CHINA: New police chief, patrolman selected

by Mary Grow

At a short Dec. 23 meeting, China selectmen appointed a town police chief and met and appointed a new patrolman.

Craig Johnson, who has been serving in China’s part-time police department for almost two years, is the new chief. Town Manager Dennis Heath said the appointment means Johnson will be in charge of scheduling and similar administrative matters.

Jeremy Willis, a Skowhegan police officer and Information Technology Director for Somerset County, will become a China patrol officer. Johnson, a Somerset County deputy sheriff, works with Willis and recommended him; and Heath said Maine Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty recommended Johnson as chief.

The manager again said he plans to suggest a change in local policing when he, selectmen and budget committee members begin discussion of China’s 2020-2021 budget in January. Earlier in 2019 he sought cost estimates for one full-time police officer.

China now has five police officers, Heath said, who work a total of 26 hours a week. State policemen and county sheriff’s deputies also cover the town, rotating every two weeks.

Selectmen heard two brief reports, from Tom Michaud of the Tax Increment Financing Committee on plans for work on fire roads around China Lake and from board member Wayne Chadwick on his discussion – by invitation – with fire chiefs about town funding. Chadwick emphasized that he did not speak for the board during the discussion.

According to the town website, China selectmen meet again Monday evening, Jan. 6.

Rémy Pettengill earns Eagle Scout rank with Troop #479

Front row, from left to right, Cub Scout Bryson Pettengill, Scouts Cole Henderson, Kameron Rossignol, Tad Dow, Nathan Choate, Dylin Breton, Caleb Knock, and Cub Scout Isaac Audette. Second row, Leader Sean Boynton, Scouts Ayden Newell, Michael Boostedt, Eagle Scout Rémy Pettengill, Nevek Boostedt (Allowat), Scout Ben Lagasse, Sam Boynton, Nick Shelton, and Hunter Praul. Back row, Leader Lee Pettengill, Christian Hunter, Scout Cole Corson, Leader Ron Emery, Derek Rossignol, Scout Aiden Pettengill (Kichinet), Nick Choate, Leader Matt Bodine, Priscilla Adams, and Scoutmaster Scott Adams. (photo by Ronald Emery)

Friends, family members, elected officials and other scouts gathered together to honor Rémy Pettengill for earning his wings – the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. The Eagle is the highest rank that Scouting bestows in the advancement program. Eagle Scout Rémy Pettengill, his family, his Scout leaders, and other members of the community were recognized in this special presentation. The celebration of this event was held November 10, 2019, at the China Masonic Hall, for Eagle Scout Rémy Pettengill of Troop #479.

Assistant Scoutmaster Matt Bodine was asked to serve as moderator, and opened the ceremony welcoming all to Rémy’s Court of Honor.

The call to order to open the Eagle Court of Honor was by Chuck Mahaleris, Kennebec District Chairman.

Rémy and his family chose the Order of Arrow and invited other members of Troop #479 to take part in this celebration. Nivek Boostedt as Allowat and Aiden Pettengill as Kichkinet both arrived in Order of Arrow regalia. Kichinet gave credits to experts and leaders along the trail while Allowat received assurance that Rémy has been faithful in serving his troop and has met the qualifications by asking the Scoutmaster. Scoutmaster Scott Adams replies “Yes, he has.”

Allowat asked the new Eagle Scout to renew the Scout Oath. Kichkinet asked Rémy to pin a miniature Eagle’s mother pin on his mother, to present a Eagle father’s pin on his father. He also asked Rémy’s father to remove and replace the Troop 479 neckerchief with the Eagle Neckerchief. Rémy gave a mentor pin to his father for help on his Eagle project and to Nivek Boostedt for his guidance.

Allowat now called on the Scoutmaster, Scott Adams to give the Eagle charge to Rémy. Scott also presented him with Bronze Eagle palms and the Gold Eagle palms for 10 additional merit badges.

Ron Emery was asked to come forward to introduce distinguished guests. First Chuck Mahaleris, Kennebec Valley District Chairperson of the Eagle Board came forward for a special presentation from the Eagle Board. Brother Mark Rustin, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Mason in Maine offered his congratulations and presented Rémy with a new medallion designed especially for all Eagle Scouts in Maine. Senator Matthew Pouliot was pleased to come and present sentiments from the House and Senate. China Town Manager also presented a letter from the town for his efforts to earn the Eagle rank.

