Money was the theme for many of the topics at the China selectmen’s Aug. 2 meeting – quite a lot of money, much of it potentially outgoing.
The China Broadband Committee’s planned request for a bond issue of around $6 million is the biggest proposed expenditure. CBC members did not have all the information they hoped to present and were not upset when Selectboard Chairman Ronald Breton recommended postponing action to Aug. 16. (See CBC story in August 5, 2021, issue of The Town Line, page 3).
CBC member Neil Farrington briefly listed advantages of better broadband service to town residents, from students learning remotely to senior citizens using telemedicine, and to existing and future businesses.
CBC Chairman Robert O’Connor promised information to selectmen as soon as possible, to give them time to review it and, he hopes, on Aug. 16 ask voters to authorize the bond issue on Nov. 2.
On a second matter, resident Stephen Greene asked that as selectmen prepare to carry out the voter-authorized sale of a town-owned lot on Lakeview Drive, they keep him and Lindsey Harwath informed; and that they consider saving money by omitting a broker and selling directly to the People’s Park Harwath is organizing.
Residents seeking more information about the proposed People’s Park or considering supporting the project are invited to contact Lindsey Harwath. She is currently collecting monetary pledges to help buy the land. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 207-314-4850.
Harwath and others are raising funds to buy the 39.3 acres for a recreation park. In response to Breton’s questions, Greene said donors would form a nonprofit organization that would be responsible for managing and maintaining the park, with no town obligation (unless town officials offered help). Under nonprofit ownership, the land would become tax-exempt.
Selectman Janet Preston, who has supported the park idea for months, pointed out selectmen could postpone action to give Harwath’s group more fund-raising time; they could always sell later.
Selectman Wayne Chadwick favored a prompt sale “while the market’s booming,” and did not approve of nonprofit ownership that would take the property off the tax rolls.
Town Manager Becky Hapgood read the warrant article voters approved at the June 8 town meeting directing selectmen to sell the land through a licensed real estate agent. She had requested expressions of interest from 11 residents in the real estate business; two replied, one proposing a seven percent commission and the other an eight percent commission.
Breton asked Hapgood to ask the town attorney for a legal interpretation of the warrant article and to ask a realtor for an estimated market price for the land. He then encouraged a motion to postpone action until the information was available. Board members approved postponement unanimously.
Selectmen renewed the town contract with Waste Management, Inc., operators of the Crossroads Landfill, in Norridgewock, for disposal of demolition debris and bulky waste, despite hefty fee increases.
The per ton fee will increase from $62.92 to $71 for the first year of a five-year contract, with four percent increases each of the following years.
Peter Lachapelle, listed on line as the company’s Public Sector Representative, joined the selectmen virtually and said the main reason for higher fees is “a huge capacity issue driving [disposal] rates through the roof,” especially in the Northeast. Landfills are closing, and no one wants a new one in his or her backyard, he said.
In addition, his business, like others, is raising wages to attract employees and paying higher prices for materials.
Asked twice by Breton, “Can’t you do better than that?” Lachapelle said “No.”
As a city councilor in his home town of Rochester, New Hampshire, he sympathized with the selectmen’s position, he said.
Selectmen were unaware of any alternative and unanimously approved the contract, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
They also approved renewal of the roadside mowing contract with Frederick Drew’s Aggressive Cuts, LLC, of Hermon, for three years. Hapgood said the company will mow 47.29 miles of town (not state) roads, starting as soon as the weather permits. Rain flattens the grass so it can’t be mowed, she pointed out.
The vote on the mowing contract was the only non-unanimous decision of the evening. Blane Casey voted no, because he thought the board should have put the contract out for bid. Chadwick commended Drew’s company for the quality and price of the work in past years.
In other business at the Aug. 2 meeting, selectmen unanimously approved Hapgood’s recommended uses of some of the unspent funds from the fiscal year that ended June 30 to carry forward for pending expenditures or add to reserve funds. One of her recommendations is to buy more security cameras for town properties.
Assessing agent Kelly Grotton’s report, read by Hapgood, said selectmen should have the information they need to set the 2021-22 property tax rate at their Aug. 16 meeting. The preliminary indication is that for properties that have not changed in a year, land values will remain about the same and building values will increase noticeably.
As the meeting ended, Breton commended resident Scott Pierz for his service as president of the China Lake Association and the China Region Lakes Alliance. Pierz has resigned both positions because, he said, the CRLA has hired him as its new executive director, responsible for carrying out the programs he has helped create and oversee for years.
Greene is the new China Lake Association President.
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