China selectmen review bids for outdoor summer work

by Mary Grow

China selectmen spent most of their May 28 meeting reviewing bids for outdoor summer work, with mixed results. Their decisions annoyed a resident with a personal interest in the matter.

The bid requests were in three categories, each subdivided: materials, equipment to be rented (with an operator) and mowing.

Two contractors bid on materials, mostly different types of gravel. Public Works Foreman Shawn Reed recommended rejecting all bids and buying materials as needed. Contractor (and budget committee member) Wayne Chadwick agreed from the audience, saying he thought the bid prices were high. The four selectmen present (Board Chairman Robert MacFarland was absent; Ronald Breton was elected temporary chairman) accepted the advice.

Three contractors bid to provide equipment, with Hagar Enterprises offering to provide up to 16 items (backhoe, excavators, dump trucks, loaders, bulldozer) as needed and the other two bidding on three or four items. Selectmen and Reed agreed it would be easier for the public works crew to have a single contract.

However, selectmen realized that the bidders had not been asked to supply delivery charges for moving machines to China. Despite Chadwick and Reed warning that time is getting short to line up equipment and start work, they postponed a decision to their next meeting, scheduled for June 10.

Bidders for the summer mowing contract were asked to submit prices for ballfields, cemeteries and town properties (the town office lot, the adjoining lot where the red barn stands and the former Weeks Mills Schoolhouse lot). They were also asked for labor and equipment prices per hour for work done outside the contract, an addition that several selectmen found confusing.

Danforth Lawncare was the only company to bid on all three categories; William Danforth said he has done China’s mowing for many years. The job includes cleaning up the properties spring and fall and mowing and trimming in the summer, he said.

Ace Home and Camp Care bid only on town properties, and was the highest bidder. Rumpf’s Backyard Services was the low bidder on the ballfields and the town properties. On the ballfields, Danforth’s bid was $5,700, Rumpf’s $2,800; on town properties, Danforth’s bid was $4,175 and Rumpf’s $3,500.

Informed that Colby Rumpf is 16 years old and just starting his business, selectmen unanimously awarded the entire mowing contract to Danforth, based on his experience and history of reliability.

Later in the meeting, Tom Rumpf, Four Seasons Club president and Colby Rumpf’s father, talked about possible cooperation between the Four Seasons Club and the town to provide an access road to a public landing on the Hall property, if voters approve buying it on June 11 and if selectmen then develop it. (See The Town Line, May 2, and May 30.)

Before his presentation, Tom Rumpf rebuked selectmen for “somewhat wasting the town’s money” on the summer mowing. There were people in the audience who would have given references for his son, he said, if Breton had recognized them so they could speak. Breton later apologized.

Tom Rumpf said the Four Seasons Club board authorized negotiations with town officials to share the club’s driveway for a boat launch only, not a swimming beach. The Hall property has a rocky shore, he said; the club has the only sandy beach suitable for swimming.

Redesigning the road and agreeing on maintenance might be difficult, Rumpf said. “It needs to go slow right now.”

Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere has suggested the town buy and distribute to residents Four Seasons Club memberships, to gauge the level of interest in public lake access. Rumpf said the club would consider discounting prices for a reasonable number of memberships if selectmen adopt the idea.

In other business May 28:

  • Selectmen unanimously approved Town Manager Dennis Heath’s request to spend $5,025 to switch to LED lights at the transfer station, to be partly offset by a $1,400 state rebate. The change has already been made in the town office and the nearby former portable classroom, Heath said. He expects to save money on electricity, but could not estimate how much money.
  • On Heath’s recommendation, selectmen unanimously approved a settlement with Three-Level Solar Farm on Vassalboro Road (Route 32 North), resolving a dispute over depreciation and resultant future tax value that started in 2018.
  • Heath said China’s property valuation is far enough out of line with the state’s that the town should raise its valuation. He expects Assessor William Van Tuinen to explain the problem at the selectmen’s June 10 meeting. LaVerdiere objected strongly to anything that would raise taxes, saying they are already so high as to discourage local business, including his general store outside China Village.

The May 28 meeting was governed more strictly than in the past by Robert’s Rules of Order, which selectmen adopt annually. Heath purchased a podium (for $88 at Marden’s, he wrote in a May 23 email) and Breton expected everyone, including Heath and selectmen, to be recognized before speaking and audience members to come to the podium.

Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood had the honor of christening the podium. Asked about one of the expenditures selectmen approved early in the meeting, she left her seat in the back row, walked to the podium, said “Yes” loudly and distinctly as required, and returned to her seat.

An executive session to discuss personnel issues followed the open selectmen’s meeting. Afterward, Heath emailed that board members directed him to poll the public about closing the China Town Office on Saturdays. Currently it is open Saturdays from 8 to 11 a.m.


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