China Budget Committee members have endorsed one of the selectmen’s two proposed June expenditures, by a split vote, and unanimously advised voters to disapprove the other.
At their April 9 meeting, Town Manager Dennis Heath presented the questions approved by selectmen for a June 11 written-ballot vote:
- To see if voters will authorize the selectmen to buy the Hall lot on Lakeview Drive abutting the Four Seasons Club lot “for public lake access,” using $125,000 from the lake access reserve fund and $25,000 in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds and;
- To see if voters will authorize spending up to $25,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance (surplus) “to contract for the engineering and costing of a consolidated emergency services building and a community building.”
Four of the six budget committee members voted to recommend approval of the lakefront property purchase. Wayne Chadwick and Kevin Maroon were opposed; Chairman Robert Batteese, Timothy Basham, Jeffery Furlong and Thomas Rumpf voted in favor.
Chadwick’s main objection was the difficulty of policing and protecting an isolated area invisible from the highway. He pointed out that other towns have closed similar facilities because of vandalism and misuse. Also, he said, town ownership takes the property off the tax rolls; and he wondered whether the state Department of Transportation would authorize a new driveway entrance onto Lakeview Drive.
Much of the discussion was over the relationship of the new proposed beach to the existing boat landing at the head of the lake, where the town is in process of acquiring ownership of the unofficial parking area. Heath said state officials have agreed to maintain the landing for another year, but do not approve of the unprotected location and therefore want it moved.
Discussion of the second ballot question covered both a new building for the China Village Volunteer Fire Department with space for Delta Ambulance and a police office, and a community center.
Heath reminded committee members that voters have already spent $5,000 for concept drawings for the buildings. The drawings are on the town website, the first item under “News.”
The June request would be for engineering – not to build either building, but to prepare cost estimates for building, the manager said.
There has been ongoing discussion of moving the China Village fire station, partly for more space for future expansion and partly to let the China Baptist Church, its neighbor to the east, turn the lot where the station now stands into parking. The present church parking lot closer to the causeway and boat landing would then be available for boaters’ parking.
China’s three fire chiefs were in the audience. They said an original proposal to relocate the station got expanded beyond their wishes when “one of the selectmen” (China Village Fire Chief Timothy Theriault’s words) started talking about a municipal fire department.
“We’re completely against that,” Theriault said. “It’s not going to be beneficial to the town.”
Weeks Mills Fire Chief William Van Wickler said if the boat landing won’t be used much longer, additional parking won’t be needed and nobody will have to spend several hundred thousand dollars for a new fire station.
“I don’t want to do Tim [Theriault] out of a nice building,” he continued, but he thinks a new station isn’t necessary.
Heath said China’s comprehensive plan calls for a community center. He envisions a single-story building that would accommodate a couple hundred people, larger than any present gathering room except the Middle School gymnasium and the Baptist Conference Center.
“We have halls all over this town,” Chadwick said, announcing himself opposed to the project and generally in favor of smaller government.
Additional locations, like the town-owned lot south of the town office where the red storage barn stands or some other property near the head of the lake, were suggested for either building, but budget committee members were still not persuaded to support the investment.
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