Girl Scouts give back for Thanksgiving

Girl Scout Troop #1651, in China, recently donated two Thanksgiving baskets to the China Town Office to be given to families in the China sarea. Contributed photo

Meeting to be held on proposed Ladd Dam and Box Mill fishways

Left photo, Ladd Dam, and Box Mill. Contributed photos

The Alewife Restoration Initiative and project partner US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will hold an informational meeting regarding plans to build fishways at Ladd Dam and Box Mill, in North Vassalboro. The goal of the fishways, in conjunction with projects at four other dams on Outlet Stream, is to allow alewives to migrate to China Lake to spawn. With the construction of fishways at Box Mill and Ladd (the first and second barriers to returning alewives), access will be established to the spawning habitat of the 40-acre Ladd Mill Pond. The eventual removal or construction of fish passage at the remaining dams on Outlet Stream will allow up to a million returning alewives to spawn in China Lake. A variety of other sea-run and resident species of fish and other organisms will also benefit from the improved connectivity of Outlet Stream and China Lake.

They welcome all to participate in this informational meeting, and to provide your feedback, ideas and comments. Your comments and suggestions can play a significant role on how this project develops. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 29, at 6 p.m., at the Grange Hall, in East Vassalboro. Following is a list of speakers and topics:

  • Landis Hudson and Matt Streeter, of Maine Rivers, will discuss how the Ladd and Box Mill projects will fit into the overall goals and schedule of the Alewife Restoration Initiative.
  • Nate Gray, of Maine Department of Marine Resources, will discuss how this project fits into Sebasticook River watershed and statewide efforts to restore alewives and improve connectivity for many other species.
  • Peter Abello and Ben Naumann, of NRCS, will discuss the planning and project implementation process, timeline and structure options.
  • Questions, feedback, ideas and comments are welcome from the public.

For more information, email or call Matt Streeter, mstreeter212@gmail.com, 207-337-2611.

Erskine Academy announces school calendar change

Parents and students should be advised that Wednesday, November 22, will now be an early release day for all Erskine Academy students. Students will be dismissed at 11:30 a.m.

Erskine Academy announces Mr. EA competition

The 15th annual “Mr. EA” Competition will be held on Saturday, November 18, at 7 p.m., in the James V. Nelson gymnasium, at Erskine Academy, in China. Ten senior boys will compete in the categories of talent, recreational wear, and personal interview for the coveted title of “Mr. EA.” Admission to the show is $5 and tickets can be purchased at the door. All proceeds will benefit the Class of 2018.

This year’s contestants are Alex Cleaves, Cody Daigneault, Derrick Dyer, Luke Hodgkins, Harrison Mosher, Jake Peavey, Dylan Plugge, Chance Reed, Michael Sprague and Caleb Tyler.

China police log for September 2017

SEPTEMBER 2:

12:05 p.m., report of disorderly conduct, Rte. 3. Complainant advised to speak with landlord.

SEPTEMBER 7:

5:05 p.m., Check of South China boat landing.

5:25 p.m., business check, Vassalboro Rd.

5:45 p.m., business check, Vassalboro Rd.

6 p.m., traffic complaint, Rte. 3, by Palermo. Unable to locate vehicle.

6:30 p.m., check of China Village boat landing.

6:45 p.m., business check, Lakeview Dr.

7 p.m., stationary radar detail. Main St., no violations noted.

8:10 p.m., business check, Windsor Rd.

SEPTEMBER 9:

2:15 p.m., traffic stop, Vassalboro Rd., warning for inspection violation.

2:33 p.m., traffic stop, Vassalboro Rd., warning for speed.

3 p.m., traffic stop, Rte. 3, warning for inadequate tires.

4:10 p.m., business check, Pleasant View Ridge Rd.

4:45 p.m., check of Thurston Park.

5:25 p.m., residence check, Neck Rd.

6 p.m., business check, Rte. 3.

SEPTEMBER 11:

1 p.m., complaint of trespass by motor vehicle, Rte. 3

2 p.m., traffic complaint, Pleasant View Ridge Rd.

SEPTEMBER 16:

noon, traffic complaint, Waterville Rd., passed on to Winslow Police Dept.

12:25 p.m., residence check, Neck Rd.

12:35 p.m., traffic stop, Neck Rd., warning for inspection violation. Summons for no insurance.

1:45 p.m., check of Thurston Park.

