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Waiting game begins on Governor's proposal
RUMFORD -- Amid concerns about Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to eliminate state revenue shared with towns for the next two years, the Board of Selectmen tabled taking any action Thursday on evaluating options for a damaged sand truck and a proposed project on the baseball field at Hosmer.
That action is being delayed until at least the next meeting, when it is hoped more will be known whether or not the Governor's proposal will be supported by the Legislature.
Regarding the 2001 International sanding truck, damaged when it tipped over during a storm on Dec. 9, Public Works Supt. Andy Russell said it would cost between $25,000 to $35,000 if his crew repaired the damage to the truck.
However, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the town's insurance company had offered $18,100 for the 11-year-old truck that was due to be replaced in three years.
Selectman Brad Adley said he was concerned about its motor holding oil pressure because the engine wasn't shut off when the truck tipped on its side. However, he noted he wasn't ready to let the insurance company take it. "Let's see if the engine fires up."
Russell indicated that whether the town orders a replacement truck or opts to repair the damage on the present truck, the timeline would run beyond this winter season.
Board Chairman Greg Buccina asked if it would be possible not to replace the truck.
Russell said, "We can hold off in the short term, but in the long term, we need to replace that truck.
Citizen Roger White suggested that a truck being used currently to haul snow could be converted to a sanding truck.
Regarding the Hosmer field project, Parks and Recreation Department Supt. Mike Mills said his board was recommending work to correct infield issues on the baseball field be done by Sportsfield, Inc. of Monmouth for $16,415. The project, to be done following the high school spring sports season, was in the five-year plan.
Mills said there is an eight-inch drop from the baseline from first base to third base. "It is pretty dangerous and it's been like this for five to six years."
Selectman Jeremy Volkernick asked if Mills could do this work. Mills suggested doing the work to his board, but they indicated it would take away from other projects.
"It would probably ruin our summer doing it," said Mills, adding that he would also need another person or two who know what they're doing to assist him in the project, that would take six or seven weeks.
"The field has been fixed or patched many times. It's probably been 40 or 50 years since there's been this kind of project," he noted.
In a workshop held before the regular meeting, Puiia said that if the Governor's proposal passes, Rumford stands to lose an estimated $1,914,321 in two years. To make it up while keeping the same level of services, he foresees a tax increase of 2 to 2.5 mills.
If the state stops revenue sharing, Rumford would lose $937,258 for July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, and $972,081 for July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, Puiia said.
Puiia said Rumford would be better off than other Maine towns this fiscal year, because Rumford collects its revenue sharing first and uses it to offset taxes the following year.
"Most towns when they look at that revenue sharing, they look at that during the current year, so we have some sort of cushion that we are not going to be facing the immediate cut of revenue that other towns will face," he said. "Nonetheless, if this proposal or part of this proposal is approved, it really puts the town at a disadvantage."
"Again, I don't want to be an alarmist, but in the same breath, I have to be very conscious of this type of curtailment even if it comes down to a certain percentage," said Puiia, adding, "It's still a loss of revenue that we generally rely on to help keep the taxes low."
He advised department heads to prepare their budgets "for what you know you need to run that department as we know it."
Board members speculated about the determination of the LePage's proposal.
Selectman Jolene Lovejoy said she believes LePage is serious about his proposal. She asked department heads "to look long and hard at budgets. I'm not saying to strip your departments and I'm not saying to lay anybody off.
Board members Jeff Sterling and Adley don't believe the Legislature will approve LePage's proposal as written. Despite that, Adley warned department heads he would not support going to taxpayers this year with a large budget increase.
Puiia suggested that department heads defer capital plan spending if possible. Then he said budgets may have to be cut by 10 percent or more if the proposed revenue sharing is eliminated for two years.
Tax Collector Tom Bourret said that trimming his budget by 10 percent would paralyze his office.
Police Chief Stacy Carter said a 10 percent reduction in his department means cutting personnel. He said it's premature of selectmen to ask department heads to drastically pare budgets when the Legislature hasn't approved LePage's proposal.