JMG is proud to celebrate two eighth graders who were named students of the quarter for the second quarter. JMG team members, Hailey Estes and Alexia McDonald, earned the recognition for their hard work and dedication. Hailey felt that she managed her time well, kept herself organized and completed all assignments on time. “Whenever there was a free moment, I would take advantage of the time and work on assignment.” Alexia reflected on her willingness to be open minded to learn new topics and to ask questions in all classes. “I try to approach all I do with a positive.”
To the editor:
We have entered the 20th year of the 21st century with a flood of information at our fingertips. We can now watch local government at work with video streaming, pay our taxes online and ask questions with email.
The current open meeting limits voter participation to 3 – 4 hours on a Saturday. A secret ballot would allow town registered voters the ability to vote absentee 30 days prior. The elderly and disabled would find it easier to vote. People could vote early due to a conflicting obligation or if they’re on vacation on that Saturday.
In the past, the normal attendance at our town meeting has been between 120 – 150 registered voters. This is usually after calling neighbors to meet the required quorum of 4 percent. The recent secret ballot governor’s race in China had 2,065 at voters. The petition I’m circulating requires at least 10 percent of that number or 207 registered voters turned in by March 10 when the town office would verify the names. Finally, at the March 16 selectboard meeting, it will be submitted for placement on the June 9 primary ballot.
How do we control municipal spending? Individually…… in the voting booth.
China Budget Committee members and selectmen have made their final recommendations on the warrant for the April 4 town business meeting, agreeing to disagree on two of the 28 articles.
Pay for three town employees was a major discussion topic at several meetings of each board. Town Manager Dennis Heath recommended making Town Clerk Becky Hapgood and Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton salaried managers rather then hourly employees, with upward pay adjustments.
He also recommended a substantial raise for Public Works Manager Shawn Reed in recognition of his managerial responsibilities. Because Reed incurs so much necessary overtime driving a plow truck, Heath did not recommend putting him on salary.
After discussion of appropriate pay, considering responsibilities and length of service with the town, the two boards agreed on compensation for Hapgood, which is included in the administration budget, and for Reed, in the public works budget.
They disagreed on how much Grotton should earn. Heath said at the Feb. 18 selectmen’s meeting the budget committee recommended a 10 percent increase in total earnings (including benefits) and the selectmen a 6 percent increase. The result is a difference of a little over $2,000 in recommendations on the transfer station budget.
The other question on which the two boards do not agree is Heath’s proposal to hire a full-time town policeman, whose work would supplement the current part-time coverage at an additional cost of more than $113,000. Selectmen recommend the new position on a 2-1 vote; the budget committee recommends against it on a vote of 1 in favor and 5 against.
Most budget committee recommendations were unanimous, with more abstentions to avoid conflict of interest than dissents. The town meeting warrant records votes on each article, so voters will have a chance to ask who disagreed or abstained and why.
China’s 2020 town business meeting opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 4, at China Middle School on Lakeview Drive.
China Planning Board members heard more information about the proposed solar development off Windsor Road, plus comments from neighbors, at their Feb. 11 meeting. They scheduled a Tuesday, Feb. 25, public hearing on the proposal to let more residents weigh in; the hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. in the town office.
Spokespeople for SunRaise Development explained the plans. They included project manager Joe Harrison; Joe Marden, of Sitelines, a Brunswick engineering and surveying firm; attorney Tom Federle, of Federle Law, in Portland; and Lisa Vickers, Senior Project Manager with Atlantic Environmental, in Woolwich.
The solar array will consist of 17,800 panels, about 3-by-5 feet each, slanted to catch maximum sunlight, with spaces between them. They will occupy a leased portion of Michael Willette’s 51-acre lot accessed from Windsor Road. The lot is mostly meadow; about two acres of timber in one corner will be clearcut. The field under the panels will be mowed no more than twice a year.
An access road will run through the middle of the solar array, seldom used, because the facility is unmanned and needs inspection and perhaps repairs only a few times a year. There will be 10-foot buffers around the edges of the property, and a high fence will keep out unauthorized people.
The solar array is expected to produce about seven megawatts of electricity and to have a 20-to-30-year lifetime. After its lifespan is complete, the panels, supports and other structures will be removed.
The developers and some planning board members have a major disagreement that was not resolved: whether or not solar panels are structures. If the panels are considered structures, then under China’s land use and phosphorus control ordinances, they must conform to lot coverage and phosphorus runoff limits.
