Stonington voters to decide fate of Island Community Center

STONINGTONThe fate of the deteriorating Island Community Center building will be one question on the annual Town Meeting warrant.

Voters are invited to gather Monday, March 5, at 3 p.m. for the warrant portion of the meeting.

The warrant question, drafted by the Island Community Center Board of Trustees, reads as follows:

“The town of Stonington affirms the importance of the Island Community Center to the health and well-being of the island and votes to save the building complex of the former school building and to extend the lease with the Island Community Center for six months past its current lease, which ends in December 2018.”

Penobscot Bay Press Publisher Nat Barrows and board member Lydia MacDonald asked the Stonington selectmen at their Jan. 29 meeting to support the article’s placement on the warrant.

The vote to support was unanimous. However, the selectmen would like to offer residents an idea of the cost to restore the building.

“I know people are looking for particular numbers, but at this point I don’t think it’s fair to put out numbers,” MacDonald said.

Selectman Donna Brewer disagreed.

“It’s pretty important to know the numbers or at least have some idea what the numbers may or not be,” Brewer said. “I don’t think anybody wants to not see the community center there, but we want it safe and affordable and…”

“Up to code,” interjected Chairman Chris Betts.

Barrows said residents should decide, “Should we go forward with this existing building or should we scrap it and move forward with something else.”

“The building has a lot of functionality issues,” said Town Manager Kathleen Billings. “If you start bringing things up to code, the footprint inside probably won’t stay the same.”

“Is it going to be cheaper to build another building that has more functionality or cheaper to save what you’ve got?” Billings said. “That will be the question.”

Everyone agreed that the community center, located at 10 Memorial Lane, offers value.

Selectman John Robbins said he was surprised at how busy the center is.

The center hosts yoga, Pilates, pickleball, volleyball, soccer, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and Girl Scout meetings as well as the Island Food Pantry. The Edible Island organization also hosts cooking classes and workshops at the center several times a year.

The parking lot at the center hosts a bustling farmers market every Friday morning mid-May to mid-October.

Demolishing the building would cost $96,000 unless there’s asbestos involved, the town manager said.

“That’s a lot less than I thought it would be and we would still have the property,” Betts said.

“We’d like some indication where the citizens want to go with this,” Barrows said.

Barrows said Deer Isle residents also would be asked to vote on the community center at Deer Isle’s annual town meeting, which is also Monday, March 5.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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