RUMFORD — By a 3-2 vote on Thursday night, selectmen defeated a motion to hire someone to work 20 hours a week for six months to recruit new businesses to town.
Selectmen Jeff Sterling and Chairman Brad Adley voted to hire; Selectmen Jeremy Volkernick, Greg Buccina and Mark Belanger dissented.
Volkernick started action against the proposal, saying Town Manager Carlo Puiia should devote an hour each day from his job to call businesses.
Reiterating what he said a few weeks ago when the idea blossomed at an Economic Development Committee meeting, Volkernick said, “We have a town manager in this town, we have a Growth Council, the select board is the economic development committee."
Volkernick said it was mentioned at that meeting that Puiia was too busy running the town.
Volkernick then reiterated that at a past selectmen's meeting, he'd twice asked River Valley Growth Council President Rich Allen what the council had done for Rumford to bring business here.
“The question got reverted to something else,” Volkernick said.
“I've also said in the past that it is the responsibility of the selectmen and the town manager to bring business to this town. I will always feel this way. That's why I am a selectman.”
Although he said he would like to have a marketing agent hired for Rumford, he again said he wouldn't support the proposal.
“We have a very busy town manager supposedly, but we need to utilize him more,” Volkernick said.
He then cited his efforts to bring a franchise business to Rumford, like Arby's and Tim Hortons.
“I will tell you that Arby's is looking to come to Rumford if we can find a developer,” Volkernick said.
Such a project would cost $300,000 to $400,000, he said he was told by an Arby's owner.
Volkernick said he worked for two months to bring a Tim Hortons restaurant to town, but that failed when he later learned the company was downsizing and closing 30 of the restaurants.
He said he contacted another business, but wouldn't reveal it, and then made vague comments that it would be a positive step.
“We're not ready to make any announcements yet, but give us a chance,” Volkernick said. “I feel that 2011 is going to be a bright future.”
Siding with Volkernick, Buccina wanted the proposal tabled to June.
“We're already funding the Growth Council to do economic development for us, but let's be realistic,” Buccina said. “We've had the Growth Council working on our behalf for quite a few years. Have we had the success we wanted? No, we haven't.”
Belanger said he wanted and helped get Rumford an Economic Development Account a few years ago, but then said that he's since been discouraged to see it turn into “a slush fund.”
Paying someone $7,000 from that account to contact businesses 20 hours a week for six months isn't worth it, he said.
“That would be an easy $7,000 for someone to make,” Belanger said. “It seems like an experiment, and we've done a lot of experiments and not gotten many fruits.”
Buccina then suggested that the board and Puiia devote their attention to pursuing bringing a brand name hotel to Rumford.
Advocating for the proposal, Sterling urged the board to “take the risk and roll the dice and try it for six months.”
Albert Aniel of Mexico suggested re-forming a group of volunteers to work for the benefit of the town, which some selectmen said might be worth trying.
Sterling gave it one more shot, warning the board that they should “be careful what we dictate the town manager to do with his time."
However, Volkernick, Belanger and Buccina disagreed and defeated the proposal.