RUMFORD — Selectmen repeatedly assured former longtime Selectman Jim Thibodeau on Thursday night that they have no intention of preventing residents from having any say in ongoing consolidation talks with Mexico.
Thibodeau said he was upset about a quote from the Sept. 23 meeting between Rumford and Mexico selectmen and consolidation consultant Don Jutton, president of Municipal Resources Inc. The information was printed in stories in the Sun Journal on Sept. 24 and on Wednesday in the Rumford Falls Times.
Thibodeau said Jutton was paraphrased as saying that the towns should create a five-year commitment for consolidating services to prevent resistance against any change.
“People don’t like seeing change, and if you lock yourself into a commitment with one another, you’ll be able to stand up against any resistance,” Jutton said at the meeting.
“I couldn’t believe what the paragraph stated,” Thibodeau said. “Where did the board find such a person who would lay out a plan that would leave the citizens of Rumford out of the loop? And it very clearly stated that.”
Thibodeau said he thought Rumford “was a democracy and not a dictatorship.”
“Is the board representing the citizens or themselves?” he asked. “The board can’t seriously be thinking about following the recommendations of Jutton. The recommendations are absurd at the very least.”
Thibodeau said he was against most of the consolidation recommendations, basing that on his past experience in dealing with proposed merger talks with Mexico. He said not one of the recommendations then showed where any money could be saved.
Later, he asked selectmen about Jutton’s recommendations if they were going to just “roll this through and leave Rumford citizens out of the loop.”
At first, Selectmen Jeff Sterling and Brad Adley told Thibodeau not to believe everything written in the paper as being true. Then Sterling said the context was misconstrued in that Jutton was referring to other municipalities that he had worked for and not Rumford and Mexico.
Sterling said Board of Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said at the Sept. 23 update from Jutton that Rumford and Mexico selectmen needed to meet to determine where they want to go with Jutton’s recommendations.
“Having this being ‘rammed through,’ I don’t believe that’s true,” Sterling said.
He said all the meetings the two boards have had and meetings of subcommittees, which Sterling said haven’t been very successful, have been open to the public.
“But I don’t think that to condemn a plan because a consultant said that we’re going to lock in a five-year plan would be proper at this point, because I don’t think any of us have come to any conclusion like that,” Sterling said.
Thibodeau said that isn’t what he asked.
Sterling reiterated that neither board has come up with a cost-sharing formula or cost analysis for consolidation.
Thibodeau apologized for interrupting Sterling and again asked if Rumford selectmen plan to follow Jutton’s recommendation or not.
“I think we’re planning to talk about it,” Sterling said.
Adley said he agrees with Sterling.
“As far as ‘ramrodding’ it, Jim, that isn’t the case at all,” Adley said. “We’ve been very clear on this. It’s all going to come down to a vote — if we get that far — for both legislative bodies.”
“OK, what’s really bothering me is (Jutton’s) recommending locking the citizens out for five years while you take care of business,” Thibodeau said.
“No,” Adley said.
“He said it,” Thibodeau said. “It’s a quote.”
“Don’t believe everything you read in the paper,” Adley said.
Thibodeau told the board to throw Jutton’s recommendation out the window “and proceed like you always have been, involving the citizens every step of the way.”
Rumford fire Chief Bob Chase Jr. said Jutton meant that should a town decide to consolidate, it should commit to it for five years, “because you won’t get through all of the growing pains in the first year and get a true sense of if it’s going to work.”
“And there’s going to be hate and discontent in that first year as you’re going through the growing pains, so the context of his five-year comment was, ‘Use your political process to decide what you’re going to consolidate, but when the (legislative) body has decided that when you do consolidate, commit to it for a period of time to know its effectiveness.
“‘Don’t give people an out a year later to walk away from it, because you haven’t gone through the growing pains yet,’ and that was the context of the five-year comment,” Chase said.