Rumford majority OK's funding Black Mountain, Welfare Budget

RUMFORD — By a margin of 35 votes, residents at Wednesday's polls approved donating $51,000 to Black Mountain ski resort.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rose Reed, left, shares a laugh with Lura Reed, center, and Terri Petrie behind Rose, all of Rumford, while waiting to cast their votes Wednesday afternoon. Assembling ballots at right is ballot clerk Louise Stickney, while ballot clerk Louise Kaulback, seated beside her, checks in voters.

An even greater majority OK'd the $35,000 recommendation by selectmen and the Finance Committee for the town's third attempt in three months to finalize a welfare budget.

That means Rumford assessors can finally set the tax commitment, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Wednesday evening.

“Third time's a charm,” Selectman and Deputy Ballot Warden Jeremy Volkernick said before telling Puiia that voters OK'd the $35,000 welfare budget by a tally of 458-318.

The tally on the ski resort funding was 405-370, but that doesn't mean the resort automatically gets the money, Puiia said.

Because the lawsuit filed in August challenging the resort's use of the petition process to circumvent its initial funding request defeat is still open, he can't release the funds, he said.

A majority of voters at the annual town meeting in June did not raise money for welfare or Black Mountain. They rejected raising and appropriating $70,021 for the welfare budget and again in August after selectmen pared it to $60,000. That prompted the $35,000 recommendation.

“I understand why they rejected it in the beginning,” Puiia said of the welfare budget. “Tonight we learned that the public wanted to reduce that and we're going to do our best to administrate that with the 50 percent reduction.”

And although a majority of voters approved the ski resort's petition-initiated funding request, town officials must wait until Oxford County Superior Court Justice Robert Clifford makes a final decision due to a pending lawsuit, Puiia said.

“It's a close vote,” Puiia said of the 35-vote margin, but he doesn't expect a recount request due to the suit.

“There was certainly a lot of concerns on both sides that are valid. Of course, I anticipate the challenge that citizens have pledged if Black Mountain wins. Before we can release the money, we have to wait for the judge's decision, because he left it open.”

At the June 8 town meeting, 657 residents voted to not give Black Mountain any money; 420 voted to give it $56,700, and 637 voted to give it $51,000.

Black Mountain officials contend that people wanted to fund the resort, but were split on the amount, so they circulated a petition to bring it up for another vote.

The town charter states that if neither amount is approved by the majority of voters, the article is "defeated and the amount appropriated will be zero.”

On Aug. 11, Alan Gerace, Frank DiConzo, Paul Lowell, Selectman Mark Belanger and Ronald Theriault, all of Rumford, filed suit after Black Mountain officials successfully petitioned for another vote.

Claiming Rumford officials violated the town's charter by scheduling a vote, they sought an injunction to block the ski resort's request by challenging the petition process used.

They stated that while Article V, Section 6 of the charter states that citizens may petition for a special town meeting by gathering 500 signatures, critical circumstances that would affect the welfare of Rumford residents as required by that charter article did not exist.

A majority of selectmen twice ruled that funding the ski area after their initial request in June was denied did not constitute a critical circumstance that would affect the well-being of residents.

Ski resort officials then bypassed the board's decision using a petition and claiming that if Black Mountain didn't get the funding, it would close, thereby creating the critical circumstance.

On Aug. 19, Justice Clifford denied the preliminary injunction, but told the town to hold a formal town meeting and vote to decide the funding issue.

“Plaintiffs' complaint challenges the town's scheduling of a vote per Article V, Section 6 of the Town's Charter entitled 'Special Meetings' in accordance with the citizen's petition process provided for therein,” Clifford wrote in his decision.

“After review of Article V, Section 6, and arguments of the parties, the motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin the town from conducting a vote on the Black Mountain issue is hereby denied.”

“Even though not raised in plaintiffs' pleading, however, the court concludes that the vote on the Black Mountain issue should be preceded by a formal town meeting with notice to the public, a reading of the warrant, and debate on the Black Mountain issue consistent with the requirements of Article V, Section 3,” Clifford said.

“The judge let us know that we couldn't continue, so we're cautiously moving forward,” Puiia said. “No money will be released until we get his decision. Again, it will be what does the judge see and how does he interpret it?”

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

So, what's your position

So, what's your position Frank? Please enlighten us.

 's picture

Is there a difference between

Is there a difference between a "tax paying citizen" and a "citizen". Does one have more rights than the other? Inquiring minds want to know.

Please Frank, enlighten us.

Yes

there is ! Sorry your not enlightened to figure that out.

 's picture

Everyone living in Rumford

Everyone living in Rumford with the exception of the homeless are paying taxes. Property owners who live in the property pay on directly for the property at which they reside unless they are deliquent of course. Renters pay as part of their rent through the landlord; they do pay property taxes however. Anyone owning a car, boat, atv, or snowmachine is paying excise tax. We all get stuck with gas taxes and sales taxes. Then there are all the "fees" which are actually taxes as well. There isn't a one of us that isn't paying taxes of one kind or another and usually many, many kinds.

Kevin Saisi's picture

Show me

Frank,
I challenge you to publicly show me where in the Charter, Ordinances, Maine State Law, The Maine Constitution, Federal Law or the IU.S. Constitution there is a distinction between the rights of a citizen and the rights if a tax paying citizen.

Keep Twisting Kevin

You and your followers know what is meant by my statement. You obviously like to try and make everything come out to the way you think it should be stated. There are people who realize that you speak for the spenders of Rumford. These same people know what I mean.