Rémy’s Eagle project resulted from volunteering with Central Lodge #45, China’s Masonic Lodge, to push disabled veterans down to their Sunday Mass at the Togus VA. While there, he found out that some veterans are not provided with basic hygiene necessities. As a result, Rémy made 54 hygiene care packages for the veterans at the Togus VA. These packages all consisted of a handmade zippered bag. He solicited donations of a variety of items for the bags such as toothbrushes, toothpastes, eyeglass microfiber cloths, tissues, combs, nail clippers, and electric shavers. Rémy and his volunteers went around to the Cabin in the Woods housing development at Togus handing out the packages to the veterans and their families who live there. The group also attended and took part in the Sunday Services at Togus, and wheeled down some of the wheelchair-bound veterans to the service. The group visited with the veterans and thanked them for their service. All of the extra bags and hygiene products were donated to the Togus VA Volunteer Services to disperse as needed.

Rémy is the son of Lee and Danielle Pettengill, of South China, and is an eighth grader at China Middle School.

Erskine Renaissance Awards presented for December 2019

Seniors of the Trimester, front row, from left to right, Julia Basham and Summer Hotham. Back row, Lucy Allen, Jacob Sutter, Ben Reed and Dominic Smith. (contributed photo)

On Friday, December 13, Erskine Academy students and staff attended a Renaissance Assembly to honor their peers with Renaissance Awards.

Left, Faculty of the Trimester, Jennifer Tibbetts, left, and Eileen McNeff. (contributed photo)

Recognition Awards were presented to the following students: Jack Allen, Lily Bray, Nathan Million, Sydni Plummer, Hanna Spitzer, Benjamin Lavoie, Alyssha Gil, and Eleena Lee.

In addition to Recognition Awards, Senior of the Trimester Awards were also presented to six members of the senior class: Lucy Allen, daughter of Patrick and Shirley Allen, of Windsor; Julia Basham, daughter of Tim and Catherine Basham, of China; Dominic Smith, son of Katrina and Dan Jackson, of Whitefield; Ben Reed, son of Kevin and Jennifer Reed, of Vassalboro; Summer Hotham, daughter of Charles and Heide Hotham, of Palmero; and Jacob Sutter, son of Richard and Jenny Sutter, of Palermo. Seniors of the Trimester are recognized as individuals who have gone above and beyond in all aspects of their high school careers.

In appreciation of their dedication and service to Erskine Academy, Faculty of the Trimester awards were also presented to Jennifer Tibbetts, mathematics instructor; and Eileen McNeff, business office bookkeeper.

China TIF members recommend two expenditures

After the Dec. 9 TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee meeting, Chairman Frank Soares reported committee members recommended two expenditures of TIF money in 2020, in addition to those approved at previous meetings.

Soares said China’s Thurston Park Committee, represented by Jen Smith, requested more than $20,000 to repair trails do tree work and buy a bush hog and a beaver deceiver. The latter is a shaped fence designed to protect culverts from being converted into beaver dams.

Four Seasons Club President Tom Rumpf asked for $50,000 for bridge work on recreational trails and $25,000 to build an equipment storage and repair building, for a total of $75,000.

The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Jan. 14.

China planners review two commercial plans

by Mary Grow

With two newcomers, Randy Downer and Natale Tripodi, joining Tom Miragliuolo and Jim Wilkens (and continuing member Toni Wall absent), China Planning Board members began their Dec. 10 meeting by electing Miragliuolo and Wall co-chairmen.

They reviewed two commercial plans, making no decisions on either. SunRaise Investments’ proposal for two solar arrays near Route 3 was a preliminary rather than a complete application, and board members agreed unanimously that James Nichols’ application for a self-storage facility was also incomplete.

SunRaise Investments Vice-President of Construction said one project, accessed from the Arnold Road, would be in the field behind Michael Willette’s gravel pit, an area that is mostly meadow with a bit of forested wetland. The Route 3 project would be on Daniel Ouellette’s property east of South China Village, close to the China Area Wash and Dry laundromat and the power line.

Corbett was accompanied by Lisa Vickers, Project Manager for Atlantic Environmental, who explained state permitting requirements and environmental plans, and Joseph J. Marden, Project Manager for Sitelines, who talked about construction issues.

