LINCOLN, Maine — Seeking more use for an underused facility, Recreation Department workers hope to turn part of the Ballard Hill Community Center into a game room for youths, officials said Wednesday.
Donations from Wal-Mart and the Lincoln News totaling $1,250 and the Herb and Ellie Bailey Charitable Trust totaling $5,087 provided the $6,337 needed to buy three Wii game systems, several board games and other recreational equipment for the room, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.
“The end result is going to be a nice, safe environment for kids to get together, socialize and learn from each other,” Goodwin said. “Shelly [Crosby] has a lot of different ideas as to what she will provide. She was even talking to a lady who might do some tutoring there.
“Those are all pluses for our kids, and eventually, as this takes hold and grows, we would like to see the Rec Department offer summer programs geared to rainy days and programs for senior citizens,” Goodwin added. “They can play, too.”
The town’s events coordinator, Crosby said her latest initiative began with a Town Council suggestion to find more uses for Ballard Hill. Citing the expense to heat and maintain the center, councilors narrowly avoided voting to close it during June’s budget deliberations. Several votes occurred before councilors, who loathe raising town taxes, chose to fund its operation.
It loses $15,000 to $20,000 annually in operational expenses, mostly associated with heating the building.
“They [councilors] thought if we utilized our building more, they would not have so many issues with paying for it,” Goodwin said. “Now we have the possibility of bringing more use to that building for community programming, which was intended when the town took it over. We kind of got away from that. Now we are com-ing back to it.”
If the council votes to accept the funding at its March 9 meeting, game room activities would start in April, Crosby said. On Tuesdays, children in kindergarten through grade four would have the room 2:30-5 p.m., with youths in grades five through eight using the room at the same time on Wednesdays. High school students would use the room 5-8 p.m. Fridays.
“It would involve myself being there to start the project off and also working with volunteers that may step forward to assist,” said Crosby, who is writing the programming guide for the room.
The game room effort comes on the heels of the Chuck Foster Teen Dance Parties the town began holding last fall. About 560 teens ages 13 to 18 attended the last three dances, which are held at Mattanawcook Academy. The next dance is 7-10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at Mattanawcook. Area youths are invited.
“They are generating enthusiasm and a sense of community among the younger population,” Crosby said, and she has seen many positive comments about the dances on Facebook and MySpace.
“Anytime you can bring something in that engages children in a safe environment, I think it’s needed. We do have rec programming and school functions, but this will hopefully be a staple they can depend on,” Crosby said of the game room.