Black Mountain debate continues at meeting

RUMFORD — At Monday night's special business meeting on proposed funding for the welfare budget and Black Mountain ski resort, high taxes and the need to reduce them were among the reasons given to reject donating $51,000 to the ski hill at the polls next month.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Former Rumford Finance Committee member Ron Theriault urges voters to reduce the tax rate by $51,000 by not funding Black Mountain. Theriault spoke at Monday night's town meeting.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Black Mountain of Maine Board of Directors Chairman Roger Arsenault spoke on behalf of the Rumford ski hill at a special town meeting Monday night, asking taxpayers to approve $51,000 to fund the resort.

Others argued that the resort has long given Rumford its identity and brought people to the area to live and recreate, making worthy the continued investments.

The meeting, which was attended by 80 people, took less than 45 minutes.

Voters approved changing the tax collection due date for the first half-payment from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, without discussion. There was no discussion on the proposed $35,000 welfare budget, either.

The vote on welfare and the ski resort funding — polls are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13 — will mark the Board of Selectmen's third attempt to get  approval since the town meeting in June.

The resort's initiated article request for funding was also defeated at the same meeting, but ski hill officials successfully petitioned for a revote.

At Monday night's meeting, former Finance Committee member Ron Theriault argued against spending money on Black Mountain, saying the town can no longer afford to pay 10 percent of the nonprofit resort's operating budget.

He said Rumford taxpayers saw a 23 percent hike in taxes last year and will see an additional increase this year.

“If your household or your business sees a decrease in income, the first two traditional things that go are recreation and donations,” Theriault said. “This is a donation to recreation.”

“This is not about whether Black Mountain is a good place, or whether it does good things for the community,” he said. “It's what can this town — these taxpayers — afford to pay.”

Resident Candice Casey agreed with Theriault.

“Since 1989, the taxpayers of the town of Rumford have given to Black Mountain of Maine $3,344,781 and two cents,” she said. “That's an awful lot of money for skiing. It has to stop. This town's once strong population has been cut in half. Our mill has dwindled, their tax contribution has dwindled. We can't afford these luxuries.”

She said Maine Winter Sports and the Libra Foundation, which bought the resort, should be paying to run it instead of relying on a board of directors to do so.

“They have declared that they will not cover any more losses,” Casey said of Libra and MWS. “They will not fund this organization any more money. To me, that says a lot. This organization cannot take out loans because they have no assets and their parent company will not back them. I don't know why we would.”

Selectman Greg Buccina, speaking as a resident, urged people to OK the $51,000.

“Not having Black Mountain could be just as devastating,” he said. “Recreation is why people look at coming to a community.  . . . To shut it off today is not going to do Rumford any good.”

Speaking about the $3.34 million Casey mentioned and decades worth of volunteerism by many residents to help run the resort, Buccina called it “a pretty good investment” that has paid off.

“A lot of our identity comes from Black Mountain,” he said. “To shut the door on those volunteers who worked there for decades would be an injustice.”

Parks and Recreation Director Dan Richard countered Buccina, saying that to pare taxes, the town voted to cut $5,000 from the budget to turn off several street lights.

“But we're willing to give away $51,000 to Black Mountain because you don't want to cut $51,000 out of a $6 million budget, but you would shut off streetlights to save $5,000? I just can't wrap my head around that,” Richard said.

Black Mountain Board of Directors Chairman Roger Arsenault said the board has worked to reduce its dependency on the town by 50 percent.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there, but it's true, we struggle to meet our bills,” he said. “We continue to make changes to try to achieve a balanced budget.”

He welcomed the resort's critics to attend board meetings, challenging that he can prove to them “that we do our very best.”

Speaking about the effect Black Mountain has on Rumford's taxes, Arsenault then said, “A household in Rumford valued at $60,000 after the Homestead Exemption, represents about $5.94 from each family contributing to the survival of Black Mountain, and I don't think that's an awful lot for what we get for the mountain.”

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Mud

After all the mud has been slung and it comes time to vote I will still be voting NO, on both articles like I have done previously.

 's picture

So ask all those who drink

So ask all those who drink beer to give up their beer to pay for your private ski resort and leave the rest of us alone. Black Mountain, you have been told over and over to go do fund raising and you wont. You keep taking the easy route and hitting up the taxpayers instead. You even backdoor us by going to the selectmen for money for your private party and fireworks in February.

