MEXICO — Following a lengthy debate and several votes, the Board of Selectmen passed a motion that will eliminate 75 percent of the funding for economic development in the proposed 2015-16 municipal budget.

During the third and final meeting of selectmen with the Budget Committee on April 7, selectmen voted to eliminate the $4,000 stipend for their share with Rumford for an economic developer, as well as the $2,000 to the River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

After a series of votes, selectmen voted 3-1 to propose $2,001 for the town’s economic development fund. Selectman Reggie Arsenault was opposed.

Meanwhile, the Budget Committee voted 3-2 in favor of $8,000 for the article as presented.

Town Manager John Madigan explained that last year, Mexico paid $4,000 and Rumford paid $8,000 “to provide a stipend for Jim Rinaldo for $1,000 a month to do the work he’s doing. He’s constantly on the phone. These kind of things take time, but if you don’t do them, guess what? Nobody is coming to Rumford or Mexico. Period.”

Selectman Albert Aniel said, “If anything, everybody’s been coming to Rumford. Nothing’s been coming to Mexico.”

“I’m telling you, you guys are being penny-wise and pound-foolish if you don’t consider having something to assist us and help get somebody in here to change the economy,” Madigan said. “And guess what? The economy has been falling for 40 years around here because nobody’s ever supported economic development.”

“The reason the economy has been falling for the past 40 years is because our taxes are too high and our young people are leaving,” Aniel said. “Unless things change in Augusta, it’s going to get worse for us. And rural America, it’s happening all over.”

Peter Merrill, Budget Committee member and former selectman, said, “We’re going to end up with all retired people. You’ve got to stop it somewhere because no business is going to bring a company here with just retired people. They need a trained or experienced workforce that’s available. If we don’t put money into economic development, we’re not going to be able to change that, regardless.”

“The only thing I can see that’s attracted to Mexico is tax-exempt properties,” Selectman Andy Dupuis said. “You can’t keep giving taxpayers an increase every year. Someday, they’re going to say, ‘I’m not paying taxes anymore.'”

Madigan pointed out that Rinaldo was able to bring Pizza Hut to Mexico, which is still here. He also brought a couple of prospects to check out the former Franklin Savings Bank building.

“He recently got the Growth Council to accept the building next to the old ambulance building as a donation,” the town manager said. “Then, once the final transfer is done, they will auction it off, and maybe some new business will go in there. They’re working right now with the company to accept the property, so the owner gets the tax break by donating the property, then the Growth Council has got to sell it by auction.”

He said Rinaldo worked last year to try to bring a gas pipeline through here, and with Archie’s Inc., which had been considering a natural gas conversion system.

Rinaldo is retired and working for just a stipend.

“A lot of these things don’t come to pass,” Madigan said. “But you’ve got to have somebody willing to do the legwork. Nine out of 10 times, it’s not going to come true, but the effort still has to be made,” he said.

The first vote was zero dollars for economic development, which failed by a 2-2 vote. Board of Selectmen Chairman Richie Philbrick was absent.

Aniel asked for $2,000 for just Mexico’s economic development. “I just want the money to be for Mexico, to be managed by Mexico,” he said.

That motion also failed 2-2.

Arsenault made a motion for the $8,000 as the article was presented.

“C’mon guys, this helps the area, all the way around,” he said. “Dr. Aniel, people like you who sit here and say nothing is going to come here. Of course, businesses are not going to come here, listening to people like you saying that nothing is ever going to happen here.”

Aniel responded, “They’re not listening to me. They’re looking at the tax structure and the regulations to come to the state of Maine.”

That motion failed due to lack of a second.

Arsenault proposed $6,000; $2,000 for each of the three.

That failed due to lack of a second.

The board then passed Aniel’s $2,001 figure for economic development.

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