwhile, TIF Committee member Jamie Pitney was waving his hand and shaking his head vigorously. Breton, who was participating by telephone due to computer problems, could not see him. After the third time Hapgood said, “Jamie wants to speak,” Breton polled the board and, when no one objected, allowed Pitney to speak outside the public comment period.

Pitney said if voters approve the planned amendments to the TIF document at the annual town meeting, there will be a TIF legal fund.

Before the unanimous vote to contact Meader, TIF Committee Chairman Tom Michaud was also allowed to speak. He told selectmen committee members will write the revised document; the attorney will need only to review it.

The second well-discussed issue was conflict of interest, raised by Breton in response to an email from Scott Pierz. Pierz, president of the China Lake Association, explained during the public comment period that he believes Michaud, Pitney and Daniel Boivin, members of the association board of directors and of the TIF Committee, should abstain on TIF Committee votes on funding the lake association.

The three men represent the China public on the TIF Committee to which selectmen have appointed them, but they also have responsibilities to the private organization, in Pierz’s view. He does not object to their contributing to discussion, only to their voting.

Breton went further. He said people with a conflict of interest should not participate in discussion related to their other responsibility, and that members of a committee’s subcommittee should not vote on the subcommittee’s recommendations in the full committee. Doing so gives them a double vote, he said.

Pitney offered a more restrictive view, saying conflict of interest arises when an individual has a direct financial interest in a board decision. When people have overlapping positions, for example as a TIF Committee member and a lake association director, they should say so, he added.

No action was taken. The desirability of written policies was suggested.

In other business Jan. 4:

  • Overriding their Dec. 21 informal decision to accept Selectman Irene Belanger’s offer to represent the selectboard on the Broadband Committee (the committee unanimously requested a selectboard member as liaison), board members voted 4-0 to appoint Selectman Janet Preston as a non-voting committee member. Hapgood pointed out that Belanger has other committee responsibilities, and said Preston, who abstained on the vote, had expressed interest.
  • By a 4-1 vote with Wayne Chadwick opposed, board members re-approved the town’s tobacco-free policy. Hapgood said the policy replicates the November 2015 Tobacco Free/Tobacco Litter Free Ordinance, which essentially says nobody can smoke anything anywhere on town property. Chadwick, remembering his former life as a smoker, said it is unfair to make employees work for eight hours or more without a cigarette break.
  • In preparation for 2021-22 budget discussions, selectmen briefly considered new projects they might propose, like Preston’s suggestions of a farmers’ market or a community garden.

Hapgood relayed reports from town departments. Highlights included:

  • Beginning in February, the town office will return to its pre-pandemic Saturday schedule, open every Saturday from 8 to 11 a,m. It will also be open the last Saturday in January, Jan. 30. Residents are still encouraged to do as much business on line as possible.
  • Town Clerk Angela Nelson reported China has 3,185 registered voters as of the beginning of 2021. The quorum requirement for an open town meeting is therefore 128.
  • Assistant assessing agent Kelly Grotton plans to send letters to new homeowners in town reminding them of the state homestead exemption that reduces some people’s property taxes. Other year-round homeowners who do not receive the exemption can inquire about their eligibility.
  • Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 directors have scheduled the 2021 meeting to vote on the 2021-22 school budget for Thursday evening, March 20, in Oakland. The written-ballot budget validation referendum will be Tuesday, June 8.

Breton urged board members to attend the March 20 meeting. He pointed out that selectmen do not get information from China’s RSU board members, Dawn Castner and Neil Farrington. Preston suggested inviting them to a selectmen’s meeting, and Belanger said she attends RSU board meetings regularly.

Budget consideration is slated to begin at a special meeting with the budget committee at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 11. The budget discussion will be followed by Hapgood’s annual performance review, in executive session.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 19, because the town office will be closed Monday, Jan. 18, for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

China TIF committee revisits allowable expenditures

by Mary Grow

China Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members spent the first hour of their Dec. 29 meeting re-discussing lists of allowable TIF expenditures they had voted on at their Dec. 17 meeting (see The Town Line, Dec. 31). Committee member Brent Chesley then reminded them of the two items left undecided Dec. 17, and they acted on those.

By state law, TIF money can be spent only for economic development. The term is broad enough to encompass, in China, measures that encourage businesses to relocate to town and to assist with business expansion; job creation programs; town activities that promote China as a business, recreational and tourist center; and protection of the environmental qualities that attract visitors.

China’s TIF is funded from taxes Central Maine Power Company pays on its north-south line through town and its South China substation.

The document committee members worked with is found on the town website,, in a pdf file named 2017 TIF First Amendment. The pdf is under the Tax Increment Financing Committee, which is under Boards and Committees. Committee members reviewed the items in boxes on pages 4 and 5, plus two new items discussed at the previous meeting.

They unanimously reaffirmed their Dec. 17 decisions to include both new items. The first, relating to fisheries, wildlife and water quality, was re-discussed at length and reworded to clarify what water bodies and activities it is intended to cover.

The second, allowing TIF funds to help with broadband service improvements, was re-included by a unanimous vote, after a short discussion about its relationship to other development programs.

