RUMFORD — Babe the Blue Ox, the
mythical sidekick of Paul Bunyan, will soon be part of the downtown
landscape thanks to action taken by selectmen Thursday night.

Selectmen voted 3-1 to take $6,500 from the town’s economic development to by a 6-foot-high, 10-foot-long bovine from a Wisconsin company. Volunteers will construct a concrete
slab for it to stand on.

The idea of installing the ox came from
Jim Rinaldo, an Economic Development Committee member, who said
the replica will help draw people to the downtown.

The Paul Bunyan replica is at
the information center on Bridge Street where many tourists have
their pictures taken each year. The problem, according to Rinaldo, is
that few venture into the downtown area.

The ox will be located on a grassy area
in front of the Rite Aid pharmacy, with a sign that points visitors
to the Paul Bunyan replica. Another sign will be posted at the Bunyan
statue, pointing people to Babe.

“We’re trying to get people to walk
across the bridge to have their picture taken with Babe the Blue Ox,” Rinaldo
said. “Downtown businesses are hurting.”

If all goes as planned, Babe should be
ready to serve as a scenic backdrop in time for the fall foliage
season.

Board Chairman Brad Adley voted against
the proposal, saying that he believes there are better ways to spend
the funds. Selectman Greg Buccina was absent.

In another economic step, the board
voted unanimously to seek the help of an expert to create a plan for
the possible redevelopment of the Waldo Street, Cumberland Street
and Lincoln Avenue block area.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia estimated such
a plan could be created for $2,000 to $3,000, which would be
taken from the economic development account. The plan, which would include such
items as traffic surveys, ownership of the block’s buildings, and
assessed values, could be presented to any interested potential
developer.

“It would show what would be needed
to develop that block,” Puiia said.

Selectman Mark Belanger said the
board’s decision also fits in well with the town’s Comprehensive Plan
that earmarks the Waldo Street area as a potential site for economic
development.

Also on Thursday, the board:

• Took no action on a request by Black
Mountain of Maine to drill and blast a portion of the ski area as
part of plans to expand the stadium at the site.

• Approved spending $2,500 toward the
construction of a handicapped accessible ramp and modifications to
the shed for the Rumford Center Meeting House. Any amount above that
figure will be paid by the Village Improvement Society.

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