RUMFORD — Attending his first board meeting since leaving in mid-February for open heart surgery, Selectman Frank DiConzo lashed out at fellow board members on Thursday for approving a $7.2 million municipal budget in his absence.
They, in turn, rebuked him just as strongly for the brow beating, albeit more succinctly.
DiConzo was unhappy that the board approved a budget recommendation that is $88,704 higher than last year's budget of $7,155,715.
“I can't understand why there are so many taxpayers accepting such an increase, but I guess they're happy about it,” DiConzo said.
“You the taxpayer put us in office. We have a job. I think this board has failed it this year.”
He was additionally irked to learn they approved recommending $215,000 in initiated article requests for town meeting voters in June, rather than meeting DiConzo's self-imposed $100,000 cutoff.
“This board gave away $215,000,” DiConzo said. “This board promised there would be cuts. There were no cuts made. I found $273,000 more in cuts that could have been made. Instead, we're $88,000 over last year.”
The former longtime Finance Committee member then asked committee members to rectify the budget.
“I'm hoping that when the Finance Committee starts their work, they will not be like the old finance board that I was on and take that little rubber stamp and say, 'Everything that was voted on by this board is A-OK,'” DiConzo said. “I'm happy with my services, but if there's a way to get them cheaper, we have to do that.”
DiConzo also read excerpts from two e-mails he said he sent to selectmen on March 21 and 23.
“I said, 'I was disappointed about the lack of concern for taxpayer dollars and not changing policies for part-time hours.' We are not in a position to be popular. We are in a position to oversee the running of the town.”
“I didn't take this position for prestige,” he said reading from another e-mail. “I got in to make a difference, and I'm ashamed to say I haven't made that difference yet. What did you get into it for, gentlemen?”
To June town meeting voters, DiConzo said, “When you go to the polls, and you see those figures that you have to vote on, you should be very unhappy with what this board voted on.”
“If the Finance Committee does not step up to the plate and rectify the wrong that was done in this budget, I pray that the people will vote zero on every initiated article and every town budget article, and send both boards back to the drawing board to come up with a budget (with) no more tax increases.”
A smattering of loud applause acknowledged his speech.
Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley then said, “Frank's opinion does not represent the majority of the selectmen.”
Of DiConzo's e-mails, Selectman Jeff Sterling said he had hoped they wouldn't be mentioned, but "I'm sorry it was.”
Selectman Greg Buccina took a stronger stance.
“I would like to respond to Mr. DiConzo's tirade, if you will,” Buccina said. “I take a little bit of offense at some of the comments. I take a little bit of offense at some of the e-mails and what you omitted to say.”
Buccina said the board relied on Puiia's work with the department heads to present lean budgets, and then supported his recommendations.
Adley would only say that he, too, was offended by DiConzo's e-mails.
“At some point, I think we need to trust our town manager,” Buccina added later. “We didn't rubber stamp anything. I think that's insulting.”