CHINA: Decisions on new excavator, Saturday hours postponed

by Mary Grow

China selectmen made several decisions at their June 24 meeting, the last in the current fiscal year, but postponed action on the two longest-discussed questions, whether to buy an excavator and whether to eliminate Saturday town office hours.

At their June 10 meeting, Board members re-reviewed bids for equipment for summer road work and voted to rent an excavator, as needed, from local contractor Wayne Chadwick. Public Works Manager Shawn Reed encouraged them to consider buying an excavator instead, saying it would save money and make scheduling jobs easier. (See The Town Line, June 6 and June 13.)

Reed and Board members discussed the topic again June 24. Reed said he had done “a ton of negotiating” with seven dealers and recommended a 119-horsepower Volvo from Chadwick-BaRoss, a dealer with offices in Westbrook, Bangor and Caribou.

Town Manager Dennis Heath calculated savings at $85,000, counting paying for the machine, over 10 years and more than $300,000 over 20 years. Reed said several of the town crew are qualified to run an excavator, though probably not as skillfully as Chadwick or Robin Tobey, another local contractor.

Selectmen again postponed action.

They also postponed a decision on whether and if so how to change town office hours, specifically by eliminating the three hours on Saturday and extending hours one or more other days.

Heath shared results of the survey run from May 31 through June 21 asking people questions like whether they used the town office on Saturday and if so, why; and if office hours were to be extended to 6 p.m. at least one day a week, which day would be most convenient.

The manager said as far as he knows, China’s 45.5 hours a week are the longest in the area, and no other nearby office is open Saturdays.

Staff member Kelly Grotton said she and three of her four colleagues take turns working Saturday mornings; Town Clerk Becky Hapgood is not included in the rotation. No one minds swapping a week-day for a Saturday, she said, but there are two disadvantages. When someone is off on a week-day, the office may be short-staffed, so that everyone is at the counter or on the telephone and putting off other work, like Grotton’s assessing assignments; and on Saturdays state offices, necessary for many tasks from motor vehicle registrations to various license renewals, are closed.

Reed said if a town office staff member is working with him on an ongoing issue, he has to remember which day she’ll not be available.

Almost everything except registering a new vehicle can be done on line, Grotton said. Survey results showed about 30 percent of respondents were not aware of that option.

Chadwick, arguing from the audience for keeping Saturday hours, said some older residents neither used a computer nor drove a car, perhaps leaving Saturday morning when someone was free to offer a ride as their only chance to do town office business.

Decisions selectmen did make included:

  • Authorizing Heath to spend $2,950 to buy and install the previously-approved generator at the transfer station, including a propane tank, necessary piping and other auxiliary items.
  • Voting to give money for safety vests to the Roadside Team, the group originally started by Richard Dillenbeck to pick up roadside litter. Funds will come from returnable bottles donated to the transfer station. Selectmen were also willing to let the transfer station crew pick up bags of collected litter if necessary; Board member Irene Belanger said the team has nine volunteers and she has offered the use of her truck, so maybe they can do the pick-up themselves.
  • Approving Chadwick’s $24,300 bid for about half a mile of trail work for the China Four Seasons Club. Heath said Chadwick was the only bidder. Bids for work on another trail section are due July 8, he said. In other business, Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton said the town received a $10,500 state grant for an electronic pass system (called RFID, radio-frequency identification). Grotton said China did not receive a larger grant to locate four recycling trailers around town (see The Town Line, April 25).

Later in the meeting, Selectman Ronald Breton said “the public generally” does not like having the transfer station close at 3 p.m. four of the five days it’s open and does not care that it opens at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and 6:30 a.m. Saturdays. He proposed returning to the 5 p.m. closing.

Tim Grotton said he has a lot of business early in the morning, including people waiting at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and people in their office clothes dropping off trash weekdays. Comparatively few people come in between 3 and 5 p.m. Thursdays. He expects the RFID system will provide useful information for the selectmen and the Transfer Station Committee.

Reed reported the newly-hired public works driver/mechanic won’t start until July 1, but has already looked over the garage and equipment and suggested things he can do.

Belanger said volunteers are needed for the Aug. 2-4 China Community Days celebration; those interested should call Kelly Grotton at the town office.

Heath added that the China Village volunteer fire department holds its annual chicken barbecue Saturday, July 6, starting at 11:30 a.m. at the fire station.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, July 8.


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