2 p.m., stationary radar detail, Pleasant View Ridge Rd.

3:15 p.m., keys locked in vehicle, Killdeer Point Rd.

3:35 p.m., traffic stop, Alder Park Rd., warning for speed.

SEPTEMBER 23:

10:27 a.m., residence alarm, Sunset Lane.

11:10 a.m., check of South China boat launch.

12:10 p.m., check of Thurston Park.

12:50 p.m., traffic stop, Lakeview Dr., warning for speed.

1:10 p.m., business check, Windsor Rd.

1:30 p.m., traffic stop, Windsor Rd., warning for speed.

SEPTEMBER 29:

Excessive acceleration complaint, Alder Park Rd.

SEPTEMBER 30:

12:20 p.m., stationary radar detail, Alder Park Rd.

1 p.m., assist China Fire Dept., near Branch Pond.

5 p.m., assist homeowner with grass fire, Lakeview Dr.

Emergency services discussed by China residents; MacFarland elected board chairman

by Mary Grow

Discussion of emergency services stipends at the Nov. 13 China selectmen’s meeting led to discussion of related issues: recent legislation, a new local requirement and how to make sure residents are safe during power outages and other emergencies.

In March, town meeting voters appropriated up to $40,000 to compensate China fire and rescue volunteers for their time. Selectmen approved a plan developed by the three fire departments and China Rescue providing fixed stipends for officers and per-call stipends for other volunteers.

At the Nov. 13 meeting, Fred Glidden, treasurer of the South China volunteer fire department, presented a draft requisition form he proposed to request the stipends for the first half of the fiscal year. Weeks Mills department spokesman David Van Wickler said his department could use the same form; China Village was not represented. Selectmen unanimously approved submission of forms – China Village officers are not obliged to match South China’s – by Nov. 30 and June 30 of each year the stipend program continues.

South China Chief Richard Morse started discussion of LD 150, a new state law presented by state Representative and China Village Fire Chief Tim Theriault, that allows towns to give each department its voter-approved annual funding in a lump sum. Until now, fire and rescue bills have gone through the town books with the town paying bills for the departments from each department’s funds.

In March, voters appropriated $22,000 for China Village, $21,000 for South China, $17,370 for Weeks Mills and $20,950 for China Rescue, plus money for dispatching and emergency services insurance.

Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere said the departments would need “financial reporting” if they were to get lump-sum disbursements. Morse said LD 150 requires that the appropriations, not necessarily the expenditures, be itemized.

LaVerdiere then cited the local requirement approved by voters in November that “all nonprofit organizations” receiving town funds provide “their most current respective financial statements” in order to be considered for funding. China’s emergency services are nonprofit organizations.

Morse, Selectman Irene Belanger and resident Lynne O’Connor were dismayed to realize that the requirement applies to the emergency services – they had assumed it applied only to out-of-town nonprofits like the Red Cross.

Morse and Van Wickler feared they would be asked for additional and more detailed bookkeeping. China Rescue spokesman David Herard said there have been 289 rescue calls since the beginning of 2017 – he has enough to do keeping those records without adding financial reporting.

LaVerdiere said repeatedly he had in mind a simple single-page report that would let selectmen fulfill their responsibility to oversee expenditures of town funds. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said whatever was done would have to satisfy the town’s auditors.

Selectmen postponed further discussion until they talk with Theriault about his intention when he proposed the state law and perhaps until they get legal advice.

While the firefighters were there, Selectman Neil Farrington asked if they could do wellness checks, making sure people living alone, the elderly and residents with medical needs are all right during major storms, power outages and the like.

Van Wickler and Morse said firefighters are not qualified, especially to interpret medical conditions. Van Wickler said while clearing roads after the windstorm he visited a couple people he knew were alone.

L’Heureux said the town’s health nurse can make wellness checks in some cases. Belanger added the China for a Lifetime Committee is working on the issue, tentatively considering a program of neighbors looking out for neighbors.

In other business Nov. 13, L’Heureux said the town’s plan to buy part of Susan Bailey’s property at the head of China Lake’s east basin to provide parking for the boat launch was stalled, because the lot cannot be separated from her larger property on the east side of Route 202. The Four Seasons Club is interested in part of the east-side land for trail parking, and it could also provide space for a new China Village fire station, he said.

