Most of the eight candidates for the Select Board in China say they are concerned about keeping taxes low and addressing ordinance issues that could make the town more business-friendly.

China residents will vote for three selectmen and one Planning Board member this year in the Nov. 7 election. Four people are running for a pair of two-year selectmen’s terms, and another four people are running for a single post that lasts one year. Two people are facing off for a two-year seat on the Planning Board.

A debate among the candidates is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Albert Church Brown Memorial Library.

Voting will be held from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. at Town Office’s portable building at 571 Lakeview Drive. Absentee ballots are available now at the Town Office.

TWO-YEAR SELECTMAN

Two incumbents, a past selectman and a newcomer are running for two two-year terms.

Incumbent Irene Belanger, 77, has been on the Board of Selectmen for at least 10 years and was the chairwoman of the Planning Board before that. She’s continuing to run for office because she loves China and its residents, she said, and has been representing the town in some way since she moved there in 1969.

As the town looks at renewing its Comprehensive Plan in 2018, Belanger hopes to contribute her experience so that the town can make changes and “keep up with the times.”

“We need a community that is open-minded and is willing to look at the issues that we need to change, because things have changed down the years,” she said.

As a member of the China for a Lifetime Committee, she plans to push the idea of creating a town that works for everyone, from children to elders. One thing Belanger wants to encourage is more volunteerism, which she said is “dramatically important to a small town.”

Belanger serves on a number of committees, including the transfer station committee and the tax increment financing committee. She also sits on the FirstPark board of directors and the executive board of the Kennebec Regional Development Association.

“Why do I do all this? Because I believe in it,” she said. “I hope that by being out there and people seeing my presence in these communities and in the things that I do that it also will encourage other people to be involved.”

Incumbent Ron Breton, 67, is seeking a second term on the Select Board “to fix the problems in town.”

“I feel that I’m qualified to do it and I’m willing to do it, and I’m willing to take the harassment,” he said. “I’ve still got enough kick in me to do what’s right.” Breton previously served on the Planning Board for seven years, for more than five of which he was chairman.

He said land use codes — not taxes — are the biggest issue facing the board.

“There’s not much you can do about taxes,” he said. “(…) Most taxes go to school, another portion goes to the county, and then the rest is basically administration.”

China is in a good position with a healthy reserve fund and no debt, he said, which he hopes to continue; but sometime soon residents are going to have to decide whether to change land use ordinances and enact zoning.

“It’s hard to figure out what to do, but it needs to be addressed, because there’s a lot of conflict going on,” he said.

Breton also plans to continue working on the cost of health insurance for town employees, which he described as “astronomical.”

He also wants to raise awareness about state programs that can ease the property tax burden for residents, particularly local business. For example, the state has a business equipment tax relief program, which can reduce the amount of taxes a person pays on the property or machinery. The state then reimburses the town for those taxes.

“If re-elected, I would try to set up some type of meeting between business owners and the Select Board, along with the town assessor, to get these people the information,” he said. “This is a program that needs to be presented to the public.”

Frederick Glidden, 69, is running for the Select Board because some of what he’s seen in town “doesn’t make me happy.”

“I’ve lived in this town all my life. My grandfather was a selectman. My daughter was a selectman,” he said. “I just figured it was time I stopped complaining and tried to do something about what was going on.”

Glidden, a Budget Committee member for three years until 2012, thinks spending should be more controlled. For example, he doesn’t like the way the tax increment financing money is being spent.

“I think it should do more for the good of the whole town and not just one end of the town,” he said.

He also disapproves of the town’s recent land purchases and how it’s “trying to control” the fire departments. Glidden is a treasurer of the South China Fire Department.

The town needs to prevent tax increases, he said.

“I think it’s about time that they stopped giving everybody raises in the Town Office, especially the town manager,” Glidden said. “When he gives a 3 percent raise across the board, it doesn’t mean much to the town clerks, but it adds a lot to his pay.”

When he makes complaints, Glidden said, the response is often that the selectmen decide everything. So he decided to run for the position and “see how this is working and see if I can do anything to stop some of this.”

Robert MacFarland, 56, is running for the board to make sure that what residents vote for is what the board follows, he said.

“I think previous boards have taken liberties that aren’t given to them by voting members of the community,” MacFarland said, but he declined to give specific examples.

The largest issue facing the town, he said, is school taxes, which account for large portion of residents’ tax bills. He wants to improve communication between the school board and local governments so taxpayers understand better where their money is going.

MacFarland, who previously served one term as selectman and was a selectman in New Hampshire before moving to China in 2005, said he also wants to reorganize the transfer station to lower costs.

“Our transfer station is probably spending more than it’s taking in, and that’s why we’re increasing the budget to that department every year,” he said. “People say the budget’s been flat for $270,000 every year, but I don’t think that’s correct.”

He also wants to get the state more involved when it comes to China Lake, as the lake is state property. He thinks the state should hire a contractor to find the cause of the poor water quality and a solution.

“It shouldn’t be just the taxpayers around the lake and the taxpayers in the town of China and Vassalboro that take care of this lake, because it’s not our sole responsibility,” he said.

ONE-YEAR SELECTMAN

Three newcomers and a Planning Board member are running for a single one-year term on the Select Board.

Wayne Chadwick, 51, is running for a seat on the Board of Selectmen because he’s “fed up” with how the town is spending money.

For example, he said, the town is trading one of its plow trucks this year because it’s 10 years old. But Chadwick said it has low mileage and is in good condition, so the trade-in for a new truck is unnecessary.

“I just think they’re a little free with their spending,” he said.

