China select board holds public hearing on proposed budget

by Mary Grow

The May 9 China Select Board meeting began with a half-hour public hearing on three of the items to be submitted to voters on June 14: the Large Scale Solar Facilities Moratorium Ordinance (Art. 37), the updated town comprehensive plan (Art. 38) and the 2022-23 municipal budget (Arts. 2 through 21, and indirectly Arts. 22 through 25 and 27 through 35).

Select Board Chairman Ronald Breton briefly explained each item and invited questions from the audience, on line and in the meeting room. There was one: Lawrence Sikora asked why money for China’s volunteer fire departments appeared in two different articles.

Breton explained that Art. 9 asks for $166,755 to keep the fire departments and rescue unit operating, funding their buildings and equipment and related expenses. Art. 12 asks for $92,000 for 11 “community support organizations,” donations or gifts to help in-town service organizations. The fire departments’ appropriations are intended for each department’s chief to distribute among the volunteer members in appreciation of their work.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said town meeting information, including the proposed ordinance and the revised comprehensive plan, are on China’s website, china.govoffice.com, under the elections tab on the left side of the page. A paper copy of the lengthy comprehensive plan may be borrowed from the town office.

During the meeting that followed the hearing, select board members approved two school-related questions for voters to answer on June 14. They will be on two separate ballots. One asks voters to approve or reject the 2022-23 school budget that will have been approved in an open meeting May 19. The other asks voter approval to apply to the state’s School Revolving Renovation Fund.

Carl Gartley, China resident and Superintendent in Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 (Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney), said the proposed 2022-23 budget is 1.57 percent, or about $643,000, higher than the current year’s budget. China’s share is projected to increase by 0.96 percent, or about $48,000.

On Thursday, May 19, interested voters from the five RSU #18 towns will meet at 6 p.m. at the Messalonskee High School Performing Arts Center, in Oakland, and vote on the amount in each of the 18 articles that make up the budget. On June 14, voters in the five towns will vote yes or no on re-approving the total that was approved May 19, the annual school budget referendum vote.

The formula that determines how much of the total RSU budget each town pays is currently based 75 percent on property valuation and 25 percent on student population. Gartley said that a new 15-member committee – three people from each town, appointed by the select boards – that will decide whether to continue or to amend the formula is scheduled to be organized this fall.

Also on June 14 is the state primary election.

China’s polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 14, in the former portable classroom behind the town office. Hapgood reminded the audience that the town office will be closed all day, because staff will be at the polls.

Town and state absentee ballots will be available at the town office Monday, May 16, and the RSU ballots will be available Friday, May 20.

In other business at the May 9 meeting, select board members reviewed seven bids for paving town roads. They unanimously accepted the low bid of $86.90 per ton of paving mix, from All States Construction, of Richmond, with the proviso that Hapgood and the China Road Committee will decide what roads to repave with asphalt and what roads to chip seal, as they evaluate the need and the funds available.

Steven Goulas, Paving Coordinator/Estimator for All States, explained that a chip seal surface is a layer of emulsion with hard stone spread on top and packed down, and then swept to move any loose stone into the ditches. Chip seal costs less than repaving.

Depending on the road, different size stone can be used, and either one or two layers applied, Goulas said. He estimated a chip sealed surface would last on average around five years, compared to an average of around seven years for an asphalt repaving. Chip seal is more durable now than it was 30 years ago because of the change in weather, he added.

Shawn Reed, China’s newly-titled Director of Public Services (combining management of the public works department and the transfer station), reminded the audience that South Road was chip sealed and is holding up well. His opinion is that it would be better to do as much as possible of the planned 5.1 miles of resurfacing this summer, using both methods as road committee members advise, than to postpone all work hoping for lower prices in 2023.

The China Road Committee, including Hapgood and Reed, was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning, May 11.

Reed’s report to the select board, presented by Hapgood, said his department has just added two new employees, one for public works and one for the transfer station.

Hapgood reminded those present that new transfer station hours take effect the week of May 16. So far, she said, she has heard only approval of the change. The new hours are on the town website and posted at the transfer station.

Select board members accepted the lowest of three bids for 18 months of mowing (to switch the contract from a calendar to a fiscal year), $47,225 from AK Enterprise, Alex Sargent’s landscape company, in Chelsea.

They approved a renewed two-year dispatching contract with the City of Waterville’s police department. The price is a little over $19,000 for the first year – already in the proposed 2022-23 budget, Hapgood said – and likely to increase slightly in the second year.

Robert O’Connor, chairman of the China Broadband Committee (CBC), updated board members on committee discussions with representatives of telecommunications companies since his report last November. CBC members are currently optimistic about prospects for expanded broadband service through Unity-based Unitel and Unitel’s new partner, Direct Communications of Idaho (see related story here).

The next regular China Select Board meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, May 23.

 
 

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