HERMON, Maine — People who go to the elementary school gym next Tuesday to vote for president will find that they also have stumbled onto a special town meeting.
That’s because town officials wanted to have the largest, most representative turnout of voters to answer the big question of whether the town should build a $6.5 million community center — and far more residents are expected to vote next week than who come to the annual town meeting.
Voters will decide by a special town meeting ballot what they want. The special ballot is not included in absentee ballots sent to Hermon residents because of a state rule, but anyone who voted absentee is invited to come to the elementary school to vote for or against the community center.
The proposed center has generated some passion from people who think it would be a boon for the town — as well as from those who feel it would be just too expensive.
Town Manager Clint Deschene said the project, if passed, might increase taxpayers’ bills 5 percent to 12 percent in the project’s first year.
The recreation center would be built near the elementary school and would serve all ages. It would feature a weight and cardio room, an indoor walking track, and an indoor space covered with artificial grass that would be suitable for all sorts of sports, according to proponents.
It would have a senior center and be free to anyone 55 and over.
“People are saying that they see a lot of value in the project, and all the good things that it can do for Hermon,” said Scott Perkins, recreation director for the town.
Opponents of the recreation center think that it’s too much money spent at a bad time.
“It is unimaginable that in this time of financial uncertainty, high gas and fuel prices, declining tax revenues and declining home prices, that we should now be considering a proposal to build a $6.5 million community center,” wrote Robert O’Halloran of Hermon in a Bangor Daily News letter to the editor earlier this month.
Hermon voters also will decide whether to agree to a proposed town charter amendment that would allow residents to bypass the Town Council and vote to fire the town manager themselves.
If voters agree to pass the amendment, residents could petition to have the town vote to remove the manager.