Black Mtn funding, Welfare Budget together again for Rumford voters

RUMFORD — At a special selectmen's meeting on Saturday morning, three selectmen present rescinded a previously approved motion made weeks ago that established Sept. 8 as the town meeting on Black Mountain ski resort's funding request and subsequent vote on Sept. 13.

Then Chairman Brad Adley and Selectmen Jeff Sterling and Jeremy Volkernick OK'd new dates and times for a town meeting and balloting on the ski hill's funding and the board's third attempt to pass a welfare budget.

The new town meeting — at which both articles will be debated — will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, in Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School. Warrant polls will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wed., Oct. 13, at the American Legion on upper Congress Street.

The meetings had to be rescheduled due to an oversight: the Finance Committee — as required by town ordinance — must first make a recommendation on both budget articles. To accomplish this, the committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, in the jury room at the municipal building.

Selectmen on Saturday also learned that an improperly written town charter and ordinance created the initial problem in June on the ski hill's initiated-article funding request.

At that June 8 town meeting, 657 residents voted not to fund the ski hill, 420 voted to give it $56,700 and 637 voted to give it $51,000.

Black Mountain officials argued that more people wanted to fund the resort than not fund it, but were split on the amount. Through petitions, they attempted to seek a precedent-setting revote, but selectmen denied each one, saying they didn't meet the critical-circumstance criteria required to have selectmen call a special town meeting.

Ski resort officials then got 500 signatures on another petition to bypass selectmen and get on the ballot, claiming if they didn't get the money, the resort would close, thereby meeting the urgency criteria.

“These are two situations that the town has never experienced,” Town Manager Carlo Puiia said.

Six residents then sued the town to block the vote, claiming the petition-initiated process violated the charter. They sought an injunction. However, Oxford County Superior Court Justice Robert Clifford denied the restraining order and ruled the petition process legal.

Clifford also ordered Rumford to hold a formal town meeting to allow debate on the issue, and then vote on it by secret poll per town law.

But this time, selectmen and the committee must recommend amounts instead of relying on the petition's request for $51,000.

That's when Volkernick said the same thing that happened in June could happen in October, because selectmen and a charter commission can't fix the charter and ordinance that created the problem until the November election.

“We have a charter that clearly defines the powers and duties of the Finance Committee, and then an ordinance has another powers and duties section,” Puiia said. “The Maine Municipal Association said, 'This is quite unorthodox. No other town has that kind of ambiguity.'”

“I think when the secret ballot process was put into place, the framers of that wording couldn't foresee the obstacles that would arise and that this would happen,” Puiia said.

“And now we're living the hangover from that,” Chairman Adley said.

“The thing to do is follow the petition and use common sense, and hopefully the Finance Committee will use some common sense here, too, because I don't think anybody wants to see this process done over again. I know I don't want to do it over again.”

The Oct. 13 vote on the welfare budget, which is currently proposed at $35,000, is the board's third straight attempt to pass it.

Town meeting voters in June defeated the first proposal of $70,021 and, in July, the second recommendation of $60,000.

Until these two money matters are settled, selectmen can't commit Rumford's taxes to collect the money and run the town. Should voters approve them in October, Puiia said they would be funded through the overlay.

At the board's regular meeting on Sept. 2, they will schedule a workshop to revise the clashing charter and ordinance and recommend an amount on Black Mountain funding.

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We had fun with the "hangover" comment. I asked if Adley's Lemonade was now being offered as "hard lemonade". :)

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The ski area is privately

The ski area is privately owned and always begging for money. Maybe they should have thought things through a little more when they renovated. Guess they spent too much money? It's not up to the town to keep handing them money and for someone to threaten that they'll have to close down if they can't get the money is pathetic. They do very little for the Rumford people, accept take their money.

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In their defense

The amount that BMOM has received over the years has gone down. They have had to become more and more independent of town funds over the years. They have been fortunate to have the participation of the Libra Foundation. Where would they be with a non-compliant lodge without the private funding?

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It seems that the board is becoming tired of addressing both issues and just wants to do whatever has to be done to get it over with. The Superior Court Justice ruled that the town must hold a vote on BMOM, based upon the Town Charter. From what was said at the Saturday meeting, it seems that some, of not all board members present are expecting the Finance Committee to rubber stamp the $51,000 request to avoid another three way vote. However, if the Finance Committee chooses, they can also avoid a three way vote by recommending $0. There will still be three options on the ballot, but two will be for the same amount, so there will be no question on the validity of combining the votes from the two amounts. The reason there will still be three choices, is because the Charter, as written, requires it.

I disagree with Mr. Puiia that the problem is old legislation meeting new legislation, it is a problem of poorly written legislation. It is harder to change the Town Charter than it is an Bylaw, so it would seem that somebody decided to make the changes in the Bylaws to avoid having to go through the Charter change process. Much of this should have been caught by previous boards and previous Town Attorneys. When the Bylaws were renamed to Ordinances, the top 10 chapters should have been moved to the Charter, since they pertain to the operation of the government, and not Ordinances. There have been many failures in the tweaking of these documents, and a Charter Commission can fix them.

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Thanks for the money??

It is my understanding that BMOM operates the mountain at a loss most years. I don't see where Maine Winter Sports receives any money from the mountain. I understand Maine Winter Sports to be a non-profit agency that coordinates the development of skiing related projects. The Libra Foundation provides money for capital projects, not for operations. Those funds are the sole responsibility of the local committee who manage the mountain.

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Follow the petition?

“The thing to do is follow the petition and use common sense
What, exactly, did he mean? Was it just a poor choice of words, or was he trying to say that voters should knuckle under to Black Mountain's request?

Circumvention Again

Mr. Volkernick and the Board again better read the Charter and town ordinances before they open another can of worms. Changes to both can only be done in April and voted on in June each year. Due to the failure of last Charter Commission to catch all the ambiguities the town has been placed in this turmultous situation. This is what happens when the wrong people, with agendas, are placed on any committee or commission. They only look at parts of the documents they want to change and not the complete documents.

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As we have learned by this process, anything can be done at anytime if it is declared a critical circumstance related to town affairs 0or the welfare of its citizens.


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