Petition seeks revote of Black Mountain Ski Resort funding

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.

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Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Black Mountain Ski Resort supporter Dick Lovejoy, kneeling, and resort Board of Directors Chairman Roger Arsenault, both of Rumford, set up signs labeled "Support Black Mountain" on their petition table opposite ballot clerks during Tuesday's polling to revote Rumford's Welfare Budget. Arsenault and Lovejoy were collecting signatures aimed at getting selectmen to schedule a special town meeting to also revote the ski hill's initiated articles request, which was also rejected last month.

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.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

strange

What a strange voting system. 1067 voted to fund Black Mountain, 657 didn't. But because of a split vote between selectman and finance committee recommendations (which were around 10% of each other), those voting no win? Absurd.

Kevin Saisi's picture

Voting system

The people voted to use this system, but bow that it is working the way it was designed, they are opposed to it. I would caution people to watch what they ask for, because they might just get it.

Jack Kaubris's picture

Thanks for the clarification KNS

Upon re-reading your post I better understand your POV. But I don't agree with your opinion that the town attorney's legal opinion is wrong. As with yourself, I haven't always agreed with Town Attorney Carey's opinions, but in this instance I do. I believe that any article (initiated or otherwise) brought before the voters becomes, as you say, 'town business' or 'relating to town affairs'. This broadly worded term 'town business' certainly applies to any action by the voters that has been misrepresented by a poorly worded ballot question. I applaud BMOM for seeking a more fairly worded vote for two reasons...first, is that I support funding for this recreational facility that has been part of our heritage for several generations, and second, and most important to future ballot questions, I am glad that BMOM is bringing this to public attention so that Mr. Puiia, Mr. Carey and the selectboard can get together to come up with a solution to avoid this 'minority rule' situation. I do realize that the 'Point of Order' gang has been having a field day with the minutia of the Town Charter and Robert's Rules for some time now, and I don't want to ruin anyone's fun, but maybe it is time to add a little common sense to the rules and bylaws and focus on the intent of an action. Again, I ask you, do you feel comfortable that the intent of the voters was to provide no funding for BMOM?

Jack Kaubris's picture

Funny kind of Democracy

What kind of democracy have we created, with the wording of the ballot questions, when a clear minority of citizens can undermine the intent of the majority of voters? Let me see if I can get this right, Kevin and Frank, 1067 citizens of our town voted to fund BMOM for either $51,000 or $56,700 and 657 citizens voted for no funding...and you two seem confused on the intent of the citizens of Rumford? The dangerous precedent, Kevin, is in how we are wording the ballot questions not in BMOM seeking redress. I am not sure why you would want selectmen to block 'such a meeting' of citizens to vote on the petition, when, as you clearly state, BMOM is following the Charter? The town would not be 'bending the laws' for BMOM, rather, we would be adhering to the laws. Do either of you honestly feel that the intent of the voters was to provide no funding for BMOM? Frank, your personal attacks on Roger Arsenault, who has a long history of working to promote this town in a positive way, are unwarranted. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the citizens of this town clearly voted you out of office in the recent election(..clear to everyone but you, as your recount proved). Let the process play itself out, and don't insult the voters of this town by denying a process that follows the Town Charter. The selectboard and town manager would do well to revisit the wording of future ballot questions in my opinion.

Facts, Jack-Jake

Yes Roger has done some great community service but you cannot promote to assist the town while at the same time travel the road that can also assist in it's demise.

Jack Kaubris's picture

Pot/Kettle

Now there's the pot calling the kettle black!!

Kevin Saisi's picture

Special Town Meeting

Special town meetings shall be called by the Board of Selectmen to fill vacancies in elective offices as provided in Article XX of this charter, and for no other purpose unless in the opinion of the majority of the board an exigent circumstance exists relating to town affairs or the welfare of its citizens is deemed to be presented and which requires prompt action by the voters in special meeting.

Kevin Saisi's picture

Clarification

Jake,
I was paraphrasing the legal opinion of Attorney Carey as it was explained to me. I disagree with his opinion wholeheartedly. I have nothing against BMOM, and I am not supporting the blind cut-cut-cut effort that some do. I am merely looking at the procedure and making an assessment based upon the rules. The article in question addresses issues relating to town business and the welfare if Rumford citizens. It can hardly be argued that an initiated article is town business, and skiing, while beneficial to well-being is not essential to the welfare of Rumford citizens. I have asked Carlo to seek another legal opinion, but he has yet to inform me that one has been sought.

I am sorry if my choice of words lead you to believe that BMOM was in compliance with the Charter in my assessment.

Kevin Saisi's picture

Dangerous Precedent

Mr. Carey has issued an opinion stating that BMOM can request the Selectmen hold a special town meeting. The Charter states that such meetings need to be relating to town affairs or the welfare of its citizens. If BMOM is denied the town meeting, they must get about 500 signatures on a petition to force a town meeting. I am unsure if the selectmen can block such a meeting if called by petition. It may be possible, if someone feels strongly enough, for a citizen to appeal the decision to superior court.

It is a dangerous precedent to set. If we are willing to bend the laws for BMOM, then why shouldn't every entity who is denied an initiated article request a special town meeting and load the polls with their supporters?? I though we changed the way we vote to avoid this problem.

Real Truths

Mr. Arsenault should reveal why he's against windpower. He's in the oil business. Black Mtn. could have generated tours and made some self sufficiency dollars by assisting with tours when finished. And could have made a few bucks for himself by granting a right-of-way through his property for windpower line but he wanted more than what First Wind was giving to everyone else. It's called greed and wanting to be treated differently than his neighbors. So Black Mtn. loses oppotunity to make money. His neighbors lose chance to make money and the town loses money. He's on the Black Mtn. board. That board continues to request monies from the town. If the selectboard gives in to this charade then they all should be recalled.

Free Ride Is done

Mr. Arsenault said that Black Mtn. would only come to the town one more time for help. That one more time has gone by many years ago. The Libra Foundation has to eliminate that board and then hire someone who knows how to run a ski mountain properly and make it self sufficient. Roger stated that years back and it hasn't happened. Roger is attempting to violate Rumford's twon charter.

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