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Zip line proposal zapped
RUMFORD -- A zip line park developer's proposed buyout of two lots along the Androscoggin River and a right-of-way easement across a third lot was shot down by a majority of the 250 people attending Monday's annual business meeting.
The frustration and hostility of many of the taxpayers in attendance was evident early on as moderator Rob Cameron dealt with constant disruptions with people shouting from the audience. Further, the ballot clerks had to make a half dozen hand counts on close votes, slowing down progress during the three hours before a vote to call the meeting after voting on the five budget articles and the three zip line articles, leaving no review of the remaining 38 articles and five ordinance proposals or amendments that will now be voted upon by secret ballot next Tuesday.
Now, whether this is the end of this effort by Wow-Za Zip Lines LLC is not yet clear. At the end of the meeting, three of those behind the zip line proposal gathered down front in Muskie Auditorium, in a state of confusion, as several people offered thanks for their year-long effort to reach this point.
Jim Sysko, despite admitting he was surprised at the hostility shown, doesn't believe it's over. However, Jim Rinaldo first response was "It's over." Tom Carey was dejected but said that maybe they would meet in a couple of days to discuss what they might do next.
The zip line group was looking to buy the two lots, numbered 248 and 250, to establish a zip line and recreation park contingent on meeting several conditions.
Lot 248 is the former 8.1-acre town snow dump site and Lot 250 is known as Chisholm Park and is covenanted Rumford library land. Wow-Za also wants a 10-foot right of way easement on a third lot behind the library.
Carey noted however that the vote at the business meeting was to ask voters to say yes for "the opportunity for the Board of Selectmen to negotiate this on the town's behalf."
Marie Boudreau, a longtime trustee of the library, noted the gorgeous views they can see from the library. "This is land given to us for Chisholm and Rumford Public Library, period. Why change what we have?"
Rick Greene echoed that and asked if the project could proceed without jeopardizing the natural beauty of the library. He also said he would need to know more about the zip line project before he'd make a decision.
Carey would later say that they could back off the library segment and go around it with a plan from the snow dump to the Chisholm Park way to the Memorial Bridge.
A couple residents expressed concern if the snow dump were to be move into the Maple Street area.
Chris Brennick said, "This is a chance for economic development. We're not selling a piece of land yet. We can't kill this in its infancy."
Charlene Farrell asked if they thought about having a zip line in conjunction with Black Mountain. "Then I might be in favor of it."
Carey responded that Black Mountain is not close to what would make this unique, which is the use of the zip lines over the falls and the river. "It's a shame not to take advantage of it. The intent is also to energize the business community."
He then asked if they would allow Sysko, a non-resident, an opportunity to speak and make a presentation about the zip line project. That failed by 100-99. Carey asked for a recount, but was denied.
Carey then asked for a motion to reconsider the three articles that voters turned down. But that didn't happen.
Before that, it took more than an hour to determine the first two articles. The first involved the interest rate of taxes. On an amendment by Phil Blampied, the interest rate charged on all unpaid taxes after each due date was set at 3 percent, as well the percent interest paid on overpayment of taxes.
The second article, on salaries of various town officers, included hand counted votes on an amendment and the original article, both of which were turned down.
Finally, Jolene Ippolito proposed voting on approving the salaries as presented at $41,600 for the town clerk-treasurer and the tax collector-constable separately from the selectmen, assessors and moderator. That was approved.
The citizens then approved part of an earlier failed amendment by Mark Belanger, which was a salary of $1,000 for the select board chair and $900 for the select board members; $1,000 for the assessor board chair and $900 for assessor board members; and keeping the moderator pay as presented at $100 for the annual town meeting and $50 for each special town meeting.
With little debate, townspeople overwhelmingly favored an article to authorize the town tax collector Tom Bourret to institute an eight-month payment plan known as the Rumford Tax Club.
According to Cameron, the proposal would “allow individuals to make arrangements with the tax collector to make tax payments under an eight-month payment plan instead of a lump sum twice a year. It makes things a little easier for folks who are having a hard time paying their taxes. It makes things a little easier for folks to manage so they don't lose their properties.”
The business meeting started 30 minutes late. Due to the large turnout, it took longer for the clerks to register the voters.