Without quorum, China TIF committee goes ahead with meeting

by Mary Grow

With only four of eight members present (there used to be nine members, but chairman Brent Chesley said Trishea Story had resigned), China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee lacked a quorum for the March 8 meeting. Members decided since their decisions are advisory only, they could go ahead without a quorum.

The agenda included two main items: fund requests left over from the committee’s Feb. 8 meeting (see the Feb. 16 issue of The Town Line, p. 3), and the revolving loan fund (RFL) that is part of China’s TIF program.

Committee members quickly recommended approval of:

  • The China Lake Association’s request for $1,000 that committee chairman Brent Chesley said is for a state conference to be held at the China Conference Center;
  • $5,000 for China Ice Days in February 2024;
  • $20,000 in two different requests from town officials, half for 2024 China Community Days and the other half for a summer intern, whose duties Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said will focus on helping existing business and reaching out to attract new ones; and
  • $7,213 for Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG) dues and $460 for Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce dues, items Hapgood said have previously been in the municipal budget.

Thurston Park Committee chairman Jeanette Smith presented a revised request for TIF funds, mostly to help repair the entrance road into the park. The road washed out in the Dec. 22 storm, and an application for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds was denied.

Smith said trails in the park are usable, once people walk in because they can’t drive until the road is fixed, but caution is advised – the trails, too, suffered washouts and are cluttered with fallen and uprooted trees.

Smith had asked for only the $25,000 a majority of TIF committee members approved Feb.8. Chesley encouraged her to increase the request, and said the select board, on which he serves, should hear the history of the storm damage and the FEMA application before its members act on a request for TIF money.

The revolving loan fund (RLF) is described in China’s TIF plan as intended “to provide existing and new businesses in China with loans to expand operations, add employees and develop new products and with other types of business assistance which expands and improves the town’s economy.”

At their Nov. 22, 2022, meeting, committee members questioned the value of the program. They pointed out that the only loan ever made was in default, and as of November there were no applicants for new loans.

Since then, Chesley said, he had been approached by someone interested in a loan to start a new business in China. On investigation, he found that the town’s agreement with KVCOG to administer the RLF had expired, and had to tell the interested party the committee needed to recreate an administrative framework before reviewing a loan application.

Audience member Thomas Rumpf, who served on the RLF committee when there was one, volunteered to help put a committee together, again. Rumpf also recommended changing the program from loans to grants, an idea committee member Michael “Mickey” Wing supported.

Chesley had already planned to meet with KVCOG officials; he and Rumpf will schedule a meeting.

A change from a loan fund to a grant fund would require a change in the TIF document, which would need approval from China voters and from state Department of Economic and Community Development officials.

The next China TIF committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, May 1.


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