TIF meeting rescheduled

China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee canceled the meeting scheduled for Oct. 10. The committee’s next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday evening, Nov. 9, in the town office. Updated plans for improved boating and fishing access at the head of China Lake’s east basin will be a major agenda agenda item. A question on China’s Nov. 8 local ballot asks voters to appropriate funds to buy a parcel of land as part of the project.

Selectmen take no action on potential senior services

by Mary Grow

China selectmen continued to talk about potential services for senior citizens at their Oct. 3 meeting, while agreeing they could take no action until they see whether voters support their Nov. 8 request for $3,800 to fund a survey of senior residents’ needs. Board members Joann Austin and Neil Farrington reported briefly on a Maine Council on Aging conference they attended, sparking a discussion of possible senior housing or medical amenities China might develop.

Austin doubts a town as small as China would appeal to a commercial developer of elderly housing. However, she said, a representative of Volunteers of America, an organization that has two assisted living facilities in northern Massachusetts (but according to its website, none in Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont) expressed interest in talking with China selectmen and looking at the Fairpoint building on Route 3. Farrington has suggested the Fairpoint building could house a medical center, a day care for children and the elderly or both.

China officials are also discussing with Vassalboro officials provision of bus transportation for residents of both towns.

In other business Oct. 3, board members appointed two Palermo representatives, Cheryl York and Dwain McKenney, to the Transfer Station Committee. Palermo will begin using China’s transfer station in January 2017.

Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee has already spent “a few thousand” dollars of the up-to-$50,000 authorized at the March town meeting on planning and engineering costs associated with planned recreational development at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

He asked for and got from the selectmen approval to approve continued spending as engineer Mark McCluskey of A. E. Hodson organizes a meeting with state Department of Environ­mental Protection staff to discuss issues involved in applying for a permit for the work.

China voters are asked to express their views on this issue on Nov. 8, too. One ballot question asks voters to approve an expenditure of up to $12,000 to acquire a parcel of land for parking, as part of the plan; and proposed amendments to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance include a change that would clear the way for the proposed fishing platforms over China Lake. Representatives of the State Police and Kennebec County Sheriff’s department attended the meeting to suggest additional ways to deal with mischief and nuisances on China’s back roads.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is the evening of Oct. 17. It will be held at China Middle School and will be preceded by a 6 p.m. public hearing on the Nov. 8 local ballot questions.

China Village postmaster retires after 32-year career

by Mary Grow
Priscilla Adams

Priscilla Adams, China Village postmaster, has retired following a 32-year career with the U.S. Postal Service. Contributed photo

Priscilla Adams ended her 32-year career with the United States Postal Service Sept. 30. Her last day as China Village Postmaster was followed Oct. 1 by a retirement party organized by her husband Scott that gave another 100 or so friends and relatives a chance to wish her happiness.

Retirement is bittersweet, Adams said. She looks forward to time for herself, to work in her garden and to take day trips, starting with the Fryeburg Fair Oct. 3. She expects to watch more of her grandsons’ basketball games in southern Maine – and, she said happily, “If it’s a blizzard out and I don’t feel like coming home, I don’t have to.”

On the other hand, she’ll miss the people who enlivened her days behind the post office counter, miss the long talks and listening to people’s stories and problems.

Adams was appointed China Village Postmaster on February 1, 1997. Before that, she worked as PMR (Postmaster Relief, postal-speak for substitute) and sometimes Officer in Charge at other area post offices.

The worst part of her career, she said, has been going through so many changes, which have been difficult for employees and sometimes for customers, like the introduction in 2001 of the E911 system that changed the name and the box numbers in what’s now the China Village post office.
Adams has seen the switch from a manual typewriter to a computer, from a fan scale to an electric scale, from stamps that had to be licked to self-adhesive stamps, from any stamps at all to a postage meter.

