China Middle School honor roll

photo source: JMG.org

GRADE 8

High honors: Carter Brockway, Ashlee Carrillo, Keenan Clark, Lauren Cowing, Lillian Crommett, Kali Duvall, Clara French, Serena Hotham, Parker Hunter, Abigail McDonough, Colin Oliphant, Justin Reed, Laney Robitaille, Avery Ross, Carlee Sanborn, Aislynn Savage and Parker Studholme. Honors: Haileigh Allen, Jayda Bickford, Dylan Cooley, Lucas Farrington, Chloe French, Jacison Levesque, Adrian Mayo, Kieran McDonald, Shannon McDonoguh, Emma Mills, Noah Pelletier, Sadie Pierce, Kyle Scott and Dalorice Vires.

GRADE 7

High honors: London Castle, Madeline Clement-Cargill, Claire Davis, Sylvia Davis, April Dutilly, Jack Murray, Bayley Nickles, Ruby Pearson, Elijah Pelkey, Desirae Proctor, Christian Salvadon, Jaelyn Seamon, Madelynn Spencer, Kayla Stred, Abigail Studholme and Alexander Walker. Honors: Kylie Bellows, Brock Bowden, Logan Breton, Faith Futrell, Madison Gagnon, Colby Hardy, Easton Houghton, Kasen Kelley, Laylah Leach, Nathaniel Levesque, Branden Lewis, Hayden Little, Aurora Littrell, Jeremy McKay, Olivia McNulty, Michael Richardson, Benjamin Severance, Benjamin Severy, Nichala Small, Phoebe Taylor and Kamryn Turner.

GRADE 6

High honors: Isaac Audette, Delia Bailey, Connor Crommett, Logan Dow, Nolan Dow, Bella Dutilly, Isabella Farrington, Danica Ferris, Scott Fitts, Johanna Jacobs, Peyton Kibbin, Kate McGlew, Wyatt Michaud, Annie Miragliuolo, Molly Oxley, Natalie Peaslee, Bryson Pettengill, Caylee Putek, Dylan Saucier, Jessika Shaw, Blake Spry, Gabriel Studholme, Sabrina Studholme and Olivia Vashon. Honors: Mason Carrillo, Khloe Clark, Landen DeCosta, Kelsie Dunn,, James Goodwin, Kaylee Grierson, Connor Hardesty, Chase Hester, Lilyanna Holmes, Gage Miller, Madeline Oxley, Haile Pierce, Dylan Proctor, Lucas Short, Colby Spry and Matthew Vernesoni.

GRADE 5

High honors: Dawson Baker, Mackenzie Bowden, Alexxander Catassi, Trevor French, Tyler Gagnon, Myla Gower, Bella Lefferts, Madison Levesque, Alexander Mayo, Lainey McFarland, Ava Miragliuolo, Reed Pilsbury, Liam Ross, Maxine Spencer, Amelia Spry, Ethan Studholme, Kallie Turner, Brian Walker and Braelyn Waters. Honors: Jackson Bryant, Kaylee Dunton, Dante Farrell, Landon Larochelle, Mason Mattingly, Cody Parsons, Nolan Pierce, Keegan Sears, Jaylynn St. Amand, Dalton Stufflebeam and Leah Watson.

China selectmen make final two decisions on budget

by Mary Grow

China selectmen have made the last two decisions to put their 2021-22 budget recommendations in final form, ready for budget committee review.

At a special meeting Feb. 8, board members agreed unanimously to recommend 3 percent salary increases for town employees; and to recommend a contract with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office that would replace the local police force.

In preparation for the meeting, Town Manager Becky Hapgood calculated the total cost of different salary increases, from 1 percent to 4 percent. She had initially recommended and calculated the effect of 3 percent raises, but the three men on the board leaned toward 2.5 percent.

When it came to a vote, however, Chairman Ronald Breton, Blane Casey and Wayne Chadwick supported Irene Belanger’s and Janet Preston’s motion for 3 percent. Preston pointed out that the half-percent difference was only about $3,500.

Hapgood reported the offer from the Sheriff’s Department, explaining that the proposed contract would supply 10 hours of service a week in addition to the usual law enforcement services the town gets in return for county taxes. Hours would be flexible, and she would keep track of them.

If voters accept the proposal at the May 18 annual town business meeting, current part-time policemen would not longer be hired. China would still pay separately for emergency services dispatching; Hapgood is budgeting about $40,000 for 2021-22.

