RUMFORD – Unless $25,000 can soon be found, the River Valley Technology Center is likely to close due to a lack of operational funds.

That’s what RVTC Board President Dick Lovejoy announced at Thursday night’s selectmen’s meeting.

When asked by Selectmen Brad Adley how long the center can remain open without the funding, Lovejoy said it was only a matter of weeks.

Forced to wait until the end of the selectmen’s meeting due to agenda topic placement, when it was his turn to speak, Lovejoy made an impassioned plea for help to keep the center open until additional first-floor tenants can be found.

He said the center currently has five tenants and 40 workers, the biggest tenant being Community Dental.

“We’re looking for additional tenants and additional funding and we do have prospects for both,” Lovejoy said. “But the fact that the current economic condition is not good is a detriment for us.”

He said that on a yearly basis, the center has been running about $50,000 short, because it doesn’t have enough business tenants renting space.

“Filling out the first floor would make us be in a position to break even,” Lovejoy said. “If we do have to close our doors, Community Dental is not interested in relocating their equipment here (in Rumford). I think it would be a shame for us to lose Community Dental and those eight or 10 jobs.”

When asked by a selectman how solid the center’s current prospects are, Lovejoy said, “I’m confident we can find other tenants to move in there and keep our downtown stores open, because center workers would shop there.”

“I think we would have a better chance of finding funding if the town of Rumford would step forward with support,” he added.

Town Manager Len Greaney then said the town doesn’t have any extra money to help out. He said that last year, Rumford allocated $99,000 into an economic development account, and has spent very little of it because the money is allocated for other projects.

He said $20,000 is set aside as the town’s match to the $200,000 Community Development Block Grant program housing grant which Rumford was just awarded last month. Another $60,000 to $70,000 will be leveraged to get $1.7 million from the state for the planned Route 108 industrial park project.

This year, Greaney said he asked selectmen for $50,000 for the same account, but only got $25,000, approval of which must still be gained from town meeting voters next month.

He then told Lovejoy that he should have come before selectmen during the initiated articles part of the budget process to ask for the money.

“I would hate to lose what we’ve got over there,” Adley said during discussion with Chairman J. Arthur Boivin and Selectman Robert Cameron. Selectmen Mark Belanger and Frank DiConzo were absent.

“We can’t very well spend money we don’t have,” Boivin said.

“The sad thing is that Dick and many others have put in countless hours into that building and it would be a shame if this thing goes down the tubes,” Cameron said.

“This ain’t over yet,” Adley said.

Cameron agreed and asked Greaney to put the topic on the board’s next meeting agenda in two weeks “and see if we can come up with a way to do this.”

As Lovejoy stepped away from the podium, somewhat relieved, Phil Blampied, Rumford’s Economic Development coordinator, quickly strode to the podium and blasted management for both the tech center and the River Valley Growth Council.

“It’s time to end the blank checks to the tech center and to the (River Valley) Growth Council,” Blampied loudly stressed. “You need to get a total financial statement from them.”

He said that in 2004, they got the three-story former bag mill building for $1 and then took out a $400,000 Department of Economic and Community Development loan to help grow businesses and jobs.

“We cannot allow their current management to continue to unsuccessfully manage this in the way they’ve done,” Blampied said.

He urged selectmen to negotiate with Mexico, which took out the DECD loan, and the DECD to work out a solution so as not to continue to dump money into the project.

“Be prudent,” Blampied said, walking away.

Lovejoy then quickly returned to the podium and rebutted Blampied.

“What he said as facts are a long ways from being the truth,” Lovejoy said.

Selectmen then voted 3-0 on Cameron’s motion to table the issue until the board’s next meeting.

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