Need for armory board questioned
BATH — The Bath City Council on Wednesday will consider rescinding an order that on Dec. 7 established a board of directors to manage the former National Guard Armory building, where the city’s skate park and an antique fire engines group are to be located.
Ward 5 Councilor Mari Eosco said Friday that she asked City Council chairman David Sinclair to add the item to Wednesday’s agenda “as a safety net” prior to a review of proposed bylaws and a mission statement for the proposed armory board of directors.
The proposed bylaws and mission statement were not available at press time, but Eosco said she hopes to be able to review them prior to Wednesday’s meting.
“I wanted there to be an option should those not be satisfactory to certain councilors,” she said. “I want us to have the option — the chance — to rescind the order, to not have the board run the armory building.”
On Dec. 7, the City Council voted unanimously to fund up to $308,000 in renovations to the city-owned armory building and authorized the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark to use the city-owned building.
In response to a motion from Ward 3 Councilor Kyle Rogers, councilors that night also created a board of directors to oversee the armory building.
As proposed by Rogers, the nonprofit organization — similar to the board of the city-owned Customs House — would operate the armory, charge the skate park rent and be able to secure grants.
“It just seems to be a cleaner way to do it than to just dump it in the Recreation Department’s lap,” Rogers said at the time. “ I just want to make sure that building is taken care of in perpetuity, just as the Customs House is.”
But Steve Balboni, Bath’s director of parks and recreation, told the council that night that he worried “about another level of bureaucracy,” and about how the board would react if another business offered to pay more rent than the skate park for use of armory space.
Eosco voted with councilors Sean Paulhus, Bernie Wyman and Andy Winglass against creating the board of directors, while councilors Rogers, Steve Brackett, Meadow Rue Merrill and Ruthe Pagurko voted in favor. Sinclair then voted in favor, breaking the tie and establishing the board.
The City Council chairman only votes to break a tie.
However, Sinclair qualified his vote, noting that he is “not in favor of charging rent … and I would work against such a proposal if that proposal is made.”
Eosco, who voted against creating the board, said she asked to have the item to rescind the December order creating the board of directors placed on Wednesday’s agenda “sort of as a safety net so I didn’t take anybody by surprise like it happened to us at the last meeting.”
“No one was prepared for” the motion by Rogers to establish a board of directors, Eosco said.
Comparing the Customs House and the armory “isn’t apples to apples,” she said, largely because the Customs House is leased to for-profit businesses while the city has promised space in the armory to the skate park and Box 19, the fire engines group.
“I’m hearing there is a lot of confusion,” Eosco said of the act to establish the board of directors. “ People don’t understand why this is necessary. I’m trying to figure out, and so are a lot of other people, whether or not this makes sense for this particular building and this situation.”
But in a letter to the editor published in The Times Record on Friday, Jackie Dwinal, a critic of spending city funds on the skate park, wrote that rescinding the act calling for the creation of the board of directors would be “counterproductive.” A board of directors would “properly” manage the park, she argued, as does the board that oversees the Customs House.
“From what I have gathered at the meetings, the skate park is being run by emotion, and that is not any way to maintain a building,” Dwinal wrote. “The skate park has been told that it would have a place in the armory building, so what does the skate park have to lose?”
Eosco said she realizes the council can amend the proposed mission statement or bylaws, “ But maybe what we’re going to decide at the end of the discussion is to abolish the idea of having a board run the armory.”
Also on Wednesday, the council is scheduled to:
— Make a presentation to former Councilor James Omo for his years of service to the city of Bath.
— Hold a public hearing and consider second passage of a proposed ordinance regarding the sale and use of consumer fireworks.
— Hold a public hearing and consider approving a special amusement license for The Beale Street Grill Inc., 215 Water St., Michael C. Quigg, president.
— Consider approval of the consent agenda including: approval of minutes of Dec. 7 and 19; annual appointment of J. Scott Davis as codes enforcement officer, health officer and plumbing inspector for one year; and annual appointment of Tom Lister as the alternate codes enforcement officer and plumbing inspector for one year.
— Consider first passage of a proposed ordinance concerning wireless communications facilities.
— Council committee appointments.
The City Council will meet at 6 p.m. at Bath City Hall.