July 23, 2018
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Ongoing financial future of Millar Civic Center debated by council

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
The John A. Millar Civic Center in Houlton in April.
By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — Last September, the Town Council began discussing what to do about generating more revenue or cutting costs at the Millar Civic Center.

That conversation is ongoing, but while the group recently considered a step that they hoped would reel in more cash, they eventually decided against it.

During a meeting on Monday evening, the council agreed to keep the ice rates at the facility stable for one more year, after which a rate hike is slated to take place.

The center is an ice rink in the winter and a site for trade and gun shows, wedding receptions and other events throughout the rest of the year.

Despite its popularity, it is costing more money than it is bringing in, and the town wants to do something about it.

With salary for management, it costs $200,000 a year to run the 24,200-square-foot center, which was rebuilt in 1999-2000 after its roof collapsed under the weight of snow in 1998.

The bulk of the operating cost — 58 percent — is from electricity use. Councilors learned last year that revenue in 2010 only paid half of the operating costs.

While the facility can hold 3,260 people, it is too small for large concerts and shows. The majority of its revenue comes from rental income and concession profits. A local hockey club and the Houlton-Hodgdon Blackhawks hockey team are the primary renters.

During the recent meeting, councilors weighed a proposal to raise the ice fee from $100 to $130 during peak times, and also create an off-peak time fee of $75 an hour.

Peak time is from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday. Off-peak time is 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and all day Sunday.

Councilors said that they intended to bring in more money during peak times and encourage off-peak rentals.

At the same time, the rate hike would not have applied to the Southern Aroostook Minor Hockey Association, which oversees hockey teams. The group had already completed and passed their budget based on the $100 an hour for ice time fee.

Council Rob Hanningan was hesitant to raise the fee for everyone but SAMHA. He said it wasn’t the right time for a rate hike. He proposed leaving the fee schedule the same this year and implementing the rate hike for the 2013-2014 season.

The amendment passed unanimously.

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