Planning board members suggested topics to be covered in a final application, like noise, lights and security. The SunRaise team had no problem with anything proposed.

No date was set for submission of an application.

Nichols and engineer Al Hodsdon, of A. E. Hodsdon, briefly discussed additional information board members want before they review the proposed self-storage facility on Vassalboro Road. Codes Officer Bill Butler had questions about the planned holding tank for wastewater from a bathroom; he also asked Nichols and Hodsdon about the condition of the wet ponds that Hodsdon said his firm designed in 2002 as the planning board approved the adjoining car wash.

Preliminary discussion of local marijuana regulations took up the rest of the meeting. November’s approval of medical marijuana facilities led planners to consider regulating that aspect; now they are considering expanding the question to regulation of recreational facilities.

Resident Dawson Julia is circulating a petition for a town meeting warrant article that would ask voters to repeal the existing Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Establishments in China and replace it with an ordinance that would allow and regulate such establishments.

Julia said almost two dozen Maine towns and cities have adult-marijuana-use regulations. Butler had two samples and will look for others that might help planners draft a China ordinance.

Miragliuolo said the November referendum showed that China voters do not have a negative view of marijuana establishments for medical purposes. Now the board will look at regulating non-medical uses if voters want them. Planners are not trying to influence residents’ attitudes, he emphasized.

Board members were not sure they could produce a draft for the April 4 annual town business meeting. The next voting opportunity would be in June.

The next regular China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Jan. 14.

CORRECTION: Planning Board member Natale Tripodi was incorrectly referred to as Natale Tripoli. It has been corrected, and we apologize for the error.

China unveils new emergency notification system

A postcard similar to this will soon be mailed out to residents to announce the new system.

by Eric W. Austin

China’s town manager, Dennis Heath, is excited about a new emergency contact system the town is rolling out next year. Called Hyper-Reach and developed by Ashergroup, based in Rochester, New York, the application is an opt-in emergency broadcast system that can notify residents of important announcements, weather advisories and emergency alerts.

Notifications can take the form of emails, texts or automated calls, depending on the preference of the resident. Since the system is “opt-in”, residents will need to sign-up for the service before they will start receiving notifications. This can be done at the town’s Hyper-Reach portal, which can be found by clicking on the Hyper-Reach logo at the bottom left of the town’s website, or at the town office where the staff will be happy to assist residents with the sign-up process. Also, look for postcards explaining the process which will soon be sent to all residents.

When a resident registers for the service, they will be asked for their name and both a postal and street address. Depending on whether the resident wishes to receive alerts by email, text or automated phone call, an email address or phone number is also required. There are two types of alerts you can sign up to receive: Community Alerts or Weather Alerts.

Town Manager Dennis Heath says he is still working with China’s Emergency Preparedness Committee to formulate a policy for what kind of situations would initiate a Community Alert, but offered the examples of a fire at the transfer station requiring an unexpected closure, or weather conditions that necessitated closing the town office early. Heath also suggested that the system could be used to make announcements about local events like China Days, but conceded it’s possible the system should only be used in specific emergency situations. These are some of the questions he is working out with the Emergency Preparedness Committee.

The emergency notification system includes functions allowing the administrator to only select for notification of residents within a specified geographical region. For example, if there is a house fire, residents with properties near the location of the fire could be notified without sending an alert to the entire town.

The system also allows residents to sign up for Weather Alerts. Unlike Community Alerts, Weather Alerts are sent by the national weather service rather than town staff. These notifications would be sent out when there is an important weather advisory, such as for a major storm, a danger of local flooding or some other extreme weather event.

It’s important to note that neither the town staff or other town officials, such as the selectboard or town committees, will have visibility within the system to any name and address information associated with residents, and individual residents cannot be targeted for specific notices. Instead, notices sent through the system by staff must either be sent to everyone in the system or be limited to a specific geographic region. In this way, the Hyper-Reach program provides emergency notifications while still protecting residents’ individual information.

Heath also mentioned that access to the system and those having the ability to send out emergency notices would be severely limited to prevent abuse of the system. At the moment, the town manager is the sole individual with such authority, although someone on the town staff may be designated for the role in the future.

