At their May 10 meeting, China selectmen followed up on their April 29 meeting with China Broadband Committee (CBC) members (see The Town Line, May 6) by voting unanimously to support the CBC program, without yet committing any town money.
The vote encourages CBC members to continue working with their consultants from Mission Broadband, Johan Dougherty and Mark Van Loan, and the president of the potential town broadband supplier, Mark Ouellette of Machias-based Axiom Technologies. They have two main projects: refining estimates of costs to expand and improve broadband services, and explaining the proposed service to residents and enlisting them as customers.
The next official step is the June 8 annual town business meeting. Art. 16 on the warrant asks voters if they want to approve revisions to China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Program. The revisions include adding broadband service as eligible for TIF money and authorizing funds.
If voters approve, CBC members intend to ask selectmen’s approval to use part of the appropriation for the 2021-22 fiscal year that starts July 1 to pay Mission Broadband to continue assistance.
The next request CBC members will have for selectmen, in the summer, is to put on the Nov. 8 local ballot a bond issue to finance construction of the bigger fiber optic network that will make improved and expanded service possible.
Selectmen repeatedly said they are not committing to the bond issue at this stage, because cost projections are incomplete. They are waiting until Mission Broadband representatives and Ouellette develop more definite figures, and until they see how many China residents sign up to share the costs of bond repayment and ongoing services.
Three CBC members attended the May 10 selectmen’s meeting remotely. They answered questions and said they are satisfied with the selectmen’s vote.
The CBC meets virtually at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13. The meeting is listed on the town website with other meetings to be live-streamed.
In other business May 10, Town Manager Becky Hapgood reported on upcoming events and deadlines, including:
– Regular selectmen’s meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 24, June 7 and June 21 and a special end-of-fiscal-year meeting Wednesday, June 30. The time for the June 30 meeting is to be determined. The town office will close at noon June 30 to let staff finish end-of-year bookkeeping.
– Regional School Unit (RSU) #18’s annual budget meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 20, at Messalonskee Performing Arts Center, in Oakland. This meeting is when voters from the five member towns (Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney) vote on the 2021-22 school budget.
– China’s annual town business meeting will be by written ballot Tuesday, June 8, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office. The annual school budget validation vote will be held at the same time. China’s local elections are held in November, not in June.
– Absentee ballots for the China meeting are available from the town office until June 3. Absentee ballots for the school budget validation vote will be available May 21, after voters approve the budget. The secure dropbox for returning ballots is in place in the town office dooryard.
– The town office will be closed Saturday, May 29, and Monday, May 31, for the Memorial Day holiday. It will also be closed all day Tuesday, June 8, so staff can help with voting.
Pre-election information is on the town website, www.china.govoffice.com.
Selectmen appointed ballot clerks for the June 8 election. They appointed Thaddeus Barber as a member of the Recreation Committee.
Ronald Breton, chairman of the selectboard, reported that he and Hapgood have started conversations with Palermo selectmen over the contract under which Palermo residents use China’s transfer station. The 33-year contract was signed in 2016 (Breton’s first year as a China selectman, he said).
Hapgood reported for other town department heads, including:
– Public Works Manager Shawn Reed, who has been “continually battling the beavers” in the vicinity of Evans Pond on Hanson Road; and
– Police Chief Craig Johnson, who said he and his staff had put in 15 hours in China during the month of April.
Breton commented that the budget for police services allows up to 26 hours a month, when the part-time officers have time.
Selectmen unanimously approved a resolution condemning discrimination against Asians and Pacific Islanders. Hapgood said the item was on the agenda at the request of the Waterville City Council, whose members passed it last month and are encouraging area towns to follow suit.
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