Hapgood told selectmen it looks as though the budget as proposed would increase China’s mil rate (the amount of tax for each $1,000 of valuation) by about half a mil, or 50 cents per $1,000 of valuation. However, she emphasized, the figure is nowhere near firm; even if voters approve the budget as it now stands, the tax rate cannot be fixed until the town assessor finishes his review of properties and recommends a new total town valuation.

The first 2021-22 budget committee meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10.

In other business, selectmen took no action on South China Fire Chief Richard Morse’s request for a $2,000 increase in the part of his budget listed under Community Organizations and intended to recognize firefighters’ time. The current recommendation is that voters appropriate $10,000 each for the three town fire departments and China Rescue. Morse wrote that his department has the most members and responds to the most calls.

Hapgood said the Feb. 14 fishing derby sponsored by the Four Seasons Club and the China Village fire department will end with a 5:30 p.m. fireworks display from the head of China Lake’s east basin. Presenters will clean up the ice afterward, she said.

The town office has now reinstated Saturday morning hours, so it will be open Saturday, Feb. 13, from 8 to 11 a.m. It will be closed Monday, Feb. 15, for the Presidents’ Day holiday, and the next regular selectmen’s meeting is postponed a day, to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16.

China TIF committee fails to finish adjusting proposed spending

by Mary Grow

China Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members again failed to finish adjusting proposed 2021-22 expenditures at their Feb. 3 meeting, and for the second time did not have time to start discussing committee policies and procedures.

They do have at least two versions of a committee mission statement circulating. Chairman Tom Michaud and Town Manager Becky Hapgood (who is also treasurer for both the town and the committee) will see if they can find any earlier policy and procedure documents.

Hapgood informed members at the beginning of the meeting that the TIF fund is not out of money. “We’re in better shape than I thought we were,” Hapgood said.

Since the TIF was last adjusted in 2017, more than $1 million has been spent on the causeway project, the new bridge and other changes at the head of China Lake’s east basin. That project is almost done (the committee recommended another $50,000 for next year, and there are a few bills unpaid) freeing up future funds for other TIF projects.

TIF funds come from Central Maine Power Company taxes on the powerline through China and the South China substation. The second payment for 2020-21 – from CMP and all other taxpayers – is due Friday, March 26.

Committee members discussed expected future income, which will go down slowly as the TIF moves toward its 2045 end date and, Hapgood pointed out, will vary whenever China’s tax rate changes. The figures they considered range from around $295,000 to more than $338,000 a year.

Since their Jan. 27 meeting, several groups had submitted applications for 2021-22 TIF funds. Hapgood said to her knowledge, the requirement for a formal application, rather than a less formal proposal, is new to most fund recipients; therefore they did not send an application earlier in the year.

Committee members revised some of their previous decisions, mostly increasing proposed funding. As at past meetings, recreational trails, including those maintained by the Four Seasons Club (see The Town Line, Feb. 4, p. 3) were a main topic.

Still undetermined is how much the Broadband Committee (CBC) will request to help expand and improve China’s broadband service (see box). Jamie Pitney, a member of both the TIF Committee and the CBC, said CBC members should consider proposed costs at their Feb. 11 meeting.

TIF Committee members set their next meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The TIF Committee’s final recommendations, labeled the Second Amendment to China’s TIF document, will go to China selectmen, and if they approve, to the budget committee and then to voters to accept or reject. Committee members still hope to agree on recommendations in time for a vote at the May 18 town business meeting.

Broadband committee receives three replies on RFP

At a very short special meeting Friday afternoon, Feb. 5, Town Clerk Angela Nelson told China’s Broadband Committee members they received three replies to their Request for Proposals (RFP) for expanding and improving broadband service in China.

Interested companies are Axiom, based in Machias; Sertex Broadband Solutions, of Plainfield, Connecticut; and Spectrum Community Solutions, of Augusta. No dollar figures were mentioned.

The broadband committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, to consider the proposals.

Erskine Academy classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012

(photo credit: Erskine Academy)

Erskine Academy has announced that the cumulative academic and health records for the classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 will be destroyed beginning Monday, April 5, 2021.

Federal regulations – under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – stipulate that rights to these records transfer to students upon turning 18. As such, records will only be released to students with appropriate identification (license, passport, etc.) or to parents of students who present both signed permission from their student and appropriate identification.

If you graduated in 2010, 2011 or 2012 and would like to have your cumulative and health records, please call the School Guidance Department at 445-2964 to make arrangements to pick up your record(s). Please note that the permanent high school transcript will be maintained in perpetuity.

China selectmen set budget meeting for February 8; Make several committee appointments

by Mary Grow

China selectmen continued budget deliberations at their Feb. 1 meeting and scheduled a budget workshop for 5 p.m. (note earlier meeting time) Monday, Feb. 8, for more discussion.

