CHINA — The town’s historical records, which date back to the late 1700s, might move to a new home soon. At a meeting Tuesday evening, China selectmen unanimously authorized Town Manager Dennis Heath to explore the cost of building a 12-foot-by-12-foot climate-controlled room off the Town Office meeting room to store the files.

Under state law, municipalities are required to retain several types of documents permanently in a fireproof safe or vault, including charters, annual reports, comprehensive plans, Board of Appeals files, official correspondence, hospital liens, official meeting minutes, municipal ordinances and policies, documentation of final disposition of records, municipal warrants, audit reports, approved annual budgets, ledgers and journals, licenses to connect private drainage pipes to a public system, plumbing permits granted for exterior work after 1974, permits for the disposal of human waste on a certain property and permits issued for concealed weapons. Towns are required to preserve other municipal records for periods of up to several years, depending on the type of document.

Currently, China’s records are stored in an approximately 4-by-8-foot concrete-and-cinder-block room off the back of the meeting room, according to Heath. While the room is also climate-controlled, the town’s documents have outgrown the space.

“It is jam-packed,” Heath said. “We don’t have any more room to store them in the conditions that they’re supposed to be stored.”

Selectman Jeff LaVerdiere said he wanted to ensure that the records are all kept in one place, rather than in multiple rooms, and Heath agreed. Ron Breton, another selectman, noted that the town would need to build another exit off the meeting room, as one of the existing exits would be transformed into the door to the new storage space. Board Chairman Robert MacFarland said one of the two windows on the same wall easily could be turned into a door frame.

At Monday’s meeting, the board also voted, 5-0, with some reluctance, to authorize Heath to hire a person to appraise a property the town is interested in buying from Susan Bailey. The selectmen instructed Heath to spend no more than $500 on the process. Heath said the town’s TIF Committee believes an appraisal is necessary “before any discussions or any further deliberations on whether or not to even pursue buying it.”

The undeveloped property, which contains a total of 6.2 acres — 0.56 of which is “usable” — is near the causeway by U.S. Route 202 and borders China Lake. Part of it is used as an unofficial causeway parking area. Heath said the town wanted to buy the land as part of its plans to upgrade the causeway and repair the boat ramp. The state’s Boating Facilities Program told Heath earlier in 2018 that it would finance and fix the ramp if China provided parking spaces for 18 rigs and one spot that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Buying the land would allow the town to comply with the state agency’s request.

At 2017’s Town Meeting, residents approved spending up to $10,000 on acquiring the property and on the legal fees associated with doing so. The property was assessed at a value of $1,700, according to Heath.

Selectman Donna Mills-Stevens said she was concerned that an appraisal could find the property to be worth more than $10,000 because it contains waterfront acreage.

“I just think the appraisal’s going to show more value, and then (Bailey)’s going to expect that price,” she said.

“If you’ve got an assessed value that’s at $1,700, I’d be surprised if the appraisal would come too far north of that,” Heath said.

Mills-Stevens also said she thinks Bailey should show more commitment to selling the land before the town proceeds with the appraisal.

“I just — before we get an appraisal done, I’d like to see good faith that they come up with at least a purchase-and-sale agreement and an agreement on the price,” she said. “It’s just like anybody buying a house or buying land. You come up with an agreement, and then the appraisal’s done, and it’s based off the appraised value. Honestly, this is my line of work, so that’s the only thing that’s concerning me, is that if the appraisal comes in and it’s waterfront property, we could be looking at a lot more for a small lot.”

Mills-Stevens is the regional vice president community banker for Kennebec County at Skowhegan Savings Bank.

Before adjourning, Heath noted that the town’s Boston Post Cane will need to be reassigned. In an email Wednesday morning, he informed the board that the town’s oldest resident, Helen Mosher, has “moved away to live with relatives.” The topic will be discussed again at the next meeting, on Feb. 4.

“Helen and Charlie (Mosher) were great people and assets to the town of China,” Selectman Irene Belanger replied.

The board approved a schedule for three public hearings on the town budget. They will take place at 6 p.m. March 20 at Erskine Academy, 2 p.m. March 24 at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library and 6 p.m. March 27 at the Town Office.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @megrobbins

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