What I didn't point out above is how the town manager's connecting the budget reduction to the lowered assessment of the mill is a logical fallacy. The mill would have had its value lowered no matter how the budget came out. The only difference would have been, if the town officials' initial proposals had passed, is that the entire town would have had a $27 to $28 mil rate. This is an example of what I referred to as "upside down thinking" among our current leadership.
Further, voters supported a lower budget in part to try to reduce at least one of the financial stresses on the mill in the hopes that it might stay open somewhat longer, so yes, the mill did "benefit". But so will the people who keep their jobs a little longer and businesses that get at least a little more business from the mill before it does finally go down.
How does Sunday River, bringing a half million people into the area, fit into a small town like Newry?
That's the question in a segment in the most recent program of Today River Valley, viewable at: http://www.todayrivervalley.com
Today River Valley is the video news magazine covering Newry and nearby towns in the upper Androscoggin River Valley.
Perhaps Terry caught Carlo at an inopportune moment, but if this story is right, the town manager is spinning the facts in an unacceptable and questionable way.
Had the town manager, the finance committee and the selectboard had their way, we would have had a budget about 14 percent higher than the one that finally passed.
Given the current circumstances, that would have created a substantial tax increase for every taxpayer in Rumford. It would have accelerated the rate at which properties are being abandoned due to non-payment of taxes, and lowered the quality of life for people living on fixed incomes who own property in Rumford. So saying New Page is the only beneficiary of the recent budget reduction is just downright bizarre.
SAVE RUMFORD battled town officials down to a reduction of their initial proposals of something less than $1 million, or about 14 percent. Town officials responded with anger, insults and abuse, yet, given this turn of events, it is now obvious that the only responsible thing to do all along was to make the reduction SAVE RUMFORD was fighting for.
It probably should have been greater than the 14 percent.
The problems with state funding and the reduction in the value of the mill were the :"handwriting on the wall" even last Spring, and the visit by the mill brass - the first ever in recent history - underlined that fact. It is amazing that, in light of the obvious, town officials were able to convince themselves that the town was a big cheese wheel from which they could cut an ever increasing slice.
Well, these guys need to go. Carlo is on the way out and everyone likes Carlo so they have mixed feelings, but how much do you want to pay the guy you like for these errors? In June, two of these perpetrators (can't think of a better word) are up for election. They must be replaced, unless you want to live in a ghost town.
State law mandates a 15 mph limit near schools when students are arriving or leaving. That's an example of a speed limit that's widely ignored. Should it be higher? See the story in the current edition of Today River Valley at http://www.todayrivervalley.com
Today River Valley is a video news feature program for the area including Bethel and surrounding towns.
I have been critical of this particular selectboard and their very problematical performance, but on this issue, it looks like they've chosen a wise course with an interim, not permanent manager, and a focus on sharing costs and services with Mexico. Let's hope they can stay the course and actually complete the transition into sharing services with Mexico. I would be more confident of that outcome with a different group of board members, not the current majority with its upside down thinking, bad judgement and unwillingness actually to read the documents they pass through and sign, but perhaps even they have no choice but to do the right thing at this point. I'll be more confident of the success of such a transition if we are able to get a couple of different board members in the town's election next June.
The finalists for town manager really should have a listening session with the public before a final decision is made on who to hire. They should understand the true challenges facing the town and the political realities.
A free-spending town manager who thinks the town is in great shape and can afford a large municipal budget would run into a buzz saw of opposition from day one. In fairness to the candidates and to avoid political upheaval, the candidates need to understand more than what I suspect the members of the selectboard alone will tell them.
One of the urgent tasks for the town is to fight blight. You are right on in terms of how the land could be re-used. The town actually has a fund to remove dilapidated buildings. The town actually owns several unsalvageable, unsafe buildings, but has not applied its available funds to remove the dilapidated buildings that of which it, itself, is actually the owner.
So the money is there, the ownership needed is there. All that's required is a leadership competent enough to do what needs to be done. We lack that.
As far as HUD grants, I am the only one who has been writing and winning HUD grants, also known as CDBG grants, for the town. I wrote and won grants with a dollar value of $550,000 for housing rehabilitation. My fee for both grants, total $550k, was $600. I did the first grant, $250k for free, I charged $8 an hour for the second grant to make a point because I was tired of seeing everyone at the feeding trough and charged that barely minimum wage rate just to make the point that perhaps town government shouldn't be seen as a place where people go to cash in.
In any case, the CDBG program is more for rehab, not demolition. There have been some programs that have come and gone within the federal universe for removal of blighted buildings. A competent leadership could have identified and gone for those, but there is no one within the current bunch capable of that. If you push them to go in that direction, the next thing they'll do is call MMA and get some consultant from Portland who will charge the town $15,000 to do the application, as they did with the hotel study, the TIF districts and all other tasks that require an ability to type more than 10 words per minute. They spend the New York City level money, then they get the results and do nothing with it.
If the town isn't to be hollowed out and die, we urgently need new leadership.
The town has an entire business park development lying unused. The current board and town manager have, by their actions, deliberately made choices that cause this potential source of new business and new jobs to lie unused and useless.
Very easy first step: list the lots in the park with local real estate agents. Cost to town: nothing unless the lots are sold. Why hasn't this been done? What possible agenda could there be in keeping these lots off the market?
It's the least that can be done, but true, just listing the lots in this market will probably not bring quick results.
Here's how to bring quick results: GIVE the lots to any developer who promises to put a commercial or industrial building on the lot with a certain time (6 months? A year?) Guarantee the deal by requiring a $1000 bond which the developer loses unless they follow through as promised.
The lots, even though given away, would immediately start generating cash for the town because they would go back on the tax rolls. The developer would become an unpaid sales agent for economic development in town because he/she would begin trying to find a tenant for the new building.
This is such an obvious thing to do. Why hasn't it been done? One selectperson explained to me: "well, you can't just give a lot to one person and not another."
This is the level of thinking of the current board, as has emerged in many bad decisions recently. We need new faces on this board come June. Urgently.
In June, voters will have a chance to choose two new members for the selectboard. Who would you like to see? Take the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8XB72VW
We need new selectboard and finance committee members. Who do you think should sit in those seats?
Take the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8XB72VW