RUMFORD —  Selectmen agreed Thursday night to draft letters to Gov. Paul LePage advocating that he prevent the Maine Turnpike Authority from removing the sign touting Black Mountain Ski Area in Rumford.

The decision came after Jennifer Kreckel of Envision Rumford, a local economic development group, lobbied the board during the citizen requests’ session to take action.

“I don’t think we should let up on the pressure,” Kreckel said.

She said she was worried that should the Maine Turnpike Authority be allowed to remove the Black Mountain/Rumford sign, it would be detrimental to economic development in the River Valley and potentially harm businesses.

Rumford and Mexico Town Manager John Madigan said he contacted Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, and Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, to speak on River Valley’s behalf on the turnpike signs bill, LD 1831.

He said Briggs also read Madigan’s letter to the Legislature.

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“I find it hard to believe that the people responsible for these recommendations can be so insensitive to the needs of rural Maine,” Madigan wrote. “If we don’t comply with some bureaucrats’ arbitrary rules for signage, then the state Legislature needs to instruct the bureaucracy to rewrite the rules to meet the needs of the people of rural Maine. There is a lot more to Maine than Portland, L-A and Bangor.”

Peterson also spoke against the bill, Madigan told selectmen.

After checking with Kreckel about whether the board could handle the matter at its next meeting and learning that the Legislature would be voting on the bill soon, selectmen deemed a critical circumstance existed and placed it on Thursday night’s agenda.

During that discussion, the board voted 5-0 to draft a letter signed by the board on behalf of the town and deliver it to LePage stressing the importance of keeping that Black Mountain/Rumford sign along the turnpike.

In other business, selectmen voted 4-1 to approve police Chief Stacy Carter’s recommendation to hire former Rumford Police Department administrative officer Matthew Desroches to fill one of two full-time vacancies.

Carter said Desroches was laid off in July. He said the vacancies were created when officer Dan Carrier quit to join the Mexico Police Department and officer Michelle Cooper also quit.

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Carter said Desroches will have to attend the Maine Criminal Justice Academy within a year of being hired and Rumford will be required to pay for that.

“We’re down to three police officers,” Selectman Jolene Lovejoy said. “We can’t afford that.”

She was referring to Sgt. Tracey Higley as the third officer. Higley has been on paid administrative leave since March 18 because the Maine Attorney General’s Office is investigating Higley’s use of deadly force that day in the shooting of Jessica Byrn-Francisco.

Francisco, 25, had called a crisis hotline late that afternoon threatening to commit suicide. The crisis center contacted police and Higley and another officer responded to Byrn-Francisco’s apartment at 77 Maine Ave.

They found her in the backyard, where Chief Carter said she was armed with a knife and attempted to rush Higley, who shot her after both officers unsuccessfully tried to subdue her with a Taser stun gun.

When asked by selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina if Desroches would fill Higley’s position or only work part-time, Carter said no. He said he wanted to hire Desroches to a permanent full-time job to fill one of the vacancies.

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Resident Kevin Saisi advised the board to hire the officer since the current vacancies are being filled by officers working overtime.

“We need to fill at least one of the positions,” Saisi said.

Madigan also advised the board to hire Desroches. The board voted to do so, with Selectman Frank DiConzo dissenting.

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