With recent comments in a Village Soup article about Union forming a new committee to determine the future of the Thompson Community Center, I would like to share some thoughts with the citizens of Union. Having been involved for the past eight-plus years, first as a board member, then volunteering at the center and, finally, trying to find a way as a selectman to prevent the citizens of Union from having to put millions of dollars into the building, I would like to point out a few things and feel that the only way to get my thoughts to the citizens now is through the papers.

There is no sense going back in time to see what did or didn’t happen; it is better to pick up the pieces and move forward before things get any worse. The 99-year lease can be canceled at any time due to numerous violations, failure to provide required reports to the town, selling town-owned property, not complying with state mandates and changing bylaws to accommodate the immediate need. Although the original bylaws, drafted by an attorney at the same time as the lease, stated that the board of directors would be made up of registered Union residents, as of a year or so ago, the board was all out-of-town people — Union had no voice in any decision making. I could go on and on but, as I said, put that aside and get something done before the town really suffers. Let’s face it, they could walk at any time and what happens then.

Whether the current operation continues or not, one of three things needs to be done:

Leave it to operate as it is. Get the town to fund the million dollars–plus (according to an engineering study) needed to fix the building and bring it into code. This would only make it usable — it would look the same. Then, hire someone to run it in hopes that it would pay for itself, which in a town of this size I cannot see happening — there have been over a dozen boards since the plan to have a community center was developed by a group of Union citizens and all have failed. Finding volunteers is the primary problem, and nearly impossible. Once it finally meets code, will the building just go downhill again and then cost the town millions to demolish?

Sell the building. Sell the building to a developer, and God only knows what would be developed once it was sold. As long as the buyers meet the ordinances, they can build whatever. What would the town get out of it? I agree, taxes.

Put it to use as something beneficial to the town and maintain the same historical setting. Do something like what was tried before — try and get someone like Penquis to come back with their proposal, which might be really hard to do now. Before, there was pressure to develop some senior housing in this area and the state had authorized a lot of money just for that cause. They were going to fix up the outside of the building to keep the look of the old school for historical purposes and maintain it. Inside, I believe, 28 units could and would have been built for seniors; elevators were to be added and, of course, parking would have been developed. They were going to fix up the gym and thrift shop and let the town have total use of those, along with the seniors. They would have been required to find or build another location for a daycare if one was disrupted. Nonprofits don’t pay town taxes, but this type of operation usually donates a sum of money yearly, basing it on the need for town services, i.e., fire and ambulance. This would have required a 99-year lease, but the building would have been totally maintained by them. I was even at the point of talking with them about maybe dividing the offices and classrooms along the gym entrance into smaller rooms with doors opening to the outside for such things as a satellite pharmacy, barbershop, pastry shop, etc., basic things that could survive [with use by] the surrounding town.

Last time this was brought up, people were lied to and misled by a large group of people, resulting in it being voted down. Although this group says “they” have and will volunteer to make what’s there happen, volunteers die out and disappear when needed (I’ve been there and seen this). Just think: we could have had a nice-looking historical building sitting there now.

In closing, this benefits me in no way. I don’t need to rent space for anything at minimal cost, but I would like to see something positive come of this for the town and hope to free citizens from what could be a very, very costly venture.

Greg Grotton, Union