NEWPORT, Maine — The town will create its own recreational sports program after a unanimous decision Tuesday by the Board of Selectmen to cease financial support for the Sebasticook Valley Community Center.
Pam Newcomb, chairwoman of the community center’s board of directors, said operations at the center, which is based in Newport, “will continue business as usual,” though there are uncertainties looming.
“Yes, this will be hard to overcome,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “I think we still do have Newport’s support. We might not have the selectmen’s support, but we do have the support of the residents. I don’t see that changing.”
The community center, which oversees a range of recreation programs for people of all ages with about 90 percent of participants coming from Newport, has been the subject of a criminal investigation into its finances in recent weeks. Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing and “may take months” to complete. He declined to provide any details about the investigation.
At a meeting last week, selectmen asked for detailed financial information from the community center, including audits from 2008 and 2009. That information was not provided at Tuesday’s specially scheduled meeting, according to Town Manager James Ricker.
The vote by selectmen effectively eliminates $100,000 in funding for the community center in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Voters at a March 13 town meeting appropriated $100,000 for recreation purposes in the town, but that vote did not specify that the money was to be given to Sebasticook Valley Community Center, according to Ricker. The board issued a written statement Tuesday afternoon about its decision.
“Effective immediately the town will be working towards program development to meet the needs of our community’s youth,” read the statement. “We are asking that interested parents and citizens of Newport be patient during this transition period. We are committed to keeping our community informed and putting forth the best sports programs possible.”
Ricker said Adam Noyes, the town’s solid waste director, has been installed as the temporary recreation director. Officials at the community center, who held baseball, softball and T-ball sign-ups on Saturday, were expected to deliver all the applications collected to the Newport town office this week, said Ricker.
Newcomb said Newport’s funding represented less than 40 percent of the center’s total budget and that details about how the funding cut will affect the center will be worked out in the coming weeks.
“Everything that we have scheduled at this moment, we intend to continue running,” she said, adding that it was too soon Tuesday afternoon to speculate on what changes might be in store for the center.
“We as a board haven’t had an opportunity to discuss anything new that might be coming up the pike,” she said. “The meeting was only this afternoon.”
Ricker said he hopes the center can continue to function alongside programs that are now being taken over by the town.
“This doesn’t mean the town of Newport is running a competition with the community center,” said Ricker. “It’s just that the Board of Selectmen felt they would like to have more control over sports programming in town.”