She’s watched the price of stamps, box rentals and other services go up – and this February had the rare opportunity to see them go down a bit, for the first time, she believes, since the 1940s.
Two or three years ago, when the Postal Service cut back hours in many post offices, including China Village, there was a rumor that the China Village office would be eliminated when Adams retired.

Just a rumor, Adams is quite sure – the office is valuable not only to its 225 boxholders and other China residents, but to people from surrounding towns where post office window hours are shorter or less convenient.

Adams’ duties, official and unofficial, have included distributing mail and selling stamps, keeping the building clean, collecting lost items, putting up posters for lost pets and helping start people’s cars.

“It’s been a great working experience,” she summarized. “I like helping out people. There’ve been good times and bad times, ups and downs, but I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Becky Tesseo, who also works part-time at the post office in South China, has taken over the China Village office until a new postmaster can be found. Tesseo doesn’t know how long she’ll be in the north end of town – maybe a month, she said.

As Priscilla Adams’ retirement party wound down Oct. 1 in the China Baptist Church Vestry Fellowship Hall, people began assembling in the adjacent church for the funeral of Eleanor Foster, Postmaster from 1956 until 1982, when she retired and Joyce Whitney was appointed. Foster died Sept. 19 at the age of 96.

Foster and her husband Bill lived next door to the post office while Foster worked there and for many years afterwards. Adams said for the first few months of her tenure, they had a standing joke: she would ask Foster, “Do you want to be my PMR?”

Foster would pretend to consider for a moment before replying, “No thanks.”

Erskine announces virtual food drive

As part of the recently announced School Spirit Challenge, Erskine Academy has announced access to a virtual food drive.  Interested parties are encouraged to visit https://www.gsfb.org/donate/vfd/550 to “shop” online for food products or to make a financial donation to Good Shepherd on behalf of Erskine Academy.  Virtual contributions made by October 28, 2016, will be applied towards Erskine Academy’s competition with seven other Maine high schools vying to become School Spirit Champion.

For competition purposes, every dollar sent – virtually, by mail, or brought to the school – is “weighed” as five pounds of food.  More importantly, Good Shepherd’s ability to purchase food wholesale assures that every dollar raised buys five pounds of food.  Therefore, every gift received is leveraged for maximum benefit.  Those residing in the vicinity of Erskine Academy are encouraged to participate in the school’s “Fill the Bus!” campaign by donating redeemable cans and bottles through October 14. Bottles and cans can be dropped off by the bus on the school’s front lawn and will be added to the food and fund campaign.

China slate of officers released for Nov. 8

by Mary Grow

China voters will choose among seven candidates for three positions on the Board of Selectmen at Nov. 8 local elections.

For other town boards, there are no contests and one empty line on the ballot, for Budget Committee secretary.

Candidates for selectmen, in alphabetical order as listed on the draft ballot, are Albert Althenn, Joann Austin (incumbent), Wayne Chadwick, Neil Farrington (incumbent), Jeffrey LaVerdiere, Robert MacFarland (incumbent) and Raymond Robert.

Running without opposition are incumbent planning board members Toni Wall (District 2), Thomas Miragliuolo (District 4) and Frank Soares (member at large); incumbent budget committee members Thomas Rumpf (District 2) and Timothy Basham (District 4) and potential new member Valerie Baker (member at large); and Dawn Castner for representative on the Regional School Unit #18 board of directors.   If elected, Baker and Castner will succeed Jonathan Vogel and Robert Bennett, respectively.

China polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the former portable classroom beside the town office on Lakeview Drive.

China: Public hearing set on events center application

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have scheduled an Oct. 11 public hearing on Parris and Catherine Varney’s application to use the barn on their property at 701 Neck Road for weddings and other events.

The board’s initial discussion of the application at their Sept. 27 meeting drew an audience of a dozen neighbors.  Board member James Wilkens, who lives across the road from the Varney property, asked questions but abstained from voting.

Planning Board Chairman Frank Soares said two neighbors had written to the board expressing concerns about traffic and other issues.

