DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Because of a drop in state funding, several snowmobile clubs turned to the Piscataquis County commissioners to see if any money was available to help offset trail grooming expenses.
Representatives from four trail clubs asked the commissioners on Tuesday for a share of the $5,000 currently allocated for three other trail clubs in the county.
Paul Napolitano, president of the Ragged Riders Snowmobile Club in T2 R13, said the state cut funding to trail groomers in the Unorganized Territory by 10 percent this year. Members from Kokadjo Roach Riders, Northeast Carry Snowmobile Club and Chesuncook Snowmobile Club were also present during the meeting, which lasted more than an hour.
“These four clubs groom over 200 miles of municipal trails and another additional 250 miles of club trails,” said Napolitano. “Currently, there are three clubs that are receiving funding [from the Unorganized Territory budget], and we’d like to receive some of those funds if possible.”
According to Fred Candeloro of the Kokadjo Roach Riders, the clubs in the Unorganized Territory now will receive only 60 percent of their budgets from state funding, down from 70 percent in previous years. The rest of the money, he said, is expected to be raised by clubs.
The state has two types of snowmobile grants — club and municipal. The snowmobile clubs apply for the club grants and are paid $125 per mile for up to 30 miles. Any miles after 30 are the responsibility of the clubs. For municipal grants, the state pays the counties and towns to divide among clubs.
Commissioner Fred Trask said the $5,000 in the UT budget was set aside for the Milo Devil Sledders, Moosehead Riders of Greenville and Brownville Snowmobile Club to reimburse them for grooming trails outside of their municipal territories, which is not covered by the towns.
The chairman of the commissioners, Tom Lizotte, said the county’s budget was already set for this year and no money could be added for trail grooming. However, the $5,000 has not been handed out yet.
Last winter, the $5,000 was divided up three ways: Brownville club $2,264.16, Moosehead Riders $2,075.47 and Milo Devil Sledders $660.37.
“Are we talking about a matter of principle here? Because $5,000, no matter how you split it, doesn’t go very far,” said Lizotte.
“Personally, I’d don’t want to see any tax money go to anybody, not even us,” replied Candeloro. “So if you eliminate the $5,000, that would make us happier than you giving [those three clubs] the $5,000.”
Candeloro added that any money from the UT budget line item would help with fuel costs.
Because the four clubs operate in the Unorganized Territory, Candeloro said it’s harder for them to generate money to make up for the difference in state funding compared to clubs operating in more populated areas.
“You take the Greenville club. They may have 300 or 400 members,” said Candeloro. “Do you know what the population of Kokadjo is? Not many. [The Greenville club is] getting a lot more support just through infrastructure. They’re in a town. They can get help because they have members who belong. We don’t.”
Candeloro said clubs in the Unorganized Territory provide high-speed trails that draw snowmobile riders from all over the country.
Lizotte recommended that all the clubs get together to find out how the money should be divided instead of the commissioners making the decision.
Because Commissioner Eric Ward was unable to attend the meeting by teleconference on Tuesday, the commissioners postponed action on the issue until a later date.