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Candidate Night highlights five
RUMFORD -- Five candidates with hopes and ideas to help lead the Rumford Board of Selectmen for the next three years was on display Thursday during a Candidate Night in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.
Running for the two three-year terms on the board are incumbent Brad Adley, former Selectman Frank DiConzo, and newcomers Chris Brennick, Lynden Clarke, Jr. and Mary McPherson. They spent 70 minutes answering questions drawn randomly by moderator Kevin Saisi and sharing opinions.
Saisi had each person state why they are seeking election, then asked each of them four questions selected at random from a list of 20. No one responded to the same question. Each candidate then had five minutes for closing statements.
DiConzo said he's running for office "because I love my town and I always have."
He said Rumford residents can no longer afford to fund the current level of services and employees, especially when knowing that the town's largest taxpayer, the NewPage paper mill, is struggling.
DiConzo said he would work to cut municipal spending and pare services to affordable levels.
"If we don't act now and cut taxes and reduce our level of services to a sustainable level, we will lose our town," he said.
Clarke said the town needs to make a lot of changes if it is to remain viable in the future. "I think we need to get control of the town and cut spending." He said he would strive to do just that if elected.
Brennick said he is the youngest of the group, in his third year of teaching at the Pennacook School. He has lived here all his life, said this area offers much and he hopes to continue residing here.
McPherson said she sees plenty of unrealized potential that Rumford must tap into, market and develop, such as natural resources, to grow the economy. She said she has many ideas and would like the opportunity to bring them to fruition, reduce the town's debt and bring money into Rumford.
Among the questions read were the following:
Adley was asked to identify one section of the revised comprehensive plan (presented to voters for approval in June) that he feels is most important for the future of the town. He said it would be quality of place and the river.
"We need to attack that a lot more. We have a riverfront from the falls up and haven't done anything with the scenic waterway. We've got something up there that's pretty special. Between the river and the mountain, we need to market them.
Biking, hiking, Jim Rinaldo with the mountain bike park and the zip line through Envision Rumford. I think that's the future.
The pulp and paperindustry is huge here, but there's not going to be another Hugh Chisholm or Oxford Paper coming to town, so we've got to think of stuff like that, to be able to use the tools we have," said Adley.
Brennick was asked if there are ways that funding for Black Mountain and the Greater Rumford Community Center can be preserved while reducing the monies donated by the town.
He said he believes those should be handled as different.
"Both are very vital to our community. Both are key to the future of Rumford. They have done a good job over the years of providing a good revenue stream. The mountain reduced cost to a $15 lift ticket but raised more revenue because more people went.
But it needs to go hand in hand with the community supporting those two agencies," said Brennick.
"And we need to work with the Greater Rumford Community Center and the Mexico Rec Center; how can we sit them together and how they can work with the school department as well. There's a lot of great things around this community, but we need to get all the people to sit down together and say how can we do this at the best we can at the lowest cost," he said.
"Getting the people of the community center, the people of Mexico, the Rumford Parks together and how can we continue to provide the great recreation programs for our community while lowering the cost to the taxpayer, which is a big thing we must do. We must work together and collaborate. It's not going to be a quick fix but it's going to be something we have to do," said Brennick.
DiConzo was asked that with the current discussion underway with regional collaboration, what areas did he feel most easily brought together to save the towns money.
"If you're going to do something, do it all. You have to start in one place. We had one place one time, with the fire department, but it didn't work out. When I was talking to people around town, it was 'why aren't you thinking about putting your police department and your highway department at the same time?' You work on each one, at one time," he said.
"I was on a committee working for collaboration of services for years. It fell through for some reason. Do I think collaboration would work? I think it would work for awhile, but then you'd get the old cliche of percentages, and when you deal with percentages, eventually people are going to look at the collaboration and say, our percentage is too high. I don't like it anymore," he said.
"If you can work it, and it works for awhile, do it. But I think you ought to be working towards consolidation of communities. A good example is Dover and Foxcroft that we all know as Dover-Foxcroft. They wanted combining services, but again, that topic came up again -- what's my percentage going to be? Talking collaboration is good, but I think we have to carry it one step further because the more people who contribute to the pot, the less people are going to have to pay across the board. And this is where money is going to be saved," said DiConzo.
Clarke said the board needs to work with department heads to cut the municipal budget 15 percent to reduce the tax burden on residents and businesses. He said selectmen must work with business owners to help grow their businesses.
When asked what his vision is for the future of Rumford, he said before Rumford can consider economic development, it must make it feasible for businesses to come here. "The taxes are too high and we need to drop that down,"
He said that the value of bringing in more business is that the population will increase, the economic base will increase. "We have to convince companies and corporations to invest in this area. The zip line is a start, but there's other companies that can come in and provide more jobs."
McPherson was asked about level of service in the town departments and what cuts should be made if the budget does not pass.
"We're losing so much now, I don't see cutting so much as an option as trying to do something to revitalize this place and bring in more revenue here. There's a lot of things I wouldn't want to see cut around here. I'd have to sit down to think about this; it's a tough decision to make," she noted.
Instead, McPherson said more money needs to be invested to revitalize the town.
The event was videotaped and will be telecast on the Western Valley Access Channel channel 7 prior to the secret ballot vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 11 at the American Legion.