UNION — Following a lengthy discussion which occasionally grew heated, the Union Select Board accepted a controversial petition regarding the Thompson Community Center and added it to the upcoming November election.

Town Manager Jay Feyler advised the board they had little choice in the matter without wasting town time and resources and spreading “hate and discontent.” Feyler warned residents could force an election if the board rejected the petition.

The board also made some headway in moving forward with repairs, funding and finding a consultant for the community center at their Tuesday, July 19, meeting.

The community center was the subject of a town referendum vote June 14. The ballot presented five options for the future of the town-owned property.

Union voters cast 607 ballots in this election. Option one, to retain ownership of the building and begin repairs and restorations, received the majority of votes with 205. This option authorized the immediate appropriation of $285,500 to $465,500. The article also included possible future needs of $3,000,000, but this amount was not appropriated under the vote.

The petition was brought by resident Linda Waltz-Mountainland, who previously informed the board about the petition.

The July 19 discussion on the petition and the community building began during public comment when Chair Adam Fuller read a statement from Paul Raudonat. Raudonat is the chair of the Thompson Memorial Association, the nonprofit entity currently managing the operations of the building.

In his statement, Raudonat said Waltz-Mountainland had a personal agenda and was acting in bad faith because she disagreed with the outcome of the June vote. He said the reports requested in the petition were “redundant reports that waste tax money.”

Raudonat ended his statement by asking the board to, “throw this sham of a petition out the window.”

Waltz-Mountainland responded to Raudonat’s statement, saying it was just his opinion. Her husband John Mountainland said the only thing Raudonat got right was his wife’s name.

The board then read the petition and asked questions of Waltz-Mountainland.

The petition requires the town to obtain an engineering feasibility report on the viability of keeping the community center before starting any repairs or renovations on that building. The petition also requires the town to mail a summary of that report plus the total costs of the project to Union residents, and to hold an additional referendum election on whether to proceed with the project or not after this.

Board member Martha Johnston-Nash asked if Waltz-Mountainland told residents all the information while collecting the signatures, including the costs of a special election, the requested report and the cost of mailing the named items to all Union residents.

Waltz-Mountainland said everyone who signed the petition read it first, and she had explained the additional costs of implementing the petition. She also said many people she spoke to were surprised to hear there was no report on the building.

Fuller said there was a report.

Waltz-Mountainland said that report had been completed in 2018, and the costs and repairs were outdated. She said it was better to know up front what the current costs of repairing the building would be.

Fuller said the 2018 report had been adjusted for inflation and the current costs of materials prior to the June vote.

Fuller said he felt this petition was “putting the cart before the horse,” as the town did not know what the future use of the building would be. He wondered how someone could create a feasibility report without knowing the future use. “Feasibility of what?” he asked.

Fuller said he was concerned the petition could lock the town into an undesirable option, and spend money unnecessarily, though he understood the board currently had few options available. “If this petition is legal, we have to act on it,” he said.

Feyler informed the board it was a legal petition, had been reviewed by the town attorney, and had 218 verified signatures. The required number of signatures for the petition was 125.

He advised the board they must act on the petition, or the residents could force the issue with the town clerk. He said throwing out a legal petition supported by Union residents was “not a way to win friends” and would cause “hate and discontent” in addition to wasting town resources and taking the matter out of the control of the board.

More residents had signed the petition than had voted for option one in June, Feyler pointed out.

The board then voted to accept the petition and add it to the ballot for Tuesday, Nov. 8, with the next election. Feyler said the board was not bound by the petition items until and unless it passed at that election.

The town will hold a public hearing on the matter before the election.

In other business, the board set a July 26 meeting with Matthew Eddy of the Midcoast Council of Governments. Eddy will work with the board to draft a request for proposals for consultants to work with the town and determine the future of the Thompson Community Center.

Once the board has received proposals, they can decide who to hire for that work.

The board also began the process of appropriating the funding authorized for the community center by the June vote. The board reviewed the costs of immediate needs including repairs to the roof and hiring part-time staff.

Feyler said he will consult with town assessor Jim Murphy about the funding needs and draft a commitment which will assist him in determining the change in taxes.

The minimum amount that can be appropriated under the June vote is $285,500. The board will then place those funds in an enterprise account.

The first tax payment affected by the Thompson Community Center vote will be due Nov. 15.

Feyler said it would likely be “quite a tax hit.”

The board will vote on the commitment at their next meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 6:30 p.m.

A video of Union municipal meetings can be found at townhallstreams.com/towns/union_me.

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