Lincoln council mulls closing community center

Posted Feb. 12, 2011, at 2:32 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Town leaders will hold a public hearing Monday to discuss whether to close the Ballard Hill Community Center, officials said Friday.

Town Councilor Curt Ring called for the hearing last month, saying he was concerned that the building wasn’t being used enough and had accumulated net operating losses of about $40,500 over the past two fiscal years. Council Chairman Rod Carr said he sees another side to the argument.

“I’m not sure it was ever intended to make money. It was a community building. We have buildings in town that don’t make money. It seems that it should be a place for people to meet and that this place could be it,” Carr said Friday. “There should be a fee [for its use], but a fee that people can afford.”

Carr said he believed the building could still draw people’s use but was unsure how the usage could be reconciled with the building’s maintenance costs. “There may not be a way we can” reconcile that, he said.

Councilors chose in August 2009 to keep the building open, but several expressed concerns that its lack of use made it too expensive. The council narrowly avoided voting to close it in June 2008.

The town-owned building is presently used by Meals for Me, recreation department programs and storage, town records storage, a self-defense school and a union office, and is available for private functions but is seldom rented, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin has said.

The building registered losses of $14,000 and $26,500 in the 2009-10 and 2008-09 fiscal years, respectively. The building is paid for out of a reserve account that has approximately $50,000 left in it, Goodwin said.

Ring said he believes the reserve account could be put to better use. On Friday, Goodwin said in a statement that the account that funds the center’s heat is 81 percent expended with about five months remaining in the fiscal year. Recreation Department Director Ron Weatherbee is concerned the account won’t carry the building through to the fiscal year’s end on June 30, she said.

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