MEXICO — The Mexico and Rumford boards of selectmen discussed the possibility of approving $12,000 to the River Valley Growth Council — a fee that would be split between the two towns — during a joint meeting between the two boards on Tuesday evening.
John Madigan, the town manager for both towns, explained that he wanted to “have some sort of direction” on where the two towns wanted to go in terms of community development.
“We’ve got nothing in the future to do that kind of work,” Madigan said, “so what I need to have from both towns, separately, is some kind of direction about what we want to do. We are one community, whether people like it or not, and this whole area has been on the decline for 40 years. We’ve been losing population since 1960.”
Madigan pointed to the River Valley Growth Council as an entity that has been helping bring jobs and opportunities to the region.
“Neither one of us funded the Growth Council last year,” Madigan said to each board, “so they’re broke. The council won’t be able to sustain itself for long.
“One issue that our towns are dealing with right now is trying to get natural gas built,” Madigan continued. “That’s pretty much being headed up by Jim Rinaldo and the River Valley Growth Council right now.”
Mexico Chairman Richie Philbrick suggested that each town put aside a certain amount of money for future community development opportunities, starting with $12,000 that would be used to help pay for Rinaldo’s stipend.
“The town of Mexico could put aside $4,000, which is one-third of the cost, while Rumford’s portion would come out to $8,000,” Philbrick said.
“The Growth Council pays Jim a stipend of $1,000 a month, to help with the cost of living,” Madigan added. “That’s where the $12,000 number is coming from.”
Madigan also pointed out that Rinaldo is retired, and has been doing a majority of the work on his own time.
“Everything he’s done has been a benefit to us,” Madigan said. “I think that number is the minimum that it would take to keep these efforts going. You guys, as selectmen, have to decide whether to pursue this. I think it will benefit us all.”
Rumford Selectman Brad Adley asked Madigan whether the $12,000 would go towards an economic development fund between the two towns, or if it would go towards the River Valley Growth Council.
“That’s the dilemma,” Madigan replied. “I’m hoping to get some direction from you guys about where you want to go with this.”
Near the end of the meeting, Rinaldo stood up and told the selectmen and residents in the audience, “I just want to make it clear that I’m not here tonight to try and promote myself to get a salary. I’m retired. I’m doing this because I was asked to do it.
“The Growth Council approached me because they were getting ‘X’ amount of dollars from the town of Rumford, and they said they’d give it to me if I agreed to do work for them,” Rinaldo continued. “If you want to go hire a full-time economic development person, you won’t offend me in the least, but be prepared to pay upwards of $100,000. I’m not here looking for a job.”
Rumford Chairman Greg Buccina told selectmen, “I just want to add something to that. We’ve listened to other economic developers, and I don’t think we could get the effort from them that we get from Mr. Rinaldo. This money is not a gimme. It’s earned.”
Buccina added that he wants to make sure that both towns follow “a level of formality” in deciding whether or not to fund the Growth Council.
“We can discuss this at our next regular meeting,” Buccina said to the Rumford selectmen, “and following discussion, we can decide whether we want to take it out of the economic development fund or something else. Maybe the Growth Council will come to us with another initiated article request, and we can entertain that.”
River Valley Growth Council member Dick Lovejoy then told the board that the council had no plans to submit an initiated article request for the 2014/2015 fiscal year.
Madigan told both boards at the end of the meeting that the discussion “needed to happen,” and that he hopes the towns can figure out “a realistic way to fund these tools that are here to help us.”