Planning Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo said by China’s ordinance definition, and according to planning board precedent (the 2015 approval of the smaller solar array at Three Level Farm, on Vassalboro Road), he thinks the panels are structures. SunRaise has been dealing with state Department of Environmental officials; Federle, Harrison and Marden all said by state rules, only the concrete footings count as impervious surface.
Miragliuolo reminded them they need to meet local ordinance requirements as well as state rules.
Two couples living close to the site had a variety of questions about possible impacts, from groundwater pollution risks (very slight, Vickers said) to the effect on property values (no data available, Vickers and Harrison said; Harrison added some people would welcome such a neighbor, others wouldn’t).
In the only other action at the Feb. 11 meeting, planning board members agreed unanimously that the planned Phase Two of the causeway project at the head of China Lake’s east basin is a separate project from Phase One and will need a new application. Phase One was construction of the new bridge; Phase Two involves shoreline work, mostly east from the bridge.
David Ross – China resident, local game warden, and Maine’s nominee for Conservation Officer of the Year – is worried. Fewer Mainer’s are enjoying the great outdoors, especially the younger generation.
“The youth – they’re not out there. It’s my age and up,” says Ross, who is in his mid-30s. “Whether that’s parents not passing down traditions, or kids not wanting to be outdoors – too many distractions? – I don’t know what the answer is.”
Traditional pastimes like hunting, fishing and trapping in particular have seen a slow decline in recent years. That’s a problem because much of the funding for Maine’s conservation efforts comes from the sale of licenses for those activities.
On the other hand, extreme vehicle sports, including snowmobiling and riding ATVs, are increasing.
Ross, a native Mainer who grew up in the Wiscasset area and went to Unity College, spent three years as a Maine Marine Patrol Officer before moving to the warden service ten years ago. In 2012, Ross and his wife, who works for Maine’s Attorney General office, relocated to China. They have two children, six and four, who attend St. Michael’s parochial school, in Augusta. As a game warden, Ross serves six towns around central Maine: China, Windsor, Palermo, Liberty, Montville, and Freedom. His territory also includes the lakes of China, Sheepscot, and St. George.
Although Maine game wardens are law enforcement officers with the power to arrest, investigate and enforce the law, Ross sees his job as different than the typical police officer.
“[On] the direct law enforcement side, they’re primarily reactive. They get a call and they go,” he says. “I’m a pro-active law enforcement officer. I like to prevent things from happening.”
Many of the calls Ross receives are a response to residents’ interactions with local wildlife, but sometimes people panic for no reason. “Seeing a fox during the day – that’s not a big deal,” Ross advises. “You’re looking for the behavior. If you see a fox during the day that’s running in circles, chasing its tail, falling over for no reason, running into trees – aggressively attacking you – that’s cause for alarm. But seeing a fluffy-tailed fox siting on a rock, sunning itself – not a problem. That’s wildlife in Maine.”
Still, if you ever have a question, Ross is easy enough to contact. Just call the state police non-emergency dispatch at 624-7076 and ask for Warden Dave Ross. He’ll call you right back.
If you need to have a wild animal removed from your property, such as a raccoon that has gotten stuck in your garage, your best bet is to call a certified Animal Damage Control Agent instead of a warden. You can find a list of them, fully licensed by Maine’s department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, by searching Google for “Maine Animal Damage Control Agents.”
Ticks are also a growing problem in Maine and they are having a detrimental effect on residents’ ability to take advantage of the state’s best asset – the Great Outdoors.
“I’ve talked to a few hunters [about] turkey season in the spring,” Ross says. “They’re not going to go, just because of the ticks.”
The milder winters we’ve had the last few years have been a boon to the tick population. Usually, Maine’s harsh winter cold is enough to kill off the ticks each year, forcing them to reestablish their population the following spring, but as the climate warms, that’s not happening, which means we can expect ticks to become a worsening danger in the years to come. On the plus side, the milder winters mean we’re seeing other animal species expand their range into central Maine, such as opossums, which feed on ticks.
Ross deals with the tick menace by treating his clothes with Permethrin before venturing out into the woods.
When he’s not roaming the woods of central Maine looking for poachers or lost hunters, Dave Ross is at home on his hobby-farm in China where he raises chickens, pigs and tends bees.
