China town manager presents initial town budget

by Mary Grow

China select board members began their Jan. 29 meeting by hearing Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood’s initial presentation on the 2023-24 town budget, with four budget committee members joining them (three others were unable to attend).

Members of both boards will review the thick budget books Hapgood prepared, with, she said, much help from the “phenomenal people” on the town office staff.

Select board members will make their recommendations on 2023-24 expenditures and submit them to the budget committee. Budget committee chairman Thomas Rumpf said his group will probably need two meetings to make recommendations.

Voters at the June town business meeting will make the final decisions. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Select board members’ other long discussion Jan. 29 was over, again, the proposed revisions to China’s Board of Appeals Ordinance (Section 9 of the Land Use Ordinance). Select board member Brent Chesley drafted the revisions for the Jan. 3 select board meeting; they were forwarded to the China Planning Board with a request for review in time for discussion Jan. 29.

Planning board members, meeting Jan. 10 and Jan. 24, accepted the draft as one input into a revised ordinance they considered their responsibility to write. They scheduled a Feb. 14 workshop meeting to discuss the ordinance with members of the board of appeals, the select board and others interested.

At the Jan. 29 meeting, Hapgood protested that time is running out if a revised ordinance is to go to voters at the June meeting. Board members talked for three-quarters of an hour before agreeing to hold a public hearing on Chesley’s draft at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, before their next meeting.

Much of the discussion consisted of Chesley re-explaining his suggested changes.

Fellow board member Janet Preston thinks Chesley’s recommended procedural changes are fine. She fears his proposal concerning variances from ordinance requirements will make it easier to take actions that could harm China Lake water quality.

Chesley said the change will not make much substantive difference. Then why propose it? asked Preston.

If the ordinance revision makes it easier to replace failing septic systems on small lakefront lots, water quality will benefit, board member Blane Casey suggested.

Select board members scheduled a second public hearing for the 6 p.m. time slot on February 13, this one on the draft transfer station ordinance. Town Clerk Angela Nelson has posted copies of both draft ordinances on the town website,, under the select board, which is under the heading Officials, Boards & Committees.

A guest at the Jan. 29 meeting was Art True, Director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. He joined discussion of the notice from Somerset County officials that they will no longer dispatch emergency services after July 1. China has used the Somerset County PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), for a fee, for years.

Hapgood had been surprised by the recent notice, and True referred to Somerset County officials as having dropped a bomb. He does not yet know what the successor plan will be; because five months is not a long time for a complex project, he suggested there might be “a Band-Aid” beginning July 1.

However, he promised, “There will not be a time that the phones will not be answered.”

Also present Jan. 29 was Kennebec County Deputy Sheriff Ivano Stefanizzi, who again issued a warning to beware of telephone scammers. Please, he asked, do not give out personal information, and do not send money in any form.

In other business Jan. 29:

  • Board members unanimously accepted the lowest of three bids, $20,432.90 from Knowles Mechanical, of Vassalboro, for two heat pumps in the town office and two at the transfer station. Hapgood said voters authorized spending up to $22,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for the work.
  • Board members unanimously accepted the lowest of three bids for a new roll-off container at the transfer station, $15,950 from East Coast Containers of Waterbury, Connecticut.
  • They unanimously authorized taking up to $10,000 from the 2022-23 contingency fund for future legal expenses, if needed.

Hapgood issued a reminder that the two-cents-a-pound fee for brush brought to the transfer station is effective Feb. 1. She said the town office will be closed Feb. 20 for the Presidents’ Day holiday.

The manager expressed appreciation to China’s plow drivers, and to two transfer station employees who assisted them, for long hours of hard work during recent storms. “We have good people; we’re lucky,” she said.

Annual ice fishing derby slated for Feb. 17-19

Switching from his budget committee chairman’s hat to his Four Seasons Club president’s hat, Thomas Rumpf told attendees at the Jan. 29 China select board meeting that China’s 2023 Ice Days celebration will be from Friday evening, Feb. 17, through Sunday evening, Feb. 19. Planned highlights include a Feb. 17 supper at the Masonic Hall in China Village followed by snowmobiling if the weather cooperates; a cornhole tournament and skating on Feb. 18; and the annual ice-fishing derby, followed by fireworks, on Feb. 19. Details and tickets will be available very soon. (See The Town Line’s cover story in this issue.)


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