The Varneys said they intend to rent out the barn, with hired caterers, music (either a disc jockey or a band) and a bar.  Most events would be entirely inside the barn, unless a couple wanted to exchange vows outside under a tent.  There would not be outdoor music or speakers, they said.

They intend to rent portable toilets that will be behind the barn, not visible from Neck Road. Parking will be off the road in a field behind the barn.  They seek permission to host events seven days a week and to run them until 11 p.m.

Parris Varney said the barn had been used in June for his daughter’s wedding, which he estimated brought almost 150 guests. He said he had not yet talked with the state fire marshal or local fire and rescue personnel.  Board member Toni Wall asked him to ask someone from the China Village fire department to check the property for adequate access for emergency vehicles before the Oct. 11 hearing.

Of the two other applications on the planning board’s Sept. 27 agenda, one was quickly approved and one was postponed because it was incomplete.

Edwin and Tammy Bailey received approval to replace the 50-year-old building that houses their Route 3 redemption center with a new single-story building – “just a box,” Edwin Bailey said – on the same foundation.  They do not intend any changes in the business or business hours, plumbing, landscaping or anything else planning board members saw as impacting neighbors or the environment.

Dylan Fortin’s after-the-fact application for an auto repair and towing business at his house at 427 Pleasant View Ridge Road lacked required information, so Soares returned it to him to complete before Oct. 11. Codes Officer Paul Mitnik got in touch with Fortin after receiving a complaint about an unlicensed business.  Fortin immediately came to his office and began the application process, Mitnik said.

Fortin said he had been doing auto repairs part-time for about two months and intended to apply for a permit, but “Paul got to me before I got to him.”

TIF committee continues recreational plan for head of lake (China)

by Mary Grow

Five members of China TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee continued discussion of plans to improve recreational access at the head of China Lake’s east basin at their Sept. 26 meeting.

Engineer Mark McCluskey of A. E. Hodsdon presented updated cost estimates that include:

•  $387,500 to build a bulkhead and fishing platforms along the lake side of the causeway, expand parking and add erosion control measures, making the area safer for boaters and fishermen;
• $350,000 to replace the deteriorating bridge across the inlet with a new bridge including a sidewalk;
•  $585,600 to build a new fire station for the China Village Volunteer Fire Department, which has no room to expand its present building just west of the head of the lake; and
•  $210,000 for miscellaneous costs, including engineering, legal and permit fees.

Committee members unanimously endorsed the idea of a new bridge.  McCluskey said the traffic lanes could not be widened much without significant environmental impacts.  As planned, he said, the work will require an application to the state Department of Environmental Protection; he offered to schedule a pre-submission meeting with DEP staff as soon as possible.

Residents near the causeway are to be invited to a meeting to hear about project plans, either the meeting with DEP staff or a separate TIF Committee meeting.  No definite dates were fixed until McCluskey reports back.

The first step in the committee plan for the causeway project is acquisition of a six-acre lot across Causeway Street from the boat landing.  A Nov. 8 local ballot question asks voters to appropriate $10,000 from the TIF account for the purchase.

Landowner Susan Bailey has been reluctant to sell at that price, but at the TIF meeting Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said she might have changed her position.

Committee members talked briefly about two other issues, but with two members absent made no decisions.

First was the possible acquisition of the former Fairpoint building on Route 3. L’Heureux had an email from South China resident Rick Fischer asking if the idea had been abandoned.  Committee Chairman Amber McAlister said no, just postponed.

Selectman Neil Farrington, in the audience Sept. 26, urged the committee to recommend buying it.  His vision is a daycare that would serve both children and senior citizens; others suggested other uses for the large story-and-a-half building.

The issue of lake access has been on the committee’s agenda for several meetings.  It was agreed that Irene Belanger, who is a selectman and a TIF Committee member, will ask the Board of Selectmen to create a new lake access committee.

