2013-11-01 / Community

Board approves plans for Wiffle ball field

Scrutiny of pavilion proposal continues
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The board of selectmen, on Tuesday, Oct. 22, approved plans proposed by the Tommy McNamara Charitable Foundation to construct a Wiffle ball field in Lower Village park, and continued to examine the proposed construction of a pavilion and ice skating rink in downtown Kennebunk. The plans were spurred by a $1.5 million donation by Geraldine Waterhouse and family.

The undisclosed amount of money put forth by the Tommy McNamara Charitable

Foundation will fund the construction of the Wiffle ball field, a new playground, a new half-basketball court, and the expansion of the gravel parking lot.

Construction will tentatively begin in the spring. The donated money will also supply irrigation of the field, if necessary, and fund future maintenance of the Wiffle ball park.

The foundation was formed last year after Tommy McNamara, 25, drowned off the coast of Kennebunk. His father, Tom McNamara, and David Sweetser, co-chairman of the foundation’s board, were in attendance at the meeting.

“We are extremely grateful for the support and cooperation of the town,” Mc- Namara told the board. “From our initial meeting to now, it has been a true partnership that’s developed. We couldn’t be more excited for providing the funds to enhance the park and, at the same time, create a real fitting tribute to my son’s memory.”

The board of selectmen then, for a third time continued their examination of separate plans for a youth endowment center and ice skating rink to be constructed at 51 Main St.

Town Manager Barry Tibbetts reported that the architects, contractors and structural engineers he has conferred with on the project are still in the process of coming up with estimates and design elements. The figures will be considered for a second reading at the Nov. 26 selectmen’s meeting, Tibbetts said

“I will be interested to see these numbers, because I have had a lot of people comment to me about putting another building on Main Street,” said Selectman David Spofford. “I know that some of the numbers are rather large and that this will supposedly not impact the tax vote.

“As a representative for the voters in the town, after I went to the (school board) meeting last night where the school district’s going to ask this town for $75 million and has ignored the public officials as to when that vote should be, I want the public to understand some of the cost. I think the public needs to come forward on this and let this board know what they really want, because this has gone from just a skating rink that we were going to use until we sold the property, now to a building that’s going to cost quite a bit of money because it’s an open building and has to be quite strong to withstand winds, etc.,” Spofford said.

Selectman Dick Morin said, “It’s very hard to say something against this program because it’s like talking against motherhood and apple pie, but it is truly time, we are at a crossroads: expenditures are going to sky -rocket if the school department has their way, and I’m very concerned.”

“I’m less concerned about the structure of the building, Dave, than really I am on zeroing in on what our anticipated future costs for maintenance and operation would be and what would the offset be with regard to the foundation’s contribution,” Morin said. “And I really would like to make sure we dig deeply into that before we commit ourselves.

“Likewise, I’ve had some communications from citizens with the same concerns and same questions, and I feel obligated to repeat that. So, the interest is mounting, I just want to make sure we hear enough of that to feel informed and make an informed decision.”

The donated $1.5 million is intended to fund youth activities and family activities at the center, as well as the annual maintenance of the ice rink.

The current cost to maintain a park or similar facility in Kennebunk is $9,700, annually, Tibbetts said at a previous meeting. The sum of money donated by Waterhouse is anticipated to provide $60,000 to $70,000 in annual funding.

Other skating rinks similar to the one being proposed require annual maintenance funds of $18,000 to $20,000, leaving approximately $40,000 to $50,000 for youth and family activities.

Resident Jean Macaulay asked the board if the remaining funds would be able to sufficiently cover maintenance costs without burdening taxpayers.

“Wouldn’t that endowment throw off more than enough income to take care of the maintenance,” she asked. “Couldn’t some $50,000 to $70,000 a year pay whatever maintenance is needed to keep something like that going, whether it’s shoveling snow in the winter or cutting the grass in the summer?”

If the Waterhouse Board of Directors approves the allocation of remaining funds toward specific youth activities, said Tibbetts, then the remainder can be released to the town.

“The intention is to make sure those monies are there for programming and bringing events in for the youth and families to help build that bond or those relationships or those interactions between youth at all different levels and ages and older generations,” Tibbetts said.

In closing, Al Searles, chairman of the board of selectmen, said, “While I am personally distressed at the size of the RSU building project, I really don’t believe that when it comes to the functions of the municipal government of this town, that we should put too much weight on what it is that the RSU does because we do have the responsibility to keep this town running properly, and that means sometimes you do things and sometimes you don’t.”

“Is the size of the RSU budget an issue? Certainly it is. And the cost to the taxpayers will certainly be an issue, but we can’t neglect our responsibilities either,” Searles said. “We need to keep that in mind going forward.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” Morin said to Searles, “but the operative word is required. What is required in keeping the town operating soundly? And then what is excess and or what places the town at risk if we have other risks, contingent liabilities,” Morin asked. “So that’s why I want to make sure we really, thoroughly examine that ,and in a very open and thorough fashion.”

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