CHINA — The 123 residents present Saturday morning at Town Meeting might have received unexpected news when a Select Board member announced that Town Manager Dan L’Heureux would be retiring at the end of June.

Selectwoman Irene Belanger told those in attendance that L’Hereux has saved the town a considerable amount of money over the 22 years he’s been at the helm and said he has been a good deal maker.

June 30 will be his final day on the job.

During the nearly four-hour meeting at the primary school, residents approved the $2.45 million budget through all but one of the articles in the 43-article town warrant. L’Heureux said the town’s property tax rate will not be affected by the 2018-19 budget.

The only rejected article on the warrant asked residents to appropriate an amount of no more than $100 to buy the Branch Mills Union Church building on 112 Branch Mills Road and authorize the Select Board to appropriate no more than $80,000 from grants, donations and money from the town’s tax increment finance, or TIF, district to restore the building.

The argument from opponents in the crowd was that taxpayer money should not be used to rehabilitate old and unused property.

“Everyone’s pet project is being dropped on the back of the taxpayers,” one opponent of the article said during the debate.

Another resident, who said she works at the local food pantry, said she’s seen a steady increase in people coming to the food pantry over the last several years. She argued that money should be used to help people who can’t afford food or to attract businesses and job opportunities to China rather than pouring it into an old building.

Another resident said he heard from a Select Board member that the price of restoring the church eventually would exceed $80,000 and could end up costing $200,000 by the end.

Those in favor argued that it would provide the Branch Mills village a community meeting place and could be a way to preserve a building that’s been a landmark in the area.

The article failed by a 10-vote margin, 38-48.

An article asking voters to allow the board to appropriate up to $20,000 from the unassigned fund balance to fund the purchase and installation of a septic system and water system for the One Room School House on Deer Hill Road generated similar debate about the value of putting money into an underutilized town landmark.

However, several residents pointed out that the town already has invested a good deal of grant funding in the building, and the article was approved by the majority, with about 10 votes against it.

Other, larger discussions took place about funding for the transfer station and the LakeSmart Program. Town officials proposed appropriating $80,613 to buy a pre-crusher and compactor for the transfer station so it could crush large demolition debris, mattresses and couches; and to buy a forklift as well. Also, voters were asked whether the town should appropriate up to $20,000 from the TIF fund for the LakeSmart Program Initiative, which program supporters say has improved China Lake water quality. Despite a few vocal opponents of the articles, both passed without many votes against them.

Voters also approved an article allowing the town to exceed the 2018 property tax levy limit of $1.65 million if necessary.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and former DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew, a China resident, spoke at the start of the meeting about why she is running to be Maine’s next governor, saying she wants to focus on job creation, keeping government as local as possible and reducing taxes.

She said she wants to make Maine a place where young people, including her two sons, will be able to stay and create a future for themselves and their families.

“We can have a much brighter economic future,” she said.

Candidates for Legislature, including Rep. Tim Therriault, R-China, Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, and John Glowa, a Democrat, also were given a chance to speak and ask voters to support them on the ballot in November.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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