ROCKLAND — City Councilors were divided on spending more money to repair the Flanagan Community Center after investing more than $1.3 million on the 87-year-old structure.

And Councilors were in support of asking voters whether they want to borrow millions of dollars for road and sidewalk work, but Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf strongly called for the state to meet its responsibility to upkeep state roads.

The Council discussed Wednesday evening, July 6, whether to place bond referendums before voters on Nov. 8. A vote on whether to send bond questions to voters is expected to be held Monday, July 11.

The city manager recommended placing three bond referendums before voters. One would ask for authority to borrow up to $1 million for the Flanagan Community Center to deal with the continued problem of water leaking into the building, largely from between bricks in the walls.

Councilor MacLellan-Ruf said she could not support such a bond, saying she wanted to go in a different direction.

“We’re talking about doing the same things we did years ago,” she said.

Instead, she said the city needs to begin planning for a new recreation center.

In November 2011, Rockland residents voted 1,107-656 to borrow up to $675,000 for improvements to the recreation center that resulted in the repointing of all the exterior bricks and work along the edges of the roof to prevent leaking. There was also a trench dug around the exterior of the building to apply sealant to the foundation and to install proper drainage to prevent water intrusion from the lower level. The game room was also torn up and received a new slab and then a new wooden floor to stop moisture from coming into that section of the building.

That work was done in 2012 with the city reporting after the building was “bone dry.”

The 2012 work followed $661,000 in renovations in 2009 and 2010 that resulted in the center being closed for eight months. That work consisted of installation of a new gym floor, new retractable bleachers, new locker rooms constructed in the space previously occupied by a racquetball court, installation of a sprinkler system, a new boiler and replacement of an underground oil tank.

There has been nearly $20,000 spent since 2012 on various roof repairs.

The current water problems in the building are the same reported prior to the 2012 work including water leaking in through the upper level space used by the Rockland District Nursing Association and then leaking down to the basement level where the youth game room is located.

The building was constructed in 1935 through the Works Progress Administration which was a federal program created during the Great Depression to put people to work.

Mayor Ed Glaser said he was hesitant to put more money into the building, saying it is not a good structure for the programs the city wants to offer. City Manager Tom Luttrell agreed the building was not ideal for recreation because of all the small, cut-up rooms.

Councilor Sarah Austin said she was concerned about the mold that has reappeared in the building, She said testing is needed to ensure the building is safe for staff and the public. Luttrell said once the mold is removed, he plans to have the air quality tested.

Austin said if the city does look at a new building, the city should look at consolidating services such as city hall and recreation. Councilor Nate Davis agreed, saying eventually a multi-story parking garage could be built at the Custom House parking lot and then allow the recreation site to have more room for a new building.

Recreation Director Donald Prescott urged Councilors at the July 6 meeting to let the residents decide even if the amount of money is less than what is being requested.

“The building needs to be repaired and done appropriately,” Prescott said.

He pointed out it would take years for the planning, fundraising, and construction of a new building to be completed. In the meantime, a building is needed to provide programs.

The city manager said a limited amount of work could be done, saying $400,000 may be enough.

The recreation director said many people in the community have found memories of the recreation building.

“I feel there would be a big uproar if there was a plan to tear it down,” Prescott said.

Davis responded, “I hear what you are saying about community nostalgia. I personally have no such nostalgia and I look forward to tearing it down.”

Road, sidewalk work

The most expensive bond would be one to ask voters to approve borrowing $10 million to $15 million for road and sidewalk repairs, reconstruction, and resurfacing.

Public Services Director said this would allow the city to work on every road and sidewalk and add some sidewalks over the next five to 10 years. He pointed out the current annual municipal budget includes $425,000 for paving which will cover two roads.

“If we do two roads a year we will never catch up,” he said.

Rockland has 58 miles of road and its costs about $200,000 per mile for road work.

Councilor Nicole Kalloch said there was nothing Rockland needed more than fixing its roads.

Councilor MacLellan-Ruf said while she supports fixing the roads, she wants the state to take responsibility for work on state roads such as Camden Street, Park Street, South Main Street, and Old County Road. She pointed out Rockland had to pay largely for the reconstruction of Old County Road several years ago even though it is a state road used by residents of other communities to pass through Rockland.

“If we OK a bond, the state won’t need to step in,” MacLellan-Ruf said.

There was little discussion about the bond for the quarry landfill closure.

The Monday, July 11, meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall and is streamed live on the city website, broadcast on Spectrum Channel 1303 and the public can participate via Zoom. The Zoom address is meeting identification number is 893 0318 3438  and passcode 878871.