The Mechanics Institute and the Greater Rumford Community Center have combined to provide recreation to the area since 1911, but Director Gary Dolloff doesn’t know what will happen this winter due to rising heating oil prices. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — Selectmen recently voted 2-1 against giving the Greater Rumford Community Center $30,000 from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to pay for heating oil this winter, saying it opens the door to other nonprofits and the money is needed for infrastructure projects.

Board Chairman Chris Brennick and Frank DiConzo voted against the request at the Aug. 4 meeting; Peter Chase was in favor. Selectmen Eric McLean and Jim Theriault were absent.

Mindy Gorham, president of the center’s board of directors, said heating oil prices could double their fuel bill this winter. She said the center paid $2.32 per gallon for 15,500 gallons last winter, a total of $35,960. The latest lock-in price is $4.89 per gallon, which would cost $75,795 for the same amount.

“If we don’t get this money, I really don’t know what that building will do this winter,” center Director Gary Dolloff said.

The four-story structure at 50 Congress St. was built in 1911. It is 60 by 125 feet and owned by the community center, which includes the fitness center. There are also three businesses who rent space in the building.

Town Manager Stacy Carter said the town received $607,362 from the American Rescue Plan Act, and $89,592 has been obligated. Twenty-four nonprofits have applied for funding. “I think if we open the door to providing money for nonprofits, then we open it to everybody,” he said.


He said officials are planning to use the federal dollars for infrastructure improvements.

“We are in the same situation as the GRCC and everybody that’s fighting a crisis in fuel costs,” he said. “We funded our budget in anticipation of fuel costs going up . . . So we’re going to be in the same situation. We’re not going to have enough funding for fuel costs as well.”

In June, voters approved all initiated articles requested by nonprofits for fiscal year 2022-23, totaling around $250,000, including $117,000 for the community center.

Carter said town officials asked directors to go back to their previous year’s request because “by state statute, we have to fall under LD 1,” the Municipal Property Tax Levy Cap passed in 2017.

Increases in the tax levy are limited to a formula based on inflation, assessment growth, and income. The limit can be overridden by a local government majority vote.

“The citizens have not approved going over LD 1, so we had to make cuts in areas of our budget as well, and we asked other nonprofits to reduce their amount so that we could stay under that tax levy limit,” Carter said.


“That’s what brought us here today to ask if you could help us,” Gorham said.

Chase asked if the center’s request meets ARPA guidelines.

Carter said it does.

Chase said the $30,000 is “a small piece of the $500,000” left.

“It’s a small amount to pay to make sure the kids had a place to go,” Dolloff said.

Chase made a motion to approve the request on the condition it be used strictly for heating oil and follows ARPA guidelines. Brennick seconded the motion to open it up for discussion.


Mindy Gorham, president of the Greater Rumford Community Center board of directors, and center Director Gary Dolloff meet Aug. 4 with selectmen to request $30,000 from the town’s allotment from the American Rescue Plan Act for winter heating fuel. The request was denied by a vote of 2-1. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

DiConzo brought up the effort he led as a selectman 16 years ago to push for funding and grants for a new health and recreation facility for Rumford and Mexico.

“Seed money was there,” he said. “A promise to match was there.  . . . The first people who did not want to jump on was GRCC and that board. It was very disappointing,” he said, noting Dolloff was on the center board then.

“It’s disheartening to keep putting money into a building that should have been closed years ago because it didn’t meet fire code, disabilities act code, etc.,” he said. “We need a new facility. Now it’s a money pit.”

“It doesn’t matter what happened the last 16 years,” Chase said. “It’s what happening today, Frank. We close that building, all those kids have no place to go. All those programs will no longer exist.”

“The model of delivery for recreational services and youth sports in this area is broken,” Brennick said. “We have two facilities that are aging and competing against each other and cost a lot of money to maintain and run. And I will never understand why we can’t get one facility, instead of one over in Mexico and one in Rumford.”

Carter reminded Dolloff, “The community center is not a town service. You are a nonprofit organization. We provide services for roads, the library, public parks, highway, police and fire, and other government services. We do not provide recreation for the children. We provide money to you, to the tune of $117,000 each year, or more. And that’s at the wish of citizens who vote.”


“You’re not a department of the town,” he added.

“And that’s not our fault,” Dolloff said. “I’m just keeping recreation going.

“We have an opportunity,” he said. “Without taking money out of the taxpayers’ pockets, we can help the community center. That’s what I came in for.”

Carter said it’s taxpayers’ money, even if it is federal money. “If we don’t use it toward infrastructure, then taxpayers are going to have to fund those infrastructure projects,” he said.

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