UNION — The Union Select Board has asked a community member to withdraw from a town committee, charging he exceeded his authority by ordering repairs to the Thompson Community Center. The resident said he did not do these things, and the situation resulted from poor communication.

Emails acquired by The Courier-Gazette through Maine’s Freedom of Access law reveal outrage from town officials that these actions were taken despite a town vote in November which stopped all work on the center.

The man at the center of this controversy, Erik Amundsen, is a member of the Thompson Memorial Association group which took over the community center last January. The nonprofit TMA is not affiliated with the town, and as of September the town has been managing the building.

Amundsen was also selected for the town committee to work with the Midcoast Council of Governments to draft a request for proposals for the center. The Select Board wants Amundsen to withdraw his application to join this town committee, and may vote to remove him from the group should Amundsen not comply.

In a Dec. 7 email to the Union Select Board, Town Manager Jay Feyler said he was “spitting mad” regarding the situation.

“Erik is certainly doing whatever he can to undermine what we do, not sure the reason but probably to fuel his hatred of me and many of the Select Board members, he has called most of us incompetent many times publicly,” Feyler wrote.

Feyler said three vendors stated Amundsen contacted them on behalf of the town. He said Amundsen was also scheduling work that was not legally allowed and sending bills to the town that should be covered by the TMA.

This prompted a Friday, Dec. 9 closed-door executive session of the Union Select Board to discuss the matter.

After the meeting, Select Board Chair Adam Fuller said no action was taken from the executive session, but he did call Amundsen and ask him to withdraw his application from the town committee.

Fuller said Amundsen was unclear in his answer, but the Select Board may vote him off the committee if he does not withdraw his application.

“No one who is not an officer of the town or an employee should be presenting themselves to any outside agency as a representative for the town. Period,” Fuller said. “This has been made clear in public meetings and should have stopped before now.”

Amundsen said the whole situation was a misunderstanding, but he would withdraw his application for the committee.

“There were issues that were misinterpreted by many people,” he said.

While he was contacting vendors, Amundsen said it was not on behalf of the town and he did not try to violate the referendum by having work done on the building. Instead he was trying to finish his responsibilities for the Thompson Memorial Association.

“I was never scheduling any work,” he said. “Zero.” When one vendor contacted him about an installation, Amundsen said he told that vendor no.

Amundsen said there were also questions regarding some bills the TMA had received, and if they were correct, so he was also clarifying this issue with vendors.

“My only goal is to make this place a better place to live,” Amundsen said, and pointed out he has helped with multiple community projects over the years, like the food pantry and the library.

Amundsen said he was still withdrawing his application despite this, as a show of good faith and to avoid any ideas the town’s committee might be biased.

“There is a lot of controversy about the building,” Amundsen commented.

The vendors in question are Interstate Fire Protection, Thayer Corporation and Eastern Fire. This is outlined in a series of emails between Deputy Town Clerk Tabatha Ripley and Feyler, and from Feyler to members of the Select Board.

Feyler said Eastern Fire was ready to perform between $9,000 and $10,000 of work on the fire system in the community center. Feyler said no one alerted the town to this, but the company said they had spoken with Amundsen about the work.

Feyler also said Eastern Fire had an outstanding bill for work performed on the TCC.

Ripley said Interstate Fire Protection contacted her in November seeking payment for a $700 bill for work Amundsen requested in April, and she had learned of an additional outstanding bill with Thayer in December.

Representatives from Thayer also told Ripley in December they had a few recent conversations with Amundsen regarding a quote for boiler repair.

Ripley said all three bills were for work performed under the TMA management of the building and requested by TMA members, so that group was responsible to pay rather than the town.

The Maine Office of the State Fire Marshal is also involved in this issue.

Peter Cummings of the Northern Division of Licensing and Inspections at the Maine Office of the State Fire Marshal put an end to further rentals in the building in March after finding a number of violations during an inspection.

Thompson Memorial Association Chair Paul Raudonat emailed the Select Board on Dec. 8 and said the repairs from Eastern Fire would satisfy the fire marshal and allow renters and events for income to operate the building.

Raudonat also argued not completing the repairs would go against the agreement with the marshal to “prove progress and future action plans as to violations,” and could cause the fire marshal to shut down the building entirely.

Feyler told the Select Board that Amundsen had contacted the office of the fire marshal “to stir things up.”

This is the latest in a long line of controversies and hard feelings stemming from the former Union High School.

The Thompson Community Center returned to town control in January of 2022 after the group operating the building since the 1980s, the Thompson Community Center Association, announced in the middle of December, 2021, their intention to break their lease with the town in the new year.

This decision ended lengthy negotiations between the town and the Thompson Community Center Association for a smooth transition of this management control. Officials from the TCCA pointed to public statements from town leaders which led to media attention they felt was negative.

Community volunteers quickly formed the Thompson Memorial Association nonprofit group, and the town organized a special town meeting to authorize a management agreement with the TMA to operate the building, as well as emergency funding for items like heating and electricity.

In June, the town presented voters with five options for the Thompson Community Center, and residents decided the town would retain ownership of the building and begin renovations and repairs.

Residents then presented a citizen’s petition to the town regarding the community center. The petition stated the town would “obtain an engineering feasibility report” on the building with updated prices and work needed before taking on any repairs or renovations.

This item passed in the November election with 875 yes votes and 553 votes of no.

The town attorney determined this means no additional work can happen on the building unless it is an emergency, Feyler said.