CHINA — The committee that decides how to spend tax revenue generated by Central Maine Power upgrades that spurs economic development in town held a public hearing on Monday to discuss its plans to make the Causeway a more walkable, accessible and family friendly area for residents and visitors.

A tax increment financing or TIF district was approved for Central Maine Power upgrades at a March 2015 Town Meeting. It’s expected to generate more than $250,000 in revenue each year until it expires in 2035. The fund currently has $337,000. If towns don’t use their TIF money by the end of the contract, they will be penalized by the state.

About 20 people attended a public hearing Monday evening at the Town Office to address one TIF item residents will vote on in March: whether to approve up to $750,000 for the Causeway project to be used over a period of three years. The money will be used to cover engineering and construction costs to improve parking, improve or replace the bridge and provide more recreational opportunities. The committee also plans to pursue other sources of revenue, such as grants, for the project.

Confusion over what the committee was proposing and what was on the warrant for the march Town Meeting led to heated exchanges at times.

Sandra Kostron said she didn’t think it was beneficial to have just one public hearing about the proposal so close to the Town Meeting.

“This board has been meeting for over a year,” said Selectman Ronald Breton. “If you haven’t attended the meetings, you can’t knock the board for that.”

Some who attended the meeting seemed frustrated that the committee has a concept, but not a step-by-step plan.

Committee members said they need the money approved first to hire engineers and experts to provide more input on what can be done. They also said they would have more public hearings after the vote to see what people in town would like to prioritize.

“I don’t see or get the impression that a lot of people have a reservation to what this idea is. … For me I’d like to know more about prioritizing what we know we need over stuff we’d like to do,” said Justin Gaudet. As a parent, he said he worries about safety over other things.

“For example, there’s an additional fishing dock there,” Gaudet said. “That’s awesome, but it’s going to make kids run across the road faster.”

He also said if the bridge is a safety issue, the committee should prioritize that.

“(Boat owners are) still coming here. They’re still crowding up this area. Let them do it for another year. Give us a safe bridge first,” he said.

Kostron said the material sent out by the committee about the issues involved in the Causeway project was misleading, as it put the bridge at the bottom of the list.

The Maine Department of Transportation has said the bridge on Causeway Road will last for another five or 10 years and can currently handle a full load, but it is cracking in places. It was built in the 1930s. The committee decided to put $227,000 toward a bridge replacement to be supplemented with grants possibly, as it’s a safety issue that could be exacerbated by increased use of the Causeway, said Chairwoman Amber McAllister.

“I think if we have a long-term vision and investment for the Causeway, sooner or later we’re going to have to do something for the bridge,” said Dale Peabody, a China resident.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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