RUMFORD — Selectmen have approved the effort to build a Best Western Plus Rumford Falls hotel.
They unanimously approved allowing Town Manager Linda-Jean “LJ” Briggs to enter into a $350,000 loan contract with Pennacook Falls Investments Ltd.
Tony Carter, president of Pennacook Falls, is leading 22 local investors in developing the four-story, 60-room hotel on Route 2, at the former Puiia Hardware site at 50 Prospect Ave.
He updated board members about the project.
“We’ve been working diligently with Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and Voluntary Response Action Plans funds to do the initial cleanup. We’ve cleaned up all the asbestos and mercury on the site. . . the state gave us permission to go this far,” he said Thursday night.
With approval from selectmen, Carter said the loan funds will be cycled through the town and under the close scrutiny of contractors and Pennacook to ensure that “we’re taking care of business, according to good standards and state of Maine laws.”
Some contractors have already done a fair amount of work, he said. Once the funds have been transferred into the town of Rumford account, the invoices from those contractors will be processed, he said.
“When that happens, within a week we’ll have those buildings all torn down and the site finalized, probably by Christmas,” said Carter. “So we’ll have a clean site and we’ll be moving forward. A groundbreaking will take place in the spring.”
Carter said previously the project was about a nine-month build.
“Hopefully, by this time next year, we’ll be occupying this space,” he said. “I’ve said that before. I said it a year ago. There’s a lot of red tape and a lot more bureaucracy than I ever expected. But we are still going to build this hotel. There would be nothing better than to get those buildings down before snow flies.”
Asked about liability to the town, Briggs said it’s no more than $60,000.
“I am comfortable with the contract. Rumford is considered the grantee, but Pennacook Falls is also listed there as an interested party,” she said.
Selectman Mark Belanger wanted to know who was responsible if something happens.
Briggs said she has before seen a group default on its obligation. “It was forgiven and the town was not held accountable,” she said.
Belanger asked if anyone from Pennacook Falls was listed as being responsible.
Carter said that Pennacook Falls and himself are listed on the VRAP loan and would be held liable.
Tony Carter, president of Pennacook Falls Investments Ltd., talks with Rumford selectmen Thursday night about a four-story, 60-room hotel on Route 2. Carter is leading 22 local investors in the project. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)