Rumford looks for resolutions

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RUMFORD – Selectman Greg Buccina said he is frustrated by a stagnant and disappointing year just ended.

“The board was concentrating on what was the greater good for the town, and we were diverted by a small group.” he said.

Buccina hopes that 2007 will see a greater attendance at board meetings by what he termed “the silent majority.”

“I want them to understand that they need to speak up and give this town the dignity it deserves,” he said.

Buccina’s frustration was felt by board Chairman Jim Rinaldo, as well.

“I’ve been disappointed with all the things going on. I’ve been trying to do what the selectmen felt was best for the town,” he said.

Town Manager Stephen Eldridge said he doesn’t know what the future holds for the community, but he believes the town will grow because things are moving in Rumford’s direction from Lewiston/Auburn.

“It may grow around us first because of all the political press,” he said.

“Everything didn’t come to a screeching halt, but the momentum stopped because of political distractions. Our time was spent on other things, lawsuits and disagreements about the Municipal Building. Things that we normally shouldn’t have to deal with, we did,” he said.

Buccina said many people in town have worked hard on a variety of committees to improve the town.

“They gave of their time and effort and whenever they made a recommendation, that same small group cut them off at the knees,” he said.

Ron Theriault, a financial adviser, often raised issues at selectmen’s meetings. He, among others, believes the charter should have been more closely followed, Roberts Rules of Order adopted for selectmen’s meetings, and that the town shouldn’t look to tourism, but to a greater emphasis on the wood industry for its economic success.

“2006 was a year of people wanting to get things done, but not taking the time to go by all the rules. If the charter and the bylaws were more closely followed, the town may not have seen all the difficulties,” he said.

He said he’d like to see selectmen’s meetings become a meeting of the board and the residents, rather than a selectmen’s meeting.

“That’s the best way for selectmen to make decisions, to hear what people want,” he said. Theriault plans to run for a seat on the board during the June elections.

In the long-term, he believes Rumford has to go back to its industrial base, to adopt heavy lumber production.

“I don’t think we have much of a chance of anchoring the Rumford economy to tourism. Our employees have worked in mills and shoe shops,” he said.

Selectman Mark Belanger said the town has been in a quagmire for much of the year and wants more teamwork with the rest of the board as well as with the town as a whole.

“I just want to move forward, to make the town a better place to live, to move on to something that is more progressive,” he said.

Former Selectman Eugene Boivin believes some of the town’s turmoil could have been prevented by following the charter. His brother, Selectman Arthur Boivin, agrees.

“So many things are up in the air. I’d like to see things calm down, and move on from the overall tension between the ‘yes’ group and the ‘no’ group. For example, we have to do something at the Municipal Building but we have to listen to the voters, and we have to look at the straw vote (on what kind of changes to make to the library) and learn what people want,” he said.

A major issue often dividing townspeople and the selectmen is Eldridge’s contract and a residency requirement in the town charter. The matter is going before Oxford County Superior Court on Tuesday.

When Eldridge was hired, he told selectmen he did not plan to move from Monmouth to the town in the immediate future. The then board agreed to the arrangement, citing recent federal laws often ending residency requirements. The town charter, however, requires people in several appointed positions, including that of the town manager, to move to Rumford within three months of being hired.

Tuesday’s court hearing will determine whether a lawsuit demanding residency compliance is upheld or not.

Rinaldo, who was one of the selectmen who signed Eldridge’s contract two years ago, said the contract is a moral issue.

“We hired Steve knowing full well he may not move to Rumford. When we hired him, we felt we were doing the right thing. Morally, we need to stay with his contract,” he said.

Buccina said he would uphold Eldridge’s three-year contract, which expires at the end of 2007, if the judge dismisses the lawsuit.

“At that time, I would ask him in respect to the charter, to move to Rumford within three months or his contract would not be renewed,” he said.

But if the judge says the contract is not valid, then Eldridge would have three months to move to Rumford, or his contract would be terminated, Buccina said.

As 2006 ends, Buccina is hopeful.

“I hope we can work together. The townspeople need to put more faith in the people who serve them and not listen to the naysayers. We need to look at how other towns are instituting growth and maintaining services and follow in their footsteps. We need to do the greater good, not the common good. The people that elected us, elected us to do what’s best for the greater good,” he said.

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