China select board listens to three speakers on different topics

by Mary Grow

Speakers on three different topics at the Nov. 22 China select board meeting gave board members information to ponder and perhaps act on later.

Board member Janet Preston shared profiles of three different voting methods town officials could consider as alternatives to the present local method.

Bob Parsloe, of Portland-based Wireless Partners, LLC, offered a possible alternative source of internet service for China residents, besides existing providers and those the town’s Broadband Committee has been exploring.

Lauren Gaudet, field service representative for the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust, summarized programs the organization offers.

Preston thinks China’s present local voting system, which asks voters to mark as many candidates’ names as there are open seats on the board they’re voting for, is self-contradictory when voters take it literally. If you vote for two or more people, “you’re voting against your own choices,” she said.

Citing a website called nonprofitvote.org, she said one alternative is called limited voting: voters cast fewer votes than the number of seats to be filled. The example she used was a race with five open seats, but voters limited to two votes.

Cumulative voting is another method: voters have as many votes as there are open positions, but they can allocate their votes as they please: one to each candidate, all to one candidate, or anything in between.

The third option Preston presented is the ranked-choice system Maine already uses for some statewide elections.

More information on all three methods is available on line.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood was unsure whether select board members or town voters were the appropriate body to change the local voting method, if a majority of the select board decided a change was desirable.

Parsloe’s virtual PowerPoint presentation explained what Wireless Partners, LLC, offers for internet service, with a focus on rural towns in northern New England.

His company, he said, would design and build a network, operate it for a while (typically five to seven years) and sell it to “a major carrier.” He expects not to require town investment; to offer competitive prices to subscribers; and to need to build additional towers in town.

Company websites are wireless-partnersllc.com and mytrailrunner.com.

Robert O’Connor, chairman of the China Broadband Committee (CBC), was in the audience and intends to communicate with Parsloe to get more information.

O’Connor gave select board members a summary of relevant parts of CBC studies. Recently, he said, Spectrum Communications’ parent company, Charter Communications, had asked to discuss “new options.”

O’Connor asked whether select board members wanted to meet with a Charter or Spectrum representative, or whether CBC members should do it. Select board Chairman Ronald Breton was happy to have CBC members handle the discussion.

The Augusta-based Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust is a nonprofit group associated with the Maine Municipal Association. China town employees currently get health insurance through one of its plans. Gaudet listed other plans for which China is eligible, with some of the financial advantages and disadvantages of each.

In other business Nov. 22, select board members approved Town Clerk Angela Nelson’s proposed timeline leading to a written-ballot town meeting on June 14, 2022. Deadlines she and Hapgood noted there and elsewhere include:

  • Requests for 2022-23 funding from China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund are due by Jan. 3, 2022 (earlier if possible).
  • 2022-23 budget requests from town department heads and others who receive town funding are due by the end of January 2022, for review by the budget committee before select board members approve them for the town meeting warrant.
  • Proposed new town ordinances from the planning board are due by early February 2022.
    Nelson’s schedule calls for the select board to approve the final draft of the town meeting warrant at an April 11, 2022, meeting.

Select board members appointed Karen Morin a new member of the TIF Committee.

The December meetings of the China select board are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, and Monday, Dec. 20.

 
 

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