RUMFORD — Following nearly two hours of discussion and presentations about economic development, selectmen unanimously agreed to pay for new signs directing traffic onto the downtown island.

The board agreed 5-0 to allow Envision Rumford, a group of local economic development volunteers, to buy new directional signs using $2,980 from the town’s Economic Development Fund.

The new signs will be made by Mexico businessman Matt Pingree, the owner of Creative Signs and Apparel, formerly known as Low-Key Custom Design.

They will have a graphic of the municipal building clock tower above the words “The Island, Downtown Rumford.”

Below that will be graphic symbols representing restaurants, lodging, 24-hour ATMs and gift stores, followed by an arrow directing drivers toward the downtown.

In selling the board on the new designs, Jennifer Kreckel of Envision Rumford said the downtown island is being bypassed by traffic on Routes 2 and 108.

She suggested that the sign colors could be green and burgundy or burgundy and gold, but Selectman Jeff Sterling said Rumford’s “brand” is green, gold and white. However, he said he’s flexible.

The problem Sterling said he sees is not with the colors of the sign but rather placement of the signs so that they don’t direct traffic onto the island going the wrong way up or down one-way streets.

Canal and River streets carry traffic off Route 108 up to Hartford and Portland streets, from which traffic can head back down to Route 108 using Congress Street.

“When you’re coming off Route 108 from both directions, we’re going to be anticipating that motorists — not us, likely — are going to know enough to turn into Canal Street or River Street.”

“And that is the big problem and I don’t have any solutions to that,” Kreckel said. She is Rumford’s attorney and has a law practice on Congress Street.

Sterling said that with the new signs that Envision Rumford wants to install, they’ll have to identify Canal and River streets somehow as the roads onto which to turn off Route 108 to travel across the island to reach the upper end of Congress Street, which is a one-way street that exits onto Route 108.

“Because that turn on River Street, if you don’t know it’s there, you’re going to miss it,” Sterling said.

He said that most people who aren’t local will likely think they can turn off Route 108 onto Congress Street.

“All hope is lost at that point,” Sterling said.

However, he said he liked the idea of the new signs.

“This is trying to give businesses on the island a chance that they don’t normally get, because Route 2 does pass them completely by,” he said.

“And with a one-way, if you don’t know, you’re just going to keep going straight. So I think this gives businesses on the island a fighting chance.”

Selectman Jolene Lovejoy then asked business owners on Congress Street to stand from where they sat in the audience, which they did. She then asked them how they felt about changing one-way Congress Street to a two-way street, which it was many years ago.

Candice Casey said it should remain as it is, otherwise parking would be a serious problem. Another business owner disagreed, suggesting creating a parking lane in the middle of the street or on one side only.

“We have less people and more cars than we had 25 years ago,” Lovejoy said, suggesting revisiting the two-way design.

The board voted unanimously to approve funding  the new signs.

Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said the town could always look into creating a parking garage or building a parking area over the canals.

Earlier, the board listened to a presentation by Jennifer Olsen of Main Street Skowhegan on how they revitalized the downtown area, and from John Holden of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC of Augusta. Holden pitched his economic development services.

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