CHINA: Decisions will impact recycling, town funding and mass communications

by Mary Grow

At their April 16 meeting, China selectmen made decisions that will impact residents and non-residents on recycling, requirements for town funds for outside agencies and a mass communications system.

The board authorized Town Manager Dennis Heath to apply to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a $38,000 recycling grant for a $58,566 three-part project, with a local match of $5,566 in cash plus labor or materials.

If the application is successful, most of the money would provide four recycling trailers, each with four bins for different materials. They would be distributed around town, one outside China Village near the causeway, one in South China, one near Tobey’s Market close to Branch Mills and one in Weeks Mills.

The manager also proposed an electronic pass system (RFID, or radio-frequency identification) to get into the transfer station. Residents, and later non-residents who have arranged to use China’s facility, would have a tag in their vehicles that would be recognized by a scanner at the gate. China would not charge for the initial tag, but if it were lost a replacement would cost $10.

A third component of the project is educational, with presentations on recycling at China schools, China Days and other appropriate venues.

Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere abstained on the vote; he supports recycling but questioned a recycling trailer at the causeway. Heath replied that it would be less unattractive than trash all over the grounds.

The change in requirements for an estimated 18 to 20 organizations that apply for town funds at the annual business meeting would ask them to prove that they are in conformity with applicable state and federal laws and regulations.

A reference to payment of stipends makes it clear that the change includes China’s volunteer fire departments. Selectmen and fire chiefs have argued for months over how stipends are distributed, how they are reported and how much say selectmen have.

By China’s April 6 town business meeting, town and fire officials had direction from the state Department of Labor. At the meeting, voters gave the fire department more than either the selectmen or the budget committee recommended, with discussion indicating the goal was to let fire departments have funds for stipends they thought necessary. (See The Town Line, April 11, p. 3.)

At the April 16 selectmen’s meeting, board member Donna Mills-Stevens said the policy revision was not aimed at “picking on” fire departments, but was intended to make sure selectmen disbursed town funds as required by law. Heath emphasized that the change applies to all entities seeking town funds, whether or not they offer stipends. Selectmen’s approval was unanimous.

In a related matter April 16, Heath said fire officials told him they would attend selectmen’s meetings to discuss pending issues if they were at the beginning of the agenda, so they would not waste time. Currently, the third agenda item, after action on the previous meeting’s minutes and bills to be paid, is titled “Department Reports,” and fire/rescue is the third report.

Selectmen agreed to move fire/rescue to the first report item. The time spent on minutes and bills varies from meeting to meeting depending on how many questions board members have.

The proposed communications system would let town officials notify residents who signed up to receive message about emergencies, meetings, events of interest and anything else they might need to know. Town meeting voters appropriated $4,000 for the system, called Hyper-Reach.

Heath asked approval to pay the first annual $3,900 fee before the new fiscal year begins so the system could be operational in July. Selectmen had no objection.

Board members also approved the manager’s proposal to use up to $3,580 from this fiscal year’s contingency fund to replace 72 town office light fixtures with LED ballasts and bulbs.

Public Works and Transfer Station representatives said the new Ventrac tractor that plowed South China sidewalks was used to sweep the transfer station yard and started sweeping sidewalks in South China, until it blew a belt. No-charge repairs were expected in about two days.

Saturday, April 27, is a drug take-back day at the transfer station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fluorescent and other bulbs for which disposal fees are charged will be accepted free that day.

According to the town website, the next selectmen’s meeting will be Monday evening, April 29.


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