CHINA — Familiar faces are competing to fill three seats on China’s Board of Selectmen, with two incumbents, one former selectman and one three-time candidate running this year.

Jeff LaVerdiere and Donna Mills-Stevens are looking to renew their tenure on the board. Longtime Selectman Neil Farrington — whose term is also up next week — is not running for re-election.

The incumbents’ challengers include Ron Breton and Wayne Chadwick. Breton served one term as a China selectman from 2015 to 2017. Although he ran for re-election last year, he was not voted back onto the board. Chadwick also ran last year, losing by a narrow margin to Mills-Stevens. Last year’s race was a special election for a one-year term to replace Joanne Austin.

In an interview, LaVerdiere expressed a strong urge to “keep taxes in check” and limit spending if re-elected.

“My perspective is that we need to spend less. We need to do more with less money and watch our pennies,” he said. “We have had some really big expenditures lately, like the ditches and the culverts, but those things are needed.”

LaVerdiere noted that his experience as a small-business owner has made him especially good at budgeting. Over many years, he has owned a general store, a mining operation and commercial and residential real estate businesses.

“When you run your own business, you try to get by with what you have, and you don’t spend money foolishly,” he said. “I’m not saying the town has done that in past, but there’s a lot of times we could get five or six more years out of a piece of equipment and it wouldn’t make that much of a difference to people.”

Chadwick said that his desire to help oversee how the town’s money is spent motivated him to run again this year.

“I’m really fed up with my tax bill and the money going to waste,” he said. “The more I go to (board) meetings, it seems like the more waste I see.”

Mills-Stevens, who has served as a selectwoman for one year, said many residents asked her to run again. If elected, she said, she wants to continue working on trying to get personal property taxes lowered to help draw businesses to town that residents want and ease the tax burden on those who work from home.

“That’s my focus right now — to see if we can attempt to get that changed in the next two years,” Mills-Stevens said.

A dairy farm owner and full-time regional president of a financial institution, Mills-Stevens said China is a great place to live and she would like to see more activities such as a farmers market, a picnic area, trails and possibly a community center that could be used by older people who want to get together.

She said she also wants to help the town with whatever it chooses to do with land off Lakeview Drive that is the subject of a referendum Tuesday.

Chadwick is on the town’s Budget Committee. He said he has attended most selectmen’s meetings for the past three years. He believes that spending China’s money more frugally will enable the town to lower taxes for citizens.

“There’s always a lot of talk about what can we do to help seniors, and I think one thing we can do to help seniors is lower the mil rate so they can afford to stay in their homes on a fixed income instead of spending taxpayer money to try and supply more services to them,” Chadwick said. “I think they’d be better served just having a more affordable tax bill,”

China’s tax rate for 2018 is $15.80 per $1,000 worth of assessed property value, according to the town’s website. The 2018 tax rate for China’s neighbor, Vassalboro, is $15.45. Winslow’s 2018 tax rate is $17.94.

In addition to these priorities, Chadwick wants to find a way to get more citizens involved with the town’s civic processes and continue ongoing conservation efforts.

Breton did not return repeated calls this week seeking an interview about his candidacy.

The three officials who win Tuesday will be elected to serve for two years. They will serve alongside current board member Irene Belanger and Chairman Robert MacFarland, whose terms expire in 2019.

LOCAL QUESTIONS

There are five referendum questions China citizens can vote on this year.

Question 1 asks whether the town’s Quorum Requirement Ordinance should be repealed. The ordinance requires a minimum of 4 percent of China’s registered voters to be present in order for the town to conduct its Town Meeting. The number of registered voters is calculated on Jan. 1 of each year. Some form of the rule has been in place since at least 1990. It was amended most recently in 2015.

Town Manager Dennis Heath said that over the past few years, staffers at the Town Office have spent an “inordinate amount of (unpaid) time” trying to get people to come to the annual meeting in order to meet quorum. The ordinance initially was put in place to balance out the representation of attendees, who were focused largely on school-related issues and did not represent the entirety of the town.

“It just about got to the point where they had to twist people’s arms just to come to a meeting,” Heath said.

A second question asks voters whether they support the town sending a resolution to the Legislature, asking it to amend state law so that municipalities can decide on their own whether to collect business personal property taxes.

With question three, voters will either authorize the town to spend, or deny it permission to spend, $5,000 to have a developer come up with a plan for 39.11 acres of town-owned property. The plan would include conceptualizing a community center on the site, as well as a complex that would house the town’s rescue, police and ambulance services and China Village’s Fire Department. The land, located at 571 Lakeview Drive, is currently vacant. If the emergency services structure is built, it would enable the town to raze the current Causeway Road fire station and create more parking areas near the bridge and public boat launch. The town needs to create additional parking in that area in order to for the state to fund and repair the boat launch, which is in bad shape, according to Heath.

The town could have spent this money without putting the decision to a vote, but it wanted input on whether citizens wanted to go forward with the plan in the first place.

“We put it to a vote because we want the people to decide: Is this something you really want to do? Because if they don’t want to do that, then there’s no reason to spend any money to go further with it,” Heath said.

If voters pass Question 4, they will enable the Board of Selectmen to use profits from the sale of properties foreclosed on in the current fiscal year for failure to pay taxes to cover expenses resulting from increasing the hours of two existing transfer station employees. The expenses would not exceed $26,000.

“If they work over 20 hours a week, that means they’d be entitled to medical and dental (insurance) and a retirement contribution,” Heath said. The employees previously had been working about 16 or 18 hours a week, according to Heath.

The last referendum asks China residents whether they approve of a change to how tax-increment financing funding could be spent. If it passes, the board would be able to spend up to $100,000 of the money annually on projects that are not specifically voted on by citizens at Town Meeting. There still would be checks on these decisions, as the board would be able spend the money only with the support of the town’s TIF Committee.

“Current TIF (rules) allow the Select Board to enter incentive agreements with developers, but (not) expend money,” Heath said. “If a developer wanted to do a senior housing development, which the town sorely needs, part of the negotiation would involve some funding to kick-start it. Under the current rules, (the board) couldn’t (authorize that).”

OTHER OFFICES

There are several uncontested races on China’s municipal ballot this year. Toni Wall and Thomas Miragliuolo are running for seats on the Planning Board, representing districts 2 and 4, respectively. For the Budget Committee, Thomas Rumpf is running as the District 2 representative, while Timothy Basham is running as the District 4 representative. Jean Conway is seeking to be elected as the committee’s secretary. All five candidates now hold the positions they are running for.

No candidates entered the races for at-large positions on the Planning Board or the Budget Committee. Two winners — one for each position — will be selected through a write-in vote.

Though his time on China’s Board of Selectmen is up, Farrington is running to become a member of the Regional School Unit 18 board of directors. He does not face a challenger.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

@megrobbins

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