China TIF members get prelim preview of causeway project

by Mary Grow

At their Nov. 4 meeting, China TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee members got a preview of the proposed new design for the second phase of the causeway project, which will extend the bridge replacement work at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

Committee members also endorsed two requests for TIF funds that will be submitted to selectmen and, with their approval, to voters at the spring 2020 town business meeting.

Mark McCluskey, the engineer from A. E. Hodsdon, of Waterville, who works with the town, explained that because the bridge is higher than the culvert it replaced (to make room for kayakers to go under the road), the steeper shore needs erosion protection.

His design calls for stone retaining walls, riprap or both along the shore north and west of the bridge and on the south (lake) side between the bridge and the boat landing. Fishing platforms will still be included.

The north side of the bridge will have an ATV trail, the south side a sidewalk. The sidewalk surface material remains to be determined. There will be marked pedestrian crosswalks east and west of the bridge.

The current – and controversial – metal guardrails will be totally removed, McCluskey said, and wooden ones installed where needed.

In addition to streetlights provided by Central Maine Power Company, McCluskey proposes recessed light fixtures under the guardrail along the sidewalk.

The gravel parking area on the north side of the road opposite the boat landing is not slated for change, Town Manager Dennis Heath said.

McCluskey hopes to have a final plan before the end of the year. At least two state departments, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Protection, need to review and approve, he said. An Inland Fisheries spokesman told him work cannot start before July 1, 2020, to avoid disrupting nesting birds in the wetland north of the project area.

Heath proposed rearranging TIF money to add funds to the Causeway Project. He said that under TIF rules, moving money from one project to another requires a local public hearing and state approval. Later in the week, he reported that state officials recommended seeking voters’ approval for such changes, as China officials did in 2017.

As a related project, the state boat landing is to be rebuilt; it will be longer and have concrete on the lake bottom at the end of the ramp, where boat propellers currently create a hollow and a sandbank. Heath said the state will pay 50 percent of the cost of the boat landing work.

TIF Committee members would like to complete the causeway project in 2020, but are not sure there will be enough time. They expect the causeway will be closed part of the summer; perhaps, they said, one-lane traffic would sometimes be possible.

The two TIF funding requests endorsed at the Nov. 4 meeting, both by unanimous votes, were:

  • For the Broadband Committee, $15,000 in the current fiscal year for a consultant to do a town-wide survey of broadband access. Heath said the Federal Communications Commission incorrectly believes 98 percent of China residents have broadband, a figure so high it makes the town ineligible for grants to expand access.
  • For the China Lake Association, $57,500 for three projects: continuing LakeSmart shoreline run-off controls, contracting with a LakeSmart director to relieve volunteer Marie Michaud and continuing the Gravel Road Rehabilitation Project (GRRP) started this year.

The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Dec. 2.


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