CHINA — A town committee tasked with finding ways to spur economic development using a total of $845,000 in sheltered tax revenue from Central Maine Power Co. upgrades voted Tuesday on which items to recommend to the Board of Selectmen. The selectmen are expected to vote on which recommendations to place on the warrant for the Town Meeting in March.

The tax increment financing district, approved at the March 2015 Town Meeting, generates around $250,000 in revenue each year until it expires in 2035. The revenue is kept in a special account the town can use for approved projects related to economic development.

The committee has been working on redesigning the causeway at the north end of China Lake, adding more parking space and upgrading the boat launch area, with the help of engineer Mark McCluskey from A.E. Hodsdon in Waterville.

Member Dale Worster presented an alternative plan Tuesday evening that proposed using processed gravel and landscaping blocks that could be used for fishing instead of sheet piling. Ultimately, the committee unanimously approved a motion to recommend the selectmen let the committee use up to $750,000, to be spent over three years, for the project.

The committee also voted 6-2 to recommend appropriating $25,000 to a revolving loan fund, which would supplement bank loans for local businesses. The interest earned on the loans would go back into the TIF account. In the same motion, they voted to contract administrative duties out to the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, which will help set up the program.

Members Jim Wilkens, who is also Planning Board chairman, and David Cotta voted against the motion and said they are against the idea of using tax money to subsidize bank loans.

The committee also discussed the Alewife Restoration Initiative and the Thurston Park committee, both of which had asked for a portion of the TIF funds at the previous meeting.

Scott Pierz, president of the China Regional Lakes Alliance, previously had spoken for the initiative, a group of environmental organizations working to restore alewives to the Sebasticook watershed, including China Lake. The group is working to remove the Masse Dam in Vassalboro, a project that has generated controversy among residents over the last year. Eventually the initiative hopes alewives will be able to swim into China Lake and then back out to the Atlantic Ocean, taking damaging phosphorous out of the lake with them.

Pierz argued that the lake is the “economic driver” of the town, and that introducing alewives would help efforts to clean the water and make it more attractive to visitors.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend giving $30,000 to the group, after several members said a cleaner lake would help draw more people to China. However, some members, such as Joann Austin, noted that the Kennebec Water District’s studies didn’t find that alewives helped or hurt the water quality.

The Thurston Park committee asked for $39,325 — $21,750 to repair the roads leading into the park, $7,500 to replace a bridge, $1,500 to replace a gate and $5,000 to install a composting toilet. Sheri Wilkens, a member of the Thurston Park committee, said volunteers would donate labor for the efforts.

While the committee has used grants mostly to fund projects at the park, a grant to fix interior trails did not allow it to repair exterior roads and parking, so it’s difficult for vehicles that don’t have four-wheel drive to get into the area, Wilkens said.

The committee voted unanimously, with chairwoman Amber McAllister abstaining, to recommend giving the park $40,000.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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