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Mexico rec budget debate next Tuesday
MEXICO -- Members of the Board of Selectmen and the budget committee will meet at 6 p.m. next Tuesday to decide whether to present another recreation budget to the public or to go back to last year's figure.
That's because at the polls on June 12, residents voted 209-158 to reject $144,100 for operating the recreation program, park and building. That figure represented a 54 percent increase over the $93,600 approved during fiscal year 2012. The more than $50,000 added to the Recreation Department account was earmarked for building and park repairs, a Recreation Department reserve fund, and nearly tripling Recreation Director Wayne Sevigny's salary to $30,000 as a fulltime director from a 20-hour per week position.
A yet to be used town ordinance allows residents to take one more vote on articles that did not pass at referendum. A public hearing would be held, followed by a town meeting and secret ballot. The other option is to go with the prior year's budget.
Last Tuesday, selectmen and citizens debated the issue for 90 minutes before voting 3-2 to bring back another recreation budget to voters. They also voted to do work for that budget this evening.
At last week's meeting, Town Manager John Madigan noted that during his first six months on the job, Sevigny secured a $10,000 grant, installed two new dugouts and brought in revenue through basketball, soccer and baseball.
Selectmen Byron Ouellette and George Byam also defended the salary increase, arguing that Sevigny has brought new life to the recreation department.
Ouellette said he approved Sevigny’s salary increase because he felt the town was getting its money’s worth. “All of a sudden we hire somebody that’s getting things done, has turned this recreation department into something that’s creating, and no one wants to pay that similar amount of money."
Before the $144,100 figure was presented to voters, Madigan had proposed a budget of $106,500. That budget closely resembles the $104,852 recreation budget of 2009-10 and the $108,030 figure of 2010-11. The recreation budget was dropped to $88,585 for last year, which resulted in longtime Rec Director Greg Arsenault resigning, leaving the town without someone in that post all last summer.
For his part, Madigan said he explained to Sevigny that "you can't do this overnight. I tried to come up with a budget that was realistic."
Selectman Reggie Arsenault said, "For the last 15 years, we've run recreation on a shoestring budget, and we were told not to duplicate what the GRCC is doing, not to step on Rumford's toes. I think this budget was astronomical. The townspeople voted 'no.' Wake up and smell the coffee."
Selectman Peter Merrill said he believes the recreation department can turn things around, but because so many people were not happy with the budget presented, they need to come with a revised budget. "Let's get a happy medium."
He suggested the recreation committee come up with a one-, five- and 10-year plans and "tell us how they're going to generate revenue."
Merrill noted, "When kids are throwing baseballs, they're not throwing rocks through windows."
To which resident Clayton Weeks responded, "If that's going to keep kids from crime, let's take the money out of the police budget because they're not going to need it."
Also at the referendum vote, residents also voted 187-160 against the proposed unclassified budget of $64,751, which reflected an increase of $2,139. Selectmen decided to go with last year's amount rather than bring back another figure. Eliminated will be $2,000 for the River Valley Growth Council, an expense that was not in last year's budget.
In other business, the board approved increasing the rental fee for the Calvin Lyons Meeting Room from $50 to $65, beginning in July.
Arsenault made that recommendation, asking that $5 of the rental free go into a kitchen supply account to replace supplies. There is nothing for those costs now.
Madigan said the kitchen supply account was a good idea as he has had to replace to replace two burners on the stove in the kitchen twice since he's been town manager here, a cost of $700.
He noted that GRAMPS pays $10 every week to use the facility here, and town employees get use of the room for free.
Resident Marjorie Richard replied, "We're all taxpayers. We don't get a free hall?"
Arsenault said it took him 90 minutes to disinfect the refrigerator, and the floor was dirty the day after GRAMPS used it. He asked the board meet with GRAMPS at a later date to clarify that the area needs to be cleaned up.
Richard, who works with GRAMPS, noted, "We're not the only ones using it (the room)."
Ouellette responded, "But they are regular (users)."
It was also decided that those who had reserved the room for the month of July would be grandfathered from the fee increase.