Selectmen adopt mailbox policy; ask for opt out on business equipment tax

by Mary Grow

China selectmen made numerous decisions as they went through a long and varied agenda at their Dec. 10 meeting, and still have topics left over for future discussion.

They unanimously adopted the mailbox policy discussed at their Nov. 26 meeting, which sets standards for placing mailboxes along state and town roads and says that if a plow truck damages a mailbox, the owner, not the town, is responsible (see this article from Nov. 29).

They unanimously approved Town Manager Dennis Heath’s wording of a resolution to the Maine legislature asking that municipalities be allowed to opt out of collecting personal property taxes on business equipment, an action authorized by voters in November (see this article from Nov. 8).

Heath’s request emphasized the personal property tax as a disincentive to business in Maine and urged legislators to promote business by amending state law to make collecting it optional.

Selectmen appointed Rebecca Hapgood to two positions that she already fills, human resources director for an indefinite term and registrar of voters for two years beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

They approved hiring Dawn Kilgore, of Sidney, as secretary to the planning board and board of appeals. Heath said Tracy Cunningham, who has been the frequently-commended planning board secretary, is resigning the position.

Selectmen reviewed Heath’s rankings of four candidates for the new position of apprentice to the codes officer and authorized him to offer the position to the highest-ranked.

The apprentice will work 18 hours a week, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at a pay rate of $15 an hour, and will be on probation for the first six months, Heath said. When the idea of an apprentice was proposed, he or she was seen as a potential successor to Codes Officer Paul Mitnik when Mitnik is ready to retire.

Heath wants to replace the current across-the-board annual raises for town employees with merit raises and bonuses. As a step in that direction, he asked for and received selectmen’s approval for $2,400 in holiday bonuses.

The manager is also revising China’s personnel policy, with input from town employees. Selectmen scheduled a special workshop meeting on the policy changes, which need their approval, for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27.

Another change Heath recommended was sending his draft of the 2019-2020 budget to the budget committee by mid-January and having the budget committee forward it to selectmen, instead of starting with the selectmen as in past years. After discussion of the reversal and of the pre-March-town-meeting timetable, Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere suggested, and his colleagues and Heath agreed, that the two boards should review the proposed budget simultaneously and hope they reach the same recommendations.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is currently scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, because it would normally have fallen on Christmas Eve. By then Heath hopes to have more information on the extended warranty on the public works department’s new Ventrac tractor, which public works head Gary Cummings expects will be delivered before Christmas.


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