CHINA SELECTBOARD: Study to be conducted on broadband availability

by Mary Grow

Of the various decisions China selectmen made at their March 2 meeting, they hope one will affect every household in town.

That one is the unanimous vote to contract with Mission Broadband, a telecommunications advisory company with a goal of bringing broadband service to unserved and underserved areas. Company representative John Daugherty and China Broadband Committee spokesman Bob O’Connor explained that Mission Broadband will help China’s Broadband Committee develop and conduct a census of China residents.

“Census,” rather than survey, Town Manager Dennis Heath said, because he hopes to get answers from most town residents, not just a sample. The census will ask people what they know about broadband; whether they have it; whether they want it; and if they want it but don’t have it, whether the problem is cost, lack of access or something else.

Heath said the resulting information will be the basis for evaluating town needs and applying for grants to help expand broadband coverage. He plans to conduct the survey both by mail and on line, and hopes for many responses.

No timetable was set. Heath said developing the survey will take “a few months.” The cost of Mission Broadband’s services, he said, will be $1,900, with town office staff doing the mailing.

Another project that will affect many residents is planned Maine Department of Transportation work on Routes 32 and 137. Selectmen unanimously approved an overlimit permit for trucks working on the roads in case it is needed.

Information on planned road work can be found here: Area roads earmarked for improvements in 2020-21.

Now that the warrant for the April 4 annual town business meeting is in final form, Heath said the next voting opportunity will be June 6. Anyone who wants to propose a local ballot question needs to deliver it to selectmen before their March 16 meeting, he said.

Selectmen reviewed and approved a five-year plan for updates at the transfer station, presented by Transfer Station Committee Chairman Larry Sikora, with the understanding that it can be amended and that expenditures will be approved annually by selectmen and voters.

They questioned the need to heat the Free-for-the-Taking building, but supported adding electricity for lights and so people picking up electrical appliances can test them.

The plan proposes $28,500 in facilities improvements for the fiscal year 2020-21, less than the $50,000 in the recommended transfer station budget, Heath said.

Looking at a more immediate expenditure, selectmen approved taking $7,737.40 from the fire department reserve fund to pay Yankee Communications to install the radio repeater bought with grant money.

They unanimously approved the following appointments:

  • Karen Hatch as a member of the Transfer Station Committee; and
  • Ann Austin, Eric Austin, Barry Blackinton, Jodi Blackinton and Jeanne Marquis as members of the China for a Lifetime Committee.

Heath believes he has found a way to reduce town buildings’ electricity costs slightly. Selectmen authorized him to continue negotiations and sign a contract if results are satisfactory.

A recommendation from Codes Officer Bill Butler to authorize third-party inspectors for major projects (instead of leaving the responsibility with him) generated several questions. Selectmen decided they need a planning board recommendation, and they need to know whether the authorization would be a policy boards can approve or an ordinance needing voters’ action.

The March 16 China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office.


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