Community center a hot issue for Palmyra town meeting

Posted March 08, 2012, at 8:18 p.m.

PALMYRA, Maine — Voters in Palmyra have three choices in deciding the fate of the town’s community center.

The annual town meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the community center. Municipal elections begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the town office.

The town meeting warrant consists of 57 articles but the former school turned community center on Route 2 has generated the most interest.

Article 19 asks residents to discontinue funding the community center, sell the building and evict its business tenants.

Article 20 would move the town office to the community center and appropriate $45,000 for the move and upkeep of the building — $20,000 would be raised while $25,000 would come from surplus.

Article 21 would keep everything as is but appropriate $40,000 for upkeep of the building — $20,000 would be raised while $20,000 would come from surplus.

The school was built in 1954 and the building was renovated twice, according to Don Hill, a community center booster. After the Palmyra Consolidated School closed in 2010, it was given to the town by RSU 19.

Hill said it doesn’t make sense to sell the building because it’s regularly used and is the only building the town has for certain functions, such as the annual town meeting.

“What if we have a town meeting, will we have to go to another town to have our own town meeting?” Hill said. “We own [the building]. We got it for nothing. It would probably cost $5 million to build that building today.”

Hill added that more than 260 functions were held in the community center last year, ranging from birthday parties to weddings, athletic events and funerals.

Weeville Daycare and Preschool occupies one wing of the building. Other parts of the building also are being used, including for Weight Watchers.

Selectman Don Harriman said the building should be sold.

“A community shouldn’t be in the real estate business and not in the rental business,” said Harriman. “We have no business being in the rental business and competing with the other facilities that rent. I’m a fiscally conservative Republican. I believe in free enterprise and I don’t believe the government should be competing in it.”

Harriman said the townspeople should vote with their wallets and not with their hearts.

“A lot of people are tied with that building because they went to school there or their kids went to school there. Financially, I don’t believe the community can support it,” he said.

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