Last night we talked about $5000 savings in street lights, which will be 1/10th of what Black Mountain will add to that sample tax bill, but it something and combined with other somethings it makes a difference. We also talked about the town already cutting three crossing guards but no one said what that will save, I'm guessing about as much as Black Mountain is costing on just this "Donation." We already slashed the fire dept from 4 men per shift to two which is definitely more than the Black Mountain "Donation", but it put's everyone of us endanger if we have a house fire and can't get out. All of the part-time help (4 people) were let go at the library which is FREE and available to ALL citizens again, more than the Black Mountain, "Donation". Citizen volunteers now shovel out the fire hydrants, how much are we saving wasn't said, but I am sure that too is a lot more than the "Donation" combining labor and benefits plus a vehicle and equipment. The general assistance budget has not been approved yet and it is has been cut to $35,000.00 from the original $70,021.00 more than half plus the benefits package elliminated saving way more than the "Donation." Town employees are loosing their jobs and their benefits, citizen volunteers are having to fill in, children's safety going to school is being put at risk, everyone's safety is put at risk with the lights, and the library which is free to everyone had to lay off 4 people, a little here a little there to cut taxes. Carlo said we could see $28 per thousand as it stands now but would not commit. As Ron Theriault pointed out we could be looking at $30 by the time it is all said and done. I honestly put more faith in Ron Theriault. Can we justify all these other cuts and "Donating" $51,000 to a private ski resort. Just the library alone which provides FREE quality recreational, cultural and educational activities and resources to ALL residents was forced to lay off 4 people and had their total budget cut more than this "Donation," is that the right thing to do? Unfortunately we have to make these cuts and we have to keep cutting a little here and a little there and together it makes a difference and that includes not reversing the will of the voters Black Mountain "Donation" when they said NO. If we had an extra $51,000 it out to go where it will benefit everyone like the library, the street lights or the fire department first.

Black Mountain you have wasted four months since the voters of Rumford told you no, trying to finagle a way around our will, the charter and by-laws to get your easy money. Wouldn't it have been easier to do a fundraiser than to collect all those signatures and do all this finagling and threatening of government officials and others to honestly get the money you need? God helps those who help themselves and I don't think those who help themselves to what belongs to someone else. Black Mountain, you need to start doing something to help your self and not expect the taxpayers of Rumford to be your gravy train.

 's picture

Wasn't meant to be sexist, I

Wasn't meant to be sexist, I am just accustomed to the traditional setting in which the male is the protector. I was also got up in the tone of the gentleman who spoke last evening. You are completely correct and I do apologize.

 's picture

"The meeting, which was

"The meeting, which was attended by 80 people, took less than 45 minutes." Only 80 people attended! Clearly they weren't all there to support Black Mountain either, so where were all the people that signed the petition? Where was all the support? Roger Arsenault spoke for this miserable loser board and one woman got up and cried in a her towel how she taughter her elderly mother to ski at black mountain and it was only going to cost we tax payers a $6 this year on our tax bills on top of the $3.4 million since 1989.

"Others argued that the resort has long given Rumford its identity and brought people to the area to live and recreate, making worthy the continued investments" Not hardly, Rumford gets its identity from the paper mill and it always has.

"Speaking about the effect Black Mountain has on Rumford's taxes, Arsenault then said, 'A household in Rumford valued at $60,000 after the Homestead Exemption, represents about $5.94 from each family contributing to the survival of Black Mountain, and I don't think that's an awful lot for what we get for the mountain.'” Try more than doubling that since Black Mountain also pays NO taxes. They take advantage of ALL the services but pay for none. And what about our businesses. It might cost a family $12 with the lost tax revenue and extra taxes on a $60,000 after Homestead Exemption property but what about a business or a property without homestead. We read almost every day how the mill is being squeezed, we just got the machines and wood processing running again, what effect will the tax increase have on them of Black Mountain and all the other extras?

“Since 1989, the taxpayers of the town of Rumford have given to Black Mountain of Maine $3,344,781 and two cents,” the same people have been running Black Mountain all these years. If they haven't figured it out they aren't going to figure it out giving them one more year and another $51,000. That is just throwing good money after bad. Do I hear $3, 400,000 since 1989 at next years meeting when they are back again?

Rumford did away with three crossing guards because of budget constraints. Are the lives and safety of our children worth less than a private ski hill? Rumford is turning off street lights to save $5000 which puts women and children at risk walking home from work and school with it getting dark earlier and earlier, are their lives and safety worth less than a ski hill? Rumford has voted down the General Assistance budget twice and cut hours of town hall employees including having town wide furlow days, is the loss of those services worthless than a ski hill? Rumford has been working and sacrificing to tighten the belt and the budget, donating $51,000 to a ski hill does not make sense when we are turning off lights, elliminating crossing guards and closing town offices for furlow days. We need to ALL vote NO on this initiated article for a $51,000 "donation" to Black Mountain and support continued budget cuts.

 's picture

Town Manager Carlo Puiia has

Town Manager Carlo Puiia has been personally threatened and threatened with an ethics investigation by people involved with Black Mountain and the Wind Power Ordinance. Selectman Brad Adley and Selectman Mark Belanger have been threatened, been threatened with an ethics investigation and had threats made against their businesses by the Black Mountain/ Wind Power people. I do not wish to be threatened or have my business or family threatened or worse still have a threat carried out. I appreciate Mr. Theriault and Ms Casey having the courage to stand up to these people, I don't. I appreciate that Mr. Theriault and Ms Casey have done the homework and are getting the facts out with cool heads, no name calling or threats. I will speak out in anonymity here and vote NO in the privacy of the voting booth and not endanger my family, my business or my self.

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