Submitted by Ryan Sweeney
On January 14, China Middle School JMG had the opportunity to tour Kennebec Technologies, in Augusta. Eighth graders walked the shop floor with Shawn Arbour, director, sales and marketing, and Harvey Smith, director of quality, learning about the variety of machinery and jobs. Students then had an in-depth question/answer session with Shawn and Virginia Fletcher, human resources manager. Shawn and Virginia emphasized the importance of soft skills like work ethic, teamwork and cooperation. Student Sydney Laird commented that hearing Shawn and Virginia emphasize that you don’t need to be the smartest person to be successful. Instead, working hard and being committed are most important in terms of success. I feel like I always try to work hard, which gives me confidence that my effort it will pay off.”
Kennebec Technologies prides itself on a safe and professional workplace. Shawn Arbour added, “I think it’s a valuable experience for both the students and Kennebec Technologies. Kennebec gets to explain and show off to the next generation what we do every day and how it applies to the world we live in. The students get to see what’s out there in the real world and get exposure to a manufacturing environment first hand. It also gives them the opportunity to ask us questions about the work place that we don’t always see from our perspective.” It was a valuable opportunity for all involved.
Ryan Sweeney is JMG Specialist at China Middle School.
February 9 was Boy Scout Sunday at China Baptist Church. Troop #479 is sponsored by and meets weekly in the church vestry fellowship hall. Each year they participate in a Sunday service honoring and celebrating the Boy Scout program. This year was especially moving as the whole troop joined the church choir to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The scouts led each part of the service that culminated with one of the scouts having a conversation with “God” for the message. The scouts also served the coffee hour fellowship following the service. Ron Emery works with the scouts and the pastor to plan the service. Thank you to Scott and Priscilla Adams for their many years of service to the church, community, and the troop.
China selectmen spent almost two hours Feb. 10 doing a semi-final review of the warrant articles for the April 4 town business meeting. Their work was to be submitted to the budget committee on Feb. 12 for its members’ final review and recommendations.
The selectmen intend to sign the warrant at their Tuesday, Feb. 18, meeting (moved from the usual Monday because of the Presidents’ Day holiday).
At the Feb. 10 meeting, selectmen again discussed pay increases for Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood, Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton and Public Works Manager Shawn Reed, the three town employees Town Manager Dennis Heath has designated as managers. Selectmen agreed on different levels of increase for each, based on amount of responsibility and length of service with the town.
Looking at the annual article setting tax due dates and authorizing interest charges on late payments, they unanimously recommended reducing the interest rate from the state maximum of 9 percent to 4.5 percent.
Two public hearings scheduled
Two public hearings on budget requests in the April 3 town meeting warrant are scheduled for Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village, and Wednesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at the town office on Lakeview Drive.
The warrant includes two articles that deal with Heath’s proposal to hire a full-time town policeman.
One asks if voters want to establish the position and fund it at over $113,000 for 2020-21. The new officer would work in addition to the present part-time people, and China would continue to run its own vehicle.
If voters defeat that article, they then decide whether they want to contract with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office for police services. In that case, Heath said about $81,000 of the current police budget could be applied to the estimated $114,000 first-year cost, because China would no longer need part-time patrolmen or a vehicle.
Selectman Wayne Chadwick voted against recommending either proposal. He was surprised to find them presented as definite plans with price tags, since in his opinion much more discussion is needed.
The warrant Heath read aloud and selectmen approved has several articles that are capped, that is, written so that voters cannot legally increase the amount to be appropriated. Among them are fund requests for:
- China’s fire and rescue departments;
- Social services (out-of-town agencies like the Red Cross, Senior Spectrum and public radio);
- Community support organizations (in-town groups like the libraries, China Lake water quality groups and historic buildings, and this year including appropriations for fire and rescue that replaces the much-debated stipends); and
- Recommended spending from China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund.
There were no capped articles in the warrant for the 2019 town business meeting.
The Feb. 18 selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room.
The new expansion of the gymnasium accommodates a new stage, instrumental music practice room, new gym floor, and movable bleachers to accommodate more seating for concert, basketball games and other events. Also included in the renovations were two music offices, storage area for lunch tables, new locker rooms, two new bathrooms, new shower area, a new sound system and a newly-shingled gymnasium roof.
The new floor in the gymnasium. (photo by Sandra Isaac)
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