After a discussion of correct terms for and possible rearrangements among economic development projects, committee members voted again, this time with three abstentions, to delete references to supporting a research laboratory on Fire Road 44 and to the non-existent economic development department, and to support other development projects and programs as listed, with minor rewording.

Chesley then reminded the others that the items deferred Dec. 17 were using TIF funds for matching funds for grants and to support projects outside China’s TIF district, specifically removal of dams in Vassalboro that prevent alewife migration into China Lake.

The first was approved 7-1 with Jamie Pitney opposed, because he considers it double-dipping. The second was approved unanimously.

The next two steps are to prepare and print an updated TIF document, referred to as the Second Amendment (because China’s 2015 TIF was amended for the first time in 2017), and to reallocate TIF funds among the revised categories.

Pitney volunteered to rewrite the recommendations to include the changes, with help from Chairman Tom Michaud and his wife Marie, who took notes in the absence of committee secretary Trishea Story.

Pitney moved that the committee ask selectmen’s approval to hire a Portland attorney who is an expert on TIFs to assist with the final document. Committee members approved, with Daniel Boivin and Michael “Mickey” Wing abstaining because they would like an hourly rate and an estimate of the hours needed before supporting the proposal.

At the beginning of the meeting, Michaud welcomed newly appointed committee member James “J.J.” Wentworth.

The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14. Michaud plans to begin the process of allocating TIF money among the programs and projects.

The committee’s final document will be a recommendation to China selectmen. If they find it satisfactory, they will submit it to voters for approval or rejection.

China broadband members adopt two motions

by Mary Grow

China Broadband Committee members unanimously adopted two motions on the agenda for their Dec. 16 meeting. Both required approval from China selectmen, who postponed action on the major one.

The major committee action was acceptance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for expanded broadband service in China, prepared by consultants Mission Broadband. The 27-page RFP and supporting documents are posted under the Broadband Committee on the China website,

The RFP, to be distributed as widely as possible, invites interested parties to propose ways to provide improved and expanded internet access. All technologies will be considered. One of the accompanying documents is a scoring matrix intended to help Mission Broadband personnel compare replies.

Consultants and committee members planned on selectmen’s approval Dec. 21 and distribution of the RFP Monday, Dec. 28. The deadline for submitting bids is 3:45 p.m., Jan. 31, 2021. They expect potential bidders to have questions and are allowing time for answers.

However, not all selectmen received the draft before the afternoon of Dec. 21. With so little time to review it, they postponed action to a special meeting scheduled for Dec. 28.

Broadband Committee members agreed that, if selectmen approved on Dec. 28, distribution Dec. 29 would give bidders adequate time.

Mark van Loan from Mission Broadband said assuming a proposal is recommended by the committee, put on the May 18 annual town business meeting agenda by the selectmen and approved by voters, work could begin by July 2021.

The second motion on the Dec. 16 Broadband Committee agenda was to ask selectmen to choose one of their number to serve on the Broadband Committee. At the Dec. 21 selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Irene Belanger volunteered and was promptly accepted.

The next Broadband Committee meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11.

Selectmen approve RFP

China selectmen unanimously approved the Broadband Committee’s RFP at their Dec. 28 meeting, after 10 minutes of clarifications. Board Chairman Ronald Breton wanted assurance the contract issued to a successful bidder would include financial incentives to finish the work completely and on time; and Selectman Wayne Chadwick wanted a guarantee of lower rates for broadband users, for at least the first few years, after an improved system was in place.

Broadband Committee Chairman Robert O’Connor said John Dougherty of MissionBroadband told him the organization’s standard recommended contracts include penalties for missing the final deadline and withholding of full payment until work is completed.

The question of guaranteed rates would now be part of discussions with bidders, O’Connor said.

CHINA: Proposed TIF revisions go to selectmen

by Mary Grow

China Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members continued review of the proposed Second Amendment to China’s TIF document at a Dec. 17 meeting, and planned to resume discussion the evening of Dec. 29. (See also The Town Line, Dec. 17, p. 1.)

The revisions they propose will be submitted to selectmen who, if they approve, will present them to voters.

The first decision Dec 17 was to advise deleting a very specific recommendation that a town-owned lot on Fire Road 44 become a site for a commercial laboratory or business related to water quality and fresh-water fisheries. All seven members voting agreed.

The next decision, on which Brent Chesley and Chairman Tom Michaud dissented, was to postpone to Dec. 29 further consideration of adding TIF funding for work done outside China’s TIF district to benefit in-town goals, specifically the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI) that is removing or adapting dams in Vassalboro to open China Lake to migrating alewives.

The third decision, again unanimous, was to retain funding for economic development programs, but to amend the wording to eliminate the reference to China’s non-existent Community and Development Economic Development Department.

By another unanimous decision, a group of goals in the current TIF document was left substantively unchanged. They include funding for town events like China Days, marketing the town to prospective businesses, providing job training, maintaining the revolving loan fund for town businesses and helping support recreational trails. The last item was slightly amended: it stills allows connections with neighboring towns but deletes an incomplete list of them.

