CHINA — Selectmen decided Monday evening to spend up to $43,000 on things that weren’t even on their agenda.

They voted unanimously to buy a 24-horsepower John Deere tractor with a mowing deck and a snowblower, at an estimated cost of about $20,000. It will replace the old tractor at the transfer station, which they believe has trade-in value, and it will also clear the new sidewalks in South China Village.

However, town officials need to buy a trailer to get the tractor back and forth between Alder Park Road and South China for another $3,700.

Board Chairman Peter Foote and Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux urged adding a town-owned pick-up truck to the shopping list.

Now, when a transfer station employee has a minor job such as picking up supplies or installing a road sign, the employee either takes the 1-ton truck or uses a personal vehicle and applies for mileage reimbursement, at a rate of 51 cents per mile.

Foote is convinced a town truck would save money, compared to reimbursing employees. The truck could be used all employees at the transfer station and perhaps by the animal control officers: town office employee Julie Finley, police officer Erasmo Gonzalez and transfer station employee Kevin Rhoades.

Selectman Paul MacDonald said he got truck prices from three area dealers. Foote said with generous municipal discounts, about $19,000 should buy a truck that will meet the town’s needs.

Board member Joann Austin abstained on the vote to buy the truck, saying she has doubts about the cost savings and the feasibility of sharing one truck among so many employees.

The next step, she predicted, will be to buy a vehicle for the town office so the manager, code enforcement officer and other office employees can also stop collecting mileage reimbursement.

L’Heureux said the capital reserve fund that will be used for the purchases had about $120,000 remaining as of June 30. Voters routinely add to the fund at China’s annual business meeting.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

* L’Heureux reported progress toward applying for a Land for Maine’s Future grant to help buy the Lakeview Drive property known as The Cabins at China Lake (formerly Candlewood), to provide town-owned access to China Lake.

* Foote reported that enough back taxes had been paid on the former Dinsmore mill in Branch Mills to avert foreclosure. Selectmen had planned to waive their right to foreclose, since they doubt owning the mill and the dam under it would be in the town’s interest.

* Selectmen unanimously accepted the Library Services Committee’s report.

* L’Heureux said the 2012 town business meeting is scheduled for March 24. Budget discussion needs to begin at the selectmen’s first meeting in January, he said.

* The manager reported that a small group of local people is exploring reviving the China Historical Society. Some of them plan to meet at 9 a.m. Monday in the Town Office, and anyone else interested is welcome.

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