China select board holds hearing on town meeting warrant

by Mary Grow

The ice cream social that preceded the May 6 China Select Board’s public hearing and meeting was enjoyed by board members and 10 people who attended the hearing.

The hearing topic was the warrant for the June 11 annual town business meeting, which will be by written ballot in the former portable classroom behind the town office. Voting begins with election of a moderator at 6:55 a.m.; polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A recording of the May 6 hearing is available on the website, A printed copy of the warrant was mailed out early in May; it is posted in public places around town and is on the website, with related documents, under the Elections tab on the left side of the main page. Absentee ballots are available as of May 13.

Questions May 6 were about financial items, mostly smaller ones, like appropriations for social service agencies (Art. 6); the revised Planning Board Ordinance (Art. 29); and the new Solar Energy Systems Ordinance (Art. 31).

Discussion also covered two broad issues, how to get more people interested and involved in town business and whether China should return to pre-Covid open town meetings.

Former select board member Joann Austin said she thinks lack of involvement has allowed the select board to act more like a town council, making decisions and, when appropriate, asking voters to ratify them. Perhaps, she suggested, it is time to ask voters if they want to convert local government from a select board to a council.

She and others who favor an open town meeting argued that voters attending have the opportunity to ask questions and amend articles, promoting informed decisions.
Written-ballot supporters replied that getting 120 or more voters together for a quorum takes too long; and many who sign in soon leave, so decisions are made by a very small minority.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said voters were asked in a straw poll on June 14, 2022, whether they wanted an open meeting.

Poll results, reported in the June 30, 2022, issue of “The Town Line” were as follows: of 275 respondents (out of 660 residents who voted June 14), 162 preferred an open meeting, 111 preferred a written ballot, one asked for both and one recommended having select board members make decisions.

Building Committee chairman Sheldon Goodine and select board member Blane Casey sparked an unexpected discussion related to the final article in the June 11 warrant. Art. 32 asks if voters will approve two appropriations: up to $155,489 from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money toward a new fireproof vault in an addition to the town office; and $70,000 from undesignated fund balance (informally called surplus) for a broadband project.

County sheriff’s deputy has messages for residents

Kennebec County Deputy Sheriff Ivano Steffanizzi had two messages for area residents at the May 6 China select board meeting, and board chair Wayne Chadwick added a third.

Steffanizzi said many thefts have been reported recently, including motors from unattended boats, packages from doorsteps and mail from mailboxes.

And he reminded people driving cars and trucks to share the road with motorcyclists, now that the weather is milder.

Chadwick added a request not to let lawnmower clippings fly onto paved roads; they make the surface dangerously slippery for cyclists, he said.

Building committee members have been discussing the vault since 2021. Goodine and Casey surprised the other four select board members with a new plan to rearrange use of town buildings.

As Goodine summarized, the plan involves moving paper records that the state requires be kept for seven years from the town office building into the white garage behind (east of) the old town office. The space the records now occupy could be converted to a fireproof vault.

Hapgood said she thought Goodine planned to move the Wednesday morning Golden Agers meetings to the garage, from the former portable classroom where they currently meet. Goodine said no, his current idea is to enlarge the bathroom and add a kitchen in the portable, to make it more convenient for the meetings and useable as an emergency shelter.

Austin asked that the China Historical Society by considered in any rearrangement. The organization has irreplaceable documents that need insect-proof storage with temperature and humidity controls.

Goodine offered to make a sketch plan of a redesigned interior for the old garage. The May 20 select board agenda is likely to include a “field trip” to inspect the building.

In other business, select board members approved a contract with Delta Ambulance for the 2024-25 fiscal year. At Casey’s insistence, Hapgood cannot sign the contract until after the June 11 town meeting, assuming voters approve Art. 7. The article appropriates $110,200 for Delta as part of the 2024-25 public safety budget.

Casey wanted a similar stipulation on Hapgood’s request to sign a three-year contract — $1,100 next year, $1,134 the second year and $1,156 the third year – with Time Clock Plus. His argument again was that until voters approve a new budget, the money is not available.

The other four board members, figuring they could find $3,400 somewhere, did not impose the condition. Casey voted against the appropriation.

Hapgood explained that Time Clock Plus is the program that records when employees sign in and out. It is especially useful for road crew members who work odd hours, board chair Wayne Chadwick commented.

Also on the May 20 select board agenda, Hapgood said, will be a second ice cream social, this one in recognition of China residents receiving 2024 Spirit of America awards for volunteerism. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the town office meeting room.


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