China town staff tells selectmen of rude treatment by residents

by Mary Grow

China selectmen reacted with indignation when Town Clerk Rebecca Hapgood and Town Manager Dennis Heath told them people are rude to counter staff in the town office.

In addition to the usual daily business, people have been calling and coming in to question, dispute or pay their taxes, and Hapgood said staff have dealt with many “ill-mannered, vulgar and threatening customers in person and over the phone.”

Ronald Breton, acting chairman at the Sept. 30 selectmen’s meeting, pointed out that staff are not responsible for the tax rate or town policies; he invited people who want to complain to talk to selectmen. He also advised counter staff to politely decline to serve rude customers. And, board member Donna Mills-Stevens added, don’t hesitate to call 911 if necessary.

Hapgood said there are two other problems: some taxpayers are so out of practice writing checks that they make them out incorrectly or forget to sign them; and others look at only the top of the two little slips on the bottom of the bill and if the cents are an odd number, pay a penny short.

For example, if a bill is for $4,000.21, the September half payment is for $2,000.11; the March 2020 half payment, on the upper of the small slips, is for $2,000.10.

Heath estimated so far about 50 taxpayers owe a penny each for this error. He and Mills-Stevens doubted it would be legal to simplify things by rounding the hypothetical bill up to $4,000.22. He said he would see if there are other options.

The manager said now that China is down to two part-time patrolling policemen, Craig Johnson from the Kennebec County sheriff’s department and Jordan Gaudet from the Hallowell police department (plus continuing administrative and logistical support from the Oakland police department), he asked Johnson to develop a cost estimate for a full-time China officer. He is not yet ready to consider making a proposal to selectmen.

Heath gave selectmen a revised schedule of proposed fees for town office services like making copies, emailing, FAXing, notarizing and using the telephone (see The Town Line, Sept. 19). Board members approved it unanimously.

Looking back to earlier decisions, Heath reported the transfer of town funds to Bar Harbor Banking and Trust is well under way; and work has started to make the town’s new portable classroom, currently in Oakland, mobile. The building will be brought to the town garage lot until a pad on the town office grounds is ready and then moved there at no additional cost (see The Town Line, Sept. 19). Heath proposes using it as police office.

Selectmen again had to postpone action on the application for a Tax Increment Finance loan for Buckshot Power Sports because they lacked final supporting documents. Heath explained that review of part of the application was delayed because a computer crash required owner Mike Rackliffe to hand-write financial information.

The next China selectmen’s meeting is moved from the usual Monday to Tuesday, Oct. 15, to avoid the renamed Indigenous People’s Day holiday. It will be preceded by 6 p.m. public hearings on Nov. 5 local ballot questions and on amendments to the General Assistance Ordinance appendices.


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