RUMFORD — Dick Lovejoy and Roger Arsenault were busy on Tuesday chatting up people hitting the polls on the Welfare Budget for signatures on their petition.
Both Rumford men worked inside Rumford Falls Auditorium to attract support for Black Mountain of Maine Ski Resort in its bid to seek a re-vote of last month's town meeting decision that rejected funding the ski hill.
“We're not ready to give up, so we're working as hard as we can,” Arsenault, chairman of Black Mountain's Board of Directors said on Tuesday.
The petition, which has also been placed in area businesses, states that the undersigned are requesting that selectmen place on Tuesday's ballot an initiated article seeking $51,000.
Obviously, it's too late for that, Arsenault said.
“We were trying to participate in today's vote to save the town aggravation and money, but there wasn't enough time, because we would have had to set up two public hearings,” Arsenault said.
They did, however, make it on Thursday's Board of Selectmen agenda, albeit to request that selectmen convene a special town meeting to re-vote the resort's initiated article request for funding.
At town meeting polls last month, 1,067 people voted to raise and appropriate money to fund the ski resort. Only 657 voted against it, but the article was still ultimately rejected due to the way it was written.
Of those 1,067 people, 637 voted for the Budget Committee's recommendation of $51,000, while 430 went for the selectmen recommendation and resort's request of $56,700. Because of the split totals, the tally of 657 voters trumped them both, raising zero dollars.
“Clearly, the intent was to fund Black Mountain,” Lovejoy said, “but due to the split, we got no funding. The way this happened, it's wrong.”
That's why despite what the petition claims, people know that by signing it they will get a chance to vote on the initiated article request again at some point in the future, he said.
That prerogative, however, is up to selectmen, who can decide to accept a petition with 25 signatures to schedule a re-vote or reject it.
A rejection would send petitioners out to collect 500 signatures to override the selectmen's decision and force a special town meeting.
Arsenault said Black Mountain has an annual operating budget of just over $500,000, so their initiated article request represents just under 10 percent of that. The rest of the money comes from sales of lift tickets, sponsorships and skier visits.
By noon, more than 100 people had voted on the general assistance article. Of that, more than 40 had signed the petition.
“Most people have been positive” about supporting the ski hill, Lovejoy said.
“We still have really good support for Black Mountain,” Arsenault added. “It's just the way the article was written up.”
Rumford's charter requires recommendations on money articles by both selectmen and the Budget Committee. Which creates a problem, the two men said, when there are split recommendations that can lead to split votes being defeated by zero funding tallies.
Lovejoy said that at Thursday night's selectmen meeting, they plan to share different ideas to prevent such an occurrence in the future.
It has been an ongoing problem ever since the town switched its town meeting voting to secret ballot polling, wherein a minority vote can now overcome majority funding tallies.