Newport revamps recreation operation

Posted Aug. 24, 2010, at 8:10 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — A new era of recreation in Newport has begun with the dissolution of the Sebasticook Valley Community Center and the birth of the Newport Recreation Department.

The center, which for the past 20 years has administered a range of recreation programs for people of all ages, announced on its website this week that it will dissolve as an entity at the end of this month.

“The nonprofit corporation will continue to exist until all pending bills and commitments are satisfied, but all programs and services will cease,” reads a notice on the center’s website.

Members of the center’s board of directors did not return calls from the Bangor Daily News seeking comment.

The Newport Board of Selectmen announced Tuesday that as of Sept. 1, the town will take over the lease of the former armory building at 81 North St., which is where the community center has been based and has offered much of its programming. The town will continue to offer recreation programs there, but exactly which programs are on tap is still under consideration, according to Town Manager James Ricker.

Along with announcing the town’s lease of the armory with Bulldog Properties LLC, selectmen identified seven people who have been named to a new recreation committee charged with providing youth recreation programming for Newport residents. The members of the committee are Randy Davis, Ellen Flagg, Eric Stitham, Sheryl Gifford, Jeremy Bragg, Mike Cote and Kendra Hartsgrove. The town’s recreation director is Adam Noyes, who was named to the position earlier this summer.

Ricker said Bulldog Properties is leasing the building to the town at no cost — as it has done for many years. Overhead costs, such as heating and maintenance, will be paid with taxpayer dollars.

Last month, Sebasticook Valley Community Center announced it would close for most of the month of August, citing a decision by selectmen earlier this year to withhold $100,000 in funding because of an ongoing criminal investigation into the center’s finances. No one has been charged in connection with the investigation.

Also on Tuesday, the town held a dedication ceremony for newly refurbished town-owned tennis courts on Grove Street. The courts, originally constructed in 1976, had fallen into disrepair in recent years. In the past few months, the town has invested $40,000 into rehabilitating the courts. According to Noyes, the facility is used by residents daily and has already hosted tennis lessons for kids in grades five through seven.

Noyes said after the ceremony that the development of a new recreation program has been challenging, but so far has had positive results.

“We’ll see how it develops day by day,” he said. “This is a whole new adventure for the town.”

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