Fred Stone's picture

Fireworks

Brace your feet Rumford, BMOM will be back to request their annual donation for their private fireworks show.

In return

The town gets nothing in return. Another duped voter

 's picture

Our business does not have it to pay.

Obviously the voters in Rumford still don't get. There are fewer and fewer businesses in Rumford because of the excessive spending. And the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and voters just keep on spending. Black Mountain is a private ski resort that should in no way be allowed to be a non-profit. The only purpose for it to be a non-profit is to get taxpayer money so skiers don't have to pay a fair price to ski, what it costs to operate and get taxpayers to subsidize their recreation. The black mountain board refuses to do any fundraising; they are fighting economic development in the community and fighting broadening the tax base so business like mine and families like mine are paying higher and higher taxes getting squeezed more and more year after year. Last year my home, business and personal property taxes saw a 22 and a 1/2 percent tax increase. We have been told to expect another jump this year. It simply isn't there to give people. Our property is worth less and less, truthfully we couldn't give it away in this town. Our business and our family have been in Rumford a lot of years providing good paying jobs with benefits, this may well be the last which will mean more lost jobs for Rumford people and lost taxes for you spend happy people to pick up. It would be cheaper for us to pack up and move our business with all of the inventory and equipment and go to a business friendly community. We are seriously talking about salvaging what we can, bulldozing our nice buildings, home and business, because nobody is going to buy here and then giving the town the land with the bulldozed buildings. If the town doesn't just take it they will end up with it for taxes because we will not pay anymore; why should and why would we the town our nice, well maintained buildings after being screwed for staying, giving people jobs and getting bent over for taxes besides year after year. Just take a ride a round, look at all the abandoned property! Hell, take a walk down Waldo St and on the Island. The industrial park and business park are a joke. The mill looks awful and no wonder, why in the world would they, could they afford after paying Taxford's outrageous taxes afford to put money into paint, keeping the place cleaned up and looking nice. Come the November election Rumford will be voting on the wind power ordinance. A yes vote will not only be a permanent moratorium on wind it will be a loud and clear signal to all businesses that Rumford has a permanent moratorium of business. If the wind power ordinances passes expect to see us move our business out of Rumford, bulldoze our home and business and leave the property to the town to deal with. You will get a new line of folks signing up for general assistance while the wait for their unemployment checks and when their benefits runout. We pay good wages with benefits, it is unfortunate that Rumford people from the Board of Selectmen on down through the voters are clueless and driving out all the jobs.

 's picture

The people speak..again

Again, the majority of voters have favored funding recreational opportunities at Black Mtn for our citizens and youth. As Judge Clifford requested, the town held a formal meeting, read the warrant, debated the Black Mtn issue, and the majority voted in favor of funding...hopefully he rules quickly, as the intent of the majority should be clear by now (even to the disgruntled minority). Maybe BMOM should counter-sue the elite who represent the minority in order to move this along.

Honestly

do you really think that mountain was going to close down if they didn"t get their $51000.00 Wow ! did you get fooled into voting yes. They get paid by the district for schools to use that mountain. And if they get so many pepole from an hr or twoo away then maybe they should have more operating hrs.

Kevin Saisi's picture

True ignorance has never been better spoken

First of all, the board in Rumford has yet to bicker this year. Your not knowing that proves that you are not involved in the town, and do not attend meetings.

Secondly, the supporters of the mountain have relied upon the donation from the town for decades instead of doing fundraising. An initiated article is a donation, not an entitlement. Since it costs so much to ski, the donation to Black Mountain has been termed "welfare for the wealthy" for a while now. I understand that BMOM costs less than many other mountains, but a family of four working at Wal-Mart cannot afford to blow an entire weeks pay check to ski for one day. People expect a subsidized entity to be more affordable.

Third, providing the people a ski resort is not a mandatory function of government. The town has no responsibility to find a way to keep a non-profit agency in business. It is mostly the nostalgia of the town that provides you with the ongoing town support. Even some of the people who help establish the mountain are backing away.

Black Mountain has grown too large. The leadership has attempted to make it into a commercial mountain, losing the family feeling that once existed. The egos and arrogance of the leadership will eventually destroy the organization as we know it. Within the next few years, Maine Winter Sports will be forced to take control away from the board and find a different way to protect its investment.

Kevin Saisi's picture

Confidence in the people

I was glad to see that the majority of people were not swayed by the giant ad in the Times. The ad didn't address the issues specifically, and gave no department specific rationale for gutting the General Assistance budget.

Yes, times are tight, and our government has to work to find savings where it can, but we must make cuts in a responsible manner. The voters rely upon the board to make recommendations that are responsible, because most voters don't research the impact of such cuts. But it is important for the people to express their opinions at meetings and hearings. There was very little attendance at any of the meetings where this budget was discussed, leading one to believe that the people accepted the budget as it was presented. Our government cannot work for you if you don't let them know what you want. Gutting budgets in the voting booth costs the town more as additional elections have to be held. We can save thousands of dollars if the people attend the budget hearings and express themselves.

less than 800

Less than 800 people voting Kevin is not the majority of tax paying citizens. BMOM cost the town money because they couldn"t accept the results of the June election. Those people who voted in favor of it this time should have donated $100.00 each when leaving the poll and BMOM would have gotten their $51000.00..So now all pay the price for the enjoyment of a few. But now the courts will decide. Thanks goodness for Ordinances that correct a faulty Charter that was never corrected properly.

Kevin Saisi's picture

:)

I didn't say "majority of tax paying citizens", nor should I have to. Despite the opinion of some, non-taxpayers have the right to vote too.

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