CHINA — Selectmen have angered a whole new group of people by once again postponing discussion of a controversial issue.

Some commercial trash haulers had previously been disappointed that board members refused to talk at either of their December meetings about trash fee increases scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Now, some Branch Pond landowners are upset that board members refused to talk at their Monday meeting about the Branch Mills dam, which controls their water level.

Selectmen’s explanation to the trash haulers was that they first needed to review results of last summer’s solid waste survey. The review might be on the Jan. 2 selectmen’s agenda, if survey coordinator Susan Cottle is available.

In postponing discussion about the dam, selectmen told the Branch Pond group that new dam owner Stephen Coombs could not attend Monday’s meeting.

Former owner Tom Dinsmore, who holds Coombs’ mortgage on the dam and the historic mill above it, read an email from Coombs saying he intended to come to Maine in January and begin repairing the mill underpinnings.

Coombs has kept the dam open and the water in Branch Pond low so that he can work on the mill, Dinsmore said earlier this fall.

But so far he has not had money or time to begin work.

Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said the discussion was removed from the meeting agenda Monday afternoon. Levi Krajewski, a former president of the Branch Pond Association, said he emailed interested parties that they didn’t need to show up.

Nonetheless, almost a dozen residents attended the meeting, and several did not hesitate to express their displeasure.

Brandon Kulik demanded to know why selectmen paid deference to Coombs, when Coombs is the source of the problem. He pointed out that board members have discussed the dam previously without Coombs.

Selectman Joann Austin replied that the earlier discussion was needed to decide whether to foreclose on the property because taxes that were overdue. Since then, enough back-taxes have been paid to postpone the issue for another few months, she said.

Kulik suggested selectmen set a January date for a meeting with Coombs, give him a deadline and to offer advance notice to people such as him who had to rearrange their work schedules for selectmen’s meetings.

Board Chairman Peter Foote rejected the idea.

Fred Titcomb said he has listened to Coombs’ promises for four years while the pond stays dry. He and other landowners said they wanted to talk with selectmen immediately, not next month.

Krajewski asked if Foote would allow informal presentations from the audience. Foote again refused, but agreed the group could continue discussion among themselves in the Town Office conference room, an offer they accepted.

Foote also asked L’Heureux to get a January date from Coombs on Tuesday, if possible, and report it to Krajewski to share with his mailing list of interested parties.

After the Branch Pond group left, selectmen turned to other business, including:

* A report from Scott Pierz, code enforcement officer and chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, on committee plans to have revisions to ordinance requirements for commercial and multi-family development ready for a June local vote.

* A report from former Selectman Neil Farrington on efforts to revive the China Historical Society and catalog holdings in the old town house museum beside the Town Office.

* Acceptance of L’Heureux’s recommendation to allow former owners of tax-acquired properties the traditional 60 days to reclaim them by paying all overdue and current taxes and fees.

* A decision to talk about the Planning Board’s revised ordinance section on home occupations at their Jan. 2 meeting.

 

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