Guardrail topic generates heated discussion; Cotta resigns from TIF committee

by Mary Grow

Money was the top issue at the China Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee’s July 1 meeting, but guardrails generated the most heated discussion.

The metal guardrails run along the shore at the head of China Lake, on both sides of the new causeway bridge and for a considerable distance east. Several TIF Committee members emphatically do not like them. They’re ugly and unsafe, committee members said.

Included in the plan for Phase I of the causeway project, they were installed by Wright-Pierce Engineering, Town Manager Dennis Heath said.

As Tom Michaud, who chairs the TIF Committee’s construction subcommittee, remembers, in November 2018 the committee asked Wright-Pierce to postpone the guardrails to Phase II. Selectmen decided they were necessary for safety and authorized going ahead with the installation.

Jim Wilkens said they are too hard to get over to be safe. He recently watched parents trying to help children climb over them to get out of the roadway.

Michaud said the guardrails need to be gone before the China Days children’s fishing derby the first weekend in August so derby entrants can fish along the shore. So far he’s been unable to get the project engineer, Mark McCluskey of A. E. Hodsdon, to respond to his complaints.

Heath said he would talk with McCluskey, and committee members considered a recommendation to selectmen. They scheduled a second meeting focused on construction issues on July 2.

Assuming Phase II includes changes to the guardrails, Heath said preliminary suggestions include shortening the existing ones or replacing them “with a more decorative pedestrian type instead of a vehicle type.”

[See also: Selectmen unanimously approve fire departments stipend plan; to submit to state for review]

Phase I is almost complete, Heath said; the two remaining items are resurfacing the sidewalk, which was damaged when rain fell before the concrete dried, and completing records. The TIF fund has about $139,000 earmarked for Phase II, plus money set aside for engineering. Heath is waiting for cost estimates from McCluskey.

The manager is the TIF Committee’s financial officer. In that capacity, he told committee members the TIF fund has an unaudited balance of close to $435,000, and he expects about another $360,000 in 2019-2020 from Central Maine Power Company tax payments on its power line and South China substation.

Heath told committee members they can recommend rearranging China’s TIF program to cover new economic development activities to meet changing times. Committee members voted to review the program every two years, and more often if needed. The TIF Committee makes program and funding recommendations to the selectboard; specific projects need town voters’ approval. So far projects have appeared on the warrant for the annual town meeting. In November 2018 voters turned down a request to let selectmen approve TIF fund requests between town meetings.

The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, July 29.

After the July 1 meeting adjourned, H. David Cotta announced his resignation from the committee, effective immediately.


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