Runners in Hermon would have a new, eight-lane rubber track, and soccer and football players would be able to play on a rebuilt field as part of a $2.2 million proposal from the town.
The new track would be built on unused land next to the tennis courts at Hermon High School. As part of the $2.2 million project, the town would also renovate Pottle Field, where Hermon High athletes play soccer and football, and add a storage building and bleachers.
While the school has winter and spring track-and-field programs, participants need to go to other schools to compete in track events. The teams’ practices sometimes take place in the high school’s parking lot, or at Hampden Academy’s track when Hampden students aren’t using it.
The town has envisioned building a track for nearly a decade. A track committee including Hermon Town Council members, school committee members and residents began nailing down details for the plan in October 2019.
The town has already set aside $300,000 for the project, but would need to borrow $1.8 million to $1.9 million that it would repay over 10 years, said Hermon Town Council Chair Steven Thomas.
Town officials do not expect the proposal to increase taxes given the sizable commercial and residential growth Hermon has seen in recent years, Thomas said.
In the event there is no growth, borrowing $2 million would raise Hermon’s property tax rate from $11.99 for every $1,000 in property value to $12.45. That would still keep the town’s mill rate far below neighboring Bangor’s rate of $23.20.
The plan will be publicly shared at a special Town Council meeting at Hermon High School on March 10 at 7 p.m, which will also feature Hermon High School track coach Dave King and Hermon High School Principal Brian Walsh.
The town will limit in-person attendance to about 50 people, and others will be able to attend remotely via Google Meet. There will be an opportunity for public comment at the end.
The council would need to vote at its subsequent meeting to put the track proposal on the ballot for Hermon voters to decide in a June referendum.
While the track would be located at the high school, the general public would also be able to use it, Thomas said.
The new track and work on Pottle field would be investments in programs that have long been popular among Hermon High School students. More than 70 high school students participate in the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs every year, Thomas said, and there is strong support for the school’s more recently established football program.
Improvements to the Pottle Field are also vital, Thomas said. Rain and prolonged hot weather have occasionally forced Hermon teams to play games at other schools because of field conditions that weren’t “acceptable,” he said.
More than 80 percent of 550 residents who participated in a recent survey supported building the track. Sixty-nine percent said they would support an increase in taxes to pay for it.
While other locations were considered, including behind Patricia A. Duran Elementary School, Thomas said building the track at Hermon High School had many advantages, given the school’s central location and the availability of several acres.
While the committee had initially planned on adding artificial turf to the soccer and football field, the costs did not seem feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas said, though the changes made to Pottle Field could allow for the future addition of artificial turf.
The plan is to remove at least a foot of ledge underneath the field, then rebuild it and finish it with sod turf.
Thomas said he was confident that residents of Hermon supported the proposal, and that it’s an important investment for Hermon students both athletically and academically.
“I’ve always found that kids who are active [in sports] do quite well academically,” Thomas said. “I think it’s really good overall for kids to be involved with these types of programs.”
Correction: An early version of this report misstated the percentage of Hermon High School students involved in the soccer program.