Rumford Town Manager Stacy Carter cuts the ribbon Friday to celebrate completion of a multimillion-dollar, yearslong project to improve The Island business district. The ribbon’s message, More For You, is the town’s new theme. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — Completion of the multimillion-dollar project to improve The Island business district was celebrated Friday, more than three years after it began.

“This has been years in the making,” Town Manager Stacy Carter said. “This is a glorious day and we get to celebrate it. If you look down The Island, it’s a world of difference from what it was several years ago. This is something we can all be proud of here in Rumford, and here in the River Valley.”

The occasion was marked with a ribbon-cutting by the River Valley Chamber of Commerce near the head of Congress Street. The ribbon’s message, More For You, is the new theme for the town.

Carter said the biggest thanks goes to the business owners and the community that supports them, “because that’s what we’re here for. Those (businesses) that survived through COVID, thank you very much.”

For years, The Island business district was the gem of the western mountains, he said.

The Island is located between the Androscoggin River and the canals that were constructed many years ago to supply water to the paper mill. The Island features restaurants and retail stores along with the local government offices.

“We’re happy to say, through economic development and the support of the community, it’s all coming back. This is the step forward that we need to replenish this area, get growth back here.”

State Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, called the project to replace sewer and water lines, replace sidewalks and install new lights “The Big Dig.” She said the project was approved by voters in February 2018 and work got underway that April. It was initially aimed to address the outdated sewer and storm drain system.

“A project of this scale took time and creativity in planning and patience as reevaluation was needed when the initial digging uncovered unexpected obstacles, such as massive boulders blocking clear paths,” she said. “Tackling the design of an underground project while balancing the importance of keeping businesses and roads open was no easy task.”

Work on The Island business district began in 2018 with replacing water and sewer lines. It took longer than expected due to excess rock and ledge, and underground vaults. Construction was postponed in 2019 while voters passed a $2.9 million bond to cover cost overruns and resumed in the spring of 2020, completing the first phase.

The total cost of the project was estimated at $7.1 million in the spring of 2020, but the final cost was not immediately available Friday.

Carter said new businesses will come to Rumford as a result of the improvements, creating jobs and providing livelihoods for the people of Rumford and our surrounding area.

“The only way we can grow this community is by showing the rest of the state, the rest of New England, what we have to offer,” Carter said. “Let’s bring them here.”

After the ceremony, EnvisionRumford held a “Crazy Days” celebration, with businesses holding sales and giveaways on the new sidewalks.

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