CHINA — Selectmen said no thanks this week to acquiring the Branch Mills Stream dam, agreeing to waive a foreclosure deadline for the property owner.

Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux told the board Monday night that the town’s lien on the dam and the mill building above it will mature Dec. 18. Selectmen unanimously agreed to let L’Heureux, the tax collecter, waive the deadline. Originially, the town automatically would have become the dam’s owner if the overdue taxes on it weren’t paid by then.

Selectmen agreed that the town isn’t equipped to deal with issues concerning Branch Pond’s water level and dam repairs.

The water level in Branch Pond, the small lake created when the West Branch of the Sheepscot River was dammed in 1800, is low, prompting many complaints from Branch Pond landowners.

At an Oct. 10 meeting of the board, former mill and dam owner Thomas Dinsmore told the board the new owner, Stephen Coombs, has the gates open and the water low so he can repair the underpinnings of the mill building. However, Coombs has had financial problems and has been unable to start the work or pay the taxes. Dinsmore told the board last month that Coombs hoped to do some work on the dam this fall, after finishing an out-of-state project.

Selectmen agreed they do not know how much work or cost is involved in restoring the mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and that would also be a problem if the town took over the dam.

L’Heureux said waiving foreclosure for 2011 does not prevent town officials from collecting all back taxes on the property when the owner can pay.

In other business Monday, selectmen recognized three local men with Spirit of America certificates for their volunteer activities. Selectwoman Irene Belanger made presentations to businessman Thadius Barber and retiring Selectman Neil Farrington. Contractor Robin Tobey also was recognized but was not able to attend to receive his certificate.

L’Heureux reported that he expects the Planning Board to approve the new access road to China Primary School at its meeting Tuesday, unless an unexpected deficiency in the application is found.

Assuming Planning Board approval, L’Heureux said, work should start this fall.

The planned road along the north edge of town and school properties would be for emergency access only. Pedestrians would be able to use it, but gates at both ends would bar vehicles.

Correspondent Mary Grow is a Kennebec Journal correspondent who lives in China.

 


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