CHINA: Mills-Stevens to take over excavator negotiations from public works manager Reed

by Mary Grow

The proposal to buy an excavator for China’s Public Works Department that has been on the selectmen’s agendas since June 10 is scheduled to appear again on August 19, under new management.

At the selectmen’s Aug. 5 meeting, board member Donna Mills-Stevens volunteered to renegotiate the proposed purchase with Chadwick- BaRoss, believing she can get better terms than Public Works Manager Shawn Reed did. Board Chairman Robert MacFarland expects her report in two weeks.

Reed hoped selectmen would approve the $172,850 price he had negotiated, including a trailer for the tracked Volvo machine and an extended warranty. He said Chadwick-BaRoss agreed to hold the price until Dec. 1, but not to guarantee the machine would not be sold to another customer while China officials debated (see The Town Line, July 25).

Mills-Stevens, a banker and co-operator of Stevens dairy farm, cited her experience in negotiating and in buying heavy equipment as she volunteered.

Selectmen rejected two other alternatives before letting Mills-Stevens take over. Ronald Breton’s motion to buy the excavator on the terms Reed presented received only Irene Belanger’s vote, with MacFarland, Breton and Jeffrey LaVerdiere opposed and Mills-Stevens unable to decide and recorded as abstaining. LaVerdiere’s motion to put the question on China’s November local ballot and let voters decide received his and Mills-Stevens’ votes, with the other three opposed.

After the final decision, Reed said he had “spent a lot of time and energy and effort on this,” trying “to do the best possible I could for the taxpayers.” His starting premise was that having a town-owned excavator instead of contracting for one would save money.

Now, he said, the selectmen could take over the project and he would focus on his other duties. Personally, he did not care what they decided; not owning an excavator would mean one less piece of equipment for which he was responsible.

On other public works topics, Reed reported most of the tools authorized to let new hire Josh Crommett do vehicle maintenance have arrived, and the work of removing beavers and their dams from the Bog Brook Road area continues.

The excavator discussion was interrupted by a parliamentary dispute. After Breton’s motion was made and seconded, Wayne Chadwick, the contractor whose excavator selectmen agreed to hire this year, asked to comment from the audience and MacFarland recognized him. Breton objected, saying by Robert’s Rules of Order audience members could participate in discussion until a motion was on the floor; then only board members could speak. Chadwick left the meeting.

When Breton returned to the topic before adjournment, Town Manager Dennis Heath said Breton was correct, and since the board adopted Robert’s Rules, members should follow them. However, he said, the rules are flexible: MacFarland could have asked the rest of the board to let Chadwick speak out of order.

Although the excavator will not – at least as of Aug. 5 – be on a Nov. 5 local ballot, selectmen accepted Heath’s recommendation that they ask voters another question: “Do they want to allow retail medical marijuana facilities in China?” The question Heath drafted asks if the current local ordinance prohibiting marijuana businesses should be amended to make an exception for medical marijuana businesses. (The single-page “Ordinance Prohibiting Retail Marijuana Establishments in China” is on the town website under “Ordinances, Policies and Orders.”)

China has one medical marijuana store, established before state law changed. Heath said it is grandfathered and would not be affected by a November vote. Under revised state laws China voters must “opt in,” that is, approve a local ordinance allowing such businesses, before any more can open. The planning board has one application on which it cannot act unless voters approve (see The Town Line, July 18).

Local elections will also be Nov. 5. Nomination papers are available at the town office for positions on the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Budget Committee and for one seat on the Regional School Unit #18 board.

In other business Aug. 5, Heath announced that Tracey Frost, China’s part-time police chief, has resigned due to lack of time. Craig Johnson, a retired Clinton police chief, will succeed Frost; Michael Tracy and Jordan Goulet will continue to serve China, Heath said.

Selectmen unanimously appointed Amber McAllister to the Tax Increment Financing Committee.

Belanger and others commented on the success of the China Days celebration August 2, 3 and 4. Heath commended the police department, and audience member Tom Michaud praised town office staff member Kelly Grotton for her well-organized management of the event.


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