The Feb. 1 meeting was by Zoom, with Selectman Irene Belanger unable to participate and Selectman Janet Preston having trouble with her computer. The Feb. 8 meeting will be live in the portable classroom behind the town office, available for viewing on the China website.

Major unresolved issues are whether to change the way town employees’ salaries are adjusted annually – Board Chairman Ronald Breton would like to see a system of step increases started – and how large an increase to offer for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins July 30.

For pay raises, Town Manager Becky Hapgood proposed 3 percent, Breton proposed 1.5 percent and Preston suggested 2 percent.

Breton said in his personal opinion, with so many jobs lost, “This is not a good climate to give big pay raises.”

Hapgood offered to calculate total costs of each of the proposed increases to help selectmen make a decision at the Feb. 8 meeting.

Selectmen agreed to leave the budget line called Community Support Organizations at Hapgood’s proposed $107,500. The category includes what used to be called stipends for members of China Rescue and China’s three volunteer fire departments; some of the lake protection activities; the two libraries; The Town Line newspaper; and preservation of town-owned historic buildings.

They reduced proposed expenditures for cemeteries from Hapgood’s recommended $40,000 to Selectman Wayne Chadwick’s recommended $34,000. Hapgood said the account covers mowing, headstone repairs, tree removal and maintenance of fences and signs. An additional $1,000 is for the annual placement of flags on veterans’ graves.

Also to be reduced, after Hapgood calculates an appropriate amount, is the contingency fund, for which the manager proposed $162,000. The fund has given selectmen $55,000 annually for several years to cover unanticipated expenditures. This year, at selectmen’s request, Hapgood moved into it money to cover unplanned increases in insurance premiums, for example if an employee with single health insurance coverage leaves and is replaced by someone eligible for family coverage.

Contingency funds, when needed, come from China’s undesignated fund balance (formerly called surplus), so the amount voters approve will not affect 2021-22 taxes.

Another item postponed was continued membership in FirstPark, the Oakland-based business park in which China and other municipalities invested years ago. So far, the town’s annual assessment has been higher than its share of park income. Hapgood thinks the situation might reverse in 2021-22; she expects an assessment figure by the beginning of March.

In addition to the budget discussion, selectmen made several appointments.

  • Jennifer Chamberlain and Chadwick were appointed to the Road Committee, Chadwick in a non-voting advisory role.
  • Sarah Batteese, Harold Charles, Ronald Morrell, Stephen Nichols and William Rancourt were appointed to the Emergency Preparedness Committee, which is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.
  • Ashley Farrington was appointed to the Transfer Station Committee, which is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The selectmen’s meeting was preceded by an assessors’ meeting – the selectmen are also the Board of Assessors – at which resident Ed Fredrikson and Assessor William Van Tuinen argued over Van Tuinen’s assessment of Fredrikson’s business equipment, which is subject to personal property tax. Selectmen postponed a decision.

CHINA: Solar panel talks continue

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members spent the first hour of their Jan. 26 meeting continuing discussion of a proposed solar ordinance, leaving little time for two other agenda items.

During review of previous solar projects, board members realized that the town Land Use Ordinance, which focuses on buildings and pays attention to issues like effects on ground and surface water and parking and other vehicle-related impacts, does not easily fit applications for solar installations. They plan to prepare a solar-specific ordinance, at this point as a new Land Use Ordinance section rather than as a separate document.

The added wording will need voter approval. Board members have talked of asking selectmen to schedule a vote in June or November 2021.

Board member Toni Wall, who was absent Jan. 26, adapted the draft they reviewed from a Maine Audubon Society template. It deals with rooftop solar panels, individual land-based installations and commercial land-based solar farms like the ones approved on Route 32 North (Vassalboro Road), off Route 32 South (Windsor Road) and on Route 3 (Augusta Road).

Board discussion covered such issues as what, if any, land-based solar installations should be allowed in shoreland, stream protection and resource protection districts; which solar projects should require a planning board permit and which the codes officer should be authorized to approve or deny; and what information should be required in a solar application.

The second issue brought up was shoreland stabilization, beginning with what the term means and what it includes. Codes Officer Jaime Hanson, who has discussed the issue with town attorney Amanda Meader, offered suggestions for incorporating the concept into the existing Land Use Ordinance. The topic will be continued at a future meeting.

Hanson introduced the third item, asking for board input on a building code issue: should an ice and water barrier be required under a building roof? He explained the MUBEC (Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code) gives municipalities the option of including the requirement. Planning board members recommended including it for the benefit of homeowners.