L’Heureux said Bailey is willing to sell all the land for $120,000. Despite concerns about wetlands and other issues, selectmen unanimously authorized him to draft a proposal that could lead to a request to voters to approve the purchase.

Belanger said China needs a second representative and a substitute to serve on the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments board. L’Heureux said a second Kennebec Regional Development Authority representative was also needed; board members unanimously appointed former selectman Ronald Breton, conditional on his accepting.

L’Heureux said about 180 residents had returned the China for a Lifetime Committee’s surveys. A committee meeting tentatively scheduled for Nov. 16 might be postponed to give time to review survey results, he said.

Selectmen elected Robert MacFarland the new board chairman on a 3-2 vote, with LaVerdiere, MacFarland and Donna Mills-Stevens the majority and Belanger and Farrington opposed. Belanger was unanimously re-elected board secretary.

Selectmen scheduled their annual visioning session for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27, before their next regular meeting.

CHINA: Belanger, MacFarland, Mills-Stevens win seats

by Mary Grow

China voters re-elected one of two incumbent selectmen, re-elected a former selectman and added a newcomer to the board in a Nov. 7 contest that featured eight candidates for three seats.

Irene Belanger and former Selectman Robert MacFarland were elected to serve two-year terms, with 595 and 490 votes respectively. Incumbent Ronald Breton received 402 votes and Frederick Glidden 370.

For a one-year position to fill out Joann Clark Austin’s term, Donna Mills-Stevens was elected with 401 votes. Wayne Chadwick got 347 votes, Ralph Howe 125 and Randall Downer 124.

In the only other contest on the ballot, Kevin Michaud defeated Stephen Hadsell for the District 1 Planning Board position, by a vote of 625 to 269. Michaud succeeds James Wilkens, who, like Austin, is retiring. Three local referendum questions were approved, as follows:

  • Authorization to spend up to $8,500 for a fire pond on Neck Road, 784 yes, 335 no.
  • A requirement that nonprofit organizations applying for town funds submit financial statements, 921 yes, 197 no.
  • Authorization to lease space on the town telecommunications tower behind the town office, 957 yes, 160 no.

Budget Committee Chairman Robert Batteese and District 1 representative Kevin Maroon were re-elected without opposition. Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood will announce results of write-in votes for Planning Board District 3, Planning Board alternate member and Budget Committee District 3 soon.

China Town employees get a new health plan

by Mary Grow

Their meeting twice rescheduled due to lack of power, China selectmen finally connected with two health insurance experts at a Nov. 1 meeting that was also attended by town employees.

China employees, like those in many other Maine towns and cities, are insured by the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust, a nonprofit affiliate of the Maine Municipal Association. According to Director of Health Trust Services Anne Wright, they have the best of the five insurance plans offered.

At the instigation of board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere, selectmen invited a representative of F. A. Peabody Company, an insurance broker, to talk about private insurance plans.

Max Lynds, vice president for Life and Benefits in Peabody’s Houlton office, said up front he could not duplicate the current policy with no deductible and low co-pays. However, LaVerdiere said, if a different policy cost employees more the town could reimburse them and still save enough on premiums to come out ahead.

An hour-long blizzard of facts and figures followed – co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, health reimbursement accounts, health savings accounts, drug benefits, diagnostic benefits, primary care providers, specialists, in-network, out-of-network, individual rates, couples rates, family rates. After the presentations and questions, selectmen considered town employees’ health insurance in an executive session. After that, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux reported, they voted to switch to the Health Trust’s POS (Point of Service) 200 plan. L’Heureux estimated future savings to taxpayers at about $23,000 a year. Asked the effect on taxes on a $100,000 house, he replied the homeowner would save about $5.

There is a general expectation that rates will increase in 2018. L’Heureux said during the discussion that Health Trust rates are likely to increase from two to six percent, private group plans from 15 to 18 percent and individual rates by even more. Neither Lynds nor Wright contradicted his figures. The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Nov. 13. L’Heureux said the agenda includes a review with China’s emergency service providers of the stipends voters approved at the March town business meeting.

Planning board continues review of definitions

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members continued reviewing the definitions section of the land use ordinance at their Oct. 24 meeting, going through the third and fourth letters of the alphabet.

Retiring Chairman James Wilkens again shared definitions from four other Maine town for comparison. Fairfield, Readfield, Windham and Winthrop all list definitions that are not in the China ordinance – “communications tower” and “demolition,” for example; and China’s ordinance includes definitions not found in the other four ordinances, like “condominium” and “conversion.”

