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Zip line article vote on tap at business meeting
RUMFORD -- Following a lengthy discussion Thursday, selectmen voted 3-1 to approve a request by local zip line park developer Thomas Carey that would place an article before voters at the annual business meeting to sell two town lots along the Androscoggin River to his corporation.
Yesterday, at a special meeting, the Board of Selectmen were slated to vote whether or not to approve this article as an addendum on the town warrant. If the addendum is approved, it will be voted on by a show of hands following a public hearing on the article at the business meeting at the Muskie Auditorium on June 3. This will be one of several non-budget articles to be voted on at the beginning, prior to moving on to the informational meeting for the budget articles that will voted on by secret ballot vote on June 11.
Carey said WOW-ZA! Zip-lines LLC wants to buy the two lots, numbered 248 and 250, for $1 to establish a zip line and recreation park contingent on several conditions.
Lot 248 includes the portion of the lot not needed for the town snow dump or other town purposes. Lot 250 includes the portion not needed for current library purposes and the portion east of the parking lot and current fence, and a 10-foot right of way along the western side of the current fence to Chisholm park.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said, "The way this is drafted, if citizens vote to approve this, that vote would only give the Board of Selectmen the authority to convey that property. It doesn't mean that the property will be conveyed at that moment. As Mr. Carey has expressed, in his terms, we still have the authority to dump snow there until we decide we don't want to dump snow there."
Selectman Jolene Lovejoy, who cast the dissenting vote, said, "For me to make a clear decision, I have to know the impact of saying 'yes, let's do this or let's do that.' I don't feel I know that information. What is the impact on the property that's owned by the town?
What is the impact to the taxpayers? If we move the snow dump, is there going to be an increase in taxes on them? It isn't easy to relocate it or we would have done it years ago."
Carey responded, "You decide how much of that snow dump you need."
Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell acknowledged that it could be expensive to develop another snow dump.
Lovejoy also noted that she didn't like putting this vote in the hands of the "fewer than 70 people who attend the town meeting."
Luke Sorensen, librarian, expressed concern about the impact this might have on the library's parking, particularly when they hold special events.
Carey said repeatedly that he does not want this issue to drag on because this is a business opportunity with a short window.
He said there is money that will be invested for the $300,000 to $400,000 zip line project. They would like to get something in place as soon as next fall.
He noted, "This is the critical stage of this project. Investors are waiting to see the action of the town."
Puiia said the article would say, "To see if the town will vote to authorize the Select Board to sell the real property located in Lots 248 and 250 under such terms and conditions that the Select Board deems advisable."
"Those conditions would be determined at a later date. Because there is a chance that this could be a missed opportunity if too much time passes, the later date would be dealt with 'in a timely manner,'" he noted.
Carey expressed concern that people will continue to have questions about this and it will go on and on. "I see the road ahead as being long. Too long. I don't understand the downside."
He wanted this to be an up or down vote at the business meeting. "Put it in the hands of the voters. Put that article up for a vote. If you don't like it, vote it down."
But there were too many questions. Citizens, as well as selectmen, expressed concerned about the snow dump being moved because of all the town went through to establish this one.
Last Fourth of July, Envision Rumford enjoyed success with a temporary 500-foot dual zip line at Hosmer Field. On May 4, they had a temporary 600-foot dual zip line over the Androscoggin River during the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Festival that was even more successful, with 250 trips.
Jim Rinaldo of Envision Rumford, present with Carey about the project, said there are only four other zip lines in the state, none longer than 2,000 feet.
Carey, who envisions this area possibly becoming a fun park that would help bring business back to the Waldo Street area, said if all goes well, there would be three phases -- the first, a zip line of 1500 feet; the second, a 2,500-foot zip line from the green bridge; the third, a 4,000-foot zip line.
A common equation for all three phases is the snow dump site, which Carey said is a perfect area for the finish of the zip lines.