2014-05-02 / Front Page

Board OKs plans for Waterhouse Center

Main Street pavilion to host a variety of community events throughout the year
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The Board of Selectmen conclusively approved the installment of an ice skating rink and pavilion, now formally named the Waterhouse Center after Geraldine Waterhouse, whose initial endowment of $1.5 million in September — to be used for youth and children’s activities in conjunction with ice skating – spurred the project.

The nearly 11,000-square-foot open pavilion and ice rink will be located at 51 Main St. In warmer months, the space will be used for farmers markets, festivals and events such as musical performers or comedians.

Many proposed events and performances are already planned for the area, including children’s singer Rick Charette in August, Touch a Truck in September and a Norman Rockwell pre-Christmas skate in December.

The anticipated cost of the project is $635,000.

A little more than $525,000 has been raised, said Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, which leaves a difference of $105,000.


The Waterhouse Center pavilion and ice rink was approved in its entirety last week at the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen meeting. The Center, located at 51 Main St., will house an ice rink in the winter months, and community activities such as farmers markets in the warmer months. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 16 (Alex Acquisto photo/Courtesy image) The Waterhouse Center pavilion and ice rink was approved in its entirety last week at the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen meeting. The Center, located at 51 Main St., will house an ice rink in the winter months, and community activities such as farmers markets in the warmer months. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 16 (Alex Acquisto photo/Courtesy image) “Funding for the construction of the project, because we’ve raised $530,000 – between that and the money we have in the TIF, we believe we can fund the whole project through the TIF and the TIF gets paid back through the pledges,” Tibbetts said. “We’re only borrowing $280,000 to $300,000 from the TIF. Over the next couple of years, as those pledges come in, we’d be able to replenish money from the TIF that we used for that project.”

An idea instituted to raise the remaining funds is to institute a buy-a-brick campaign. For $100, a resident could buy a commemorative concrete paver brick, and for $1,000 a resident could buy a 12-inch by 12-inch concrete paver block. The donors name or family name would be inscribed into the brick which would be part of the George Shaw walkway leading into the pavilion.

“We think that we can effectively put a program into place that could probably raise another $15,000 or so, or maybe more,” Tibbetts said of the buy-a-brick fundraiser.

The intent, then, is for the remaining monies to be subsidized by the Route 1 TIF district funds – between $95,000 and $105,000.

Approximately “84 percent of (the total) money has been donated. We’re really only using 16 percent, roughly, that $105,000, of the town’s money. And the majority of that will be paid,” Tibbetts said. He later said, “Between the brick fundraising campaign and other donors, we think we can probably knock 40 percent off of that (the remaining $105,000) in the next few months.”

The town’s Route 1 TIF payback process is set to last five years.

Said Selectman Dick Morin: “I continue to be at a loss about how we can enforce gifts and the fulfillment of gifts. ... as a member of the board that oversees this project with a million and a half dollars, why can’t the board allocate a portion of those funds for temporary purposes for funding of this and keep the town out of it completely?”

The aim with the Waterhouse family’s contributions, Tibbetts said, was that the money “would not be used for construction of a project. It was really to fund the activities for the youth and they wanted to stay away from that.”

“I understand that, but in a pure sense, it’s not being used. It’s just being loaned for the use of that, just as the TIF money is theoretically being loaned for that,” Morin said. “It places the town in a five-year window of risk; we don’t have assurances that that’s going to come back to us. And that’s my concern.

“I understand the good will and the good nature behind this, but if the the proverbial stuff continues to hit the fan in this pestering economy and donation funds, for whatever reason, dry up, what happens?”

Said Tibbetts: “All the pledges that have been made, it’s actually binding under Maine state law. Worst case scenario, let’s say it does ... let’s say the person goes bankrupt or the business goes bankrupt and there’s actually no funds. ... We would’ve already have spent the money out of that TIF account so we would’ve covered that way. It still doesn’t effect the tax rate for anyone or the mil rate in any way.”

“I agree that the project has merit,” Morin said. “I wonder if our enthusiasm would be as great if we were borrowing $200,000 and there was an interest expense imposed in that. It’s very easy to give in to a well that is sitting there gurgling,” Morin said. “I absolutely couldn’t agree more that that gravel lot is not an attractive centerpiece for our community, but I also think we have some fiscal responsibility that we need to attend to as well. Beyond that, I’d like to see the building up next month.”

Chairman Al Searles, who has been in favor of the project from the beginning, said, “The concerns that I’ve heard all the way, from day one until now, to me do not outweigh the economic benefit that this will bring to our downtown. I don’t believe it’s that much of a financial risk for us to do this.

“The only money that’s coming from the taxpayers are freely donated funds. And I have heard, overwhelmingly, comments, ‘Will you stop talking about this thing and build it. Just get it done.’”

Included in the 11 items the board approved was the hiring of Benchmark Construction for $561,000, the adoption of the name Waterhouse Center, the use of TIF funds to fill the funding gap, and the authorization for Tibbetts, as town manager, to access up to $30,000 in contingent funds from the TIF if necessary.

A construction timeline was also approved by the board. According to the proposal, construction would be completed by the last week in July. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is tentatively set for Saturday, Aug. 16.

Want to comment on this story? Visit our website at www.post.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

Return to top