CHINA — Seven candidates are running for a trio of seats lasting two years on the town’s Board of Selectmen.

The candidates who will be on the local ballot at the Nov. 8 election include three incumbents, three political newcomers and a budget committee member.

Joann C. Austin, a longtime selectman, said she is running again this year because she loves China.

“I want the town to be the best place it can be,” she said in a phone interview.

Austin, 77, has been a lawyer at Austin Law Offices for 35 years. She came to China in the summer every year in her early life, and after earning her law degree at the University of Maryland, she moved to China.

Austin was on the select board in the 1980s and again since 1998 to the present. She is involved in a number of committees within the town and has run for the state House of Representatives and the state Senate in the past, though she didn’t win.

“There’s great value in having a historical perspective to offer when the board is searching for a decision,” Austin said, adding that she knows the history of the roads, the transfer station, the libraries and more throughout the town.

Austin said keeping the town’s spending at a level rate is important.

“The town budget has not caused a mill rate to go up,” she said. “The mill rate goes up because of the school costs and the county jail costs.”

She also wants to start looking at senior issues and how the town can help the elderly “age in place,” so they don’t have to move elsewhere for services. For example, Austin said she wants to provide more affordable and accessible housing.

Robert A. MacFarland has been a selectman for two years and has served as chairman of the board for one. He’s running to help control spending and promote transparency in local government.

“I feel like I have a lot to offer to taxpayers, as far as common sense spending of their tax dollars,” he said in a phone interview.

MacFarland, 55, owns RAM Renovations and has served on select boards and other boards in towns in New Hampshire.

Restoring China Lake is the biggest issue facing the town, he said.

“It’s our biggest economic driver that we have in town,” MacFarland said. “We have basically a body of water that drives our tax base. It’s a place of recreation, and it’s also a municipal drinking water source.”

He said he thinks the town needs to find funding to make sure the lake is “clean and safe for everybody.”

However, MacFarland did not directly say that he supports the proposal to restore alewives to China Lake. He said people should make sure they have answers to all of the questions and a track record of experience before they do things that can’t be undone, noting that it would be hard to remove millions of alewives from the lake once they got in.

Neil L. Farrington, a selectman of 12 years, said he’s running again to make sure the revenue from the tax increment financing district is disbursed “without any bias.”

China’s TIF district, established in 2015, is set to receive $5 million over 20 years from Central Maine Power upgrades.

Farrington was in the U.S. Navy for 24 years before retiring as a chief petty officer. He now serves as president of the China Historical Society and commander of the South China American Legion Auxiliary Post 179. He’s also a member of the Regional School Unit 18 facilities committee and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments.

Farrington said what he feels is most important is ensuring that both sides of the lake are heard. He grew up in South China and retired in China, so he has experience with both villages, he said.

“I keep an open mind and I listen to all proposals,” he said, adding that he will choose “the ones that make the most sense and benefit the majority of the population.”

Farrington also is concerned about water quality. He thinks the town should listen to people who have the right background and education to make decisions on what is best for the lake, saying the town has nothing to lose with the proposal to add alewives.

He also defended the select board’s spending.

“I’ve been fighting taxes for the past 12 years. About 75 cents of every dollar goes toward education, and then out of the rest is administration and services for the town,” he said. “A lot of people think there are big cuts to make in our government that will affect our tax base.”

Farrington said that the town could cut services and save some money, but the public would have to decide whether those services deserved to be cut.

He proposes taking some of the tax dollars that go toward education for senior services instead, as the town ages and there are fewer children and more seniors.

Political newcomer Wayne D. Chadwick is running for a seat to look more closely at spending and get some “new blood” on the board.

“I’ve lived in the town most of my adult life,” he said in a phone interview. “I just don’t agree with some of the things that have been going on, and I’d like to see if I could make a difference.”

Chadwick, 50, owns and runs W.D. Chadwick Construction, an excavation company, and has never held an elected office before.

Chadwick said he remembers when more local people used to own camps on the lake, even if they weren’t wealthy.

“That’s not too common anymore,” he said. “I think that’s sort of too bad. I think that’s changed the way of life a little bit.”

