Rumford voters to determine fate of town building

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RUMFORD – Voters at a special town meeting set for Jan. 22 will have one option to act on to address the life and safety issues at the Municipal Building following action taken by selectmen Thursday night.

The board amended the town meeting warrant so that residents can vote yes or no on spending up to $850,000 to bring the Municipal Building into compliance.

Originally, the warrant had offered the option of choosing $850,000, as recommended by the selectmen and the Finance Committee, or $1.2 million as recommended by the Town Office Building Committee.

However, if voters turn down the lower figure, another motion can be made to go with the higher amount, said board Chairman Jim Rinaldo.

Finance Committee member Ron Russell said the intent of his committee was to go with the $850,000.

“The $1.2 million has not come before us,” he said.

Selectman Mark Belanger said the building committee was not a sanctioned committee and motioned that only the $850,000 figure be placed on the warrant.

Selectman Greg Buccina was concerned that the lower figure may be voted down, leaving the town with no option. He also wanted to give residents a chance to choose which option they wanted.

“Why do we appoint a committee to spend so much energy, then throw their recommendation out the window?” he asked.

Rinaldo said if townspeople vote down the $850,000 and don’t approve another figure that would address the life, safety and code violations identified by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, “we’ll close the Municipal Building.”

The lower figure would address each of the issues identified by the fire marshal – adding exits, building fire walls and several other matters. The higher figure would meet the life and safety codes, plus ease the handicapped accessibility of the nearly century-old structure.

In other matters, Town Manager Stephen Eldridge said the three core River Valley towns plan to get back on schedule to try to find ways to share services, purchases and other things in an effort for greater regionalization.

Town officials from Dixfield, Mexico and Rumford, as well as several others from some of the smaller towns, had been meeting regularly to discuss ways to work together until early last year.

Eldridge’s comments came after resident Len Greaney gave a presentation on some ways he believes regionalization could benefit the River Valley.

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