China selectmen had two bids on the town’s Lakeview Drive property to review at their Aug. 30 meeting.
Voters at the June 8 town meeting authorized them to sell the almost 40 acres of land on the east side of the road opposite The Cottages at China Lake. A group called People’s Park, led by Lindsey Harwath and others, promptly organized to raise money to buy the lot for a park.
At their Aug. 16 meeting, selectmen voted to contract with Lucas Adams, of Adams Realty, in China, to handle the sale. Town Manager Becky Hapgood signed the contract last week, and Adams attended the Aug. 30 meeting to discuss the two offers.
Confidentiality considerations prevented Adams and the selectmen from sharing all details with the audience. Adams said one bid was $10,000 from a group planning a park; the other was $80,000 from someone whose tentative plan is to split the lot and sell part of it to the People’s Park organization.
Earlier, Adams had valued the land at between $80,000 and $100,000, and selectmen had settled on $90,000 as their base price. Adams said he had had other inquiries, but so far no other offers, he thinks because much of the lot is wetland.
After discussion, selectmen voted 4-1 to authorize Hapgood to make a counter-offer to the higher bidder, negotiate with him, her or them and sign relevant documents.
Selectman Janet Preston, a supporter of the park plan, voted no. Her earlier motion to accept the lower bid was not seconded.
On another issue, China’s Broadband Committee (CBC) had asked selectmen to put a question on the Nov. 2 local ballot asking voters to authorize a bond issue to build new internet infrastructure in town. By Aug. 30, the CBC’s question had been rewritten by an attorney – not town attorney Amanda Meader, Hapgood said, but a “bondwriting specialist” Meader had consulted.
Selectman Wayne Chadwick did not like the result. It sounded to him, he said, as though if voters approved the article, selectmen would have no choice but to issue the bond and go ahead with construction.
CBC members have repeatedly said that if too few residents sign up for the proposed new service the expanded infrastructure will provide, or if the grants expected to cover some of the cost do not materialize, the project will be canceled and the bond will not be needed.
Despite the evening hour, Hapgood tried to reach Meader, without success. Since the Nov. 2 ballot must be final by Sept. 3 – the day nomination papers for local elective office are due – selectmen agreed to a short special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2, expecting a clarification before then.
Hapgood said none of the ordinance amendments China Planning Board members have discussed for months will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, because she has been unable to get final copies in time.
Jeanette Smith, Chairman of the Thurston Park Committee, attended the meeting to explain why committee members want to contract with Scott Childs to do $23,350 worth of work in the park, without seeking other bids. Childs heads SD Childs and Sons Excavation, Inc., of Palermo.
Last year, she said, Childs worked on two main trails in the town-owned park in northeastern China. Heavy rains in the fall showed that ditching some sections and installing a culvert are needed, to avoid dealing with repeated damage.
Childs gave them the estimate, which includes other projects, last fall. Committee members intend to use part of the $35,000 allocated from China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund to pay him.
Meanwhile, they were told they should get at least three estimates. Committee member Steve Nelson has found no other contractor with the time or inclination to bid on the project.
Smith asked selectmen’s approval to go ahead with Childs as planned. Despite general belief in the value of multiple estimates, they approved in this case; Chadwick pointed out that this year is unusual. The vote was 4-1, with Blane Casey opposed.
Chairman Ronald Breton added that since China apparently has no policy saying when proposed expenditures are to be bid out, the board should develop one.
In other business, selectmen made committee appointments as follows:
— Cemetery Committee, Elizabeth Curtis and Jean Dempster; and
— Building Committee, for the planned addition of a storage room on the town office, Ashley Farrington, Debra Fischer, Tiffany Glidden, Sheldon Goodine, Jaime Hanson and Scott Pierz.
After the special Sept. 2 meeting, the next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13.
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