CHINA: Selectmen postpone excavator decision for fourth time

by Mary Grow

“We’ll make a decision shortly, Shawn,” China Selectboard Chairman Robert MacFarland promised Public Works Manager Shawn Reed as selectmen for the fourth time postponed action on his recommendation that they buy an excavator for the town.

Reed first made the suggestion at the June 10 selectmen’s meeting. There were follow-up discussions at the June 24 meeting and July 8 meetings; by then Reed had a specific proposal with a price, and the town had a contract to rent an excavator for 2019-2020. Selectmen asked Reed to find out how long the dealer would hold the price.

At the July 22 meeting, Reed and Town Manager Dennis Heath reported Chadwick-BaRoss will hold the price on the Volvo machine Reed favors until Dec.1, but will not promise to hold the machine if someone else wants it. Two of the three selectmen present were initially willing to approve the purchase, but eventually all three voted to postpone a decision until a full board is present.

They were more decisive on another public works issue, approving Heath’s recommendation to spend almost $10,000 of the 2019-2020 maintenance budget for tools so that new employee Josh Crommett can take over much of the work that’s been done by private garages.

Heath also recommends buying a software program to track maintenance records. He is looking for the program most suited to China’s needs.

He said Crommett has already done five jobs on town vehicles and estimated a $1,500 savings, counting Crommett’s pay as part of the cost.

Reed reported he rented a second excavator for one day’s ditching work, a large machine with a two-ton hammer for breaking up ledge. China’s crew used to blast ledge, which he said was much more expensive.

The public works department continues to deal with beavers, Reed said. The current major problem is that they have blocked the new six-foot culvert on Bog Brook Road.

Replying to a question from MacFarland, Reed said China is buying road salt but no sand for next winter, expecting the current sandpile to last another two or three years. The state Department of Transportation (MDOT) offers annual training on salting roads with minimum risk of contaminating groundwater or surface water. Selectman Irene Belanger asked if China has salt contamination insurance; Heath will investigate.

In another related matter, Heath reported on negotiations with the MDOT about turning over the Weeks Mills Road to the town. The current proposal is that the state will pay for this year’s resurfacing before the transfer.

In other business July 22, board members unanimously chose Belanger as one of China’s representatives to the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments. Belanger invites anyone interested in serving as the second representative to get in touch with her to discuss the position.

Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood commended staff member Kelly Grotton for her work organizing the annual China Community Days celebration, scheduled for Aug. 2, 3 and 4. The Community Days schedule is on the town website and on paper at the town office and other public places.

Hapgood praised summer intern Hannah Kutschinski for her skills and attitude.

Heath said the revolving loan fund to provide bridge loans for China business owners from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund is in operation. The TIF Committee will meet Monday evening, July 29. Its duties include reviewing loan applications.

TIF Committee member Tom Michaud complained that the guardrails along the head of China Lake east of the new causeway bridge were not removed as he recommended so that participants in the Community Days fishing derby could reach the water. The guardrails are part of the first phase of a TIF project to build the new bridge and improve access to the lake for recreation.

Heath said the project engineer recommended against removal because of potential liability; instead, openings were made. Michaud fears the openings might present new hazards.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Aug. 5.


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