Penobscot County to make offer on former YMCA facility

The Penobscot County commissioners tour the former YMCA building Tuesday on Hammond Street in Bangor.
The Penobscot County commissioners tour the former YMCA building Tuesday on Hammond Street in Bangor.
Posted Sept. 20, 2011, at 12:49 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 20, 2011, at 5:48 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County commissioners on Tuesday directed county administrator William Collins to enter into negotiations for the lease or purchase of the former YMCA.

Information about how much Collins would offer was not made public.

The asking price is $725,000, or about $15 a square foot for the 51,000-square-foot building on a 1.6-acre lot, according Bev Uhlenhake of Epstein Commercial Real Estate, which is listing the property.

Commissioners toured the facility last week.

Tuesday’s vote to make an offer on the property was unanimous.

“This is an important property adjacent to the county’s campus,” Commissioner Peter Baldacci of Bangor said Tuesday. “We are very interested in how it is developed and used.”

Commissioner Stephen Stanley of Medway said the county had an obligation to look at all neighboring property.

“We are restricted by the size of our campus, so when an opportunity arises that would meet our future needs, we should consider it,” he said.

The county not only is interested in the building but also in the parking lot at the former YMCA, which has about 83 spaces. If a portion of the building were to be taken down, another 20 or so spaces could be added. That is about the number of parking slots the county needs for personnel including workers at the jail and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.

The county pays about $23,400 a year to the city of Bangor to rent parking spaces, according to Baldacci. The city owns the lot next to the old police station and the lower lot that overlooks the Kenduskeag Stream.

The county also is talking with the city about purchasing that lot, Collins said Tuesday.

Since the the YWCA and YMCA in Bangor merged and moved into the Second Street facility in December, the county has used the former YMCA lot in exchange for plowing and sanding the lot, Collins said last week. The cost of plowing and sanding last winter was $5,600 compared with the $10,500 the city had wanted for leasing 25 additional spaces to the county, he said.

Baldacci said last week that owning the building would give the county options to expand programming. Informal discussions with officials in small municipalities in Penobscot County have included the possibility of county officials doing tax assessments and handling requests for general assistance.

Several years ago, before the state took control of the county jail system but after the merger of the YMCA and YWCA was made public, commissioners informally discussed purchasing the building when it came on the market as a possible expansion site for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office and the minimum security section of the Penobscot County Jail.

If the state were to turn control of the jails back to the counties, according to Baldacci, more space most likely would be needed to house inmates or administrative offices.

If the county were to purchase the former YMCA, it most likely would not be renovated to be used for rental space.

“We are not interested in becoming a landlord,” Commissioner Tom Davis of Kenduskeag said.

The county, however, is a landlord to the U.S. Postal Service and the Red Cross. Both rent space in the former Bangor District Court building on Hammond Street.

In other business, commissioners agreed to a 6.34 percent increase with their health insurance provider. Over the past several years, the county’s increase has reached double digits and the increase has not been completed until much later in the year, making budget predictions difficult, Baldacci said Tuesday.

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