Members were also unanimous in agreeing to postpone any decision on the section allowing TIF funds for local grant-matching until Town Manager Becky Hapgood, who is also TIF and Town Treasurer, gets more history on that use.

Two new proposed uses for TIF funds were added to the draft program.

One would let TIF money support fisheries and wildlife programs and water quality projects, including but not limited to LakeSmart (which helps lakefront property-owners control run-off), CBI (the courtesy boat inspection program designed to bar invasive plants) and other water-quality activities of the China Lake Association and the China Region Lakes Alliance. Jamie Pitney abstained on the vote.

The second new proposal would make all costs “associated with broadband development, expansion and improvement” eligible for TIF funding. It was approved for inclusion without discussion, with Michael “Mickey” Wing opposed.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 29, to continue reviewing the wording of the TIF document. It will be a virtual meeting.

China planners to prepare new solar ordinance

by Mary Grow

When China Planning Board members met virtually Dec. 22 to begin discussion of a new solar ordinance, most of the members had received the template sent in November to Codes Officer Bill Butler only that afternoon. The delay, they surmised, was due to the Nov. 30 change-over in local codes officers, as Butler retired and Jaime Hanson succeeded him.

First, board members decided to postpone discussion until after a more thorough review. Then they began bringing up specific points that had attracted their attention as they skimmed the document. Three-quarters of an hour later, they concluded they had made a good start and adjourned until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

The planning board has already approved three solar projects in China. Having found difficulties fitting the applications into existing ordinances’ wording and definitions, board members intend to prepare a new ordinance. At the Dec. 22 meeting they doubted it would be ready to go to voters before November 2021.

Kevin Corbett, Vice-President of Construction for SunRaise Investments, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the company behind two of the China projects, said he and attorney Tom Federle, of Portland-based Federle Law, suggest Maine Audubon Society’s models as a basis for local ordinances. (Information is available on the Maine Audubon website, under the heading “Thoughtfully Sited Solar.”)

Board member Toni Wall volunteered to convert the Maine Audubon template into ordinance language. Chairman Randy Downer, who said he has attended some of Maine Audubon’s solar meetings, accepted her offer with appreciation.

The template refers to small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale solar developments. Planning board members debated whether the distinction is needed in China’s ordinance.

The document deals with both individual roof-top solar panels and land-based projects like the ones on Vassalboro Road, off Windsor Road and on Route 3. Board members considered when the board needed to be involved and when the codes officer could make decisions, and what new definitions would be needed and where they would fit in the existing Land Use Ordinance.

Another issue was whether and, if so, in what circumstances solar panels required buffers or setback requirements from neighboring properties. Yet another was what kinds and sizes of solar panels or developments should be allowed in the shoreland zone.

Further review was postponed until, as Downer put it, a “Chinafied” version is ready. Wall plans to distribute her preliminary draft by Jan. 5, 2021, for consideration at the Jan. 12 meeting.

Special selectmen’s meeting reviewed personnel policy

by Mary Grow

The China selectmen’s special meeting Dec. 28 was called primarily to review Town Manager Becky Hapgood’s proposed changes in the town’s personnel policy.

The only other issue on the agenda was action on the Broadband Committee’s Request for Proposals for improved and expanded broadband service in town. Selectmen unanimously approved the document after 10 minutes’ discussion.

The new Maine Earned Paid Leave Law had to be added to the personnel policy by Jan. 1, 2021, its effective date, Hapgood explained.

According to information on the web from the state Department of Labor, the law requires employers with more than 10 employees to grant an hour of paid leave for each 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

All employees are covered. Their paid leave can be used for any purpose, with the stipulation that in a non-emergency situation, the employee is to give the employer as much notice as possible.

Selectmen considered among other things whether to combine paid leave with older forms of paid time off, like sick leave, bereavement leave and vacation time. They decided to incorporate it as Hapgood recommended for now and to revisit the issue within the next three months.

They also considered other parts of the policy, beginning with Wayne Chadwick’s question about the town matching the state schedule of days off, specifically around holidays.

“It costs money,” he said of paying employees when they have a holiday. When board Chairman Ronald Breton said there was no extra pay involved, Chadwick replied, “We’re not getting any work for the [regular] pay.”

He added that he did not want to take away holidays or cut anyone’s pay.

Hapgood said China has matched the state schedule for the last 15 or 20 years. Most other Maine towns do the same, she said. When Selectman Blane Casey said next year Christmas Eve will be on Friday and asked if the state would call the whole day a holiday, Hapgood declined to predict.

Casey offered another proposal to save money during discussion of dental and health insurance. China contributes to employee’ insurance costs, and pays a stipend to employees who choose not to take insurance through the town (often because they are covered by a spouse’s policy).

Casey proposed eliminating the stipend. “I’m looking at the tax value to people in town who don’t have any insurance at all,” he said.

The insurance question is also to be reviewed later, and so is a policy on weapons on town property.

The personnel policy is the selectmen’s responsibility; it does not require action by voters and can be adjusted as often as necessary.

Hapgood said China has 14 full-time employees. A majority joined the Dec. 28 virtual meeting. Breton did not allow them to speak, saying the special meeting did not make provision for public comment.