Selectmen presented with preliminary warrant

by Mary Grow

CHINA — The preliminary warrant for the April 6 town business meeting presented to China selectmen at their Jan. 17 budget workshop looks different from previous years’ warrants.

Town Manager Dennis Heath has reorganized expenditure requests into 18 articles (numbers 3 through 20 in the first draft). Some have familiar titles, like assessing, legal expenses, the transfer station and public works. Others are new combinations, like boards and committees and community support organizations.

Under each article are the usual lines for recommendations from the selectboard and budget committee. This year there is space to record each body’s vote so voters can tell whether it was unanimous.

More important, the warrant lists no details about the proposed expenditures. By contrast, in the March 2018 warrant, fire and rescue (Art. 13) took up most of a printed page, with the individual fire departments, China Rescue, stipends and dispatching listed separately.

Nor does the warrant list potential funding sources, like excise tax or unassigned fund balance.

Instead, a blanket statement before Art. 3 reads: “For Articles 3 through 20, please refer to the ‘annual budget’ included in the town report.” The town report is usually available at the town office and other public places a week or more before the town business meeting.

For the Jan. 17 selectmen’s workshop Heath had a detailed breakdown of each article that allowed board members to review proposed spending item by item. During the more than three-and-a-half hour meeting selectmen approved most items and recommended small changes in others.

Changes in spending Heath suggested included setting aside $25,000 toward the cost of a future town revaluation (the last one was in 2008, he said); increasing expenditures for dispatching emergency services in anticipation of the much-discussed regional change; appropriating $50,000 to rebuild the transfer station capital reserve account, depleted by the new precrusher-compactor and forklift; and appropriating a similar amount to rebuild the accrued compensation fund, depleted by departures of two long-term employees, former Town Manager Dan L’Heureux and public works head Gary Cummings.

The two longest discussions of the evening were with South China Fire Chief Richard Morse, China Village Chief Timothy Theriault and other firefighters and with Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers.

Selectboard Chairman Robert MacFarland wants the fire departments to give selectmen the stipend amount each volunteer receives, by name, for responding to calls. The firefighters saw no need to provide such detailed information, but reluctantly agreed to have it for the selectmen’s next budget meeting, scheduled for Jan. 29.

Hudson asked the town for $100,000 for two years’ work on the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI), aimed at reintroducing migratory alewives into China Lake. The money would be used toward the planned fishway at the Outlet Dam in Vassalboro, she said.

Selectmen would prefer a smaller request, perhaps for one year’s work. The issue was left open.

Currently the state trucks alewives into China Lake in the spring and they make their way out in the fall. Some of the groups involved in area lake restoration work credit them for helping improve water quality in China Lake and Three Mile Pond.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting was set for Tuesday evening, Jan. 22, with the budget committee to meet the following evening and the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28. After the budget committee and TIF Committee make their 2019-2020 recommendations, selectmen will have the information they need to approve the town meeting warrant. They have scheduled a meeting for that purpose for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.


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