RUMFORD – The Board of Selectmen approved the Greater Rumford Community Center's request for $138,100 by a 3-2 vote at Monday's public hearing on initiated articles.
The board also approved the GRCC's request for an additional $22,720 to help fund their summer programs by a 3-2 vote. The $138,100 would cover other expenses, such as heating for the building, and salaries for the employees and coaches.
Chairman Greg Buccina and Selectman Jeffrey Volkernick voted against both motions.
Before the meeting began, Town Manager Carlo Puiia reminded the board and the audience that if the board votes an item through during the hearing, it does not mean that the item goes into effect.
“The item will go onto the warrant, and the townspeople will vote for it during the town meeting,” Puiia explained. “This is simply our recommendation to the town.”
Selectman Brad Adley pointed out to the board that during the 2012 town meeting, residents voted in favor of the GRCC's 2012 budget, which was also $138,100, by a 2-to-1 margin.
“I think this is a really strong show of support from the people in this town,” Adley said.
Buccina told Adley that he's worried that if they approve the GRCC's request this year, it won't receive the same support that it did in 2012 and may be defeated.
“I think in this environment, I just don't think you're going to see that 2-to-1 ratio,” Buccina said. “It's a risk.”
Buccina told GRCC director Bob Anderson, “Everybody has to take a little piece of this. I don't think it's any more fair of us to fund one completely while all the others take a hit. I think you need to be really cognizant of that. It seems like every year, we're up against it with the community center, and I think if everyone else is going to take a hit, then everybody has to take a hit.”
“I am not going to support over $138,000 for the GRCC,” Volkernick said. “I will support them with a different number. I think that it's a little too much money.”
Tempers flared after the board began discussing the GRCC's request for $22,720.
“You've got to be kidding me,” Volkernik said, his voice raised. “You just asked for $138,000 for the GRCC.”
Buccina cut Volkernik off, telling him, “This is the summer program. This is something they have done on a yearly basis.”
After Anderson explained why the GRCC's summer program request was separated from the $138,100, Buccina asked Volkernick, “You all set?”
“No, I'm not,” Volkernik said, “I'm not really happy about this.”
“Let me tell you something,” Buccina said. “We don't get anything done when we're upset. Everyone's passionate about this stuff. It's touchy stuff, so let's just try to respect that and stay calm, and respect each other and what we're doing here.”
Selectman Jeff Sterling reminded the board that in 2012, they took a huge risk in approving the $138,100 for the GRCC.
“There was an assumption made, and we didn't know if the assumption would prove to be correct,” Sterling said. “I'm glad to say that a year later, that assumption would prove to be correct, in that by dropping the membership fee for Rumford residents, it would boost membership, and it would get people through the door that possibly couldn't afford to go through the door before.”
Sterling continued, saying, “I've always felt that the community center was just as important to this town as the town office and the library. We took a risk last year in approving the money, and I don't see why we wouldn't want to try it again.”
The board also voted 4-1 to approve $6,000 for the River Valley Growth Council, which was $6,000 less than what they initially asked for.
Member Jim Rinaldo explained to the board that the funding will go toward paying for upcoming projects, including the zip line and the Lumberjack Festival.
Sterling was uncomfortable with the idea that 65 percent of the RVCC's budget comes from Rumford.
“That's a really high number for one town to pay,” Sterling said.
Rich Lovejoy, vice president of the RVCC, told Sterling, “300 percent of Jim's time is dedicated to helping this town.”
The board unanimously voted to deny the original request of $12,000, but approved the follow-up request of $6,000 by a vote of 4-1, with Sterling voting against it.