Ronald Breton, Chairman of the China Selectboard, led board members through continued review of the draft 2021-22 budget at a special budget workshop Jan. 25.
The meeting lasted almost three hours, and the review covered major town functions: administration, public safety, waste disposal and public works.
Selectmen began by agreeing to continue Town Manager Becky Hapgood’s contract, her probationary six months having been satisfactory.
They postponed action on her proposal for an across-the-board three percent pay increase for town employees. They did discuss principles for employee pay, like step increases, which Breton advocated; merit pay; and increases for additional skills, for example if a public works employee earns a higher class driver’s license.
They discussed the idea of an addition to the town office building to provide more storage space for documents Maine municipalities are required to keep. “We need it yesterday,” Hapgood said.
They discussed the request for funds for a building in the town forest behind China Middle School and decided to leave it in the budget. The request covers only the building; proponents plan to ask for more money to add heat and lights in the following year. Selectmen emphasized that if they and voters put up the building, approval of second-year funding for amenities is not guaranteed.
The selectmen’s meeting began with a virtual meeting with Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason and Lieutenant Chris Read to talk about providing additional law enforcement services by contracting with a sheriff’s deputy for 40-hour-a-week coverage. Breton also plans a private discussion with current part-time town Police Chief Craig Johnson to see whether he could provide additional coverage.
Review of transfer station operations included consideration of whether the 2020 increase in demolition debris, assumed to be a result of people having time for home repair and renovation projects, is likely to continue in 2021-22.
Breton and board member Blane Casey would like to get rid of the town-owned 1981 grader, and Public Works Director Shawn Reed agreed. With only one gravel road in town, the grader is seldom used; contracting grader work would save money, he believes.
Reed was less content with selectmen’s inclination to cut back on road paving for the second year in a row. He said early in the century, town roads were repaved, on average, on a seven- or eight-year cycle. By 2015, the average repaving came after 10 or 11 years; and doing only four miles in 2020 extended the cycle to an average of 12 years.
The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, and will include additional budget discussion. Another special meeting could be held Monday evening, Feb. 8, if needed. Hapgood’s goal is to have the final budget, approved by the budget committee and the selectboard, ready by March 15.
The sound quality for the Jan. 21 meeting was much improved over previous in-person selectmen’s meetings. Hapgood credited Jeremy Mahns from API Technologies, in Gardiner, for suggesting and implementing changes.
The meeting record is available on the town website, china.govoffice.com, under Live Stream.
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