A prior lake access committee recommended acquiring the former Candlewood property on the east shore of China Lake, but voters rejected the plan.   At that time no TIF money was available.

TIF funds are taxes paid by Central Maine Power Company on its expanded power line through China; by state law the money must be used for economic development, including recreational development.   A new China Village fire station is probably not eligible for TIF funds, according to the Sept. 26 discussion.

In addition to the request for $10,000 for the land at the head of the lake, the Nov. 8 ballot includes a request for $50,000 in TIF money for recreational trail maintenance.  A public hearing on local ballot questions is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17.

Selectmen add 14th item to November 8 ballot (China)

by Mary Grow

China selectmen have added a 14th article to the warrant for the Nov. 8 local election (for a summary of the first 13, please see The Town Line, Sept. 22 , p. 6 ).

At a special meeting Sept. 22, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said the board voted unanimously (with Neil Farrington absent) to ask voters to appropriate from the Development Program Fund $10,000 to purchase land at the head of China Lake’s east basin across Causeway Street from the boat landing.

The Development Program Fund is fed by tax revenue from the expanded Central Maine Power Company line, money set aside in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan and spent by voters on recommendation of a TIF Committee and the selectmen.      The proposed purchase is a preliminary step in the committee’s plan to expand water access at the head of the lake to make it safer for fishing and boat launching.  The committee has had an engineer study the area; future additional steps include providing fishing platforms over the water connected by a trail, additional parking and runoff control measures.

The land the committee is asking voters to buy is owned by Susan Bailey, with whom L’Heureux has been negotiating a sale price.  He said Bailey continues to ask for more than $10,000.  The parcel, which is mostly wetland, is assessed at $1,700, according to discussion at selectmen’s and TIF Committee meetings.

The special selectmen’s meeting was followed by a budget committee meeting at which L’Heureux said the committee recommended voters approve all but one of the seven monetary articles on the Nov. 8 ballot.      The manager said the committee unanimously recommended approval of three items: spending $12,000 from surplus to buy land behind the town office off Alder Park Road; appropriating $50,000 from TIF funds for recreational-trail maintenance; and buying the Bailey property.  Six members supported putting Palermo’s annual transfer station payment in a new transfer station capital fund; taking $3,800 from surplus to assess senior citizens needs; and adding $5,000 to the police budget.

Only three members supported the manager’s request to move $100,000 from surplus to the capital equipment and repair reserve fund, with three opposed and one abstaining, L’Heureux said.  The main objection was concern about reducing the undesignated surplus below the committee’s target level.

Selectmen voiced a similar concern at their regular meeting Sept. 19.  L’Heureux told them that in the eyes of bond rating agencies, moving the $100,000 from one account to another would not affect the town’s credit rating.

Selectmen have scheduled a public hearing on the Nov. 8 questions for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at China Middle School if the all-purpose room is available.  The next regular selectmen’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3.

Selectmen create 13-item local ballot for November election

by Mary Grow

At their Sept. 19 meeting, China selectmen created a 13-item ballot for local voters Nov. 8.

Voting – local, state and national – will be from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 8 in the portable classroom behind the town office on Lakeview Drive.

After election of a town meeting moderator for the day, the local ballot includes elections; three proposed ordinance amendments; one proposed land acquisition by purchase and another by gift; a proposed sale to the South China Public Library; two minor proposed expenditures; and three proposed rearrangements of town money.

Signed nomination papers for local office must be returned to the town office by 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.  A list of candidates will be available the following week.

A public hearing on the rest of the ballot questions is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17.  It will be held at China Middle School if the multi-purpose room is available.

The China Budget Committee will meet Thursday, Sept. 22, to make recommendations on proposed spending and fund transfers.

The third and fourth articles on the ballot ask voters to approve amendments to China’s Solid Waste Flow Control Ordinance and Solid Waste Disposal Ordinance.  The major Solid Waste Disposal Ordinance change is in the transfer station hours: if voters approve the amended ordinance, the transfer station will be open Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  The goal is to eliminate the long stretch between Saturday and Wednesday that now occurs when Monday is a holiday.

