China selectmen approve local referendum questions

by Mary Grow

China selectmen dealt with a wide variety of issues at their Sept. 3 meeting, including approving local referendum questions for Nov. 5 voting and reviewing recommendations from town committees and organizations.

The Nov. 5 local ballots will include elections for the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Budget Committee; five questions dealing with medical marijuana businesses; and a voters’ choice question on town office hours.

Under the latest state law, a municipality must “opt in” to allow anyone to open a medical marijuana facility covered by the law. China’s ballot has questions drafted to match state definitions, asking if voters want to allow:

  • Medical marijuana registered caregiver retail stores;
  • Medical marijuana registered dispensaries;
  • Medical marijuana testing facilities; or
  • Medical marijuana manufacturing facilities.

The final related question asks whether, if any of the previous four questions passes, voters want to set a minimum 1,000-foot separation between property lines of the medical marijuana facility and any pre-existing public or private school.

The last ballot question asks voters to choose between two proposed three-hour extensions of town office hours: Saturdays from 8 to 11 a.m. (the current schedule) or Thursdays to 7 p.m., three hours beyond the usual 4 p.m. closing time.

In other business:

  • Selectmen unanimously accepted the budget committee’s recommendation that town funds be moved from two separate financial institutions (one handling the Doris L. Young Scholarship Fund, the other managing other town funds) to Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.
  • They unanimously accepted the lower of two bids for trail work for the Four Seasons Club, $24,500 from Chadwick Construction, of China. Money comes from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds.
  • They postponed a decision on the Revolving Loan Fund subcommittee’s recommendation to approve a loan to Buckshot Power Sports, operated by Mike Rackcliffe, until they get a financial assessment report from Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, whose staff help implement loans. Two residents praised Rackcliffe’s Tobey Road recreational-vehicle business.

Selectmen again discussed the question of volunteer firefighters’ stipends, which they and China’s three fire chiefs have debated for almost two years. Weeks Mills Chief William Van Wickler thought the issue was settled after he submitted a stipend calculation formula to the Maine Department of Labor. Department officials called China’s plan “not contrary to the intent” of Maine’s wage and hour laws, he said.

However, Town Manager Dennis Heath is still waiting for a reaction from the federal Department of Labor, and Selectman Ronald Breton has questions. Heath proposed the chiefs and the two selectmen who worked on the issue schedule another meeting; Van Wickler said he will coordinate it.

Heath reported that tax bills would be mailed the first week in September and were on the town website (which says they were mailed Sept. 5, as promised). By town meeting vote, the first half payment of 2019-2020 taxes is due by Friday, Sept. 27.

The manager also announced a survey about transfer station use, to run through September. It too is on the China website.

The next China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Sept. 16.


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