Hermon voters to weigh community center Nov. 4

Posted Sept. 22, 2008, at 8:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:55 a.m.

HERMON, Maine — Amid the excitement of a close presidential race, a Senate contest and three statewide referendum questions, town voters will have one more thing to consider on Election Day.

Councilors voted last week to hold a special meeting on Nov. 4 for residents to decide whether to borrow up to $6.5 million to build a new community center.

The town’s recreation committee has been meeting for nearly a year discussing ideas. The council considered those ideas Thursday and agreed in a 4-3 vote that voters should decide.

“We thought November 4 would be a perfect day because voters already are going to be there and what a turnout,” Town Manager Clint Deschene said Monday.

Meanwhile, the recreation committee invited council members to a meeting Monday night and to another Sept. 29 to outline more specific details. Next week’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building, and the public is invited.

Deschene said it’s likely that additional sessions will be held between now and Election Day.

In November 2007, the town conducted a survey that found 80 percent of respondents indicated they would use a community recreation center. The 515 residents who participated outlined the following programs and facilities they would be interested in: a weight room, walking track, indoor swimming pool, aerobics facility and a gymnasium.

The difference between this fall and last year, however, is the looming threat of significantly higher heating bills and a worsening economy in general. Adding $6 million or more to the town’s tax burden could increase taxpayers’ bills 5 percent to 12 percent in the first year, Deschene forecast. He said that percentage would go down each year until the bond is paid off.

“There are certainly positives and negatives to this idea, but we really felt that the voters should decide for themselves,” he said.

Sharon Nickerson, one of four councilors who supported the project, said she is not concerned about the high cost.

“The town is growing and we have an excellent recreational program, so I think this is going to help get the rest of our community together,” she said.

Robin Hall, who voted against a special town meeting, said he didn’t necessarily object to the project, but was worried about its price tag.

“I just thought the price was too high at the moment,” Hall said. “It’s a good idea, [but we] just need to take a smaller approach. There are so many other things to think about.”

Earlier this year, recreation committee members supported the elementary school site as the best location. That site is still in consideration, and Nickerson said the town will consider buying an adjacent land.

Deschene said a contractor has been selected, but will not be officially signed unless voters approve the project.

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