After last June’s vote to determine the future of Union’s Thompson Community Center, those who didn’t like the result got a referendum onto the November ballot, to try again. It will ask the Town to require another engineering study of the building, to mail the results to all households, and to hold another vote. Engineering studies, mailing, and special elections are expensive, of course. In this case they are also unnecessary. The facts are already known. Further, the referendum is costing the Town money by delaying measures that would begin to pay for the needed repairs and maintenance.

Since last January, two groups of volunteers have analyzed the findings of an October 2018 structural study (titled “Capital Needs Assessment Report of the Merriam Architects Surveyors and Engineers”) and inspected the building’s structure and systems. Cost estimates have been updated, and immediate needs have been prioritized so that, while the Town looks for a developer/partner, the Community Center might meanwhile offer more uses for the building, like flea markets, sports in the gym, art studios, and small business offices.

Based on past experience running the community center and current rates, when the building is repaired it should generate between $160,000 and $190,000 per year from rents and fees. But since June, few repairs have occurred because the town manager and the Select Board believe they should wait for the outcome of the November referendum vote. Meanwhile, the fire marshal has prohibited adding renters and events until more of those repairs are completed, all resulting in the loss of months of income.

Also, the referendum is delaying fundraising. The Thompson Community Center will qualify for a variety of government and foundation grants for renovations, but we are being stopped from applying as we await the result of the November vote. We plan to raise additional funds from a capital campaign. That, too, must be delayed.

The people who circulated the petition to put the fate of the Community Center back on the ballot were hoping to save taxpayers any expense. They have not thought it through. According to the 2018 structural study, the two joined buildings are essentially sound, despite deferred maintenance. Repairs are needed, but much of that cost will be defrayed when we are able to hold events, rent spaces, apply for grants, and have a capital campaign.

The Thompson Community Center is a significant asset, bringing people together for learning, working, playing, making friends, and being entertained. The building is huge, with room for the many uses that the Town may choose to permit – affordable apartments for the elderly, adult education classrooms, artist studios, music and theatre performances and more.

This is an opportunity to bring much good to Union. A NO vote on Article One — to veto the referendum — will affirm the decision the voters made in June. It will end the referendum’s delaying tactic and let the intended projects and fundraising begin. Please vote no.

Sherry Cobb

Union