There is a second side of the Hyper-Reach system which is geared more for internal town functions. This other, “internal” side of the system is completely separate from the wider emergency functions described above. This side of the system allows the town staff to input the names of people who sit on town committees. Once this is done, notifying people of upcoming meetings or letting members know of a sudden cancellation can be done instantly and will save hours of phone time that usually requires a staff member. Heath thinks this functionality will make the office much more efficient and productive.

This internal, non-emergency functionality may also be extremely useful to committees such as the China for a Lifetime Committee which is attempting to organize large groups of volunteers for community projects, since a lot of time is often spent trying to get in touch with people.

The entire Hyper-Reach emergency system is costing the town of China $3,900 per year. Town Manager Dennis Heath says to make the system worth the money, he is hoping to get at least one thousand residents to sign up for the service within the first year. There is no charge to China residents who wish to enroll.

Any questions about the new system should be directed to the town office at info@chinamaine.org or 445-2014.

Click here to sign-up for China’s new Hyper-Reach emergency notification system. (China residents only.)

Click here to visit the China town website.

Maine politics: A conversation with five local legislators

(photo by Eric Austin)

This is the first of a three-part series written by Eric W. Austin.

(The following does not necessarily constitute the opinions of The Town Line staff or its board of directors.)

by Eric W. Austin

Sometimes the noise from Washington is so loud, it drowns out what’s going on right here in Maine. A few months ago, the Maine Legislature wrapped up their first regular session with a final vote on a two-year state budget. So, with legislators on recess until January, I thought it would be a good time to catch up with them to discuss their thoughts on the recent legislative session.

In my research for this series of articles, I sat down with five Maine state legislators, including Senator Matt Pouliot, representing District 15 (Augusta, China, Oakland, Sidney and Vassalboro); and representatives Catherine Nadeau (Winslow and part of Benton), Bruce White (Waterville), Justin Fecteau (Augusta), and Richard Bradstreet (Vassalboro, Windsor, Somerville and part of Augusta). I thank each of these public servants for spending the time to answer my questions, and for their consent to have the interview recorded so I could provide accurate quotations.

This first article will look at some of the accomplishments of the last legislative session, with subsequent articles focusing on other issues that came up in our discussions, such as: the biggest challenges facing Maine over the next few decades, the impact of social media on local politics, and the state of partisanship in Augusta (it’s not as bad as you think!).

Maine’s first regular legislative session generally runs from January to June (in 2019, it ran a bit late as budget talks dragged into July). This first session is where the majority of bills are proposed and voted on and the all-important two-year budget is drawn up, debated and signed. Any bills not voted on during this first year may either go away or – if they have been specially authorized – they may be carried over into the second year, called the second regular session.

The second regular session will begin in January 2020, but only runs until about April. Although the legislature won’t have a full budget to contend with, it may still have supplemental budgetary items on which to vote, and the governor also has authority to submit additional bills for them to consider.

Justin Fecteau

By anyone’s estimation, 2019 was a busy legislative session. It was the kind of session that left an impression on freshman representative Justin Fecteau of Augusta, who sits on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “I think we nearly broke the State House capacity,” he told me at Huiskamer Coffee House on Water Street, in Augusta, a business he runs with his wife, Grace, when he’s not teaching German at Maranacook Community High School.

“Twenty-one hundred bills were submitted for a six-month legislative session,” he said. “We were putting a lot on the people that work in the advisors office.” The legislative advisors office is a nonpartisan service in state government which helps legislators turn their ideas into legal text.

Catherine Nadeau

I asked Catherine Nadeau, a representative from Winslow who is serving her fourth and final term before retiring from the House in 2020, what legislative accomplishments she was most proud of from the last year. “We provided $130 million [in] property tax relief,” she responded. “That’s what we accomplished this year. We increased the Homestead Exemption by $5,000, [from $20,000] to $25,000. We expanded eligibility for the Property Tax Fairness Credit.” She also mentioned the inclusion of an additional 800 seniors under Maine’s Drugs for the Elderly program and the recent MaineCare expansion. She finished by saying, “This is what we got done, and we still have a surplus.”