The technological glitches that occur at the beginning of almost every China public meeting took an unusual form. As screen-sharing difficulties led to a transfer of the meeting host from one computer to another, viewers enjoyed a photo of three horses peacefully grazing in a meadow.

The next regular China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9. The record of the Jan. 26 meeting is available on the town website, china.govoffice.com.

China Four Seasons Club and TIF funds

by Mary Grow

At the Jan. 27 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee meeting, committee members debated recommending 2021-22 funding for the China Four Seasons Club, which maintains year-round trails throughout the town.

The club is based on a shoreland lot on the east side of China Lake, with a clubhouse and a beach open to club members. Club President Tom Rumpf plans to add a storage garage for trail maintenance and other equipment.

In past years the club has received TIF allocations, usually $50,000 a year.

Committee member Jim Wilkens was skeptical about using TIF funds to help a private organization build a new building. Member Jamie Pitney pointed out that TIF money can be allocated to businesses in town, so clubs should also be eligible.

Committee member Brent Chesley said he hears China’s trails praised by residents of other towns. Mickey Wing added that a lot of people bring their four-wheelers to ride in China; their trucks fill up recreational parking lots.

Rumpf was in another meeting the evening of Jan. 27 and could not contribute to the TIF Committee’s discussion. The next day, he sent committee members and Hapgood an email that included a summary of the economic benefits of trails. According to club records, trail-users spend more than $100,000 a year in China for food, gasoline and other items.

Volunteers do most of the trail maintenance work. This past year, Rumpf wrote, the club built three new bridges, one 80-feet long; rebuilt four miles of seriously deteriorated trail; and rerouted three trails at landowners’ requests.

He pointed out that recent state laws require trails to be 10 to 12 feet wide, “basically a gravel road,” and beginning in 2022 state inspectors will close trails that are not up to standard.

The club gets state aid for trail maintenance and runs fundraisers. Part of the proceeds from the Four Seasons of Trees raffle in November 2020 was donated to the town to provide Christmas help for needy families, Rumpf wrote. The club and the China Village Fire Department are holding an ice-fishing derby Sunday, Feb. 14 (see The Town Line, Jan. 28, p. 1).

In addition to trail maintenance, Rumpf said other Four Seasons Club goals are to promote outdoor safety education, on land and on the water, and to encourage community involvement.

Rumpf said in the past, the TIF Committee has not requested a formal application for funds. The Four Seasons Club has submitted a less formal proposal. Each year, he said, the club has sent the committee a list of finished projects, with detailed receipts and illustrative photos.

Rumpf intends to submit an application for 2021-22 TIF funds.

TIF committee has more financial recommendations to complete

by Mary Grow

As their Jan. 27 meeting ended, China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members scheduled another one for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, because they still have financial recommendations to complete.

Committee members are working on what they call the Second Amendment to China’s original (2015) TIF agreement that lists projects and amounts of TIF money to be allocated to each. Voters approved the first amendment in 2017.

Committee members hope to have the Second Amendment ready for the 2021 annual town business meeting. Town Manager and TIF Treasurer Becky Hapgood told them the town meeting warrant must be final by March 15. Committee recommendations need approval by the board of selectmen and review by the budget committee.

TIF funds come from taxes Central Maine Power Company pays on its north-south power line through China and its South China substation. They can be used for economic development projects in, and under the proposed Second Amendment, in one case outside, the Town of China.

If voters approve the revised plan, TIF money will be available to help modify the China Lake Outlet Dam, in East Vassalboro, to allow alewives to migrate into and out of China Lake.

Another proposed change would allow use of TIF money to expand broadband service in town.

More than a million TIF dollars have gone into the causeway project, which involved a new bridge and substantial work on the rest of the causeway across the head of China Lake’s east basin, and improvements to the adjacent boat landing. Part of the Jan. 27 discussion was how much more money the project needs and what share is in the current fiscal year (2020-21) versus next year (2021-22).

As of Jan. 27, it was not clear how much more money the causeway project will need. Also undetermined were what the broadband project might cost and whether it would be a private enterprise or a town project.

With no final figures for those two large projects, committee members consider their recommendations for other TIF activities subject to change.

The projects generating most discussion Jan. 27 included:

  • Recreational trails and related development, including funds for the Four Seasons Club, a private nonprofit organization that maintains year-round trails for snowmobiles and four-wheelers, horseback riders and hikers; Thurston Park; and the school forest behind China Primary School.
  • The new proposal to assist with installing a fishway at Outlet Dam, the final step in a multi-year project to which China and Vassalboro have contributed in the past.
  • The new proposal to assist with expanded broadband service, which remains undefined until a bid is accepted.
  • The use of TIF funds as matching funds for grants.

