We’d applaud Rumford’s lumberjacks for their altruism, if we thought they had some. But little about their surprise pre-dawn assault on two condemned maple trees seemed related to public service; rather their very public statement on how the town should be run, and who should run it.

Selectmen Frank DiConzo and Arthur Boivin, plus former Selectman Eugene Boivin, felled the more-than-50-year-old trees early Monday. The board of selectmen approved the trees’ removal weeks ago, to improve the aesthetics of Rumford Town Hall. And for $300, a contractor was ready to do the job.

Not fast enough for some, though. Around 5:45 a.m., shod in steel-toed boots and lacking insurance, the trio chain-sawed the maples and then told Jim Doar, the town manager, to clean up afterward.

Responsible selectmen and citizens would have used proper channels – asking the manager about the plan for the trees, so the manager could inquire of public works, which would have confirmed a contractor was ready to work on an upcoming Sunday.

This didn’t happen.

Community-minded volunteers would have notified town officials about their intentions, gotten their approvals and proper bonding, closed the road and donned appropriate gear for safety. Then, they would have made arrangements to move and dispose of the fallen trunks, to save the town the cost.

This didn’t happen.

Vandals would have cut and run.

This happened.

It’s a stretch to believe these three political people, in hyper-political Rumford, were inspired by a burst of sudden selflessness and an insomniac’s desire to save taxpayers a few hundred bucks.

They didn’t. Two public works employees were rerouted and spent more than six hours cleaning up after the lumberjacks. The town’s public works department estimates this labor cost was $550.

Felling the trees was political capital well spent, however. Cutting the trees was a powerful, visible statement about the trio’s lack of faith in town management. And Doar, to his credit, attempted to quiet controversy by remarking, “The important thing is that the trees are down.”

We disagree. The important thing is how this crystallizes a lingering issue – discord within Rumford governance about who’s in charge. Although Doar might wish to emphasize meager positives from Monday’s cutting, this overarching issue cannot be downplayed.

Someone needs to show leadership to overcome these differences. Rumford already has one looming lumberjack as a distraction – Paul Bunyan. Now it has three more, and what DiConzo and the Boivins have done will likely become as legendary as stories about the big man and his blue ox.

But Bunyan and Babe were myths.

Problems festering in Rumford’s government are all too real.

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