Voters OK repair funds

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RUMFORD – An overwhelming majority of the 150 people attending Monday’s special town meeting approved spending $828,000 to update the nearly century-old Municipal Building. They also agreed to apply to the Maine Bond Bank for the funds.

Town Manager Stephen Eldridge said after the meeting that he will meet soon with architect Jim Reuter of the Bethel firm of Smith Reuter Lull to work out a detailed design plan so work can begin within the next few months.

The need for the renovation was prompted by an inspection by the Office of the State Fire Marshal nearly a year ago. The inspection revealed multiple life and safety code violations.

The funds, which could be borrowed over a five-year period through the bond bank, could instead be raised by residents during the annual town meeting election in June, if desired. The secondary funding plan, if approved in June, could call for raising all the money through taxes for a one-year period, eliminating about $130,000 in interest.

The renovation will open up the Municipal Auditorium for performances and other events because an additional egress will be installed and the existing entrance will be enclosed to provide a fire wall. Since the fire marshal’s inspection, the auditorium occupancy is limited to a maximum of 49 people.

Other access and fire code issues that will be addressed include a second egress from the main floor court room, enclosure of the section of the town offices and the court offices on the main floor, installation of handicapped-accessible bathrooms on each floor, and other fire code matters.

Former Selectman Eugene Boivin took issue with the amount of rent 11th District Court pays to the town for use of a portion of the Municipal Building.

“The sad part,” he said, “is that they pay only $22,000 a year to use two-thirds of the main floor. The county should be paying a much larger amount.”

He said he hopes to start a movement to increase the rent, particularly, he said, because a large segment of the renovation project will benefit the court system.

In arguing for passage of the renovation and funding articles, local teacher Mary Dunton suggested that residents take pride in the town hall and the town.

“Rumford needs to lift up its chin. We have a great community and town, and we need to take care of it,” she said.

Former Selectman Jim Thibodeau said a few people in town appear to be destroying the town from within.

“We have a beautiful town hall. Do we want it to fall down around us? Let’s think positive and do what’s right for the town and make the town hall look like something,” he said.

Len Greaney said that group advocates responsible spending and cost effective public safety.

One of the members of the Concerned Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, Ron Theriault, did not speak during the town meeting. When it was over, however, he shouted that just because the money was raised, it would not necessarily be spent.

Two other articles dealing with the sale or future sale of several tiny town parcels of land on Hancock Street also passed. At issue is Hosmer Field land that abuts several homeowner lots. Some of these lots already have structures built on them that encroach on town land. None interfere with the use of Hosmer Field.

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