Matt Pouliot

Senator Matt Pouliot, who also supported increasing the Homestead Exemption, recognizes the property tax burden on Mainers, especially for low income or fixed income residents. He actually wanted to raise the Homestead Exemption even higher. “I had a bill in to increase it to $50,000 with full reimbursement from the state,” he said, “because we are all hearing from our constituents: property taxes are a challenge for us – especially folks who are those baby boomers just getting into retirement, living on a fixed income. Even if their home is paid for, that property tax bill keeps going up and up and up, and it makes it more difficult for them to live on a fixed income.”

Bruce White

Bruce White, a freshman representative from Waterville, was particularly proud of the legislature for increasing the percentage of municipal revenue sharing this year. Municipal revenue sharing is a way of reimbursing cities which pay a larger percentage of state taxes.

“Cities like Waterville, where a lot of commuters come in during the day – you have the hospitals and colleges and stuff – [so] we have more strain on our city,” Representative White explained. “We need more fire safety, and police safety, and [the increase in municipal revenue sharing] helps us.

“It got decreased over the years,” he said. “It was down as low as two percent – it was supposed to be five [percent]. Waterville, for instance, in the last ten years, has lost – because it got reduced – about $1.1 to $1.2 million a year on average that we used to generate.”

The level of revenue sharing is always a tug of war between the state and city governments.

White continued, “We increased it from two percent to three percent starting in fiscal year 2020. For Waterville, that was $670,000 they received more than last year. That’s a big deal. That’s almost a mil right in Waterville. That helps our elderly, low income, middle class – everybody. That was a big success. The following year it goes up to 3.75 percent, so we’re on our way up to get it back to where it was originally.”

Despite the additional services delivered to Mainers like the expansion of MaineCare to benefit the state’s seniors and the increase in municipal revenue sharing, which will return more money back to local communities, both representatives White and Nadeau pointed to a surplus at the end of the last fiscal year and a growing Budget Stabilization (or “rainy day”) Fund.

The state’s accounting can be a bit tricky to untangle, especially since this particular subject is partial to a great deal of political spin, but essentially, the last fiscal year, ending June 30, saw a surplus of approximately $168 million, meaning this was the amount by which state revenues exceeded state expenditures. For some comparison, the state’s surplus from the previous two-year budget, in 2017, was $110.9 million. Since Maine is a state that requires a balanced budget by law, some surplus at the end of the year is expected.

The budget surplus is only part of the story, however. Also important is what the government decides to do with that surplus. This year, legislators rolled $139.2 of the $167.8 million back into the new budget, leaving $28.1 million of actual surplus. After a small amount (about $6 million) was set aside for several high priority requirements, including operating capital, the governor’s contingency account, the FAME loan insurance reserve, and state retiree health insurance, the remaining surplus, about $22.1 million, was divided according to an 80/20 split, with the largest portion, $18.1 million, deposited into the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the “Rainy Day Fund.” This is the state savings account meant to protect Maine from budget shortfalls in case of an unexpected recession or other statewide emergency. According to Maine’s Department of Administration and Financial Services, the total balance of our Budget Stabilization Fund, including this year’s deposit, is now at $236,904,105.

The other 20 percent of the remaining surplus, or about $4.5 million, was deposited into the Property Tax Relief Fund. This is a new fund created during the most recent legislative session, and replaces an account originally set up by the LePage administration simply called the Tax Relief Fund. In previous years, 20 percent of the state’s surplus was deposited into this fund with the intention that, when the fund reached a certain balance, it would trigger a permanent 0.2 percent reduction in the state income tax for all Maine residents. (The fund has never reached those specified limits, and so no reduction in the income tax rate has ever actually been triggered.)

However, this year the legislature made two changes to that earlier policy. First, the former Tax Relief Fund was combined with several other funds and renamed the Property Tax Relief Fund. It’s still fed through deposits of 20 percent of the state’s budgetary surplus, however the methodology which triggers tax relief for Mainers has been significantly changed. Instead of activating a permanent reduction in Maine’s income tax after reaching a specified balance, it will now trigger a rebate of at least $100 for Maine homeowners who have applied and qualified for the Homestead Exemption, once the fund has a sufficient balance to cover such a rebate. That limit was reached this year, so many of you should be receiving $100 checks in the mail by next March.

The change in how the tax relief is triggered is important because the old rules rewarded tax relief based on the level of a resident’s income, with higher income residents receiving a larger benefit than those on the lower end of the income scale. In contrast, under the new rules, all eligible homeowners collect the same $100 rebate regardless of income, although Mainers who are renters – or those who do not qualify for the Homestead Exemption – are left out in the cold.