He thinks the town spends money “a little too loosely,” he said, though he didn’t have any specific cuts in mind. He also said he thinks it’s time for new people to serve on the select board.

“I think it’s time to get a few new people into local politics instead of having it run by the same four or five people for the past 10, 20 years,” he said, adding that the select board has worked hard, but he thinks it’s time for “a little new blood.”

Albert W. Althenn is running again for a seat on the select board after three unsuccessful attempts. He’s running to protect China Lake and reduce town spending.

“I want to be there to get on the inside a little bit and hopefully change some minds,” he said.

Althenn, 71, owns a roofing business, trades antique cars and rents out property in China. He’s currently on the China budget committee and has served on the planning board in the 1990s and the Thurston Park committee. He said he tries to “learn every single thing I can find out about the task at hand” before he makes decisions.

His biggest concern is the lake, which he fears is being destroyed by lake level orders and what he calls “special interests” of the state departments of environmental protection, inland, fisheries and wildlife and marine resources. He disagrees with the proposal to introduce alewives to the lake, which he says may be the final action that kills what ecology the lake has left.

“The town, I think, could have a great influence,” he said. Instead, according to Althenn, the town ignores the problem.

The lake is important because it drives the economics of the town, he said. “It’s the crown jewel of the town.”

Althenn also said he thinks the town spends “copious amounts of money on some things.” For example, he said he’d have spent less money on the town’s transfer station.

He also wants to get residents more options for cable providers. He doesn’t think it’s right that the town is “held captive to one provider” and he’d like to see competition.

Althenn said he would be wary of adding senior services to town services paid by taxpayer dollars. He said he’d be worried about increasing the tax rate and sticking the town with another responsibility.

“When is enough enough?” he said.

Raymond M. Robert has never run for an elected office before, but decided to run for a seat on the select board to fight for taxpayers.

“I see a lot of waste happening as far as the spending of taxpayers’ money,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s just going to programs that don’t benefit the majority of the taxpayers.”

Robert, 43, is an environmental health and safety specialist at L.L. Bean, where he’s worked for five years. He’s also working toward a master’s degree from Tulane University.

Robert said he doesn’t like how the town puts money toward projects that benefit only a few people. For example, he said sidewalks are a costly project that also incur maintenance costs and can require special equipment for snow removal, but they only benefit those who live near them.

He also thinks the town owns too much land. While he said he might not always be against the town buying land, he doesn’t like that the town buys land and doesn’t do anything with it. If it sold the land, it would go back to the tax base, he said.

Robert also said he’d like to have an outside organization analyze the town to see if it needs all of the resources and employees that it has “to get done what it needs to get done.”

“I’m going to be working for the taxpayers, and I want to do what’s best for the taxpayers,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to cut services the town needs.

He said the town keeps adding services and expenses, yet it doesn’t have the tax base to support them long-term. Robert said his goal is to “make the town work better for the taxpayers.”

Jeffrey R. LaVerdiere, another political newcomer, is hoping he can bring his business experience to the select board.

LaVerdiere, 55, owns LaVerdiere’s General Store and a gravel business. He was previously director of LaVerdiere’s Drug Store for eight years, but has never before held an elected office. He’s running because he felt he should get involved in the town.

“There are members that have been there for a long time, and it’s time for some new faces and new blood,” he said in a phone interview.

LaVerdiere said he has a lot of business experience and could add “a little bit of business sense to the community.”

He also said he knows that a lot of townspeople feel that decisions are out of their hands and that their voices aren’t heard at meetings.

LaVerdiere would like to lower taxes if it’s possible and use a more conservative approach when it comes to town spending.

“I just want to be involved and see if I can have a positive impact,” he said. “When you run a small business, you always have to make every penny count. I think that sometimes boards tend to lose sight of that.”

LaVerdiere also said he wants to make sure the water quality of China Lake improves, though he would want to learn more about the issue before making any decisions.

While LaVerdiere said that things in China seem to be working as they are so far, he added that “there’s always ways to do a little bit better job than we’re doing already.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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