Committee members were not agreed on whether they have required or if not should require a formal application for TIF funds, or whether a request with an explanation is sufficient. Their Jan. 27 agenda included a discussion of policies that would have covered the issue, but committee members adjourned before they got to it.

Bids for expanded broadband to be opened Feb. 5

Bids for expanded broadband service, solicited by China’s Broadband Committee (CBC), will be opened at the town office on Friday, Feb. 5, beginning at 3:45 p.m. The opening is listed to be available for public viewing on the town Live Stream.

The CBC is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, to review bids. CBC member Jamie Pitney said committee members might work on an application for Tax Increment Financing funds if a bidder asks for support.

North loop closed at China School Forest

China school teachers get the China School’s Forest ready for students. (photo by Anita Smith)

The North Loop at the China School Forest is closed until fallen trees can be cleared, but all other trails are open, according to the China Connected newsletter.

There is orange flagging tape around the South Loop and along the far end of the main trail by the power line since that area was part of the harvest and it is more open, and trails are not as obvious. The trails are open during daylight hours, including during school days.

People can park at China Primary School or the north end of China Middle School and access the trails.

Also, the story walk from the Primary School bus circle to the open areas past the pond is now open.

Trail brochures are available at the start of that loop.

Northern Light begins Covid-19 community vaccinations

Connie and Ray Winship, a retired Waterville couple, were among the first to be vaccinated at the January 26 clinic. photo courtesy of Northern Light Inland Hospital

Northern Light Inland Hospital kicked off its first community vaccination clinic on January 26 for community healthcare workers and people age 70 and older in collaboration with Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Fairfield. 92 doses were administered on the first day at the KVCC vaccination site. Ongoing clinics will be added as the hospital learns of its vaccine allotment from the state each week.

“We are very excited to be moving into this phase of community vaccinations,” said Terri Vieira, hospital president. “We have started dose two of the vaccine with our own staff, and we’re pleased to be moving onward to vaccinate more people in the communities we serve. It’s progress, it’s hope. At the same time, we have to be patient as the vaccine supply is still significantly lower than we had hoped.”

To be able to make these mass vaccination clinics a reality, Inland Hospital needed a community partner to provide a large space, and KVCC stepped up to the plate in a big way.

“We are very grateful that KVCC is giving Inland, and our community, the support that is needed for these clinics,” noted Vieira. “They have long been our partner in healthcare, training many of our staff who work at the hospital and our medical practices.”

The college has opened its Carter Hall Multi-Purpose Center for the location of the community clinics.

“KVCC is so pleased to become part of the solution to the pandemic in our region,” stated Richard Hopper, KVCC president. “Besides providing the space, we are looking at how our students and faculty can play a role in helping at future vaccination clinics for second-round doses and the expansion of Northern Light’s program. Northern Light has been and continues to be a trusted partner of KVCC.”

Connie and Ray Winship, a retired Waterville couple, were among the first to be vaccinated at the January 26 clinic. Connie said, “We’re getting vaccinated because we want to be able to visit our kids and grandkids this summer – it’s been more than a year since we were together.” Ray commented, “Getting the vaccine gives us hope and makes us feel good that we are doing our part to get things back to normal.”

Vaccine Registration

Individuals must pre-register to take part in a vaccination clinic. Due to the high demand as well as the logistics around handling the vaccines, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. Community members should not show up at the KVCC site without an appointment. Each week, after receiving their vaccine allotment from the Maine CDC, Inland will open new clinics at KVCC based on that availability. The hope is to hold at least one clinic each week, but vaccine availability will determine how they can proceed.

Registration is available at covid.northernlighthealth.org/publicvaccine. For those who do not have internet access, call 207.204.8551 to reach the Vaccine Registration and Information line seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Due to the strong community interest and very low vaccine supply, slots are few and filling up very quickly.

Preparing for Registration

When preparing to register, whether by phone or online, people are asked to have their insurance or Medicare information ready, and the name and phone number for an emergency contact person. The vaccine itself is free but a small charge to cover the cost of administration will be billed to people’s insurance.

At this time, community clinics will be for those 70 or over and community healthcare workers only per Maine CDC guidance.

For More Information

Community members are encouraged to visit covid.northernlighthealth.org/publicvaccine each Monday to learn about clinics that may be scheduled for the week. Or visit the Maine CDC website (www.Maine.gov) to see all vaccination sites across the state and any open appointments.

Inland Hospital leaders are asking individuals to please not call their primary care office or the hospital to try to register. The two options for registering at this time are on the website or the special registration phone line.

Submitted by Sara Barry, Director, Regional Marketing and Communications