Voters pass all articles but one at ballot business meeting

by Mary Grow

As reported last week (see the June 16 issue of The Town Line, p. 12), China voters at their June 14 written-ballot annual town business meeting approved all but one of the articles presented by their select board.

The rejected article would have imposed a temporary moratorium on new commercial solar development. Proponents wanted to give planning board members time to develop and present a new ordinance to regulate such developments.

Opponents, whose arguments proved more convincing, did not want to prevent China landowners from taking advantage of potential offers to sell or lease their property for solar arrays. The vote, as reported by Town Clerk Angela Nelson, was 283 in favor to 368 opposed.

Many articles dealt with appropriations for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022. The most popular appropriation coming at least partly from local taxes was $166,755 for China’s three volunteer fire departments and China Rescue. Funding was approved by 614 voters; 52 voted no.

Least popular was the request to raise and appropriate $872,895 for administration (mostly town office and related services) plus $25,000 for accrued compensation (to pay money owed to a town employee who retires or resigns). That expenditure was supported by 437 voters; 243 voters opposed it.

Voters were presented with six proposed expenditures from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. All were approved, by widely varying margins.

Most popular was the request to use up to $20,000 for new emergency generators in the old town hall and the current town office, approved by 551 voters with 117 opposed.

The article asking for up to $38,000 to put emergency 911 signs on every house was almost as well received: 497 voters liked it, 170 voted against it.

Two proposals to benefit people directly also won by generous margins. A request for up to $5,000 for senior events and activities was approved, 540 votes to 132 votes.

A request to use up to $16,200 to give extra compensation to town employees who worked with the public during the worst of the pandemic got 452 votes in favor, with 215 opposed.

Two proposals to use ARPA money to buy new digital signs were least popular. The $33,000 sign to go on Route 32 South (Windsor Road) got 387 votes in favor to 282 opposed. The $20,000 portable sign for speed control and announcements was approved by a 50-vote margin, 352 to 302.

The June 14 voting did not include local elections, which will be held Nov. 8. This year China voters will choose three select board members, three planning board members, four budget committee members and one representative to the Regional School Unit (RSU) 18 board.

In the only contest on either the Democratic or the Republican state primary ballot in China, Katrina Smith, of Palermo, defeated Jennifer Tuminaro, of China, for the Senate District #62 nomination with 207 votes to Tuminaro’s 194. In the whole district, which includes Hibberts Gore, Palermo, Somerville and Windsor, Smith gained the nomination by a 524 to 316 margin, according to June 14 results reported in the Central Maine newspapers.

In November, Smith will face Pamela Swift, of Palermo, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

The November contest for state Senate District #15 will pit Republican incumbent Matthew Gary Pouliot against Democrat Storme Jude St. Valle. Both are from Augusta; neither had a primary opponent. Senate District #15 includes Augusta, China, Oakland, Sidney and Vassalboro.

China voters also had the chance to answer a straw poll after they left the voting room. The question was whether they want to continue the annual town business meeting by written ballot, as they had just done, or go back to the pre-pandemic open meeting with voting by show of hands. Town Clerk Nelson said the answers were 162 residents preferring the traditional open meeting and 111 residents preferring the written ballot method.

There were also suggestions written on two of the ballot slips, she said: “Want both” and “Let the Select Board do it.”


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