LINCOLN, Maine — Town Councilor Michael Ireland wants to see whether the Ballard Hill Community Center would make a good town office.
Ireland proposed during a council meeting Monday that councilors and residents tour the facility at 4 Pleasant St. to see whether the building could be used as is or with renovations. He said he expects renovations would be needed.
“I haven’t been in that building since 1956, when I was in the second grade,” Ireland said after the meeting. “I remember that it was a good building.”
Its use as a town office, Ire-land said, might be recommended by the fact the town already owns it; it has ample parking spaces; and it is close enough to downtown or within downtown to be convenient.
“One thing is that we wouldn’t have to pay rent on it,” Ireland said.
The building is used by Penquis, a Bangor-based social service agency, and various other tenants, Ruth Birtz, the town’s economic development director, said Wednesday.
The council agreed to Ire-land’s proposal. No tour date has been set.
Councilors voted 5-2 on Mon-day to increase the rent the town receives for the building.
Nonprofit renters of the facility will go from paying $4 to $8 an hour, while private parties and other for-profit entities will pay $25 an hour instead of $10, under a new fee schedule. Non-profits that lease the building annually will go from paying $3.06 and $3.32 per square foot to $6 per square foot.
Councilors Rod Carr and Chairman Steve Clay opposed the increase, which was pro-posed to help the town defray rising utility costs
Councilors Bruce Albert, Ire-land, Thora House and David Whalen had expressed reservations about the center losing money. It loses $15,000 to $20,000 annually in operational expenses, mostly associated with heating the building.
They expect costs to increase vastly this winter as heating oil prices for the town have jumped from $2.53 to $4.73 a gallon.
Citing the expense to heat and maintain the community center, the council narrowly avoided voting to close it during June budget deliberations. Several votes occurred before councilors chose to fund its operation. The building’s maintenance costs, age, energy inefficiency and lack of use are problems.
One tenant, the Greater Lincoln Christian Academy, moved out of the building last month to the basement of a Baptist church on River Road, Birtz said.