While Maine’s Budget Stabilization Fund continues to grow, it’s current balance might not paint as rosy a picture as one might think. The two-year budget passed this year in the legislature totaled $7.98 billion, so although $237 million in Maine’s “Rainy Day Fund” might seem like a lot, is it really? Some representatives in Augusta don’t think so.

Richard Bradstreet

“Sooner or later we’re going to have a recession,” explained Vassalboro Representative Richard Bradstreet, who voted against the two-year budget. “It’s going to come and we have to be ready for that.”

Senator Matt Pouliot expressed similar reservations about the recent budget. “This is the first budget that I voted against in my seven years of legislative service,” he said, “because the increase in spending was just so drastic in such a short period of time that I couldn’t get behind it.”

The current budget represents an increase of just over 12 percent above the previous budget of $7.1 billion, signed in 2017. This increase is nearly three times more than the rate of inflation over the same period, although state revenues have also risen during that time. Most of the budget increases come from the expansion of Maine’s Medicaid program, MaineCare; the rise in the percentage of municipal revenue sharing; and increases for education and opioid treatment.

For some expert advice on Maine’s fiscal health, let’s turn to Sarah Austin, a policy analyst for the nonpartisan group, the Maine Center for Economic Policy (and of no relation to the author of this article). She testified earlier this year before the Maine House and Senate as a subject matter expert about the recent tax relief changes and the importance of building up cash reserves to help the state weather future economic storms.

Sarah Austin

“According to the most recent analysis from the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission and Revenue Forecasting Committee,” she stated in her testimony from May, “Maine’s Budget Stabilization Fund contains only 37 percent of the funds necessary to withstand a moderate recession without cutting into baseline spending or raising revenue.”

I asked her via email if she was suggesting Maine still needed to do more to prepare for a possible economic downturn. She replied, “Good fiscal policy isn’t necessarily the rallying cry of the public, but yes, having reserves does impact the speed and adequacy of state responses during recessions. [A Budget Stabilization Fund of] $650 million could get us through a moderate recession without cutting services when they are most critical to supporting the economy.”

So, although the current financial reserves contained in Maine’s Budget Stabilization Fund are at some of their highest levels ever, good fiscal policy suggests they should be significantly higher if Maine is to survive a sudden slump in the economy unscathed.

And that is just one of the challenges Maine is facing as we head toward the middle of the 21st century. Based on my discussions with five local legislators, the next article in this series will take a deeper look at the biggest obstacles to Maine’s continued growth and prosperity: things like an aging workforce and the difficulty of attracting younger families to settle and build their lives here in Maine, the state’s need for skilled tradesmen and how it’s driving up prices for everyone, rising healthcare costs and the increasing strain on Maine’s do-it-all school systems, and much, much more!

Eric W. Austin writes exclusively for The Town Line newspaper about issues important to central Maine. He can be reached at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

China selectmen get updates from town departments

by Mary Grow

China selectmen got updates on town departments at their Dec. 9 meeting and began making plans for 2020 and the new fiscal year that will begin in July.

Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton and Public Works Department Manager Shawn Reed each reported a pending resignation: Ronald Marois is leaving the public works crew Dec. 13 for a job at Colby College, and Ed Brownell is retiring from the transfer station crew Dec. 21.

Grotton said the long-planned second compactor is in place, and Central Maine Power Company will soon finish providing three-phase power needed to run it. The RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system should be ready in January, he said.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said concerns about privacy with the original RFID system, which linked identification tags to people’s names, led him to consult the Maine Municipal Association’s legal department. He learned that files with names and tag numbers would be public records; as a result, the system is changed and the tags are registered by number only.

There will no longer be any personal information connected to an RFID tag available for public inspection. A separate record that MMA attorneys said can be confidential will link tags to holders’ names.

Selectmen approved the final report on the transfer station survey done in September and October, compiled by the town manager and staff and recommended by the Transfer Station Committee. Heath said it will be on the Town of China website.

Reed said the public works department shared China’s new excavator with the transfer station to crush and compact metal for shipment. Grotton reported he was able to arrange free trucking and to earn a small amount of money, despite the almost nonexistent national market for recyclables.