Selectmen decided the amended ordinance, if approved, would become effective Nov. 25, to give time to inform local residents that Wednesday is no longer a transfer station day.

Changes to the Flow Control Ordinance, according to Transfer Station Committee Chairman Frank Soares, are intended to make the ordinances conform to China’s actual practices.

The Land Use Ordinance changes are extensive; the draft revised ordinance runs 75 pages, plus a separate section on definitions.  Planning board members made two main points as they worked on proposed changes: the new ordinance conforms to revised state standards, and in general it is more lenient, especially with regard to shoreland use, than the current ordinance.

Major areas that would change if voters approve include standards for enlarging non-conforming buildings (those that do not meet current requirements) within 100 feet of a water body; rules for converting from seasonal to year-round use, which would become state rules, current and future; rules governing signs; and timber harvesting regulations.

A summary of the changes, prepared by Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, is on the town web site, under the heading “Election Information.”

The land selectmen recommend buying is a 6.2 acre lot adjoining the town office lot.  Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said it is valued at $21,000; Article 6 asks voters to appropriate $12,000 for it, an agreed price.      Four selectmen voted to put the question on the ballot, with Ronald Breton opposed.  Board Chairman Robert MacFarland saw no need to buy the lot, but thought voters should decide.  Joann Austin sees the additional land as providing flexibility for future town needs.

The vote to recommend voters accept almost 40 acres off Lakeview Drive offered by Wachusetts Properties was unanimous.  The area is currently an undeveloped subdivision, on the east side of the road; resident Wayne Chadwick said most of it is wetland.  Selectmen see it as a potential site for a new China Village fire station, or as land they can sell in the future.

Art. 8 asks voters to put the $18,000 a year the Town of Palermo will contribute for use of China’s transfer station into a reserve fund for transfer station equipment replacement and similar purposes.

The first of two fund requests is for $3,800 “to conduct a community needs assessment relating to the understanding of the challenges facing older residents as they age in China.”   The project is a follow-up to the demographic survey done this summer for $500.

The second, in Art. 10, asks voters to appropriate an additional $5,000 for police services.  L’Heureux said the request is a response to what seems to be an increase in vandalism and other minor but annoying offenses in town.

Article 11 proposes transferring $100,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance, once known as surplus, to the capital and equipment reserve account where it can be used for major purchases in an emergency, like a truck breaking down or, L’Heureux suggested, a roof collapsing.  The manager said the change would not affect China’s credit rating.

The proposed gift to the South China Library is the portable classroom the town bought from the school department this summer.  The recipients would be expected to reimburse the town for the $1 the building cost and moving expenses.

There was disagreement over whether the idea originated with library trustees or selectmen, but agreement that library officials might want to relocate the building to their newly-acquired South China property.

The draft article was amended to give library officials 60 days after the vote to accept the building, assuming the article passes.  Austin voted against putting the item on the ballot, having expressed opposition to the time limit and suggested other potential uses for the building.

The final article, recommended by the Tax Increment Financing Committee, asks voters to appropriate $50,000 from the TIF account for repair and maintenance of Four Seasons Club trails along the Central Maine Power Company line in China.  During TIF Committee discussions, club president Soares said the trails are all-season and all-purpose.

The China Budget Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m., Thursday Sept. 22, to make recommendations on proposed spending and fund transfers

Letters to the editor, Week of September 22, 2016

Responds to letters

To the editor:

To the folks of China, I am from away – all the way from Winthrop. Living there until I graduated from Winthrop High and then I was off to the Marines.   I’ve lived in other areas of Maine and also, for five years, in Nevada, North Carolina and California.  Call that ‘from away’ if you want.

I do want change in China.  I was one of the more adamant supporters of purchasing the Cabins property, as I know from experience (Winthrop) what it means to a kid and a family to have access to a beach and lake, year-round.  I had the best childhood, greatly, because of time on the beach/lake.

