China selectmen reach firefighters’ stipend decision – for this year

China Village Volunteer Fire Department.(Internet photo)

by Mary Grow

China selectmen made a decision at their Nov. 25 meeting that they think settles the controversy over stipends for volunteer firefighters – at least for this year.

On a 3-0-1 vote, with Donna Mill-Stevens abstaining, board members approved Chairman Ronald Breton’s motion that China’s three fire chiefs (Timothy Theriault, China Village; Richard Morse, South China; and William Van Wickler, Weeks Mills) be invited to pick up their $10,000 stipend checks at the town office as soon as convenient, without signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU, as it’s come to be known during months of debate) that would have spelled out accounting requirements.

Breton’s motion had two other components, which he called “conditions” when he first made it and later an “understanding” appropriate people in each department are responsible for compliance with all state and federal laws and with itemizing expenditures from the stipend money.

Breton prefaced his motion with a summary of earlier discussions and disagreements that he emphasized was his personal view, not the board’s. He said selectmen support the firefighters’ stipends; the conditions in his motion are intended to recognize the board’s duty to oversee expenditures of taxpayers’ money.

After the vote, resident Scott Pierz asked what would happen with next year’s budget. Breton replied that it is too early to begin discussing it.

China Rescue also receives $10,000 for stipends for its members. Town Manager Dennis Heath explained that because Rescue bills are paid through the town, the organization is not involved in the MOU issue.

[See also: Proclamation for David Herard Day in China]

The other important question settled Nov. 25 was when to hold a special election to fill the fifth seat on the Selectboard, vacated Oct. 15 when Jeffrey LaVerdiere resigned during the disagreement over firefighters’ stipends.

Board members voted unanimously to hold the special election Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in conjunction with the state-wide presidential primary. Nomination papers for the Selectboard seat are now available at the town office.

In other business Nov. 25:

  • Selectmen unanimously approved two recommendations from the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee, appropriating $15,000 from current-year funds to the Broadband Committee for a survey of broadband service in China and recommending 2020 town business meeting voters appropriate $57,500 to the China Lake Association for the LakeSmart program.
  • Heath reported that results of the Sept. 6 to Oct. 15 transfer station survey are in a draft report to be reviewed by the Transfer Station Committee at its Nov. 26 meeting and presented to selectmen at their next meeting.
  • Referring to privacy concerns raised at the Nov.13 informational meeting on the new RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system at China’s transfer station (see The Town Line, Nov. 13, p. 3), Heath said he believes a United States Supreme Court decision on cellphones as locators could be used to argue that records showing when an individual visited the facility are not public records.

Board member Wayne Chadwick asked whether he would be barred from the transfer station if he left the RFID placard in his other vehicle. Heath said he thought not; transfer station staff should be able to look up his name and find his placard number.

Board member Irene Belanger said Department of Environmental Protection staff are watching China’s RFID system, “because it’s the first one in the state.” The system is funded mostly by a DEP grant.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting date is Monday, Dec. 9.


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