TIF committee has more financial recommendations to complete

by Mary Grow

As their Jan. 27 meeting ended, China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee members scheduled another one for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, because they still have financial recommendations to complete.

Committee members are working on what they call the Second Amendment to China’s original (2015) TIF agreement that lists projects and amounts of TIF money to be allocated to each. Voters approved the first amendment in 2017.

Committee members hope to have the Second Amendment ready for the 2021 annual town business meeting. Town Manager and TIF Treasurer Becky Hapgood told them the town meeting warrant must be final by March 15. Committee recommendations need approval by the board of selectmen and review by the budget committee.

TIF funds come from taxes Central Maine Power Company pays on its north-south power line through China and its South China substation. They can be used for economic development projects in, and under the proposed Second Amendment, in one case outside, the Town of China.

If voters approve the revised plan, TIF money will be available to help modify the China Lake Outlet Dam, in East Vassalboro, to allow alewives to migrate into and out of China Lake.

Another proposed change would allow use of TIF money to expand broadband service in town.

More than a million TIF dollars have gone into the causeway project, which involved a new bridge and substantial work on the rest of the causeway across the head of China Lake’s east basin, and improvements to the adjacent boat landing. Part of the Jan. 27 discussion was how much more money the project needs and what share is in the current fiscal year (2020-21) versus next year (2021-22).

As of Jan. 27, it was not clear how much more money the causeway project will need. Also undetermined were what the broadband project might cost and whether it would be a private enterprise or a town project.

With no final figures for those two large projects, committee members consider their recommendations for other TIF activities subject to change.

The projects generating most discussion Jan. 27 included:

  • Recreational trails and related development, including funds for the Four Seasons Club, a private nonprofit organization that maintains year-round trails for snowmobiles and four-wheelers, horseback riders and hikers; Thurston Park; and the school forest behind China Primary School.
  • The new proposal to assist with installing a fishway at Outlet Dam, the final step in a multi-year project to which China and Vassalboro have contributed in the past.
  • The new proposal to assist with expanded broadband service, which remains undefined until a bid is accepted.
  • The use of TIF funds as matching funds for grants.

Committee members were not agreed on whether they have required or if not should require a formal application for TIF funds, or whether a request with an explanation is sufficient. Their Jan. 27 agenda included a discussion of policies that would have covered the issue, but committee members adjourned before they got to it.

Bids for expanded broadband to be opened Feb. 5

Bids for expanded broadband service, solicited by China’s Broadband Committee (CBC), will be opened at the town office on Friday, Feb. 5, beginning at 3:45 p.m. The opening is listed to be available for public viewing on the town Live Stream.

The CBC is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, to review bids. CBC member Jamie Pitney said committee members might work on an application for Tax Increment Financing funds if a bidder asks for support.


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