MEXICO – Some of the dozen or so residents at Wednesday’s public hearing on the proposed 2009-10 municipal budget questioned the need to fund the River Valley Growth Council, which operates the River Valley Technology Center.

Selectman candidate Byron Ouellette said during a discussion of the $56,000 proposed for the Mexico Public Library that essential items should be emphasized before nonessential items.

“It’s time we started paying attention to essential things like police, fire and roads,” Ouellette said. “We always find money for nonessential things. Maybe some of these nonessential things can be done by volunteer work.”

Selectman Arthur Bordeau agreed.

“We need a board with backbone to stand up and say that,” he said. Bordeau is leaving his position in June.

Monique Aniel, chairwoman of the Budget Committee, suggested that the town take a long-range view of municipal needs.

She questioned the town’s liability for a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant it received for use by the River Valley Technology Center. She said she’s worried that the town will be held liable if 40 jobs aren’t offered at the Rumford center or if the center closes. She posed questions about another $250,000 loaned to the center.

“Who is responsible?” she asked. “In 2004, I asked this board to get a promise from the tech center to sell that building to repay Mexico (if necessary).”

Town Manager John Madigan, a member of the Growth Council, said a lien on the building could cover the smaller loan and the Growth Council is working on the block grant matter.

“I can’t believe the state would insist that Mexico pay the $400,000 back,” said Madigan, adding that at least 40 jobs have been created at the center, as required under the grant agreement, but many did not meet the low- or moderate-income requirement.

He said between $2 million and $3 million have been invested in the building, and acknowledged that the Growth Council was struggling.

Budget Committee member Marjorie Richard questioned whether the town should appropriate money for the Growth Council because of its tenuous situation. The budget proposes raising $10,000 for the council and its work.

“They are financially struggling, but we have sufficient money to get through the fiscal year,” Madigan said. “We’re talking to potential tenants and the CareerCenter and Community Dental are there. The tech center board is doing the best they can, given that backs have been turned to them by the community.”

Residents will vote on the 21 budget articles at a meeting June 9.

The proposed municipal budget of $2.46 million is $32,000 less than the current budget.

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