I moved to China six years ago because of the lake.  I wanted my grandkids to have the same wonderful experiences I had in Winthrop and we’ve been well-blessed they are here frequently.  The town ultimately decided not to purchase The Cabins for about $550,000, which I believe was from bad/false information passed around town.  I was told the property just appraised for $1.3 million.  I know our town could have made great use of the property and it was shame to see it slip away.  Just one cabin recently sold for $145,000.

Also, I started my own nonprofit to try and acquire The Cabins property, privately.  I wanted Hannaford, FairPoint, TimeWarner, etc…  to sponsor weeks for autistic children, survivors of domestic abuse, Wounded Warriors, etc… and more important to me – to give free weeks to less-fortunate families from the Harold Alfond Cancer Center or Center for Grieving Children , providing a week of ‘Life on China Lake’ so they could enjoy a week with those they loved, before they were too sick.   I couldn’t make it go, but I’m pleased that at least I did try to do something for my community.

As a member of the China Volunteer Fire Department, I secured a $46,000 grant for new air packs (instead of it coming out of your taxes). Trust me when I say there are some really fine people, with whom I’m proud to be associated, on China Fire/Rescue.  They give their time to protect and serve the people in this town, without reward.

I often go to selectmen’s meetings because I’m interested in what’s happening in town, and I think more folks should attend and offer their support of the board member’s endeavors.   I’m on several committees because I want to do my part in making China a better place to live.  Having lived and experienced other places, I hope to help bring a few good experiences to town.

We have $5 million in TIF money to spend in 20 years and I would like to see the town do something ambitious, that the majority of voters can support.  The TIF committee would love to hear suggestions from the people in town.  Anyone can email, call or visit the town office with your suggestions or better yet, come to a TIF meeting and share your thoughts.

My suggestion of shops and a place for folks to retire is simply a suggestion, but I feel will make China a better, friendlier place to live and also help with our ever-increasing taxes – similar to how Hannaford is a  wonderful addition to our community.  Really, nothing stays the same and we can purposely put something in place that benefits people or – live with what someone else puts in place, which we may not want at all.  Try stopping Irving/Circle K.

Frankly, I like to think I’ve been doing my part for China since I moved here, when many aren’t.  Sadly, while China calls itself, ‘The friendliest town in Maine,’ I can’t say that I’ve always found that to be true – especially in the pages of The Town Line.

Dale Worster

Ben Twitchell Will Get Things Done

To the editor:

I’ve known Ben for many years and I respect him. He’s a great family man and a generous neighbor. He’s been attentive and works hard in our community as a Winslow Town Councilor. Additionally, he’s a person who’s always willing to help neighbors in need.

Ben is a friendly person. As a representative he’ll listen to the concerns, and be active for the citizens he represents. People need to know that their representative is there for them.

A subject that’s very important to me is the terrible drug problem that claims the lives and effects many families within our communities. Ben promises that finding a solution to this growing problem will be a top priority.

We need a representative who will represent all citizens. He wants to make a difference working for us in Augusta. I know he’ll work hard. That’s what Ben does!

Please vote Ben Twitchell,  state representative for Winslow and part of Benton

Linda Lemieux

Think before you speak

To the editor:

I must preface this letter by first saying, in my opinion, Governor Paul LePage is not a racist but an honorable man who has and will continue to serve Maine.

Yes, he is provocative but also says what many Mainers and Americans think, but due to political correctness, are afraid to speak.

An old friend of the Marine Corps and my mentor, who years later signed my teaching certificate, once told me to read certain scriptures. With that in mind, I now relate my friend’s advice.

Dear governor, please read Proverbs 13:3: “Those who control their tongue will have a long life. Opening your mouth can ruin everything.” My friend added, “When we speak, we do well to pause a moment to think, sometimes even pray first.”

Frank Slason