CHINA: New program formed, old one scrapped

by Mary Grow

China select board members approved a new town program and scrapped an old one at their first 2023 meeting, held Tuesday evening, Jan. 3, instead of the usual Monday evening because of the New Year’s holiday.

Donald W. Pratt, of Dirigo Masonic Lodge #104 in Weeks Mills, proposed what he called a Sand for Seniors program: Masons and other volunteers would deliver winter sand from the town’s supply to senior citizens who are not comfortable lifting heavy buckets into and out of their vehicles.

Pratt had already talked with Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood, and she had consulted Maine Municipal Association attorneys and transfer station and public works heads. Pratt planned to find out whether members of Central Lodge #45, in China Village, want to participate.

The program was repeatedly described as a pilot, with details to be worked out. The tentative plan calls for volunteer sand distributors to have access to a collection of buckets – Hapgood said transfer station staff are saving cat litter pails that could be used – and a designated sandpile from which to fill them.

The program would be monitored and would run only during transfer station hours. Changes could be made as it developed – one suggestion was extending it to shut-ins and people with disabilities, regardless of age – and it would be evaluated in the spring.

Select board members unanimously approved authorizing Pratt to proceed.

They also agreed unanimously to discontinue the wooden nickel program at the transfer station. Started in 2008 or 2009 to encourage recycling, Hapgood said, the program rewarded people who recycled by giving them wooden nickels worth 20 cents toward disposal fees for items for which there is a charge.

Payment in wooden nickels does not match the contemporary receipt system; and Hapgood said very few people still use the tokens.

Board members voted to stop handing out wooden nickels as of Jan. 15 (effective Saturday, Jan. 14), and not to accept them as payment after Friday, March 31.

The Jan. 3 meeting began with presentation of plans for a storage vault as an addition to the town office, by Municipal Building Committee chairman Sheldon Goodine and Keith Whittaker of B. R. Smith Associates (BRSA) of Presque Isle. The presentation was a follow-up to discussion at the Nov. 21 select board meeting (see The Town Line, Dec. 1, p. 2).

The plan shows a small new building south of the present office, connected by a short corridor and containing a mechanical area and a masonry or concrete vault.

Roofs would slope east and west, to avoid problems shedding snow. Whittaker proposes exterior shingles and siding that would match the present building.

Discussion covered what trees would need to be cut south of the present building and a reminder about buffers and Phosphorus Control Ordinance requirements.

The vault is intended as the first phase of a two-stage addition; when town office work requires more space, the new building can be extended southward. Whittaker will get construction cost estimates for phase one.

On another issue, select board members reviewed and generally approved proposed changes to China’s Board of Appeals Ordinance, drafted by new board member Brent Chesley, as authorized at the board’s Dec. 5 meeting (see The Town Line, Dec. 8, p. 2). The Appeals Ordinance is Chapter 9 of the Land Use Ordinance; it is on the website, under Ordinances, Policies and Orders.

Suggested changes include clarifications; additions, like a schedule for submitting variance requests and for the board to act on them; and deletion of provisions Chesley said were elsewhere in the Land Use Ordinance and therefore unnecessary.

Chesley said he believes China ordinances are too strict and should not be stricter than state regulations. Fellow board member Janet Preston suggested China Lake might need extra protection.

Board members agreed to forward Chesley’s draft to planning board members for their comments before they endorse a document for public review. Agreed-upon revisions will be submitted to town meeting voters to approve or reject.

In other business:

  • Board members reviewed two bids to supply two new generators and accepted the lower, from Ideal Electric, of Winslow: $9,150 to replace the existing generator at the town office and $8,144 for a new generator for the old town house. Funds will come from China’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant.
  • Reporting for Public Works Director Shawn Reed, Hapgood said the new snow pusher, which goes on the new loader, has already been put to use and is expected to save substantial staff time; and beginning Tuesday, Jan. 10, #5 plastic will be accepted for recycling.
    (An on-line source says #5 plastic is polypropylene, or PP, and lists among its most common uses yogurt containers, cereal box liners and disposable cups, plates and cutlery.)
  • Hapgood said Kyoko Roderick is the new staff member at the China town office, with the titles of deputy clerk and deputy tax collector.

The next regular China select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, because the town office will be closed Monday, Jan. 16, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The following regular meeting will be on Jan. 30. Hapgood suggested it start at 6 p.m. to allow time to begin discussion of the 2023-24 budget.


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