The recent ice storms have demanded more of the public works department in both manpower and materials than snowstorms would have, Reed commented. Selectboard Chairman Ronald Breton asked if there is enough money for overtime pay in the 2019-2020 public works budget. Heath is confident there is.

Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood reminded those present that annual reports from town departments and committees and other bodies, like the school department and Erskine Academy, the two libraries, the two lake associations, China Rescue and the three fire departments, are due by mid-January for the 2018-2019 town report.

The annual town business meeting will be held at China Middle School on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Before that, a special election to choose someone to finish Jeffrey LaVerdiere’s term on the selectboard is scheduled for March 3, coinciding with the statewide primary election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office.

Breton said six residents had taken out nomination papers as of Dec. 9. Signed papers must be returned to the town office by 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, for candidates’ names to be on the March 3 ballot.

In other business, selectmen unanimously approved continuing the usual procedure of allowing owners of properties foreclosed upon for unpaid taxes an additional 60 days to pay all taxes due and reclaim the properties. Heath said the town foreclosed on four properties for which taxes are unpaid for 2017, 2018 and the current year. The properties now belong to the town; if the owners cannot reclaim them by the end of the 60-day extension, they will be put up for auction.

Selectmen reviewed the audit report for the fiscal year that ended June 30 and the financial report for the current year to date and expressed satisfaction with the town’s financial condition. Heath shared a schedule of January 2020 budget committee and selectboard meetings to prepare the 2020-2021 budget.

Tom Michaud, speaking for the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee, presented a report showing that work on two fire roads had significantly reduced run-off into China Lake, thereby reducing the amount of phosphorus going into the lake to feed algae blooms. TIF funds helped pay for the improvements.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Dec. 23.

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust kicks off second annual Holiday Toy Drive

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust kicked off its second annual Holiday Toy Drive on Monday, December 2. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at any Bar Harbor Bank & Trust from December 2 through December 13. All the toys collected will be donated to local nonprofit organizations throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“When you are doing your holiday shopping this year, consider purchasing an extra toy and bringing it to your local Bar Harbor Bank & Trust branch,” said Joseph Schmitt, SVP, chief marketing officer at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. “Together we can bring smiles to children in our communities who are in need of holiday cheer.”

Bar Harbor Bank & Trust collected more than 1,200 toys during the inaugural Holiday Toy Drive in 2018.

Knights of Columbus change the colors at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust

Taking down and changing the flag at the Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, in South China, are Knights of Columbus District Master Miles Brookes and District Master Keith Richardson. (Contributed photo)

by Keith Richardson

Have you ever walked through your town, and seen something which “needed fixing,” and wished you could do something?

This question applies to groups, as well as to individuals. The Knights of Columbus is such a group; they see things and offer to help.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic, men’s, family, service organization. It was founded in 1882, and has grown to almost two million members, worldwide. It provides services in four program areas: Faith, Family, Life, and Community. It aspires to exemplify, or act out, its four core Principles: Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. The Principle of Patriotism is specifically designated to the Fourth Degree, the highest level of Knighthood within the Order.

Final honors for retired Colors.

Going back to the first question, as it pertains to Patriotism, we know that many people and businesses will have an American flag displayed at their home, or places of business. Through no fault of their own, over time, these flags will show signs of wear-and-tear. That is where organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, come into play. Through a Fourth Degree program called “Restoring Pride: One Flag at a Time,” they offer to replace faded, worn-out flags, at no cost to the owner.

“The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” This is a direct quote from the U.S. Flag Code.

On Wednesday, October 23, 2019, the flag was replaced at a local business in South China: Bar Harbor Bank and Trust. After discussions, and with the permission of the bank, the Fourth Degree of the District of Maine, held a ceremony at the South China branch. The old, faded, and tattered flag was replaced with a new flag in a respectful ceremony. The new flag had been previously flown over the United States Capitol Building, at the request of Senator Susan Collins, for the specific programs of Abnaki Assembly, Knights of Columbus, Augusta.

Participating in the ceremony were: Sir Knight Miles Brookes, Gardiner, District Master for Maine; Sir Knight Keith Richardson, South China, District Marshal for Maine; Ashley Perry; Fawn Finley; and Courtney Bonsant.