UNION — Tempers flared more than once Tuesday, Jan. 17 when the Union Select Board hosted another lengthy discussion regarding the Thompson Community Center, with one board member’s request for additional information prompting Town Manager Jay Feyler to break into profanity.

Feyler apologized for his language right away and then later joked, “I’ve blown my top enough.”

By the end of the meeting, board members were reminding each other and residents of the need to work together on this and future projects.

The board did not hold an additional vote on the TCC, and the building is still scheduled to be winterized and closed for an unknown amount of time starting Jan. 31.

This meeting came in the wake of emails from the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office that suggest it is no longer legal for the town to allow occupancy in the TCC.

Board Chair Adam Fuller opened the discussion by explaining he did not see anything from the Fire Marshal’s Office which made him want to change his vote to close the community center. The cost of keeping the building open and operational was a bigger factor in his opinion, he added.

Board members Martha Johnston-Nash and William Packard, as well as resident Erik Amundsen from the Thompson Memorial Association nonprofit group, argued that winterizing the building might cause damage or worsen existing issues, as well as increase insurance costs.

“I can’t imagine that building won’t deteriorate while it’s shut down,” Johnston-Nash said.

The November 2022 referendum on the TCC did not prevent the town from heating the building, she said, only from performing repairs.

This referendum requires a new engineering report for the TCC “before undertaking any repairs or renovations” on the building. It passed in the November 2022 election with 875 yes votes and 553 votes of no.

Johnston-Nash released a statement on the TCC closure Wednesday, Jan. 18.

Packard said the town had already appropriated taxpayer money to heat the building, so he was not sure why the board would instead winterize it.

Fuller said while the town could spend money to heat the building, it would still be spending money, which he did not want to do.

Board member Wayne Kirkpatrick said the cost to heat the building would be more than the cost to close it for the winter.

Town Manager Feyler added while the money was appropriated, if it was not spent the board could then use it to offset future taxes.

Packard said the town attorney indicated they could spend money to “protect the asset” of the Thompson Community Center, and asked if closing it for the winter was protecting it.

The fire alarm and sprinkler system protect the building, he said, and he wondered what would happen if a fire occurred in the TCC while it was closed and these systems turned off.

Kirkpatrick said he had never been to a fire in an abandoned building.

Packard replied he had, and those fires had spread because no one was at the building to report it.

Amundsen said winterizing a large, old building like the TCC was not the same as winterizing a home, and shutting it down was, “just asking for problems.”

Fuller said once the engineering report was done the board could discuss addressing the issues identified by the Office of the Fire Marshal to facilitate a reopening of the building, but it would have to go to the voters.

Linda Waltz-Mountainland, the resident who penned the TCC referendum, reminded the board members they must follow the referendum wording. The engineering report must include all necessary repairs for the building, not just the items for the Office of the Fire Marshal.

Fuller said the report would include everything, but they could ask residents to vote on addressing only some repairs and renovations. He also stated no member of the board had suggested renovating the building to its original state.

“You’re asking me not to paint this building green,” he said. “I’ve never offered to paint his building green.”

Greg Grotton, resident and former Chair of the Union Select Board, said he thought the board had already made a decision on the matter. “Does this mean every meeting is going to continue like this?” Grotton asked, likely referring to the extended public discussions on the TCC.

Fuller closed the TCC discussion by requesting Town Manger Feyler ask the plumber to “flesh out” his initial estimate to winterize the building.

Feyler said the board had put him in a hard position by voting to close the building and then asking for additional information from the contractors.

“I am getting (expletive deleted) tired of bouncing back and forth with contractors,” Feyler said. “We are wasting (expletive deleted) tons… of staff time on this building.” Feyler immediately apologized for his use of profanity and asked the board to make a decision.

”You’re either gonna leave it open; you’re gonna shut it down,” he said. “Do something so my staff stops wasting time on this.”

Fuller replied the board had not changed their vote, they just wanted more than the one sentence provided by the plumber.

Feyler replied further questions could result in an invoice rather than an estimate.

Kirkpatrick said he looked forward to the next Select Board meeting, as it was not going to focus on the Thompson Community Center.

Fuller said he enjoyed the discussion.

Packard reminded the board they had to come up with a reasonable solution to this issue that would be acceptable to most residents. While they had different viewpoints, they were all on the same side, he said.

Fuller said he thought the Select Board was strongest when there were five different opinions, and weakest when they agreed on everything.

The next meeting of the Union Select Board is Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. in the William Pullen meeting room.

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