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Group gathers to save historic Lincolnville building

By Susan Mustapich | Aug 01, 2020
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Diane O'Brien, left, addresses community members who gathered at Breezemere Park Aug. 1 to discuss saving the Lincolnville Improvement Association building.

LINCOLNVILLE — Community members intent on saving a historic town building met Aug. 1 at Breezemere Park, leaving with the information that another scope of work for the building's repairs would be done by September.

As of a July vote, the town-owned building can be put up for sale. Prior to the vote, town officials and community groups that use the building reached an impasse over an assessment of building repairs, renovations, and the $650,000 price tag for that work. At that time, the town also required the building be repaired to certain standards if the Lincolnville Historical Society or the Improvement Association choose to buy it.

The 128-year-old building is home to the Historical Society and the official repository of the town's historical artifacts and collections. It has also served  for many decades as a community meeting place of the Improvement Association.

The Aug. 1 meeting was led by Diane O'Brien and Rosey Gerry, and anyone who wanted to speak was given a chance to hold the microphone. Gerry set up a public address system in the large gazebo at the park, so that people could sit inside or on the lawn and still hear everything said. Attendees were asked to wear masks and social distance, and the microphones were sanitized before they changed hands.

The community members who spoke do not buy into the idea that the building needs $650,000 of work. One person said even the $17,000 cost of the assessment was out of line, and that it could have been done in one day, and paid for as a $1,000 honorarium.

O'Brien said the assessment was based on top-level architectural requirements, and was absurd. She mentioned replacement of all of the windows as something included in the assessment, but not desired for the historical building. She noted how a lift on the stairs to make the second floor accessible was deemed to make the stairway unsafe for egress.

About 55-60 people attended the one-hour meeting at one point or another.

Gerry confirmed that Andy Young, owner of Bald Rock Builders, would volunteer as clerk of the works and produce a scope of work by September. Young is the nephew of Jackie Young Watts, who founded the Historical Society with others in 1975, and was its president for the first 10 years.

Wrapping up the meeting, Gerry said to those attending, "Everyone of you can do something to move this in a positive direction. If you thought this was a productive meeting, talk to your friends and relatives, your neighbors. It's going to take your enthusiasm to move this forward."

After the meeting, Gerry explained that the scope of work will cover what needs to be done to get the building safe, warm and put it in shape, and is not the same thing as what it will cost. The building is usable as it is, but there are some concerns, he said.

The Historical Society has also said it will take possession of the land and the buildings when there is a bonafide plan that they can present to the Board of Selectmen, he said.

In 2018, the Lincolnville Improvement Association asked the Board of Selectmen for funds to repair siding on one side of the building. The price tag was under $9,000, and this, plus a few thousand in capital improvements was approved by voters at June town meeting that year.

Also in 2018, an idea caught the attention of selectmen: to assess the condition of the building, due to its age, before making any repairs. They decided to ask voters if the money for repairs, plus additional funds, up to $17,390 could be used to assess the building. Voters approved that request, an architect was hired to oversee a thorough assessment of the structure, and the price tag for bringing the building to modern standards came back at around $650,000.

Rosey Gerry set up a public address system so community members attending an Aug. 1 meeting about the Lincolnville Assocation Building could sit inside the gazebo at Breezemere Park or on the lawn. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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