CHINA — Two selectboard seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election, with two incumbents and two candidates vying for the positions.

Some of the most important issues facing the town, according to the four candidates, include how to promote economic and population growth in town as well as proposed lakefront property purchase.

Albert Althenn, 68, a businessman in China, is seeking a seat for the third time.

Incumbent Irene Belanger, 73, is a retired real estate agent who has served on the selectboard for seven years and was previously the planning board chairwoman in China.

Incumbent Steven Hughes, 55, is a a retired U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant who has served on the selectboard for two years. He runs the child youth and school services program for the Maine National Guard.

Amber McAllister, 27, who is a housing program officer for Maine Housing, is running for the selectboard for the first time after moving to China in 2009.

Althenn, owns several local businesses, including a roofing company, has lived in town since 1988.

He is unhappy with some of the decisions being made in the town, including how the poor quality of water in China Lake has been handled and the town’s potential purchase of lakefront property for a public park, which he is against.

The town is asking voters to approve borrowing $575,000 for the purchase of the Cabins, a three-acre stretch of land on China Lake and six acres of land across from Lakeview Drive.

Althenn said he doesn’t think the property is suitable for a park. 

“The town is looking to spend close to $600,000 for what is essentially one shorefront building lot,” he said, adding that the town should put more work into developing a park near the lake’s boat landing, which is town owned.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has said that a portion of that land is an Inland Waterfowl Wader Habitat, and there would be difficulty in approving an application to develop the land.

Althenn said he studied business and economics at Northeastern University and the University of Maine, and would like to see the town spend money more cautiously.

“The town shouldn’t be spending money right now, especially on toys,” he said, referring to the potential property purchase.

Incumbent Belanger, who has served on the selectboard for seven years,  wants to continue working on economic development and providing the community with public access to the lake.

“I firmly believe in the purchase of that property,” Belanger said. “We’ve got this great big lake and the general public can’t use it.”

Before she was on the selectboard, Belanger was the planning board chairwoman in China for 20 years. In addition to lake access, she wants more people to participate in the issues concerning China.

“I’d like to hear more from people and ask them what they’d like to see come into the community,” Belanger said. “We don’t hear much from the townspeople.”

Belanger hopes to see some small business development in China in the future, and expects the town’s economic development committee to play a growing role in the town.

“We have a recently appointed economic development committee and I’d like to see that committee grow and get more people involved,” she said.

Belanger, who is on the committee, said it is planning a meeting with local business people and representatives from Kennebec Valley Council of Governments and the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce to seek feedback from the local business community.

She said that her previous experience on the planning board and as a real estate agent provided her with the background needed for the selectboard.

Hughes, the other incumbent, has lived in China for 10 years and served on the selectboard for two years, and also sees economic development as the key to bringing in more families and more tax dollars for the town.

“I think China has the capability and infrastructure to support some more small businesses,” Hughes said, adding that a doctor’s or dentist’s office would be an ideal development. Hughes is also on China’s Economic Development Committee.

Hughes, who has a Master’s degree in public administration from Bowie State University in Maryland, also agrees with the idea of public lake access for residents, but isn’t entirely sold on the Cabins site. 

“The town of China can use something like that, but is the Cabins property the right one? It’s certainly appealing, but there are concerns.”

McAllister, has lived in China since 2009 and is looking to get involved with the local government. She recently graduated with her Master’s degree in public policy from New England College and is hoping to make China a place where young people want to start a family.

McAllister and her husband, Mike, had their first child, a daughter named Charli, in January.

McAllister sees the potential purchase of the Cabins property as a draw for people looking for that community feeling in a town.

“The Cabins may not be the selling point, but it would be a community draw knowing the town has that resource if they can’t live on the lake,” McAllister said. “I think it would be a great chance for economic development and I see it as a place where young families can go.”

McAllister, is a housing program officer for Maine Housing in Augusta, which provides low-income homeowners with home repair or upgrade grants. McAllister said she would also like to take a closer look at the bidding process for town projects, such as the mowing or plowing contracts.

“I personally think it would be a good idea to look at how the town processes bids,” she said.

McAllister, who said she has a love for government, is focused on trying to get more people active in the town’s decisions.

“It’s about involving people,” she said. “I am relatively young, but I have a lot of education and professional experience. It would be nice to have fresh eyes on the council.”

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]