Town Manager Dan L’Heureux said the trade-in is part of a long-term capital plan to avoid maintenance costs that start to escalate around 10 years because of the “heavy duty” work the plow trucks do. For example, the truck they’re trading in just recently incurred a $6,000 bill.

Chadwick also criticized the town’s land purchases, which he mostly opposes.

“Every piece of land in town they acquire is a piece of land that comes off the town tax rolls,” he said.

He called some spending at the transfer station unnecessary as well.

“I just really think that spending in general has been pretty free the past several years,” Chadwick said.

He plans to scrutinize items more and “not just green-light everything they’re asked for.”

Randall Downer, 60, was inspired to run for the Select Board when he heard that Joann Austin was stepping down after decades of service.

He plans to approach the spending of tax increment finance money in a more analytical way and manage the town’s trash more effectively to reduce costs.

“(It) is clearly, financially one of our toughest issues, one that is going to take constant attention in order to reasonably encourage people to minimize the amount of stuff they have to get rid of,” Downer said. “I know that there’s been a good effort over the years, but it takes a constant effort. A push toward single-stream recycling is essential if we’re going to increase that and decrease material that goes in the hopper.”

Downer, who served on the China Village Fire Department for years, also said he’s aware that the three distinct areas in China have different cultures and that the town needs to respect that.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” he said.

He also wants to find creative ways to keep seniors in their homes, such as mitigating higher valuations for senior residents.

“I know for a fact that (the tax rate) does influence their decision,” he said. “I’ve watched three families move … and it was hard.”

Ralph Howe, 39, wants to make China business-friendly.

He thinks the tax increment financing committee should spend more conservatively and invest in something that will bring business to town or have a direct effect on tax revenue.

“If we spend a lot, we should have a clear way to get money back,” said Howe, who was appointed to the Planning Board in 2017.

The town also is ignoring its aging demographics while expanding unnecessary services, he said. According to Howe, the rescue team is underfunded and underequipped for the large volume of calls it gets.

“A house can be rebuilt, but if rescue is inefficient, lives can’t be replaced,” he said. “We’re not talking about a huge expense compared to the three fire departments.”

Howe wants to focus on helping the aging population while taking steps to bring businesses into town, which is the only way to attract younger residents, he said. For example, he wants to expand rescue, expand the local library and look at increasing town assistance or changing how it’s handed out.

“People want lower taxes and they want more services,” he said, adding that those goals can be reached only with a larger tax base. He hopes to advertise to attract businesses, but to shy away from those that would harm the lake.

Howe, who was raised in China, also wants to address some of the more dangerous intersections in town and try to get traffic lights in those areas.

“I’m well-invested in the town,” he said.

Donna Mills-Stevens, 49, wants to advocate for younger people moving into the community and their needs.

While Mills-Stevens has never run in an election before, she understands finances because she’s worked in banking for 20 years, she said. She’s the assistant vice president at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.

She also runs Stevens Dairy Farm with her husband, which has given her experience applying for state and federal grants for 17 years.

Mills-Stevens thinks the town should take advantage of grants more often, which is something she would pursue actively if elected. For example, the enlargement of a fire pond on Neck Road could qualify for assistance from a federal agency.

“I think that that needs to be explored more,” she said.

She would use grants to develop some of the property recently purchased by the town, converting it into community space.

“We own a lot of land that’s not being utilized,” Mills-Stevens said. “With the elderly people around here, there’s not a community center for them to go to. There’s not a place for people to congregate outside of the Town Office.”

She envisions a community park off Lakeview Drive, which could win a grant.

“My focus really is … make this a family friendly community,” she said. “How can we improve our community without increasing taxes, but how can we take advantage of other avenues that our state and federal governments have?”

Mills-Stevens said that if she’s elected, her opinion won’t really matter, and she’ll listen to the townspeople.

“It’s what the townspeople want, and I really have a good ear for that,” she said.

PLANNING BOARD

Two newcomers with experience in construction or leadership are running for a seat on the Planning Board.

Steven Hadsell, 57, is running for a seat on the Planning Board to make sure the town stays pointed in the right direction.

Hadsell, who doesn’t have political experience but has volunteered with Little League groups for a decade, said he always listens to people “and I file it all away.”

“I want to try to keep people unified. There’s been a lot of separation in the town in recent years,” he said.

Hadsell is self-employed and works remodeling and building homes, so he is familiar with the town’s codes and regulations.

He didn’t have any specific issues he wanted to talk about or a specific idea of what was the right direction for the town.

He said he wants to “get into it and really see what … people in the town feel.”

“Most people know I’m a real nice guy, and I don’t have anybody that dislikes me,” Hadsell said.

Kevin Michaud, 54, has been interested and involved in public service to some extent since high school, where he was class president, he said.

“I like to pay it forward when I have the opportunity,” he said.

While he has no previous political experience, he has been the director and superintendent of Waldo County Technical Center for three years and served in various administrative and teaching roles over the past 30 years.

“I am a big-picture, big-view person by nature of what I do and how I operate my schools,” Michaud said. “I think an outsider coming in with a fresh perspective on the big picture may be able to open up some fresh dialogue.”

Michaud hopes to encourage the town to do more for youth, he said, as it seems the town “hemorrhages” students because of a lack of recreational activities.

He’s also interested in opening up the conversation about where to put businesses in China, a controversial issue for some.

“If community takes that big-picture look and they really are committed to bringing business into China, they need to decide where would be best,” he said, which could be difficult because of its geography. “(…) Hopefully, if we can help grow some of that cottage industry growing in the area, that would be good.”

If elected, Michaud plans to approach the board’s work in much the same way he does his work in education: with yearly goals and objectives.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

 

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