RUMFORD — Voters going to the polls Nov. 7 will consider two questions asking to borrow a combined $2 million toward the downtown infrastructure project slated for 2018.

One article would authorize the town to get a loan of $1.38 million at 1.5 percent interest from the 2017 Clean Water State Revolving Funds for replacing water and sewer lines on the business island.

The second article would authorize the town to get a loan for $700,000 at 2.3 percent interest from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for improving and replacing infrastructure in the island business district.

Construction is slated to begin next spring.

Town Manager Linda-Jean “L-J” Briggs said, “These two loans are vital to doing the full project. This project is the catalyst to economic development here in town.”

If the loans are not approved, Briggs said she doesn’t know what a scaled-back project will look like because the town would only have $2 million.

In June 2016, voters approved borrowing up to $2 million from the Maine Bond Bank for reconstruction on the business island and spreading those payments over 15 years. The estimated interest rate is 3.5 percent.

“I hope people realize that this is a better option than us going in and taking from our capital improvement budget,” Briggs said. “That was the original plan, to pull about a million dollars out of the highway department capital budget. Long-term, I don’t think it’s the right way.”

This way, she said the highway department can continue with its regular schedule of projects.

“For example, this year, we did Isthmus and Swain roads, and that cost us over $800,000, just to do those two roads. So if we drain a million out of it, what happens to the other roads?” she asked.

She said the downtown work is significant to the town, economically as well as environmentally.

“It addresses the storm drain and the wastewater plant, and the fact that their permit could be affected if we don’t do anything about the storm water,” Briggs said.

Regarding the $1.38 million loan, she added, “$70,000 of that will be given back in principal forgiveness because we’ll be doing a sustainability study and an environmental study. And once we do those, we’ll get the $70,000 back.”

Briggs said she still holds hope that Rumford will get a Community Development Block Grant to assist with the infrastructure improvements. She said she’ll be meeting with the CDBG coordinator soon, who will assist her with the grant application.

“I know that if we’re not No. 1, we’re very close. If there’s money, I strongly believe we’ll get the call. But nobody can promise me that, and if there’s money, you don’t know how competitive those requests for it are going to be,” Briggs said.

Financial impact of the loans

Briggs said the town had an old bond for streets that was $125,000-plus a year. When the town approved the $2 million loan (June 2016), she said it was timed so that the $133,000 payment would be made following the last payment of the street bond.

“This $2 million does not affect the tax base at all because it’s really a wash,” she said.

Briggs said Rumford’s valuation is $518 million, and the bonding agencies don’t like to see a town in debt more than 15 percent of your state valuation.

She said, “15 percent for the town of Rumford is $77,730,000, which is what we could potentially borrow and not affect our bond rating. We have $2 million right now.”

The tax rate is $28.85 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“If people support the request,”, she said, it would raise the tax rate $29.14.

“It’s entirely possible that we have a significant change in our mill rate; hopefully going down, because of some of the other development that’s happening here. The expenditures are just a piece of the puzzle,” she said.

She emphasized that asking for the two additional loans is being done so as not to affect any of the town’s operational funds.

“I really think it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Loan payments being considered are 20, 25 and 30 years. “The further out you push it, the better it would be on the tax burden,” Briggs said.

Article for street light LED project

A third articles, if passed, would authorize town officials to purchase streetlight fixtures from Central Maine Power and convert them to LED.

CMP says Rumford has 648 fixtures.

The project has an estimated cost of $345,000, and is expected to reduce annual electricity costs from around $93,405 to $19,403, including fixture maintenance.

“It’s a huge, significant savings,” Briggs said. The project would be completed within a year.

Rumford would be working with RealTerm Energy of Annapolis, Maryland, which selectmen selected after Rockland, Falmouth, Biddeford and South Portland studied firms and used RealTerm Energy for LED projects.

Briggs said the LED lighting offers numerous options, including different degrees of brightness as well as colors.

Selectmen would review streetlight locations.

Residents will vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, at the American Legion Hall, 184 Congress St.

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