Lincoln council chairman pushes recreation center

Posted March 31, 2009, at 8:45 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — The lack of a full-time Parks and Recreation Department director has slowed the town’s quest to build a recreation center on 11 acres off Route 6, Town Council Chairman Steve Clay said Tuesday.

“It doesn’t make it impossible, but it makes it a lot harder,” Clay said. “It puts more on everybody else’s shoulders. To have a full-time recreation director would boost the fundraising effort.”

Clay wasn’t faulting Parks and Recreation Department Director Ron Weatherbee, who works full time when he is not teaching school.

“There is always the possibility [of] getting grants to speed the project up,” Clay said, “but to get an actual building there is probably a few years away. That could change fast if we were awarded grants.”

The council voted 4-3 in June 2008 to hire Weatherbee to replace Shelly Crosby, who resumed her old job as town events coordinator and Recreation Department secretary. Councilors Rod Carr, Thora House and Mike Ireland voted against the hiring.

A Lee Academy teacher, softball and basketball coach, Weatherbee is among the successors to his son Jeremy Weatherbee, who left the position in March 2006 for another job. Ron Weatherbee’s uncle was the late Town Councilor John Weatherbee, who died in July 2006.

Weatherbee’s recreation, teaching and coaching experience made him the top candidate, out of 12, to replace Crosby, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin has said, but she and Clay conceded that having a part-timer at the position was an experiment. The position has not been part-time since 1992.

Not counting expenses, more than $400,000 has been raised since the Lincoln Community Recreational Center Trust Fund was created in 2002. The center’s construction has no timeline or estimated start date, but Goodwin has said that she would like to see the land used for the town skating rink this year to reignite interest in the somewhat dormant effort.

A local company has tentatively committed to clearing the land, possibly for free, but company officials will walk the land with Weatherbee before any decisions are made, Weatherbee has said.

Center construction costs have gone as high as $6.7 million, but councilors have expressed interest in cutting back that ambitious design to something more manageable. Except for grant money or donations, recreation center proponents have pledged that they will not use town tax dollars to build the center.

Clay said he would like to see soccer, baseball and football fields built on the center land this year, possibly with the funding raised so far.

“It doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s a good start to having our own facilities,” Clay said. “Unless we get donations, this process isn’t going to move as fast as we want.”

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