China selectmen get updates from town departments

by Mary Grow

China selectmen got updates on town departments at their Dec. 9 meeting and began making plans for 2020 and the new fiscal year that will begin in July.

Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton and Public Works Department Manager Shawn Reed each reported a pending resignation: Ronald Marois is leaving the public works crew Dec. 13 for a job at Colby College, and Ed Brownell is retiring from the transfer station crew Dec. 21.

Grotton said the long-planned second compactor is in place, and Central Maine Power Company will soon finish providing three-phase power needed to run it. The RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system should be ready in January, he said.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said concerns about privacy with the original RFID system, which linked identification tags to people’s names, led him to consult the Maine Municipal Association’s legal department. He learned that files with names and tag numbers would be public records; as a result, the system is changed and the tags are registered by number only.

There will no longer be any personal information connected to an RFID tag available for public inspection. A separate record that MMA attorneys said can be confidential will link tags to holders’ names.

Selectmen approved the final report on the transfer station survey done in September and October, compiled by the town manager and staff and recommended by the Transfer Station Committee. Heath said it will be on the Town of China website.

Reed said the public works department shared China’s new excavator with the transfer station to crush and compact metal for shipment. Grotton reported he was able to arrange free trucking and to earn a small amount of money, despite the almost nonexistent national market for recyclables.

The recent ice storms have demanded more of the public works department in both manpower and materials than snowstorms would have, Reed commented. Selectboard Chairman Ronald Breton asked if there is enough money for overtime pay in the 2019-2020 public works budget. Heath is confident there is.

Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood reminded those present that annual reports from town departments and committees and other bodies, like the school department and Erskine Academy, the two libraries, the two lake associations, China Rescue and the three fire departments, are due by mid-January for the 2018-2019 town report.

The annual town business meeting will be held at China Middle School on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Before that, a special election to choose someone to finish Jeffrey LaVerdiere’s term on the selectboard is scheduled for March 3, coinciding with the statewide primary election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office.

Breton said six residents had taken out nomination papers as of Dec. 9. Signed papers must be returned to the town office by 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, for candidates’ names to be on the March 3 ballot.

In other business, selectmen unanimously approved continuing the usual procedure of allowing owners of properties foreclosed upon for unpaid taxes an additional 60 days to pay all taxes due and reclaim the properties. Heath said the town foreclosed on four properties for which taxes are unpaid for 2017, 2018 and the current year. The properties now belong to the town; if the owners cannot reclaim them by the end of the 60-day extension, they will be put up for auction.

Selectmen reviewed the audit report for the fiscal year that ended June 30 and the financial report for the current year to date and expressed satisfaction with the town’s financial condition. Heath shared a schedule of January 2020 budget committee and selectboard meetings to prepare the 2020-2021 budget.

Tom Michaud, speaking for the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee, presented a report showing that work on two fire roads had significantly reduced run-off into China Lake, thereby reducing the amount of phosphorus going into the lake to feed algae blooms. TIF funds helped pay for the improvements.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Dec. 23.


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