“Campground” generated considerable discussion, with board members distinguishing among public campgrounds that charge a fee, private campgrounds where landowners let visiting friends and relatives park recreational vehicles and storage areas where people keep their campers when they’re not in use.

Board members found most of the definitions satisfactory. A few need to be updated or perhaps revised after board members look more closely at where the terms are used in the ordinance.

Resident Linda O’Connor proposed they reconsider their two-weeks’-ago discussion of whether a definition of “Airbandb” should be added, since to her the term means a marketing or advertising system, not a physical property. Board members agreed with her view.

At the end of the meeting, the other board members thanked Wilkens for his 13 years of service on the board. Wilkens thanked them for making the job pleasant and secretary Tracy Cunningham for her excellent minutes.

The next planning board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Nov. 14. On November 7, China will voters will choose between two candidates for the District 1 Planning Board seat that Wilkens is leaving, Steven Hadsell and Kevin Michaud.

There are no names on the ballot for the District 3 seat currently held by Milton Dudley or the alternate position elected from the town at large and currently held by Ralph Howe. Dudley has said he is running as a write-in candidate. Howe is on the ballot as a candidate for the one-year term on the Board of Selectmen.

China’s polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 7 in the portable classroom behind the town office on Lakeview Drive.

China voters to decide RSU #18 bond issue

by Mary Grow

Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 officials are presenting voters in the five member towns – Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney – with a $13.9 million bond issue that they hope will be approved at the polls Nov. 7.

Voters in China also have local elections and three local referendum questions, including one asking approval to spend money.

At the first of a series of hearings on the bond issue, on Oct. 23 at China Primary School, RSU #18 Superintendent (and former China principal) Carl Gartley explained what the bond money would be used for. About $10 million will be spent to repair and update school buildings; $3.9 million will help build a new athletic complex at Messalonskee High School in Oakland.

A Facilities Committee composed of community members, RSU staff and the state Fire Marshal recommended funding priorities, Gartley said. The two China schools are slated to get almost $2.4 million worth of work, mostly at the older China Middle School.

Gartley said the committee’s tasks included catching up on work postponed after the 2008 financial downturn, emphasizing safety and looking toward future needs. Since 2010, he said, state funding has decreased and voters continue to resist local tax increases. As a result, in the last eight years China’s school budget has gone up by 6.61 percent, or an average of 0.83 percent per year, not enough to keep up with rising prices. Building maintenance has suffered, despite the RSU applying for and receiving loans from the state’s revolving loan fund.

Proposed improvements at China Middle School include a reorganization and expansion of the gymnasium, a new boiler, a new Americans with Disabilities Act compliant back entrance, paving and interior and exterior lighting upgrades.

China Primary School is slated to get roof repairs to stop leaks, a generator for the boiler room and paving and lighting. Modern lights should reduce costs, Gartley added.

Gartley calculated the cost of the bond in terms of additional taxes on a China house valued at $100,000: $49.10 a year, or $4.09 a month, averaged over the life of the bond.

The Messalonskee athletic complex is needed, Gartley said, because the current facility lacks handicapped access and other amenities. He emphasized that the complex would be for youth sports, gym and health classes and community use, not just for high-school sports teams.

China’s three local ballot questions ask voters if they approve:

  • Spending up to $8,500 from surplus to build a fire pond off Neck Road;
  • Requiring nonprofit organizations seeking town funds to provide a current financial statement in order to have their requests considered by selectmen and the budget committee; and
  • Authorizing selectmen to rent out space on the town’s communications tower behind the town office.

The proposed fire pond would be an enlargement of an existing pond just south of the intersection of Neck and Stanley Hill roads, with permission of the two landowners involved. The project would include an area for fire trucks to load water.

During selectmen’s discussions of the questions, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said many of the nonprofit groups who seek town support already provide the information that would be required if voters approve the second question.

The town’s tower might be competing with privately-owned area towers. People said, however, that companies seeking to rent tower space look primarily for a location that meets their needs; so the town tower would be requested when no other was as suitable. Selectmen have not talked about criteria for choosing tower users or fees to charge.

Selectmen and the budget committee recommend voters approve all three questions. China polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 7 in the former portable classroom behind the town office.